Intrro FM: Scaling Stories

Anthony P. Rotoli
Strategic Advisor and Analytical People Leader

Anthony P. Rotoli, Strategic Advisor and Analytical People Leader

In our latest Scaling Stories podcast, we picked the brains of Anthony Rotoli, a senior people leader who’s successfully scaled the HR and talent teams at companies like Karat, Assurance IQ and Quora.

Among his many successes, Anthony scaled Assurance IQ’s headcount ten times over – the insurance/fintech startup was eventually acquired for $2.3bn. He also made the transition from Microsoft to Karat – at the time, the interview tech company was a small startup, but is now valued at more than $1bn. All things considered, there are few experts better placed than Anthony to advise on how HR leaders can assess candidates, build a successful team and retain the best people.

Anthony has come a long way, but says that when he first moved from Microsoft to Karat it was a “massive culture shock”.

At the time, the idea of building a tech giant might have seemed fanciful. He thought: “Nobody has heard of this place. People are going to have to hear about it. How do I build a brand around this thing?”

A key part of the journey was about finessing an interview methodology that identified the right talent. Listen to the full episode to hear the three key techniques to success that Anthony identifies.

Transcript

Anthony Rotoli 

If you have some rigor here, even if the interview, you know, setup that you have isn't perfect when you get started, it's more likely to give you clean data at a earlier stage. Right? It's better than just like, yeah, everybody's asking a bunch of stuff and we've got no clean data that we could pull from that. Where, where in the way that we set it up, you know, we actually, you know, we had. Uh, numbers like assigned as I, I kind of described earlier. You know, we had a number assignment to a, any question. Um, so you could be a 1, 2, 3, 4 for any question that was asked. And then at the end of the interview, we, we. You know, we kind of, uh, summed all of those numbers. So then we ended up with a number at the end that was like, you know, 26, I think was like a good number across all those questions. If a candidate is in this range, you know, like 26 to 32, like we have kind of a read on how decent they are, and now we can step back after we've interviewed 200 candidates and say like, What is the distribution of that number? Where are people falling in the ratings? Where do we typically hire? Um, so, so even though the questions weren't perfect, we were starting to generate some clean data and, and then we have more to work with from there.

Nasser oudjidane 

Hello and welcome to our series of Scaling Stories, a discussion with people, leaders about their lessons building teams at some of the world's fastest growing companies. I'm excited to introduce our guest today, anthony Rotoli, a people leader who has helped scale such as Karat, Assurance IQ and Quora Anthony, a huge welcome and thank you for joining us. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your Background?

Anthony Rotoli 

Yeah, of course. Thanks. Thanks so much for having me. I, I am really looking forward to the chat today. And yeah. So, so you know a bit about me. You know, first and foremost, I am a busy dad. Kind of just constantly busy. I've got range of kids at different ages and stages that keep me outta my toes. Um, and we live just outside of Seattle, Washington, um, kind of in the outskirts, uh, and, and kind of. Uh, yeah, the rural outskirts of Seattle on a little micro farm. Um, so I, I, I love being kind of like in this metro area, but also kind of near, near the outdoors. I love the outdoors, um, all around. I'm a a people junkie, you know, I, I love. The HR space. Um, I studied hr, which often I mention to people and they're like, what? I didn't know anybody actually did that. Cause a lot of us just kind stumble into it. Um, but, but kind of throughout my career, I've really, I've, I've thought it fascinating to, uh, build in, you know, Intriguing cultures and, and to see how people, you know, work and move and, and, uh, how, how industries, um, you know, create environments for people. So I'm all around HR junkie, like HR tech, uh, all that good stuff. Um, and I've, I've been in tech for a while, mostly in different startup environments. Um, so I, I was at, you know, big company in Microsoft for a while. Uh, left Microsoft and, and joined Karat, uh, really early. Uh, it's an interview tech company, um, that when I joined, it was just a, a few of us sitting around, uh, with some ideas. Uh, they're now Val, valued at over a billion dollars. I joined Assurance IQ after that. They're an SureTech FinTech startup here in Seattle. Um, who was, uh, acquired shortly after I joined. And then we went through a hyper scaling period. Uh, and, and then most recently I was, uh, the VP of HR and TA at Cora. The question answer website. Um, yeah, so that's a bit about me.

Nasser oudjidane

What a journey can I ask? Jumping from Microsoft to Karat, uh, is, quite, quite the gap. I mean, something, uh,

Anthony Rotoli

Totally..

Nasser oudjidane 

A startup bug caught you. How did you end up going from, you know, one of the largest and most prestigious technology businesses in the world to, uh, pre-product market fit for person startup?

Anthony Rotoli 

Yeah. Yeah, it, it was a, a bit of a wild journey and even if I, you know, think back. Before Microsoft, you know, right out of college, I, I, my first job outta school was interesting. It was in labor relations working for one of the big four railroads in the country. Um, so basically the polar opposite of tech, like the oldest tech, you could, maybe not the oldest, but pretty old tech, right? And a pretty traditional environment. Uh, the, the reason that's important to know is cuz when I got to Microsoft, I felt like the luckiest guy alive. Like, I felt like, oh my God, they let me into this tech industry, which I had always been. From a far, a real fan of, um, so getting to Microsoft and like securing a job there, it, it was really scary to think of like, Ooh, I'm gonna leave this, like this amazing place. Um, this, this crazy, crazy environment where like, I'm watching all this. Really neat stuff happening. I'm loving what I'm doing. It was very different than what I did right outta school. So, so there was definitely, uh, a lot of nerves around that decision. And, and funny enough, when I decided to go to COR to, to Karat, um, I was considering offers from two more, you know, mid-size, fast growing, uh, companies that now are like, Commonplace in, in everything that we do and, and those companies are already, you know, tens or 20,000 employees. And when I made the decision to go to karat, you know, I relied on a lot of mentorship and a lot of advice that people had just told me. Like, go where you're gonna learn a lot, go where you're gonna learn the most. That was really helpful, but, I think also I did have a bug to build. Um, you know, and I knew going in as one of the first employees, we hadn't even closed our seed round of funding. Um, I, I knew that like, wow, I'm gonna have to learn a lot really quickly. Um, I trusted the founders and that that was helpful. They had good backgrounds and I had been talking to them for a while. Um, but it, it, it was a scary jump and it was literally, I was like looking across the board of. You know, these two offers to go to very stable environments. Companies that were clearly already past, like product market fit growing rapidly, or this place nobody had ever heard of. And looking back and I, I almost can't believe myself that I made the decision to go to the place nobody had ever heard of. But, uh, I think, you know, one of the best decisions in my career, cuz I did learn a lot. Um, and you know, when you are placed in that position where it's. Build or die. Um, it's amazing what that brings out in people. Uh, and I think that's kind of like where, where we were there. Um, yeah. So tough. Yeah. 

Nasser oudjidane 

Absolutely. I mean, what were some of those lessons even some of the surprises during that?

Anthony Rotoli 

You know, the, the first was just like, Massive culture shock, um, and culture shock. You can't really prepare for, you know, Microsoft a hundred thousand plus people, you know. Now, I literally am sitting in a room looking at the two founders and their CTO. Uh, we had kind of like a, a, you know, a woman that became our director of ops. It was kinda like a part-time contractor. We, we, we had one developer that had built the platform mostly. Um, and it's just like the culture shock of like realizing, you know, I'm at Microsoft. Like there's just so many people around doing the. Thing to an extent. We're all kind of leaning on each other and now like, yeah, we're, we're going to lean on each other, but in a much different way. Like, we're gonna lean on each other. And if you're looking around, each of us represent like 20% of the whole company. You know, 20% of Microsoft, like ca can't even fit in a large room. Um, so I, I think it was first like this is so much smaller. It's not even just like, Hey, you went from a hundred thousand to 20,000 person company. Like this is just a few people around. So I think a lot of the culture shock was just like shedding all the formality and, you know, Microsoft is already like, A tech environment, you compare that to a traditional business, probably already a lot less formal than you would expect, but in such a small environment, it's like all the formality's gone. Like I, I think something I remember getting way caught up on early on going to Karat was like, we didn't really keep meeting times. We, we would go into a meeting that I thought like, Hey, we kind of like planned to do this for an hour, and we're like two and a half hours in and we're still talking and, and ideating and I'm like, oh my gosh, are there other things we be doing. So it, it was a culture shock. Um, but it was one, I, I just had to kind of like dive face first in, um, I think I also like was able to appreciate pretty, pretty quickly how much brand building has to happen at at those very early stages. Like it's kind of, Particularly when you're there, um, you know, in your first, let's say 10 employees, like the more that every single person could do to be building the brand all the time, you know, the, the better. And I didn't realize early on that that was a surprise for me. Like, oh my gosh. Yeah, and it shouldn't have been right? Like, nobody has heard of this place. People are going to have to hear about it. How do I build a brand around this thing? And in my space, obviously it. How we build an employment brand. Uh, but beyond that, even, like how can I be telling people about this product all the time? A a so it's kind of like you're going breadth and depth, you know, how can I tell as many people as possible, get the word out about this place, but then in, in my space, you know, building employment brand, you know, how do I give people trust that they should make a jump and, and do this thing? And that was more going deep and went through phases of, you know, First realizing, you know, all the credibility was kind of like on the founders in those first five or 10 employees. You know, there was no product really to speak up. There wasn't a bunch, a long client list that we could talk about. So first it just starts by saying like, you should trust the people that are here. The people that are here right now, here are the, you know, the stories of success in their, in their careers. Like, here's why you should trust them. And then when you get a little traction and some. You know, it's, Hey, we're a little bit more real. You can start to tease people with like, this could be a rocket ship, don't you want to get it on the ground floor? Uh, but, but a lot of brand building, you know, early on. Um, and, and then I'll just say like, and this is, I think it's so powerful for at least these environments. And, and this is like, you know, this is a foray in, when I went to Karat, it was like, yeah, I'll test this startup thing out, but like, let me keep all of my connections at Microsoft warm in case I've gotta jump ship at any point in time. But I think. , you know, the, the gateway drug to the startup world is that that feeling of like what you do at those early stages has such outsized impact. The, the decisions you make when you are five or 10 or 15 or 20 people, like everyone's gonna start doing it that way. And like as we bring in more people, that's just kind of the way we're doing it. So the earlier you are, the more. Your impact is, I, I think, is a more tangible example. You know, I, I, pretty early on when I was there, took to building these, like pretty, um, pretty fun, uh, you know, well thought out, um, offsite events where every six months we would rent like a really awesome Airbnb, somewhere in Seattle. Something that was just like kind of. Still cheaper than putting the people from outside of town into a hotel. So it was like resourceful but impressive. And we would just put a lot in every six months, we'd put a lot into that, like two or three or four days where we would all come together and we would do some business stuff, but we'd also just like build connection. Um, and that became like a bit of a legacy that, that, you know, kind of stuck around, uh, you know, after I was gone there. But yeah, it's really the outsize impact. So when you start to feel that, I think in a startup environment, and now it's gone from like, oh, we were five people and now. We're 15 people, we're we're 30 people. And whoa, they're still doing that little thing that I thought was a good idea. You know, six months in. That's, that's wild. Where's that gonna go? Um, I, I think that's the thing that kind of really wrote me in. Um, yeah, so, so those are some of the things, um, you know, a lot of culture shock. Uh, I would say also like realizing when you're at a really big company, there's just like endless resources in terms. People that are knowledgeable that you could turn to for advice and guidance. You know, a lot, lot of large companies, they have whole networking programs right inside or, or mentoring programs right inside the company to connect you to other people. Well, when you land in a new environment and you're now like responsible for a major area of the business, who are you gonna turn to? Like the founders brought you in because they, they're not exactly sure how to do this. So I, I realized how building my external network was really, really crucial as well. Um, Yeah, it was a lot of fun. Um, certainly a lot of, lot of scrappiness. Um, but fun scrappiness and and yeah, love building things. So those are some of the things.

Nasser oudjidane 

And, and that's, and, and that's why the work is so fulfilling. You've got a direct, know, direct line from the work that you're putting in to the results that, uh, that that, that you see. When yeah. um, were, you know, wearing your people hat within this environment, what did you learn about interview methodologies? Building processes that are efficient and less prone to bias.

Anthony Rotoli

Yeah, so, so you know that that was the other thing about going to Karat as my first startup is, you know, Karat is an interview tech company, so they're in the people tech space. So, so that is certainly like one of the things that was appealing to me as well, like, okay, I'm gonna go to a startup, but it's. Some, you know, like e-commerce or B to C company that I don't really know much about. Like I know about recruiting and interviewing. So that was certainly appealing. So when I got in, you know, it was interesting. Mild ideas I had had on how to interview well was just like being dug so deep into the company was making itself an expert in how to interview really well. So, so it, it was a nice environment and it helped me kind of like roll forward my own personal passions as we dug deeper and tried to become the experts in interviewing. Uh, there's a few things that I, I learned pretty quickly that I think are helpful tools to removing bias from the process. Um, the first is just, you know, Some sense of structure and then consistency around that structure goes a long way. Now look, I think it's important to note that like removing biases, From human beings is a pretty impossible task. Uh, we come with our biases. We, we have them like, and, and there, there's some really negative biases that we should be super aware of and, and any good organizations should seek to weed out. But in general, we're going to show up to every. Interview with a, a little bit of our personal biases, but when you start to create structure in the process and say, Hey, this is the way this interview goes, and we're gonna run this interview consistently. Every candidate that we interview for this role is gonna go through pretty much the same exact interview and process. And it's always gonna happen that way. That's a big step forward because often what happens if you don't have that structure, uh, and it's not there for interview. You know, they're left to just try to figure it out. You know, they're throwing the number of interviews that I've gone into before and after Kara that was like, Hey, can you fill in for this interview in 10 minutes? Here's the resume. Figure out if this person's gonna be good at this job. And then, and then without that structure, Inevitably, like bias is just gonna rear its head even more. Um, you're gonna run out of things to ask or you're not gonna be sure what to ask her, or you're gonna be like, uncomfortable and you're gonna glam out of the thing that's like a shared experience between you and that candidate. And you're gonna talk about that for more time than you should. But I think first it's just like, it seems simple, but like creates some structure and I like to think about this and kind of evangelize this cuz anyone could do it, you know? And, and this leads into to kind of the, the next role I was at. Well maybe talk about that a bit more. You know, when I, when I got going in that role, and we, we started a lot hyper scaling, it was just like, look, we're gonna start with some structure of the interview. It might not be the perfect interview, might not be the perfect questions, but we're gonna start by saying like, here are the eight things that we're gonna cover in this interview. We're gonna do that consistently until we all agree that it should be different, but it's going to be structure. We're gonna follow a structure. So I, I think that that's a simple thing that anybody could do, even if it's not perfect out of the gate. Um, you know, beyond structure and, and running interviews consistently on that. I think the next big thing is, you know, never underestimating the power of training people to interview correctly. Um, and I think in an ideal world, like having a gate there, you know, you're going to go through some training and ideally some rigorous training before you are in front of people and interviewing. Some companies don't have that luxury, you know, you just, you gotta get going. But either way, I think like, Building training over time. Uh, you know what we found at Karat you know, we had a whole network of people whose whole job was to interview. Like they got so good because they got the training and they were doing it consistently and inevitably that that just made them, made them better and, and more accurate. But the other interesting thing that Karat did that I I, I'd like to see in more. Um, you know, internal organizations and I'd like to run myself more. They audited all their interviews and pretty, uh, pretty impressively. So every interview that Karat ran then went through and I think still goes through a separate quality control process where a, a separate independent individual is listening and, and, you know, watching a whole interview and looking out for bias. And I don't think that's probably realistic in a lot of internal environments. Right. Like, double the interview. Uh, power to get through interviews, but I, I don't think it's unrealistic to, uh, consider occasional auditing. Just pop in and, and, you know, have a separate eye on those interviews and guide people where maybe their comments or what they're doing could be a bit biased. You know, I, I think the, the last thing that really, you know, I learned a lot about it Karat and, and I've tried to Karat forward is, you know, Karat talks often about screening candidates in, um, and, you know, what, what does that mean? The way, the way I think about that is, you know, you wanna give Candidates tools to succeed. I think sometimes interviewing environments have been made to feel like this kind of like. You know, quiz or, or you're gonna catch people off guard. You just see how they think on their feet. Now thinking on your feet is only one part of the job. Uh, a lot of the job, like in environments I've interviewed before is like, how, how can you think over time and solve problems collaboratively and a whole bunch of things that don't involve thinking on your feet? So, you know, I, I'm a big fan of companies that go, go above and. To prepare their candidates and tell them like, this is what we're looking for, right? This is what we're trying to get out of this interview because I, I think oftentimes on both sides of the table in an interviewing environment, I've been left feeling like, you know, we we're kind of ships passing in the night. I think there's a chance that the thing I want to figure out from you candidate, like I didn't, I didn't ask it the right way. And if I un, you know, if I revealed. Like, you might have the answer that I'm looking for, and similarly, as I'm interviewing, it's like, uh, okay, I could give you one answer on that, but we only have so much time and hopefully I get to the stuff that you really care about. So I, I think it's two companies interests to guide candidates. This is what we're really looking for, this is what we wanna spend time talking about. And treat it more like any business conversation where you're, you and the other person are seeking to find the truth together. Um, not, not catch people off guard. So yeah, tho those are, The things that I learned about interviewing there that I've been able to carry forward.

Nasser oudjidane

Yeah, that was, that was excellent. And, uh, sounds obvious just on your last point about, you know, trying to interview for what the role is going to be. and one thing that you mentioned with regards to training, I'd love to double click on, uh, which is, what do you think are the most glaringly obvious areas? Requires training. If perhaps, you know, some material for our, for our audience here who are perhaps thinking of it themselves, are there any, are, are there any areas that come to mind that you think we should actually make sure that here are the fundamentals that a hiring manager or anybody doing the interviewing should know?

Anthony Rotoli

Yeah. When I think about this, you know, I, I, I honestly think it goes kind of hand in hand with what I talked about with structure. Uh, I, I think oftentimes like there, there's, there's layers in depth of, of training that we can get into about how to become a better interviewer. I think oftentimes, like if you only have so much bandwidth to train people, create the structure for what this interview's actually going to look like. And then train people in small groups take the structure and say, you know, we, we, we've created this, this feedback form, you know, for this role, let's call it a sales role. And, you know, we've got, you know, eight questions on here. We wanna get this whole group together and have a collaborative training session where we talk through each of those questions and we go around the room and we make sure that people are aligned on what good looks like. When, when I'm creating structure and when I'm creating interview content. Uh, I'm a big fan of here's the. Here are the four, you know, potential ratings that we could have. 1, 2, 3, 4, and then for 1, 2, 3, 4. We also define what that looks like. What does one look like? Let's give an example. What's a two? What's a three? What's a four look like? Then I like to get everybody in a room and say like, okay, do we agree that we're asking the right question? Okay. If we agree, we're asking the right question on objection handling for a sales. Do we agree that this is 1, 2, 3, 4, that we, we would all say like, yeah, that, that represents a three. That's about like, pretty good, not the very best. Like do we agree in that example of what a three looks like? Um, I, I think that like when you are short on bandwidth for training or when you're prioritizing training, training specifically around the content, um, and. And make sure that people are aligned and they believe that, that the, that a three means the same thing regardless who you, if it doesn't, then adjust that. Um, I think that's, that's really important because that's, that's a big missing piece. I think a lot of interview content. Here's the question and here's a blank text box to fill out. That's also something Karat did really well. They never had blank text boxes for people that just, figure out what they should say, which often is a combination of like winging it and looking at what everybody else is saying and trying to mirror that. You know, I, I, I really like giving people structured answers as well as structured question.

Nasser oudjidane

Yeah. What, what I loved hearing, um, about your, your startup scaling story is how you are learning from NVP iterations and, and leveraging data. Uh, essentially shipping something, observing, learning, and and continuing to improve. And I think have a, in my opinion, quite a unique experience with Assurance iq, where I think you went from 130 to 1,300 in years. Uh, what does hyper hyper scaling feel?

Anthony Rotoli

Well, it feels kind of crazy. Uh, it feels kind of, uh, it feels a little chaotic, uh, for me. , it feels exhilarating as well you know, as a talent person and the type of talent person I am. I look for those experiences. I look for those stories. I look for those. Like, this is bigger than you might think that you could do when you first hear about it. And, and that's also kind of how this feels like, yeah, I'm not sure that that's gonna be realistic, but let's, let's start working at it. And I'd love to exceed, exceed our targets. so it, it, it's that whole mix. You know, self doubt and nerves and excitement. Um, and I think that you've gotta, you know, you've gotta kind of pull, pull apart the whole thing a little bit, um, you know, and, and start from square one and I think square one on hyper scaling and getting ready to do that. Hopefully, you know, uh, for my experience, you know, we were already scaling pretty quickly and then there was a distinct moment, you know, we scale from like 130 to maybe 250. Over, you know, six or eight months and that, that was still fast growth, but it wasn't hyper. It wasn't like off, you know, off the page. Um, so I didn't have so much time to prepare for just that. I was already working on other things and my mind was already going at a hundred miles a minute. Um, when we got ready for real hyper scaling, we knew it, it hit us, you know, it came down from leader. Here's a, the way that we're pivoting the business, like, we're gonna hire a thousand people in a year, ideally, let's get going. Um, first thing, like I had to focus on in that environment was just really diligent team building, building my own team as rigorous and, and like as aggressive as we had to hire up to meet those, the lofty hiring goals like. I had to be twice as aggressive in quickly building my own team and, and not, uh, letting go of any of the rigor that I'd want in building my team. Just because we're building quickly doesn't mean like we should build shotty, like that's gonna hurt us even more. So I was, I was just like very aggressive about building our team, you know, and, and looking for people that would. Also find exhilaration and difficult tasks. I remember that one of the first steps I made when I, I learned that we were gonna be going through this period is I, I took somebody that I, I'd been working with for a while that had been an individual contributing recruiter and had been really effective on like a somewhat high volume project and, and was actually about to transition into, uh, technical recruiting from business recruiting, and was ready to do that. But I, I knew the spirit of this person. Similar to me, exhilarated by huge challenges and went to them and I tapped them and said like, Hey, what do you, I know you're about to do that thing. Well, what do you think about this? This sounds really hard. Right? And I remember she took a deep breath and she was like, Hell yeah, let's do this. So, so it, it was looking for people for that, with that spirit that weren't like they, yeah, they could do it. It was more like they want, they really want to go through an experience like this. Um, you know, next, it was like in building the team, just looking, looking at the data, you know, I think sometimes it's as simple as saying like, look, we, we know the expected bandwidth or the average bandwidth for a recruiter. Okay, how many, how many roles do we need to fill? Uh, that should tell us how many recruiters we need. That's a baseline. Um, but I think. Also being really thoughtful about building out your layer of, of managers, uh, if you're building like a large scale recruiting team. Um, so point being first and foremost when you're, you're getting ready for something like that or you're going through something like that. Be diligent on team building. Uh, I know, and I, I felt, and I, I saw other people around me cuz the whole business was scaling, right? So all areas of the org had to scale up. Different people handled staffing your team differently in that moment. And there was certainly some that had like an eagerness to say like, we just need people like this. Oh my God, we're panicking. This is crazy. We need to get people here yesterday. Um, so let's get people on the phone. Let's hire somebody quick. Um, and. You know, you can still hire quick. Like we, we did hire quick, but we did it very rigorously. We just like amped up and poured a lot of attention into making sure that first layer of the team that you're building, um, you know, was, was really fantastic. Uh, so, so that's all about building team. Um, I think that as I think back on this, I was kind of like, as I was building the team and I knew that that was gonna be like, we're gonna be rigorous, we're gonna be really diligent, we're gonna get great. Simultaneously I was, I was kinda splitting my time evenly between that and building the measurement infrastructure. For this all I knew, like as we're really taking off, as we're adding more people in here, if we don't have a solid read on the data, on the throughput on what's happening all the time, it's gonna be really hard to keep track of, of everything. It's gonna be really hard to. You know, forecast where we're gonna end up. So, so I started to build that data infra. And, and you know, honestly it was like a lot of Google, Google sheets, um, pulling out of the systems that we had at the time. We didn't have like a, a fancy people analytics platform. Um, and it was things like, you know, first of all, just like. Daily realtime tracking of throughput. And I think like when you are hyper scaling, it means you gotta be refreshing that data constantly. Uh, ideally a few times a day, but at least daily. So daily realtime tracking of like what's the throughput looking like. So any single day I could kind of feel out if, if things are going off the rails or if there's a source that we were really relying on that's dropping um, you know, once you have that, you know, you want to, I think be. Uh, tune into your funnel analytics. You want to be able to spot the bottlenecks that are happening and, and address those without creating new bottlenecks. You know, it's definitely kind of the, the, uh, the game of like, there's a, there's a, you know, a leak in the pipe and you cover up the leak with one hand and like another one pops. You gotta make sure that, that you're not doing that, that you're fixing this thing without exacerbating this thing. Um, so, you know, a good example of this. as I was analyzing the funnel analytics at one point, you know, we were, we were getting, you know, we were maybe like a third of the way through or a, a quarter of the way through that, uh, huge hiring target that we had. And at this point we had a decent number of managers, cuz we had to be hiring managers as well as individual contributors. Um, so we had some managers. What we found was the biggest bottleneck in our process was managers interviewing, because those managers were scaling up, they were training themselves. There wasn't so many as, as the numbers went up, there was just more of those. Um, so I looked at the entire funnel and I was like, okay, everything's moving along pretty well, but like, gosh, we're building this, like this wall of, of candidates sitting at the manager interview stage, and inevitably when you're doing that, candidates are starting to fall off. Um, getting people through is taking too long. So, so I took an interesting approach there and, and, uh, somewhat influenced by my time at Karat. I went and hired a dedicated interviewer. So I had this idea like if, if people are getting caught up at the manager, Um, manager interview. What if I was able to find a manager out there that had done this job before that really likes doing interviews that would be down to do that all the time? And that's what we ended up finding. Um, and, and we just pointed that person at, like, basically they spent 40 hours a week. Interviewing and, and immediately like, it relieves so much tension from that bottleneck. We still had managers interviewing, um, but we were able to move candidates through like at a very steady pace that was no longer a, a huge bottleneck, like a, a fat part in the, in the narrow funnel. It was like that was moving through just as easily. And, and by the way, like by doing that, having that dedicated interviewer, you know, kind of calling back some of the stuff we talked about earlier, that person got really. They were very consistent, you know, after doing a ton of interviews. It's also just like watching the funnel analytics will allow you to test different strategies, uh, different sources and see how all of it impacts, uh, what the funnel looks like. So you gotta build that, that measurement infrastructure. You gotta be measuring and, and being willing at any point to say like, the data might surprise you. How are you gonna react as a result? Um, yeah. Yeah. I guess the final thing I'd say about hyper scaling. Again, the, the discipline to have interviewing rigor, uh, Even more important to have structure, like when you're going through this really fast growth period. And again, like you're gonna have to fight like the, the urge to just do it fast, um, without much structure cuz it feels like it's chaos. Just like get people through as quick as you can. Uh, but the more you do that, the more work you'll be creating for yourself. Uh, and and so we found just like creating great interview rigor, doing that kind of thing, where it's like, here are the questions. Like, let's get people in a room. Let's make sure a lot of people agree that these are the right questions, the right answers. Let's start working these. Let's revisit. Uh, regularly to, to, you know, make sure that people are asking all those questions. Are there ones that people are skipping over once they get in the process? I think that if you have some rigor here, even if the interview, you know, setup that you have isn't perfect when you get started, it's more likely to give you clean data at a earlier stage. Right? It's better than just like, yeah, everybody's asking a bunch of stuff and we've got no clean data that we could pull from that. Where, where in the way that we set it up, you know, we actually, you know, we had. Uh, numbers like assigned as I, I kind of described earlier. You know, we had a number assignment to a, any question. Um, so you could be a 1, 2, 3, 4 for any question that was asked. And then at the end of the interview, we, we. You know, we kind of, uh, summed all of those numbers. So then we ended up with a number at the end that was like, you know, 26, I think was like a good number across all those questions. If a candidate is in this range, you know, like 26 to 32, like we have kind of a read on how decent they are, and now we can step back after we've interviewed 200 candidates and say like, What is the distribution of that number? Where are people falling in the ratings? Where do we typically hire? Um, so, so even though the questions weren't perfect, we were starting to generate some clean data and, and then we have more to work with from there.

Nasser oudjidane

Yeah, that's fascinating and yeah, really useful. I've, I was speaking to a people, a people leader a few weeks ago actually, and they were talking about some of the key KPI's to measure and. Time to hire is often overlooked, but extremely important because of the reaction it has within the business, particularly hiring managers with lowering the bar and getting or becoming panicked and all of the compounding consequences thereafter. When you've lost somebody in your team, you want to backfill that as quickly as possible. If your time to hire isn't. Good. Then yeah. you can actually, uh, end up making the wrong hiring decisions, which then could cost the business in the long term. really, really fascinating.

Anthony Rotoli

Yeah, I agree.

Nasser oudjidane

I wanna talk about team building. Now, you've, you, you touched upon culture, earlier. And often that people and talent leaders are the first line of defense with, safeguarding and. Helping advertise, and develop the culture within the business. What, what's your framework or how do you think about, the way that organizations can, build inclusive, amazing cultures?

Anthony Rotoli

Yeah. You know, I am a, you know, I'm a really values driven leader. I, I find that, you know, values provide this like fantastic foundation and blueprint to build everything else upon. It's a common language. So I think there's a number of ways to do it. Different people attack it differently. Uh, I often find like, rooting things in values. Uh, it, it could go a long way. Um, and I, I think. You know when you're creating values and when you're driving from values, it's all. painting a really clear picture and being as honest and, and real as possible. Um, you know, we, we look at all these different cultures and companies and there's some really distinct cultures that I'm sure you and I could think of if we said, you know, name the, the top five most distinct cultures in tech. We, we could probably name those pretty quickly. Um, and, and those different cultures like might not be for everyone, but the important thing is, Those cultures have become distinct and they've been able to really paint kind of a clear picture of what it looks like working there. And I think that's the effort that you have to go through when you're initially creating values is like the, the, the point here is cuz it's very easy when you are creating values. To be, um, sucked into this like desire to create really ambitious values. You know, we wanna be all these wonderful things that sound like really great words and things to be, but the truth is, if you do values well, you, you're just giving a very real, honest, uh, view of, of what the company values. And, and that's actually like a distinction I often like to make. It's easy to say like, what are the company's values? And then it sounds kind of like, what's the mission? Right? The mission is an aspirational thing. Often you say like, we want to, we strive to. Thing. Um, so like that's the mission. What is the company's mission? So oftentimes also people say, what are the company's values? Um, I like to say instead, like, what does the company value? Like, be honest, like what does the company really value and appreciate and want when they're hiring people? When they're promoting people? And early on. The truth is that often comes directly from the founders. What are the founders or the founder, whoever, or however many it. What do they really care about? Like what really gets them excited? Let's try to be as honest as we can about that, because we don't need to be painting this like aspirational picture. We gotta paint a clear, honest picture. So the people that we're hiring in, they know what they're getting into and they can self-select into it and they can say like, yeah, give me the, give me the real story. Tell, tell me what's really going on here. What do you, what do you people really care about most? Like, be honest about it so people can self select. Once you get through that, and I harp on that so much cuz it's a, it's a tough task, right? Like sometimes the founders are really, truly honest about, you know, what, what they value. You know, like, it, it's, it's kind of harsh and, um, not, not to be too controversial, but like you were seeing this with, with Elon right now, like Elon wears what he values on his sleeve. Um, he's doing that very clearly. I, I think there's some other stuff going on as well. And like, he, he's, he's always trying to work the room, whatever, however large that room is. This guy wears his values on his sleeve. And I, I think inevitably, you know, like you would have, if you're gonna go work at any of his companies, you've gotta self select in and say like, yep, there's some things I like about that. I value those things as well. Easy example, but I think like, That's the first hurdle. Like, can we be really honest about like, what is valued here? Who does well, who succeeds in this type of environment? I, I think once you've done that at the earliest stages, then you've gotta weave it into everything. Um, specifically hiring, I think really keeping the bar and, and bringing people that align there. But then, you know, make sure that you teach people more about how those values hit the road, uh, in onboarding, right? How do they really play out? How much do we talk about them, uh, in, in exchanges of feedback in performance manage. In your daily communications, in your all hands as much as possible, weaving that in, making sure that it's easy enough that everybody knows and understands those and hopefully doesn't hear them and, and kind of like feel like, ugh. You know, like, oh yeah, the values, like, it's, it's gotta feel more like, yep, that's really accurate. That's how it is here. Um, and, and then I think along the way you gotta continue revisiting and, and pivoting as the company grows. As I mentioned, like early on, when you're creating values, it's, it's largely about the founders. So as you grow the leadership team, as you grow the whole company and there's more people at the table that are making decisions that value slightly different things, like those should be, uh, revisited and, and weave those in once again. Um, so I think, uh, very driven by, I think the other, you know, easy to overlook. About creating productive cultures is, is really being mindful and empathetic to, to people's kind of the, the hierarchy of needs. Um, and, and if you use this a little bit and always have it in the back of your head as a blueprint to like, how do I unlock people to be super productive? I think it's really helpful. So if you look at, at, uh, the Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, you know, uh, you think first about things. You know, having food , you know, which, which you need money to have food, right? Like having, uh, safety, having belonging, you know, all of these things are necessary before somebody could open up and be like, okay, now I'm ready to totally focus on work. Um, and a lot of this, it's a lot to grasp, right? Like, we're not as employers, like, we're not going to be able to help people go through that entire hierarchy and figure everything out. But what can you help with? And I think where the rubber hits the road on this to get a bit more tangible. You know, interesting compensation philosophy, like, can we be very realistic about like, what do people need to not worry about their place that they're at? That doesn't mean that we need to pay everybody a million dollars, but it means like, you know, be really thoughtful. If, if somebody is in a role and you have the market data and you know what the market looks like everywhere, alleviate that person's concern about looking for a new job all. Get 'em to the top, get 'em as as best you can, you know, to the top of that market. Take away that need. If you can melt that away. Okay? I'm financially as secure as I could be right now. And they don't have to worry about that. It's amazing how much more space they have to think about doing really great work. If you could take care of people's, you know, insurance benefits for them and their family, you know, in a really, uh, really thoughtful way. Like if you could remove these distractions that we just have because we're full people. We're not just work people. We're full people. If we have those distractions in. It makes it harder just to, you know, be super productive. So, uh, you know, somewhat complicated, but also maybe somewhat simple. Be empathetic and think about like, how do I put the other, the other things that this person could be worrying about in their life. Like, how do I do my part or a little bit more to help put those things at ease so people's brains can be really clear. Okay, we take care of everything else. Like now let's get some work done. Uh, that's kind of how I think about it a bit. And I'll also say like to be just like a little bit more direct on something that is a bit less philosophical. I also just like variable compensation and I think variable compensation could have a place in a lot more roles and, and actually at assurance, you know, where we were hyper productive like that, that is the most productive environment I've been in. We leaned into variable comp across a lot of roles, including recruiting. You know, our recruiters had like quarterly variable comp. They had numbers and tasks up in front of them and they knew like, wow. Right there in front of me. Like I could, I could walk away. Sizeable bonus at the end of this quarter, um, if I meet my targets. Uh, and, and that was like really motivating to people as well.

Nasser oudjidane

That's fascinating. I mean, can I ask a little bit more about what went well what didn't variable comp for recruiting?

Anthony Rotoli

Yeah, I think, um, what went well is like people felt just. People felt great, uh, response from their work, that direct reward from their work. Like, yeah, I really put it in that quarter. Like, oh, I feel so great to like, feel, feel that in my pocket at the end of the quarter. So like, people felt great about that. It, it, it kept them like it took care of these needs. Uh, the other way it worked really well is like, to be like really transparent. You know, when you build a com philosophy like this, you're often able. Be a little bit more reserved on, on base compensation. Like the way I aim to do this is like, we're gonna be like a little bit more reserved on base, but if people hit like even their average bonus or beyond their average bonus, they're gonna be above and beyond the market. Um, and, and I think that was like, you know, if I'm telling both sides of the story, like as a leader, you've gotta be working in both reactions all the time. Like, how do I create the right environ by people? How do I make. Palpable for the business. How, how do I make it digestible for them? And to be able to say like, look like we could, we could go a little bit, we could be a bit more modest on our fixed costs. Um, but we've, we're gonna reward great performers. Um, I think that worked really well for the business. Um, You, you know, the thing that doesn't, or that's a little bit more difficult about this, is it does take more time and energy from managers, uh, to, to, you know, build bonus programs and to manage these bonus programs. So, the way that I like to build it was, you know, we typically had, like for any recruiter, , we'd have like three components to their variable comp, and one was purely numbers, right? Like, here's how many hires we expect that you can make. Uh, and, and then one was typically about like how you work with the business, and one was typically like some other project that they were working on, something else that they were interested in, that they wanted to develop over time. Some of the high volume recruiters, it was, it was just two things. Like cuz the numbers were so high, it was like numbers and your relationship with the business. Um, but all of that takes work like every quarter ahead of the quarter. I had to think through those a little bit and meet with everyone and make sure that we agreed that these were the right, uh, parameters. And, and I always made sure of that as well. Like, we got in a room and we said like, Hey, we're gonna lay this out at the start of the quarter. Do you agree that if you ended up here, here, or here, that that would be not good, good or great? Like, do we, do we think this is pretty fair? Okay, cool. Let's, let's head on. So that, that's a tough thing. It takes more work and and energy to get. 

Nasser oudjidane

Yeah. One thing that I've, uh, just to circle back on what you were saying earlier was when, you actually implemented a dedicated interview. And I can see how there could be some frustrations within a team that is being marked to make x many hires, but they're actually not making the hires themselves. They're facilitating, uh, that process candidates. if there's that bottleneck with. The, the hiring team, effectively, the hiring manager, and actually making the decision, then actually they could actually lose out on their commission or their, their bonus because the business actually hasn't caught up. So there, there seems to be plates that you have to spin and get right in order for that to work. Because I do find it really that there is, uh, similarities between recruiting and its cousins and sales and market.

Anthony Rotoli

That's right. Yeah.

Nasser oudjidane

some of, and some of the traits and characteristics that one may want to promote are, you know, uh, overall tenacity to get, to get things done. yeah, is a, there is a balancing act.

Anthony Rotoli

Yeah. That's why I was certain that like we never had variable comp that was just numbers. Um, you know, there, there was always a component that offset it. That was like, look, the, the business also thinks like you're making great.

Nasser oudjidane 

Yeah, absolutely. I. I'd love to learn a little bit more about your opinions on Changing landscape and, for example, remote first cultures. and, and how you think, you've said to me in the past, fostering subcultures in different regions isn't necessarily a bad thing. Uh, and I'd love to hear your take on that. Why?

Anthony Rotoli

Yeah, well, well first I think like, you know, values are more important than ever in these, these remote environments, but, but I think when we get down to the, the heart of it, um, you know, I, I think about my experience and I go way back to Microsoft. Um, you know, I worked here at, at the headquarters in Redmond and, and it's just like a gorgeous campus and it's so communal. You know, you get in the, the, the kind of like the outskirts of the campus, you know, there's. A, a main central meeting area that's like really neat with great food and like people are there every, you know, every day around lunchtime or it used to be every day around lunchtime, like it's bustling and you have a whole community and you could, you could see everybody kind of right there. And, and that's really changed. But the neat thing about like that was like, That environment constantly created connection. Whether it was like meeting with friends across different business groups or just like running into and striking up conversation with new people, it created the opportunity for a lot of different connections. I think we've gotta keep doing that today. So when I talk to companies now about how to create really great remote environments, I often talk about like, you know, you've gotta create multiple touchpoints for people to connect. So one is like, yes, as a company, I think any remote company has gotta be getting together as a whole company. Once or twice a year in person. Right. We still gotta get in person even though they're remote. So do that as a whole company. Give people that opportunity. Oh wow. This is the whole group. We're gonna talk together. We're gonna go through some experience together. That's great. Uh, support teams doing that as well. Teams connecting, and that's in person and virtually. Uh, but you've gotta have some connection outside of the work that's happening. So we've got company and we've got team, and I do think location is, is the next grouping that you should support people connecting around. And I think that's where more than ever, like it is okay to have subcultures in these locations. Like root it in the values. Like, Hey, we are a, we are a version of this big thing. But here's how the version looks a little bit different in, you know, in Paris or in Seattle. You know, we've, we've got our own flare, but that's cool because now I maybe am a little bit more likely to connect on a location basis with more people. And then I think also just like breeding opportunity for people to connect across social interest. Slack has made this a lot easier for us. Uh, you know, whether it's like the pets channel, which usually is like the most popular channel at any company or the travel channel or the music channel or whatever it is. Foster the opportunity for people to connect, uh, across shared social interests. So I think what's important today is that we, we support and, and we create environments where people could, could connect across many different, uh, wavelengths, right? It's not just like, are you really connected with who you're with on your team? Like, can I be connected to other people that just work at this company and, and, and can I connect with them in a variety of different ways? I think that's kind of how we have to attack this thing.

Nasser oudjidane

Yeah. Yeah. I really like that. Can you tell us a little bit about your as a people tech advisor and what has motivated you to, to, to get into this space and, uh, how's it been so far?

Anthony Rotoli

Yeah, I mean, uh, this is like one of the things that I've, I've enjoyed most of my career and that I've, I've kind of leaned into more over time. So, you know, I think once going to Karat and learning more about people, tech like, gave me the ability to think more broadly about things. How do, how does people tech go to market? Like, how do these products get developed? Um, you know, what, what's at, at the earliest stages? Um, and I, I, I really enjoy like, you know, being able to talk to founders that care deeply about, about these problems, right? About the problem that they're trying to solve and, and wanna be the experts in that space. Um, I think that, you know, I'm really motivated by a couple of things. Like, I wanna learn about New tech. I wanna know like the latest. Coming to market in our space. I want to get a e even better understanding of their story than what I might just see from like a website or, or their marketing material. Um, I want to constantly be kind of in touch with that. Like, how is our landscape going to change based on the products that are coming to market? Um, and, and then I also just find that like, It's a great network to lean on, like these different people pick companies and the people that are into this stuff. Like I, I found that it's certainly like one of my core, core networks that I, uh, turn to, uh, and that I enjoy being a part of is, is these po people that are growing these companies. So, yeah, I, I wanna see how our world's going to change before it changes. Um, that I think like being in touch with these Companies that is a great way to do it.

Nasser oudjidane

Yeah. Great phrase. Uh, we're coming up to the end of time here. Uh, what, what's one myth when it comes to teams that you think is not accurate and belongs in the trash?

Anthony Rotoli

Yeah. You know, I'm gonna go out on a limb a little bit here. Uh, being, being conscious of like the moment that we're going through in tech right now, like, it's a, it's a interesting slash scary time. Um, as an aside, my partner works at mea. Uh, her job was spared last week, but it was a really stressful week, and, and there's a, Amazon's going through it this week, like large or small, like companies are going through a really tough time, right. And I think it's really easy in this tough moment to say, kind of like, you know, companies are awful. They can never, they're not loyal, they can't be loyal to employees. Um, And I think that there's a, there's some real truth in that. Like there's a lot of companies that have a real hard time being loyal to employees, but I'm not yet willing to give up on the idea that a company can be more loyal to their people. I, I'm forever an optimistic, I say all the time, like, I'd rather die optimistic, um, and think that the world could be good. Um, but I actually, like, I believe that there are still good leaders out there and I think when we like get into this mode where we really just say like, you can't trust any company. Companies are just self-serving. Like you can't be loyal to them cuz they'll never be loyal to you. It almost like it lets these leaders off too easy. Okay, well if the whole market thinks that, then we're just gonna operate in a way where we aren't too loyal. And I, I, I'm not yet ready to believe it. I think there's good leaders out there, there's people that can care deeply about every individual that is on their payroll. Um, and, and they, if they, they don't already, they should take a look right now at LinkedIn. Like, this is a really sad time. Like people's, you know, livelihoods are, Being crushed, like in, in like with the wave of a hand. And, and those are every one of those people, every one of the 11 plus thousand people at Facebook that were let go. Like those are real people with bills and families, people relying on them, you know, whole lives that are, are thrown into, uh, you know, a whirlwind now. Um, and, you know, business is tough, but I think if every leader could care and try to care about every single person, that that takes the step to say, yeah, I. I wanna be a part of your dream, um, care deeply about those people. I, I think that there are leaders that could be empathetic and loyal and create, um, create something special. Uh, so I hope so. Um, I'll keep looking for them.

Nasser oudjidane 

Yeah, absolutely. And last one, what tech do you use to do your job or, do you find particularly Feel free to shout out products that, uh, think deserve the promotion.

Anthony Rotoli

Yeah. Yeah. I'm gonna breeze this through this quick and, and then I've gotta run. Um, you know, I think it's very basic, but Slack is amazing. Um, I think really it's like what a, what a tool like coming to rise, like of course before the pandemic and everything, but like, It's so effective and I think asynchronous collaboration is more important than ever. And, and Slack is the tool to get that done. Um, I think every asynchronous environment should also have a good documentation platform. Something more than Google Docs. Uh, you know, I've used Confluence I think is decent. Quip is meh. Uh, I think not Seems really great. Um, when it comes to more people tech, I think Lattice does a great job at performance management and one-on-ones, but I also like 15 five a lot. I think 15 five is like a great all in one platform. They do performance management and OKRs, they do one-on-ones. Um, I, I, I think that whole platform and kind of it's like continuous touchpoints is, is pretty great. Uh, I think Culture Amp is like very reliable and they've got a lot of great content to help, uh, people build I think the people analytics space is really fascinating. I've liked Chart Hop in the past. Uh, I was an early user there. Um, but I think there's some other interesting products coming to market, like Equitable, uh, included, uh, perform Tree. These are a few that I've talked to recently that I think will, uh, advance the landscape, uh, in people analytics. Um, yeah, and, and, and then I just think like, We're gonna see more interesting products come to market soon. That will be more real time. It will allow you to do performance management in real time feedback in real time, engagement in real time. That's gotta be the answer. We can't do performance management in these things like twice a year. Uh, it's not, it's not constant enough.

Nasser oudjidane 

Awesome. Thank you, Anton. This has been incredible. Thank you for your time.

Anthony Rotoli

Yeah. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Talk to you soon.

Nasser oudjidane 

Cheers.

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Alex Her
Head of Global Employer Brand
GoDaddy
Alex Her - Head of Global Employer Brand at GoDaddy

In this episode, I learn from Alex Her, the head of Global Employer Brand at GoDaddy. Alex has made a massive impact in transforming the way the web hosting giant (and the world’s largest domain registrar) embeds its employee brand internally and attracts prospective candidates.

Amandeep Shergil
Director Of Tech Recruiting
Automattic
Amandeep Shergil: Director Of Tech Recruiting at Automattic

We caught up with Amandeep Shergil, director of tech recruiting at Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, WooCommerce, Tumblr and more. Amandeep has plenty of experience in building teams at fast-growing startups like Lendable, so it was a fantastic opportunity to discuss the various possibilities and pitfalls when it comes to hiring tech talent in 2022.

Ruby Bhattacharya
Technical Recruiting Lead
Astra
Ruby B - Lead Technical Recruiter at Astra

In this episode we learn from Ruby B, who is leading technical tecruitment at Astra and is an active career coach.

Nicolas Bowles
Recruiter - Product & Design
Productboard
Scaling Product & Design Hiring at Productboard

In this episode - we spoke with Nicolas, a recruiter at Productboard, a customer-driven product management platform, and he shared some pearls of wisdom on how to hire more effectively.

Beatrice Domiguez
Head of People and Talent
Aviros
Bea Dominguez: Head of People and Talent at Aviros

In this episode I learn from Beatrice Domiguez, Head of People and Talent at Aviros. Founded in 2015 in Zurich, Aviros is building fleet management software in the cloud and is one of Europe’s fastest growing B2B SaaS companies.

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