What’s best for the job seeker?

September 23, 2021

One of Indeed’s core values is ‘Job Seeker First.’ Simply put, this means that we always ask ourselves, “What’s best for the job seeker?,” when making decisions.

In this episode, Chris Hyams speaks to Lauren Hill Booker, Marketing Director on Indeed’s Job Seeker Experience team. Lauren lives and breathes our Job Seeker first values, and she has been involved in everything from job search academies to the Virtual Hiring Tour — and now she is launching Indeed’s Interview Days.

Listen to hear all about the program, along with some amazing job seeker stories, and even learn what it was like to have a baby during the pandemic.

- Hello, and welcome everyone, I am Chris Hyams, CEO of Indeed, and welcome to the next episode of "Here to Help." This is our look at how Indeed has been navigating the global impact of COVID-19. Today is September 20th. We are on day 566 of Global Work from Home. And for those of you that know Indeed, you know our mission is to help people get jobs. And this is what gets us out of bed in the morning and what keeps us up at night. And we also have five core values that guide us on this mission. And today we're going to be talking about our first core value. We put job seekers first. This is a foundational idea at Indeed. It underpins every decision we make about our products and about our business. My guest today is Lauren Hill, Marketing Director of Job Seeker Experience at Indeed. And we'll be talking about putting job seekers first in our never-ending quest to grow our understanding of the Job Seeker Experience and how we continue to improve it day by day. Lauren, thank you so much for joining me today.

- Thanks for having me.

- Let's start where we always start these conversations, by asking how are you doing today, right now?

- I'm doing well. It's a little crazy in my house this morning. My husband's traveling for the first time for work in a year and a half, and so I've got the baby and the dogs. But a little hectic, but otherwise great.

- Fantastic. Well, let's start by talking about your job at Indeed and how you help people get jobs every day.

- Yeah, so I'm, as you mentioned, the Marketing Director on Job Seeker Experience. And I work with this team of absolutely incredible professionals to build out product marketing content, and lifecycle offerings that ultimately make the lives of our job seekers better by improving their search with our services, our products, and all of our resources.

- So that role obviously is central to this very important core value to us of putting job seekers first. Can you talk a little bit about Indeed's mission and why it's important to you personally?

- Yeah, so just a little background about me. I am from this tiny island called Galveston, Texas off the Gulf Coast. I am the first in my family to actually go to college, got a Bachelor's and a Master's. And I'm the eldest of five. So my parents were very traditional blue collar, just salt of the earth, incredibly hard workers, wonderful people, and they wanted me to go out and find a job myself and be really happy and do something that they never were able to do. So I've always sort of been fascinated by the human experience. I grew up in the arts doing theater and all sorts of creative things. A job's really the fundamental part of the human experience, and so I think it's, yeah, it makes a lot of sense that I landed here and that I'm working on this mission.

- So you graduated college in 2009 and entered the job market during the huge financial meltdown, which is now 12 years later. There's a number of people who were in a similar situation who are going into this very uncertain economy. Can you talk about what your experience was like?

- Yeah, coming out of college in 2009 was really tricky. I was super lucky to snag a job in rural East Texas at a grocery store headquarters called Brookshire Brothers, and there I approved ads and developed their social presence and coordinated their marketing work. But most of my friends didn't find a job. They either went back to school, continued their education, or took a lesser job that didn't require a college degree. And so it was a tough time to find employment, so I felt incredibly lucky. And in tandem with this experience, my mom was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer and so I lost her during this time. I was serving as one of her primary caregivers with my siblings. And I'll always remember this study that the American Institute of Stress produced. It showed that the thought of losing one's job is one of the biggest stressors in life, only behind losing a loved one and divorce. And so while I can say that stress was real for me, work also became such an escape and a way to unwind and throw myself really deeply into something. So I'll forever be grateful for that first job. And after losing my mom, I decided it was time for a change. I had applied to grad schools all over the country, but ultimately I moved to Austin and I did some time at the Austin Film Society. Wanted to flex my creative chops. I have such a love of film. I joined their apprenticeship program where I met some of my best friends to this day. And then decided stability was a friend of mine and so I went into the tech sector to continue telling those human stories in the e-commerce space. There I helped entrepreneurs and SNBs start their online businesses successfully. And then came to Indeed.

- Well, thank you for sharing that experience. The whole point, I think, of what we do as a business and the importance of this mission to me is really this idea that a job is something that offers financial support, but also is a source of purpose and meaning and dignity. And it really can have a massive impact on people's lives. And so that's a really powerful story. Also, I'm a long time AFS member, so love the Austin Film Society, that's fantastic. So you said you joined Indeed, let's talk a little bit about what drew you to Indeed and those first set of experiences that you had.

- Yeah, I was actually recruited by one of my former managers, Olga Kazakova, who was working at Indeed at the time. She's been a wonderful mentor to me over the years. And she was building up this Job Seeker Experience team. We were also called the Six Star Team, that was sort of our nickname. And we had a test and learn model and adopted this philosophy of, by Airbnb, of creating the Six Star experience. The idea was that we lead job seekers and employers to keep choosing Indeed. And we recognize that most of the experience with the product happens off of the website. So sort of by thinking with the Six Star mentality we could go above and beyond what was expected for our job seekers and do more to ultimately shape their on and offline experiences to help people truly love Indeed, but also truly find value from our products. And so we did all sorts of really cool things that were small, unscalable tests at first. Something called Open House. We brought job seekers in for one-on-one job search consultations, job search academies, which were effectively workshops and boot camps for job seekers, a mini pop-up experience where you could come in and learn and get your resume graded and get a professional headshot, celebratory educational job kits that we would mail all over the world to people in need of job search materials. All sorts of digital offerings that impacted the first apply experience for job seekers. And of course, lots of preparatory content in our Indeed Career Guide. And so I guess I wanted to say that, something whenever I first came to Indeed that really drew me in and was meaningful to me was that this person I mentioned, Olga, she worked with our wonderful Market Research team to create this job seeking journey. It was a map of highs and lows, and it just showed how incredibly emotional the job search journey actually is. It was based on a study of some 500 job seekers, gauging their levels of confidence and anxiety across the job search when they're looking for a job. And so every test that I mentioned before, we designed and mapped back to this work and really worked to understand where we can make an impact in the job seekers' lives. One thing I always like to mention is that we adapt our values of innovation, data-driven work into job seeker marketing. But at the same time, I year after year built these strategies with my team, and I always come back to this quote. I've looked for different quotes every year to shape our thinking and I cannot beat this one. But it's a quote by Maya Angelou that says, "I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget the way you made them feel." And that's what we want to do as a Job Seeker Experience team. We want people to feel something. We want them to know that we care about them deeply and that we're committed to creating work that ultimately lifts them up and makes their job search better.

- So can you talk a little bit about some of the things that you learned through that Six Star experience about job seekers and how that changed the work that you and your team wanted to do?

- Yeah, honestly, the biggest takeaway from all of these experiences, all these small tests we learned was that job seekers just want to feel like they're not alone. And that's something I think everyone can relate to. Other people experienced this feeling of nervousness, too, and even sometimes rejection. And just to feel like their voices were heard and that with a little assistance they could really quickly improve their resume and unlock these really exciting opportunities on our platform, this sort of informed which experiences we would scale, like the Indeed Job Market and the Virtual Hiring Tour. So they taught us a ton.

- Yeah, so I'd love to dive into that now, because obviously one of the things, we have hundreds of millions of job seekers that come to visit Indeed and Glassdoor every month around the world, and this idea of doing something that would be small and unscalable as a way to learn about things that we can't see when we're looking at the macro and then how do we take those things and try to scale them out. So you mentioned a couple of things with the, let's start with the Job Market, which then turned into the hiring tour. Can you tell us a little bit about those experiences and the plans that you had for this big U.S. tour?

- Yeah, absolutely. The Job Market, like I mentioned, it really scaled from this small test called Open House where we brought job seekers in for one-on-one career consultations. And the more we learned from them and the more content we developed on Career Guide to scale out to job seekers the more we realized we were onto something really special. And so we built this pop-up tour, this national pop-up tour, an experience aimed at delivering job seekers support across the U.S. in these key metro areas where people needed the help most. And our first stop was in D.C. And we had a line out the door with people waiting to get inside and learn and find jobs. It was highly experiential, down to we had a scent, the Indeed scent that was a scent of optimism. The napkins had inspirational quotes on them. We just wanted our job seekers to come in the door and feel comfortable, grab a coffee, get themselves a headshot, use our products, get their resume graded and just move forward in their job search journey. We had this incredible guest speaker and celebrity chef and humanitarian, Jose Andres. He brought the house down, everyone laughed. There was so much inspiration and kindness in the room. It was wonderful. And I was so excited to bring this all over the U.S. And so we ended up going on our next tour stop in Atlanta, where we only continued to gain incredible momentum, and then the pandemic happened and basically everything changed overnight.

- Let's talk about that. You had these big plans, you had learned all these things that you wanted to sort of put into action. How did your team adapt and what did you do?

- Yeah, so my team, I mean, it really was this overnight thing where we had to face the reality that we needed to cancel the Indeed Job Market. And my teammate and partner in crime, Sarah Fried, she put her heart and soul into that work. And so it was really in a lot of ways devastating to have to step back and say, "I think we're going to have to cancel this." But as we sort of regrouped, got ourselves together, we did a couple of things. We, one, spun up the COVID Resources Center on the Indeed Career Guide to make sure that our job seekers had information on how to best navigate the job search or unemployment due to the pandemic. We made sure that they felt equipped for the road ahead. And then we looked at the Indeed Job Market and did not want it to go away. And effectively were able to pivot it into what we call the Virtual Hiring Tour. We work to connect job seekers to urgently-hiring employers from the convenience of their home. And this was utilizing our new video interview technologies. So it wasn't really goodbye Job Market, it was just hello Virtual Hiring Tour.

- So as we continue to talk to and listen to job seekers, what were some of the things that we were hearing about the very early days of the pandemic and the impact on people looking for work?

- Oh my gosh, there was so much fear and panic and change, and this is all heightening existing emotions, because like I mentioned, the job search journey is really emotional and really hard. It increased barriers for the people that were most vulnerable. And so it was a really difficult time to hear from our job seekers, to know that they were struggling to do everything we could to reach out and help them but from behind a screen.

- Let's talk about this Virtual Hiring Tour. We started with this idea of going around the country, literally, in a van to sort of bring these events to place to place, and we took that idea online. So we were going around the country. Talk a little bit about the first Virtual Hiring Tour and how it worked in some of the things that we learned from it.

- Yeah, what we did with the Virtual Hiring Tour was we ultimately created these multi-day virtual hiring events across the nation. So really tried to hit all those key metros again to reach as many people as possible. It was free for job seekers and it was also free for employers. We gave away millions of dollars in free advertising because, and thank you, Chris, our leadership team knew it was critical that jobs be available for those struggling the most in the really hard hit industries. So people like you and Maggie Hulce graciously helped us and advocated for this program both internally and externally on the press circuit through various media outlets. And ultimately it resulted in us hosting over 11,000 events with some 2,600 employers. And we were able to help over 20,000 people get jobs. So they were able to gain employment, which felt amazing.

- We obviously took a lot from that experience, and some of that turned into new product innovation for Indeed. We are back at these big events right now, August, September, November of this year. Can you talk about these Interview Days that we're hosting and what it is that we're doing to help job seekers right now?

- Yeah, so sort of remaining ever agile, we pivoted the Virtual Hiring Tour into a new program called Interview Days. And Interview Days is effectively these super strategic partnerships that we created with folks like the military, with our partners in Canada, with brands like Open Table. And we are partnering with these folks to help people get jobs by helping them interview with our new technologies. So, like I mentioned, we worked with the military from August 16th to the 20th. We worked and partnered with Hiring Our Heroes to launch the Interview Days campaign. And this initiative actually drove over 1,500 interviews in the military community. And then, as I mentioned, in Canada, September 27 through October 1st, our goal is to help a thousand Canadians get hired during that week. We're working with 55 employers that are participating for a total of 100 plus hiring events. And we're hiring across all 10 provinces. And I have to shout out my teammate, Samantha Rosenberg, for taking the lead on both of these initiatives and driving this work forward beautifully. And last but not least, the strategic partnership I mentioned that we're really excited about is one with Open Table. We're partnering together on a US-wide restaurant industry campaign during September and October. And this work is focused on helping SNBs with food and beverage jobs connect with and hire job seekers looking for work in the industry. It's going to be open to all job seekers, and we're hoping to drive around 8,000 interviews. So super exciting stuff. We're getting more targeted, we're helping the most vulnerable. And we hope to continue doing that in 2022.

- Yeah, and the great thing is that this has been a way for us to really leverage so much of the work that we've done over the last year and a half building out this new video interviewing platform and just bringing it out to the people who need it the most. And it's been really amazing to watch the results so far. So very excited to see how things progress this Fall. I'd love to switch gears a little bit and just come back to you and your experience. You just recently returned from parental leave after having your first child during COVID, actually last week we had Adrienne Smith, who also had her first child during COVID. So can you talk about this experience about having a baby during a global pandemic?

- Yeah, it was very challenging. But ultimately I felt incredibly lucky to be home during that time. I had a very tough pregnancy. I was sick the entire time, from day one to baby time. And so being able to stay home was this really unexpected blessing. And at the same time, I'm an extrovert. I love my team so much, it was really hard to be at home. But yeah, it was a scary and also incredible experience. And now I have a six-month-old little girl, who's everything. It's been really tricky navigating how to best keep her safe during this time, but like so many families all over the world, we're sort of doing the best we can to muscle through and carry on.

- This recent set of experiences that we've all been through that are clearly in the process still of shaping whatever this future of work might look like, how do you think it's going to impact the work that you and your team do at Indeed in terms of continuing to be all virtual, being in person, hybrid? How do you think this work with job seekers will evolve?

- Well, I would say, on a personal note, November will be five years for me at Indeed. And the thing is I have really grown up with Indeed. I finished grad school here, I got married, I served in three different positions on Job Seeker Experience, and I had a baby. And all of my recent experiences around the pandemic in particular are just one of the many ways that I've changed and grown over the past five years and that my team has also changed and grown over the past five years. And so I'm really hopeful and optimistic that the rest of this year, that next year, we're going to be able to return to delivering so many of our job search services to people in person, but also continue scaling our virtual experiences too, because we have figured out to reach so many more people. I'm feeling good, I think it's going to be a hybrid. I think it's going to be all the things. There's no replacement for the human connection, the human experience, we're getting better about learning how to do that virtually. But yeah, I hope to do at all.

- So one thing you mentioned now a couple of times, one person in particular, but I know that when we were talking getting ready for this that mentors have played an important part in your career growth. Can you talk a little bit about that?

- Yes, I can. I, and I mentioned my team so much, too, because they teach me so much all the time, but yeah, if it wasn't for people like Olga, who I mentioned, or Eleanor Hooker, who was my previous manager, I really don't know where I'd be, or my amazing professor, Professor Lambeyes from UNT. She just really believed in me, lifted me up, and unblocked me at all costs. And if it weren't for the tremendous leadership of those really strong, incredible women, I sort of don't know where I'd be, I'd be lost. And so a mentor can play an absolutely incredible and critical role in helping you believe in yourself, helping you to thrive as a professional. And I know it certainly has been the case for me.

- Well, as we wrap up, I always like to close by sort of looking ahead and thinking about, over the last year and a half, even with all of the challenges that we've been through, what on a personal level has happened that has given you some sense of optimism for the future?

- Hmm. Honestly, so much. I feel incredibly changed by this season in my life. Some days I feel more distant from my loved ones and my colleagues and other days I'm feeling more connected than ever. I have never been put in a position where I felt so vulnerable, so exposed, and the truth is that I'm better for it. Job Seeker Experience, Indeedians show up every day more authentically and more empathetically for each other. And I honestly can't wait to see how we help job seekers in this new world.

- Well, Lauren, thank you so much for joining me today. This was a really amazing conversation. And really thank you so much for everything that you do to help job seekers on the front lines and to help people get jobs every day.

- Thank you, Chris, thanks for letting me do it.