Olivia Reuter
December 12, 2023

The Future of Hiring: Mastering Adaptability in Talent Acquisition

There is a major shift in traditional talent acquisition. Gone are the days when the process was limited to straightforward job postings and routine interviews. Today, the field is evolving rapidly, spurred by technological advancements, shifts in workforce preferences, and unexpected global events like the 2020 pandemic. 

Andre Boulais, expert in all things talent acquisition, shares his insights about these changes over the past decade and the impact on employers and candidates. Boulais has extensive experience in talent acquisition and technology leadership, including roles at Salesforce. The bottom line, he says, is the continued importance of employer branding and recruitment marketing in communicating these changes. 

Watch the video or read the full transcript below.

Ready to elevate your hiring program? Let's schedule a 30-minute chat to get started.

Video Transcript

Olivia: Hi, everyone. Thank you for joining our Talent Acquisition series. Brought to you by Fuel VM Talent. I'm Olivia Reuter, the Client Engagement Director at Fuel VM. But the real star of the show is Andre Boulais, the go-to expert on all things talent acquisition. Andre, will you please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit more about your background? 

Andre: Well, thanks, Olivia, and I appreciate you having me today, but you're the star equally as well too, so I’m excited to share more about what I'm seeing in the market. But my background is a little bit different. I've spent my entire career in talent acquisition and technology leadership, being the head of talent acquisition for over a decade for large global companies like Salesforce, and then spending the last eight years on the recruiting technology side, really trying to partner and find the right solution with technology and best practices, and just returned from a conference in Dallas a couple weeks ago with a few hundred TA leaders from large companies. Excited to share the insights of what we're seeing there and happy to be here today. So, thank you. 

Olivia: Fantastic. Thank you for giving us your background. Today we're going to talk about, like you mentioned, talent acquisition and how it's changed over the past decade. So, what have you noticed in the past ten years how we've switched things up from the kind of traditional talent acquisition and efforts? 

Andre: Yeah, I think it's funny you say that because I think a lot of companies have moved forward, but the last 10 years have been monumental in changing the way people attract, engage, hire, and even retain talent. One of the biggest pushes I've seen in technology is, you know, 10 years ago, everybody was scrambling to have a company website, a careers website. That was kind of table stakes to get them into the game, to have a branded web crew website, to draw talent to your door.

You started to see a lot more companies that had to have an applicant tracking system. That was a system of record where anybody could apply, and you could track all the applicants. 
You could do FCC compliance. It was essential to have. But then you really start to see the rise of the CRM. The CRM from a recruiting standpoint, the ability to have a place to store all of your passive candidates, those individuals that were not looking, and then to engage with them via web campaigns, email campaigns to everything, to get them excited to, you know, be interested in your company when they weren't even looking. So, when they're ready to apply you're the first step they have. 

And that really took off in quite a large capacity. Then you started to see a lot more built into the onboarding component. So when you look at, when you step back, the last 10 years have been about really looking at every step of the recruiting funnel, from somebody that's not even looking to try and grab their attention for their dream job, to what the process is like, to go through the interview process and tracking every step of the way and measuring that all the way down their onboarding to make sure they've got a world-class system.
What I've seen is there's a lot of companies that do each of those segments very well, but there's not one company that does it overall everything together. What happens is you've got a disjointed process. You've got recruiting teams that can't measure on data, you've got individuals that really struggle, that might have a good part of the experience and have a really poor part of another. And so, it really has seen kind of like the rise of where I've seen a trend where individuals now are really partnering with employer branding or marketing firms to kind of touch every step of the process to make it a more unified process. 

Olivia: It is really interesting to see how traditional talent acquisition has made a complete switch in the past 10 years alone, but kind of the elephant in the room... I know we're all sick of talking about it, but in the past two years, the workforce entirely has changed. We've had hybrid, we've had work from home. So now that....Before I get ahead of myself and jump ahead, too. In the past year, what have you noticed in the past two years of how the industry has responded to 2020? 

Andre: Yeah, that's a great question. I mean, again, I took my first executive role in the summer of 2020. So, it was a tumultuous time. And at the height of everybody working remote as well, too, I think you're seeing a huge shift on how we would consider work with different generations are looking at, you know, what I'm seeing from a large areas that one of the biggest things that happened in 2020 during the pandemic is we went to a remote workforce, but it was really a double-edged sword. Yes, everybody loved to work in their pajamas. Yes, everybody loves to avoid the commute time. Those were all positive things. Everybody loved the ability to now look at remote positions versus only the roles in their geo. 

The challenge of that really stressed recruiting teams. Suddenly, you might have had 400 applicants for a requisition in Indianapolis, but now is open to the world. So, you might have 3,000. So, you started to see an immense amount of pressure built on recruiting teams to go through four times and sometimes five times the number of applicants. And that became untenable for the recruiting teams. Conversely, employers of the executive level and a lot of executive conversations I had with CHROs and CEOs about looking at the data and saying, okay, if everybody is remote, if we can do this role anywhere, why would we hire all our individuals in say, an expensive city like San Francisco? We could look at somewhere more cost effective, like Indianapolis. 

That was a big push when Salesforce acquired Exact Target, where I worked and then led sourcing for Exact Target and Salesforce, they realized they could have two times the engineers in Indianapolis that would stay four years longer than the average engineer in the Bay area. But what really happened is once people started to say, well, let's look at cheaper geos in the United States, they started to look at outside of the United States. And so all of a sudden you saw teams at a very high level and executives look at, hey, I can hire five to 10 resources for the cost of one headcount in America, in Israel, in Manila, in, you know, various locations. 

And so, then you start to see a lot of job elimination and job repurposing to put those individuals elsewhere. So, the idea that you could not have your employees in a certain Geo, which is the way we've done work for hundreds of years, was radical. Now what I'm seeing, and I talked to a lot of CEO groups, I actually did a poll with a group of 100,000 CEOs and executives a few months ago about remote work. The overall majority plan to bring everybody back to office in some capacity, whether it's a hybrid or whether it's five days or four days or whatever the model is, they're still planning on that. 

So, you're seeing, you know, larger companies really pushing to go back to a return-to-work model. Amazon was the first that did this, you know, recently. But on the other end of that, what's really interesting is that you're having a lot of like smaller startup companies say, you know, we're going to stay remote and they're using that as a selling point. So, they're saying, you know what, we are going to let you stay remote. We are a mobile, nimble company. We're using it as a calling card. Now, the unifying theme to all of that is you've got to sell a huge audience of people on why one is good or the other is good. You need employer branding or recruiting marketing to do that. 

I've seen more and more firms say, great, everyone's returning to office. We don't know how to message that to them. What do we do? And I've helped advise them on best practices, built out recruiting programs, messaging cadences, building out branding for that, having the messaging down. But I'm also seeing a lot of that being done, either in-house or also externally for recruiting marketing agencies like Fuel VM. This is a great resource for folks that say, oh my gosh, we've got to return to office. We don't even know where to start. We've got to make sure we don't lose people. We want to message our existing employees and our incoming hires. This is a great way to have a partnership in that capacity as well too. 

Olivia: Absolutely. It is really interesting that since we're all virtual, everyone likes to think, oh great, I can work at home, and this is going to be awesome. But all these companies are now having to put more efforts into marketing and building rapport with their people to keep them, because it is so competitive. So, in the past year, as we kind of shifted more into a “normal” workforce again, what have you noticed that has changed since the shift of all hybrid or all virtual and kind of being cautious, getting everyone back into the office now?
Andre: Yeah, one of the biggest trends is, uh, ghosting. Uh, you know, ghosting used to be an issue that really affected individual, um, you know, recruiters or employers when they're in the interview process. Hey, I had a great candidate. Um, you know what? Really had good, two good interviews, but they just disappeared. A lot of times they take a different offer and haven't even thought to get back the things you would never do, you know, five years ago, but are now more common practices. It was coming for employers to have a good interview. They never get back to the candidates. I hear about that ghosting all the time, but one of the biggest financial trends that I've seen is ghosting of new hires. That new hires have accepted an offer, not showing up. 

In a recent article by USA Today, it talked about that this is something that's affecting all industries, not just one in particular. In fact, I've helped to build strategies around ways to augment and offset that with several large companies. One healthcare company that I worked with, they were seeing 25% of certain roles that accepted offers, not showing up on day one. That was costing them $100,000 per month.

So, you think about the real cost of the financial cost and burden. You know, so if I look at what am I seeing? I am seeing companies that are looking at every step in their recruiting funnel and to improve it, you know, the days of I extend an offer and that person shows up, you know, two weeks later, a month later over you're seeing the recruiting process fall all the way through their start date, even going on until 90 days into their start date to make sure you are still touching base, making sure that it's the right fit. They're in a good place because you know it is a tough labor market right now, but you're starting to see a lot of opportunities for professional positions that are available, and that's really allowing candidates to really act differently. 

And I think, lastly, I'll say, you know, for all the employers that are having a having a really tough time saying, I can't believe this person ghosted me after they accepted our offer, you also have an entire generation of people that have seen a lot of their friends and themselves being laid off suddenly by their employer, so there's a huge dynamic shift in what the relationship is between the worker and the company. 

And I really hope that we can move towards, you know, a place where that kind of gets mended. And I'm seeing a lot of companies do that by different techniques. We'll talk about later on as well, too.
Olivia: Absolutely. That's kind of goes back to the same point. If you have to build the rapport and have people believe in you as the company instead of just, I have this job opportunity, it's the what's next? How do we attract talent? It's not as easy as just posting something on social media and hoping that everyone will flock to you, because it's just not that landscape anymore. 

Andre: So, and I think it's a nicety, I'll piggy back on that and say it comes down to authenticity. It's a word I use in a lot of webinars. I've done a lot of webinars with Kevin Walters, the leader in diversity, equity, inclusion. We talk about being authentic. You know, you can spend a lot of money on branding, but if you're not telling the true company story, you know you're wasting your money. You know, we had a head of DEI that I worked with went to a company that was very limited as far as like the diversity from ethnicity background, they did a huge push. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a rebrand. 

They had all these great photos of multicultural workforce and all these wonderful things about diversity. All the success they saw, they hired a huge number of individuals and greatly increased the number of their employees that came from a diverse background. The problem was everybody got there and said, hey, this is not the company of the branding materials. There's nobody else that looks like me. And within a year, they had lost almost half of the folks that had spent so much money to bring in because they said you weren't authentic. If you just would have told me, we don't have a lot of diversity. We want to grow, that we're committed to, that. We'd love for you to join our team. 
They would have stayed, but instead, because of the marketing showing a picture that wasn't authentic, they spent all this money, hired all these individuals, and had them turn around and leave anyways, which put them in a much worse position.

So, I always say be authentic, you know very well that the team at Fuel VM does an amazing job going in and rebranding companies. Every company has their own story, and I think being able to find that voice and share that, you know, you're going to be marketable for your own different reasons than somebody else. But being able to be authentic to your true story and sharing that story visually and through communication is critical, because you're going to find the right type of folks that want to come to your company and be the next generation to stay hopefully for four to five years.  

Olivia: Absolutely. That's 100 percent accurate. When people usually think marketing, they think, show the best pictures, show this, show that. But what's different about a lot of our processes is we take the time to really understand your brand and your values, and to notice when they're actually being authentic and true. So we're not going to build a brand around someone that claims one thing but acts another. So, it's about marrying the two, right? And having marketing and talent acquisition, matching, and emulating the true image of the company so that people can buy into it.
Yes, I really agree with this sales strategy or this value and making that known across the board, not just in a digital presence, but in interviews, in day to day and in onboarding. 

Andre: I agree 100 percent. I had the great fortune to sit down with 200 plus TA and employer branding leaders a few weeks ago in Dallas at a great conference called Talent Live, run by Craig Fisher. Definitely recommend everybody follow Craig Fisher. He's one of the leading voices on employer branding in the talent space. What a lot of people talked about was the new trends that show the warts, but don't show the, you know, show the things that aren't as good to say, ‘hey, you know, we really struggled. We had to lay off a lot of good people last year. You know, we were able to re-deploy and hire 60 percent of them back into the workforce. But we did have a layoff, right?’ 

People that are up front and are leading with the kind things that aren't as pretty will get a lot more buy-in on things that aren't really pretty. They have as well, too. So, I think that was a big trend. I heard over and over again from heads of employer branding for Hewlett Packard, for AT&T, for really large companies saying, ‘hey, don't be afraid of the good and the bad.’ You know, people respond more to a little honesty on the bad and they'll take in the good a lot better as well, too.

So, I do like the idea of an honest conversation with branding versus, like you said, it's easy to show, like all the beautiful, you know, here's all the culture stuff that we do. Here's everything else. Really show what it's like in the "day of." And I think that's really critical. 

Olivia: So, you went from building all of these recruiting and marketing programs with companies like Salesforce. And working with hundreds of TA's globally across six different continents. What did you learn by partnering with them? 

Andre: Yeah, that's a great question. You know, I love the experience I had working with great leadership at Salesforce and other companies when I ran talent acquisition teams. But the last eight years, when I've run divisions for recruiting technology companies and actually run paid services to go in and partner with our customers to like, get an idea of their issues for early in career hiring, university recruiting, diversity, equity, inclusion to just general sourcing, it was fantastic to pop the hood and hear what everybody else was doing, to get an idea of what were best practices, to really learn those trends. 

The biggest takeaway that I'll give in this short time is that every company can do all the things that our teams would show them what to what they could do, but the reality is nobody has bandwidth. You know, it's something like s it's the old thing of this will make our company so much more efficient, fast. We'll never be able to do it because we're still playing whac-a-mole because we've got so much of the day to day, you know, by partnering with somebody, whether it's going to be, you know, the companies that I worked with before or the really exciting new offering you have at Fuel VM for the Talent Accelerator. By partnering, you can go a lot faster and hit your goals. 

In fact, one of my favorite stories is one of our customers we worked with was a 100-person cybersecurity company out of, uh, out of the East Coast. They had a lot of big goals. We helped them grow tremendously. They actually partnered with us, and they were able to grow a lot faster than they wanted to. When they first launched their offering in their company to hire in Ireland, we did an entire recruiting marketing campaign through our CRM, which we were a customer of, around the Rugby World Cup.

So we were able to do email and web campaigns to capture an audience in Dublin. Fun fact: They would worry they weren't going to be able to fill all their headcount in a year because they were competing against Google and all these bigger companies in the Dublin area. They hired their entire year's headcount in the first 90 days. They had to break their lease to find a bigger space. 

A few years later, they went IPO - one of the most successful cybersecurity IPOs. They did those three years ahead of schedule because of what they were able to do from a recruiting standpoint, and that was primarily driven heavily by the programs they had by having a partner to come in and do recruitment marketing, and again, letting them punch above their weight and grow really fast and hit their goals ahead of schedule. 

Olivia: That's fantastic. Although it seems like probably a nightmare when it's happening. That's one of the best problems to have when it comes to talent acquisition. 

Andre: It was some of the most fun that I have. A lot of those folks are still, my references and recommendations. So, it was a great ride. You know, rapid growth is a fun place to be. But you also want to have a team you can work with that's done that, right? I had when I was at Exact Target and then Salesforce. We grew three x uh, in three years. So, you know, it's fun to have individuals that know what it's like to scale very slowly or scale very rapidly, and to have a trusted partner that's really seen it all and to deliver that to you as well. 

Olivia: Fantastic. Absolutely. So, I kind of wanted to wrap things up before we, get over time a little bit. Andre, I wanted to say thank you so much for sharing your expertise and talking about the transformative changes that the industry has seen in the past decade and recent years, and what that means. Little sneak preview for our next video, what we can expect to see in 2024. So, is there anything else you wanted to promote before we hop off of here and let us know how people can get in touch with you? 

Andre: Yeah, I appreciate that. We'll share some links as well, but we'd love to connect on LinkedIn. Um, also, I have a newsletter called The Lighthouse where we're trying to - I try and shine positive trends in the industry and best practices. It comes out every few weeks.

I would love for the individuals that want to join, to actually subscribe to that newsletter as well, and then also plug as well one of the neat things that Fuel VM is doing, you know, they launched a talent portal to help individuals that have been impacted by layoffs and talent acquisition to find jobs. They carried over a program that I started a year ago. And, to this day, we've helped hundreds of individuals find career opportunities and jobs. Takes 30 seconds for the person to join. 

And everybody in the list right now is going to be getting a special Thanksgiving edition of the newsletter from Fuel VM and myself, coming out with a list of over 100 open jobs that are available. So, hopefully we can get more people back to work soon as possible and be that connector in this environment where we find people to find their best spots and get them out of a tough place and find a job by the holidays. Thank you. 

Olivia: Thank you for the kind words about our talent acquisition program. So, if you guys are interested in elevating your talent acquisition search, you can find us at Fuelvm.com/talent. And I will include all the links mentioned in this video in the description of this. So, thanks again, Andre. I will see you in the next video and have a good one. 

Andre: Awesome. Thank you. Thanks for having me, Olivia. Cheers. 

Ready to elevate your hiring program? Let's schedule a 30-minute chat to get started. 

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