Leadership Perspective

8 Steps to Evolving Your Ideal Candidate Profile in a Post-Pandemic World

Thoughts from

Shauna Geraghty

SVP, Head of Global Talent at Talkdesk

As the first U.S. employee at Talkdesk, Shauna initially helped scale the company’s Marketing team, infrastructure, and activities from the ground-up. In 2016, she was tapped to establish its Talent Acquisition function, and has since helped to scale Talkdesk to over 2,200 employees and achieve a $10B+ valuation.

April 29, 2022

2021 at Talkdesk was a year of transformational growth. Granted, I say that every year; but we truly outdid ourselves last year. We added over 1,400 people to the organization and grew in 19 different countries.

We also doubled the People Team from around 50 employees to over 100. It was a year that laid the foundation so we could continue to scale in 2022. As for this year? We'll see an accelerated growth trajectory and give considerable focus to our go-to-market and R&D functions. 

Of course, all of this happened against the backdrop of a world in an ongoing pandemic. The work environment, and the work experience, has changed forever; talent professionals themselves have redefined it. At Talkdesk, we wondered: Was there a framework to help us conceptualize this change? After all, companies’ employer value propositions (EVPs) have to be reinvented if they intend to keep growing in our post-pandemic world. And at Talkdesk, we certainly intend to keep growing. If your company underwent change during the pandemic, your EVP needs to evolve to match what makes your new work environment great. And with that, your ideal candidate profile has to change as well to ensure new employees will thrive. Below, I'll walk you through how we did it at Talkdesk.

One of the frameworks we found that we liked best was from a Gartner® report which calls the framework the human deal.* The new human deal comprises five components: deeper connections, radical flexibility, personal growth, holistic well-being, and shared purpose.

Reconceptualizing Talkdesk’s EVP

While reconceptualizing our EVP, we ultimately oriented around the framework given in the Smarter with Gartner post.* What that meant for us was:

  • Ensuring Talkdeskers feel autonomous. We closed our seven global offices and gave employees full flexibility over how and where they want to work—which means working remotely indefinitely if they choose to.
  • Ensuring Talkdeskers feel valued. We provide our Talkdeskers with a range of personal growth opportunities. For example, our Employee Resource Groups offer regular webinars on topics such as mental health and empowering women.  We give every employee 8 hours per quarter of paid Volunteer Time Off. We also sponsor mentoring programs and have built a robust learning and development platform called Talkdesk University. 
  • Ensuring Talkdeskers feel cared for. We don’t just provide our people with a complete set of wellbeing offerings; we also ensure that they use them. 

Gartner was a guiding light; but we landed on these changes through an array of internal data points as well. We sent EVP surveys to Talkdeskers and analyzed responses based on persona and location. We assessed the attraction-drivers of new employees: Why had they decided to join us rather than another company? We engaged in listening tours of our high-performers. We analyzed engagement survey data, segmenting pandemic and post-pandemic responses to observe what had changed. We looked at drivers of attrition. And we took all of that information and aligned it to Gartner’s framework to conceptualize and optimize our new EVP. 

Evolving Our Ideal Candidate Profile

But now that Talkdesk had reconceptualized our EVP, we realized that our ideal candidate profile (ICP) should also change. When you reconceptualize what you offer and what your new work environment is, you also have to reconceptualize the persona who’ll be attracted to that offer and environment. Talent should understand exactly what we can provide them as an organization; and we should know exactly whom we’re talking to, so talent can decide to opt in or self-select out if it doesn’t resonate with them.

A framework we used to evolve our Ideal Candidate Profile was from Searchlight. Searchlight’s standard for talent is holistic of soft skills, values alignment, and career interests, in addition to the typical technical skills.  An ICP is about more than finding the person who can do the job. It's about finding the person who can do the job successfully in your company.

Here’s how Talkdesk refined our ICP, and how we're using it across the employee life cycle: 

Step 1: Identify the top performers in our new work environment 

Now that we’ve had a couple of years of working in a remote environment under our belts, we wanted to understand which employees were standing out and thriving in it. We knew who our top-performers were pre-pandemic; but we’re in a different world of work now; and those changed circumstances could mean a different set of employees were flourishing—or, conversely, struggling. So we performed both qualitative and quantitative assessments of our employee population to uncover who our current top performers are.

Step 2: Engage in high-performer modeling

Once we had identified our post-pandemic top performers, we engaged in high-performer modeling. That meant looking at the competencies, personality traits (we used the Five Factor Model), cultural drivers, educational histories, and work experiences of our top performers. What are the proficiencies and characteristics that ultimately separate Talkdesk’s current top-performers from those who are average- or bottom-performers? We needed to align on those answers.

We're also using Searchlight to validate the high-performer models Talkdesk has created. Searchlight's Predictive Talent Models are a data and people science-driven approach to understanding what the right person for Talkdesk looks like, using the latest I/O psychology research and inclusive criteria. They also ensure there's no adverse impact of our models against certain populations. So using this framework to validate our internal process helps to make our approach more robust. 

Step 3: Use the competencies of current top performers to refine our ICP 

Once we’d uncovered those competencies, we used them to refine our ideal candidate profile. We ensured only the competencies that separated our top performers from our mid- and bottom-performers and were common to top-performers were included. This allowed us to ensure that they’re predictive of future success within the role and not just a characteristic or competency that is shared by most within the role. Next, we made sure that the new ICP resonated with hiring managers, business partners, and other key stakeholders so we could validate our profile. For me, this is where the fun began, because the ICP had to span the entire employee life cycle. 

Step 4: Assess ICP constructs in the interview process using scorecards and interview question rubrics

We've now built these ICP constructs into our interview scorecards. For many of our roles, we've also created structured interview questions and rubrics to assess for those competencies and characteristics. This means we can confidently and equitably score what “good,” “better,” and “great” look like in the interview process. 

We’ve trained Talkdesk’s recruiters, interviewers, and hiring managers to assess candidates for any role using this ICP, and that training will continue to be a focus area for us in this fiscal year. When we open each new req, recruiters take the time to sit down with their hiring managers and re-align on the ICP—not in a contractual way, but really to set themselves up for success throughout the interview process. 

Step 5: Evaluate candidates with former colleagues and managers 

We also evaluate candidates through people who have worked with them in the past using Searchlight. Searchlight has worked with us to build our ICP into their assessments. This way we get real-life feedback on how that individual has historically performed in work environments similar to Talkdesk’s. This is based on research that shows multi-source ratings are more predictive and less biased at assessing performance than one-component ratings, like interviews, are. Searchlight helps us understand our candidates more holistically while allowing them to understand themselves better—not just hard and soft skills, but cultural alignment and career interests, too.

Step 6: Derive a quality-of-hire score for every candidate who moves to offer stage, and for every new hire 

Toward the end of every interview process, we derive a quality-of-hire score. This is an aggregate score of: 1) manager assessment in the interview process, 2) an aggregate score from Searchlight’s reference check, and 3) data from pre-hire assessments such as Wonscore. Once we bring candidates into the organization, we perform new hire assessments—self-assessments and manager assessments—using that same criteria, and evaluating those same competencies.

Step 7: Create onboarding guides, new hire pulse checks, and personalized development plans 

Personalized development plans have been particularly engaging for me to think about. If a candidate or a new hire ranks a bit low on one of the core competencies we’ve determined makes Talkdeskers successful, we can turn that into an opportunity through a development plan. We know, thanks to the data we’ve collected, that that competency is a predictor of success in this environment; and it can become a focus area for that individual. 

Step 8: Establish a regular cadence of assessment post-hire, and leverage data to refine our methodology 

You can perform regular post-hire assessments in a lot of different ways. You can take a competency-based approach to performance management. You can look at leading indicators, like time-to-ramp with an Account Executive, or productivity metrics such as quota attainment. The most important aspect to this is taking a systematic approach to acquiring this data and using it to refine the model and methodology. 

At Talkdesk, we use the data from those assessments to refine both our ICP and our quality-of-hire methodology. In the interview process we’re predicting that an individual might be a good fit for the organization given the quality-of-hire score we’ve given them; but then we want to see, in practice, does that pan out? The point is to create a virtuous cycle, so you're training the model to get more and more granular in defining what good looks like early on in the interview process. 

External Messaging and Optimization

Of course, once the methodology was in place, we needed to think about how we were going to tell the “story” of our EVP externally. We returned to our newly-defined ICP and looked for individuals within Talkdesk who really embodied that reimagined persona. We highlighted those Talkdeskers in our new messaging. What we’re working on now is updating all those channels—new videos, new quotes, new collateral. We used to highlight how much fun we had in-office, for example; and now our employees have stories to tell about how they’re going surfing before work. So there’s an entire messaging overhaul that needs to take place.

We’re also educating both employees and leadership on our new EVP. Because the EVP is a framework that isn’t limited to candidates; it impacts the employee experience as well. We need a consistent message across the entire talent journey with Talkdesk that amplifies our EVP. 

Once all that messaging is revamped, we’ll be creating and optimizing a multi-touch, multi-person outreach cadence with more personalized and targeted messaging that highlights our EVP. We’ll also be modifying our talent pools so they’re more in-line with our EVP and ICP, and so our new content resonates with those individuals.

Finally, we’re putting strategies in place to ensure our new messaging resonates with our target audience. There are a number of ways to get that feedback:

  • Have recruiters use our EVP in their pitch. Sourcers and recruiters can gauge right away if something is landing; if it’s not, they can give us that information so we can make quick refinements to our approach.
  • Look at changes in offer-accept rates. If acceptance rates are falling, something about our EVP isn’t resonating for candidates while they’re in process or we are not recruiting effectively against our ICP.
  • Track new-hire churn or short-term churn. At Talkdesk, we classify a “mishire” as any hire who churns within three months. When short-term churn occurs, that generally means we didn’t establish a solid bidirectional fit in the interview process; but sometimes it means we weren’t able to deliver what the candidate expected. Maye we conceptualized a great EVP, but that’s not how the candidate perceived us as operating in practice. People are very honest on their way out the door. And if they’re folks who match our ICP, we want to know exactly what led to their decision to leave. It’s some of the richest, most actionable data we can get.
  • Track EVP-related questions in employee engagement survey results. We pay special attention to survey items that closely correlate with our EVP. It helps us gauge current employee sentiment about the reality behind our messaging. 

EVP reconceptualization and the evolution of our ICP are post-pandemic iterative processes, and there’s certainly a learning curve there. But the point is matching our messaging with exactly the talent who will thrive at a post-pandemic Talkdesk. In that sense, it all falls under “candidate experience.” And as for Talkdesk, it will allow us to continue experiencing the growth we’re experiencing, with precisely the employees we’re best equipped to support. 

* Smarter With Gartner, “Make Way for a More Human-Centric Employee Value Proposition”; Swetha Venkataramani, Gartner; May 31, 2021. GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally, and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved. Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.