Picking Winners: Using Performance Data to Get Better at Hiring

By Pamela Babcock Apr 11, 2018
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​NEW YORK CITY—WeddingWire Inc., an online marketplace for engaged couples to find wedding-day vendors, has said "I do" to using performance data on recent hires to build a continuous feedback loop that helps the company become better at interviewing and ultimately at hiring the best people.

"If you want to improve your hiring process, you have to measure success outside the hire and you have to understand if they actually performed in the job you brought them in to do," said Lauren Holzer, director of talent acquisition for WeddingWire, at the recent Greenhouse OPEN 2018 conference for recruiting professionals.

WeddingWire provides pipeline reports on applicants and market research, particularly for hard-to-fill jobs. It also tracks new-hire success based on whether individuals were referred by employees or came from an agency or campus recruiting. And it mines data to determine each hiring manager's ability to pick great new employees.

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Building Blocks to Hiring

When Holzer joined WeddingWire in January 2017, the Chevy Chase, Md.-based company with more than 900 employees didn't have a strategic talent acquisition function. "We had fantastic recruiters … but they really didn't have a voice," she noted. The company had been tracking success using traditional key performance indicators, but she wanted to do more.

WeddingWire now produces automated reports for managers and key stakeholders that show where candidates are in the application and interview process. To put that information in context, Holzer likes to collect market data, particularly for hard-to-fill jobs. She might research senior Web developers with five to seven years' experience in the Washington, D.C., area and then consider how to reach them to gauge interest. If they're not interested, the discussion in-house might shift to whether the salary can be beefed up, someone with less experience could be considered or the search should be expanded to a different market.

'Lookbacks' and More

To measure hiring success, WeddingWire gathers performance data for new hires at the 90-day mark and rolls the information into reports dubbed "lookbacks." Holzer sends each manager a simple survey asking if the person who was hired is a top performer and, if not, what the manager might have missed in the interview. Managers rate the employees on a scale of 1 to 5. Using data from the lookback reports, Holzer and her team create a heat map with green showing high-performers (those 100 percent or more on goal), yellow denoting middle-of-the-pack performers (80 percent to 99 percent on goal) and red indicating low performers (less than 80 percent on goal).

Managers note things they'd change, such as other questions they might ask a candidate, to help improve future interviews so they can land the best hires. Information that might help in future interviews is fed into online reports that hiring teams can use when interviewing for similar roles. This is not shared with new hires or used for new-hire development; it is used strictly to improve hiring success.

In addition, sales data is fed into a leaderboard to see where newly hired sales associates stand.

Last year, WeddingWire hired 46 sales associates and data showed that about 10 percent were low performers. "Overall, I feel pretty good about that … because it's an entry-level role," Holzer noted.

The company also mines data to determine where the most successful employees come from. Referrals reap the best performers; agencies, the least. The upshot? Campaigns to excite employees about referrals are probably a good idea, and the company might want to reduce how much it spends on staffing agencies, she said.

Data mining also can dispel myths. Last year, WeddingWire began recruiting on college campuses for sales associate positions, a move that met resistance from some who thought it might change the culture or at least six months' experience should be required. But data collected showed that fewer than 50 percent of hires came from campus recruiting, and, while hires with some experience performed "a little better," Holzer said, recent graduates "did just fine."

Match Made in Heaven?

WeddingWire also culls data to find out which managers excel at hiring great employees. Since some are better than others, the company plans to recalibrate hiring teams to put managers who excel at picking top performers with those who need to improve in that area.

Rosa Gandler, a customer success manager with Greenhouse, said she hoped the session provided a blueprint for others but cautioned, "You're not going to get this right away. WeddingWire hasn't nailed this yet. They're continuing this iteration until they're confident that their interview process is consistently yielding a good hire. And anytime it doesn't, that's another opportunity to learn and keep fixing things."

Pamela Babcock is a freelance writer based in the New York City area.

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