Cut & Polish

Yext’s Average Time-to-Hire 1+ Week Shorter than the Industry Average

Who’s Beating the Benchmarks? is a new Gem series in which we spotlight our customers who are outperforming their peers in a given recruiting metric. 

This month we’re celebrating Yext for their time-to-hire. The average number of days to hire for our customers in Q1 of 2022 was 35, while Yext saw a 27-day average—8 days shorter than the industry benchmark. 

Knowing that we’d be talking not only with Michael Franco, Senior Director of Recruiting, but also with Joe Pecci, Senior Manager of Engineering Recruiting, we sliced the data down to tech roles and looked at a larger window of time. While the average time to hire across tech roles in all of 2021 was 45 days, Yext’s time to hire was 31 days for those same roles. In other words, last year Yext beat the tech benchmarks by nearly three full work weeks.

Clearly, the recruiting org is doing something very right regarding the speed of hire. Here are some highlights from our conversation with Michael and Joe:

Let’s start at the very top of the funnel. What strategies do you have in place to fill it?

Michael: For starters, I love a good sourcing jam! We always recommend hosting sourcing jams during our hiring manager kickoff calls because referrals make up ~30% of Yext’s hires per year. When hosting these sessions, we try to make them an enjoyable experience for our employees. We’ll play music, provide food, and even offer an additional incentive by doubling the referral payout for anyone hired after. 

We also learned that making the setting more intimate with fewer people helps create a more open environment, so people feel comfortable asking questions and sharing best practices. We start every sourcing jam by highlighting the open roles and requirements. Then we’ll walk them through how to run a search with Boolean strings that we customized for them in advance. From there, the employees sit back and listen to music while combing through their networks and submitting referrals into a Google form. After the sourcing jam, recruiters start nurturing the referrals through Gem’s platform

Joe: I get as creative as possible with my emails, especially with compelling subject lines—things that capture people. Personally, I enjoy food puns, and they seem to work with engineers! I also reach out frequently. I’d rather be in front of folks more often than have them forget about me. And if nothing else, the breakup email usually gets them. I’ll say, “This is my last attempt, but feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.” That triggers responses. No one wants to miss out on a great opportunity. If they write back to say, “I’m not looking now, but I’ll be looking three months from now,” I’ll schedule an email to go out in 10 weeks to check in. At this very moment, I have a ton of emails scheduled to go out at later dates. So the top of the funnel is always pretty full for us.

Do you have outreach best practices you’re willing to share?

Michael: One critical practice is asking about our messaging after hiring someone. We're asking, “Hey, what attracted you? Why did you respond to this outreach?” I'll even ask, “Why did you click on this link but didn’t open the second email?” The answers to those questions help us create future iterations of our outreach. 

We’re also not trying to sell anything in our outreach. It’s not like, “Hey, here's a job.” We're trying to start a genuine conversation. I want someone to respond to the dog photos I send with pictures of their own dog, and that leads to a conversation, which eventually brings us to a discussion about their career. An easy segue is, “What are your heartburns at your current company?” When we have the answer to that question, we know what value prop to use right off the bat. We’re telling them how things work at Yext with their pain point in mind. And the best part—we haven’t even touched on the opportunity yet. Now it doesn't mean this is right for them. But it positions us as career advisors rather than role-pushers. No one at Yext immediately says, “Hey, we want to discuss your career goals. Is there a match here?” 

We’re also constantly updating our messaging with new content, including customer stories, recent achievements, etc. So what we send out is from last week, not last year. Candidates recognize fresh content. It shows the company is lively and thriving.

What else are you doing at the top of the funnel that reduces time-to-hire?

Joe: We’ve reimagined our requisition opening process and transitioned all prerequisite activities (i.e., the details that keep recruiters from recruiting) to our HR and FP&A teams. Having the admin work lifted from us has enabled our team to deepen its focus on sourcing, recruiting, and business partnering. Instead, we’re already hard at work with the hiring manager, and they’re sharing what their plans are for that newly-opened req.

We begin building trust-based and value-added relationships with future hiring leaders during the recruiting process, making it easy to transition when they join. We provide new hiring leaders with tools to help them hire the right talent before even having an open headcount. As a part of a leader’s onboarding process, we host a session to share our hiring philosophy, review an interview selection framework, introduce recruiting allies (i.e. RCs and our internal mobility and referrals team), and then wrap up with a Gem demo. They are always blown away by Gem’s capabilities, especially the real-time updates within Talent Pipeline and the ability to create custom dashboards in such an eye-catching format. We’ve seen this meeting generate excitement around the hiring process, creating a foundation of trust and allowing us to drive greater efficiency. 

We’ve found that investing in a high-quality and transparent process while focusing on our candidates' experiences, clients and internal business partners drives strong alignment and thoughtful yet fast decision-making. 

Michael: Joe just mentioned the interview selection framework, which includes a range of focus areas with the definitions of each of those areas (i.e., “collaboration”), and what to look out for when interviewing. We’re constantly updating the selection framework because sometimes you recognize red flags in retrospect. We take those learnings and add them to the doc, along with the new best questions to ask to predict performance in that area.

Recruiting coordinators are also involved in kickoff calls to collect the hiring manager’s availability. Aligning with such clarity and detail early on means everyone knows their role and availability for the moment a candidate is ready to move forward. Our RCs’ organizational skills are critical to our success in providing hiring managers and candidates with a positive experience.

I’d also add that we’re discussing start dates from the beginning. We’re saying to candidates, “The average time for folks to get an offer is ___ days. How does that look for you?” Mid-process, we’ll sit down and say, “I just want to confirm that if we extend an offer, you’d still be able to start on ___ day, and you’d be happy with ___ compensation. Are we still aligned?” When the candidate has that start date in mind, we all have a goal we’re speedily moving toward.

So there’s a kind of “trial-closing” that’s happening throughout?

Michael: Exactly. We’re closing candidates at every step, so no one is surprised by our compensation or what we’re offering. We say, “The more honest you are with us about your needs, the smoother this process will be. Tell us what you’re looking for at the outset, and we’ll try to get that for you. But don’t ask for another $10K at the very end.”

When that happens, we’ll don’t hesitate to challenge candidates and ask questions like, “When did your comp requirements change? Because those changes hold up the process.” 

Typically at that stage in the game, most recruiters will take it back to their team to see what they can do, which tacks on an additional three or four days. Instead, we’re asking for a healthy conversation about how the pivot happened. And if we have a situation where there’s an end-of-process comp increase, we try to utilize avenues that don’t require us to go back to FP&A. A common workaround is syncing with the hiring manager to see if we can offer a sign-on and potentially more equity—decisions that don’t add time to the process.

Has the recruiting org put SLAs in place for efficiency’s sake?

Joe: Believe it or not, we’ve never needed SLAs. No other company I’ve worked at has organically moved through the process as quickly as Yext. Most recruiters we hire into the org have a high sense of urgency. It’s a characteristic we look for across all roles, so Yexters just move fast. We respond to emails and Slack messages quickly. Our coordinators are wildly quick. If I ping them, they’ve sent out a scheduling request within the hour. I've been recruiting for a very long time; time kills deals. So I think that characteristic of urgency is a contributing factor in our time-to-hire. 

You’ve both been at Yext for over five years now. What have you implemented in that time to make the hiring process more efficient?

Joe: One of the biggest challenges is that candidates and hiring managers reschedule. It sometimes happens on the morning of the interview. The common, “Oh, I’m not going to be able to make this anymore.” Over time, we’ve come to explain the effort of the rescheduling process. We have since adopted the phrase, “If you can’t make it, find your replacement.” It can be as simple as tapping a colleague on the shoulder and asking if you can swap your 3:00 PM interview for their 4:00 PM interview, so we don’t have to reschedule the candidate for five days from now. This way, interviewers take the initiative and work it out themselves. We also try to do cluster interviews, where everyone interviews a candidate consecutively, rather than scheduling separate interviews four or five days apart.

Michael: Becoming more data-driven has also changed the game. For example, we now bring LinkedIn Insights reports to the table. When we can show a hiring manager that there is a small percentage of individuals with this skillset in New York and so we believe this should be a remote position, we aren’t ultimately wasting time in a specific city that won’t be fruitful. Sharing that data early on gives us credibility with hiring managers. Knowing the market also gives managers the confidence to make a hire. When they have the complete picture, there’s no reason to sit on a decision.

Joe: I regularly bring Gem’s funnel reports to my hiring manager meetings. Based on historical data, they show how many interviews generate how many onsites, how many onsites generate one offer, and so on. It gives managers perspective on volume and time (e.g., why we might have to do so many interviews) and lets them know how many interviews their team can expect based on previous hires. When a hiring manager knows their team's asks in advance, they’re more apt to prioritize their time, especially if they want to hire someone quickly.

Michael: We’ll also often reverse-engineer the process. We’ll ask the hiring manager when they want this new hire to start, reminding them the candidate will need to give their current employer two weeks' notice. Then we can calculate when we’d need to have a final interview, which means we need to have candidates in the process by ___ date. Then we can hold everyone accountable for that timeframe.

Any anecdotes about funnel stages that have been blockers for you?

Michael: Funnel blockages such as changes to the hiring profile, additional interview stages added to the process, and cancellations due to COVID-19 are familiar to most recruiters. No recruiting organization is exempt from challenges like these which ultimately slow down or halt the interview process. 

As recruiters, we must be agile, anticipate challenges, make quick pivots, and drive consultative conversations utilizing Gem data to overcome potential challenges in the funnel. I always tell my team that we are all world-class recruiters and have a sixth sense called "recruiter intuition" that we need to trust. If you feel something isn't right, don't wait! Jump in and start thinking of strategies to navigate these challenges before it's too late. My leader, Jason Klein, told me long ago that turning a cruise ship is more challenging than a rowboat, which always resonated with me.

Are your decisions to optimize typically a matter of looking at time-in-stage data?

Michael: It all comes down to time-in-stage, in my opinion. We’re constantly reviewing the data in Gem to see how we can narrow down time spent within certain stages—if it’s three days, how can we narrow it down to two and a half? For example, if we can get each stage of the hiring process down by one day, and there are five stages, we just saved ourselves a week in time-to-hire!

Joe mentioned the characteristic urgency we look for in recruiters. We also hire data-centric people. During interviews, I’ll show the candidate Gem data and ask them what they see or what stands out. In the back of my head, I know I want them to point out something like, “Why are these the passthrough rates?!” A response like that is how we know we’re bringing on folks who use data to think about speed optimization. 

If we see it takes five days for candidates to move between stages, we get the recruiter and coordinator together immediately. We also look at time-to-fill by industry in Gem’s recruiting benchmarks. If we see an area where we’re a day behind the benchmark, we figure out how to shave it down.

You’ve mentioned RCs a few times. Can you tell me more about Yext’s best practices for scheduling? 

Joe: One efficiency play is what Michael mentioned about getting hiring managers’ availability early on. We ask them to block out time on their calendars at the beginning of the process, so we know with great certainty that they’ll be available for the interviews we need to schedule. We’ll also often try to move things around so we can get all interviews lined up on the same day. Those are the cluster interviews, where one candidate interviews with four or five people consecutively, and everyone on the interview panel sees six, seven, or sometimes eight candidates in a row.

Michael: Sometimes I’ll cut out the middleman as well. If I’m on the phone with someone and they tell me they’re available tomorrow or the next day, I don’t waste time sending something to an RC. I’ll schedule them myself. If it’s a one-off interview with a hiring manager and the manager’s calendar is already blocked off, I’ll take the initiative and schedule it. 

We also bulk-sync for high-volume positions. If we have candidates interviewing on Monday and Wednesday, we’ll bulk sync on Tuesday and Thursday so we can get offers out quickly. But each week varies, and we move things around for efficiency. For example, if a lot of candidates are interviewing on Thursday in a given week, we’ll push the sync out to Friday and get offers out before the weekend. We prefer to debrief directly following (or as close to) the interview as possible, but that’s not realistic in many cases. 

If it’s a split decision, we’ll invite a cross-functional person to interview the candidate as soon as that day. We may tell the candidate, “We think you’re great, but there’s just one more set of questions we’d like to ask to ensure this is the right fit.” As a recruiter, it’s not our job to give away our company’s secret sauce, but we want to ensure we’ve put our candidates in the best position to succeed, so we’ll prep them on what to focus on in the interview. If they feel prepared, they’re typically willing to schedule something that same day to wrap up the interview portion of the process.

Joe: We use our entire pool of software engineers for phone interviews and onsites. We have 150 engineers and around 100 who are interview trained. I can’t recall the last time we didn’t have an interviewer. Our hiring managers know the value of moving fast and are happy to have their entire team involved, which adds to a reduction in time-to-fill. 

What about humanizing the process in general? How do you think that helps your time-to-hire?

Michael: For one, we’re outstanding at sharing candidates across the board. For example, folks who come out of our Upward Rotational Program are great candidates for engineering, sales engineering, consulting engineering, and product roles. Our recruiting team communicates and collaborates because we genuinely believe in these candidates, regardless of department. For me, there’s nothing better than passing a candidate on and finding out that person fits the role. That’s teamwork and the type of harmony that keeps recruiters here at Yext.

We communicate with each other if a candidate applies to two different roles. It’s common for a recruiter to reach out to another and say I think this candidate is a better fit for your position. Or for a recruiter to call the candidate and give them more details about both roles so the candidate can decide what’s right for them. In moments like that, candidates feel their best interests are really at heart, and they’re more likely to accept an offer at the end of the process. 

A personalized candidate experience like that has a ripple effect. We have senior-level candidates in the process now who first interviewed with us in 2019. Each scenario is different, but we’re always honest about why we didn’t hire someone and continue to treat them with respect. Fast forward three years, when a role opens up, I have no problem reaching out to individuals who previously performed well. I’ve even had someone respond, “This is amazing; I’ve been thinking about Yext!” Due to their previous interview performance, we don’t have to reinterview them entirely—we can pull up our notes and add on what they’ve been up to since the last time we connected, which cuts down on our sourcing and hiring processes.

I should also say that I’ve helped candidates who interviewed with us find jobs elsewhere. I’ve got a great network of recruiters, and sometimes I’ll send a note to a candidate and say, “Hey, is it okay if I share your background with an external recruiter who doesn't work at Yext? I feel like you'd be a good fit.” We think about our candidates first. We want them to have such a great experience that they tell their friends to apply to Yext. That’s top-of-funnel value handed over by top talent—the gift of their network. It’s invaluable from a time-to-hire perspective. 

What about offer-accepts? How long do you give candidates to make a decision?

Michael: This brings us back to data. The data shows that our average offer gets accepted at Yext within 48 hours. If a candidate says they need five days, we’ll likely extend our standard 48 to 72 hours. After 72 hours, the probability of that person accepting is much lower than in the first 24. So we do our best not to waste any time.

I often tell my team to trust their intuition. If you don't have a good feeling, don't ignore it. Professionally, it's probably right. You know when a candidate is playing games at the end and whether they will accept a counter-offer. Trust it, share it with your hiring manager, and develop a strategy to move forward. The second candidate will almost always accept an offer. Why? Because the runner-up always has something to prove, and they’ll rise to the occasion!

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