February 7, 2023

Hiring process adding value to Customer Experience

Jennifer Paxton

Jennifer Paxton

Co-founder, ex-VP People , Smile.io
Jennifer Paxton

Jennifer Paxton who has been a part of building HR and recruiting strategies from scratch is now the VP of people at Smile.io and also holds up her position as the co-founder at Jamyr.

When asked about customers gaining value through the hiring process, Jennifer claims that it is through the enthusiasm of the candidates who join the organization that the customers tend to gain value.

Jennifer Paxton believes that employer branding plays one of the most important roles in attracting and retaining talent.

About Jennifer

An energetic, confident, and passionate HR leader, Jennifer Paxton is the VP of People at Smile.io and has been an active part of the organization since 2021. Smile.io has branches spread over 19 countries functioning in a completely remote environment. With over 10+ years in the HR field, she has also been a part of several other organizations such as Fiksu, Logentries, TrueMotion, LevelUp, and Privy, and is a board member of the Cultural Alliance of Medfield. She also holds the position of a co-founder at Jamyr. Jennifer has focused mostly on recruitment at all of these organizations and scaling the team to double the original number. Apart from this, she also focuses on how to grow the team, how to build a great internal culture, and how to grow together as a company.

“It can be very challenging to attract talent to your brand if the employer branding has not been established.”

According to me, employer branding is quite important. Especially after having been to a lot of companies that have had little employer branding or no brand recognition, has led me to believe that it can be quite challenging to attract good talent to your brand. 

Employer branding in short helps to communicate the organization’s culture, what the organization does and what is it made of. 

I have also started a project called Jamyr, which is a video content platform that focuses on employer branding with my co-founder Brian. Through this project, we focus on stale words and create them into interesting videos providing life to this content. Speaking about juggling work between Smile.io and Jamyr I have already laid most of the foundation work such as brain power or researching power. This leaves me with a lot of time to interact with professionals and understand the trends and keep a good relationship.

“I think one of the challenging key metrics when it comes to recruitment could be the quality of hire.”

I think one of the easier metrics, when recruitment is considered, could be the time required to hire a candidate. It starts with the number of applicants you have received and then goes on to check how fast is the process of hiring being conducted and the final stage will be whether your applicant accepts the offer or not. So offer acceptance is another key metric that plays an important role in recruitment. 

Quality of hire on the other hand can be quite challenging to track. You need to look at who is present in that particular role and how long would they be in the role. However now with fewer turnovers, it has surely helped us to scale up the quality of hire which might otherwise be quite difficult to look at.

“We look at the skills required in the team on an urgent basis while also keeping a check on the time required to hire this person.”

One thing that we do struggle with when it comes to the hiring process would be maintaining the quality of hire and this becomes quite difficult especially when you have got a harder-to-fill role that comes into the picture. So we try to balance it out by checking on how fast we can find out the right candidate while also keeping in mind whether they can actually be the right fit for the team. While we do follow this method of balancing for every other role needed, due to the highly competitive market it can sometimes go off-hand.

“I view the hiring process at Smile.io as a two-way conversation”

More than the candidate letting me know about themselves, the hiring process actually involves a two-way conversation where I myself will also be selling Smile.io and presenting to them all about the organization. The typical process will start off with a hiring manager conversing with the candidate and having an initial level of screening while also assessing whether the candidate can actually add value to the team or not. The next step would be a skill assessment session where various skills are checked out which takes no longer than 30 minutes for technical assessments and the final stage is a project presentation. That’s how the entire process of hiring at Smile.io proceeds. Sometimes managers do sit for the presentation however there’s no executive present at this stage. 

“We ensure that when we think about diversity it is not just from a point of view of race or gender but it is also from the cultural aspect.”

Us being spread out to almost 19 countries, has people coming from different levels of experience along with various backgrounds. This definitely adds to the richness of the diversity in our organization. So we are currently kind of readily embracing global diversity rather than just two metrics that define diversity. This is exactly why I think that our organization’s hiring process has actually opened up a lot of diverse opportunities than what most companies could only think of. 

“A lot of my coworkers who have moved from country to country have a lot to talk about the experiences in their life which have provided me with a different perspective to life in general”

I’ve never lived anywhere else apart from the US. However, some of my coworkers have movies from country to country which has led to them sharing some of their experiences with me. This has changed my view on life greatly. I also love being a part of various cultures, it is something that actually fascinates me. So for world cultural day, we have these world cookbooks that will line out not only a part of their culture but also some great stories about the cultures. This enables me to have a great connection with my coworkers while also understanding their culture and trying out some new recipes. 

One of my favorite cuisines would definitely be French however I’ve also been a great fan of stew, especially since a lot of cultures include stew in their diet. I’ve also fallen in love with Ethiopian food especially after I tried it at a place a few weeks ago. Talking about Indian food, I have made naan by myself and it has not reached that level yet, according to my Southern Indian friend. However, it sure is something I’d love to have.

“We have conversations with the manager every other week to understand how’s the team doing and what kind of feedback are you giving to your team; this helps in getting the required feedback in the organization.”

At Smile.io we ensure that there is bi-weekly feedback being provided by the managers to their employees apart from also getting to know about how the managers are faring through. This being a continuous topic stays on top of my mind and it becomes easier to share feedback with the team members. There are also a certain survey that goes out every week to keep a check on how things are going and whether there has been proper feedback provided or not. This also helps us during the hiring process when we hire a manager like hey you need to provide feedback regularly. 

“Hybrid is kind of challenging especially if you talk about the limitations that include location and travel time.”

Every single work option, from the office to hybrid to fully remote options, has its own tradeoffs. However, it depends on how you would like to continue. For example, a hybrid work opportunity can be quite challenging especially if you talk about the number of locations and the traveling that gets included. 

That being said, it also has its benefits. For example, the hybrid does help people to bond with each other. Like in a completely remote option you might not be able to bond with another person unless you’ve actually met them in person. So yeah it definitely is still a work in progress and people are yet to figure out how this should proceed forward.

“When you have a happy team, full of people who are excited and engaged and are feeling supported in your organization, all of this gets embedded into the products the team builds along with the interactions with the customers.”

When talking about customer engagement I think it all comes down to how happy your team is. Whether they are feeling supported, whether they are feeling engaged, or feeling excited, all of that goes into the building up of a product along with the interactions made with the customers. So for example if the support team feels excited about the product and feels included during the process of creating the product then are also most likely to engage better with the customer and improve the customer experience. Also on the development and product side when the employees feel inspired by an innovation they’d also like to build a feature or a product that may seek customer empathy and hence contribute to the success of the organization.

“I think recruitment automation definitely plays a role in easing out the selection process. Even a simple applicant tracking system in place can improve the process multifold.”

Talking about recruitment automation yes it definitely 100% plays an important role in the hiring process. Like I had this conversation with my colleague the other day and we found out that due to massive layoffs there were around 700 resumes for a single role. Now their organization being a small one had it quite rough with these many applicants. By just getting an applicant tracking system in place I think this process would have been so much easier. 

Also, the various layers of recruitment such as recruitment automation and recruitment marketing have surely led up to a better candidate experience. Apart from this, these processes also help save a lot of time for the recruiting teams and it becomes easier to select two qualified candidates rather than going through 20-odd candidates and calling it a day off due to exhaustion. Especially if you are feeling burnt out or exhausted it is quite possible that you might miss out on a great candidate who could have been the perfect match for the role.

“We do have our recruitment cycle brought down to 21 days followed by two weeks to settle in with the team for the candidate. But the hardest part might be how to make an interview process cohesive in nature.”

I think bringing down the recruitment cycle to 21 days along with the 2 weeks of training for candidates has played so much better. However, what still needs to be considered is how to make the interview process more cohesive. This comes into question even before we begin with the first screening process. The entire interview team must be on the same page in order to understand: 

  • what sort of candidate are we looking for, 
  • what would the day-to-day responsibilities be 
  • what the role is actually going to be. 

So once we’ve got all this information we then go around and find the candidate that is the right match. However, at times there might be a candidate who might not be the right person which we realize around a month or two later. This then leads to a lot going into the process again. It is hence important that the calibration is maintained when hiring a candidate. Once you’ve got the prep time perfectly done it becomes more like a well-oiled smooth process based on what your focus is. 

“My typical time off to reboot myself would be playing Sudoku and maybe a good Sunday brunch with stew.”

So I’ve actually got this pocketbook of Sudoku that I like to carry around and it actually helps me take off my mind from anything that’s holding me back. You could say I love preparing stews especially when I feel like today’s not the day to go out. Apart from that I also love crime solving, so crime could be labeled as my favorite genre, and solving complex puzzles can also be titled as one of my faves.

“Everybody messes up honestly and it’s okay to mess up. However, thinking of these mess-ups as a learning opportunity is what will actually help you in the end.”

I honestly think that HRs do not give themselves the support or break that they actually deserve. Because as an HR you end up giving to others so much that you might also need a break. So it is quite important that you also provide yourself with as much support as you give to others. 

Also, most people do mess up however understanding it as a learning opportunity and then going forward is what you need to do. This is what I’d love to say as a last piece of advice to young HR professionals.