Ever heard the concepts behind sprint recruiting? Well, we've got the guy who wrote the book on the topic, super-recruiter Trent Cotton. A sneak-peek: Sprint recruiting applies the AGILE methodology to recruiting, enabling recruiting organizations to work smarter and more efficiently. It is built upon four principles to combat the pitfalls of recruiting. And oh, sister, do the boys dig into those principles.
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Did you say revenue as a recruiter? What?
That is sexy? Any CEO or anybody hears that they're like, Oh yeah, keep talking, keep talking, Trent.
Hide your kids! Lock the doors! You're listening to HR’s most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheeseman 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.
Oh yeah. We're recording on St. Patrick's day, which means this is the most sober thing I'll be doing all day. Welcome everybody. This is Joel Cheeseman of the Chad and Cheese podcast as always joined by my cohost and Chief Chad Sowash and today we are honored to welcome Trent Cotton, VP of Talent Acquisition and Retention at Bureau Veritas group. Trent, welcome to the Chad and Cheese podcast you've been warned.
Chad (1m 1s):
Was retention originally a part of the job title, or did you just say, Hey, I need more responsibility through, so throw that retention shit on my shoulders?
Joel (1m 9s):
That's also what I get after a lot of tacos, a lot of retention.
Trent (1m 15s):
You know, the whole retention thing. I just, I like to be different. So it's actually, I think a vice president of Talent Acquisition and Talent Strategies. So I probably need to change the LinkedIn thing, but it was just kind of balls to the wall as soon as I started. So it was like update LinkedIn. Let's move on to the rest of the stuff.
Chad (1m 35s):
Okay. We'll give us a little Twitter bio about you. What did we miss color in the little color, outside the lines, if you want to fuck, this is the Chad and Cheese.
Trent (1m 45s):
All right. So I am a kind of a business person first. I just fell into the talent space. I always tell people I converted to the dark side in 2004 and spent probably the first six months working with HR professionals who said I would never make it. But the biggest difference for me, I kind of found my voice whenever I realized, Hey, I can talk the language of the client and then I can just bring in the HR stuff. So I didn't, you know, I didn't really stress that. I didn't know HR law. I didn't, well, I did because I spent a hell of a lot of time as a manager in HR for stuff that I was doing, so I knew what not to do. But, you know, I kind of took more of a consultative approach. And that was in 2004, 2005.
Trent (2m 26s):
I was a Lone Wolf, very outside of your normal HR nomenclature, caricature of what an HR person looks like. And now I'm so excited that it's kind of like 50/50. There's a lot of us that have come from the business side and we're taking a business approach to everything talent.
Joel (2m 43s):
Found your voice, Lone Wolf, your life sounds like a Hallmark special.
Trent (2m 47s):
You know, that's kind of the brand that I'm going for. You know, what I like to do is suck them in to the Hallmark and then, you know, kind of drop the rated R version on them.
Joel (2m 56s):
Then drop the Vice on them. Yeah. I like it. I like it.
Trent (2m 59s):
That's my price.
Chad (3m 0s):
Oh shit. So, so TA is really bad about creating their own fucking language. Right. So, so, so let's talk about, you're talking about coming from the business side. So when you step into a C-suite discussion, do you ever push your time to fill cost per hire metrics? Or do you automatically just kind of like spin that into how it either positively or negatively impacts the bottom line? Cause I mean, if we think about it, the C-suite gives a shit about generally one thing and that's the bottom line. Yes. They have other periphery kind of obvious obvious responsibilities, but that's where their eye is set. So how do you as a TA leader focus on that?
Trent (3m 43s):
Well, my question and believe it or not, in the interview process, one of the, one of the executives I was interviewing with asked me, so what's going to be your TA strategy whenever you come in, if you get the job? I said, what are your profit levers? What needs to be moved for you to be able to meet your goal from a revenue standpoint in 2021?
Chad (3m 59s):
Joel (4m 1s):
Yeah. Did you say revenue as a recruiter? What?
Chad (4m 5s):
That is sexy. any CEO or anybody hears that they're like, Oh yeah. Keep talking, keep talking Trent. Ooh. I want to hear that revenue now. Yeah.
Joel (4m 14s):
Yeah. Hallmark channel back to the hallmark channel.
Trent (4m 17s):
But you know, what's funny though, is that whenever I asked them that they said, but no, what's your, what's your TA strategy? I said, I cannot develop a strategy that's going to work unless you can answer that question. And I think it jarred him little bit, I guess, I guess a jarred him, because I had to have other interviews, but you know, whenever I, whenever I came in, you know, I didn't, I don't even know what our time to fill is. I don't care that that doesn't matter to me. What I want to know is are we filling the most critical roles? And you know, we kind of do sprint recruiting, which we can talk about a little bit later. So it changes the dynamics of the metrics. Whenever I'm doing consulting or coaching for other TA professionals.
Trent (4m 57s):
We'll talk about one as an example, I'll keep it anonymous. But they were just so incredibly proud. They positioned it as, Hey, we want to talk to you about your book. And I was like, okay, cool. If you have questions, let's get on the thing. But it was really, you know, about 20 minutes into and I'm going okay, are you trying to sell me on your version of Sprint and why it's better? Or do you really, I mean, I've got other things I could be doing? But they were touting the fact that they, with their system, they reduced the time to fill from 45 days to 32 days in a month. I said, Oh, that's fantastic. How'd you do it? And they went through their whole little thing. I said, okay, so what's your, what's your quick quit, right?
Chad (5m 32s):
It's not important. We're not talking about that. That's an entirely different discussion.
Trent (5m 36s):
Exactly. And they're like, well, we don't handle turnover. That's an HR thing I said, but we are HR. And turnover is a thing, especially if you're looking at the first year. So they said, I don't know. Well, we'll get back to you. Well, next week we hop on, and this is like after hours. And they said, okay, our quick quit rate, you wanted the 90, the 180 and then the 365. I said, yes. And I remember one of them was 42% turnover after the first six months.
Chad (6m 2s):
Trent (6m 3s):
And so I said, so you're selling your time to fill, right? To your clients as a win?
Chad (6m 8s):
Because that's what they got.
Trent (6m 11s):
I said, let me just break this down. I said, now my minor was statistics and finance. I'm a data nerd. You were telling your client, please give us a round of applause because 48% of the time we find the wrong person who would quit.
Audience sound effects. (6m 24s):
Trent (6m 26s):
Well, what do we measure? I said, you need to line them up with the goal. You know, if, if we need to hire in, you know, 16 revenue producers that have an average revenue per FTE of X amount, how often can you get them? And how long can you retain them? And to me, it was just really interesting because MTA it's like, no one wants to talk about turnover. And for me, those two go hand in hand, especially that first year. So if you going back to my weird title, whenever I'm talking to my friends, I tell people, I said, I own a candidate from the time they say hello until we send them a one year happy anniversary card.
Joel (7m 2s):
You're leading the witness here, Sprint Recruiting, what is it? Why should our audience care? Give us the four
Chad (7m 9s):
Oh one on, tell us about the book, I mean, it just came out.
Trent (7m 13s):
It did, ironically, I set a release date just because, you know, I'm a project guy, so I wanted to set a deadline. I set it for January the 25th and got everything done. Got it edited over the holidays and ended up accepting this role. And so it released my first day at Bureau Veritas. And I was like, okay, you know, why in the hell would I want to do one thing at a time? Let's just do everything all at one time. So really excited. It's actually the, the second book that I've written, the first one was the Seven Deadly Sins of HR and what makes it suck. But with, with Sprints, it goes through, yeah. I made a lot of friends with that, but it was about two years ago. I was a TA leader for a very small team supporting the tech function within the firm.
Trent (7m 58s):
And it was your traditional all the time. You know, hiring managers say, you're not finding this candidate as you're taking too long, you're not filling the roles that we need to. I go to the recruiters that are complaining about the managers. I pull up the metrics, we're hiring people. And actually I was kind of frustrated. I was, I was really looking at, okay, do I need to stay in recruiting? Because I don't know that this can be fixed. And I'm just kind of wish we had just gone through agile training. I spent a week in agile training, a week in Kanban and then a week in design thinking. And then I was listening to the book Scrum by Jeff Sutherland. And it clicked. I said, okay, there are principles here that we can apply. So the more I started thinking about it, there are four traditional pitfalls of recruiting.
Trent (8m 39s):
The first one is that everything's a priority, which means nothing is a priority. Loss of productivity, loss of efficiency. And it causes a lot of chaos. The second is that, you know, I'm a musician. So I like a rhythm, I like to hear the drum and everybody else falls in line. In most recruiting processes, there's no drum. It's just, kinda like the Lucille bowl hair on fire.
Chad (8m 58s):
Yeah. Need a good baseline, right?
Trent (9m 0s):
Yeah. Yeah. And, and it's like, you're, you know, like the Lucille ball thing where you're just kinda like stuffing chocolate everywhere. That that's what they thought behind the scenes with recruiting. Right. And then the other thing is that a lot of times we're out of touch with our clients, you know, we think that we're communicating a lot, but we're not communicating as often. And then the last thing is that the feedback loop is broken. And a lot of times, whenever I talk to TA people, they go, yeah, we have an SLA for feedback. Okay. Is it on the manager too? No, that's not in a FLA. FLAs are mutual accountability. So the four principles of Sprint counteract, those, those four pitfalls. The first one is,
Chad (9m 37s):
Wait a minute, before we get into the principles. I want to talk, those pitfalls are specifically, and those are business pitfalls because if you're managing a sales team, these are also issues. They are also issues that you've seen in like when you're starting new sales teams and there there's no rhythm that everything's a priority, et cetera, et cetera. So as reading this, it was like, Holy shit. I mean, you're bringing business principles that have been tried and true for many different aspects of the business, into recruiting.
Trent (10m 8s):
Well, and believe it or not just a quick little sidebar before we get into the principles. My daughter is graduating high school this year and it was right around the time that I was developing this process.
Joel (10m 19s):
Empty nester alert.
Trent (10m 20s):
Oh, I know. I know. I'm so excited! Not to get her out, it's just like this stage of her life. It's like seeing her become who she is and it's just, it's like, it's just freaking.
Chad (10m 29s):
Trent (10m 31s):
I love it. Anyway, she was freaking out. She was taking AP classes. She's, you know, she was the drum major she's extracurricular queen and having a total meltdown over one weekend, trying to plan out how her week was going to go. So I, I took her up to Office Max, we got a little foam board, got some post-it notes. I drew the lanes out, kind of put her on a sprint essentially. And I said, okay, I want each subject has got a different sticky note, different color, sticky note, put down everything that you need to do. That's your backlog. And so she goes and puts it down. I said, okay, how many points on the grade? Or what weight is this project or this studying for this task going to be versus this one.
Trent (11m 11s):
And so she kind of put those down. I said, all right, now let's look at your week. What do you need to get done? She had like, I think 17 little post-it notes on there. And I kid you not in 30 minutes, she had it all charted out and she knew what she needed to get done and where she was in the process. I said, okay, let's set a point value per day. What do you want to accomplish? And she did it in our conversations at night was, Hey dad, I'm 50% above my goal, which means that I have some extra capacity. I'm going to go ahead and get a jump on this one. So that way maybe that Thursday night I'll be able to just chill the hell out. Yeah. I said, well, what if? And it, to me, that's whenever it clicked. I said, if a high school student can get this and make it work, recruiters can do the same.
Chad (11m 47s):
Yeah. Yeah. Direction and framework. I think that's what every human needs.
Trent (11m 52s):
Yes. Well, the brain naturally prioritizes information, gold, bronze, silver, you know, one, two, three, all of that kind of stuff. So it's just in the way that the psychology works. And what sprint does is it plays it to our advantage. So the first principle is, is the sprint itself. You're looking at a two week stint. So what I do is every two weeks, when we start to sprint, I go into our applicant tracking system. I do a data dump of all the open positions and so snapshot. So business-wise, it's like a balance sheet. It's a snapshot on that day. These are the jobs that are open. That was the first thing. We go to the line of business and say, here are all the jobs at this point, this is all we want to talk about, unless you have something that's really important that we that's coming down the pike over the next two weeks and we need to add.
Trent (12m 37s):
So it stops that let me dig myself out of a sand pit. So that the sprint is the first one. The second is that we use points to get the business to prioritize. So here are your 45 positions, Mr. Manager, Mrs. Manager. Over the next two weeks, what is the most critical to your business in terms of prioritization for us to focus on? We're going to focus on all of them, but we're going to front load this sprint, with making sure that you have candidates to be able to meet the needs and get the sprint done in a very successful manner. So give them a hundred points. You know, we try to, we kind of walk them through like a four quadrant type of things to think of the vertical axis as being impact. And that's, I tell the managers, that's what you own impact on the business.
Trent (13m 19s):
The horizontal is effort from the recruiter. So you have your high impact, high effort. Those are the ones that it's going to take a while for us to search, or we're really going to have to kind of dig in cause this is a niche. That's mission critical. They need 60% of their points to go to those types of positions. You go down to low impact, high effort. Those are, those are the ones that we're still going to have to do a lot of sourcing, but they're not as critical to that business. And that, that sprint, it's a great way for us to get a job. So if we can fill them fantastic, another 20% goes there.
Nexxt (13m 52s):
We'll get back to the interview in a minute. But first we have a question for Andy Katz, COO of Nexxt Andy, if a company wants to actually come to next and utilize your database and target texting candidates, I mean, how does that actually work? Right? So we have the software to provided two different ways. If an employer has their own database of opted in text messages, whether it's through their ATS, we can text on their behalf or we have over eight and a half million users that have opted into our text messaging at this point. So we can use our own database. We could dissect it by obviously by geography, by function, any which way some in sometimes we'll even parse the resumes of the opted in people to target certifications.
Nexxt (14m 36s):
So we really can dive really deep if they want to hone in on, you know, just give me the best hundred candidates that I want to text message with and have a conversation back and forth with versus going and saying, I need 30,000 retail people across the country, and that's more a yes/no text messaging back and apply. For more information, go to hiring.nexxt.com. Remember that's next with the double X, not the triple X hiring.nexxt.com.
Joel (15m 14s):
And how do you wrangle in a team environment? How does that work specifically in your case?
Trent (15m 20s):
In what aspect, Joel?
Joel (15m 21s):
How big is your team? How is, how are these projects divided? Is it a big room with everybody or a Zoom call? And we go through each job individually, are recruiters assigned to managers? Yeah. I'm just curious.
Chad (15m 34s):
And how often is it like every two weeks?
Trent (15m 36s):
Yeah. So bi-weekly, we have a meeting, we call it the, the retro and Allo call. So we do a retrospective of the previous sprint, what worked, what didn't and I put the fish on the table. So if the managers are not giving us feedback, which is one of the principles, 48 hours, they have to give us feedback or I'll ice their position. And I don't make a lot of friends that way.
Chad (15m 56s):
Ouch take that power!
Trent (15m 60s):
But it retrains them.
Chad (16m 1s):
Trent (16m 1s):
And then the other aspect of it that we'll cover is, is WIP limits a work in progress. So think about your normal recruiter. This one's really, really important. What are they do? They send 50 candidates over, over the span of two weeks, or the manager asks for 50 candidates only to go back and hire one of the five or so that we sent them three weeks ago. Look at the damn five. These are the top five that we think make a decision, pull the trigger, let us all move on with our lives. This forces it. So our goal, once we have that sprint, once we have our allocations to start looking now at our swim lanes. So recruiter, swim lane, hiring manager, submitted swim lane, and then the hiring manager interview. And we want to put a cap, a maximum amount that the managers can look at.
Trent (16m 42s):
So the first one is it's five across the board. So five scheduled interviews, maybe five sitting, waiting. Once we hit those WIP limits for that top priority, we move on to the next one. That's where our rhythm comes in because now I'm waiting on that last principle, which is feedback. Once I get the feedback, I can go back to it, move on. So, okay. You like to two of the five, I got another five, let's pick our top three. I get those scheduled. I go right back to the next one that I'm sourcing on in priority. So it gives some accountability and you know, the reporting and stuff that, that built it. It's kind of funny because I love it. The recruiters, whenever I'm training them, you know, especially like in a new organization that go, Oh yeah, heck yeah, this works. And then I go to the hiring manager and they're like, yeah, yeah.
Trent (17m 23s):
Then I start laying down the gauntlet and going, Hey, you're not playing by the rules. That's what everybody's feelings get hurt.
Chad (17m 28s):
So how manual is it though? I mean, how much, how much work does the recruiter have to do manual input into the system to be? Is it their normal process that they're used to? Or, I mean, how does, how does this actually change for them other than prioritization?
Trent (17m 43s):
So I take the Lord of the rings approach. Whenever it comes to reporting, we have one report to rule them all.
Chad (17m 49s):
Trent (17m 50s):
All right. So the thing at my previous firm, I'm all about simplicity, man, and laziness.
Chad (17m 58s):
I have a degree in marketing too. So therefore.
Trent (18m 2s):
Therefore I am.
Joel (18m 3s):
Find your voice, find your voice, baby.
Trent (18m 5s):
I'm never going to live that down. Anyway. So at the previous firm we use Google sheets. And you know, the recruiters kind of kept up their little status reports, you know, we've got a status, we got notes and all that other kind of stuff, which is standard. You know, most ATSs, they suck in my opinion, but they are built for me. Yeah. Let's, let's talk.
Joel (18m 24s):
You use success factors, right?
Trent (18m 26s):
Joel (18m 27s):
So it's funny that you're using Google sheets, but have success factors. But we talked about them
Chad (18m 32s):
That was at the other place.
Trent (18m 34s):
Yeah. That was at the other place.
Chad (18m 37s):
Now he's got a handyman out on him now.
Trent (18m 40s):
Yeah. I use Smartsheet now because it's hard in the system, in an ATS to configure it to how Sprint works because you can't put a point value in there. There's gotta be some way that we can track it.
Chad (18m 53s):
So is that a software? Smartsheets?
Trent (18m 55s):
Smartsheet is like Excel or Google sheet on steroids. I love it. Because I can put some automation in there. So whenever a recruiter goes in and changes the status on a requisition to say WIP limit, an email goes out to the hiring manager and says, Hey, you are now at your WIP limit, maximum number of candidates and moving on to the next one in priority, you have 48 hours to give me feedback.
Joel (19m 15s):
So it's like a Trello for recruiting.
Trent (19m 17s):
It is exactly. And that's the thing that I like about Smartsheet over what we had at the bank. In Smartsheet I can put it in a Kanban. So whenever I'm having my daily standup with the recruiting team, I see where we are in the status. We start with everything that has points. How are we moving them across the board? It's nice and it's visual, which most of us in recruiting, we're visual people. So we can kind of see how are we moving this down the line or moving the ball down the field. And then we say, okay, now that we've talked about sprint, let's talk about the rest of our jobs. And the really awesome thing, cause I'm a, I guess, psychological sadist. I love to kind of put people through planes and watch whenever they start turning the corner and things start hitting, there's always a point whenever I'm doing this consultation with clients that recruiters start realizing, okay, you got 10 days in a sprint.
Trent (20m 4s):
There's usually by the third sprint of six weeks in, they go, Hey, I'm actually at a point where I can't really do anything on the rest of my sprint roles. Is it okay if I reach out to this executive and see, like, how are they going to prioritize the next sprint? Hell yes. Get a jump on it.
Chad (20m 18s):
Trent (20m 18s):
And that capacity standpoint, you know, I call that the capacity mindset shift. It starts at day eight. Usually that's the first, first time that it kind of peaks its head. And then over time I start tracking. When does that? You know, we go from day eight, today, seven today, six. And then as a leader, I can start looking at my team in say, okay, this person has got sprint. They understand the process. They're managing their board. They have extra capacity to let me go in and get them to help out. At an organization level, I know what's important so I can go, and rather than saying this, person's got 68 <inaudible>. I don't care. I don't care if they have 68 <inaudible>. If they have 25 jobs that have points, that's where I'm going to get concerned.
Chad (20m 58s):
What's the story. Now, when you go to the C-suite, you're setting this up to focus on business prioritization, right? What's that, what's that conversation look like?
Trent (21m 8s):
Oh, well we sure as hell don't talk about time to fill. We talk about points. We talk about on average, I think we're three sprints in, so I wasn't going to start sprint until like 30 or 45 days into.
Chad (21m 20s):
You couldn't help yourself.
Trent (21m 21s):
Oh, dear God. In heaven. I was like, this shit I was having like PTSD from before. I was like, I can't deal with this shit. We're putting these people in sprint. But so now, like whenever I'm meeting with the executives, we do like monthly management reviews. It's a totally different conversation. I said, okay, let's look back at February. We had this many positions come in, we filled this many. So traditional metric, we need to keep an eye on that because I want to see are we trending up and number of jobs? And if so, I want to know why the next part that we go over is I've got them an automatic dashboard, that they just go and click and anybody in the organization, that's a hiring manager can go and look and see where they are. We started talking about week over week sprint. So a hundred points last sprint, or the first sprint is February.
Trent (22m 3s):
We hit 60%. The last sprint of the month, we hit 25. Part of that was because, you know, half the team sits in Houston. They were iced over for, you know, close to a week. But I can also go in and look because we tracked number of points obtained against the budget. But then for all of those roles that we closed that do not have points, we get extra credit. So I'm able to track two trend lines. One of the conversations I had, I think last week with one of the executives, they're like, you're not filling the right roles. I said, well, look at the sprint. Look at this number. You've got 38 extra jobs that were filled outside of the 10 that you allocated points. So either the recruiter and I'll find this out, either the recruiter is taking the easy way out or you are diverting our prioritization and we need to, we kind of need to go and say, what is prioritization?
Trent (22m 48s):
Let's go back to kindergarten. Let's define it for you and the client because you're screwing with my productivity.
Joel (22m 53s):
Nice. Well, speaking of productivity, let's talk about recruitment tech for a second. You mentioned you, you endorse one product, which is nice for the company. You do quite a bit of stuff. And this is actually my most important question. Is it pronounced hire tool? Or hired Tool?
Trent (23m 15s):
Chad (23m 17s):
They just can't smell that shit right.
Joel (23m 19s):
I'm guessing by the number of YouTube videos you've done for them. You liked their products. How did? They got Seek Out, Hiring Solved, their competitors? I guess what, what are some tools technology-wise that you can't live without and that you, you love and use almost daily?
Trent (23m 35s):
Yeah. You've already named my first one. The thing I love about, about Hire Tool is it's kind of like an all-in-one. So I've got this incredible AI sourcing machine learning, sourcing platform that goes across 45 different platforms. So I'm not just LinkedIn or CareerBuilder as if they are still relevant. Indeed.
Joel (23m 52s):
Hold on. LinkedIn is not relevant? Did I hear that right? How about CareerBuilder?
Trent (23m 57s):
Yeah. LinkedIn's not too far behind them.
Joel (24m 1s):
All right. Keep, keep going, keep going, Trent.
Trent (24m 5s):
So we've got, you know, access to 45 different platforms. So it's an incredible sourcing tool and it's also got market insights. So once I I've kind of got my search, I'm looking at the sample candidates and I go, yeah, I'm on the right track. I can go and generate market insights that tells me everything from top schools, top locations. What's the average salary based off of, you know, I think they use salary.com, Indeed, GlassDoor, but don't hold me to it. But anyway, it's like real life stuff. I don't have to wait 18 months for a damn survey that tells me what to pay someone now. So I can build a recruiting strategy. And what I do is, is whenever I'm sitting with executives, I pull up my screen and I show them and they helped me build out the search.
Trent (24m 45s):
And then we look at, you know, who are our competitors? I can do competitive analysis, you know, go and pick ABC company, DEF and XYZ company. And look at project managers. What are they paying their people? Where are these people located? How competitive are we? So it's got that, that talent strategy. And then you've got the CRM built right in. And to me, it's just kind of an all-in-one suite. It's probably one of my, that was the first thing that I lived with. And whenever I joined the company, actually, before I joined the compa