Episode 12 – Gina Thompson, Human Interest
Human Interest is a socially responsible company that provides innovative solutions to help people save for their retirement. The rapidly-growing organization focuses on making 401(k) retirement plans accessible for small and medium-sized businesses. Its mission is to make it easy for any business to offer a high-quality retirement plan to their employees.
Human Interest’s platform is designed to streamline the process of setting up and managing a 401(k) plan and is dedicated to making the process as simple and user-friendly as possible. The hiring team at Human Interest applies a similar approach to growing the Human Interest workforce.
This episode of The Speed to Hire Show features Gina Thompson, a Talent Acquisition Lead at Human Interest.
- [6:47] Take a consultative role to streamline recruiting – share knowledge and experience between stakeholders to improve everyone’s skills and ability to make strong hiring decisions.
- [8:32] Adopt an efficient approach to support hiring managers – create a system to train hiring managers and empower them to provide valuable and timely feedback.
- [10:38] Map a process for hiring managers to improve the candidate experience – from knowing what qualifications to list on the job description to asking the right questions through to the offer and onboarding process, map clear steps for hiring managers to know and succeed in their role.
- [13:54] Create a structured hiring process to improve speed to hire – take a step back and determine who needs to be in the hiring decision process and why, then provide clarity to each stakeholder so every stage of the process is deliberate and efficient.
- [15:35] Align expectations to create a fast and accurate hiring process – ensure there is clarity about the role, qualifications, and who needs to provide feedback at every stage of the process to avoid hangups and mixups during hiring
- [19:19] An exclusive look at Human Interest’s hiring process – find out how Human Interest’s team has grown from 500 to over 800 employees by streamlining its hiring process
JOSH TOLAN: I guess we can get rolling then. So Gina, tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you are today.
GINA THOMPSON: Yeah. Sure.
So I feel like I’ve done it all in recruiting, starting with an agency, of course. I feel like that’s every recruiter’s right of passage. It’s recruited for private companies. Public companies, pre-IPO companies.
But yeah, when I first started, I was in HR and just, you know, I was having to fire people, but then I got to hire people. And it was just so much more fun for me, obviously.
And so I decided that I, you know, wanted to make a career out of recruiting solely, not in HR.
So, yeah, I got a job at an agency and did that for a year.
And I’ll never forget making an offer to – it was a forklift driver – for twelve dollars an hour, and he cried when I extended the offer to him. And he’s like, you have no idea what this means to me? I’m gonna be able to feed my family. And he was I was just like, “Oh my god.”
Like, that’s when it kinda hit me — like changing people’s lives. So I’ve been in recruiting ever since, and absolutely love it. But I definitely find my niche. It’s in the, like, tech high-growth start-up pre-IPO phase.
JOSH TOLAN: Yeah. That’s awesome. And so what draws you to that type of company?
GINA THOMPSON: Oh, man. It’s nuts. It’s chaotic.
It’s never changing.
So, yeah, it’s crazy, but it’s fun. It’s energizing, it’s motivating.
What I love is that you can really add value, and you can make an impact. And I love just being a part of… building.
I’ve been at Human Interest for two years now and looking back, it’s just insane how far we’ve come.
But we still have so much to do. So, you know, the future, you know, I’m excited because it’s just not a stop. Like, we are learning as we go. We love to say that we’re building the rocketship as replying to the moon – we truly are.
So just knowing that there’s still so much for me to do. You know, I know I’m never gonna get bored. I’m always gonna be challenged. So it’s just an exciting space to be in.
JOSH TOLAN: Yeah. That’s awesome. And I, you know, we’re a human interest client. I don’t know if we talked about that yet, but we definitely are. We’ve been one for I don’t even know how many years now, but it’s been interesting to see the company grow because, you know – when we were signing up with you guys, it had to be at least three, four, maybe five years ago.
You guys were pretty young just starting to grow, maybe, like, thirty, forty, fifty people or something like that. And so it’s been interesting to see, you know, huge rounds of funding, a huge amount of growth.
And then now, you know, we’ve known each other for a few years, and I saw that you were at Human Interest, and like, wow, you gotta talk and hear what you guys are up to. Yeah. Yeah. It’s crazy.
GINA THOMPSON: So I started just about two years ago, and it was the week that we announced our Series D funding and the week that we hit unicorn status with our billion-dollar evaluation. So That was really a cool feeling. I’m like, alright, I found I found a good place to be. And it’s mission-driven too, which is really exciting. So, you know, a lot of success, Mission German, industry disruptor, like, we’ve got it all.
JOSH TOLAN: Yeah. Yeah. You joined at the right time to get on the rocketship and help fuel that growth with that Series D funding. Yeah. So tell me about your role there and what the team looks like that you’re on. Yeah, sure. But one of the I am a talent acquisition lead there.
GINA THOMPSON: So where we are part of the broader people team led by our senior director.
There are three tech recruiters.
There are two of us that are responsible for revenue, customer success, G and A, basically, anything that’s not product and tech. And then we do use a third-party partner for all of our sales recruiting because you just never know what’s gonna happen there. It ebbs and flows, and it’s hard for, you know, it’s hard for us to kinda manage that. So we use them.
JOSH TOLAN: Yeah. So it sounds like five people solely focused on recruiting.
GINA THOMPSON: Yeah. Yeah. There are five of us.
JOSH TOLAN: And what’s the volume look like? How many roles are you guys recruiting for those?
GINA THOMPSON: It’s high volume on our side, especially on the revenue and customer success side. So — I mean, there are months where we’re filling, you know, up to ten per month each. Sometimes it’s a little bit slower, but in the two years I’ve been here, I’ve filled up about a hundred and fifty positions.
JOSH TOLAN: So it’s a lot. Yeah. That yeah. That’s an awesome accomplishment and feeling that you’re having that type of impact on the organization – I’ve got a hundred-plus people here in this business in just two years.
So you really are making an impact on growth, which is awesome.
GINA THOMPSON: I think I started, we were at five hundred employees and now we’re at eight-thirty. So yeah.
JOSH TOLAN: Wow. That’s incredible. Is there something that draws you to creating for the revenue roles, or is that just kind of where you found yourself at this point in time?
GINA THOMPSON: Definitely drawn to it. I am not a tech person. Obviously, I have issues opening Zoom and everything. I’m surprised I can open my computer every day. Yeah. I’m definitely not a tech person.
My mind doesn’t work that way. So, I’m more drawn to talking to candidates, you know, in the revenue space, customer service.
I was thrown into G and A recruiting, this year, actually, and I started recruiting lawyers and accountants. And I was nervous at first because I don’t speak that language, but it’s been – I’ve actually really enjoyed it. It was, it was a challenge, it was something different because I’ve always done, like, revenue. Yeah. But, yeah, I’m really I’m liking it.
So, yeah, I don’t know. It’s just kinda my niche. I love high-volume recruiting. That’s what I’ve always done. And, you know, I just like being busy.
I’m not You know, I just feel I don’t know. I think it’s more of a sense of accomplishment for me too. Like, you know, feel like —
JOSH TOLAN: Sure.
GINA THOMPSON: – ten roles per month as opposed to one even though don’t get me wrong.
Those are extremely difficult searches on the tech side, and I know a lot of work goes into it. So I know there’s a great sense of accomplishment there, but that’s just this is kinda what I’ve been on sale.
JOSH TOLAN: Yeah. And for the G and A roles, what steps did you take in order to learn more about those positions because you said you were nervous and starting out hiring for those because you haven’t done it before.
So where do you start?
GINA THOMPSON: Google. Lots of Google searches. Like, what’s the difference between a controller and a staff accountant?
You know, it’s just – Also, you know, of course, my hiring managers. You know, I take a very consultative approach to recruiting.
So, I work with them and we do kickoff calls before every search. And so, and I just, I tell them, you know, I don’t care. I tell them, like, accounting was one of my worst subjects in school.
I’m no accountant. And they said, please, I know these are stupid questions, but you have to help me learn so I can understand. And they’re, I mean, they understand, you know, they ask questions about recruiting. That’s what I do every day.
I ask questions about accounting. That’s what they do every day. So, we’re, you know, very supportive and we help each other and teach each other, and we learn. Yeah.
JOSH TOLAN: That’s great. So it sounds like a combination of being resourceful, being a good Googler, and then having structure around getting with your hiring managers to get your questions answered, but also going into those meetings and, like, like, you know, coming in a little vulnerable saying like, “Hey, you need to teach me. I need to learn more about this,” versus coming in and just saying, like, “Give me the job description, and I’ll go forward it out.”
GINA THOMPSON: Exactly. Yeah. Absolutely vulnerable. I have no problem saying I don’t know anything about this. I don’t understand this. Or what does this acronym mean?
Yeah, so that’s what I like about Human Interest. And, you know, really most roles I’ve had, you know, the hiring managers are incredibly supportive and understanding of that.
JOSH TOLAN: Yep. And you mentioned, you know, typically, you know, maybe you’re working on ten different jobs a month, which does that mean you’re supporting as many as ten different hiring managers at one time?
GINA THOMPSON: Yeah.
JOSH TOLAN: Okay. So how do you keep track of everything? How do you stay on the same page with all those people when you’re working all those jobs simultaneously?
GINA THOMPSON: I mean, you have to have some really great project management skills to manage the hiring managers and then all the candidates that are in the pipeline and what stages they’re in. So I mean, we use Greenhouse, which is great.
You know, I’ve used some robust ATSs in my career, but I’ve never not had my own personal spreadsheet.
So I always have a spreadsheet of my hiring managers, my candidates, and where they are in the process. Do I need to follow up with them? You know, what date did I last talk to them? So, I like having everything on one page for my self rather than just in the APS.
And then I do weekly check-ins with all of my hiring managers too. Even if it’s just ten, fifteen minutes, like, this is where I’m at, this is what’s going on. These are some roadblocks, some challenges, and, you know, we can just have that time to pocket through.
JOSH TOLAN: Got it. And do you preschedule those when you’re starting to hire for the role like they know it’s gonna be on their calendar week?
GINA THOMPSON: I tell them, like, hey, I’m gonna put a quick touch base, some weeks we might not have to talk, some weeks we might need longer, shorter, you know, but I’ll put fifteen minutes on their calendar every week just to have that, you know, just that little update and also to build a relationship too because we are remote.
And that gives us an opportunity to, you know, just connect and maybe we just talk about what we did for the weekend for that fifteen minutes.
JOSH TOLAN: For sure. Yeah. Because you don’t have the, you know, hallway pass by where they’re like, hey, Gina, how is it going for that STR role if you need for us? It’s very easy to do when you’re in a remote environment, but yeah.
GINA THOMPSON: No, no hiding when you’re a recruiter in Human Interest. That’s for sure.
JOSH TOLAN: Yeah. So tell me a little bit more about the structure you have with your hiring managers.
You’ve got the hiring manager kickoff meeting, which is before you go out and start recruiting for the role, and then you’ve got these weekly check-ins. Can you just tell me a little bit more? Let’s start with the kickoff meeting. What does that look like? What are you guys talking about? What are you figuring out?
GINA THOMPSON: Yeah. So we’ve actually we’re kind of in the process of revamping the way we look at this.
So we – Greenhouse allows us. It’s something new, maybe about six months ago, the incorporated kick off forms to the system. And so we’ve developed a kickoff form that we send to the hiring managers prior to the kickoff call.
And we’ve found this to be really helpful because it gets some of those like must-haves, need-to-haves, you know, why is this open? You know, those types of questions like do you need to split time zone, it just kind of gets those basic questions out of the way.
So, our kickoff meetings can be more productive and strategic.
So I found them to be really helpful because I’ll review that kickoff form prior to the kickoff call So I, you know, I’ve got the job description, I’ve got the kickoff form, so I’ve got a really good amount of knowledge prior to that call. So then I use the kickoff call to really dive into some questions that I might have. But really what we’ve been using the kickoff calls for lately is to come up with a very intentional thoughtful interview process.
This is something that we’re really working on building out. There hasn’t been a lot of structure in the past. And we need to do a better job about giving those resources to our managers, and it’s so great that we can do one on one.
You know, for example, just being thoughtful about who’s on the interview panel, why they’re on the interview panel? What questions are they gonna ask? You know, a lot of interviewers, they don’t know how to interview. And so going back to the candidate experience, the candidate might have four interviews, and they’re asked the same exact questions in every step because the managers – they don’t know.
So, we’re trying to get better about that. So, I’ll really ask, why is this person on the interview panel? What kind of value are they gonna add? What attributes or characteristics are they gonna focus on? And then after hiring manager and I figure that out, then I send a recap email to the entire interview panel to kind of summarize what the hiring manager and I talked about.
And that kind of proactively aligns us so that everybody’s aware of their role in the interview process, all even provide interview questions at times just to make it really easy for them and to provide that resource. But then everyone has a focus area, and it’s really great. And everyone knows you know, what step they are in the interview process and what they need to focus on.
So, that’s how I get off.
JOSH TOLAN: Yeah, and I think aligning on that upfront is super helpful because if there is any misalignment, you can address it upfront. Right? When you send your summary out, if people are like, not so sure about that or you know, I’m confused about this. You can address it.
GINA THOMPSON: Exactly. I mean, we’ve all been there before where you get to the end of the interview process and everyone kind of has a different idea of what the ideal profile should be like, and then you have these, you know, candidates that have gone through the process and all this wasted time. And of course, it’s happened lots of times. So, I’ve learned it that way.
JOSH TOLAN: For sure. Yeah. And from a speed to hire standpoint, that’s really critical as well. Because to your point, if you don’t have structure and you have interviewers that are asking the same questions at different stages —
GINA THOMPSON: Yep. Mhmm.
JOSH TOLAN: — and the candidates feeling like why I’m answering these same questions again? You’re just wasting time because you’re just adding steps, redundant steps to the process.
GINA THOMPSON: Yeah.
JOSH TOLAN: People that don’t need to be there. And then you might lose the candidate altogether because your hiring process takes too long.
GINA THOMPSON: Yeah. It all it all comes back to speed equals alignment and/or alignment equals speed.
And that’s something we move a million miles a minute here. I mean, no joke. It’s so fast-paced. And when a manager wants to open a role, like they want it open now and they want to see candidates tomorrow, So it’s been a lot over the past two years, a lot of training and coaching because, you know, sometimes, they just wanna get a job description as quick as possible to get it posted.
And, you know, we’ve gotta take some steps back to make sure all of this stuff is right up front. Otherwise, it will end up wasting a ton of time in the long run.
JOSH TOLAN: Yeah. And that is the ultimate dilemma that every talent acquisition team, especially in a fast-growing company faces, is balancing speed and quality of the process. So ultimately, you end up with the right person that you’re gonna be able to retain and will, you know, be productive for the team. So I imagine, you know, raising a lot of money, growing really fast.
You’ve been there for two years. You’ve gone from five hundred-ish people to eight hundred-plus people. There’s a lot of pressure to move really, really fast, like you said, and the pressure not only from the executive level on the board and from investors from the funding but also just from the managers that they’re accountable for hitting certain numbers and getting people into seats and getting them productive, especially on the revenue side.
So that creates a lot of pressure, and it sounds like you’ve created a really nice structured process to balance speed and quality what are some of the things that you’re focused on right now specifically?
GINA THOMPSON: Yeah. So really, providing those resources to our hiring managers and giving them the right training that they need.
We’re a little bit slower right now, so it’s a great time to kind of go back to the basics because when I started, it was just like fill roles, fill roles, fill roles. And so I’ve was able to bring in, you know, some of my own personal best practices – but we were all moving so quickly and trying to keep up as much as possible that we just, you know, we kind of did our own thing and kept our heads down and recruited like crazy.
But now, it’s really nice that we’re able to take some time to step back. And so we’re working on putting together interview training, so we can really, you know, really hone in on best practices, interview skills, what is behavioral-based interviewing and how do you, you know, how do you probe and how do you assess what, you know, the right candidates.
We’re working on really structuring our internal recruitment process because it’s just in the past, it’s kinda like, okay. Just get it done type of thing. So, we’re really working on putting some structure and some process around that.
We’re working on you know, just gathering our resources and sharing best practices. So it’s kinda nice to have a little bit of downtime. I mean, I still have several roles that I’m working on, we’re definitely growing. But, you know, it has tapered off a little bit and it’s given us time to work on some projects which is nice.
JOSH TOLAN: Sure. Yeah. You can reinvest back into the recruitment process and everything that you guys are doing. And I think it’s an important point that you bring up in empowering hiring managers to be an extension of the talent acquisition team.
Right? By coaching them, providing them with resources, helping them you know, which types of questions to ask, how to ask those questions, how to probe and introduce all those types of things – it makes them extensions of your team in the sense that they have these recruiting skills even though they’re not in a recruiting position. And at scale that makes your job a lot easier because you don’t have to do everything.
Right? I don’t have to build out every single interview kit or guide and give questions for every round of interview because you’ve got people that are trained internally that don’t sit in a recruiting seat that can contribute to recruiting in a meaningful way.
GINA THOMPSON: Absolutely. We wanna, you know, hold them accountable to making these hiring decisions. You know, it doesn’t just come from the recruiter.
So, yeah, it’s so important, but you can’t have those expectations if, you know, us as a TA team isn’t providing the training and the resources that they need. So I love that we’re, you know, making that a focus in this last half of the year. I think it’ll make a huge difference and I’m really looking forward to it.
JOSH TOLAN: Yeah. That’s great. So can you take me through at least maybe let’s focus on the org and what the typical hiring process looks like with you guys? What are the different stages?
GINA THOMPSON: Yeah, sure. So we try to keep it to four you know, sometimes there’s less, sometimes there’s more. I really suggest highly, highly sick job that there are no more than four, but sometimes there are hiring managers that want a little bit more, which is fine. We’re flexible, but it always starts with the recruiter screen.
And we spend so as a recruiter, I spend about thirty minutes with each candidate. And the first ten minutes is me talking. And telling them all about the company, the growth, the accolades, the awards, the culture – and really giving them a good intro to who human interest is – and proactively answering a lot of the questions that they might have. And Then we do, you know, a high-level overview.
Sometimes a hiring manager will have some specific knockout questions that I’ll ask. Sometimes it’s just really high-level me digging in and you know, confirming experience, you know, identifying any red flags, confirming comp.
And then, you know, I always leave time, of course, for questions at the end. But we assess all candidates, and we do move really quickly. So, I always try to have like a twenty-four to forty-hour turnaround between each interview.
We do have recruiting coordinators. We actually call them candidate experience coordinators – who are amazing, and they save my life every day, because they’re the ones that are working on all of the scheduling and everything behind the scenes.
And, you know, if there are any issues, they’re also there for the candidate, you know, because I’m on the phone all day. So, there’s nothing worse than, you know, being on the phone with a candidate and then having another candidate, you know, email me because they can’t get on a Zoom or, you know, the passcode’s not working.
So we have our candidate experience coordinators there and, you know, they’re just so intuitive and just they’ll if there’s an extension of our So, that’s awesome. So, they do all of the scheduling.
Typically, we have a hiring manager interview.
First, and then the leadership interview, the leader of that org will go last. And then in between, it could be any combination of a peer interview, stakeholder, or maybe someone they’ll be working with from a cross-functional perspective.
So try to keep it to four, and then once an offer goes out, we have a workplace experience team who picks it up from there. And really ensures a seamless transition from recruitment to onboarding.
They are amazing. They will be in touch with the candidate from offer to start date just with, you know, agenda. Here’s what you expect.
You know, they have information coming from all over the place. You know, they have to, you know, they have their background check, they’ve got to do their onboarding through Paycor, they’ve got to, you know, do everything that they need to get started. So, we make it very clear, but these are the steps and try to make it as less complex as possible.
And then they’re responsible for the three-day onboarding, which we call High Starts and it’s a cohort model that we really value because it gives them the chance to really work together and network and it’s a combination of, you know, self-learning, live learning, funny breaks.
We do, you know, of course, there’s a ton of logistics that they have to take care of, but we also have our leaders that join live every two weeks every time we have an onboarding to introduce themselves and tell them a little bit about their role and what they do and why they join human interests I think it’s amazing that they take the time to do that and our new hires really, really value that and get excited about it. So, It really is it’s a great process. It’s very seamless.
So it was something we’re really proud of.
JOSH TOLAN: Yeah. I love the candidate experience coordinator and workplace experience roles, but I think those are really critical to providing a white glove type of experience for your candidates. And I’m glad you brought up cohorts because I was gonna be my follow-up question – is that it sounds like you’re bringing on groups of people at a time, which makes those workplace experience folks even that much more important. Because you might have somebody that gotten accepted an offer weeks ago before their start date, and so you need to keep them engaged during that downtime if you will.
Yeah. Yeah. That’s great. And how much do you emphasize you know, the people in those types of roles, the candidate experience coordinator specifically, are you, like, communicating that you have those people to candidates throughout the process, and this is what their role is, and this is what they’re gonna help you with.
GINA THOMPSON: Absolutely. So at the end of my phone interview, if I know that I’m gonna be moving forward with them, I’ll definitely let them know, you know, this, here’s the name of the candidate experience coordinator. She’ll be reaching out to you next.
You know, I always set expectations and let them know what’s coming next and I say you know we work together so you can email either of us or both of us at the same time But, yeah, they definitely know that that candidate experience point is gonna be the one that they’re mostly communicating with after my initial phone interview with them.
JOSH TOLAN: Yep. That’s awesome.
And tell me about – first of all, it sounds like you guys have an awesome learning process very smooth and quick, which is great. Tell me about growing so fast and needing to hire so many people, what are some of the biggest challenges you guys face?
GINA THOMPSON: They’ve changed throughout. I mean, it’s been such a wild couple of years.
So, I mean, last year was crazy. You had to move so fast because it was so competitive, people were withdrawing left and right because they had other offers or they’d be reaching out to me and say, Gina, Human Interest is my top choice, but I’ve got these other offers on the table. Can you move a little faster? I mean, it was insane how competitive it was.
Now completely different story.
There’s so much talent out there. And it’s, you know, we’ll get, we’ll get hundreds of applications for some of our roles. So, it’s really, you know, the challenge there is, you know, just really getting through all of those resumes and really vetting out candidates to find out, you know, to really figure out, you know, where that top talent is and getting them through the process. I mean, we’re still moving quickly, but it’s, you know, now it’s back to being an employer’s market as a point opposed to a candidate’s market.
JOSH TOLAN: Sure. And so as a recruiting team, you guys have to adjust the strategy based on what the market looks like, which it sounds like you guys are doing.
That’s awesome. Well, this has been great. I’ve really loved diving into your hiring process. Especially as a human interest client.
It’s always great to hear about the companies that we work with. And, obviously, you and I go back a couple of years, so great to hear that you’re doing well.
GINA THOMPSON: Oh, thank you for having me.
JOSH TOLAN: Appreciate the time and the insight. I think a lot of people are gonna gain a ton of information from this. So yeah. Appreciate it.
GINA THOMPSON: Thank you for having me. It was fun.