Intrro FM: Scaling Stories

Jessica Paddock
Senior Director of Recruiting
Unite Us

Jessica Paddock: Senior Director of Recruiting at Unite Us

In our latest Scaling Stories podcast, we were delighted to chat with Jessica Paddock, Senior Director of Recruiting at Unite Us, an outcome-focused technology company that builds coordinated care networks to health and social service providers.

It was a wide-ranging discussion, and one recurring theme was the human-centered approach to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) at Unite Us, and their approach to hiring in general. In fact, the walls of their New York office are emblazoned with the words: “Be a good human.”

We explored the topic of ‘seen and unseen diversity, and the steps employers can take to introduce bias mitigation in hiring.

While there are no quick fixes, the Unite Us team has put some solid foundations in place to embed fairness in the way they hire. We covered so much ground that we can barely do it justice in one nifty newsletter, but here’s a snapshot of the other tips and insights Jessica shared:

  • “We really emphasize question-asking, and understanding what’s important to the candidate so that when we speak about Unite Us… they are hearing the things that are most important to them.”
  • “We do quite a few internal workshops. I think my favorite one was just a team building exercise…we essentially each put on a mini presentation, if you will, of just who we are, and where we came from.”
  • “We use things like Slack and Zoom and G Suite [and Calendly] and I can’t imagine not utilizing technology. But it has to work for you. It has to make it smoother to do the human parts of your job.”

Transcript

Jessica Paddock

I think it's really easy to look in a room and identify people by perhaps their skin color or their hair color or their gender, which is so much deeper than that. There's things that we of course cannot see or identify and that could be socioeconomic that could be religion, that could be culture related to region, you know, we work all across the country. And of course, there's different cultures within our own country, sexual orientation, if someone's a, a mother, a military spouse, of a veteran, these are all things that relate to how they solve problems, how they interact in a group, how they really approach their work.

Nasser Oudjidane  

Hello and welcome to our series of scaling stories, a discussion with talent leaders about their lessons building teams at some of the world's fastest growing companies. I'm excited to introduce our guest today. Jessica paddock, the Senior Director of recruiting at Unite us. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Unite us is an outcome focused technology company that builds coordinated care networks to health and social service providers. Founded in 2013 by military veterans, Dan Brillman and Taylor Justice Unite us has raised more than $195 million in venture capital and filled more than 600 rolls last year. Jessica, a huge welcome and thank you for joining us.

Jessica Paddock

Thank you so much for having me. I'm happy to be here.

Nasser Oudjidane

Great, and to jump straight in. Could you give us an intro about you and your background, please?

Jessica Paddock

Yes, without intentionally planning it, I've worked in recruiting for a really long time just in informal ways. I'm the daughter of two foreign language teachers. So I grew up traveling and living abroad. It's been a natural passion of mine to connect people to new opportunities and experiences. So I started my career as a German and French teacher, I was always needing to, you know, recruit students to enroll in my classes or participate in exchanges and study abroad. So I like to say that's where it really started. But then my career took a completely unexpected turn when I met an entrepreneur. And together, we created and opened a beautiful wedding venue from scratch. I learned so much about business and leadership in those six years. And as we grew successful, we actually opened additional businesses to support. One of my favorite parts of that role was not just the creativity, but interviewing and recruiting talent onto our broader team really finding them the right fit. After that, I worked as a community manager for a premium co working space called Industrious. There, I was able to combine my my passion, my passion for business, hospitality and connecting people all in one role. So I thrived in that role. So much. And in time, I found myself serving on interview panel after interview panel to hire my similar role counterparts all across the country. So eventually, it just made sense. And I sort of pitched for me to pivot and formally join the recruiting team, which I loved and I never looked back. So I've been with Unite us now for over two years, and we've been able to successfully scale the company from about 130 people to 1000 It's been an unconventional path for sure, but one that has brought me a deep understanding of people hospitality and business.

Nasser Oudjidane  

Grait, certainly a unique path into recruiting. How has your experience in teaching and community management impacted your philosophies around talent and talent acquisition?

Jessica Paddock

It's had a huge impact. It's really personal to me because, you know, my story isn't conventional. And I understand that every candidate has a story and so often within talent acquisition, you know, we rely on resumes and it's, it's one piece of paper, people are so much more than what you can put on a piece of paper and so I heard once that it's your ticket into the party, but after that, it's up to you and the conversations that you have in that room. So I really enjoy talking to people hearing about their stories and like I said before connecting them to those opportunities. I can't think of a better job than really taking the time to hear all the incredible things that people have done and experienced, and then being able to change their lives by connecting them to a job or a career where they can, you know, live out their dreams and goals and grow it's incredibly rewarding. And that is certainly my why and why I love recruiting.

Nasser Oudjidane  

I love the anecdotes of the ticket into the party. I'm gonna use that and it seems to have been successful. So far, Unite us has received a variety of awards including the 2021 diverse and inclusive employer rewards by startup weekly, America's best startups by Forbes, both last year and this year. What do you think is the most important factors that recruiting has been involved with to contribute to the success?

Jessica Paddock

Yeah, I think the key word there is contribute. We are in no way solely responsible but it is. It's incredible to be a part of that. It's an honor to be a part of that. And I will say it goes to some of our core values at Unite us our very first core value. We have it in huge letters on our office wall in New York City is “be a good human”. We would not be a great place. To work if the people weren't great. So our core values are really part of that and you see it and how the company operates. What we prioritize, you know, we're really committed to DEI initiatives. We have a wonderful team working on that but that's not enough. It has to be lived out and practiced by all of the teammates who are actively part of the culture. I think it's also why I'm so passionate about in house recruiting teams, is we are that culture and so when we speak to two candidates, and we can be energized about how they would add to the team, we always talk about, you know, we want people who are culture adds not culture fits, and so really diversifying the team in that way. And then seeing them succeed throughout I had just the best moment the other day in, in an all company call, they were announcing awards. We always give out awards for people who embody our company values and two of the winners had been hired by this one particular recruiter so she sent me a message saying “those are two people I brought in” and so really, you know, being able to observe the impact that these two individuals have had on the company, and that she was involved in that decision and connecting them to the role. That was That was great.

Nasser Oudjidane  

Absolutely, it must be so nice to see your team members feeling and seeing the outcomes of their, of their endeavors in there and actually taking taking an interest in it must be great. To see. How is unite Us mission and vision. Could you talk a little bit more about that, please?

Jessica Paddock

You explained at the beginning you know, we're a coordination technology. But our mission is really straightforward. It's to connect health and social care. So the way we want to do that is very person centric. Our solution is focused on outcomes and improving health overall we want to build a world of connected communities and that is really what's going to improve people's health overall and well being

Nasser Oudjidane  

And what have been some of your approaches to building out scalable processes you mentioned DE&I to help Unite us achieve its mission and vision.

Jessica Paddock

Scalable has been the word of my life for the past two years. I joined in 2020. I think we were about 130 people at the company. Now we're over 1000. So everything we were doing was around creating a process that was scalable, had some magic of course and so how do you kind of bottle that secret sauce and make it replicable? I think the first was just really establishing expectations. You know, we have a recruiting team now. And we have expectations of how this will be run and providing clarity to all of those involved in the interview process that's both internal and external for the candidates. And building trust. The candidates have to believe that we're going to guide them through this process and advocate for them. And the internal team has to feel confident that we're communicating with the candidates that we're bringing them candidates that we're working hard to support them and fill the business need. With the right person at the right time. The next was, you know, really wering the internal teammates with all the tools they needed, like how to interview we started providing interviewer skills training to make sure that you know who our candidates were meeting they were they were prepared. It's not a skill that you often learn. When you're going to coding school or becoming a product manager. You might not know these things. And then of course, you know, mitigating biases, you're never going to remove all bias, but we see time and time again, that structure and documentation can really help mitigate bias. So we've implemented really consistent standards around aligning the recruiting team and also the interview panel on how to make decisions, what drives decisions, and ensuring we're having really open dialogue around bias.

Nasser Oudjidane  

And perhaps this is a good opportunity to discuss a quote that you've mentioned before, which is that there are seen and unseen diversity. Could you speak a little bit more about how you champion candidates from diverse backgrounds and how that relates to bias mitigation, which you just mentioned?

Jessica Paddock

I think it's really easy to look in a room and identify people by perhaps their skin color or their hair color or their gender, which is so much deeper than that. There's things that we of course cannot see or identify and that could be socioeconomic that could be religion, that could be culture related to region, you know, we work all across the country. And of course, there's different cultures within our own country, sexual orientation, if someone's a, a mother, a military spouse, of a veteran, these are all things that relate to how they solve problems, how they interact in a group, how they really approach their work. And we know that the more diverse our team is, the better solutions we're going to have and also the more reflective, we'll be of the communities that we serve. So this is really, call it a chip on my shoulder. I don't know but it's a personal mission because I do have this very unconventional background, and I have so benefited from people taking the time to hear my story and hearing how I was a teacher hearing how I you know, opened a wedding venue and you know, sort of the entrepreneurial chops that I gained if someone hadn't taken the time to really hear and think about what transferable skills are here. What could benefit our team in this role or that role. I wouldn't be in the role I am today. And so I want to pay it forward. I want to build especially a team of recruiters who have that similar personal mission and perhaps have also benefited from someone taking the time to listen to them fully and understand the skills and experiences that they have.

Nasser Oudjidane  

Yeah, I mean, it's so great to hear that and obviously the literature and studies support your philosophies. I just have a question about how do you get it done day to day at a scaling tech company. You've filled more than 600 roles last year, but you don't have any AI for resume review. Perhaps Could you explain a little bit more on why that is and how you've achieved to implement and give latitude to recruiters to achieve scale and inclusive hiring practices?

Jessica Paddock

Of course, AI makes things easier. I don't think it necessarily makes things more effective. We do take the extra time during resume review and it's a core belief of our team is that we're going to go through every single resume. It might not be the result that the candidate wants but we are absolutely going to look over that. Look for transferable skills. And part of why that's so important to us in our mission is we were founded by two veterans and as we know, veterans do not typically have those key words or buzzwords that perhaps would stand out on a traditional resume and that does not mean they don't deserve a chance. That does not mean they can't do the role. So we're very, very clear when we kick off rolls around what is required and when you dig you know, that list gets shorter and shorter. Of course, if you're on the legal team, do you have to have passed the bar? Yes, that is a requirement. But then there comes all this nuance around what's a nice to have and essentially a wish list versus this is what the person really needs to do the role. So we really focused in on that during our kickoff calls with hiring managers. We speak at length in terms of you know, who's on your team who's doing this role, well. What are the transferable skills and then we of course have to have a lot of trust and success with our hiring managers where they say, you know, who Nassar puts in front of us. We typically really enjoy these conversations or we really understand why they put this person forward in the process. That trust is pivotal because if they just glance at the resume and say something like what, I don't understand she was a teacher before. What's that all about? We need that trust so that they understand why we made the decision.

Nasser Oudjidane  

Yeah, and I think this feeds into something that you've mentioned to me in the past, which is that you take particular interest in your recruiting team becoming great storytellers. I mean, could you perhaps expand on that I'm fascinated, how do you enable your team? What is it that you do to make that happen?

Jessica Paddock

I think I look for it right away in the interview. There's always that sort of, tell me about yourself a moment. Where can you talk about yourself? Can you explain who you are and where you're coming from? And that's not easy for people. It's absolutely a hard thing to do to kind of have your personal pitch because it does have to be evolved in every circumstance, where it exists. You know, your cocktail party intro versus your I'm in a job interview intro, so I look for it naturally as I'm interviewing them, do they captivate my attention? Are they engaging? Are they telling the story in a linear way with just enough detail that I'm interested, but not taking up too much time where we're not going to be able to get to any of the questions. So I think I look for that natural story teller inclination as I interview new teammates, and then we emphasize it as a team. We talk about it frequently.  When we onboard, I very intentionally have not created any sort of Unite us pitch so to speak that the recruiters learn. We talk about it at length, we talk about all the different facets but we really emphasize question asking and understanding what's important to the candidate so that when we speak about Unite us and what this career could look like, it resonates with the candidate, they are hearing the things that are most important to them and we aren't spending a lot of time talking about something that is perhaps not relevant to them. And then we practice it so we do quite a few internal workshops. I think my favorite one was just as a team building exercise we, we essentially each put on a mini presentation, if you will, of just who we are, and sort of where we came from. And it was so fun to get to know the team get to know more about their life story sort of beyond their professional career path. And it bonded us as a group, but it also, you know, we're a large team. So there were time limits, and you had to tell that story effectively. And then also we sort of had this group rule that we had to ask questions because as recruiters we need to be naturally curious. And so as you're hearing these stories, it's not good enough to just hear them. You have to have to want to dive deeper. So we emphasize it and then we practice it.

Nasser Oudjidane  

Yeah, what a great initiative and I can see how undergoing that and listening as a candidate. It's authentic, genuinely authentic, which means that I think you can actually build trust much faster when you know someone's story matches why they think Unite us as an important mission. And I can just see that being really effective. So yeah, listeners take note. And in terms of the other workshops that you've run, storytelling does that falling to a broader umbrella of personal branding? Are there any other items within that workshop checklist that you help enable your recruiting team to become more authentic and more effective?

Jessica Paddock

That's been one of the greatest things that our team has created as a norm as we put on these internal workshops, and each recruiter essentially volunteers for something that they identify as their strength or their interests. So for instance, we had one last month, a few colleagues put together one around DEI and tough conversations specifically related to recruiting we, we aren't this you know, picture perfect, polished marketing team, we get asked really tough questions on the spot and you have to be ready and able to answer that with confidence. And so that's something that requires practice. So that was a workshop, another teammate put one on around our suite of products and just you know, let's say you recruit primarily for one team on the technology team, perhaps you don't know everything about what the legal team is doing or everything that the marketing team is doing. And so that was really helpful to broaden our, our company knowledge and related to storytelling. Yes, we did a workshop around personal branding, and you know, our LinkedIn presence and, and everything related to sort of our commitment to candidates. What do we want to be known for what when they speak to you, Jessica, or Joe or Susan, like, what, what are you all about? And so we wrote down some adjectives in terms of you know, I promise to be empathetic, I promise to be timely, I promise to be inclusive, whatever your three adjectives were, and we put it on a sticky note on our desk. And then we also did an exercise where we went around to the group and asked for adjectives, what they thought of one another Of course, all positive adjectives, but as it relates to career ambition to what's, what's their superpower, in terms of helping candidates, what are their values, and so that really helped us gather a lot of material to build out our about sections about how we frame our outreach, because when that candidate gets an InMail from you, yes, they are definitely researching the company and maybe it's the dollar amount they see that is the reason they responded. There are other reasons but there's also this element of are they excited to talk to you the recruiter? Are you interesting, are you engaging or do they believe that you're a real person, a real authentic person? And not this, this feeling of just almost a robot throwing out messages, so the more authentic you can be and the more you've, you've reflected on your personal brand, and when they get on that phone call? They're like, Ah, this is the person I saw reflected on LinkedIn or who wrote me a message that brings instant comfort to the conversation.

Nasser Oudjidane  

Right, and, on that note, regarding not sounding like a robot, how do you think about technology implementation to achieve not only your company's goals, but also your philosophies on recruiting?

Jessica Paddock

Yeah, I mean, technology we couldn't do what we do without technology. It is so helpful. We're really a rather remote team, they're all across the country. So of course, we use things like Slack and zoom and G Suite and I can't imagine not utilizing technology. But as it relates to recruiting specifically, I'll use an example of Calendly the scheduling tool, you know, it has to work for you. It has to make it smoother to do the human parts of your job. And so I will say this is something that's not standardized across our team. You know, there are some recruiters who really prefer to do the Calendly link and let the candidate choose the time that works for them. That's easier for them. They think it's a more candidate centric approach. Other teammates on my team have a completely opposite view. They say, you know, no, it's, I'm reaching out to them, I should provide them times and, you know, help them it's a different perspective of how they interact with the candidate and I've, I've seen both done well, and so I don't want to require everyone use Calendly. And I don't want to tell those using it not to use it. I think you have to leverage technology where it helps you.

Nasser Oudjidane  

Yeah, absolutely. Are there any tools that help you achieve? Your goals that you're, you know, you're open to shouting out perhaps within DE&I or, or anything else?

Jessica Paddock

I am such a Greenhouse advocate. I love Greenhouse. And not only what it can do for our team on the back end, but really actually what it's done for our company in terms of scalability. So as you can imagine, when you have so much hiring going on, that's a lot of interview teams and interview panelists. So on any given day, there'll be, you know, upwards of 20 to 30 interviews happening at the company and I will say I have never received a Slack message of someone saying, Hey, I'm in Greenhouse and I don't know how to fill out the scorecard or I don't know where to find the candidates resume. It is so user friendly, and you don't need to be on the recruiting team or trained in greenhouse to know how to use it. And that has really, really helped us I don't know how we could have done as much as we did without them. I'll also shout out Hired that's been a really great partnership for us, in terms of they truly understand who we're looking for. The candidates on their platform are very engaged. And we've been super successful in finding candidates on the Hired platform and other partnerships as well, for instance, Shift. They're really proactive in finding veteran talent and connecting them to opportunities. So those have been some of our favorites.

Nasser Oudjidane  

Great. Thanks for that. And you've also mentioned in the past, Katrina Kibben has helped you form new perspectives on recruiting. Something that stuck with me was a quote “humans applie to jobs, not resumes” So I just wanted to also shout that out. And if there's any other thought leaders do you have any others just out of interest?

Jessica Paddock

Yeah, I'd absolutely love to shout out Katrina Kibben. They have a company called Three Ears Media who focuses on how you know recruiters can write and the impact of writing. And so there's a lot of discussion around the language we use our commitment to candidates, and it's, I've attended two of their workshops, and they do just such a wonderful job emphasizing the role that we play in engaging with candidates. So I highly recommend Katrina Kibben . For any recruiters looking to kind of broaden their expertise.

Nasser Oudjidane  

That's great. I will put their links so that you can check that out in the show notes to our listeners, and moving on to our closing questions. What's one piece of advice that you wish you had when you started your career in recruiting?

Jessica Paddock

Oh, great. Question. I am going to actually steal not recruiting advice. This is advice from my mother in law related to raising children but it absolutely applies to recruiting and you know, we have a lot of hard conversations. We have a lot of you know, just it doesn't always work out for every candidate we hire. There are many candidates that are not hired. And so she told me to you know, never take too much credit for the success of others. And don't take too much fault for their failures. I think it's really easy especially as an in house recruiter when someone comes on board and they're absolutely killing it and you feel you feel proud like I helped make that hire or I sourced them and that is great. That's really rewarding, but then, you know, sometimes it goes the opposite way as well. And may perhaps they're let go or perhaps they're not performing well. And so we need to of course, reflect and think okay, how could I run that interview process and better? What questions do I need to ask? Next time but we can only control ourselves and so I think you have to be very resilient as a recruiter and not ride the highs or the lows too far. You've got to stay a little more steady.

Nasser Oudjidane  

Yeah, that is absolutely applicable. And I remember I remember something that is quite similar, which is nothing is ever as good or as bad as it seems.

Jessica Paddock

Oh, I like that one.

Nasser Oudjidane  

Yeah. Is there anything that you listen to read or watch for inspiration that perhaps our listeners could also be interested in?

Jessica Paddock

I am a huge fan girl of “How I built this” podcast. By Guy Raz on NPR, I absolutely feel inspired hearing the stories of these entrepreneurs and how they built their companies. I think it inspires me every day and reminds me kind of ties me back to that personal mission I was telling you about in terms of, I don't know, a single one of those stories where it's a very linear path and makes perfect sense. And so that is just such a healthy, refreshing approach to reminding us that the resume is going to require a little bit more of our time and our focus. And he does a lot of episodes around resiliency, and how these entrepreneurs have potentially navigated, let's say, COVID, or other things. More recently, and I find that inspiring and helps me, as you said, through the good times and the bad.

Nasser Oudjidane  

Yeah, I absolutely love Guy Raz's podcast it’s one of my favorites as well. So can’t kind of also support that one enough. What is one thought value, a phrase that you live by?

Jessica Paddock

I suppose a part of my past we didn't talk about too much today is my hospitality background. And I apply that to recruiting, I apply that to being a manager. And it's to give without expectation, I always want to give and take the approach of what can I do for you, because from a business perspective, if I'm adding value, that's great. From a relationship perspective, if I'm giving 51%, that is fine with me, I always want to give without expectation, and then perhaps less wise, but definitely a little, a little sign I have where I get ready every morning. And it just says Be awesome today. And I try my best to sort of take that approach of you know, one day at a time and that everything is going to end the good stuff and the bad. So if you're in that dark phase, like it's going to get better. And it's a really good day to also appreciate you know where you're at in that moment of time, who you're working with, and what you love about it. So just yeah, go out and be awesome today.

Nasser Oudjidane  

Love it smell the roses. And in terms of looking ahead into the future, do you have any goals within recruiting or, or professional goals that you want to achieve?

Jessica Paddock

Yeah, I, maybe someone listening can help me with this. I have a goal for 2023. It's maybe to make sense of my whole past. But I really want to teach a course, either at a high school or at the collegiate level, just on interview skills and resume preparation in the real world of recruiting real tips, tactical knowledge, practice, I find that, you know, so many of us are not good at doing this. And it's really hard. I've heard the saying that trying to find a job is a full time job. And that's true. And I'm I'm sort of shocked that we don't, as a culture and society emphasize it more. So I would love to give back and kind of get back to my teaching roots and find a way to do that.

Nasser Oudjidane  

That's so great. And just lastly, where can we go to learn more? How can someone contact you about that?

Jessica Paddock

Oh, well, I'm on LinkedIn. Definitely message me there. Or, you know, if you're interested in Unite us, you can go to uniteus.com We have a careers page. But feel free to reach out my email is jessica.paddock@unitus.com

Nasser Oudjidane  

Excellent. Jessica, this has been awesome. Thank you so much. 

Jessica Paddock

Thank you for having me.

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