The Salesforce Approach to Recruiting, Ohana Style

The Salesforce Approach to Recruiting, Ohana Style

As recruiters, hiring managers and talent acquisition experts, we think a lot about how we present our organization to job seekers through our employer brand. We also think a lot about how to most accurately assess the people we hire for skill set, culture add, and potential. On the flip side, job seekers are thinking, of course, about how they present themselves in interviews – and how to most accurately assess the company for culture fit, life enhancement, and path to career growth.

They’re two sides of the same coin, and job seekers and employers alike know each vantage point is elegantly and effectively addressed on Glassdoor. But the real beauty is where the two overlap: when job seekers are empowered to understand what drives decision making, and when employers actively work to be in touch with the job-seeker perspective to inform their recruiting practices.

From the employer perspective, there’s no better example of a recruiting philosophy that embraces a holistic understanding of the forces at play when a company brings a new hire on board than that of Ana Recio, Senior Vice President of Global Recruiting at Salesforce.

We recently sat down with her to talk about her progressive approach to talent acquisition. Here’s what she had to say!

Glassdoor: How do you define a great interview experience?

Ana Recio:  A great interview experience for a candidate is when they feel really well prepared. They know what to anticipate and have context for the role that they are being interviewed for. They understand what the goals of the role are three months, six months and nine months out. We prepare our candidates in multiple ways to have a great experience by providing them with demos, videos, competitive information and product positioning, all while seeking to understand what motivates and inspires them. We ask candidates to consider their successes, their failures and to be able to articulate why this role makes sense for them in their career journey.

On the flipside, we make sure that our hiring managers are prepared to speak to candidates and we do that by reminding our hiring teams that our candidates are also interviewing us — that they have lots of choices, and that we need to both speak to our value proposition on why Salesforce is a great environment as well as demonstrate it during the interview process. We often ask our hiring teams not to hyper focus on candidate assessment, but to speak about their personal journeys with candidates; why Salesforce has been impactful to them and their careers. Talk about what milestones they [achieved] and what they have learned and share that through an anecdotal conversation versus a structured interview format.

Glassdoor: One thing I’ve heard you speak about before is the phenomenon of recruiters ghosting candidates, and how passionate you are at Salesforce about making sure that people know where they stand in the process. How have you accomplished that?

Ana Recio: Sometimes, “we don’t have a response for you yet” is really the best response to give candidates to make sure that they know that they are still in process and haven’t fallen into a black hole. That continued communication, even if there's no action or activities since the last update, is pivotal to candidate engagement and trust. We aren’t perfect, but we really try hard to close the loop for every candidate via email and/or phone depending on the stage of the process.

As a team, we also acknowledge every single referral and we either screen those referrals or send them a note to let them know that we're not moving forward. If we have a live conversation, we may offer some coaching or advice as to why we’re not moving forward with their candidacy. At the same time, we  keep the referrer apprised of what is occurring with their candidate too — this is critical to earning referrer’s trust and to avoiding any awkward run-ins on a Saturday where an individual who was referred may mention that they never heard back. That is just embarrassing for everyone, so we do our very best to avoid these situations.

This is really important to us at Salesforce so we measure and track “ghosting” every quarter. We measure every single recruiter and provide them with candidate and manager feedback, so they have a complete picture. We send out a survey to every candidate who had a conversation with us, whether they came into the office or not... because we care about what they think, and we want to ensure they feel valued. We also want to keep improving, refining and learning what makes for a great candidate experience. The truth is, that we might not have a role for them today, but we may in the future, and these individuals will likely come back to us in our ecosystem, as a partner, customer or possibly at a later date, as a candidate once again. We want to make sure that every candidate feels great about their experience with  Salesforce.

Glassdoor: What’s some of the common advice or feedback you give to candidates who don’t move forward in the next round?

Ana Recio: Honestly, it's just really a matter of timing for most candidates. It may be that we  don’t have the right role for them right at that very moment, but we’re growing and hiring like crazy, so it really is just a matter of time. Often the role is filled by an internal individual because we really do try to promote our employees first and consider our employee base before we extend an external offer. Because this often is a factor, I advise candidates to continue networking. The right role will materialize. It really is just a matter of time.

For candidates trying to transition into the software industry, we advise that they hone in on their applicable skills or try to get more experience in a particular domain. This could be done sometimes with exposure to our products via volunteering at a non-profit that uses Salesforce or by attending our world tour events or Dreamforce events. It’s all about networking, learning, and  becoming part of our ecosystem, so when we do call that candidate back in the near future, they're prepared and they’re ready to shine.

Glassdoor: Have you found that by doing that, candidates have a positive interview experience even though they might not have been chosen for the role?

Ana Recio:  Candidates are super appreciative  because it's fairly rare that they actually get that kind of honest coaching or feedback. It’s often an a-ha moment for a lot of candidates to say, “Gosh, thank you. I knew I needed more experience, but I couldn’t figure out a path to get it.” Most companies don’t treat their candidates as if they were customers, and personally I think that is a huge miss because these individuals often come back as advocates in our ecosystem.

Glassdoor: How has your interview process evolved throughout the years?

Ana Recio: It has definitely evolved quite a bit. We have focused very strongly on candidate experience, and have created a full blueprint of how we assess candidates through competencies. This has had a direct impact in many parts of our business, reducing total candidates interviewed by 15 percent or more. This was accomplished by clearly defining the required profile and the competencies required to do the job. As a result, our time-to-fill ratios continue to drop which is proving to be a competitive advantage as we’re able to efficiently go from candidate engagement to offer in record speed. Candidates love being part of a synced-up process too — that both is expedient and seeks to understand what motivates and inspires them. In all of our organizations we have identified key success competencies by role and then trained our hiring managers to focus on anchoring back to assessing against those competencies during the interview process.

[One] area, much through the feedback received via Glassdoor, that we have really tried to improve is around rescheduling. We started to take a look at the impact that it was having on our candidate experience, and we started to highlight the interview reschedule rates at our executive team meetings. This data was the catalyst to help teams straighten up their act a little bit.   Reminding our teams that candidates have choices and they are assessing us too, along with a little data, has helped minimize last minute reschedules across the globe.

Glassdoor: I know one thing that Salesforce is very well known for and takes pride in is the diversity of your workforce. Would you say your interview process has a lot to do with that?

Ana Recio: 100 percent. Our interview process focuses on the competencies of a role and on our values, which lead to a great company culture and highly competent  employees. We strive to always provide an inclusive interview process and we’ve incorporated these principles into our hiring practices.

Glassdoor: What are a handful questions that you almost always ask candidates in interviews?

Ana Recio: We’ve all had work challenges when projects didn’t quite go as planned. We want to know about what would they do differently in retrospect. This is a great question because it unveils a candidate's humility, honesty and ability to reflect and analyze a situation. We also like to ask, what do your colleagues say about you? Which can often elicit funny and illuminating responses. What is your greatest strength? What are you most proud of about your current [role]? Who was your best boss, and what did they give you that has shaped you today in your career? What is next for you, and if you stay where you're at today, will you get that? We may ask people about how they overcame challenges in pursuit of a goal. And we always close with a gentle reminder on how the opportunity at Salesforce is going to help advance their career.

Many recruiters on my team like to ask what motivated a candidate to respond to them when they reached out. This gives us a little insight to what the candidate is looking for in their next career step. We ask candidates to describe the type of projects they worked on, the scale of those projects, what collaboration was involved as well as the outcome. Salesforce is very much a team sport, so examples of collaboration are important. We always ask of course, why do you want to work for Salesforce? That is always enlightening as well, because it often highlights what inspires them: our scale, sophistication, collaborative culture, or perhaps a desire to give back to the community, which is really paramount to our company’s values. We always ask what people's career aspirations are in three, five, ten years, and where do they see themselves at Salesforce in this timeframe. That is also a great opportunity for us to say, “We could help you get there, and here are the tools, resources and path.”

Glassdoor: Do you have any unique, out-of-the-box questions that you ask at Salesforce?

Ana Recio: Some companies are known to ask [questions like] “How many gas stations can you find in California?” We don’t have those types of questions… we're really into storytelling, and we want individuals to tell us their career journey and what inspires and motivates them. We try to engage in a conversation versus a hardcore assessment. We don’t readily employ those kind of knockout, bizarre questions that candidates don’t really know how to answer.

Glassdoor: I personally have never been a fan of those. I feel like it's kind a “gotcha” question which is not a great experience for the person interviewing.

Ana Recio: I couldn’t agree more. As an interviewer, I’m always like “What is the purpose of that question?” If we want to show our personality, [it’s] better to do it in a more congenial, authentic way versus in a way that feels like we’re tricking the candidate.

Glassdoor: Absolutely, I’m with you on that one. What are some really memorable or amazing answers that you’ve received from candidates?

Ana Recio: I asked a candidate once if there was one thing that they could do differently to become more efficient and more collaborative in their work environment what would they do? It made me laugh — he said that we would attend more happy hours with his teammates. He wasn’t being funny, he was serious about it! He said, because that is where you build relationships and get to know people and you're able to speak in a little bit less formal environment. He felt that while you're going out for lunch or spending time with people outside the office was really the best way to become more efficient and to get things done.

I actually had another individual who in an interview process had been asked, “What would be your biggest challenge if [you] took the role?” Somebody said “containing my excitement” which I thought was also pretty awesome. I know that that individual was absolutely sold, and to this day always tells me it was true, that has been his biggest challenge at Salesforce because it's such an exciting place to be.

Glassdoor: [Laughs] That is such a good answer.

Ana Recio: I also had a candidate once who we asked if she was ready for her interview… and she responded with “I stay ready,” which was also a great answer… Anybody who is that witty needs to be at Salesforce. The recruiter thought it was great.

Glassdoor: Last question: How do you evaluate whether candidates are aligned with your values? I know that spirit of Ohana and your commitment to giving back is very important to you.

Ana Recio: Ohana means family, and that is the foundation of our values. We ask for examples of teamwork and collaboration and how candidates have worked towards collective goals. Candidates [should] demonstrate that they’re a part of a larger community — a family — so [we look for] those themes in their responses and if they have a desire to make an impact both internally as well as in their community. It is always great when candidates are able to speak to our values, understand what resonates with them the most [and] provide personal examples of that type of contribution. We’ll ask candidates for examples of their Ohana spirit; for example,  if they’re passionate about giving back to the community or promoting equality. Those values, along with teamwork and collaboration, are really important to us at Salesforce. We ask lots of questions and prepare interviewers, but we also prepare the candidates too. We make sure that candidates understand our values so when they walk into our environment, they’re ready to give relevant examples and to shine.

To make sure you’re asking all the right questions before you hire, download Glassdoor’s comprehensive eBook on How to Conduct Better Interviews. And to nurture a holistic understanding of why employees leave, download Glassdoor’s Effective Exit Interview Templates.