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Businesses ‘don’t want to hear about process’ when recruiting

8 Mar 2019 By Francis Churchill

WeWork leader tells how her entrepreneurial approach has yielded results for fast-growing firm

Hiring managers are put off by recruitment processes, and HR should keep its conversations on the topic focused on business impact, the top recruiter at fast-growing tech firm WeWork has said.

Speaking at the London Business School HR Strategy Forum yesterday, Stephanie Houston, director of talent acquisition at the co-working space, said she avoided talking about process when engaging with hiring managers.

“I say the word ‘process’ and people recoil,” she said. “But ultimately we need a process to get to the end goal.

“If I meet a hiring manager I won’t say, ‘There’s a process for that’. They don’t need to know what we do at the back end. 



“What we’ll say is, ‘We can do this, but here’s what we need from you.’ Or, ‘Do you want to know what the hiring manager in that department does differently that means that he or she can hire someone five times quicker than you?’

“That’s the [type of] conversation you have that still has an entrepreneurial hat on it. To us [in HR] we know that we do have a process to follow and compliance comes in and GDPR comes in – but that’s all speech that the business doesn’t want to hear.”

WeWork, which is still a comparatively youthful business, has been on a hiring spree as it transitions from start-up to one of the leading firms on the flexible office scene. Since Houston joined eight months ago, the firm has added almost 1,000 people to its headcount across Europe, Israel, Africa and Australia, and has refreshed and implemented new recruitment processes.

Expansion has meant the company has had to delegate more control to managers when it comes to recruitment, but during this process Houston has sought to ensure the company’s culture and values and entrepreneurial mindset aren’t diluted.

“Creating a hiring culture is something that happens organically. We used to have our founders interview every single person,” said Houston.

“We’re now entrusting that really important task to our people, [and] while we have retained a sense of our entrepreneurial spirit where we do want people to feel like they own their decisions about who they’re going to bring in as their colleagues, we have implemented a lot of tools and systems that help us make those decisions.”

This includes a new applicant tracking system, a new candidate relationship management tool, while the firm has also started looking into the use of AI. WeWork is rolling out interview training to “[make] sure we ask really powerful questions around values and competencies”.

Houston added the company also had to bring in people from the type of background not normally associated with start-ups. “If you have a company full of people who are purely entrepreneurs, the execution part doesn’t naturally come with that,” she said.

“You need those people who come in and add a bit of structure – not in a way that’s stifling but someone who can come in and see all those amazing innovations and creations and actually put a roadmap in place.”

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