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SurveyMonkey Chief People Officer, Becky Cantieri

Survey Monkey is the premier surveying tool on the market. And if you're company isn't surveying employees and interviewees, you're doing it wrong. Becky Cantieri, Survey Monkey's Chief People Officer, lays out how they keep their finger on the pulse of candidates and employees alike.



Chad: This 'The Chad and Cheese Podcast' brought to in partnership with TA Tech. TA Tech, the association for talent acquisition solutions. Visit

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Joel: Yeah?

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Announcer: Hide your kids. Lock your doors. You're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruiting industry right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinion, and loads of snark. Buckle up, boys and girls. It's time for 'The Chad and Cheese Podcast'.

Joel: Boy, oh boy, kids, do we have a treat for you. Chad, this is when you do the monkey sound. Ready? Go.

Chad: I'm not good at monkey sounds, at all.

Joel: Oh okay, monkey sounds. We'll do that in editing. Guys, we have a really cool show for you this month. Survey Monkey, a name some of you will know, some of you will not. We have the Chief People Officer from Survey Monkey, Becky Cantieri. Becky, welcome to the show.

Becky: Hi. Hi, thanks so much for having me.

Joel: You bet. Becky's a little nervous. I don't know if she's ever heard the show


Chad: She hasn't.

Joel: She might be shell shocked after this. But Survey Monkey has a cool new product for HR folks and employment brand people, but we understand that recruiters, vendors, HR folks listening to our show may not know who Survey Monkey is. Becky, give us the elevator pitch on you, what you do, and who you do it for.

Becky: Sure. So I am Becky Cantieri, I'm the Chief People Officer at Survey Monkey, and I'm thrilled to be the Chief People Officer at Survey Monkey. I like to think that I'm responsible for the candidate and the employee experience. Everything we do at Survey Monkey is in service of two really important constituents. One is building a really strong business, and the second is the employees in which we serve.

Chad: Excellent, excellent.

Joel: Lovely.

Chad: So Becky, that's the Survey Monkey stuff. We're going to spend a lot of time talking about Survey Monkey, I promise. Right now-

Becky: Great.

Chad: I would like to kind of dig deep into your dark past at Yahoo. No, seriously. You were at Yahoo for what? 11 ... for a good amount of time, and there was a lot going on back then. I mean, from 2000 all the way through 2011, a lot going on then. Give us a little background about what you did at Yahoo, and give us a little flavor of Becky.

Becky: Sure. So yes, indeed. I spent almost 12 years at Yahoo, and it was absolutely a life changing career experience. Believe it or not, I started my career there in the recruitment function, I was the only product management recruiter at the time. I spent a few years doing that, and then quickly assumed responsibility for all systems, programs, and infrastructure across recruiting. From there, I spent about four or five years doing mergers and acquisitions, so the HR seat at the table, working with our leadership team and our corporate development team to evaluate and ultimately acquire or invest in almost 35 companies. So you can imagine, at that clip, if you sign and close 35 deals, you're doing diligence on a lot of deals. So that was

a really, really great experience.

Becky: And then I moved into more of a traditional HR business partner role, supporting a number of different organizations across Yahoo, from technology teams, to marketing organizations, and did a few chief of staff stints in between. It was ultimately that business partner experience and M&A experience that introduced me to Dave Goldberg, who was the CEO of Survey Monkey at the time, and that is what kind of aided the transition, moving from Yahoo over to Survey Monkey.

Chad: Nice.

Joel: Before we transition, I'm going to have to interrupt. So you were around when Hot Jobs was there, right? At Yahoo?

Becky: Yes. Hot Jobs had been acquired.

Joel: Ah, so did you work with Dan Finnigan? Currently at Jobvite.

Becky: Yes, he was the CEO of ... at the time. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joel: So were you around during the Yahoo Hot Jobs Dice acquisition? And if so, do you have any little anecdotes that you'd like to share?

Becky: I don't have any great anecdotes to share.

Joel: Just kidding. So Marissa Mayer, were you in for any of that stuff?

Becky: No, actually she joined shortly after I left. I left during the Carol Barts era.

Chad: Nice.

Joel: Got you.

Becky: Yes.

Joel: Okay, let's move on to Survey Monkey. A lot of our listeners don't know Survey Monkey, we'll get to that. But I've been using Survey Monkey, little known secret, since about 2004 or so. It was a tool a long time ago for marketers. The story is pretty interesting, and I've only heard tidbits and folklore about it. Help me set the record straight about the history of the company.

Becky: Sure. So I'm glad to hear that you're a Survey Monkey user, that's great. And where it all started, so Ryan Finley is our founder, and about 19 years ago, he was actually doing an internship project where he was tasked with doing some market research. He looked for a tool to use and wasn't able to find anything that met his needs, so he started to build what you currently know today as Survey Monkey. And he built it for his own use and then made it available to other users. He, shortly thereafter, kind of hired his brother as the business began to pick up, and they uprooted the business from Madison, Wisconsin to Portland, Oregon.

Becky: Then, the viral nature of the product really took off. At its very core, Survey Monkey is a survey platform that has this great viral component. You create a survey, you deploy a survey, you gather responses from your survey respondents, and then on the heels of that, they're able to create and deploy their own survey as well. So that's really the humble beginnings that it came from.

Becky: In 2019, Ryan raised his hand and said there's a lot of-

Joel: 2019?

Becky: I'm sorry. 2009.

Joel: This is future podcast, everybody.

Becky: Yeah. No, I'm sorry. 2009, Ryan raised his hand and said, "There's a lot of opportunity in front of Survey Monkey, and I'm just not the right person to take it to the next level." So he partnered up with Bain and Spectrum, and that's when Dave Goldberg joined to be the CEO of Survey Monkey, and they really set out on a mission at that point to grow the company, and we've scaled from 14 employees at that timeframe to now, we're up over 800 employees. We were a US language only, really accepting only US currencies. Now, the product is in 20 plus languages, operating in about that many countries around the world, and we've really kind of evolved and grown the portfolio of products and services that we offer.

Joel: So have you worked with David Goldberg?

Becky: I did, indeed. Yeah.

Joel: That's a sad story. We don't have to get into it. If people want to know, they can Google it, but he passed away a few years ago, I know. He has a famous wife who works at Facebook, but okay, interesting. Great. And that company started in what year? What's the timeline?

Becky: It started 19 years ago. So-

Chad: Do the math, Joel.

Becky: 1999.

Joel: 1999, I knew it's been a long time.

Becky: Yeah.

Chad: It doesn't take much, Becky. So as we talk about this powerful platform, and we're going to be talking about engagement, what was the genesis? Why build, engage in the first place? Was there a need you saw internally to have an HR employee satisfaction type of engagement platform for Survey Monkey? Or is this something that your clients were coming to you and saying, "Look, you do great in many other areas. Can you help us out here?"?

Becky: Yeah, so first, let's ground ourselves in what the modern day Survey Monkey is. We like to think we're the world's largest in leading people powered data platform. We've collected over time something along the lines of 47 billion survey responses. So we have this long history and rich data of understanding what our users are using the product for, and HR has always been one of the primary use cases, and engagement within there, again, is another use case where our users are really using us. So it was a combination of, yes, employee engagement is important to us at Survey Monkey, but it's also been really, really clear that it's important to our users as well, and we wanted to build a more purpose based solution that had some of the secret magic sauce at Survey Monkey, which is our methodology, and in there, to help our users do this better and more effectively in their organizations. And as such, Survey Monkey Engage was born.

Chad: Okay. So I heard a lot of aggregate data possibly. Do you guys have access to all that data to be able to crunch it and really get some, I guess you could say, opportunities to actually look at the market in a much different way than most of us get to?

Becky: Yeah, we really have the ability to understand how our users are using our product and what use cases and things are really important to us, and we use that rich data to make our product even better. For example, we have something called Survey Monkey Genius, which is part of the core Survey Monkey platform, and Survey Monkey Genius helps our users write better surveys. And again, it's all intelligence based on the millions and millions of surveys that our users have deployed on our platform. And the intent is really to help all of our users power their curiosity, and put them in a position to ask better questions, get better insights, and really take action on those insights.

Chad: So do you have machine learning that actually provide better structured questions and answers?

Becky: Yeah, absolutely. Again, in the product, there's a couple of different things. There's Survey Monkey Genius, which is really the best example of this. As you start to build your survey, Survey Monkey Genius helps you in asking the right questions in the right flow to provide you an opportunity to get the best insight and information so that you can make a really great decision.

Joel: Employment branding is all the rage right now, as you know as Chief People Officer. It seems to me like employment branding and surveys are just a match made in heaven. Interested in your perspective on employment branding, where that's going, how are surveys going to play a part in that? Just that kind of general question.

Becky: Sure. So I am a huge fan of employment branding, I really think it's your opportunity to tell the world what it's like to be part of Survey Monkey, to be part of the team and what their experience will be when they're here. We, this year, in 2018, have worked more earnestly on our employment brand. Like you guys said when we started the podcast, "I'm a big user. I'm a big fan of Survey Monkey, I love it." That's everyone's reaction when you say that you work at Survey Monkey, and the point, from my perspective of employment branding efforts is to change that conversation from, "I love that product. I use that product." To, "I've heard it's an amazing place to work. How can I work at Survey Monkey?"

Becky: So we started our efforts this year more formally in this category, and it all started with a survey, as you might expect. We really wanted to understand from our employees what is it that they value about being part of Survey Monkey? What they're looking for when they make employment decisions. It's a really competitive labor market as you guys know, so people have lots of options, and they have to be able to take in a lot of information to help them make good decisions about where they work, even. So ours began with a survey, and resulted in what we refer to as our employee value proposition, or kind of our statement of belief and what we believe employees get in exchange for bringing their time and talents to Survey Monkey. And now, we're in the process of helping tell the rest of the world what we believe you get in exchange for bringing those talents to Survey Monkey.

Chad: So staying on the employer brand side of the house, and also talking about UX and going into more of the Chief People Officer side of the house and understanding that candidates are customers or they could be customers, right?

Becky: Absolutely.

Chad: So what is Survey Monkey doing to cut down on, or really just provide a great user experience and cut down on that black hole? Because we know that a black hole impact could perspectively impact the bottom line of the overall product. What are you guys doing on the user experience side of the house to make sure that those prospective candidates/customers are having a great experience?

Becky: Yeah, great question. From a product perspective, a Survey Monkey product perspective, user experience is really everything. One of the hallmarks of Survey Monkey has always been that it's easy to use and very simple, and kind of an elegant solution that's fun to interact with. So that's always been a core principle of Survey Monkey and the products that we build. If it's not easy to use, people aren't going to do it. So that will continue to be important for us. And I think that really applies conceptually to your employment experience or your candidate experience as well. We want people to really have delightful experiences interacting with us. We want them to feel respected and valued, we want them to learn a lot from their perspective, and we also need the opportunity to learn from them. But most importantly, we want them to leave their experience with Survey Monkey, whether or not they get the job, feeling like they came to a really good understanding of Survey Monkey and that we're a great group of people.

Joel: So Becky, what I'm hearing is you guys do survey your interviews? The people that come in?

Becky: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, we do post-candidate experience surveys.

Joel: Awesome. So I think there are a lot of companies that are thinking about doing that or have in the past. What advice would you give to those folks who are looking to do it and what would you tell people who are thinking about doing it, but maybe getting push back from management, to sort of get them to buy into surveying the interviewees?

Becky: So first of all, my first advice of course is you've got to use Survey Monkey to do this.

Joel: Of course.

Becky: And we have helpful templates to help you ask the right questions. But I'd really, really question why you wouldn't want to understand the experience that you're creating for your candidates. If you don't ask them directly, it doesn't really demonstrate that you, one, value their opinion, and they have a lot of channels to share their opinion about their experiences anyway, so it's better, at least from my perspective, to proactively ask them directly in the spirit of improving your process and the experiences that you're creating for them. We've learned a tremendous amount.

Becky: We've been in the fortunate position of ... we get great feedback on people feeling really well respected and valued for the time that they're spending with us, but we have heard in the past that we had some areas of opportunity in terms of how we organize ourselves and not being repetitive in terms of the questions that we're asking candidates. So it was the launch pad for us to create internal interview training to teach managers and all panelists involved in recruiting how to organize, prepare, and engage with candidates while they're on site in a way that allows us to gather a lot of useful information to make a hiring decision without everybody asking these candidates the same five questions.

Joel: On site, that's interesting. So logistically, how do you survey those that you interview? Because I would think that there would be a follow up email, "Thanks for coming in. We'd love to know your experience or feedback." But you're saying you actually, while they're in the building, you're getting feedback.

Becky: Most of our survey efforts are the post-candidate surveys, so it's actually after they've already left the building. But we are starting to pilot a few programs where we have iPads in the interview rooms, and if they have any downtime between their interview conversations, we're either giving them some fun quizzes, an opportunity to check out the product, or to give us some feedback.

Chad: Very nice. Very nice. Let's go ahead and jump into Engage.

Becky: Sure.

Chad: So tell us about Engage.

Becky: Yeah, so Survey Monkey Engage, like I said, is kind of an end to end solution around employee engagement, and it has underlying methodology that we've developed and really looks into five core factors of engagement. It focuses on job satisfaction, personal engagement, purpose alignment, team dynamics, and visible future. All elements that we believe to be really important to building great engagement, and in the end, productive, happy, focused employees. So like many engagement products, it's something that the HR team can deploy, and it does two full surveys every year on those five core factors, and then we do a monthly poll survey every month to add richness, and texture, and context on one of those five core factors.

Becky: Yeah, so it has been so useful and so insightful for us on really a number of dimensions. And most importantly has positioned us to take action on the feedback that we're

hearing from employees.

Chad: Nice. So what's the completion rate for you guys?

Becky: So we, being a survey company, we tend to get completion rates in the 85 plus percent. Our employees have been well trained since we ask for feedback so frequently, and they've had a great experience because we ask for feedback, we're transparent about the results, whether they're positive or present an area of opportunity for us, and then we tell them how we're taking action on what they've shared with us.

Chad: Got you. So what about other companies who are using Engage? How many other companies do you have? You don't have to name them, but how many other companies are using Engage today, and what have their experiences been? Have they seen higher engagement? Probably not 85%, but what does that look like?

Becky: Yeah, so I don't actually have, I'm happy to follow up with you, in terms of the number of users. I don't have that off hand, but I can certainly reflect on a number of different customers that we've engaged with directly, both when we were building the product and as we've helped the product team iterate. We've had kind of a core team of power users who have really helped us influence and evolve the product. It's been one of the coolest things that I've gotten to work on here at Survey Monkey is being able to influence this product because we're all familiar with some of the engagement products out there, the kind of annual, once a year survey that doesn't help people leaders make great decisions, it doesn't help us understand what's important to our employees, and we really feel like Survey Monkey Engage does that. It's in its early stages, but it's starting to get traction.

Joel: I want to bring anonymous employee reviews into the conversation.

Becky: Sure.

Joel: Obviously Glassdoor, Indeed, there's about 15 or 20 sites that companies have to worry about reviews being put online. It seems to me that companies that are engaging in regular, aggressive internal surveys are maybe having less of a problem because the feedback loop is internal. Maybe some companies are using surveys to take positive surveys and funneling them into Glassdoor and Indeed to leave positive reviews? What's sort of your general opinion on that, and do you have any examples of how companies or you guys are using surveys to improve your Glassdoor, Indeed, et cetera rankings.

Becky: Sure. So of course I'm a huge fan of using surveys to better understand what's going on with your employee population. And I think it's a valuable resource to candidates when they're exploring career opportunities out there. It's their opportunity to get a bird's eye view of what it's like and to hear from other people who have or are currently working at companies. So I get all of that. At the same time, I understand that it can be really challenging because it's typically you're more inclined for disgruntled employees or maybe people who haven't had great experiences to post than you are to have happy, engaged employees spending their time writing reviews when they're so busy at work.

Becky: But the philosophy that we've taken, or the approach that we've taken is we really focus on our employees and trying to create really great experiences that are built on the things that they value most. And we believe if we do that and if we treat people well, and are kind, and have a great impact not only on their lives, but the communities that we work in, that great reviews will follow. So we don't chase people down to write great reviews, we don't do campaigns internally. The people who share their perspective on Glassdoor and other things are genuinely having really great experiences, and we think that speaks more loudly than any kind of campaign would to get people to create great reviews for us.

Chad: So next, I'd like to talk about providing advice to talent acquisition, HR out there, in being able to actually utilize this type of product to get their employees engaged. Is it one question surveys? Because I've seen a ton of surveys. It's like page after page, and it's horrible. So do you send more surveys, but just less questions? Do you send almost like brain teasers? I mean, what do you do to make it fun and to be able to get such high engagement? For Survey Monkey, obviously your organization is bought in, your employees are bought in, that's what they do day, by day, by day, so 85%, that's hard to expect for most companies, but how do they get their completion rate up?

Becky: Yeah, so a couple things. I think one, it's about writing great surveys. And you're right, surveys need to be kind of snack size and digestible, number one, and Survey Monkey has lots of great research and content to help our users write better surveys, which includes, "How many questions should you ask?" Generally, not more than 20 as the rule. So that's one thing. The second thing I would say is if you ask, be prepared to take action. Don't ask for the sake of asking and then never do anything with the data that you receive. I think what has been the most impactful in terms of us driving that engagement with our surveys is that, again, employees, with our employees, we are transparent about the results of our surveys, where we're going to take action, and even when we're not going to take action based on some of that feedback, we just acknowledge that very simply so they know this to be a channel through which they can have their voices heard, and that we take action on.

Becky: Let me give you an example. So every year as we go into open enrollment, we do a Survey Monkey survey to make sure ... it's a huge investment in benefit, medical, dental, and vision benefits and perks that we do every year, so we always want to make sure we're using our money wisely. So at the end of the year as we prepared, we did a survey, and the survey results came back and said, we just had really high satisfaction rating. People were very satisfied with our offerings in this category, and really had little insight or value to add in terms of adjusting our offerings at all. But then we started to read through the open-ended questions for our survey, like, "What other input do you have for us?" And there was one question in there that asked ... identified three of our janitorial services workers by name, and it said, like, "Hey, we have great benefits, but what's going on with our third party vendors and our janitorial services team, the people that work in our kitchen? Do they have a great level of benefits?"

Becky: So it kind of sent us down this road of curiosity where we were exploring this, and of course, we came to learn that they definitely weren't on par with what we were doing. So that year, our focus was not changing benefits for our own employees, our focus was on creating a set of standards that our vendors needed to meet to be able, for us to be willing to partner with them when they had employees on site, and we were able to invest not only our own money, but help them offer their employees better services. So sometimes it's interesting, the insight and the data that you get. Sometimes it's directly about what your employees want, sometimes it's also about who your employees want you to be as an employer and the impact that they want you to have on all of the constituents, your customers, your vendors, et cetera. So it's important that you really look for actionable insights, and you really dig through the data to understand what's going on and what your employees really want you to do.

Chad: So it sounds like you actually might have identified, at least for me, one of the reasons why companies don't like to do surveys is because after they're done with it, they know they have to do something, and if they don't, there's going to be a high level of resentment, right?

Becky: Yeah. Absolutely.

Chad: Yeah.

Becky: You have to be courageous enough, if you ask a range of questions, you could get a range of answers, and something may be reflected back to you that's not really becoming of your organization, or not in line with what you value or the experiences you're trying to create, but it's better to know and be able to take meaningful action on it than to not know at all or to pretend like it doesn't exist.

Chad: Yeah, I would say courageous is probably a little far. They're not going into a building after a burning baby, but-

Becky: True.

Chad: Yeah, if they could stiffen their spine, get out of the fetal position in the corner, and actually care about what their employees think and feel, and then focus on taking action on that, yeah. I get that. That's awesome.

Joel: You listeners of the show will know that millennials are a continual source of grief for me. Entitled little brats. And I say that because I know if you started in '99 at Yahoo that you're not in that group. So my question is, how are millennials affecting surveys? In particular, the mobility of surveys?

Becky: Yeah, so in my experience, and of course we have a lot of employees that are millennials, of course. I think they're affecting surveys in a couple of ways. One is they really love to share their input, so I think they're helping drive our completion rates because they have strong opinions and they really, really want to share them, so I think that's one way. And they want to be able to take them and do them wherever they are. They're not necessarily waiting for an email. They take them on their phone, they do them on the fly, and they give us bite sized bits of feedback all of the time.

Joel: That was about the answer I expected. Lastly ... They want it how they want it, when they want it. Okay.

Chad: Like Joel's any different, right?

Joel: Yeah. I'm totally different. I'm an old soul. So typically when we talk to ATSs, CRMs, there's integration into platforms like applicant tracking platforms is very important to their business. Is integration something that you guys do? Or is it something you will be doing?

Becky: Survey Monkey as a product, absolutely. Integrations is kind of part of our strategy overall. We don't believe we need to be the system of record. We want to meet our users where they are, so whether that's integrating with Sales Force, into Microsoft teams, we have a number of different integrations that help our users marry their operational data and the data that they're collecting through Survey Monkey surveys.

Joel: Any applicant tracking solutions that you integrate with or any talent management solutions, like Work Day maybe?

Becky: So we are working on those integrations as part of Survey Monkey Engage.

Joel: Great. Well, Becky, I think that's all that we have for you. We greatly appreciate your time, we know you're a busy person. For listeners who want to find out more, where should they go?

Becky: Please visit

Joel: Easy enough.

Chad: Beautiful.

Becky: Yeah. Thank you guys so much. It's been fun.

Joel: We out, dude.

Chad: We out.

Stella: Hi, this is Stella Cheesman. Thanks for listening to 'The Cheese and Chad Podcast', or at least that's what I call it. Anyway, make sure you subscribe on iTunes, that silly android phone thingy, or wherever you listen to podcasts, and be sure to give buckets of money to our sponsors. Otherwise, I may be forced to take that coal mining job I saw on We out.

Chad: Okay, before we go. Remember when I asked you about the whole reflex, and check your text messages thing?

Joel: Yeah, you know all about reflexes. And then I brilliantly tied it to text messages 97% open rate, then I elegantly, elegantly tied it to a better experience for your candidates. Don't laugh, Chad. I can be elegant. Can't I?

Chad: Whatever, man. I know it's redundant, you already heard about text to hire, but you're still not using text to hire from Nexxt.

Joel: What?

Chad: I know, man.

Joel: Come on, man.

Chad: Since advertising takes repetition to soak in, I just thought I'd remind you again this was all by elegant design. It's all about text to hire and it's all about Nexxt.

Joel: And elegant design. So go to, click on the Nexxt logo, and get 25, yeah, I said 25% off your first text to hire campaign. Engage better, use text to hire

from Nexxt. Two x's.

Chad: Boo-yah.

Chad: Thanks to our partners at TA Tech, the association for talent acquisition solutions. Remember to visit

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