Mason Wong, is a VETERAN of recruiting and currently responsible for Lyft's applicant tracking system to support their recruitment team. Mason has his finger on the pulse of the Recruiting community and shares those views with Chad & Cheese at Jobvite's Recruiting Nation LIVE!
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Chad : Here's another hot podcast, recorded live, from San Francisco at Jobvite's Recruiter Nation Live. We had a chance to catch up with leaders in the recruiting space, so, we turned on the mics and got a Lyft. Enjoy.
Announcer: Hide your kids, lock the 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 & Cheese Podcast.
Joel: Welcome, long time listener, first time interview, Mason Wong, to the show.
Joel: Mason Wong, everyone.
Chad : Live from Recruiter Nation Live, by Jobvite. Yes. Well, our live audience is very subdued at the moment, otherwise they would give you a standing ovation. Mason, welcome to the podcast. Give us the elevator pitch on you, for those who don't know who you are.
Mason: Well, thanks Joel and Chad. It's actually a bit surreal to be here. So, thanks a lot.
Chad : You bet, man.
Mason: The elevator pitch. So, today I am the recruiting system administrator at Lyft. I'm responsible for the applicant tracking system, supporting our recruiting team-
Chad : A little know ride-sharing company, out there, that many of our listeners
Mason: My background is actually in recruiting. I started as a tech recruiter, I did some college recruiting, I was the head of recruiting for a number of software companies in the Bay area. And about seven years ago I started an independent consulting practice focused on helping Jobvite customers, because I had been an already, a repeat customer of Jobvite. So, I was doing a lot of reconfiguration, custom training, implementations. So, I got really very, very involved hands on, as a practitioner of applicant tracking system.
Chad : Now, was Lyft a Jobvite client before you joined? Or did you transfer them over to-
Mason: Yeah, it's an interesting story. Many years ago, like a lot of tech companies, Lyft was a Jobvite customer. Then they switched to Lever, and then they switched to Greenhouse.
Chad : That's a lot of switching.
Mason: It's a lot of switching.
Joel: That's a lot of switching.
Mason: And then they hired me.
Chad : Hello.
Mason: And the interesting thing is that, they gave me a shot at taking care of the applicant tracking system without me ever having touched Greenhouse before.
Chad : Was this something you volunteered to do? Or did you... Because I can't imagine somebody wanting to do.
Mason: So, as I've mentioned, my consulting practice was already focused on applicant tracking systems, so I kind of have an interest in it, and it happened to be very Jobvite flavored. But a recruiter gave me a call, and I was just coming off of a consulting project, didn't have any leads at the moment, and they said, would you like to take care of Lyft systems? And I said, let's talk. And when it turned out to be a great learning opportunity from a stance of, of course, learning Greenhouse, and also becoming part of a larger recruiting organization, and it's just a fast growing, popular tech brand, it seemed like a good deal. So, I joined. I've been there six months.
Chad : I'm assuming you weren't in an Uber when they called you for the job.
Joel: If not, he jumped the hell out.
Chad : Excuse me. Pull over real quick. And I'm out.
Chad : So, you've been doing this for a long time, the recruiting game. I'm curious. Let's start out with your big picture, what you see happening now, what's interesting, what has legs, what's going to disappear in the next, four or five years. What's your overall macro view of recruiting technology?
Joel: Life according to Mason.
Mason: Wow. Well, I mean, we could go back to where my recruiting career started way back in the 90s, and obviously the technology was different. But a lot of the fundamentals are basically the same, in terms of the challenge of finding candidates, courting them, getting them to call back, and show up for the interview, you've still got to assess them and all of that. All of those fundamentals are the same. Managing recruiters, and influencing hiring managers, all of that is still fundamentally the same.
Mason: Obviously the technology is different, the reach is different, the social media is different. So, we have a bit of a different landscape. The economy, of course, is different. Especially in tech hiring, is very, very competitive right now. Of course, there's questions with the global economy, but at least today, US tech hiring, hotter than ever. Thinking back to the .com talent wars of the late 90s, it's crazier than that back then.
Joel: So, back then, the only way that you could get to somebody faster was to dial faster, right?
Mason: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, besides the dialing, we were still, we were doing things like YouthNet job postings.
Chad : Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Mason: The early versions of online career center, and all of that.
Joel: Don't forget the Porsche Boxster signing bonuses that you were giving.
Mason: Well, Joel, that was because of your Cheesehead days, right? We were talking about that.
Joel: I never got a Boxster, though.
Chad : Yeah. You got to talk about it though.
Joel: Good times.
Chad : So, today's entirely different, because-
Joel: When you mentioned callback, has that changed to text back?
Mason: Well, from what I hear, obviously, text recruiting is an emerging practice, and it clearly has nice high response rates. In terms of the companies that I've either consulted with or work with, I haven't seen it be a widespread practice yet. But, that's not to say it's worth pursuing, so.
Chad : So, why not, though? I mean, if you're seeing that kind of, high level of interaction and engagement, why wouldn't every company jump on this bandwagon?
Joel: Is it just a time thing? It's just going to take some time?
Mason: It takes time for practices to change. And it's one of the key challenges of my role is change management as we adjust processes, adjust systems. So, to switch to a practice of doing more text recruiting, I'm sure plenty of recruiters that are around where I work, they are texting their candidates. I'm sure that's already happening. But in terms of, like, centralizing it onto a managed platform, that's a change in practice, and I don't know how soon that would happen. Someday it would.
Joel: And you recently did a survey of recruiters.
Joel: I don't know if you want to talk about that or not, but you have some pretty cool insight on what in aggregate recruiters are interested in. And more interestingly, maybe what they don't care about.
Mason: So, I did launch an internal survey of the recruiting team at Lyft.
Chad : And how big is the team?
Joel: It was pretty big.
Mason: About 300 folks.
Chad : 300 folks.
Chad : Jesus!
Mason: So, we're recruiting to support a corporate organization of over 5,000 employees, and that's separate from the 2 million drivers that are involved with Lyft. The survey was to, in in my role of taking care of the applicant tracking system, I wanted to get a sentiment of how the recruiters are using the system. And one of the questions we posed was, What other kind of recruiting tools should we be researching to have an opportunity for integration? And just overall what are your interests? And I guess it's a reflection also of, what are the pain points?
Mason: And I categorize a bunch of different tools, possibilities. And interestingly, the recruiting team, number-one answer was sourcing tools. So, and that could be reflective of, it's a challenging market to just source candidates, so, they just want help from a tech tool standpoint. But amongst other possible tools that were listed, it beat out, scheduling automation, it beat out candidate discovery from database. And on the bottom of the list, I know you're alluding to this, was the interest in chatbots.
Joel: The basement.
Mason: Yeah. Chatbots, very little interest from that team.
Chad : They didn't give two shits about chatbots.
Joel: Now that wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that chatbots might put them out of a job, does it?
Mason: Absolutely. Disintermediation, right?
Chad : Yeah.
Mason: It's unlikely-
Joel: It's like a truck driver not caring about driverless trucks.
Mason: To an extent. I mean, obviously there are automated trucks happening now, right? But, I mean, recruiters... Joel, you didn't ask me, but my opinion is recruiters are not at risk of being displaced for a very long time.
Chad : Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Tasks. The menial tasks, the repetitive tasks, the scheduling, some of the sourcing pieces, I mean, all of that, that takes a lot of time, can be done better by machine or process, RPA, or whatever it is, right? But, that doesn't take the entire job away, right?
Mason: That's correct. That's correct. I mean, there's been definitely opportunities to incrementally introduce automation at certain parts of the process, and that's, I think, that's going to be the story of how automation enters all of our lives. One big question, Lyft is involved with this, is the autonomous vehicles. People are asking, when are self-driving cars really going to happen?
Chad : Yeah.
Mason: The reality is that certain aspects of driving are already a little bit automated here and there, and that's just going to keep going. And it's going to be a long time, in my opinion, before there is truly, level five automation in self-driven cars.
Mason: But, with recruiting, there's always going to be these little process opportunities to automate, like, as you mentioned, scheduling. And I think chatbots have a place somewhere in the process, but whether AI is really going to take over an entire screening process, that's not going to happen for a long time.
Chad : It's interesting that scheduling wasn't on the top, because I would assume that... I hate scheduling shit, and if something could automate scheduling for me, I think that would be the top of my fricking list.
Mason: Yeah. Well, obviously there has been a number of companies over the years that have tackled automating scheduling, and one of the popular tools is the self-scheduling on Calendly, right? But if you remember some years ago, there was a company called Reschedge, that they were doing some pretty impressive stuff modeling schedule models. If you had multiple interviewers involved, you could get their availability, and then a candidate would say their availability, and the system would generate these models. I know Jobvite created a similar tool, while others don't have that. It's actually a tougher challenge than it seems because what I just tried was kind of the theoretical side of, you just match up everyone's availability, you get a model.
Chad : Yeah.
Mason: But, there's all kinds of complications. And these tools were trying to handle nuances, like, Oh, this interview should always be first, or this interviewer needs 45 minutes, not 30 minutes. They were trying to accommodate all of that, but in the end-
Chad : Them there's room scheduling-
Mason: Room scheduling. There's a lot of different factors, and the tools only really went so far. And even just, how do you display 10 people's availability on a screen to then pick what model you want? So, they were impressive tools, but I'm not surprised that they weren't very widely adopted. So, automation... I know it's a very popular topic on this show about how automation will change the future of recruiting.
Chad : Yeah.
Mason: I take your perspective that it is interesting and innovative, but it will be very slow to be adopted in the industry, just because there's a lot of these nuanced challenges.
Joel: We've had Johnny Campbell on the show, a popular recruiter on the circuit, and his quote, which we found very interesting, was, "98% of sourcing can be automated.". What I'm hearing from you is, "Hold on a second", "Not so much", "Your folks have a high interest level in tools for sourcing.". So, what are your thoughts on, sort of, the future of sourcing? Is Johnny wrong?
Mason: So, I know there's been predictions about sourcing be, kind of, the bigger segment to be replaced by automation. I see very expert teams being put together to focus on sourcing, because there's still a depth of understanding of what qualifications are needed. A complication of hiring managers having to express what they are really hiring for.
Mason: You can't automate what hasn't been clearly articulated.
Chad : Oh, yeah.
Mason: And that has to iterate, it has to... There's a whole... So, what I see happening at my employer, Lyft is growing a very talented in-house sourcing function, with specialists taking on different aspects of sourcing. And I'm very impressed with what they're doing. And while the team has an interest in what tools to be used, I think ultimately the professionals, the experts that are being put together, will be the difference maker. And ultimately not, not the technology. They'll need technology to scale and be empowered, but ultimately, it's the experts that are put together.
Chad : I think scale is the big one.
Joel: Score one for the sources!
Mason: Yeah, I think so. [Crosstalk 00:13:05].
Chad : Yeah. I think scaling is the big key, right? Because from a competitive standpoint, you're just talking about how hard it is in the tech, the scope of trying to hire people in tech, well, it's all about who gets to the best candidates faster, and who can nurture them, and so on and so forth. Humans can't scale that way, right?
Mason: Right. And we're just talking about the sourcing side. Even on the candidate side, right?
Chad : Yeah.
Mason: To what extent do the candidates provide structured data that's enough to be matched, right?
Chad : Yeah.
Mason: The perennial challenge of, is it an eHarmony for Jobs and Tinder for jobs, you know... Are the hiring managers articulating enough details? Are the candidates providing enough details to be matched? And someday, there will be a technological force that will do that, but today... If you think back, what was it... I don't know, 10 years ago, the former CareerBuilder folks built a product called Jobfox.
Chad : Yeah.
Mason: Jobfox, they had an interesting idea of taking candidates through this, in a decision tree of indicating their qualifications.
Chad : Right.
Mason: It took an hour for a candidate to just provide- What passive candidate is going to spend an hour to provide that information?
Chad : And remember, having-
Joel: That's where we note that job Fox is no longer around.
Chad : I remember having a very long discussion with Rob McGovern about how, there's no way in hell, this is ever going to go anywhere. Because, you're right. I mean, to be able to get all of the data that you need to, to be able to, hopefully, match somebody up with a job, there's two sides of this. First and foremost, the job description sucks ass, and then we don't have enough data on the candidates, right? So, we can't actually get that match happening. So, I think you're right. It's all about data, and being able to expose that data. But, then we have the whole, kind of, like, LinkedIn. Now, you might be able to get that data, right? The high Q decision.
Mason: Right, right, right. So, there will come a day.
Chad : Yeah.
Mason: Not right away, not tomorrow, but some years out and maybe it's a LinkedIn, or maybe it's a Google, or someone else, that takes the huge dataset, and then creates, kind of, these pre models of who your target hire is.
Chad : Right.
Mason: And you almost don't care as much about what hiring managers want, or you don't care as much about what candidates say they can do, and somehow you just have enough data to match it up, because there's so much behavioral data to do, so much results data to match up that the system is able to predict. Now, how we get there, I don't know. But it's not today or tomorrow.
Joel: What would be something that Lyft strategically would do to attract drivers,
that might surprise us?
Mason: I want to clarify that my role, and the recruiting team that I support, we focus on the corporate positions. So, we actually are not at all involved with the drivers.
Joel: Then I'll rephrase my question. What does Lyft do, in terms of strategically engaging or finding talent at the HQ side of things, that might surprise us, outside of the job postings and things like that?
Mason: I'm proud to say that Lyft has a real commitment to inclusion and diversity. And I know that's, kind of, a hot topic, almost a hype topic.
Chad : Yeah.
Joel: Super hot.
Mason: I've seen-
Mason: I know the folks who are doing this work, and I've seen what they're practicing, and I'm very impressed by the outreach, the campaigns, and as well as the internal work that's going on to improve practices and culture, and it turns into real hiring results. Now, moving the needle on diversity, in tech, is not an easy task, and I honestly don't know the overall progress, but in terms of the concerted effort, the real commitment by the people who are doing this work, I'm very impressed by that.
Joel: Now you're speaking Chad's language. Any specifics around that? On how you're doing that?
Mason: I can share one story because we presented this at another conference.
Mason: There was an effort to increase women in engineering, in Lyft's New York office. And there was an effort to do a relatively simple email campaign, and there was research done using some LinkedIn tools. And the email campaign drove attendance to a special event held on-site in New York.
Chad : Nice.
Mason: And it had excellent attendance. I don't know the numbers, but it was well over a hundred attendees, and in a cold February night in New York. And the sourcing team worked on this, and they got some really great hiring results. I can't talk exact numbers, but definitely, they were able to hit some targets in terms of targeting talented women in engineering.
Chad : Gotcha. So, do you think that Facebook's, kind of, like, taking away their targeting for jobs is a bad decision? Because, I know that some companies were using Facebook to be able to target females who might've been engineers, or what have you.
Chad : Do you think that's a bad way to go?
Mason: From a tech tool standpoint, it's an unfortunate loss. I'm sure the entire legal dimension that they faced, that I, obviously, I don't have awareness of, but there are other tools available, in which demographic data is a factor to, how do you reach out to candidates?
Chad : Right.
Mason: So, fortunately... And I'm not aware to what extent Facebook was being used at my current employer anyways. For a long time, Facebook has been trying to muscle and way into recruiting, and I guess they've had some success, but I'm not... Yeah, I mean, Facebook turning off those tools, it is a little bit of a loss to the market.
Chad : Yeah.
Mason: But there's definitely other choices to get that done.
Chad : What about the other big loss? Google hire. Hire by Google. What about that one? I mean, did that surprise you? Because it surprised the shit out of us!
Mason: It didn't surprise me, and I know-
Chad : Really?
Mason: we've tweeted slightly different perspectives on this.
Chad : Yeah.
Mason: I know you and others have talked about the antitrust concerns that, perhaps, Google is trying to steer around. I take the stance that building a mature ATS takes years and extremely difficult, and that it is a relatively limited economic opportunity, and that in the grand scheme of things, Google may have just decided to, this is not big enough for us to pursue. That's why I'm not surprised.
Chad : They just went into enterprise, though. I mean, it's like they just made these decisions, right?
Mason: Right. They had just announced approval chains, they just announced more data reporting, and so on.
Chad : The sapling, HR, integration, which was supposed to be big, and all these things.
Mason: But then you've got to ask the question, why are the Alphabet investment companies not using it?
Chad : Yeah.
Mason: I mean, they're choosing other applicant tracking systems.
Chad : Yeah.
Mason: So, Hire by Google, I believe they had a bit of a slow start, but then they more recently got some customers that were happy. But it was very much, kind of, an entry level product. Very rudimentary. And the integration, obviously, with Gmail, Gcal, obviously fantastic. I'm sure they had an integration with search, which I'm sure was fantastic as well. But, an ATS has way more depth and functionality, a mature ATS does, and they were a long ways away from being a mature ATS.
Chad : Yeah.
Mason: So, maybe that long ways was just a distance too far to commit to. I don't know. Obviously, we're just speculating.
Chad : So, you're believing the economic models didn't match up?
Mason: That's my opinion.
Chad : Yeah.
Mason: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, obviously, Google, as a whole, has the resources to stand and fight, but they just chose not to. I don't know. I don't have an opinion about the antitrust angle. So, it could be quite real. That I don't understand.
Joel: So, another news item recently, HireVue, getting some private equity and selling some of it's share of the company-
Joel: Which to me is a bad sign for video and recruiting. Do you have any opinion on that? Is Lyft using any tools that you're bullish on? What's sort of your overall opinion of video with recruiting?
Mason: Yeah, I heard your earlier comments about HireVue. So, the thing about video interviewing, and I think you've described it as, kind of, video in recruiting overall, has it's interest in, obviously, conveying brand and so on, has some value. But, the specific practice of video interviewing, I would take that HireVue was offering not the chance to do a video interview, but to centralize it and manage it on a platform, and whatever value that brings. Because recruiters have been using Skype and other platforms to do individual, de-centralized video interviews for years. I mean, I can even remember back to 1990s-
Chad : It's like the texting conversation, right?
Chad : It's all centralizing into a platform.
Mason: Correct, but the practice of actually meeting a candidate remotely by video... I remember in 96, we were going to the Kinko's shop to turn on the video conferencing tools there to interview candidates there. And then, once it moved to PC's, and then we had Skype, and there's obviously competing platforms to do that. I don't, you know... Video interviewing happens, and it was going to continue to happen, but the value of centralizing and keeping it managed on a platform, I never really got that. Even our hosts here, Jobvite, has a JobVite video tool that is interesting and has value, but it's not the Panacea of-
Joel: Video was not mentioned in the keynote today.
Mason: It's a part of... I don't even know if it's still a feature, but JobVite video was a way to do, kind of, video prescreens, in these prerecorded answers to pre recorded questions.
Chad : Yeah.
Mason: That's just not been a typical practice. The handful of companies where I was, when I was consulting with JobVite customers, I would say, Would you be interested in rolling out JobVite video? Most of the recruiters said, Nah, they didn't see the need for it. They would still interview candidates by Skype, but in terms of the structured process, they didn't see value.
Chad : I think... So, taking a look at it from a recruiter view, they don't care about all that, but I think from a director, VP, or what have you, that it's all about getting the data into a centralized place, and also risk mitigation, right? You don't think about that, especially when you're... It's like, okay, so what questions did you ask? How did you ask them? Well, I did it over here on Skype. Do you have record of it? No. Right? Same thing with texting and those types of things. I think that's the conversation that we have to have at a much higher level to say, if we want to do all that ML, if we want to do something that longterm is going to work, we've got to have the fucking data, and if we don't have the data, we can't do it.
Mason: Right?. Right. Let's combine a few of these past questions. What if Hired by Google had tapped into Google Hangouts Meet, and put in their video conferencing tool, and tied it into the recruiting system to record the interview for compliance purposes.
Chad : Yeah.
Mason: Maybe throw in some automatic transcription of the text.
Chad : Right.
Mason: But none of that happened, because I don't know if there's really a demand. And as I'd mentioned earlier, recruiters don't really change their process real easy, and that would've been a massive sea change to have video interviews, centralized, recorded, transcribed, all of that. There's not really... It's all fun to think about the possibility. I don't see the-
Chad : So, it's the herding of the cats, is what you're saying? Really. Because they're all doing their own thing. It's like, you've got to get them to change change their routine.
Mason: Change is difficult, but the other way is, it's not a pain point, right?
Chad : Yeah.
Mason: Right? There's not really a true pain point in centralizing video interviews.
Joel: What I'm hearing is, virtual reality is the future.
Chad : You want those Oculus glasses. JobVite is giving away, as a prize, Oculus glasses, and-
Joel: I hope they have some security around that. They may just walk away mysteriously.
Mason: That's if you hit up every vendor that's in the expo here, then you get into the draw.
Chad : Or we could you do that.
Chad : I mean, that's not hard.