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Creating a Talent Collective

Join us on "The Chad and Cheese Podcast" for a lively and enlightening conversation with Natalie Stones, the founder of Talent Collective. In this episode, titled "Unleashing Talent: The Natalie Stones Interview," we delve into Natalie's passion for talent acquisition, her journey from corporate recruiting to building a thriving community for women in recruiting, and her adventures in fractional recruiting. Natalie shares her insights on AI in recruiting, the challenges of unbiased hiring, and the current trends in talent acquisition. We also discuss the changing landscape of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, the rise of fractional work and its impact on women, and the evolving dynamics of the workforce post-pandemic. Don't miss Natalie's candid thoughts on LinkedIn and the role of recruiting technology in shaping the future of talent acquisition. Tune in for an episode packed with humor, snark, and thought-provoking discussions that redefine the world of recruiting.

Intro: 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 and Cheese Podcast.


Joel: Oh, yeah. What's up everybody? It is Bob Hope's favorite podcast, AKA, The Chad and Cheese Podcast. I'm your co-host, Joel Cheesman, joined as always, the Woodstock to my Snoopy, Chad Sowash is on the house. We are live at TA Week at the Qualifi booth...

Chad: Yes.

Joel: And we are giddy to welcome Natalie Stones. There's an "S" at the end like Rolling...

Natalie Stones: Rolling Stones?

Joel: Founder at Talent Collective. Natalie, welcome to the podcast.

Natalie Stones: Thank you so much. Good morning.

Joel: So...

Chad: Good morning.

Joel: A lot Of our listeners don't know who you are.

Chad: Oh, what?

Joel: Give us a Twitter bio about what makes Natalie tick.

Natalie Stones: Well, what makes me tick is talent acquisition.

Chad: Oh stop it.

Intro: I live it, I breathe it... [laughter]

Joel: Come on. We want poetry reading. We want walks on the beach...

Natalie Stones: Wine tasting is definitely, yeah.

Chad: Oh, there it is. Okay.

Intro: Red or White?

Natalie Stones: Red.

Joel: Okay.

Chad: There we go.

Natalie Stones: Love me some Pinot Noir...

Joel: Oh yes.

Natalie Stones: I live in San Francisco, Napa wine country, all that thing. But who am I? I am a woman in recruiting. I've been doing it for about 20 years both agency side and in-house corporate recruiting, head-of-talent roles. And now I run a community for women, and I do fractional recruiting. And I get to do what I want, when I want.

Chad: [chuckle] "I get to do what I want. She does what she wants."


[overlapping conversation]

Natalie Stones: And create it how I want it.

Joel: Is that a song from the '90s?

Chad: I love it.


Joel: Somewhere in there.

Natalie Stones: You said Twitter bio. Like, what can I fit in that short amount of time?

Chad: Well you just did, so you're good. That's very good. That's very good.

Natalie Stones: Done. Period.

Chad: Let's talk about that. So in recruiting and now you have built this community, you're building this community. It's not built. You've got much to do, right?

Natalie Stones: Yes. Yeah.

Chad: How did you go from one to the next? How do you go from recruiting, corporate recruiting, to building a community? And why? Give me the why first. Why did you think this was necessary?

Joel: What's your why?

Chad: What's your why? [laughter]

Natalie Stones: Two very specific reasons. I don't know how crass I can be on this, or if I can say bad words.

[overlapping conversation]

Chad: Very, yeah, of course. Yeah.

Joel: As nasty as you want to be. We're like the two live crew of recruiting podcasts.


Natalie Stones: Number one, I was so fucking tired of being laid off. In the past three years I was laid off twice, and I was like, "Man, how... " This economy's just getting worse and worse and worse. I need a community. I need more people to connect with that are in TA. Hopefully that'll help me find my next job. I couldn't find the right conferences to go to where I didn't feel like, "Okay, TA's just a subset of HR."

Chad: So everybody says LinkedIn's the answer. LinkedIn's not the answer.

Natalie Stones: No.


Natalie Stones: I don't use LinkedIn anymore.

Chad: Okay. Okay.

Natalie Stones: Actually I use RecruitBot, right behind us here. So a little plug for RecruitBot. So we wanted to create something that didn't exist for ourselves, opportunities to network, get back out there post-COVID. We wanted programming that was very hyper-specific to...

Chad: Yes.

Natalie Stones: Recruiting, recruiting operations. We wanted to geek out about it all day. And then we wanted to create more mentorship opportunities and ways for people to collaborate. So...

Chad: When you say "we," you mean women?

Natalie Stones: Yes. My two co-founders and I...

Chad: Yes.

Natalie Stones: We were very passionate about it. But we created it specifically for women...

Chad: Yes.

Natalie Stones: Women+, so those who identify. But the second reason we started it is because there's so many freaking communities out there that are ran by men. No offense, we love them.


Natalie Stones: They are our male allies. They are a part of our community as speakers, panelists, contributors, partners. So they definitely play an important part in what we do. But when you look at all of the other communities side-by-side, I can't really find one that is...

Joel: What's the mission of the organization?

Natalie Stones: To empower, advance, and connect women in talent acquisition specifically...

Joel: Okay.

Natalie Stones: And we do that in the three different ways: Networking, professional development, and the mentorship.

Joel: And what's membership numbers? Is there a threshold to get into the organization? Talk about that.

Natalie Stones: We launched June of last year. So we're in month seven. In the Bay Area, we started as a beta test, and we now are at a little over 270 members globally, with the most being in California right now 'cause that's where we are, and then the other half across the US. And we have since launched other local communities, San Francisco, LA, Seattle. We have Orange County tomorrow. And then I'll tell you about the other ones later. But really the threshold there isn't. It's just you're a woman, and you're in talent acquisition.

Joel: And benefits are?

Natalie Stones: So you get the opportunity to be a part of our circle platform, bunch of resources, partner discounts. We have four to five workshops a month. We have in-person networking events, in-person speaker events. We have our partner experiences. Last night we hosted a TA leader dinner. We have boardroom peer groups, and we have mentorship programs. And that's part of our standard; we call it our "essential membership." But we also have an executive level 1. So if you're a director-level and above, then you get the amplified experiences, different exclusive events that you get invited to.

Chad: What if you're on the track to be one of those, right? Because not everybody is a director; not everybody, but they could aspire to be that one day. Are there tracks to be able to get there? And I know you guys are really early in the inception.

Natalie Stones: Yes, we will do that. Thank you for the idea.


Natalie Stones: No, we don't have formal tracks yet. But as part of our essential membership, we have recruiting coordinators that are in there, sourcers... And we make sure to curate the virtual experiences to make sure that it's content that could be relevant. Throughout the month, we want there to be a topic that is RecOps-focused, a staffing topic for our agency people...

Chad: Right.

Natalie Stones: Something that's for more junior talent, and then something that's just more of a generalist topic. So no formal track, but we try to make sure we have something for everybody throughout the month.

[overlapping conversation]

Chad: Okay. So how are you guys monetizing to be able to feed this? Because this is gonna take a lot of fuel to be able to get enrolled.

Joel: And are you looking to be a 501-C-3 or another...

Natalie Stones: Yes.

Joel: Oh, okay.

Natalie Stones: Yeah, we are. We're actually in the process of filing all of that right now. But early on we made a first-time founder mistake, and we started [chuckle] hosting our in-person events with the light membership dues that we had. Every single time we were running negative. So we're like, "Okay, we can't do this," but we still need to have these experiences. So we're monetizing by having partnerships with other recruiting technology companies, recruiting firms, HR tech. And so they help us co-host these events. Other things that we're gonna do is we have a partner directory. So any of these partners that wanna be featured on our platform, they pay a cost to be on the platform. We also are co-writing content with people. So mostly right now is sponsors and partners, and content collaboration.

Chad: Gotcha, gotcha.

Natalie Stones: In the early days, but more to come on that.

Joel: In terms of conversations that the group is having, what's trending? What's the hot topics?

Natalie Stones: What do you think it is?

Chad: Pay equity. Pay equity.

Joel: That's a trap question...


Joel: That I'm not touching whatsoever.

Natalie Stones: As a non-woman in recruiting, what do you think it is? [laughter] Yeah, pay equity is one...

Chad: Yeah?

Natalie Stones: But it's actually not the most common one.

Chad: What about leadership positions? I mean, what? Is it like 8% of Fortune 500 companies have a female CEO?

Natalie Stones: Yeah.

Chad: I mean, there are plenty of topics that we could talk about that should be burning topics, which...

[overlapping conversation]

Joel: But she's on the inside.

Chad: Yes, exactly.

Joel: She knows what they are.


Chad: I know, which is...

Joel: And she's gonna reveal them now.

Natalie Stones: Yeah. It's really like... [chuckle] Well okay, number one, is AI in recruiting. Everybody's in a frenzy about that. What is it about...

Chad: Which is great from a vendor standpoint, because you can get a lot of vendors to be able to get into this community. Right? And then, again, this is an educational scenario. I mean, this is good on both sides for vendors to be able to help educate, but also for, obviously, the community to learn.

Natalie Stones: The value for us in having these partners is less about the financial donation. It's about bringing the innovation to the community so that they are constantly in the know of all the technology, the innovation. 'Cause not every tool is right for every company or stage or size or person. And so having these innovative conversations and topics, is big. So AI is one. At the leadership level, they're talking more about, how do we strategically in the future hire back TA teams? Will we ever need full-time recruiting teams again? Or what about fractional? Fractional recruiting is a thing. Could there be a benefit to scaling up and down your recruiting team as you need it, as your business grows? Seasonality? So that's actually a big, big one right now.

Chad: You sound like an RPO right now. [laughter]

Natalie Stones: Well, we do also have Talent Refinery, which is a fractional recruiting firm. So a little plug for that on the side. But other things, yes, pay equity is a very important one. And another one, I think we're just at the most basic level right now, where just so many of our members are laid off because of the economy. We're really talking about how to create more opportunities for each other, how to partner on roles, how to make introductions to get a role to pick up a project. So a lot of it is about work and staying relevant as a recruiter right now...

Chad: Yeah.

Natalie Stones: But more will come, the more that we have more female voices and passionate things that they're excited about talking about.

Joel: So I didn't answer your question, but I'm gonna tell you what I'm surprised that you didn't say in your answer. Chad and I almost weekly or at least monthly, talk about the demise of DEI, whether it's companies pulling back funding, laying off leaders, in the DEI movement. You didn't say any of that in terms of a concern with your members. But what are your thoughts on the trend of MeToo, Black Lives Matter, George Floyd? "We're going the right direction, it looks like we've backed up." Your thoughts?

Natalie Stones: So what we see in recruiting is, it was like this trend and this wave. And then once everyone was doing it, then how does anyone remain relevant with their DEI initiatives without making it very specific thing that we're trying to put out there? Like having good perks and benefits, and everybody's having the snacks and the dogs at the office. Everybody's now doing the same thing, so how does anyone really diversify themselves as a DEI employer of choice? So I think what you're seeing is a lot of companies now are, if you aren't really going to make a concerted effort to continue to maintain DEI initiatives, or if you were just doing it as a trending initiative, then stop. Don't do it anymore. Because then you're not being authentic with it, and it's just becoming a thing to do because everyone else is doing it. So I think that's why you see some companies backing up with it, because they don't wanna be out there as, "Okay, we're doing what everyone else is doing." Instead, let's just focus on DEI initiatives that are important to us without having to make it a marketing-campaign type of thing. So I don't think it's going away. I think the buzz around it is demising a little bit, because it became a very big marketing thing.

Chad: So to kinda like fight back a little bit on that one...

Natalie Stones: Yeah. Let's fight.

Chad: Before when there were marketing budgets, right? There were marketing budgets. They weren't diversity budgets, right?

Natalie Stones: Yes.

Chad: You had CDOs that were put in place that had no staff, they had no budget. Right? Now, this is when people were "focused" on it, right? To actually do the right thing. Which we all know is bullshit in many cases. Facebook spending millions of dollars and getting almost a bump. At the end of the day, if there's no pressure, then nothing happens. Right? So I agree with you a hundred percent. There was a smoke screen out there for years that we called DEI.

Natalie Stones: Yes.

Chad: And we put people in place that had no power, that had no resources. But the question is, how do we pivot into something that does matter, it is meaningful, without having an emphasis on it at all?

Natalie Stones: I think what we're seeing evolve from that is unbiased hiring, right? How do we just unbiasedly consider all talent based on just purely skills and qualifications? Less on, okay, do these hires tick this box based on this diversity category? Like in my last role, we were an agency, and we really focused on unbiased hiring, but we would get a lot of clients that would say, "We only wanna hire women, so only send us panels of people that are women or a certain ethnicity," so on and so forth. And we said, "We don't do that," because we feel that's reverse diversity. Well, what about the other people that don't meet that category that are qualified for your role? So instead, we will go through an unbiased exercise. We'll present you the right talent panel, and you can choose who you want. So I think what we're seeing more, at least within our community, is how do we just create an unbiased hiring experience that could help amplify diversity without focusing on, "We need to get X more amount of whatever category that is?" I hope that answers your question.

Chad: It does, but it's really hard because a lot of, let's say for instance, females who wanna be CEOs.

Natalie Stones: Yeah.

Chad: They don't have the standard requirements. Right? So therefore they're not qualified, 'cause they're not getting the opportunities. Right? And if you take a look at some of the statistics, to be able to get where we need to be with parity, it's gonna take 75 years. Do you think we have that long? I don't. So how do we...

Natalie Stones: I think I'll be dead by then.

Chad: Yeah. I know I will be. But at the end of the day, how do we make this happen without being too crazy, reverse discrimination, discrimination, whatever it is... Problem is, we're not fixing what's been broke. How do we fix that? And in your community, I would say, could be a good cornerstone to some of this.

Natalie Stones: Yes. Yeah. I think, like you guys were saying, you're trying to help amplify female voices. So I can only speak to the female perspective. But having allies and people that are not from our diverse category, helping advocate for us and amplify our voices, making the right introductions, is kind of the only best right answer that I have right now. But we're trying to do everything we can to elevate the confidence level of women in recruiting specifically, trying to give them as much professional development opportunity to help them grow. And then creating that mentorship so that maybe they're getting access to more of those connections. So that's the only best solution that I have right now.

Joel: Clearly no easy answer to that question.

Natalie Stones: No.

Chad: No. If it was easy, we would have this get fixed already, right? Yeah.

[overlapping conversation]

Natalie Stones: It would already be done. Yeah.

Joel: I'm gonna give you another one that I'm surprised you didn't bring up in terms of trending...

[overlapping conversation]

Chad: Here we go again.

Joel: Trending topics. So the pandemic, we know, is an imbalance of stress on women, which typically the burden of childcare goes to them. And the work-from-home movement seemed to be something that was a very big positive for women.

Natalie Stones: Yeah.

Chad: Yeah.

Joel: You see more and more stories about return to office, get back to work, and that impacting women in a negative way for sure. Is that being discussed? Your thoughts on work-from-home and companies that maybe don't consider... Run by men.


Joel: Consider the impact on women, in return to the office. Is that a topic that you guys discuss or have a opinion on?

Natalie Stones: It is. And it's more like the TA leaders trying to really have concerted conversations with their stakeholders in their companies, to help them understand, really good talent is gonna be self-accountable at home, man, woman, otherwise. And so why can't we continue to have work from home? We do talk about the impact that it has on women, specifically because myself and Krista, we are single moms, and we run two businesses, and the way that we've created the opportunity for ourselves is creating our own business.

Chad: Yeah.

Natalie Stones: But not everybody can do that. Not everybody has the right access, community support, financial means, whatever. And so we really try to have conversations about, how do you advocate for yourself to push back, and/or not accept opportunities just purely because you like the company or whatnot? But does that meet your personal means?

Chad: Yeah.

Natalie Stones: I actually heard last night, someone was telling me that there's this new, I don't know if it's a movement, but there's this new concept of both parents going part-time. Let's say you're not a single parent. Both parents working part-time.

Chad: Yeah.

Natalie Stones: So that no one is off-balanced on the burden of work or the burden of at home. So they're trying to create these equal opportunities, where instead of one person not working and losing one full salary, how do we both work part-time to support the family and support your career? So I was like, "Hmm, interesting." First time I heard that.

[overlapping conversation]

Joel: I heard a story this week on the rise of part-time jobs.

Chad: Yeah.

Joel: And maybe that syncs up with what she's saying.

[overlapping conversation]

Natalie Stones: I need to look into that.

Chad: So try working part-time and living in San Diego.


Natalie Stones: You'll be at the beach all the time.

Joel: Or anywhere in California...

[overlapping conversation]

Chad: Not to mention... I mean, you have... I mean, here in the US. I think that's a little bit easier in Europe, because they have healthcare. Here, the way it's tied to a full-time position, right? So those are great ideas. But again, I think for some people who have the means to be able to do that, they can do that. But unfortunately, the ones who can't, they just, they don't have the availability to keep a roof over their head, food in their kid's mouths, so yeah.

Natalie Stones: Yeah. The one thing that was part of that topic was, then you do away with the entire daycare expense. So that helps that family save on the cost of that. But kind of to finish answering your comment on that, what we actually are discussing the most is, so many women want to be their own decision makers. They wanna be their own bosses. They wanna have creative control of the work that they do. So many of them in our community are becoming fractional. They just wanna be solopreneurs, have a lifestyle business enough to maintain the life that they want, but still getting to pick-and-choose like standing up their own business so they become their own boss, pick and choosing the types of work that they work on...

Chad: Yeah.

Natalie Stones: And so they're amplifying themselves by taking it into their own hands.

Chad: It's almost like gigs. You're fractional... Yeah, you're working gigs. Yeah.

Natalie Stones: Yep.

Joel: Yeah. Curious about... We're here at TA Week, we're in the exhibit hall, and there are a lot of companies on the vendor side who preach unbiased recruiting. You see sites like Fairygodboss or InHerSight that are specifically for women. You mentioned quitting LinkedIn, so feel free to expound upon that.


Joel: Are vendors, in your perspective, getting it right? Are they moving in the right direction? Or is a lot of false promises that you're seeing?

Natalie Stones: I think vendors are getting it right. I think where the hesitation is, is actually on the user. Because we are still in an era where there's a variety of different generations that are used to hiring a certain way. "Please email me over the resumes. I wanna look at the resumes." And then they scroll the bottom to see, when did they graduate, or the gaps, or whatever. And so while the vendors are doing a great job to create the unbiased user experience, I think there's still a lot of resistance to it. And so there's not as much adoption as we would hope, because they still... Their brain, their muscle memories still wired to like, "I wanna see it all, I wanna know who this candidate is," and then they make their biased impressions.

Chad: Well, I think you take a look at the tech stacks that are being built today. And I would say in the very near future, they're not gonna have that opportunity. The amount of scale that we see today with regards to the amount of people who can apply, and then the new apply bots that are out there, there have to be technologies that go ahead and filter out according to the requirements of the job. Right? And then allow that recruiter at some point to actually have access. So hopefully we're getting past that. And not to mention, a lot of those recruiters who've been doing the old school 1990s way of recruiting, they're not gonna last. They're gonna be gone. And the new breed will definitely take over.

Natalie Stones: Not only based on generationally they're gonna be working out of the workforce, but they will also maybe not become as relevant, to your point.

Chad: Yes.

Natalie Stones: I feel that same way about AI. I don't think AI is going to replace recruiters, but the recruiters that don't choose to adopt that into their effective processes will become kind of dismal.

Joel: I'm sorry...

Natalie Stones: That's my take.

[overlapping conversation]

Joel: I tried to serve it up, but LinkedIn, what's up?


Joel: Is it a... Why?

Natalie Stones: It's so damn expensive.

Chad: Okay, all right.

Natalie Stones: Gosh, you can't ever get out of the contracts. Why do I need to pay 2500... I don't even know what it costs anymore. For a license, when I can still find these same people on my own? So I'll give another plug for RecruitBot. I work on a free LinkedIn account. I don't even have to use it. They have all of the content that you can source in there. The AI will then tee up additional candidates based on how you're qualifying them. I can then put them through my emails campaign. There's a CRM piece, and then I can status them with kind of the ATS. Why do I never need to go outside?

[overlapping conversation]

Joel: I was like I'm morally opposed to the...

Natalie Stones: I mean, sure.

Joel: The Death Star that is LinkedIn, so...


[overlapping conversation]

Natalie Stones: Yeah, the...

Chad: There's that, there's that.

Joel: So yeah. Price...

Natalie Stones: The Death Star, yeah.

Joel: Pricing's a little less sexy. But it is an answer that a lot of people give us. Natalie, thanks for hanging out with us today.

Natalie Stones: Thank you.

Joel: For our listeners that wanna know more about you and the organization, where do you send them?

Natalie Stones: To That's our website.

Chad: There you have it.

Joel: Dot-community? That might be the first dot-community on the podcast.

Natalie Stones: Yeah. It was available so I took it.

Joel: We appreciate that.

Chad: Dot-community.

Joel: Dot-community...

Natalie Stones: Exactly. So spell it all out.

Joel: Slash-UK-dot-co or something.


Joel: Chad, another one in the can. Progress baby, we out.

Chad: We out.

Natalie Stones: Thank you.

Outro: Well, thank you for listening to, what's it called? The podcast. With Chad. With Cheese. Brilliant. They talk about recruiting. They talk about technology. But most of all, they talk about nothing. Just a lot of shout-outs of people you don't even know. And yet you're listening. It's incredible. And not one word about cheese. Not one. Cheddar, blue, nacho, Pepper Jack, Swiss. So many cheeses, and not one word. So weird. Anyhoo, be sure to subscribe today on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. That way you won't miss an episode. And while you're at it, visit Just don't expect to find any recipes for grub cheese. It's so weird. We out.


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