The Masters of Modern Recruiting Podcast! - Episode 6 with Amy Miller - Head of Tech Recruiting at Google

Point of View
The Masters of Modern Recruiting Podcast! - Episode 8 with Shannon Pritchett

In this episode, Amy Miller shuts down claims that AI will take over recruiter jobs. She shares how the human element is a pivotal factor in the process of finding good candidates. What do you think? Is Ai going to take over or will there always be a need for the human touch?

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Episode 6 Complete Transcription:

MMR Episode #8 Transcription

Derek:  Hey, hey, he-hey. Recruiting Maniacs, it is Derek Zeller here on our little podcast show and I’ve got for today’s guest, or for this episode is someone who is not a stranger to being on these types of shows. In fact, she’s a super star on her own, right? She started with Google about I’d say a month and a half ago. Very exciting. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, pick a seat, get ready to listen to the wonderful sounds of the lovely and talented Amy Miller. Amy, how are you?

Amy:  I am good. I’m going to hire you to do all my intros everywhere I go.

Derek:  That was even light. That was the light sauce. I didn’t even put on the real nutty sauce.

Amy:  I love it. Every meeting I walk into, I need you to go ahead of me and be my –

Derek:  Just we could do like announcer and music, like Rocky. The theme from Rocky as he came running in, you know?

Amy:  Totally. Yes. We need a theme song. Yeah.

Derek:  How are you?

Amy:  I am good. Thanks for inviting me. This is exciting.

Derek:  Thanks for coming on board. We’re having a really good time with this. I think every episode is getting better and better as we go by. We’ve got some really cool guests. Some people who aren’t as well-known maybe in the industry, and then there’s people like yourself that are very well-known and then people we can mix up a little bit and get a feel from actual recruiters who are in business who are really doing this 99% of the time.

I had people on like Andrew Gadomski. We talk about data, big data, what’s going on with that, artificial intelligence, which I don’t believe in, I think it’s machine learning. Yeah, I know. I mean, I know. I am the one out there.

Amy:  The same thing with like military intelligence, right?

Derek:  Yeah. It’s like yeah. Well, yeah.

Amy:  I was an army brat, so –

Derek:  Okay. Yeah, so you can say that. I was just about to tell you something overtly for political, but I realized no, no, no. Don’t go down that rabbit hole, Alice. Oh, my God. Red pill or blue pill? I don’t care. Give me the green one, put them together.

So on this show to talk — I’ve got a couple questions that I put together for you, questions we ask lots of people the same, but I think one of the big questions for me to you being that you were with Microsoft and know that you and I actually worked together back in Microsoft even though we were in different departments. At the same time, one of the things though is the whole post and pray situation and job descriptions, I mean, do they matter for like —

Amy:  Yeah. I mean, here’s a thing, so a job description does two things. First of all, it's something that obviously is a landing page/online real estate for job seekers. If you are in an industry company, etc., recruiting environment where you have a ton of inbound applicants and that is a great source of hire for you and that’s somewhere where you spend a lot of time, then they matter. I think that's a situation where you probably want it to look pretty good and be pretty thorough.

For the most part, maybe it's a big company problem, maybe it's a big name problem. I don't know? Call it what you will. I think that there are – the secondary piece of what is a job description is really it's just something that I could share out later. I've already contacted you, I've already established some two-way communication, you might be interested in my company, we're continuing the conversation. Now I can be like, “Oh and just as an aside, here's a rough legally HR-approved explanation of what we’re looking for.” The reality is no matter how you're using the online job description, it's really going to be a very vague interpretation at best of what the job really is.

Derek:  Yeah, I agree with that. I think that one of the other things too is when you have these massive conglomerate companies, and I’m not going to pick on any particular company, but let's just pick on Microsoft, for example.

Amy:  Yeah, for sure.

Derek:  Or Facebook, even. It's like all these massive IT companies, people go out, I don't know many – how many people would go out and go to Facebook's page and go to their jobs page and search for jobs and apply for jobs and think that they're actually going to get a phone call?

Amy: No, it's tough, right? Honestly, I have no idea. I think the interesting question is, how — I would want to know how does Facebook handle incoming applicants? In my experience and what I tell candidates to do as well, find someone in the organization, not even necessarily a recruiter. I have thoughts on that too, but find somebody in the organization that is aligned to the kind of work you want to do, could be in a position to help you get connected to someone you could work with or for. Reaching out to potential hiring managers, potential peers. If the recruiter is very clearly saying, “Hey, I'm hiring exactly what it is you are and do,” then that's fine. If you're a finance candidate and you want to apply to an accountant role, don't call me because I am useless to you.

Derek:  Yeah, I agree with that.

Amy:  Yeah, so on the one hand like yeah, you could go onto Facebook and look at their careers page and apply for a role, and that’s fine. But the question then becomes how does Facebook, and I don't know how they do it, but I would want to know, is there a live person who's scrubbing every single resume? Is it a keyword search? Do they have an ATS that's doing some bullshit Boolean match? Can I say that? I don’t know if I can that on your podcast.

Derek:  You have three passes. I’ve used hers up in the first five minutes, I think.

Amy:  Perfect. I'd want to know that. I think if you are going to do that, if you are an applicant who finds value in that kind of way of applying and job searching, you better make sure that you’re hitting all the requirements. So I know in my previous companies, there is a strict-like Boolean search against the required qualifications. If we have to fill to the list even more, then we look at the preferred qualifications.

There's a lot of debate, like even the male-female divide with men are more likely to apply to roles that they’re a 60% match, whereas women will only apply to roles that they feel they're a 100% match. I'm not going to say that one is right and one is wrong, but I will say, from an internal perspective, the stronger the match, the more likely in a perfect world I am to call you.

Derek:  Interesting. Let's flip the script on this thing. Let's go away from the inbound, but let’s go sort of the outbound. One of the things I’ve seen is like – and I've had this happen to me and I'm not going to say what company it was, but it was a number of months ago. They reached out to me for more like a senior role, more of a director role that I would be comfortable at, but the engagement was just incredibly poor. It was just bad.

They didn't even know if I was actually looking, they didn't know — the recruiter, I could tell she was brand new. She had maybe had six months. I could tell she was reading off of a script that was given to her. I was just completely shocked by the whole thing. Halfway through, even she asked me, “Are you okay with moving the Menlo Park?” I'm like, “That's pretty much like a killer qualifying question to ask somebody, not in the middle or the end of the conversation, but that's the first thing you're going to want to say. Because I’m up here in Portland and I really enjoy it. I like being in Portland. I don’t really want to be in Menlo Park, California.”

Amy:  I know. Are you doubling my salary? Because that’s probably what it would take.

Derek:  Minimum. We live in a shoe box outside the campus. I guess, I’m not going to sell my car because I’m going to have to sleep in it. Are you kidding me right now? With the poverty level?

Amy: Yeah, exactly. You need to get like one of those little mini-whinnies and just live tiny.

Derek:  I know. Like a little mini, like one of those van Winnebago things that has a pop-up roof for something, and you can stand in the van.

Amy:  Love it. That’s what you need.

Derek:  Yeah. If I wasn't single before, now I really am single.

Amy:  You’re just completing the van down by the river package.

Derek:  The only insurance I have is flood insurance, because I’m down by the river.

Amy:  No, exactly. I think from the sourcing perspective and I source my own candidates. I have a robust sourcing team that I work with, but I still have to get in there and search and have for years. From a sourcing perspective, I think it comes in increments. First and foremost, you know, “Hey I'm a recruiter, you're a person who does stuff I recruit. Should we talk?” Then it's just opening the door. “Is there ever a possibility that I may someday have something that you might be interested in? Yes? Great. Now let's talk about you.”

Make it, forget about what you're hiring for, forget about your open rec, forget about your pissed off hiring manager breathing down your neck. What does the prospect to want? That's where you uncover things like, “Hey, I  just moved to Portland and I love it here and I don't see myself leaving and I'd need a role that's pretty robust and has a certain title,” or whatever it might be.

Those things are going to answer for me pretty quickly without ever verbally vomiting on the candidate, that okay, what I have isn't a fit. Then it's very simple to say, “Okay, that's great. Right now I don't have anything like that, but I'd love – really enjoyed this conversation. Let's circle back in six months, talk again in case anything changes.”

Derek:  I love that. I love that.

Amy:  Right? And there’s nothing wrong with that. The mistake a lot of recruiters and sourcers make is we want to get out front with our stuff and we want to really throw our job description or God forbid, an invitation to apply at this person who's last name we don't even know how to pronounce yet, because we haven't had a conversation.

Don’t do that. Start with the other person first. Let them talk about themselves and what they want, pick up on those cues, make sure that there are things that they're sharing that tie into what you're looking for and then you can lead them to your job description. Not before.

Derek:  Yes. A shameless plug real quickly for ENGAGE Talent, because they're the ones to back this thing. There's a reason why I joined ENGAGE Talent. That’s the very reason is that one of the best things ENGAGE does – yeah, so if you can’t get the emails, you can’t get the phone numbers without tools and you might want to rethink targeting your recruiting a little bit as a career choice.

ENGAGE Talent, they tell you, “There’s a reason why this person might actually be looking now, because it’s something – the pattern, like a software developer usually takes a new job anywhere from 18 to 24 months. It's February, stock bonuses have all appreciated and now they're good together, all vested, or they got their bonus. They've been there four years and the company just filed for bankruptcy. That's a big red flag, so maybe that person might more than likely be willing to have a conversation with you and your response will go through the roof, and that's what ENGAGE Talent does for you. It’s a pretty exciting. Thank you ENGAGE Talent.

Let's do another quick question about all the really ask right now. What are their challenges of closing the candidate and when you, Amy Miller, what is your take, when do you start to close the candidate? I personally start out with ABC always be closing. I start at the very beginning, the first conversation, the first frame. If that's the person, if she's the one I want, she's the architect that I need, I'm going to start my closing right then and there, even though we haven't even gotten to anywhere near our offer. What is your take? I'm going to leave that wide open, the canvas is blank.

Amy:  Oh, boy. Blank canvas, big paintbrushes, okay. Me and my big mouth and lots of opinions.

Derek:  I like the no finesse approach of Amy Miller.

Amy:  Yeah, so much finesse. Here's the thing, this is a conversation that requires a great deal of finesse, right? Because I'm with you. I think it's a conversation that should be happening early and often, whether it's specific to comp, specific some motivators, whatever it is, but there's a way to do it and this may be the Midwestern bless your heart in me, I don't know? But there's a way to do it that can be very velvet.

You don't want to like, “Hey, I need to know that if I give you an offer next week, you're going to say yes.” That would never feel good coming out of my mouth. I would not be able to say that with any confidence, or a straight face. What I can say is, “I know you're early, early stages of even thinking about making a change. I want to make sure that as we continue this conversation over the next few weeks and you're talking with hiring teams and you're going through formal interviews, that you're thinking about the things that matter to you. Think about the things that would make you say yes to this role. What do you need to hear from us, learn during the process etc., etc., that would make this a good move for you to make? Kind of planting those kinds of seeds, that's a form of closing in my opinion.

Derek:  Good. I like that. Yeah, I agree with you. I say it’s always is finding the seeds, but it's also saying we've already gone, we've already had this conversation, and we've already talked about money, we've already talked about the two health insurance, we've already talked about anything and everything that you want a window? We got you a window. Because that's the old story. I once talked about the guy that wanted the big 18-inch monitor and this was pre flat-screen monitors and these are the big TV-looking tube monitors that’s like a $4,000 monitor and the guy was legally blind. He needed something that big in order to see.

That’s all he wanted. I mean, he was a phenomenal C unit experimenter. They loved the guy and they’re like, “What do we gotta do to do to get him?” I’m like, he wants 85 and their jaws hit the ground. I’m like, “Yeah, that’s what I said. I’d offer him 90.” He really wants is this big – this giant-sized monitor so he can see easier. And he’d like a window, he’d like daylight that’s like every programmer. They’re like, “Yeah, no problem.”

Amy:  Yeah. It’s brilliant, right? That’s part of that whole closing discussion is making sure you're capturing that stuff upfront and you're keeping everybody in the loop from start to finish. You don't want to get to the end of the process. Your hiring manager is now in love with the guy, only to find out that hey the whole damn office sits in a basement, ain’t nobody got a window. Well guess what? Now this no longer works. That's an extreme example, but I mean, that's – by just picking those little things out constantly, you use that and you build that to the entire closing discussion.

It’s not just, “Okay, you said you wanted 185. I got you 185. We’re done, right?” “No, we're not done. I’ve got four kids. It's June. School is almost out. I got to payback relo.” If you don't know all this stuff upfront, then we've got bigger problems.

Derek:  Yeah, I totally agree. I totally agree. You and I were talking earlier. Now this is fun. AI versus machine learning. Artificial intelligence, it doesn’t exist. It just doesn’t exist folks.

Amy:  A world where intelligence is so hard to come by. Now, you want to throw in artificial?

Derek:  You’re right. The reason why we’ll never be visited by other aliens from the rest of the universe, they’re looking at us and laughing.

Amy:  Yeah, pretty much. They’re looking – like us looking down on an anthill like, “Well that looks fun, but we’re just going to avoid that.”

Derek:  We’re going to be like, “We’re going to give you a couple thousand years to figure out what you’re doing guys.”

Amy:  Yeah, exactly.

Derek:  The watches and Alexa are not really super highlights for us here in this phase.

Amy:          Right. I know, exactly. We had an offline conversation about that and you made an excellent point. No matter how cool Alexa, or shameless plug, Google Home might be.

Derek:  No. I like Google Home.

Amy:  You are still feeding the questions. You are still inputting criteria to get back some information. If that's what we're calling AI whatever, I don't care. I'm the least technical recruiter on the planet, so you can call it what you want]. I will laugh at you when you tell me it's going to come take my job, because I know that it’s absolutely bonkers.

I do love that Boolean has come a long way and there's semantic search in different ways that we can capture information and decimate it and take it apart and put it together and play around with it. That's all great, but you still need the human element to run it. You still need someone to push the button as you said. You need someone to input the questions, to figure out what is the data that I'm looking for and what's helpful. That I think is the biggest problem that sourcers in particular and I think recruiters and certainly full-cycle recruiters have, there is no lack of information. There is no lack. Don't tell me that, “Oh, I can't find a software engineer.” Nonsense. You can find them, because there's eight million of them out there waiting for something interesting.

Derek:  Right. The next new project. It gets so weird too, because too especially in software because it's always ever-changing and they're always updating so agile 1.9 and agile 2.0, there's differences between the two platforms and the two languages. Nothing major that you and I would ever understand. Yeah, they don't want to give up their 1.9, or the 2.0 is the cat's meow and that's the only way you can go. It's just interesting how things have just fostered themselves into this wicked frenzy, and people are jumping jobs just to go play with a different tool, or a different language because they can.

Amy:  Yeah, absolutely.

Derek:  Yeah, and that’s never change, you know what I mean?

Amy:  No, absolutely. I agree. It’s like any other tool. When we went from faxing to e-mailing – I mean, the medium changed, but you're still putting candidate information in front of a decision-maker.

Derek:  I always tell this. I always like to tell the scrapping that I have to put on in one of those social medias, or Twitter or something like that yesterday. I would say I’m telling somebody how to use a fax machine. He was like 22-years-old and they're looking at me like, “What is this thing? What does it do?” It’s like putting a rotary phone in front of an eight-year-old and they're just looking at you like, “Well, where do I push the buttons?”

Amy:  Yeah, exactly. How do I push the button? No, totally. But the end result is still the same, right? You get a live connection with someone that you can exchange words with. There's no magic in that.

Derek:  I'm typing in the numbers and they’re like, “Well, what is that for?” I’m like, “Well, this machine is going to talk to another machine and it’s going to send over what’s called a facsimile. We call it a fax, or because the world has to shorten every freaking thing that we say. So, you know, we’re going to send over to fax and it’s going to appear in the other side.” They’re like, “You mean like teleportation, like you’re teleporting something like Star Trek?”

I’m like, “Yeah. It’s a lot like Star Trek.” I got this lady behind the counter who is probably in her late 70’s, early 80’s and she’s got a smile on her face. She is just like, this is the most adorable thing she’s ever seen, me trying to explain to this 22-year-old how to use a fax machine.

Amy:  Yeah, the little pixels are flying over your head like Willy Wonka.

Derek:  Yeah, like Willy Wonka. It’s like Willy Wonka vision. That’s all it is. Everything that small is going to come out the same size.

Amy:  Exactly. I mean, honestly. Don’t get me wrong, I love tools that make my job easier. I love being able to rapidly pull together information and if there's ways to filter it and sort it and do all kinds of fun stuff with it to narrow down my short list, I am all about that. We still have that responsibility with our human emotional intelligence. See, that's what we need more. We need less AI and more EI, right?

Derek:  Yeah. That’s actually a really good point.

Amy:  Right? Because I have to – it’s on me to make sure that I’m not inadvertently forgetting about diversity or not looking at non-traditional career paths. Not every coder should or does have a CS degree. So it's up to me as the frontline to be able to say, “I'm not going to just search by masters in computer science, because that's eliminating people who may be grown up self-taught, and started out in something different and then switched to CS later. I need to really be thoughtful in how I'm plugging in those asks into my fancy tool, and then what I'm doing with the information that it spits out.”

You can't program, at least today, and I’d love to see somebody show me this if I'm wrong, you cannot currently program a bot to do that for you without again, very carefully inputting certain criteria and certain, you know, how you want things back to you. The machine is not going to do it for you is my point.

Derek:  Right. Do you mean George Boolean it's like, if he actually came back in time and was looking at us and saying, “This isn't what I was intending.” Or?

Amy:  Yeah. I feel he's hanging out with Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and they all are just face-palming. Like, “This was not the idea guys. This is not how this was supposed to go.”

Derek:  Well, that’s the thing though, I'll sit down with Dean or Aaron Lynch and those guys, or Ronny Bradford and Steve and those guys and they’re like putting together a paragraph for a Boolean string. I'm like, “All I really wanted to know was where's the closest Chick-fil-A. I didn't, you know, why is this string 19 pages long to find the closest Chick-fil-A?” I think we're overthinking things to a certain degree.

Amy:  For sure. For sure.

Derek:  So many tools out there looking like, you can put in a natural language and just find the things that you want.

Amy:  I'm a big fan of natural language. Again, I mean, I am so impressed with the brilliant minds in our industry that are winning hackathons and doing all this amazing – it is mind-blowing and super impressive to me. I give them all the props and respect in the world, but I also fully recognize that that would never be me. I am totally okay with that and I'm still a raging success.

Derek:  Well, you are a raging success. I mean, that’s the thing –

Amy:  I’m so proud of me. So there’s that.

Derek:  Well, I’m proud of you too, Amy. I know John is as well.

Amy:  I’m doing okay, you know what I mean?

Derek:  You’re doing all right, Amy. You’re going to be okay. I like that. “My mom likes me and my dad likes me.”

Amy:  My parents are like, “My daughter works for Microsoft. Well not anymore, she’s working at that other place now,” but it’s all good.

Derek:  She’s working at a place that starts with a G or something. I don’t know?

Amy:  “You know, that internet company.”

Derek:  The one with the funny memes. We’re getting close to wrapping things up here in a little bit. So let’s — I’ll do the “ask Amy”: where do you see us going from a recruiting/sourcing perspective with all this AI is taking over the world type thing, which it really isn't AI, it's machine learning, which we've already discussed? Where are we going to be in five years? Five years ago, I would never have said I’m going to be where I'm at now. Or even where recruiting is at. I mean, have we plateaued? Are there other new fields to sow? Is there new fruit to be harvested? I mean, what is your take? You've been in this business a long time like me.

Amy:  Yeah. 20 years this year. It's wild.

Derek:  Happy Anniversary.

Amy:  Okay. So I would say five years ago, probably even seven to ten years ago, there was a big shift in the industry where it became all about the Boolean, all about the technology, tech recruiters should have been a coder in another life. There was this big emphasis on technology. I somehow fumbled my way through that, because I'm not technical and I don't care to be.

I feel we're going to see another shift in the coming years where we are going back to the emotional basics. Yeah, okay fine, plug in natural language processing and plug in keywords and we'll give you the shiny tools and that's great, and we'll teach you how to push the buttons. The best recruiters and the best sourcers among us are going to be the ones that are able to connect on a very, very human level with prospects.

Derek:  Yeah, I see the disconnect already happening. I saw it at SourceCon a couple weeks ago. One of their sessions at a table session that I did, you know how much I love to do public speaking. One of the table sessions that I did though, and it was about how do you engage with talent? What is the first step? We had a few people at the table. We had a good conversation going. They switched it out every 15 minutes. Well, there are 15, 20 minutes came there or whatever and they said, “Okay, everybody switch tables.” Nobody left the table. They wanted to keep talking. This was like brand-new and I’m like, “This is recruiting 101 folks. Come on. This is how you e-mail signatures, how you put in the subject lines, what you’re asking the candidate, only candidates and so forth.”

By the time we got to the last session, not only that people had not left, the second session didn’t leave and the third session came in and we were like three or four rows deep and I’m like sitting at this table, at one point I literally had to stand up, like, “Can everybody hear us?” Because I’m like, “This is insane.” It’s like a 100 people from SourceCon, which is a pretty big deal for a table comes in. Then like, because they don’t know. I’m looking in the room and there are all these young faces and they’re like, “But we were told this and we were told that.” I’m like, “That’s great what you were told, but it’s not right.”

Amy:  Yeah, exactly.

Derek:  It’s not about us. It’s about them.

Amy:  Yeah, I agree. That’s where we as the OG recruiters in this industry really need to be, and I'm so glad that you're doing this and having these roundtable discussions that we're talking about it on the podcast too, because we have a responsibility to the next generation of recruiters and sourcers to make sure that they are staying grounded in the human element. Because I think it's only going to become more and more important.

I just had this happen to me last week. Here I am brand new to my organization, just testing the waters and putting out some feelers with some potential prospects. Not necessarily looking to really build up a pipeline, but just testing the waters a little bit and seeing what I'm up against as a brand new Google recruiter.  I engaged with a candidate, because we were joking about Monty Python. Not someone I even was seriously targeting. I didn't based on the timing and what AI would have told me not to call this guy. Machine learning model, if I plugged in all the algorithm and criteria, it would have spit it out and said, “Call this guy in six months.”

I took a chance, because he said something funny. As a huge lover of John Cleese and British humor, basically thanked him for making my day with his humor and now all of a sudden, we're knee-deep in conversations about him potentially coming to my organization. Sometimes you just got to go with your gut, and we have to teach that. We have to teach when it's okay to be human and when it's okay to engage on that very personal, individual-to-individual level and the results will come.

Derek:  Yeah, it’s humanization. It’s humanization. It's interesting, because it's really – and this is my last comment before we bump off here, because we could go on with this for hours, you and I?

Amy:  All day long.

Derek:  All day long. Mama get the biscuits and gravy. We're going to be talking for a while. No. I mean, seriously though, it really boils down to – I mean, I’ve done an event in Australia, I’m going to be doing Europe next year, with SourceCon I’m going to go, hopefully to Amsterdam. I’ve always wanted to go there. But the funny thing to me is the people that I’ve talked to from outside United States and even Canada to a certain degree, they look at me like almost shocked or like, of course. Australia and New Zealand, these are not the whole country is smaller than population-wise than the City of New York, you know what I mean?

If you mess with a candidate or you lie, or you do something pugnacious, well that’s going to spread like wildfire. You might as well go and start putting applications in at Subway and McDonald’s, because you’re not going to be a recruiter anymore. No one is going to want to talk to you. They’re just working with me, like yeah, that’s normal. They’re looking for other tips and tricks.

Amy:  I don't think AI, speaking of Sydney and other points across the world, I don't think AI has solved for cultural sensitivities as well.

Derek:  No. I agree.

Amy:  Cultural sensitivities, whether that’s US-centric, even just how you talk to someone from New York versus how you talk to someone from Alabama. Then obviously, you start plugging in Europe and Asia and other parts of the world. There's different approaches that work in different ways to be really respectful of someone's culture where they're coming from, or  what's important to them.

Derek:  That all comes from learning. That’s all learning. That’s being taught by the right people and listening to the right people reading the right things.

Amy:  Absolutely. And asking questions.

Derek:  hat’s right. Ask questions. Don't ever be afraid to ask questions. Amy Miller, always great to hear your voice.

Amy:  Thanks for having me.

Derek:  Thank you. Thank you for taking the time out to come and talk with me and our happy listeners. We now have been informed that we have four listeners now down in Mongolia, so we're really taking off.

Amy:  It’s the big time, ma!

Derek:  Thanks again, Amy. Hopefully we’ll be back in touch soon and that is all. Have a good one you guys.

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