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TecHRseries Interview with Sean Quigley, Vice President of Product at Symphony Talent

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Some companies believe that a “low cost per hire” is a goal to optimize towards and, while that metric is important to know and understand, that’s a dangerously off-the-mark goal to look at alone warns Sean Quigley in this latest TecHRseries interview.

Catch the complete story for some interesting talent acquisition tips that can help you optimize your overall hiring and retention process:


Tell us about yourself, Sean. How do you see the HR Tech landscape changing with the introduction of new technologies? Where do you see this segment headed?

I’ve been focused on top-of-funnel recruitment marketing for most of the past 12 years, applying my previous consumer marketing experience. In the upcoming years, I see a couple areas having a huge impact, in particular with the consolidation and streamlining of the best capabilities in one platform. Stitching together lots of capabilities from lots of separate vendors is not something that most HR organizations can be successful with, so offerings that can be best or second best across a wide spectrum of capabilities will be interesting as a one-stop-shop. Related to this, I also see increasing automation and data impacts, not necessarily related to neural network or machine-learning type AI, but more so along the lines of automating simple processes and tasks related to talent acquisition.

Read More: TecHR Interview with Pat Palmer, President and CEO at PDS

How can companies use HR Technology in a better way to create the ultimate talent experience? 

The journey itself is critical. You have to track it all if you have any hope of understanding and optimizing it, and powering technologies are only as good as the quality and quantity of the data that’s being fed in.

What are the flaws you find in how firms of today approach recruitment marketing? Could you share some tips on how teams can optimize this process?

Focusing on the wrong goals and wrong KPIs is a real risk. A company may be putting in a lot of effort but, if the data points aren’t the right data points, then it could be worse than not looking at any data at all. For example, some companies believe that a “low cost per hire” is a goal to optimize towards and, while that metric is important to know and understand, that’s a dangerously off-the-mark goal to look at alone. Why? Think about the cost for each day of having revenue-generating positions go unfilled. Say that opportunity cost is $500 per day and you’re only focused on a low CPH.  Approach A gets you a filled job in 90 days with a CPH of $100. Approach B fills your job in 30 days with a CPH of $1,000. If you’re not careful, you’ll say that a $100 CPH is much more optimal than a $1,000 CPH. But a person falling into that trap would be losing their company thousands of dollars off their organization’s bottom line, which company leadership doesn’t tend to appreciate.

How do you envision the role of a recruitment marketer change with time?

Recruitment marketers will look more and more like the marketing profession overall. Marketing clearly impacts a company’s bottom line, but so does recruitment marketing. It’s far from just a cost center, because a company’s talent is central to ongoing performance as a company.

At Symphony Talent, what is your mix of traditional and digital HR best practices that work best for you?

As a leader in employer branding and recruitment marketing solutions, Symphony Talent practices what we preach, and this is very useful from a product development perspective, as we’re able to get hands-on with utilizing our own technology, programmatic media, career website platform, brand development teams and so on. Like our recommendation to our clients, we use a data-driven approach to continue iterating, tweaking, and optimizing our digital properties to ensure they’re driving the best applicants into the funnel or into our CRM database. The great thing about using our own tools is any real-time successes we find, we can either apply those to the product roadmap or create best practices guides for our customers.

What are some of the top culture trends you see technology companies imbibing or trying to imbibe globally? What top trends would you say are must-haves for any mid-sized technology company?

The most important thing is having one consolidated data view, because aside from being a source-of-truth for reporting purposes, the data is what powers all of the automation and decision making. So, there are a lot of must-haves under that: programmatic media, organic job distribution, built-in ad hoc postings, online video, geo-fencing, remarketing, enhanced job descriptions, candidate-facing chat bots, and email & SMS re-engagement efforts and job alerts. But the most important thing is that all of the tactics are tracked centrally and in a standardized framework, so that improvements can be made over time in a culture that promotes A/B testing and continual optimization.

Read More: TecHR Interview with Dr. Bradley Smith, President and Co-Founder of PeopleKeys

What are some of the best practices you’d suggest when it comes to using HR analytics to drive better business outcomes? How can companies connect their talent systems and data more conveniently?

The most important best practice is to take a step back and really think through your end goals first, so that your data focus can be well-directed. There may be a temptation to dive into the data without thinking deeply about what you really want to learn from it, and that can lead you down all sorts of rabbit holes. What jobs need to be filled quickly in order for your organization to thrive? What does that look like across different job functions and different hiring locations?  Also, what is your true business objective? Too often that needs more thought. In the absence of very clear objectives, an organization might be tempted down a false path, such as minimizing overall costs related to talent acquisition. First and foremost, spend as much time as possible defining your goals, and only then, start to dive into the data to help you to structure an approach toward maximizing your outcomes against those well-defined goals. The chances are strong that you would then benefit from a 1-stop data approach, a system that pulls all your relevant data into one holistic explorable view, so that you’re not trying to figure out the real story by looking across lots of disparate data sets across all your efforts.

What are your top 5 talent acquisition tips?

  • Spend as much time as possible to know exactly what your goals/objectives are, make sure they are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
  • After spending the most effort defining your end goals, spend the second-most amount of effort making sure you have the resources & budget you’ll need. Talent acquisition is not a cost center; it isn’t something to try and optimize down to $0. Talent is how companies make money, so filling all the important jobs quickly, with quality candidates that stay in their roles directly impacts the bottom line in a substantial way, so spend time with your executive team making your case that talent acquisition is not just a cost.
  • Given 1 & 2, your number 3 priority is ensuring that you can accurately track everything in one place in terms of data reflecting your objectives, as well as data tracking the allocation of budget/resources over time. For this you need a one-stop-shop data and analytics tool that pulls in all of this information for you in real time, every day of the year.
  • Think about the candidate experience and your employer brand. Data can help you here but the subjective/creative aspect of the job is also important. Candidates are your end customers and you want to keep them happy. Check out your careers site, search for jobs, read your job descriptions, click through your own apply-process, see what sort of engagement emails and job alerts you’re getting, and look at your social media presence.
  • Remain flexible and nimble, both in programmatic media buying and beyond. The value of all this data is that you’re able to act on it and adjust. If you hit one goal faster than expected, shift to a new goal. If you’re testing five messages and one is a clear winner, double down on the winner and introduce some new tests to unseat it. Today’s systems are flexible and responsive and that benefits your organization only to the degree that you’re also willing to be flexible and responsive.

Any parting thoughts that you’d like to share? It could be on anything – a motivational tip, work-life balance, etc.

Digital transformation has forever changed the way we interact with candidates. Using data to power personalized interaction is no longer a nice to have, but a must-have.

Read More: TecHR Series Interview with Carrie Walecka, Vice President, Global Talent Acquisition at Brightcove

Symphony Talent logo

Symphony Talent is a global leader in employer brand and candidate experience solutions for some of the world’s leading brands. In 2019 they acquired SmashFly Technologies, the pioneering recruitment marketing and CRM platform. Combining award-winning creative and marketing technology, together they offer the most strategic and comprehensive suite of solutions on the market, transforming employer brands to deliver world-class experiences for candidates, employees and recruiters.

Sean Quigley has 20 years of digital advertising experience, and now serves as vice president of product for Symphony Talent. He has worked on dozens of recruitment marketing accounts ranging from Fortune 500 retail and technology companies to local hospitals. He manages a team of digital planners, and implementation and analytics professionals while running our marquee Media Cloud product. Media Cloud was recently named as “Top HR Product” by Human Resource Executive® at HRTech, and Sean was named as TAtech’s 2018 ReSi award winner for “Innovator of the Year/ Business Leader of the Year.” Before joining Symphony Talent in 2008, he oversaw marketing for the education startup Tutor.com and worked on national public service advertising campaigns for the Ad Council. He holds a BS in Advertising from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University and an MBA from NYU Stern.

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