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Executive Profile: Leela Srinivasan, CMO Lever

Lever is on a mission to help companies fundamentally improve the way they hire.

Leela Srinivasan, CMO Lever-TotalPicture Radio interviewLeela Srinivasan

"Companies that view recruiting as a transaction are missing the point... Recruiting has always been about relationships."

Leela Srinivasan, Chief Marketing Officer at Lever, brings a wealth of industry, marketing and general business experience to her company. Previously, Leela served as VP of marketing at OpenTable, where she built product marketing from scratch and established the foundations of a B2B marketing team.

Leela spent four and a half years as a marketing leader in LinkedIn's Talent Solutions business, co-founding the Talent Connect conference and contributing to the business scaling from $200M to $1B in revenues.

Additionally, she worked in management consulting for Bain in San Francisco and London, and has several years of experience in sales and sales management. Leela earned her MBA in general management from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and her MA in history and English literature from the University of Edinburgh in her native Scotland.

According to Leela's LinkedIn profile, Lever is "on a mission to help companies fundamentally improve the way they hire. I joined the team because I am, frankly, nuts about talent acquisition. I think the world is ready for a better ATS that helps teams collaborate much more effectively in recruiting the best talent."

At LinkedIn, she joined "as the first product marketer for LinkedIn Talent Solutions (LTS), the company's largest and fastest-growing business. I was the third marketing employee for LTS; when I left there were over 55 globally."

Welcome to an Executive Profile, HR Technology Channel Podcast on TotalPicture Radio, I'm your host, Peter Clayton. I'm excited to have Leela Srinivasan on the show today, whom I met at a conference several years ago, when she was leading the Talent Connect conference for LinkedIn.


  • Leela, welcome to totalpicture radio.
  • When we met a few years ago, you had a pretty awesome job, running LinkedIn's Talent Connect conference. So tell us about your background and what led you to Lever?
  • I had our friend  Bill Kutik back on TotalPicture recently talking about ATS's -- two in particular - Taleo and iCIMS (in fact Taleo used to sponsor this podcast until they were acquired by Oracle - and we all know what happens to companies acquired by Oracle) - anyway, as I told Bill, I've never met anyone - ever - who liked Taleo or any of the legacy ATS's - and I'm not talking about job applicants, I'm talking about recruiters and HR managers. And yet, thousands of companies still use them - in fact, Taleo's market share and customer base have increased since Oracle bought them. Why?
  • Last year your company, Lever, raised $20M in series B financing. (Alex Konrad wrote an excellent article about this in Forbes - you'll find a link on Leela's show page) - let's talk about Lever and what you're doing to make recruiters, HR leaders, and even job applicants happy.
  • Back to Alex's January 2016 Forbes article. His headline listed Netflix, Reddit And Lyft as customers. Expand on this list for us. Who uses Lever?
  • You wrote a blog post recently: Why It's Time to Banish the Term 'ATS' -- with a rather dramatic image of a building engulfed in flames. It seems you're very passionate about this.
  • So Lever has a three-legged stool: Lever Hire, Lever Nurture,  and Lever Talent Intelligence. Unpack this for us.
  • However, Leela, there is somewhat of a trend toward the type of solution Lever has developed. Another company, Greenhouse comes to mind - so how do you differentiate your company in what is a very crowded marketplace?
  • You are quoted in another Forbes article, titled Why You Can't Ignore Culture In Your Recruiting Process... "Hiring today is not about vetting applicants who are eager to work for your company", says Srinivasan. "In today's business environment, the balance of power rests with the candidates. Today, recruiting is more about mutual evaluation and finding the right fit." How do you make that 'right fit' assessment in a job interview?
  • How would you describe the culture at Lever?
  • Circling back to my interview with Bill Kutik. He began his HR Executive magazine article, titled "Imagine Chasing Taleo for 18 Years" by quoting Jeffery Pfeffer, professor at Stanford.  "Silicon Valley is really only 10 to 20 large companies and 400 or more small ones acting as their R&D labs and sitting around hoping to be acquired by them." So is Lever here for the long term like iCIMS or are you looking for the big payday?
  • Looking at Lever's LinkedIn page, you've had a growth rate of 187% over the past two years. I think it's a pretty good guess that you're hiring?
  • What didn't I ask you that you think is important for our listeners to know?
  • How can our listeners connect with you?

Leela Srinivasan TotalPicture Radio Transcript
Welcome to TotalPicture Radio.  I'm your host, Peter Clayton.  Today's HR Technology Executive Profile Channel podcast, featuring Leela Srinivasan is brought to you by Jobs in Pods, a podcast-powered recruiting tool featuring interviews with hiring managers, executives, key employees and recruiters.  Jobcasts provide job advertising, employment branding and employee recognition.  Visit jobsinpods.com where real employers talk about their jobs and tell you how to get them.  Mention TPR when you book your first jobcast for a $50 discount.  That's jobsinpods.com.  

Leela Srinivasan is Chief Marketing Officer at Lever, a collaborative, hiring platform that engages your entire company in the sourcing, vetting and closing of top tier talent.  Lever believes when everyone gets involved, interviewers, hiring managers and C-suite, hiring can be more strategic and more effective.  

Leela brings a wealth of industry, marketing and general business experience to her new company.  Previously she served as VP of Marketing at OpenTable, where she built product marketing from scratch and established the foundations of a B2B marketing team.  Prior to that, Leela spent 4½ years as Marketing Leader in LinkedIn's Talent Solutions business, co-founding the Talent Connect Conference and contributing to the business scaling from $200 million to $1 billion in revenues.  

Leela earned her MBA in General Management from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University and her MA in History and English Literature from the University of Edinburgh in her native Scotland.  

According to her LinkedIn profile, Lever is "on a mission to help companies fundamentally improve the way they hire.  I join the team because I am frankly nuts about talent acquisition.  I think the world is ready for a better ATS that helps teams collaborate much more effectively in recruiting the best talent."

Leela, welcome back to TotalPicture Radio.  It's great to have you on the show.  

Leela:  Thank you so much, Peter.  Great to be here.  

Peter:  So when we met a few years ago down in Atlanta, you had a pretty awesome job running LinkedIn's Talent Connect Conference.  So tell us a little bit about your background and what has led you to Lever.  

Leela:  Peter, I actually grew up in Scotland and I moved to the States almost 20 years ago and tried a bunch of different careers on for size: reception, PR, sales, sales management.  I went to business school at Dartmouth actually, at Tuck, and my intention was to switch careers.  So I came out at the other end, went into management consulting with Bain & Company, spent three years in San Francisco and London with them.  

It was a Bain connection, specifically Dan Shapiro who some of your listeners might know, he was head of Talent Solutions Sales for years, left that part of the business and LinkedIn.  He just actually came back yesterday.  I think it was announced he's now the new VP of LinkedIn Talent Solutions.  But anyway, I had known Dan at Bain, so he was the connection that led me into LinkedIn.  That's where I think my journey with talent acquisition and the talent industry really began.  

So I spent 4½ great years at LinkedIn, had all kinds of really fantastic opportunities to grow their organization but also spend time up close with talent leaders.  I started actually in product marketing for Talent Solutions, and then went on to do a bunch of other things such as running the conference that you referenced.  

Eventually I left.  I went over to OpenTable, completely different industry, but went there to build their B2B marketing team and also build their product marketing.  I had a fun and interesting time there, but frankly, I missed the talent industry.  I really did.  

So Lever actually reached out to me through a head hunter and I had heard incredible things about Sarah Nahm, who's our CEO, through my network and through the grapevine.  So when I was invited to join her for coffee, I said yes and our initial coffee meeting was this complete mind meld.  I was so fascinated by her story and the story of Lever.  

I think my process at Lever actually was a whirlwind 12 days from meeting Sarah to signing an offer, if you can believe that.  I think what sealed it for me was knowing that Lever was solving a massive industry problem.  

So when I was back at LinkedIn, one of the many things I did, one of the things I used to do was run the NPS surveys.  We would ask talent acquisition leaders to basically tell us how likely they would be to recommend different technologies that they worked with.  And in the course of running these surveys for a couple of years and more, I could never find a single ATS that had a positive net promotion score.  People just have loved to hate their ATS for years.  

So knowing that that was the basis and then meeting the team at Lever, really clicking with the executive team, then starting to talk to the industry, vet Lever with analysts whom I knew, none of them have really - they've heard good things about Lever, but they really haven't taken briefings and know much about the company, which seemed like a massive opportunity.  

Then speaking with customers, who, the way they talked about Lever and this is back in the summer of 2015, it was eerie.  It was very similar to the same, almost evangelical tones that I've heard from customers talking about LinkedIn Recruiter back in 2010 and 2011.  

So for me it was very clear that Lever had done something special and nailed what the VCs called product market fit because these customers were just talking about the transformational impact for rolling out this tool to replace legacy systems that they've had.  

I think I stumbled upon this incredible technology and the more I heard from not only the Lever team that the broader industry, I think it just became a very easy decision for me to be here.  And combining that with realizing that the experience I had at LinkedIn, Bain and other places would help me drive impact here, made it, like I said an easy decision.  

Peter:  And you have a woman CEO.  

Leela:  We do, yes!  Those are a thing.  Sarah is just fantastic.  I mean we actually have more female people managers at Lever than males, with 50:50 gender ratios.  So one of the things that's very important to us as an organization is diversity and inclusion, and of course gender is but one dimension of D&I, but it's certainly one that we're proud of.  

Peter:  I want to get back to something you were just talking about, which are ATS's.  Our friend Bill Kutik was back on TotalPicture Radio recently talking about ATS's and two in particular, Taleo and iCims.  In fact, Leela, Taleo used to be a sponsor of this podcast until they were acquired by Oracle and we all know what happens to companies acquired by Oracle.

Anyway, I told Bill I've never met anyone ever - ever - who liked Taleo or any of the legacy ATS's and I'm not talking about job applicants; I'm talking about recruiters and HR managers, and yet thousands of companies still use them.  In fact, Taleo's market share and customer base have increased since Oracle bought them.  Why?  Why does this exist?

Leela:  It's such a great question, Peter.  I think on the one hand, in the same way that nobody ever got fired for buying IBM, I think there's been that sort of aura around the Taleos of this world.  But I think going beyond that, I do feel the sense of inertia and fear of change at organizations.  There's been a certain level of resignation, I believe, to subpar technology in the space.  

I think there are a couple of things that drive that.  One, people are terrified of this change, as I said, of lengthy implementations and stepping up and driving change in their organization.  That fear is based on their prior experience rolling technology out, right?  A lot of the legacy technology, even some of the newer technology today - if you look at for example the HRIS category, those implementations take months, if not years, and cause such a degree of organizational shift that it is daunting.  

But the irony is that Lever certainly, and I know some of the other new up-and-comers, we can do simple implementations in a matter of days.  More complex ones might take three months.  So candidly, I think that Lever and other companies, we need to work harder at telling that story to get people more confident.  With our help, it's actually relatively simple to make that shift, and the transformation they will see on the back-end will be remarkable.  So that's one thing.  

The second thing, and I say this with great kindness and empathy to the industry, I believe that talent leaders aren't always the best folks when it comes to articulating the business case and the value, and arguing their case for more investment.  

We've had - for example, one client told me that they save an hour and a half for every candidate using Lever because of the advantages of our system.  It's ridiculous, sort of the business benefits that you can see from having a system that people actually engage in, put the feedback in, with a real-time capability, have clean reporting and so forth.  So I think that talent leaders have an opportunity to raise their game in telling their story and really arguing for more investment so that they can bring in these better technologies.  

But one thing I would say to folks listening and to all the companies that are stuck on these legacy systems, number 1, we can help you get out of those.  But secondly, I think you're actually underestimating the negative impact that is occurring from a candidate's standpoint every time an applicant hits a job application powered by a legacy system.  

I have several friends who've told me in recent months that they've actually stopped applying to companies that make them create log-ins, fill out multiple screens.  That's just not an ideal scenario in a world where talent is increasingly passive or has lots of options to consider.  When you throw up these barriers to participating, people just start walking away, and especially if they're exploring on a mobile device, for example.  

I think the harm that's being done, the damage that's being done by sticking to legacy systems is inertia and its inability to really build an effective business case.  That's going to catch up with a lot of organizations, I think.  

Peter:  What drives me so crazy about this is at the same time, these companies are spending millions of dollars trying to build their employer brand on social networks.  And you're right, as soon as they, especially passive candidates hit these barriers, it's over.  They're not going to spend an hour trying to cut and paste their resume into these systems.  

Leela:  Exactly.  Peter, I think this speaks to this broader trend.   I think people's technological expectations have fundamentally changed.  Consumer tech, of course, has led the way so this is all thanks to the Apples of this world.  But B2B technology is catching up.  

So I see 2017 as the year where people openly start to love their recruiting software, if they're using something that gives them that competitive advantage.  I think we're already seeing candidates revolt against this experience.  I think we'll start seeing more internal users also just revolting against the subpar technology that they've been lumbered with.  

So the impact on employee experience, that's something else to consider right?  People love their technology and I was at a conference in November and often, one of the speakers talked about how he was ripping and replacing his system because he couldn't stand the thought of his employees having significantly better technology in their private lives, personal lives than they had in the workplace.  

Peter:  That's really interesting.  So Lever, last year you raised $20 million in Series B Financing.  There's a really good article, Alex Conrad wrote in Forbes, and you'll find a link to that on Leela's show page.  So let's talk some more about what you're doing to make recruiters, HR leaders and even job applicants happy?

Leela:  Sure.  Lever was founded about four years ago, and our co-founders are Sarah, Nate and Randall.  So we've talked about Sarah already.  She's our CEO.  She was actually a Design School graduate from Stanford Design School.  Her first job out of college was working at Google as Marissa Myers' speech writer, so a somewhat unusual first career step.  But then from there, she moved into product, product marketing and so forth.  

Nate Smith, who's our Chief Technology Officer was also at Google and Randall, the third co-founder, our Chief Product Officer had known Sarah from Stanford and had been more of an entrepreneur having left school.  

So they came together in 2012 looking to solve what they discovered was every company leadership team's biggest challenge.  It was scaling and hiring great talent as part of that.  So they had interviewed thousands of leaders to figure out what are your biggest challenges, and every single one said hiring.  

The technology that is available today, this was back in 2012, does not support modern hiring, does not support the way that we actually work.  

So none of our co-founders had recruiting experience, directly at least.  But they were intrigued by this and so they went off and did something unusual.  They embedded a Twitter for 6 months.  This was back in 2012.  Twitter, at the time, hyper growth organization in that 6 months scaled from about 700 to about 1500 employees.  

Somehow they managed to just enable their way in there and they spent those six months shadowing everyone, ranging from sourcers and full cycle recruiters, to recruiting coordinators, but also hiring managers, interviewers, candidates, executives, and the whole point was to take this 360 look at the way that recruiting actually worked in a modern organization and dig into the pain points, the challenges and all the ways in which recruiting was breaking down.  

And from that, that basically became the genesis of Lever, this modern recruiting software that we've built.  So the software is built with every stakeholder in the organization in mind and this is critical for understanding why we have this impact at the companies that rule out our technology.  This whole process is driven by design thinking, really understanding the 'why' behind the breakdown and designing for every user.  

And that's, to this day, is how every product iteration or improvement that we roll out is designed, is by understanding the pain points and talking very closely with users.  That's led us to design a product that looks and feels and acts quite differently from really all the other ATS's in the market.  

Peter:  So let's talk about some of your clients.  I know Netflix and Lyft use Lever.  Who are some of your other clients?

Leela:  Sure.  We work with over 1200 customers today.  They range from very small start-ups to established companies like Netflix and Lyft, and so forth; going up into several sizes and employees.

From a sort of an industry standpoint, we've got our start in technology of course, but today we've expanded greatly to other verticals, other areas.  We tend to service a lot of companies that are in advertising and marketing, professional services, education, financial services and more.  I think these are all great industries for us because our focus really has been on white collar, on knowledge workers and helping organizations really proactively recruit the best talents.  

I talked about software that supports the way that modern recruiting happens.  We all know that recruiting today for in-demand knowledge workers doesn't just require you sitting back and waiting for applicants to come to you.  You have to take more proactive approaches like sourcing and referral generation, and so forth.  So any company that is looking to fill high-demand roles I think is a great fit for Lever.  

But I think one of my favorite stories about Lever customers, because we have customers in over 40 countries now, I think, one of my personal favorites is the team at KPMG in New Zealand.  

So I had the chance to go over there in July and meet the team.  New Zealanders, in general, I think have a reputation for being somewhat risk takers.  Candidly, I think KPMG, they took a risk on us.  At the time, we were a relatively small provider all the way on the other side of the world.  But they had confidence in what they heard from us, and so they moved off of the legacy system.  It wasn't Taleo, but one of the other ones.  

And flash forward to today and talking with Adam Binks, who's their recruiting manager, he shared that their time to screen candidates has gone down by 70% and that their offer acceptance rates from candidates have gone up from below 80s percent to high 90s percent simply by implementing Lever.  So I think it's great to see a company all the way on the other side of the world in a completely different sector, getting that level of value from what we do.  

Peter:  That's really impressive.  Can Lever scale to enterprise level organizations, global organizations?

Leela:  I think it depends on how you define organizations.  So first of all, we work with companies that have multiple locations globally.  That certainly has not been an issue so far.  We're currently working on a fairly large implementation across multiple countries with about 10,000 employees that will be using Lever as a part of that.  I think there are many subdivisions of larger companies that we're already working with, so we're continuing to roll out I think the right functionality to help truly large scale enterprise businesses think about us as a viable choice.  

Peter:  So you wrote a blog post recently, which is titled "Why It's Time to Banish the Term ATS" and it had this amazing, dramatic image of a building just engulfed in flames.  So I think you're rather passionate about this, Leela.  

Leela:  Just a little.  It's funny though how pictures definitely speak a thousand words.  Yeah, I think the point of the article and yes, I took a slightly contrarian turn, but the point is as I was saying earlier, I think talent leaders sometimes have this sort of brand image within their organizations and have this opportunity to market themselves better, build a better business case.  

On the one hand, ATS is a convenient acronym.  But it was invented in the late 80s early 90s and at the time, the first ATS's really were Applicants Tracking Systems and that they were really a message for companies to digitize those filling cabinet after filling cabinet of candidate information.  

But flash forward to today and number one, it's just a misnomer because it's no longer just about applicants.  So we've actually run some benchmark research, looked across about a thousand users and companies using Lever over the course of a year and find out that when you look across that sample, only 50% of hires are actually people who apply of their own volition to a company.  

The rest are a mix of proactively-sourced candidates that you have to go out and find and woo, and convince to join, or get referred in, or find some other means of generating those candidates.  So that's one thing, applicant rather seems like a misnomer.  

And then number 2, it's no longer just about tracking.  There's something very administrative and transactional about tracking.  Companies that view recruiting as a transaction are missing the point, especially again if they're recruiting knowledge workers.  

Recruiting has always been about relationships and especially when you're working with passive candidates.  Timing is everything and you may have to play the long game with someone who is the right fit for your organization and could be game changer, but just isn't ready.  So it's less and less about just tracking and checking boxes, and more and more about relationship-building, strategizing, making sure that you understand the applicant's motivations and collaborating as a team, because hiring is a team sport.  

It's not just about being an administrative tool that only HR and recruiting cares about.  You want something that is going to be the repository for all of the information about candidates, be that single source of truth for their every interaction with you.  

So tracking for me just doesn't do it.  It falls way short of the power and the strategic nature of a technology that is doing all of that for you.  

Peter:  And to that point, Leela, way, way back when these Applicant Tracking Systems were first configured and implemented by companies, a large part of that was for compliance which has absolutely nothing to do with recruiting.  

Leela:  Yeah.  It's not that compliance isn't important.  Of course we are OFCCP-compliant and we help companies with their EEO data.  All of that happens but there is so much more advantage to be gained by using technology that powers the way you find, attract and ultimately hire talent.  If talent isn't important to your organization, you probably won't be around for too long.  

Peter:  Let's expand on that.  Lever has something called Lever Hire, Lever Nurture and Lever Talent Intelligence.  So unpack these three sort of legs of your stool for us.  

Leela:  Of course.  Lever Hire is our core product.  That's our Applicant Tracking System for want of a better terminology, with CRM functionality layered into it.  So it's a single platform and really this is a platform that you can use to help you source, build relationships with and manage your candidates in one place.  

We've really built this system, as mentioned earlier with the Twitter story, to drive collaboration and hiring.  If you think about the way that technology has been shifting in B2B in the last few years, the rise of tools like Google Apps and Asana and Slack, these are tools that have really changed the way that companies come together and work on projects.  

So you can think of Lever Hire as basically the ultimate collaboration tool for your organization in proactively engaging the best talent.  So I think some of the areas to think about, first of all, we're a sourcing-first platform so we've got very robust sourcing capability built into our core platform to help your entire team start sourcing, referring in rock stars, that sort of thing.  

We have all of the full-blown capability of a traditional Applicant Tracking System in that you can run your end-to-end recruiting process, build out your interview kits, handle all of the evaluation, all the communication with candidates, and really use that as I said, the single source of truth for your candidates.  

And then the last thing is really around helping companies make data-driven decisions through very powerful reporting interactive dashboards and so forth.  So it's ATS meets CRM for sort of the modern organization, I would say.  So that's Lever Hire.  

Now Lever Nurture is our second product that we launched last year.  And the reason we came up with Lever Nurture is that in the course of doing our user research week after week, it became very clear that sourcing of candidates is incredibly hard.  It can take hundreds of hours to even source one or two hires.  It's frustrating.  It's challenging and we saw companies and sourcers, full cycle recruiters who are handling sourcing using this disparate, sort of random set of tools, none of which is hooked to one another, having information from some candidate reach outs and email other pieces somewhere else, relying on post-its to remember to follow up to people.  

So we launched Lever Nurture as basically a way for companies to supercharge their sourcing strategy.  And the way it works is we've basically created this very simple but powerful workflow automation technology that functions a little bit like a simplified version of marketing automation technology.  So it allows teams to basically set up workflows and make their proactive sourcing function a little bit more almost like drip marketing where it's all about follow up.  It's all about timely follow up, relevant follow up, personalizing your outreach so that you can really strike a chord with your candidate.  

So through the use of these workflows and personalized pamphlets, you can set up a sequence of 7, 8 or more messages to a candidate to try and keep in touch with them because often, and I've heard Johnny Campbell from Social Talent talk about this, it may take 4 or 5 messages for you to get a response from that candidate.  So we're basically freeing up teams with this technology so that they can focus on the message rather than stressing about the follow up and making sure that they actually get the response that they're looking for.  So that's Lever Nurture, and that's basically an add-on to Lever Hire.  

And then the third thing, Lever Talent Intelligence, is again a product we rolled out last year.  The whole point of Lever Talent Intelligence is to make analytics more approachable.  I'm sure you see this from your vantage point, people analytics have become a really hot space in the industry.  So within Lever Hire, we have really strong, robust, clean end product reporting with visual dashboard and much more.  

But what we've seen in our client base and bear in mind, we have a very broad spectrum of clients from start-up into sort of smaller enterprise, at the other end of the spectrum in particular, teams are getting more and more sophisticated with their data use and want to go further, want to take their data, marry it up with HRIS data, spend data, other types of data and really do in-depth analytics.  

So Lever Talent Intelligence is a product powered by Tableau, so built on really strong and powerful business intelligence software.  It enables you to dive much deeper into your recruiting metrics and really customize the level of reporting that you want in order to just glean everything that you need to about your hiring process.  

But back to the approachability, we recognize not every talent leader has a PhD in data.  We've also built these really nice dashboards that are available out-of-the-box so that if you don't have that analytics team or don't have that background yourself, you can still get a ton of value from the core product.  So it's really just about helping companies get their arms around their data more.  

Peter:  And I'm sure you've seen this as well, it's amazing to me the number of recruiters that still rely on Excel spreadsheets to keep track of their candidates and the hours they have to spend manipulating that data.  

Leela:  Absolutely.  I think, and we're back to the capability that recruiters have been provided with from system after system.  I definitely empathize with some because there haven't always been other choices.  But now there are.  I don't think you have to be mired in spreadsheets your entire day.  

Peter:  Speaking about choices, there's somewhat of a trend toward the type of solution that lever has developed.  Another company, Greenhouse, comes to mind.  So how do you differentiate your company in what is a really, very, very crowded marketplace?

Leela:  Yes, it is crowded.  Every time I run into William Timco and others in the industry, they are fond of telling me there are over 200 ATS's today.  

Peter:  Yeah.  

Leela:  Yeah, it's nuts.  Frankly, I think it's exciting to see the level of innovation happening in this category.  Clearly it's much needed, based on everything we've been talking about today.

But if I reflect on what I think makes Lever different, first of all, the sourcing first focus that we have and the fact that we realized early on that one of the misses in the classic sort of systems was that they were really built around applicant's roles rather than thinking about proactive sourcing as a core component of recruiting as it has become today.  

So our sourcing-first focus makes us different.  We have a very powerful Chrome extension which every user at the company can download and use.  Lever Nurture, as I said, is a new product that we shipped that really makes it easy for companies to put their sourcing on kind of a super charge setting.  I think our sourcing-first focus, that sets us apart.  

Secondly, I think our focus on the candidate is different.  So when you open up Lever, you see that every candidate in your system has their own profile and whenever they've applied to the company once or twice, or ten times, whether you've been in discussion with them for a month or a year, every interaction, every touch point with that individual is recorded, attached to their profile.  So if they've been interviewed for two different positions, you can see that.  You can see the feedback.  You can see the comments that have been made through app mentions by hiring managers or interviewers who have engaged them.  

So it really becomes a better platform for driving talent relationships and in my view, allows companies to play the long game with talent in a much superior way than they can get with other systems.  

The third thing I would mention is that what I hear from customers time and again is that the way our product is designed makes us stand out.  So back to this design thinking DNA that we have thanks to our funding team, our products are designed with great intentionality.  So as you work through Lever, it takes fewer clicks to do what you need to do.  Teams can work faster.  

We hear our software described as totally intuitive and seamless and it becomes a way for you to really engage the whole organization, including hiring managers and interviewers.  We really are there to power this true collaboration across the organization.  

And then the last thing that I guess I will highlight for now is our company culture and the way we're doing this, I think is something that in fact, and Alice commented to me on it on Friday, just the way we're approaching the problem, the way that we really partner, listen, have cross-functional empathy as actually one of our core values.  So this importance to listening to the problems, really unpacking what are the pain points, what are the challenges, how can they resolve them in the most elegant ways, has led to us really I think having a different product.  

And as we continue to scale, the challenge for us would be avoiding the trap that we have seen literally every other player, and I do mean every other player in the space fall into, which is that as you continue to meet the needs of even more complex organizations, your software becomes clunky.  It takes far too many clicks.  It's not intuitive.  So we are hell-bent on avoiding that trap and making sure that our technology stays seamless, intuitive and easy to use.  

Peter:  I want to focus on the candidate and the candidate experience for a minute.  You're quoted in another Forbes article titled "Why You Can't Ignore Culture In Your Recruiting Process".  And here's your quote, "Hiring today is not about vetting applicants who are eager to work for your company.  In today's business environment, the balance of power rests with the candidates.  Today's recruiting is more about mutual evaluation and finding the right fit."

So Leela, how do you make that right fit assessment in a job interview?

Leela:  It's certainly a challenge, Peter, I'll say that.  So clearly, in order to be the right applicant or the right person for the job, the candidate needs to have the skills and the potentials to do the work.  But I think hiring the right type of employee for your organization is also very much about understanding the candidate's motivations.  

So we have a motivation screen, for example, very early on in our process at Lever.  It's important to really understand what is the candidate looking for in their next role?  What are their aspirations?  Is Lever the company that can truly provide those needs?  

I think people have been talking for a while about just the fact that when I talk about a candidate-driven market, there is far more demand than supply for many roles in today's working world.  So if a candidate accepts an offer, comes on board and suddenly realizes that actually they can't achieve the things that they're looking to achieve at that organization, it's really not so difficult to find a dozen other opportunities.  

So this leads to I think more pressure on companies to really not only hire fantastic talent, but retain them and build career paths and think through how can they be ultimately the place where that person can come in, have impact, make a difference and be fulfilled.  

People talk about millennials as having really kind of brought this to the fore.  I do give them credit for that, but really what they've been articulating is what I think all of us want.  I'm a Gen-X-er so I also want to feel fulfilled in my work.  I want to feel like I'm having impact.  I want to feel like I can have that long term career.  So really listening to the candidate's motivations and your eagerness to sell, choosing reality about what it is that they're looking for is I think a really important part of the process.  

And then the other piece is, there's a lot of, probably increasing focus on culture and values at organizations.  What are the beliefs that you are adhering to as you build your organization?  We have a very strong set of values at Lever and we have to be always thinking about, as we vet candidates, do they feel like people who are aligned with the way that we want to build this business?  That's very different.

Another term, culture fit, has become a little bit of a swear word in the industry because it can be code to unconscious bias and really kind of being biased against candidates who don't "look like" or seem like others on the team.  

But it's not about that.  If you have a core value that is important to the way that you run the business, and in the course of getting to know a candidate, you get the vibe that they are not necessarily aligned with that core value, you can overlook that during an interview process.  You can extend an offer and get that person on board but I almost guarantee you that will trip you up.  

So it is about choosing reality as you talk to candidates, making sure their motivations align with what you can offer and then also that from a cultural standpoint, they're aligned with the way you think about growing the business.  

Peter:  You had spoken a little bit earlier about the culture within your company.  So how would you describe the culture at Lever?

Leela:  A few words come to mind: thoughtful, very thoughtful, possibly sometimes a little too thoughtful, but that's okay; down-to-earth, highly collaborative and empathetic, creative, inspiring and authentic.  Those are all words that I think fit the mold of what we're trying to accomplish and I think the energy that I feel at Lever every day.

Peter:  And looking at Lever's LinkedIn page, you've had a growth rate of 187% over the past two years, so I think it's a pretty good guess that you're hiring.  

Leela:  Yeah.  We're always hiring.  We definitely have a lot of practice at hiring and I'm not going to pretend we always get it right.  We do our very best but I think what we are good at is sharing, sharing our experiences in hiring.  

So we do a lot of blogging, lot of webinars.  We did a case study with HR Open Source, I'm not sure you're familiar with HROS, but that movement has been growing in the last couple of years and we pitched in one of our sort of case studies around learning that we've had and encouraging our employees to be storytellers.  

So yeah, we are hiring, particularly in sales right now and a few marketing roles are opening up.  But our single biggest need right now Peter, if we could hire one person tomorrow, it would be a technical recruiter.  

Peter:  There you go.  

Leela:  So if anyone who's listening and wants to be a technical recruiter at Lever based in the Bay Area, please do contact me.  

Peter:  I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with us here on TotalPicture.  So how can our listeners connect with you, especially that technical recruiter that you're looking for?

Leela:  I'm on Twitter, it's @leelasrin or you can This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Peter:  Great.  One last thing, as a member of the CandE Council, I want to give a shout out to Lever as a gold sponsor of the North American Candidate Experience Awards.  It's really been a pleasure to have you on our show today.  

Leela:  Thank you so much, Peter.  I've enjoyed it too.  

Today's show with Leela Srinivasan was brought to you by Jobs in Pods.   It's a podcast.   It's a jobcast, a blog and a YouTube video all on one platform, where real employers and staffing agencies advertise their jobs and tell you how to get them.  If you're looking for a mobile-first employment branding and social recruiting marketing solution where your job posting will have a real voice, talk to me about Jobs in Pods.  Mention TPR when you book your first jobcast for a $50 discount.  We invite you to join the conversation on our Facebook page, facebook.com/realjobcasts and follow us on Twitter @jobsinpods.   

Thanks for tuning in to TotalPicture Radio.  Sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on all the current topics and awesome guests contributing to this podcast.  

This is Peter Clayton.  You'll find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and TotalPicture Radio's Facebook group.  Have a great week. 

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