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Talent acquisition software helps jolt hiring at Taser

Taser International improved hiring by capping the number of managers involved in interviews, standardizing interview questions and using software such as SurveyMonkey and Quip.

At Taser International, hiring authorities used to pose some unconventional questions during formal interviews of job candidates, including one interviewer who asked an applicant, "Would you like to be tased?"

Therasa Cha, director of people and culture at Taser International, said she discovered this very important issue in an online survey answered by a job applicant at Taser following the interview. The surveys at Taser offer a way for job hopefuls to give anonymous feedback after interviews and are among talent acquisition software that Cha uses. 

Cha said online surveys should be offered to candidates shortly after an interview at a company site, and can help HR and recruiters improve the interview and hiring process.

"I did not realize that some people thought it was funny to joke around and say, 'Would you like to be tased?' as part of your interview process. That is not a funny joke. That is not something you ask."

Cha said she uses SurveyMonkey, which costs $26 a month, for automated surveys of candidates one or two days after interviews.

 Interview questions overhauled at Taser

"Use that data" from surveys, she said during a presentation at the Human Capital Institute's (HCI) Strategic Talent Acquisition Conference in Boston. "I can promise you that the guy who used to say that he thought it was funny to ask people if they want to be tased no longer says that question in interviews."

Other talent acquisition software used at Taser includes Ascendify for an applicant tracking system; Textio, which uses machine learning to analyze text in a job posting; and Quip, which is software for document and message sharing.

Ascendify integrates with Taser's first human capital management system -- ADP Workforce Now for midsize businesses, which went live in January and was chosen over SAP and Workday for ease of use and price, she said.

Taser, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., has sent out links to about 600 of the surveys and the response rate is 90%, probably because the survey is so short, she said.

The survey asks a candidate, "Based on your experience, would you recommend Taser to a friend?" and then a space for anything to share.

Interviewing can be costly

Cha said talent acquisition software can help measure the candidate experience, which is vital at a fast-growing company such as Taser, which has 700 employees and processes about 18,000 job applicants a year.

Taser's growth is partly spurred by the sale of body cameras to police in the wake of some police shootings in the country that attracted a lot of publicity.

In one example of measuring the cost of hiring -- an attempt to build support for limiting the number of candidates interviewed on site for a vice president's position -- she said she used Microsoft Excel to calculate the cost of job interviews. It cost $10,000 for every on-site interview for that job. The number added up fast because leaders, such as the CEO and CFO, were among the interviewers in a six-person loop, she said.

Cha said talent acquisition software can also help keep a roadmap for hiring and expedite the process. She said she uses Quip for storing and sharing a list of 20 hires that are critical to the business for a quarter, for example.

"It is filling the right roles at the right time and making sure you prioritize accordingly," she said at HCI. "That is something we do as a team."

Therasa Cha trains sights on Taser

When she applied for a job at Taser International, Therasa Cha said she realized changes would be needed in the company's hiring process.

Cha, a former top recruiter at Amazon, began at Taser in December 2014, after a three-month interview process that included three interviews on site with 13 different people. "I had to tell myself, 'This is the thing I am coming to change,'" said Cha, the head of people and culture.

Under a change she advocated, up to six managers are now allowed to interview applicants. That reduces fatigue, enabling better performance by the candidate and the interviewer, and helps result in a higher acceptance rate, she said.

She said she also established a training program for interviewers, making a big impact on what questions can be asked and other aspects of the hiring process.

"No more were we having group interviews where we would ask questions like, 'Forecast the number of babies born in a year.' No more asking questions like, 'Why is the sky blue?'"

Instead, interviews now focus on work history and situational questions that require candidates to provide specific examples of how they use skills.

She also instituted simple changes, such as standardizing invitations for job interviews, making follow-up phone calls instead of emails and writing accurate job descriptions.

Last year, of those interviewed for certain key positions, 79% accepted an offer -- up from 60%.

Post-interview surveys also showed the candidate experience improved significantly.

Taser packs tools for talent acquisition

Taser has used Quip for more than two years. People can create spreadsheets and templates for interviews in Quip, for example, and share messages and other content with recruiting coordinators and hiring managers, she said.

Ascendify, the applicant tracking system, is critical for collecting data, she said. It is crucial to find the right applicant tracking system and to use business processes such as requests for information and requests for proposals, and to prioritize ATS functions that are important to your business, she said.

Cha said Ascendify tracks candidate touchpoints, such as a job posting, career site or social media. "It's not just source of hire. It is every single source the candidate touches." Ascendify also provides reports on who is at what stage of the application process for each role, she said.

Cha just started using Textio Talent, which she said is interesting cloud talent acquisition software because it helps standardize and clarify job descriptions to assure they are phrased appropriately for diversity purposes or to keep the text from being repetitive.

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This was last published in May 2016

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What does your organization use for talent acquisition tools?
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We work from the top level down. We hire managers (in my business they're called "producers") and each producer brings in "associate producers" who help to hire most of the  department heads who then hire workers and, in some cases, the workers bring in their own support teams. Because modern filmmaking grew out of a complex apprenticeship system and the work at almost every level is highly collaborative, we work as a team (mostly) to acquire the necessary talent. It falls apart from time to time, but it works most of the time.
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ncberns Thanks for sharing this information. Good to hear your system works most of the time. Lot of talent in your business, too.
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My current client relies heavily on the staffing agencies. Among those, large ones use various software, small ones rely on personal connections and networking. In practice, large ones have a bigger pool of candidates to offer but small agencies offer higher quality candidates.
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AlbertGareev - Thanks for the comment and the tip on which type of agencies offer higher quality candidates.

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Standardizing interview questions is something that I’ve run into before, and it has its pros and cons. It’s perfectly fine to limit the categories of questions or the type of questions (such as keeping out the questions like “would you like to be tased?”), but it’s important to allow enough freedom for the interviewers to ask the questions they need to ask to help assess the candidate’s fit with the team.
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mcorum - Thanks for the insights on interview questions. It is OK to give interviewers some leeway, but interviewers also need to know the law and they need also to be skilled and experienced. Standard questions are good. It is also up to the job applicant to display a little personality and create rapport.
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Agreed, especially with respect to knowing the law. We provide training on that to our hiring managers, but not to the team members that are involved in the interview. That’s dangerous because they’re the more likely to ask if you would like to be tased, which makes interview training all the more important.
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mcorum - Thanks again.
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I guess it really depends on the industry. In software testing and software development in general, there are thousands of interview questions and answers. But the real work is far from memorizing those, so the "right" answer doesn't give even a hint of a real performance of the candidate.
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AlbertGareev - You are right - if possible, it is great to find out during the interview how a candidate would perform on the job.
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@Dan - yes, and this is why we have hands-on exercises as a part of the interviewing process. The interviewer must know the job well and ask situation-specific questions during the exercises. This way we can get candidates using their thinking and skills same way they would do being on a real job assignment.
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AlbertGareev - Well said. Hands-on training sounds good for managers and others who interview job hopefuls.
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