Podcast: Talent Acquisition with Donna Thomas, Riviera Advisors. Making the Right Choices. A Business Imperative in 2011.
Welcome to a Special Talent Acquisition Channel podcast on TotalPicture Radio. with Peter Clayton reporting from the Riviera Advisors’ 10th anniversary celebration, and joining us today is Donna Thomas, who is the event administration manager for Riviera Advisors. Donna serves as the Event Manager for theand coordinates all member support for STAR members as well as attendee relations for the Corporate Recruiting and Staffing Leadership Academy series at STAR.
"Talent acquisition now is really a defined field whereas 10 years ago, it was just part of HR and if one person didn’t want to do it, they put it on the new guy. Now people are really determined to build a strong talent acquisition team and to staff their company with the best people. After all, the talent acquisition team are the salesmen for your company; they’re the ones who say, come to work for us and this is why you should join." Donna Thomas
TotalPicture Radio Transcript, Donna Thomas
Welcome to a Special Talent Acquisition Channel podcast on TotalPicture Radio from Riviera Advisors’ 10th anniversary celebration in beautiful Long Beach, California. Riviera Advisors is a premier global human resources consulting firm that helps organizations worldwide improve their internal recruiting and staffing capabilities. Visit RivieraAdvisors.com/podcasts to access all of our interviews with HR and talent acquisition leaders recorded at the 10th anniversary celebration as well as many thought leaders in HR and recruiting recorded at IACPR, SHRM, ERE, and other high profile conferences and events.
Joining us today is Donna Thomas, who is the event administration manager for Riviera Advisors.
Peter: Donna, thanks for taking time to speak with us today.
Donna: You’re welcome, Peter. I’m happy to be here.
Peter: Tell us a little bit about your background, how did you get into this field?
Donna: I absolutely came from a legal background and was thrown into talent acquisition against my will but really, really liked the field and worked with Jeremy and Riviera Advisors as a vendor with one of the biotech companies I worked for; liked him so much that eventually came over to work with him full time.
Peter: What exactly do you do as an event and administration manager?
Donna: Riviera Advisors exhibits several of the conferences during the year, such as ERE, SHRM staffing management, SHRM annual conference, NACE, IACPR, and there’s a lot of work involved with attending and presenting at those events. Typically, 1 or 2 of our principals will be a speaker and we have a booth in the exhibit hall. We also have a client event at each conference in order to spend time with our clients and also as a business development initiative. All of the logistics, the travel, the hotel, the registration, I schedule for Riviera Advisors.
Peter: Outside of the events like ERE and SHRM, what other kinds of events does Riviera Advisors put on during the year?
Donna: Riviera Advisors has Strategic Talent Acquisition Roundtable and we have training for talent acquisition leaders across all industries. It’s a very diverse group of people from the senior manager of talent acquisition to a vice president of human resources. We have training for 3 or 4 hours in the morning, and then break for lunch, and then in the afternoon we have a workshop where all of the leaders get together and discuss their different strategies, what works for them, what doesn’t work for them, and what they need in order to be more successful.
Peter: Can you unpack that for us just a little bit, Donna, what kind of training do you provide?
Donna: We teach the recruiter how to hire smarter and there are many different ways to read a résumé. There are many different ways to conduct a phone screen. There are many different ways to go through the interview process, and one of the most important facets of the candidate experience is taking care of the candidate. And if you have somebody who comes to your company, interviews and doesn’t have a very pleasant experience, they’re going to tell people. So we stress the candidate experience in our training.
We also have a lot of benchmarking data that we’ve taken a lot of surveys, and we share this information with the attendees at our workshops to let them know how things are going in their industry.
Peter: I speak to a lot of candidates in doing this show and I’ll tell you what couple of things that I hear from them. First of all, there is the résumé black hole. They never hear back from anyone and then often times, the first thing that happens is a phone screen and they don’t hear back from anyone for weeks and then all of sudden, they’ll get an email or someone will call them out of the blue. It just seems to be a really disjointed process, and back to your whole thing about the candidate experience, I’ve got to tell you, most of the experiences are not really good.
Donna: Peter, one of the workshops that we have here at Riviera Advisors is the 8 Steps To A Successful Hire. There are certain actions at certain times in the process and maybe in the days of paper résumés people didn’t hear back from you; but today so many companies have an applicant tracking system. So that when you apply online through their website or through Monster or CareerBuilder, you immediately get an email saying, “Thank you for your résumé, we’re going to take a look and we’ll get back to you.” And then in the process, there are steps such as, “We reviewed your résumé and your qualifications aren’t specific enough for this particular position”; or “A recruiter will contact you, what is the best time to reach, and what is the best number to reach you?”
After the phone screen is conducted, we will have a live call from a candidate care specialist saying, “When can you come in for an interview?” This all happens within a matter of weeks; not 3-6 weeks, not 2 months and the candidates should hear back from you, is the way we teach our clients.
We also do follow up. A candidate survey at the end of their interview experience is key, is critical in learning how you can improve.
Peter: That’s interesting. And now that, thank god, the economy is recovering and companies are starting to hire again, especially for very strategic roles, the response time becomes even more critical; because anyone who is out there whose got a great résumé and got a great background, there’s going to be more than one company that’s going to be interested in that individual.
Donna: True, and they probably will get a job more quickly. And on he flipside, Peter, there are candidates who will take the first job they’re offered because they’ve been out of work for 6 or 8 months; and that candidate might be ideal for your position. I think through this process of the 8 Steps To A Successful Hire, you have a much better chance of getting the right candidate.
Peter: It must be kind of interesting when you do these symposiums and these roundtables and you bring people from different industries and with different sets of problems and issues together, there must be a lot of sharing that goes on in the these kinds of sessions?
Donna: There is a lot of sharing and it’s funny that you say that they have different problems, because even a large Fortune 500 company has the same problems that a small company has, we’re all dealing with people and human nature.
If a large company has too many résumés and doesn’t have time for the recruiter to screen them all, the small company has the same problem. They have one person in their HR department who does everything. They are the HRG, they’re the recruiter, and they’re the sourcer. So it’s nice for people to be able to get together and share ideas, and a lot of the times people contact each other.
At each of our Strategic Talent Acquisition Roundtable Training Academies, we have an online directory. When you come into our session we take a picture, we pair it with your business card, and by the end of the session I have compiled a directory that’s live. In that way, you can remember that person you met from McDonald’s and you’ll see their face and you’ll know what they talked about, and that’s been one of our most successful areas.
Peter: Donna, traditionally how many people attend a roundtable?
Donna: We have between 30 and 50 people. We don’t like to have too many attendees because it is manageable and it’s not beneficial, but we need a certain number in order to make it engaging for all of the parties. If you had 10 people, I don’t think it would be as beneficial.
Peter: Obviously, we’re here at the 10th anniversary celebration, so let’s kind of rewind the clock a little bit and tell me from your perspective, what changes have taken place in recruiting an HR over the last decade?
Donna: As I mentioned previously, the applicant tracking system is one of the changes that has really revolutionized the interview process. You don’t have to have a yes, maybe, no, pile on your desk anymore. It’s all done for you automatically. You can have keywords that you look for in résumés. You’re able to screen hundreds and hundreds of people, where 10 years ago probably could only get through a dozen of résumés in an hour. You have a bigger pool, because there are so many people who are willing to relocate, who are willing to work virtually not ever even have to come in to the office. You have a greater candidate pool. And I think that people are more willing to take a job and try it out and see how it goes than just to stay within their comfort zone. Maybe 10 years ago in the late 90s and early 2000, you would only go into a business function or a sales job because that’s what you knew, and I think now people are branching out and taking more risks.
Peter: And how about cross industries, are you seeing people being more open to, again, 10 years ago, if you were in telecommunications, that was your industry, that’s where you spent your career. And I think today, especially with all the rapid changes that are taking place, it seems that there is more acceptance now of people, you’re an example of changing from one industry and one career track to a different one.
Donna: Yes, I think people are much more willing to change and I think people find what they love or as they say, what you’re passionate about. Also, people want to be more diverse in their experience because employers are looking for the complete package – how much volunteer work have you done, what type of community service have you done? They want a candidate who really has been out there and done things. So if you’ve been in the same job for the last 15 years and you haven’t gotten promoted and you’re just going nowhere, it’s going to be more difficult for you to branch out.
Peter: Take out your crystal ball, Donna, and tell what you think, project out a year or two, what changes do you see this year or next that is going to be impacting recruiting?
Donna: Obviously, I see a very slow progression in the economy. I’m happy to say that things are picking up from my perspective – hotels, restaurants, convention centers, have all had an increase in business. Employers will be hiring and rehiring people that they had to let go or put on sabbatical. I think there will be a surge in recruiting and there will be a need obviously for more skilled recruiters. I think candidates will be happier, unemployment will drop. I don’t know if it will be in the next year or two, but I’m very hopeful and we’re headed in the right direction.
Talent acquisition now is really a defined field whereas 10 years ago, it was just part of HR and if one person didn’t want to do it, they put it on the new guy. Now people are really determined to build a strong talent acquisition team and to staff their company with the best people. After all, the talent acquisition team are the salesmen for your company; they’re the ones who say, come to work for us and this is why you should join.
Peter: One thing I’ve noticed over the last several years there was this huge trend several years ago to outsource as much of HR and recruiting as you possibly could and now I see that companies are saying, “you know what, recruiting is really strategic within our organization and we really want to outsource this to a third party, or should we bring some of this back in-house so we have better control and better management.”
Donna: Employers found that outsourcing their HR or recruiting functions was very, very costly. In addition, they got whoever the third party wanted them to get and they weren’t sure that, that was always the best person for the job. They went through a résumé mill. They spit out 5 or 10 résumés and they said talk to these people and you said, “Okay.” But you didn’t really believe them. I think that now companies are more inclined to keep talent acquisition as a separate function of HR to bring it back in-house as you said and there is a lot of trend in data crunching – How many people did we hire, how much voluntary turnover did we have, why did they leave, how many re-hires did we have at that group – and the people who work with you for your company are going to do a better job and give you a better product because they feel part of the team, they feel part of the group, and they’re interested.
Peter: Donna, thank you very much for taking time to speak with us today on TotalPicture Radio. Great to see you again and I’m sure I’ll be seeing you at ERE Spring.
Donna: Thank you, Peter. Thank you very much.
We’ve been speaking with Donna Thomas, Event and Administration Manager Riviera Advisors.
We’re always interested in hearing from our listeners. Please share your thoughts and opinions on our podcast today. Visit the Talent Acquisition Channel of TotalPicture Radio, that’s TotalPicture.com to add your voice to this discussion and be sure to visit RivieraAdvisors.com/podcasts for a complete library of thought provoking in depth interviews on HR and recruiting including the complete transcripts from these discussions from Riviera Advisors’ 10th anniversary celebration.
To learn more about Riviera Advisors real world experience in leading and managing corporate internal recruiting and staffing functions, please call toll free 800-635-9063 or visit RivieraAdvisors.com. Riviera Advisors is a member of the Asher Talent Alliance of Global Alliance of Talent Acquisition Providers working together to benefit the unique and individual needs of their clients. To learn more about Asher, visit AsherTalent.com.
This is Peter Clayton reporting. Thank you for tuning in to TotalPicture Radio, the voice of career and leadership acceleration.
Donna Thomas Biography
Donna is responsible for all administration, logistics, and event management activities for Riviera Advisors. In addition, Donna serves as the Event Manager for the Strategic Talent Acquisition Roundtable and coordinates all member support for STAR members as well as attendee relations for the Corporate Recruiting and Staffing Leadership Academy series at STAR.
Donna has honed her Administration and Event Management skills in her many years in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and legal industries. Prior to joining Riviera Advisors, Donna was Senior Manager, Talent Acquisition at Invitrogen Corporation, a global biotech company. In her role at Invitrogen, Donna managed all recruitment-oriented events and produced creative and innovative off-site events to attract a global talent pool. In addition, Donna managed significant programs including the corporate relocation department, the talent referral program, and recruitment communications. Donna also worked for Elan Pharmaceuticals serving as Travel Manager, Relocation Manager, and Corporate Event Planner. Previously Donna worked for Idec Pharmaceuticals, and for many years, at McKenna & Cuneo, a nationwide law firm.
Donna received her Bachelor of Science degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She is a member of the National Business Travel Association, the San Diego Business Travel Association, and the Employee Relocation Council. Donna is based in San Diego, California.
About Peter Clayton
Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.