Interview by:

There’s a great line in the movie Heartbreak Ridge. Clint Eastwood (as Gunny Highway) says, “You're Marines now. You adapt. You overcome. You improvise.”

As it turns out, those are skills that former Marine Matt Liptak, Director of Talent Acquisition at Mimecast, had to lean into hard after taking on his new role just as 2020 started to get… interesting, let’s say.

So, why join Mimecast, and why in 2020 of all years?

Timing. I was with Sophos when they announced they were being acquired- HR and TA were ultimately eliminated as a result of the acquisition, which happened at the start of the year. Mimecast is a company I’ve liked for years - great culture and products. As luck would have it, their CHRO was looking at doing a restructuring in TA, and needed someone who could lead recruitment for the Americas. The timing was excellent, and I joined them in March.

Right: That timing thing. There’s lots I want to ask about your systems, plans, but.. I’ve gotta know: what’s that like, to onboard just as we’re all locking down? How’s the year been so far?

So, it’s been an interesting learning experience. I started in the office - it’s really impressive and I was excited to get to spend time there - and then two weeks later we were all sent home.

When I came in, the goal was to plan and then undertake the reboot initiative - there was a lot that needed to be done, strategically as well as tactically. And, I was still onboarding - meeting people, learning company processes. We have an excellent new manager training we all go through. There were two reqs open on my team. I managed to hang onto one of them, which meant full virtual interviewing for that role: that was a new experience. Also, meeting hiring managers for the first time, but it’s all virtual, while meeting with your team and stakeholders to understand processes the same way.

I like to carry a req load, and we’re doing a ton of hiring - so there were and are roles to fill. It was fascinating.

When it comes to it, I think the thing about it was - and is - not to be able to turn around to chat with someone on the team, never meeting the candidate I was hiring in person. Building relationships remotely. It was a challenge - we’ve all adjusted, but it’s still very much a work in progress.

The advice I would give to anyone taking on a leadership role with the way work is structured right now, and the way this year has been, would be: get more hands-on with your people, adjust things, give them room to breathe. The biggest mistake I made was that initially, I tried to maintain how I’ve done leadership in all roles. If there’s a quick thing, an update, or a situation, you grab a room quickly and chat about it, then move on. But we’re all missing that human connection right now, and everyone’s carrying stresses you aren’t always aware of.

To adapt, I had to learn what the team was thinking, adjust things, take a few steps back. Learn how to develop clarity. I’d recommend learning the team first, get to know them, connect over even the small stuff before diving into a meeting. That takes longer now, but it’s critical. You have to get more personal. I had to put much more care into the personal management style than what I’ve done before. Letting them know I’m there for them, putting things in context, partnering, listening. And I had to cut myself slack, too. You want to learn everything, knock it out of the park, but everything takes longer now.

Those are all great points. Could you tell us about the work you’re doing now?

Absolutely. We’re really doing a full reboot of TA - splitting the department from one global VP of TA into two directors who roll up to the CHRO. I own the Americas.

When we came in, they weren’t tracking and reporting consistently, no real data integrity, no custodial model. The team wasn’t moving candidates through the workflow, and wasn't dispositioning, consistently, which made reporting muddy. So the first steps were on the process side, getting everyone into alignment.

We use iCIMS for our ATS, with Workday on the backend as our HCM. We may be moving to Workday Recruiting, so we’re thinking about that and preparing. I’m starting to think about a req for someone in operations, TA ops, if we go the Recruiting route. Along with that piece, they’d be charged with looking at new systems, new tools, keeping us leaning forward around tech.

For reporting, our HR operations team has a data analyst we worked with - I came up with a vision around what I wanted to see, and they made it run, built a dashboard on Power BI to pull data in from Workday an iCIMS. It’s pretty slick.

We’re also doing a brand reboot - this will be separate from our consumer brand, leverage candidate personas, setting up channels and strategies to deliver and help tell the story of our culture, which is a great one to tell. [Editor’s note: Mimecast has won multiple “best places to work” awards over the years, ranging from the Boston Globe’s Top Employer award to Top Rated Cloud Software Employer on Glassdoor]

We’re looking at CRM as part of that. Both to help with marketing and messaging, as well as pipelining, keeping a record of prospects for the future. iCIMS has a solution we’re looking at, and we’ll likely expand that search.

And, automation - I’m a big fan of creating efficiency. We’re looking at a few options for automation of sourcing, scheduling. We use SkillSurvey to automate reference checks and free up recruiter time. And, we just brought in Sterling for background checking. I’m really excited about the scheduling piece. The company may build its own, and we’ve looked at tools like Calendly as possible options.

So, you’re busy, in other words. What keeps you going? What is it about talent acquisition that maintains your passion?

I think it’s my background. After 12 years in the Marines, where I’d developed a real passion for recruiting, it made sense to keep that going. I started out on the agency side, with Randstad and the Judge, and then corporate. But it’s always been about being able to find the right talent, at the right time. Matching the person to the culture. That keeps me excited. It’s why I still like to carry reqs. As a leader, I love getting to be a player-coach to a team. Helping them stay on the edge, use the best methods, tools, approaches. And, I think it’s important to remember what it’s like on the candidate side, too. We’ve all been there - helping people navigate that into a new role is amazing, and I still have that passion to help.

Nine Questions

What question do your executives ask you the most, and why is this topic important to your business?

What is the state of the job market for candidates and employers – its important to put this in perspective for the executives to let them know the ebbs and flows of the market in relation to filling open positions.

What is the most important quality/skill you look for when hiring a new recruiter for your team?  Why?

Initiative and drive. I can get a good sense of this from their personality and the past performance at companies and in roles and the way they answer questions along with their enthusiasm for the role.

What do you wish vendors understood before they contact you?

The state of the economy. Meaning, in a down economy like we are in now, and with a full team of internal recruiters, it would not make any sense to outsource roles and pay a fee.

What industry blogs and publications do you find most valuable?

Venturefizz, MassTLC, Boston Business Journal, Boston Inno, Built In Boston, NEHRA, SHRM, (networking site for Corporate Recruiting)

What do you think is the biggest threat facing the talent acquisition industry today?

The deterioration of the quality of experience of Recruiters today. I interview numerous Recruiters for open roles and find that many are not keeping up with their skills, not keeping up to date with latest tools and many don’t care as much about the industry anymore

Where do you see the talent acquisition industry in 5 years?

I see the industry more automated with AI and Data Science implemented into processes a lot more and with newer sourcing tools to make Recruiters lives easier. I feel like the industry is moving to a more automated process with new, more intuitive ATS systems

If your talent acquisition budget doubled tomorrow, how would you spend the additional funds?

I would invest in a more advanced sourcing tool with AI and I would invest in more branding sites like Builtin and partner with diversity branding partners and organizations. I would also look to invest in an Employee Referral Tool to help streamline employee referrals.

What is the most difficult role your team is recruiting for right now? What makes it difficult?

We have a lot of niche Security Engineering and Architect type roles that require specialized skills and they are very difficult to fill, especially in the Boston market. They require several years of experience and this makes it challenging.

How do you stay sane/ maintain balance?

This is definitely a unique time and things are not exactly status quo and I have looked to network and communicate with my peers across TA as much as possible to stay in touch and share ideas and discuss new ways of doing business. It helps to stay connected in this time of complete isolation.