What does inclusive recruiting look like?

July 27, 2022

In this week’s episode Chris speaks with Al Lundy, Senior Director of Tech Recruiting at Indeed. They discuss the state of recruiting in 2022, the impact of Indeed’s Inclusive Interview rule and how Indeed puts equity at the core of our recruiting strategy. Al began his career in recruiting at Abercrombie and Fitch and has worked at Nike, Gartner and spent some time as a firefighter in Miami. If you are interested in how Indeed attracts talent in today’s complex marketplace this episode is for you.

Hello everyone, welcome. I am Chris Hyams, CEO of Indeed. And welcome to the next episode of "Here To Help." At Indeed our mission is to help people get jobs, this is what gets us out of bed in the morning and what keeps us going all day, and what powers that mission is our people. "Here To Help" is a look at how experience, strength and hope inspires people to want to help others. As I said, Indeed's mission is to help people get jobs. And of course, we are also an organization that is growing rapidly and we're hiring constantly, which means that we spend a lot of our time thinking about helping people get jobs at Indeed. And a key focus for us with the millions of job seekers and employers we serve, and in our own hiring is ensuring that equity is at the core of everything that we do. Bias and barriers are deeply rooted in hiring, and we are committed to using our technology and data to break down those barriers. Today, I am thrilled to be joined by Al Lundy, Senior Director of Technical Recruiting at Indeed. We'll be talking about the state of recruiting today. We'll take a critical eye to some of the conventional wisdom about recruiting. We'll explore what it means to build a foundation of equitable hiring, and we'll look at the lessons we have learned at Indeed over many years as we hire and grow. Al, thank you so much for joining me today.

Thank you, Chris. Excited to be here.

Well, let's start where we always start these conversations. How are you doing today?

I'm doing great. Actually, I'm doing more than great, I started my day off with basketball with a bunch of buddies in the neighborhood. And my team won the last two games so I have bragging rights for the rest of the weekend for our Saturday and Sunday games. So I'm doing fantastic.

Fantastic. Well, we have a lot to cover today, but before we dive in, let's start with, can you explain to people, how do you help people get jobs?

Well, as you said, Chris, that's at the core of what we do in my current role. Getting people jobs is not just with the team, from a PTE organizational standpoint, but also helping people get jobs within the HR and TA organizations. So really focusing on the support that we provide for the PTE organization in the US, or in the Americas actually, so US, Canada and Latin America.

And for the folks outside of Indeed, PTE is Product, Technology and Engineering, that's our technical organizations there. So Indeed is the number one job site in the world, every day we're focused on helping people get jobs. As I mentioned, we obviously need people at Indeed to help us find the right people, to help us help those millions of people outside. And this is what the recruiting organization has done, and you've dedicated over 22 years of your life to recruiting. Can you talk about how you got your start in recruiting?

Yeah, maybe for like the 1% of people that are in recruiting, they would say that they've actually been recruiting their entire life or they're connected to recruiting, but for the most of us, most of us have fallen into this by chance or just by being a passion. So I actually got my start in recruiting with Abercrombie & Fitch, in a retail store. I was home on summer vacation. I was shopping in the Abercrombie store, and the person I was with was like, "Hey, he needs a job." And they were like, "Okay, great." They hired me on the spot, which was not something we really see in our current industry right now. But from that point I was working at the Abercrombie & Fitch Store at Aventura Mall helping bring talent into that store. And when I went back to school, I guess I did a good job 'cause they kept me. They actually called the store actually where I live right now here in Westchester and said, "Hey, we got a great person for you. You should probably bring him in to the store and have him help support your growth there." And while I was back in college, I was working at the retail store at the Westchester mall. And that was the start of it for me. Not something that I ever thought I would see myself doing, but again, most recruiters will agree that none of us went to college and was like, "Hey, you know what? I'm going to be a recruiter. I'm going to be the best damn recruiter. I need to get this degree." But that's how it worked out for me, similar to everyone else.

So you brought up Abercrombie & Fitch. There is a recent Netflix documentary called "White Hot" about some of their recruiting practices. What was it like working at Abercrombie & Fitch?

So let me take a step back, 'cause that piece I just shared with you about my Abercrombie & Fitch experience was really at the retail store. It was how I helped build some of the retail store talent. Prior to actually going to work at the corporate office, which is what the "White Hot" series is based on. I actually graduated from college, I had a friend who died in 9/11 unfortunately, a guy on my football team. I actually decided to go back home to Miami and become a firefighter when I graduated college. Again, here's another piece of the journey, by chance, of how I actually became a recruiter at the next level. My wife, who I was dating at the time, happened to be in Miami surprising me. My mom led her into my apartment, but that's a whole nother conversation. I was coming from a fire, I had initially gotten burned in that fire, it was just what we call a steam over someone opened a hose well before he should have. I had some scars, let's just put it that way. And I walked into my apartment coming from the fire and my future wife was standing there and she said to me, "I can't do this." And I'm like, "Can't do what?" "I can't live like this knowing that you are going to be here. I'm in New York, you are fighting fires, not something that I want to spend the rest of my life worrying about." At that point I picked up the phone, I called my buddy over at a Abercrombie & Fitch, who was my leader prior to me leaving. And said, "Hey, Jamie doesn't want to do this anymore, I'm coming back." At that point, they put me on the plane moving back to New York, and that's really where my recruiting journey began. At that point, as everyone probably who was seeing the "White Hot" series knows, Abercrombie was really growing at that point, it was doing the expansion into Canada. So I was a part of that team, building out the expansion from DC to Canada. So definitely a unique experience. I think it informed my lens on how we look at inclusion. I think a lot of companies look at diversity and inclusion, but from that "White Hot" experience, understanding that it was more than just what you see, but like who people are and what makes people. So it informed how I, as a leader, look at going out into the market and attracting engaging talent, not from just a visual lens, but a holistic lens on the inclusion aspect of diversity.

So the inspiration, as you said, to go into firefighting was because of this friend of yours who happened to lose his life in 9/11. But clearly there was this strong desire to want to be helpful and want to want to do something. And can you talk about how, after having done something like that, going back into recruiting, what is the component of your motivation, your inspiration to help people that comes through in recruiting?

I think it's an innate ability to see people reach their goals. I think it's one thing to just say we help people get jobs, but one of the things that inspired me about Indeed and my relationship with Indeed prior as a client, was just the breadth of people that we help get jobs. I tell folks all the time on my team, meet people where they're at. Everyone isn't looking for a specific job, they're looking to find out where they fit in, where they can be of value, how they can reach their goals. So for me that innate excitement, I literally, excuse the turn of phrase here; I get geeked out when someone says, "Hey, you helped me get to where I want to be. You helped me figure out this is what I was really excited about." And again, take it from me as a recruiter, there was no way you could have told me I was going to be a recruiter for 22 years. And being able to see that excitement and that passion in someone's eyes about our ability as an organization to connect them something that they didn't have a route to get into is just something that's quite frankly immeasurable.

So the fact that you kind of laid out early on, that very few people, you know, as little kids say, "Hey, I want to be a recruiter," and spend their whole lives getting ready for this. Which means that people who are successful recruiters get there on a lot of different paths, and there's a lot of different ways to get there. Can you talk a little bit about some of the skills that make someone a great recruiter, and where did you pick those up along the way on your non-linear path?

Yeah, you're right about that. And to all the recruiters that might be listening, I'm not really trying to downplay our craft 'cause I think there's an art and a science to the craft. But I think it's something that, again, if you look at the Indeed values, you have a desire inside you to help people and help them connect to something more, something beyond just the day to day. Some of the key skills that are very important to this is understanding how you meet people where they're at. I actually picked up some of those core values at Nike. When I was at Nike, one of the things that was really important to us from an axiom standpoint was be a sponge, right? And that's one thing recruiters do well. They listen, they seek to understand what someone is looking to get in. They seek to actually support that. Another key skill set is influencing. Really, if you are partnering with a leader, being able to understand what that leader is looking for and influencing them on how to connect with that talent, influencing them on what the market is offering. And people first, right? Again, when you think about Indeed, it's all about people first. The most important skill set for recruiter quite frankly, is to be selfless, not selfish. Because at the end of the day, you're not trying to solve something for yourself, you're solving something for two people; The business and the talent that you're trying to connect to that business.

So let's talk a little bit about the state of recruiting today. I mean, every industry is clearly evolving and changing. We've just been through one of the most radical upheavals in the talent market in the last few years between the pandemic with millions and millions of people losing their jobs, and then this incredibly tight labor market right now. When you look at the state of recruiting today, what's working and what's not working?

I don't know if I have an answer on what is not working because that really is evolving, as we say. But I think what is working is, as you heard me say earlier, meeting folks where they're at. I think Indeed specifically, has done a great job of, "Hey, do we need folks to be virtual? Do we need to really assess what markets that we're attracting talent in?" I'd say one of the most challenging aspects of the market right now that is making it more difficult is just the labor market, and where folks are sitting. While that is a value add for a company like Indeed, that is, for lack of better terms, embracing the virtual nature of what we do, it's interesting, right? Some companies have actually said that they've seen growth in having folks be virtual, right? Some companies are not embracing that and they're forcing folks to come into the office. But from a what's working standpoint, is again, meeting folks where they're at, putting them in a position and enable them to really do what they do best, whatever their craft is. Whether it's sales, whether it's technology. I think that's the piece that's really working well. The challenging aspect is probably more around what happens after, right? At some point as a world, right? We're going to come to grips with the pandemic, right? We're going to come to grips with, do we need people to go back in the office to be successful? What does that dynamic look like? And I think quite frankly where I sit coming from a big bank to where Indeed is, I think we've done a really great job of trying to balance that, and again, meet people where they are in their journey right now.

So you've worked at a number, and we kind of glossed over this, but you mentioned you were at a big bank, Nike, Abercrombie, like you've worked at a number of different organizations throughout your career. And not to try to say that Indeed is better than anywhere else, but what are some of the things that you see us doing here that you've been able to drive here, that you feel like other organizations could possibly learn from?

Yeah. So, yeah, again, and I'll just say this, 'cause I think for those who know me and those who don't know me I'm transparent to a fault. I think I have this brand of being candid. I think one of the things that Indeed does very well is people first, right? And that's not to say other companies don't do that, right? The product that we're selling is technology to actually help people, right? And that's just unique in and of itself. The previous companies that I worked for, I mean, they were all great companies. I don't think any of those companies were doing anything bad, but I think we're actually leveraging technology to connect people to what matters to them, and that's their career trajectory. What matters to them is how they get to do the things that get them excited. And frankly, not to get granular about like comping all those other things, like our current structure and the way that we support each other is unique. For folks that are on my team, they know my mantra is we're a professional family. And quite frankly I see that across Indeed. And a lot of companies have subcultures, and within Indeed you can see that there's just a connectivity to the people, a connectivity to the stuff that we're trying to do. Again, back to the core focus of getting people jobs, and that's everybody, that's getting everyone jobs, agnostic of who that person is.

One of the things that we've spent quite a bit of time as an organization talking about, is, you know, we've had a commitment like a lot of other companies to DEI for quite some time. And through that work, where we've gotten to is this sort of realization that none of that type of work is really effective if it's tacked on at the end. If you say we're going to hire people, we're going to do performance management and compensation, and promotions, and training and development and do all that stuff. And then we're going to have a separate lens that says, how are we doing from an equity perspective. Where we've come to is we actually need to kind of tear all of this down to the studs and rebuild it with equity as the foundation, as the lens to all of that. So can you talk a little bit about how we're looking at recruiting and what it means to try to really rebuild everything that we're doing through that lens of equity?

Absolutely. So I think one of the things is... So for folks that are listening to this that don't work at Indeed, we have something called IIR. So I think the Inclusive Interview Rule is really focused around being intentional about it. So to your point, Chris, this is not about just filling roles and then looking at equity after. It's about starting, again with our leadership roles, making sure that we actually have a diverse candidate pool at the interview stage, not at the beginning, but all the way through the process and right up to when we're getting ready to make an offer. So I think that particular lens is very critical because it enables us to make sure that folks that are underrepresented in this space truly have an opportunity to be considered for the roles where they'll be a value add for. So specifically, an example in my role, again, I think our commitment to this is shown through the fact that we're actually doing this for our own jobs, right? When we think about HR. So I've actually been a recipient of that here in the past few months. My team was actually hiring two senior manager roles, and through that process, not to say that we wouldn't have been able to hire diverse talent, but through that process we actually brought on two non male identifying folks in senior leader roles, and I'm proud to say from my world, I'm actually invested into the IIR program. As it relates to the organizations that we support from a TA perspective, we've seen massive increase in representation across those leadership roles. So I think that's the key, right? And if you think about it; One, you have to go at it from both angles. Again, in the future of this there may be iteration where you, Chris, and the rest of the Leadership team decides we need to go beyond our leadership roles. We need to be very thoughtful about both sides of this, both bringing in and cultivating talent, but also making sure that our leadership organization is representative of the work that we're doing. So I think that is critical, right? It's less about, to your point earlier, let's bring people in and then try to figure it out versus let's do it all collective and let's have a really strategic approach to underrepresented talent across our organization.

Yeah, and so I'd love to talk, so this is one of the many things that we're doing. But the IIR, or the Inclusive Interview Rule, came from, you know, the inspiration, was originally from the Rooney Rule in the National Football League, where there was a recognition that there was massive underrepresentation in general management, in the NFL. And the Rooney rule basically said that for any open GM position, there needed to be at least one diverse candidate in the final slate. And that had actually some impact in sort of the first five to 10 years. But then what happened eventually is it sort of regressed back to the mean, and what they discovered was that having just one diverse candidate in a pipeline left it vulnerable to tokenism. That basically you would just have say here's the one diverse candidate and that people really... It didn't really force organizations to change their process. And so when we put the IIR in place, what we did is we basically said the final slate of candidates for consideration, that there needed to be at least two candidates, and at least one of them had to be non male identifying, at least one had to be an underrepresented minority. And when we first did it, you know, we started last June, June of 2021. And there was a bit of chaos and a bit of pushback because clearly we wouldn't have needed a framework like that if what we were doing was producing the results that we wanted to, in terms of the diversity of the hires that we were making. And so it meant that we had to actually go and change a whole lot, and look at every aspect of our hiring. From where we were finding candidates to how we were putting together interview panels. And as you said, the impact has been pretty meaningful. So we put this in place for every director level and above position in the company, and then I personally have approved every single final offer that's come through. So you mentioned that we've had impact. Can you talk a little bit about some of what we've seen in terms of the results of hiring at these senior levels?

Yeah, thank you for that. So I think what we've seen is, we've actually seen a really significant increase of non male identifying leaders within our organization that now are representative of the folks that we're looking to bring in the organization. And then we also have seen a increase in what we would call intersectional, so underrepresented and non male identifying folks across the organization at the leadership level. What we're also doing, and I'll pivot, what we're also doing to bolster of that, and you didn't talk about this in what you just shared, but I think this is another great thing to show that we're committed to this, this is not a point in time. We've actually hired what we are calling inclusive leadership managers and sourcers to directly go to the market and understand what the external market has available to us. That will enable us as an organization to continue to look at, are we in the right spaces as far as geographies and regions, to make sure that we're connected, right? To the communities and we're hiring in the right organizations. But from a numerical standpoint, I think the increase as I last checked, I think we've seen, I would say almost 50% increase in representation at the NMI space. Last I checked, yesterday I think, we also had another uptick, an increase in regards to intersectionality of representation in our organization.

So you mentioned the sort of looking at expanding the Inclusive Interview Rule, and we started out with just the director level and above. You mentioned HR; Can you talk a little bit about sort of the expansion and the future of IIR and what we hope to gain from that?

Absolutely. So again, I think what we're hoping to gain, as I mentioned earlier, is not just focusing on senior level roles, but actually having more representation throughout the organization and enabling us to grow that talent, the future leaders. Again, we are in a pilot right now where we're leveraging across HR. We are actually, and I'll speak specifically for our product technology engineering space, where we are working hand in hand with the leadership to understand what roles do we need to focus on, what are the opportunities for us? And with our new inclusive leadership managers, we're working very strategically with those leaders to make sure that we're focusing on certain markets, certain geos to bring in talent that are representative of those underrepresented groups. So, again, it's not this, "Hey, we're just going to go out and do this." It's, "no, we're going to be very thoughtful about it, and we're going to make sure that we're intentional." And I think that's the key piece there, Chris, is that we're intentional we're not just saying, "Hey, we have this thing that we want to go after." We're going to make sure that the leaders are committed to this, there's training for leaders in regards to how they support this talent and how we help grow.

So when we look at, especially in tech, diverse talent is considered a little more elusive, but in general, what we're trying to do in recruiting always is to try to find that elusive talent. Like where are the hidden gems, where are the people who are going to really have a significant impact in your organization. There's a whole lot of ideas that people have about finding elusive talent. Can you talk a little bit about some of the misconceptions that might exist in the recruiting world?

Absolutely. And I don't know if talent is elusive or folks are just not looking in the right spaces. I think, so you talked earlier, you asked what are we doing differently? In a lot of cases, when you think about talent and how we present ourselves as an organization to talent. And I say, we, I mean, any organization, right? Just not Indeed. We really have to take a look at what are the job descriptions that we're putting out there? There are a lot of scenarios by which we actually are discouraging talent from applying just by the job description. And one of the things that we're focusing on at Indeed is really looking at what are basic qualifications for the role? How are we presenting those qualifications so that folks are attracted to joining Indeed or any company, right? And then the second piece is what is the preferred qualifications? So I think the misconception there is that the talent is not aligned to the work, when the reality is our job descriptions may not be aligned to the work. And how do we open up that aperture and support folks on that journey. So again, that really truly boils back down to people first, right? In Indeed and how we help people get jobs. So I've seen that significant shift as I joined Indeed, bringing to the table, both recruiting, HR and the hiring leaders around, "Hey, how do we actually open up our aperture, and how do we actually align and go and attract talent that is necessary for the work?" And again, sometimes that elusive talent is self-created. When you create a job description that doesn't necessarily align with the work that needs to be done, you're already get a few steps behind on engaging that talent that you need.

When we think about the goal of recruiting, it's matching talent with opportunity, I think most people think about that as an external thing. But a lot of talent is also internal. So we have this idea of an internal talent marketplace. Can you talk about what that means to us at Indeed here?

Yeah, for us at Indeed it's we want your next job to be here. And I think if you tie that to what I was saying earlier about bringing in talent and cultivating that talent, it syncs, right? So if you think about this internal marketplace, we should be looking at every opportunity for that person that sits at Indeed to find that next role. How do we skill up that talent? How do we connect them to the roles that they may not have even seen that their skill sets are transferable for? So I think we continue to look at how do we help people get jobs, right? And that's not just external people, that's our people, Indeedians. So I think the internal marketplace is just the next evolution within Indeed of how we help people get jobs.

I'd love to sort of, as we're kind of looking towards the future, you know, it's impossible to pick up a newspaper, people pick up newspapers or look at headlines, wherever you look at headlines without hearing one theory or another about the future of work. And whatever that looks like, what are some of the things that you see happening or needing to happen in recruiting to support whatever this sort of future will look like?

So this might be a hot topic to say, but I think embracing technology. I think that, in and of itself, understanding what technology is needed, right? So the intersection of people in technology is going to be critical. And again, not to do an advertising for Indeed, but again, we talk about all the time, Chris, how do we leverage our products, right? How do we leverage our products to enable us to better support helping people get jobs? So I think for me, looking at that intersection and how we leverage the different technologies and put that in front of our folks, enable more efficiency, right? Enable more ingenuity and creativity around engaging talent, is going to be critical. The other aspect is actually accepting again, I know I said this a couple of times in this conversation, but meeting people where they are. You know, at this point there are people that are so disparate across this world right now, and if we're focused on the same markets that we were focused on five, 10 years ago, we're going to miss the opportunity to attract and engage the best talent. So I always tell my team, we should be out there to win talent. Even when I interview folks for my organization, the conversation is what do I need to do to make sure that you're coming to Indeed? Versus, tell me why I should hire you at Indeed. So the biggest shift is going to be, we almost need to be salespersons in what we do from a talent standpoint versus the other way around.

So one of the things that we've spent a lot of time in "Here To Help," talking about, is the impact of the pandemic on various aspects of society and business. What do you think the recruiting industry has learned from the pandemic and how have things changed in the current talent marketplace?

Yeah, I would say that talent is everywhere, is probably what recruiting has learned. Again, and as I just answered in the last question, you have folks that have their preconceived notions that great tech talent sits here, or great sales talent sits here. But there are no barriers to where you can find talent, and I think also the other piece from a recruiting standpoint, is we've all had to become, from recruiters... We've always had to negotiate, but with the way that the compensation structures have kind of gone and people can sit anywhere and work from anywhere and leverage technology, it has forced us as recruiters to really seek to understand the old adage of, what's in it for the person? So once we find out what's in it for the person, we need to make sure that that aligns with where we're going as an organization. So I think that will continue to evolve. I don't think it'll be as, excuse the turn the phrase here, white hot as it is right now for recruiters, but that next evolution of meeting people where they're at. understanding what's in it for the person that you're connecting with is really what's on the forefront.

So I assume you find yourself in a similar situation. One of the things that, because of my job, I get all the time from friends is, "Well, you help people get jobs, I've got a kid in high school. What should they be studying right now? How can they guarantee that they're going to have success in the future?" Obviously there's no way that anyone can guarantee anything, but as a technical recruiting leader, you know, your job is to find and nurture high skilled candidates. What advice would you give to high school students and graduates about what they can do that would help set them up for success in the future, employment-wise?

Well, first of all, before I answer that question, Chris, I'm just going to say, I don't wear my, I help people get jobs shirt outside of work. I gave my mother one and she tried to wear it to the mall the other day. I was like, "You're not wearing that shirt with me to the mall, because you got to have to explain how you help people get jobs." But as far as high school students is concerned, like really my advice to them is really to, if you're passionate about technology, great, go seek to understand how you can get involved. I mean, there are so many different programs out there; Nonprofit programs, after school programs. Getting connected to understand how you can play in that space is critical. Now that's not to say technology jobs are the only jobs, I would give that advice for any craft, right? Again, one of the big things that drives me is I'm constantly mastering my craft. I tell my team all the time, I'm learning from you the same way you're learning from me. But from a high school standpoint, immerse yourself, open up your aperture, don't be afraid to get comfortable being uncomfortable in the space. Because again, technology is constantly evolving. Again, one of the things that I learned in my role as a technology recruiting leader is the only constant is change. And if you don't immerse yourself into this space of technology or immerse yourself into any craft, your chances of being successful or stepping into that space just decreased exponentially. But again, it doesn't matter the craft, technology, whatever the case may be, immerse yourself, take advantage of the opportunities, because there have been so many people that have paved the way in this space that they're looking to bring folks up. We talked earlier about the future. There's not a shortage of talent, but there's a shortage of talent that continues to drive down this space. So that's why I think we as an organization, have to be committed to, if we're going to help people with jobs, we actually have to elevate them and coach them and help grow them.

So as we wrap up, the final question that I always ask folks here is, you know, looking back over the course of the last two and a half years or so of the pandemic, there has been obviously a huge amount of challenge and heartache, and other things. But it's also been a time where a lot of people have looked at the world differently because of the situation that we're in. And you started a new job at Indeed remotely, and, you know, when you think, from yourself, on a personal level, what have you experienced over the last couple years through this pandemic that has left you with some optimism for the future?

Oh, man, optimism for the future. People are great. At the core, people want to see other people be successful. I cannot tell you the way folks at Indeed embraced me. And again, I've only been here for 10 months, quite frankly it's been like I've been here for 10 years. I've had some conversations with people. They're like, "Hey, so you've been leading recruiting." I was like, "No, I just got here 10 months ago." But people are people, regardless of where they sit, inherently they want to be a part of success, and I've seen that. So fortunately for me, my leadership team reporting into my leader, Owen, we got a chance to go to Dublin. And I got to be honest with you, prior to this, that was kind of a bucket list for me being a big golfer. Being able to go there and being able to see the cultures of Indeed in New York versus the culture of Indeed in Dublin, people are the people. And we hire some great people here that are passionate about wanting to help people get jobs, and that's at the core of it. So I'm grateful for that experience. I'm grateful to be here quite frankly.

Fantastic. Well, Al thank you so much for joining me today and sharing your experience, and thank you so much for everything you do to help people get jobs every day.

I love it.