June 1, 2021

Charlie’s founder tells us how culture is core to the interviewing process

Ben Branson-Gateley is CEO and Co-Founder of HR software focused 'Charlie'. We spoke with him about our recent research into candidate expectations.
6 min read
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Jeremy Bourhis
Demand Generation Manager
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Ben Branson-Gateley is CEO and Co-Founder of Charlie – an HR software focused on delivering a first-class employee experience. In light of our recent research into candidate expectations, we wanted to talk about our findings and more. Read on for the full conversation below.

What leapt out at you about the research?

I think one of the shifts that we're seeing, and I'm a big proponent for, is leveling the playing field between candidate and employer. I've always believed your most valuable asset as a person is your time, right?So if I'm deciding to work somewhere, really what I'm thinking about is how do I want to spend my time in the future? How do I want to spend a resource that it's impossible for me to ever get back?You're not doing anyone a favor by giving them a job. And I know that's kind of how employers feel sometimes.We want to try and create a level of balance of appropriate give and take and push and pull from both sides.

77% of senior staff said that it would affect their perception of an employer. 64% of them said they'd be less likely to engage or recommend a business in future.

So actually it's not just about a kind of balance for ethical reasons – there are real consequences if you alienate people through your process?

There really are. And I think that your employer brand should be thought of as the external-facing part of your culture. People are experiencing that - through the interview process - and you want them to have as positive an experience as possible, because you have no idea who they're going to come into contact with.And you have no idea where they're going to go on and be in five, ten years time.We have people on our team who I interviewed once, and we said, this is probably isn't the right time. And then two, three years later, we've hired them back.

What we're saying is that it's easy to think of the interview process as the end of the story but that's not it at all. There is a long-term mentality missing from this a lot of the time.

Yeah. And I think that's not just true in hiring but in business more broadly. There's the new Simon Sinek book, which is called The Infinite Game. And we need to remember that building a business isn't like playing sports where you’re done in 90 minutes and on to the next one – it is infinite.I think investors, and the media, and all of us can do a better job of trying to push that narrative. If you think about things through an infinite lens, then you're much more likely to treat candidates well, be good with feedback, be good with rejections, do all of that stuff correctly.

How do you look at designing a great and seamless experience at CharlieHR?

The first thing I would say is we are definitely not perfect. We always start everything from a position of trying to be open and honest, to try to learn.We approach everything in our business from a place of purpose first and then everything else sits on top of that.So we talk about “making work better” as our internal purpose, but what is interesting about that phrase is that it applies for our team and organization, as well as our customers and our products. Having something that's really simple can help make it obvious what the do's and don'ts are.We put a very particular instruction on that phrase, which is that we must always start with ourselves before we can start with others. How do we make it right for our team and if we do that well, we can do it for our customers.

When it comes to making work better, how do you find balance between use of people to do what they do best and the use of tech to make things efficient and streamlined?

I think it's about the ordering. So we talk about “human-led” and “software-enhanced”.Some organisations might think: we need to upgrade our team engagement. They’ll do a survey or run some polls. But that's not engagement, it’s just a way to get yourself data on what is going on within your organization.Technology is not a get out of jail free card. You’ve got to start with a human led approach and the software is there to enhance it and scale.

Do you have specific recommendations for how people can get started with this?

With hiring specifically, the three biggest levers are your job ad, your hiring process and candidate feedback. You want a job ad that has as much information in as possible. It should not be some cryptic, descriptive bit of prose. It should be factual. It should be well written. It should be super transparent and clear about what you're looking for, but also what the experience of working at the organization is going to look like. Who is the successful candidate going to interact with? What's their day-to-day going to look like? Benefits, policies, all that kind of stuff. It should include some kind of banding when it comes to salary. That's been shown to 100% improve the types of candidates, the diversity of candidates, the quality of candidates that apply. Next, be really transparent with your process: this is who's going to be involved. This is the type of thing we're trying to work out at each level. Explain your decision-making process and how you give feedback. If someone has gotten down to the last round, if someone has even made it past the phone screen, I think everyone deserves feedback. What that means is having some criteria for how you're making a decision. Too often, this is what’s stopping great feedback – the organization hasn't really deeply thought about what criteria they're using to determine whether they come up short on a particular area. Share with candidates what's going to be required at every stage and what to expect, along with three defined criteria for how you're going to make the decision, and give feedback against afterwards. Even if they're not the right fit, they're going to leave with a really good taste in their mouth. And who knows what value that's going to provide you in the future. It goes without saying you should be using technology to support the high value touch points that only humans can do. Naturally, scheduling interviews efficiently is an absolute no brainer.

We recently surveyed 6,500 candidates in the US, UK, France and Germany. Read our report on how interview scheduling impacts candidate experience and a business’ ability to hire.