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How to Design Recruiting to Support Retention

By OpenComp


It costs up to nine months of an employee's salary to replace him or her. For executive roles, this estimate can scale to more than 25 months of a salary.

Regardless of the specifics, getting the right employees in the front door matters, especially as new headcount gets extra scrutiny.

In this episode, we talk to Chris Starr, Senior Recruiter for Engineering Leadership at Airbnb, about how to do just that — as well as to support your company’s investment in talent acquisition across the entire employee lifecycle.

Join us as we discuss:

  • Common things HR may perceive about recruiters or recruiting that they should think differently about
  • Characteristics of an HR department that give the best pathway to success
  • How to properly align a company’s values and compensation data to a candidate



CAITLIN ALLEN: Gonna start soon. There we go. All right, 321 Hi, everybody. Welcome to a another episode. I'm Caitlin Allen, VP of Marketing at open comp and one of your co hosts.

NANCY CONNERY: And I'm Nancy Connery, the other co host, in conjunction with Caitlin I am co founder of open comp and founding principle for Connery consulting and couldn't be happier to be here today with you all

CAITLIN ALLEN: 100% on the same page, folks, it is my pleasure to introduce our guest speaker Chris star, who is currently a senior recruiter for engineering executives at Airbnb. And we'll dive into his background here in a bit, the topic we are going to talk about today is all related to what human resources and people professional people success professionals need to know about recruiting. You know, it's well known from from studies that it can cost up to 25 months of an employee salary to replace him or her that can be be slightly less for mid level managers and so on. But regardless of those specific numbers, they underscore how important it is to get employees, the right employees in the front door and to do so in a way where they're going to stick around, particularly in an economy where there's a lot of scrutiny paid to headcount these days. So we're gonna dive into all these things with Chris, about how to do just that. Chris, welcome to the podcast.

CHRIS STARR: Awesome. Thank you for the opportunity. Pleasure to be here.

CAITLIN ALLEN: It's gonna be super fun. So let's dive in and introduce you to folks. Tell us a bit about your daresay unusual career path and where you are.

CHRIS STARR: Oh, awesome. Absolutely. Yeah. So, you know, interestingly enough, over the years, I've found like some of the best recruiters I've worked with literally just kind of like to land into this space. They didn't necessarily like, hey, I want to be a recruiter, you know, and finish college, you just kind of like it happens. And not to say I'm one of the best, but in reality, like literally just kind of how it happened to me. I started my career in the Marine Corps, did four years and then ended up recruiting as a headhunter supporting basically, CIA, NSA, DOD level clearance, engineering support, specifically, like about eight years as a headhunter or agency recruiter, and then I pivoted in house and went to work for Booz Allen Hamilton was one of their first sourcing recruiters. I think there were about five of the five of us as they were moving into this model of a sorcerer or partnering with a client facing recruiter. And then I had an opportunity to switch over and become a client facing recruiter. After about 10 years, I had a phenomenal opportunity to get into more of the tech space and joined Oculus pre IPO. I was employee 59, and their first senior recruiter, and then networking. From Oculus, I ended up getting into a really cool AI consumer robotics company called onkey. They had this cool little robot Cosmo, that one of my favorite stories was my daughter is not a techie. But as soon as I had Cosmo, she was into like programming this little robot to do all sorts of cool stuff. So that was awesome.

CAITLIN ALLEN: Really quickly, lift or sorry, I was at Andreessen at the time that I think you were at monkey, a monkey with one of our portfolio companies. Literally, it was what everyone got each other for Christmas that year, because it was like the cool toy, I'm pretty sure that Oprah said she was like one of her picks or something like that was

CHRIS STARR: one of the holiday. And it's very unfortunate that they ended up going out of business. They had a hard time getting a round of funding, but phenomenal engineering culture, their phenomenal team, you know, I'm actually still connected with a lot of those folks. And so it's really cool to see that actually Boris the CEO is now head of trucking at way mo so still in that like aI robotics space

CAITLIN ALLEN: and I'm so sorry I interrupted you see you are onkey and then some other tech companies that a few

CHRIS STARR: where I got to meet you actually lift recruited me I was able to be one of their first external hires into as they're building out this executive recruiting team. And Caitlin you and I used to ride on the train together and walk from from the Caltrain station. So always awesome to have have you jump on the train and connect so but yeah, and then there was unfortunately a layoff at Lyft towards the end of 2020. And one of my managers like me and network me with Airbnb and a year and a half later here I am.

NANCY CONNERY: Right that's that's very What a great path that you've taken. We've had actually a lot of crossover, including Chris, the fact that I didn't plan on going into recruitment and talent acquisition and HR either. It's fascinating how we kind of, you know, get this career path. And I actually think that those don't, those who don't actually set out saying that they're gonna go into recruitment tend to be the best in the field. So yeah, I'm, I'm excited to learn more,

CHRIS STARR: right there. I think it's just you, there's this passion of helping people that just comes out naturally. And this career just, it progresses quickly, and you just get so much fulfillment in it.

NANCY CONNERY: Exactly. I couldn't agree with you more. And I just learned a lot about you that I didn't know that you know, when wouldn't know, just kind of looking at your background, but, you know, can you give us kind of one or two more things that your colleagues you know, don't know about you that would be fascinating to this audience?

CHRIS STARR: Well, I didn't put a fresh shave on my head. But I have been shaving my head since 1993. My kids have never seen me with hair. My son is just turned 28 In July, and our daughter's in college in Toronto. And she'll be 21 in December. So gives you an idea of how long I've shaved my head. But originally, it was to be different. When I was in the Marine Corps. I didn't want to have that high in tight. So I was like, Oh, I'll shave my head just to be a wee bit different. And then another little side tidbit on that one, I think some people know but not everyone does. Speaking of my son, I did. I met my wife when I was in Savannah, Georgia Parris Island just after boot camp and met her in April, kind of got this infatuated love thing going on as youngsters and we were pregnant in October, got married in November, and this November, we'll have 29 years together. So I'm very blessed and honored to meet my best friend. And, you know, our son, and both our kids are just phenomenal. So

NANCY CONNERY: great, wonderful path you've taken personally and professionally. Very exciting. So

CHRIS STARR: I did get in trouble with Mama the other day as we're talking about yours. And I said 28. Well, and she quickly corrected that to 29. He said, Okay, sorry about that I owe you. Maybe my contracts could not get renewed this year.

CAITLIN ALLEN: Your dinner? I love those little anecdotes. I feel like they they really round out the professional stories. And thank you for sharing them with us. Maybe transitioning to some more career focused questions. I'd love to start out just by level setting around maybe a common misconception that you believe HR leaders or people success professionals might have, or that they commonly have in your experience that you disagree with?

CHRIS STARR: Is this in relation to like the recruiting HR side?

CAITLIN ALLEN: Yeah, like about recruiting? What are common things that HR might believe about recruiters or recruiting that they could think of differently? Yeah,

CHRIS STARR: I think, you know, we kind of touched on this in the beginning about, you know, when the cost of per hire, right, and the cost of replacing folks and as a recruiter, one of the I think misconceptions I've seen is where HR business partner may not feel that recruiters are way, or I should say, are way more on hiring goals and metrics, like I have to have six hires this month, I have to have seven hires this quarter. And we're focusing on the hires, and not necessarily are we getting the right culture fit? Are we getting the right hires for this opportunity? The right hires for the team? And looking at it more in like long term. But I feel in my experience, that's something that I tried to do throughout the process, like constantly evaluating from each interaction from a culture fit. Are there any, you know, flags or signals? Or is, is there a conversation that I had that gives us insight into something that maybe one of the interviewers, or hiring managers could flag in their conversation to get signal, but I was thinking just now, back in my Booz Allen days, Stacey was our receptionist, and she had been the receptionist in this office in Colorado for like, eight or nine years. And I trusted her she met every candidate they would check in. And I probably don't a hand could count the times that she pinged me on, like, hey, this person was really disrespectful. They barely gave me the time of day. And as soon as the hiring manager walked in, you know, they disregarded me, you know, things of that nature. Right. And it was just, you know, I think those are good signals to have and see again, as you're going through the process.

CAITLIN ALLEN: So what you're saying is you're not somebody that's only trying to close a close a quota.

CHRIS STARR: Absolutely. I I never focused on that. I've, I remember when again, going back to the Booz Allen, the sourcing metrics, as we were building this out, they were wanting, we want to see 50 screens a month. And I was like, Well, why don't we focus on 15 quality screens that lead to five great hires, and not just throwing darts at a board and, you know, actually worked with the manager. And we kind of changed how they were evaluating it and looked at it more from it rather than screens, the actual output, on the end, offer eligible candidates that a sourcing recruiter presented right, let's look at that metric. Not this. So

CAITLIN ALLEN: I am curious, in a virtual world where you don't have a someone like your Booz Allen counterpart, are there things you do now that are similar?

CHRIS STARR: Oh, absolutely. I, you know, hopefully, she won't mind. I'll tear up Nicole blue Shea was the first client facing recruiter I worked with 20 Some years ago. And she took me under her belt, I was moving from the headhunting world agency mindset to the in house. And I learned so much from her. And it was regarding like, not focusing on metrics, focusing on the hire, focusing on candidate experience, making sure your hiring managers are happy. And that's what I've always tried to do is really build those relationships, rather than focus on just looking at numbers and metrics.

NANCY CONNERY: Yeah, and I think, you know, Caitlyn, to your point about in kind of a virtual world, how do we, you know, further evaluate candidates? And how do they, you know, interact with others? I still think even you know, back to kind of the reference, Chris, about, you know, the receptionist is you can even look at kind of how do they have the communications with other people who are perhaps helping schedule the interviews, maybe there's a recruiting coordinator. And, Chris, I love that you actually said that, because I used to, and I still do I always check in with others who are kind of on the peripheral of the search to see how were they treated? What were those communications? I even like being copied on some of those scheduling communications? Did they write it? Well, were their errors? Were they polite, gracious, respectful, you know, and I think that that all translates into kind of how are they going to be in the culture? And one could even argue, well, culture has always been so important. It's even more important now that it's remote. And so how do we shine through through a screen like we're doing right now? You know, so learning experience

CHRIS STARR: on and you're right, with this whole virtual, you know, experience, it does change the dynamics, and I do find that I am looking a little bit closer at those interactions as well, to your point, and, and you see that where someone's really gracious in their response to Kylo, or current coordinator, and you see that you can Oh, wow, that was, and it makes them feel great as well.

NANCY CONNERY: Totally. Yeah. And then kind of in the same vein, but a little bit different, you know, what would you say is the most frustrating thing you know, about being in recruiting right now, and kind of the changes that we've seen very quickly in the recruiting landscape?

CHRIS STARR: You know, this is a, that's a great question. I think, I guess I've been doing this 25 years now. I think my biggest frustration is when you have a candidate and an offer stage, and they're working about compensation data being their their motivating factor, right. And they're, they're not necessarily looking at the bigger picture. And they take the offer that is the highest offer, and not unpacking that to look at longer term. And then the other aspect that on the opposite side, I get really frustrated with recruiters who tried to do the exploding offer scenario with a candidate. You know, if you don't want to accept by this date, we're going to take the offer away. And I think that's, that's just, you know, to me, culturally, that's a flag and a signal to about a company if someone's going to allow that to occur. I don't think that's the type of company that I personally want to align myself with. And I actually recently had a candidate this happened with, she was interviewing with another company, she shared that with me, and she was concerned that there was someone working, who might have, like, understood or heard she was interviewing, and that was going to jeopardize her offer. And we talked through this and I shared my insights as a recruiter on that. And it happened exactly as we talked about, and they pushed her really hard to stop interviewing and other places where they were going to take away this offer and she she said, You know what, Chris? I thought I thought about what you said and you're right. I don't want to work for that company. I don't want to work for that manager if that's how they're going to treat me. And

NANCY CONNERY: yeah, red red flags that might have saved her save the candidate right, making the rounds choice. And I think it's important to, it's such a delicate balance to allow the candidate the right amount of time to respectfully go through a process, yet honor the urgency on the side of the company, right? And so how do you balance those two things, I think is fascinating. And I think a skill that you learn, you know, after like, you know, you've been in recruiting for 25 years, so I'm sure you've very well mastered that. So

CHRIS STARR: The teach candidate Are you really have to find touching base with earlier on how fulfilling this is, as you build that relationship. And especially in leadership hiring, I know, you know, I jokingly say, the long game, but there are times where it's maybe two years before you actually get that person to come aboard into a new role. But you're you're nurturing that relationship throughout, and you're staying connected. And then you find that right opportunity, and it all works out. But it's all about that relationship, the route and the trust that you build,

NANCY CONNERY: I completely agree with you.

CAITLIN ALLEN: Yes. What are Chris? What are the maybe two or three things? You know, handful, that might be the better way to ask that, that characterize whether it's your HR business partner, or some other person in that department? What are those folks doing that sets you up for success, and I'm talking about communication style, I'm also talking about processes and tactical like compensation data, comp planning and things along those lines.

CHRIS STARR: I've had some experience with this, both positive and negative. And I think some companies is better than others. And maybe it's whether they're startup or, you know, further along in their maturity as a company, etc. But I think the actual partnership is something I've gotten to value and trust, you know, being in the communication, obviously, HR is going to know, things that maybe we all aren't going to be able to know. But as much as they can share comfortably. I think it's really helpful. And so, you know, getting an understanding as you're kicking off a search, like from a diversity need of a team, like how do I want to build out my diversity recruiting plan? You know, sometimes it's, you know, some areas, maybe you're very female, heavy, and some areas are not. So in that area, maybe a male candidate is actually going to be, you know, a diversity addition and need for a specific team. So getting that, like pop under the hood, understanding of the headcount plan, you know, what does diversity strategy look like and partner together to, like, really build that out, I think is a great partnership. And those are areas that I've found, motivates me, and it really empowers us as recruiters, they're their empire input and insights really important.

NANCY CONNERY: Yeah, I think that's great. I like the look under the hood idea to for for everybody involved, right, in a level of transparency, honesty, education, I think goes goes a long way for sure. You know, and in terms of, you know, while the role of recruiting is is really, you know, our roles are really focused on, you know, getting people in the door, and then seeing kind of the work pay off when the employee, you know, not only stays at the company, but also thrives and develops his or her career, which, you know, I think we can all agree is, is, you know, so beyond rewarding, you know, but what are some of the top, you know, unlocks that, that, you know, set your candidates up for success, you know, once they accept,

CHRIS STARR: I think that's, that's so you're spot on, by the way, because, you know, one of the things recruiting for Booz Allen that I really appreciated about that culture. And I remember first onboarding, and people saying, well, why Booz Allen and I'm not trying to like oversell Booz Allen, by any means, but they would always talk about the people will made that company and at first I didn't get it. And then years later, I saw what it was. And again, it was through that hiring process, making sure you're hiring the right people and the proverbial jerk, if you will, to use a lesson to die word doesn't come through, because that that rotten apple can spoil the bunch. But you know, one of the things coming into the valley that I found very interesting because I came from the DC metro area first lived in Colorado for like 10 years, and they've been in the valley about seven or eight years, is how few tech companies actually offer incentives for continuing education or certifications or specific programs. I know we used to do in a couple of companies like five to 10k, a year for continuing education or 5k for certs. I don't see that as much here but I find that really helps keep people you see that investment in the company into the employee. The employee feels that and has that trust that it's not just a one way street and there Performance it really is that team culture together. I don't know if that answers your question, but that's kind of the top of mind.

NANCY CONNERY: Yeah. And I think that's great because they think that there's nothing better than really, you know, having a an employee who's who's kind of, you know, built the next stage of his or her career and a company where you put them right where you were that key, you know, instigator to make that happen. And you know, the things that you and the company have done, it really helped them not only personally and professionally, you know, and when you get that, thank you, you've helped me become the person that I am today. I don't think there's anything better than that.

CHRIS STARR: Nominal. And Caitlin, I think you remember, Lifta had a really good career development framework. You know, again, I think if you if I looked back and saw it, see how many people have stayed there and grew their careers and had opportunities presented to them, one of my best managers, Kimber, I love the way she would take time with me to look not just in the near term goals, but really looking at mid term long term, where do I want to grow? Where do I want to become stronger, or whatever, and she would find those opportunities and present them. And, you know, in a way that it wasn't like, it was very nurturing and kind of like, it felt as we had our development plan together, right? It's it made me want to come to work every day, I felt the growth and I felt the excitement personally. So

CAITLIN ALLEN: it boils down to somewhat the company, the stage of the company you're at, is very different than what I think we were when I was there with you, at least it was Series F and then IPO. As an anecdote, I got included yesterday, in being part of the Career leveling and pathing exercise at our company, it's Series A, it's very early. So I'm really excited about what I'm gonna get to, to learn there just have not been part of it yet. do agree with you, I think the development is, is it helps you feel like you're part of a family of work family, in addition to just a work crew, for lack of a better phrase. I am curious on one thing, related to retention, Chris? And I think some of it, the reason I'm asking is because I think that the conversations you have with people around compensation, it really can shape how they understand it throughout the lifecycle of their employee experience. And so I guess I'm leading up to a question which is asking for your reaction to a study I just read. And it said that when it's now 1/3 of the workforce is looking for a new job as opposed to double that earlier this year. But comp is still the number one reason why. And I'm curious for your opinion, because there's so many layers of conflict. Do you think that's related to the fact that people don't understand how a company pays? Is it more related to diversity, equity and inclusion? Like in your experience, what is what's that lens there? That companies don't understand?

CHRIS STARR: Great question. And I think, to your point, there is definitely a lot of nervousness, I'm seeing candidates, you know, that I'm engaging with, especially getting late stage with offers. I recently closed a candidate that was really concerned about start date, like if I push this out too far, I need to worry about losing an offer. And so I took that very much to heart and you know, took time to share at least our insights into Airbnbs business leadership, as we're keeping an eye on everything, and really try to put that person at rest that, take that time off, enjoy a little bit of a break before you come in and starting, we're still going to be here, and you're going to be even more excited to come in because you've gotten that break. But yeah, I think compensation, it goes back to what I said earlier. That's one of I think it was one of my first mentors, and great and now in the Bay Area, this doesn't sound like anything, but you know, back in the day, 250k salary would be a lot of money. And we'd say, you know, if they pay you 250k And you don't like to go up and work every day and you don't like the team you're participating in, you don't have career growth, that money is going to mean nothing at some point. And it's going to weigh on your personal life, it's going to weigh on a lot of other factors that you're not going to think of, because you're so unhappy, but you took the job for the money. And that was not necessarily the right motivation. And, you know, obviously compensation does take a part of the decision process and it's got to have weight somewhere and everyone's gonna have their own, you know, metrics there but at the same point, I think when you look at a company's mission, the values in your thoughtful to what you're looking for before you start your search, taking that time to go, what does it what motivates me? What do I get excited about? Is it You know, coming to Airbnb, I love to working in a mission based company, you know, seeing how they handled the Ukrainian refugee situation and how organic that was, and the leadership jumping in it really just, I had tears in my eyes, I'm not gonna lie, it just felt good. So I realized that's important to me. And I may not have realized that earlier in my career, but now I do. And so if I move from Airbnb, that's going to be something I'd be looking for. And I don't want to leave Airbnb. But that definitely is something I've learned from my own personal self, that I won't have wait. And you know, what's next?

NANCY CONNERY: Yeah, and I think, you know, to that point, as well, it's so important to think just beyond the compensation piece, of course, it's a very important piece, of course, it provides for you, your family, whatever your situation might be. But it is one piece of a much bigger pie. And I have always tried to lead and mentor people with the belief that, you know, good things come to those who deserve them, right, and the hard work will pay off, the career progression will pay off. And so I think that when you lead with the compensation piece, that doesn't always work, right. And so it needs to be a part of it.

CHRIS STARR: So I've taken a step back a couple times from a compensation data standpoint, because I saw, I was going to learn something I was excited about that opportunity that they were clear, hey, this is going to be the comp range. Actually, one of my hires, who's when we lived in Colorado, lived in my neighborhood, and we were friends. And he took he left the military and took a job, literally, it was the highest amount of the highest offer he had. And we were about 10 12k less. And so he did that for about six months realized, this wasn't for him, came back to us. And we hired him. But we had that conversation of like, the comp is here. And you know, I live in the neighborhood that you live in, I understand why you're asking for this, but this isn't what we're able to do. Because it was contract based, right? Like, you had x person gets X amount, an hour, so on so forth. But anyhow, he he ended up staying with the who's another 810 years after that. So again, it was interesting to see him go through that progression, as a recruiter, and then actually come back, and I always keep that door open. When I talk with a candidate, I'm not gonna judge you do what you're going to do and how you're going to do it. And that's fine. But you know, what, we wanted you to come join our company. So regardless of what happens, the doors always open. Yeah,

NANCY CONNERY: very important message. Very, very important. And I hope that people really do take that to heart, you know, and I think from the recruiter standpoint, also, and the candidate experience very important as well. And then they're going to refer people over and you know, it's just going to pay back in spades beyond, you know, the initial interactions, so very important. And then, you know, Chris, what would you say? What, what's the main thing that, you know, as you think about today, in this episode, that you want our listeners to walk away, you know, thinking about and remembering?

CHRIS STARR: I think going back to one of the earlier questions, again, I've been in situations where recruiting and HR, business partners, whatever the name is going to be, at that point in time, don't live don't partner together, they work in silos. And you know, when you work in that silo, you don't have that sense of team, you don't have that understanding of the bigger, broader picture. But when you actually, especially now that Caitlin, you brought this up in the virtual world, right? You feel we're working in our house by herself. We're not turning around going, Hey, let's go do this. Right. So it's actually taking that time, not to just feel like you're putting another Zoom meeting on someone's calendar, because you're worried about that. But I've done that with our HR talent partners in the businesses I'm supporting. And it's been a great partnership, because I'm giving them data. And they're giving me data, right, I'm seeing this market, they may see something differently, and you're sharing that information, which, you know, I always use the phrase teamwork is dream work makes the dream work. So hopefully, that resonates.

NANCY CONNERY: That's great. That's it. That's it. Incredible takeaway. I might adopt your phrase if that's okay.

CAITLIN ALLEN: Well, Chris, thank you so much for sharing your experience and your insights with us. This has been super fun.

CHRIS STAR: Awesome. Thank you. Yes.

NANCY CONNERY: Thanks, Chris. This was wonderful. Cheers.

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