Stacy Zapar’s Secret Sauce: 9 Ingredients to Recruiting Success

February 6, 2018

With 20 years of recruiting experience, Stacy Zapar has a lot of tricks up her sleeve when it comes to finding and hiring great talent. And lucky for us, she’s eager to share what she’s learned over the years and did just that in her session “Stacy’s Secret Sauce 2.0" at Talent Connect 2017.

This session was one of the most popular at the conference and was brimming with tips that recruiters can start implementing right away, including how to provide a great candidate experience, clever sourcing tactics, Stacy’s favorite interview question, time management tips, and more.

In short, those are the golden rules that Stacy lives by to maintain her reputation as a phenomenally successful recruiter (and if you cannot get enough, here are a few more we published earlier):

1. Pre-connect: invite candidates to connect on LinkedIn before your first interview

First, a simple way to have warmer phone interviews: make it a habit to connect with candidates on LinkedIn before your call, after they agree to talk.

“I don’t want to go into an interview and neither of us knows anything about each other,” Stacy says. “It makes it a little warmer.”

There’s also a sneaky-smart reason to connect early on. “After the call, they might not want to connect,” Stacy half-jokes. “But now I can see all their connections.” They’ll probably know similarly qualified candidates, so it can help with sourcing.

2. Phone contacts: Always add candidates’ numbers to your phone’s contacts so you never miss a call  

If you’re like most recruiters, you take work calls on your personal smartphone all the time. But if you’re like most humans, you don’t always answer a call from an unknown number. And when you do, you often wish you hadn’t—whether it’s a telemarketer or a call you’re unprepared for.

Stacy’s simple fix: put every single candidate that makes it to the phone screening stage into your phone. You already have their number—just create a contact and plug in their name. “I’m never caught off guard, I never accidentally pick up, and I never miss a call that I wanted to get either,” says Stacy. Do the same with hiring managers, too.

To keep things neat and tidy, also use a hashtag (e.g., #candidate) in the notes section or in their name. Then every month or so, you can search by that hashtag and delete all the entries that are not longer active: that way you don’t have dozens of former candidates cluttering up your contacts.

3. Expectation setting: let candidates know that you’ll update them every week—then follow through

One of the worst parts about being a candidate is the waiting and wondering. To improve the candidate experience and keep them interested, always keep communication channels open and assure them you’ll keep them updated. “Transparency is key,” Stacy says. “Set expectations and then meet them. This is the difference between a chasing-your-tail recruiter and one who’s got their stuff together.”

You can give everyone peace of mind by making a simple promise and sticking to it: “You’ll never go into the weekend without an update from me.”

Stacy blocks her calendar every Friday afternoon to make time to send every candidate an update—even if there’s no news. It can be as simple as a text, a quick email or short phone message. Stacy also uses that time for administrative tasks, like updating the ATS.

It’s not just great for candidates—it’s fantastic self-care, too. “When you go off into the weekend knowing everyone’s on ice and your system’s completely updated, you will enjoy your weekend infinitely more. Do this for selfish reasons as well as for candidate experience,” she says.

4. Rack ‘em and stack ‘em: use stacking trays to organize candidate pipelines and interview notes

Stacy is admittedly old-school on this: she still takes candidate notes by hand and uses a physical stacking tray to keep everything in order. It’s a system that works wonderfully for her—and it can work for you, too.

She keeps the notes in one of five stacks, representing different stages of the candidate pipeline:

  • Left message
  • Phone interview
  • Onsite interview
  • Offer
  • Sign off

Then on Friday, she pulls out every candidate (one by one, starting at the top), makes sure each one gets an update, and re-stacks them wherever they belong. “It sounds ridiculous that I use a paper system to organize myself,” Stacy admits, “but I swear: nobody falls through the cracks this way. In an ATS, in your email, they often can.”

You can replicate this system digitally if you’re not a fan of pen and paper. Stacy uses an ATS/CRM called Loxo, but you can also use tools like Trello. You can make the stages as detailed as you like, e.g., considering, contacted, followed up, etc.

“Find a way to make sure you’re tracking people through the stages and no one slips through the cracks,” Stacy says. “This is absolutely my secret weapon.”

5. Interview prep: Always send candidates a pre-interview email with these 12 points

A whopping 41% of candidates receive no information prior to their interview, according to The Talent Board’s Candidate Experience survey. “That’s sad to me,” says Stacy. “You’re not setting your candidate up for success.”

That’s why she always sends an email before an on-site interview that helps them feel fully prepared for the interview experience:

You’re not just putting them at ease by giving them info like parking availability, dress codes, and an emergency phone number to call if no one meets them. You’re also helping them walk into that interview feeling fully prepared and confident and, therefore, able to leave their best possible impression with the interview team.

6. The magic question: Stacy’s favorite interview question

At the end of every candidate interview, ask this magic question:

“Is there anything that didn’t come up today that you think would be helpful for me to know?”

This one simple question does a lot. By being open ended, this question elicits all types of responses, good and bad. You might find out about a really relevant project that hadn’t otherwise come up during the interview process. You might find out about awards and achievements. Or you might find out about other really helpful info, like visa requirements or competing offer deadlines. “You’ll find out good stuff, you’ll find out bad stuff,” she says, “but whatever you find out will be really helpful.”

This question also improves candidate experience by making sure they’re not leaving anything unsaid. Even if they’re ultimately rejected, they’ll still walk away with a more positive impression since they know they were able to fully sell themselves and leave nothing unsaid that might have helped them.

7. No declines: Get a verbal confirmation before a written offer

Nothing feels worse than finding the perfect client, taking them through the pipeline, making a nice offer, and getting left at the altar. Declined offers hurt. Stacy offers two ways to avoid them.

First, don’t jinx yourself by neglecting to line up a silver medalist. “If you do not have a Plan B candidate lined up, your Plan A candidate will for sure drop out,” Stacy jokes. But seriously, she says, you should always run to the finish line by continuing to interview other candidates even if you’ve got a strong contender—you don’t want to start from scratch if you’re declined.

Second, always get a firm verbal “yes” before you send the written offer. Hammer out all the details and make sure they’re on board before you formalize the offer. “Do not send it and then play the negotiating game,” Stacy warns. “Do all of the negotiating up front to the point that the signed offer is a given.”

Candidates can always take that time to shop the offer around to competitors or use to get a promotion at their current job. By ironing everything out beforehand, you’re ensuring a positive outcome with no last-minute haggling or surprises.

8. The happy new hire: Keep new hires warm between acceptance and their first day

The job’s not done when you get to yes. Sometimes, recruiters will completely drop out of the picture once the offer letter is signed. “Now is not the time to take your eye off the prize,” warns Stacy. “Keep them warm!”

Small gestures go a long way. You can send a quick email asking if they have any questions and saying how happy you are for them. Atlassian sends a personalized gift basket to new hires before they start. Stacy sends a cute succulent to make their new desk more welcoming.

For an extra special gesture, casually ask them what their favorite candy is during the on-site interview. Swing by the kitchen area and pick some up or keep some in your desk. Then, on their first day, leave a little bowl of that candy on their new desk.

“How simple and easy is that?” Stacy says. “But what a great feeling—‘oh, wow, she remembered that Kit Kats are my favorite!’” Similarly, take a minute to make sure someone takes them to lunch on their first day so they don’t feel like the new kid sitting all alone in the cafeteria. These little things can make a big difference.

9. Love what you do: Spark pride and passion to be a better recruiter

She admits it may sound obvious, but Stacy’s number one tip to make someone a great recruiter is loving your job and being passionate about it. “If you have a case of the Mondays everyday, you have a problem,” Stacy says.

Through The Talent Agency, she talks to dozens of recruiters a week—and she can tell many of them don’t really love their job. “I believe that if you do not love your job, you just won’t be great at it. So take action. Do something to change it. Fix it, talk to your boss, get some training, change up your duties, recruit for something new, change the channel, read some blog posts, talk to people, find a mentor,” she says. “Do something to make you love your job again.”

Hiring managers, candidates, bosses—everyone will be able to tell when you’ve got authentic passion. “Be proud to be a recruiter, keep your shoulders back, love what you do, be passionate,” Stacy says, “and everything else will work itself out.”

Watch the full video at Talent Connect All Access.

*Image by City Foodsters

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