Salesforce’s secrets to its recruiting success

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Salesforce’s head of recruiting reveals how the company follows fair interviewing and hiring practices, mitigates unconscious bias, and makes sure job candidates have a great experience.

Image: iStockphoto/demaerre

Salesforce employs more than 37,000 people and consistently ranks as one of the top companies to work for: It came in second on the 2019 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For and 11th on Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work list in 2019. Part of what makes Salesforce such a desirable place to work is the employee perks offered. But the magic happens before a job offer is even extended to a candidate—it starts with the recruiting process. 

In an interview with TechRepublic, Ana Recio, head of recruiting at Salesforce, reveals what has made the company so successful in its recruiting efforts and how the methods used to interview and hire helps build a happier, more loyal, and engaged workforce.  

Focusing on values

When it comes to recruiting the ideal candidate, Salesforce has some tricks up its sleeve, including the use of assessment tools like Trailhead, though values and a focus on candidate competencies also play large roles. According to Recio, “I think that the real secret is that the company focuses really on values, and these values really lead to how we assess behaviors, both internally and externally.” Recio continues, “people really want to work for a values-driven company, they want to know that Salesforce is going to treat them well. 

SEE: Interview tips: How to land your next tech job (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

“Trust has been our number one value since the beginning of time, [along with] growth, innovation, and equality,” explains Recio. “I think that when you lead with that, from a recruiting perspective, candidates know that the focus isn’t going to be on ‘culture fit’ per se. That you’re really going to focus on their background, on their competencies, and that because there is a value of equality there, that it’s going to be an objective and fair process.” 

Hiring based on competencies

It’s this focus on competencies, instead of personality traits, that sets Salesforce’s recruiting efforts apart. “We’ve actually steered away from traits—we don’t look for that [specifically]. We really focus 100% on competencies,” says Recio. “About three or four years ago, there had been a bit of a pervasive bias in our sales organization that you had to have enterprise software experience in order to be successful. So we had previously been looking for people who had that type of background, and we wanted to broaden our candidate pool, so we conducted a really extensive analysis of who our top performers were and what their background was before they got to Salesforce.” 

Surprisingly, Recio and her colleagues found that 40% of Salesforce’s top performers did not come from an enterprise software background. Instead, she explains, they “had come from an environment where they come from a monthly cadence so it spoke to the pace of Salesforce—we work very fast, we’re very results-oriented. They had come from a CRM background where they had been a user or had sold CRM, but [that] didn’t necessarily mean they worked in enterprise.”

This discovery led to the emphasis on competencies which, according to Recio, “allowed [us] to broaden our pool pretty extensively, but more importantly, it’s allowed us to create a very standardized process globally. Whether you are in San Francisco or Sydney or Singapore, and you’re interviewing for an account executive role, you’re going to be evaluated on the success attributes of that role and not necessarily on personality trait(s).”

SEE: Hiring kit: Salesforce developer (TechRepublic Premium)

Recio explains that using this competency model for recruiting has been a game changer for the company and helped make its recruiting process more efficient overall. Recio says this is due to the company being “really aligned on what these success attributes are so we can cut out all of the gray in an interview situation and really focus on what we know makes somebody successful. More importantly, it’s mitigated unconscious bias so underrepresented minorities and women are having a much more favorable experience and, as a result, our hiring rates are really fantastic.” 

Mitigating unconscious bias

Salesforce focuses on creating an environment where candidates will be successful in their roles. Additionally, the company trains its interviewers, recruiters, and hiring managers to help this process, as well as employ the assessment tool Trailhead. According to Recio, everyone who interviews with Salesforce is required to complete a module called “Hiring the Salesforce Way,” which covers the company’s “inclusive hiring principles and our equality principles that really start to educate people on what we look for, how that anchors back to our company values, and what are the competencies for each of the roles.” 

Recio states that this system has been able to “deliver a consistent, unbiased, [and] inclusive candidate experience.” Her most important piece of advice for other companies looking to expand recruiting efforts: “Make that investment—move toward awareness and training.”

SEE: IT leader’s guide to achieving workplace diversity (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

When it comes to the candidate experience, Salesforce uses a two-pronged approach to make it as unbiased and inclusive as possible while combating unconscious bias during recruiting; this is accomplished through training and identifying competencies. According to Recio, all potential candidates, managers, and recruiters are required to complete Trailhead modules centered “around candidate experience, equality, and interview fairness.” 

To assess competencies, the company uses the Salesforce Interview Feedback Tool (SIFT). This tool lists competencies by role and provides questions and answer options so interviewers can “rate individuals based on the competencies for the role they particularly interviewed for. [SIFT] has created incredible efficiencies as a result because people are really clear about what we’re interviewing for. As a result, we’re finding that individuals who may be different (which we want) are actually doing really well in our environment and are having a great experience when they interview with us,” says Recio. 

Ensuring candidates have a great experience with the company

The Salesforce recruitment process is all about fair interviewing and hiring practices and making sure candidates have a great experience, regardless of whether they’re offered a position in the company. As Recio explains, “We train our recruiters to offer feedback, to always close the loop with a candidate, to make sure that they understand the role wasn’t for them.” 

In addition, Salesforce offers candidates use of its Trailhead platform as a way to improve their competencies for future job opportunities, giving them “coaching based on that competency training that I mentioned earlier so that they’ve got something concrete to walk away with, knowing what they can do a bit differently or a little bit better going forward,” says Recio. “We’re really, really trying to ensure that we’re creating a really fair interview process, that we’re mitigating unconscious bias, and that people are coming through and having a great experience when they come in and interview with Salesforce.”

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