"We were looking for a Domino's experience."

Molly Weaver pauses, and adds: "One of our candidates mentioned it. I don't order from Domino's, but I understood what he meant. You order your pizza, and every step of the way you get an alert, so you know exactly where you stand. I loved the metaphor: the candidate wants to know what stage they're in. It seems so logical, and yet it hardly ever happens. So often they wind up in a black hole, and that's a stress. I don't want candidate's stressing out."

RNN caught up with Molly recently. She leads talent acquisition at Children's Mercy in Kansas City, one of the leading hospitals for children and adolescents in the United States. We'd been introduced to her as a leader who's focused on the candidate experience. Here's her story.

Tell us a bit about you: how'd you get where you are now?

Happy to. I've been at Children's Mercy for coming up on twelve years, and it's really been a mission of passion for me. Prior to coming here, I led recruitment programs at T-Mobile, which is a fantastic place to work. While I was there, I'd became a mom and had a NICU baby. So I was here a lot, and was impressed by the people and the care we received. It stuck with me, and when they reached out looking for a new leader of talent acquisition I jumped at it. There's such heart here.

What's your role been like? What makes it unique?

Structurally, I own everything but physician recruiting - that's its own unique thing - and have a team of 12 supporting talent acquisition. My approach is to look at TA from a supply chain angle: the right people, at the right time. Part of, and one of the really unique things we do, is manage tuition assistance.

Okay, that may be the first time I've heard a leader happily owning tuition reimbursement

I know. Here's the thing: it started because I wanted an idea of what various employees were studying. That way I know who is gaining skills. For example, graduate nurses are a big chunk of our hiring. So I would go over every year I went to HR and asked who was graduating from nursing assistant to nurse, and they couldn’t do it, the system they were using didn't track that.

Also, I wanted to know the reverse: if people are going for degrees we don’t hire for here, they’re a flight risk. I wanted to be ready in case that happened.

We found a vendor that could help with that level of reporting assistance, EDAssist, and set up the system. I'm someone who tends to push technology, and we push them as far as they can go. Most places just set it [tuition reimbursement] and forget it. We take the position that we want to see it and manage it, so we can guide people and help them.

For example, we set up a GED program, as a way to help people move forward and complete their high school degree. Most companies don’t do that - and that's a shame. Not having a high school diploma is a huge hurdle. This was a way of getting them over that first hump.

And we've had such great successes. We had a woman who didn't have her degree, and started as file clerk. She's now one of our critical care nurses. There was another who got started as nurses aid. She took that all the way through her masters, and now she’s a director of nursing.

We reach out to high schools, and have a program for that. We even go to middle schools. That's been our pitch for three years now: we'll start them wherever we can, and grow them. And, it helps with diversity hiring - if I don’t keep diverse kids in school, I don’t get diverse nurses.

We’re in some interesting times. How has Covid-19 impacted how you’re approaching your role?

You know, in a variety of ways. We shut down in March and sent everyone home, and we're still not back to where we were. I’m in the administration suite temporarily, for example. We redeployed people into different roles, we shut down elective surgery and other departments, too.

Along with that, we have lost people to other employers - there are travel reimbursements offered to our people where the can go and work in hot spots, so we've needed to backfill there. And, now I can’t find folks at the lower end of the spectrum, like housekeepers etc - they’re been making twice we can pay due to federal reimbursements on top of unemployment. I understand why they're reluctant to return.

And, while not related to Covid, just a timing thing, we've been replacing most of our executive leadership. We had an extreme level of stability, the same C-suite for 25 years. A new CEO came in and people starting retiring, and we've been doing a lot of executive hiring. So there's been a bubble of hiring at the top and bottom of our staff, which has been just fascinating. At the low end, we're working on how to get them off the couch. At the top end, I had one guy who was going to fly here for an interview. We do a lot with video, but at this level we wanted to meet him. And, he wanted to visit the city before he moved. His flight was cancelled 7 times, poor man. He wound up moving here without ever having been here. Fortunately he had a sister here already who helped him with an apartment.

Could you talk to us about how you approach the candidate experience? You'd mentioned Dominos...

Right - that was funny. With the Dominos thing, we were talking with a candidate and he said he wanted to able to know where he was in each stage of the process - which only seems fair. To do that, we've been working with ICIMS, and just got through the implementation process. We've gotten the system to the point where we can show candidates where they are. They have their own dashboard, and get alerts pushed out as well.

I'm a fan of personalizing interviews, and staying focused on candidates as people. At the high end, we’re creating a box of supplies for people spending all day on video interviews with us (coffee, snacks, strategic plan). It's the least we can do. We’re including personal notes from the hiring manager, me, etc, as a thank you. Even if we reject them, we want them to walk away feeling good about the experience. We tell a heck of a lot of people “no” per year, and it’s important how you handle them.

And, we shut down our referral program, I felt it was hurting diversity, so we only do it for certain roles.

For video, we use HireVue extensively. I’ve been a customer for 8-9 years now, and use their on-demand tool heavily. Since we're a children's hospital, we have our kids read the questions. Things like: “so, you want to come to work with a kid like me?” There are some people who get turned off by that - it’s a great (unintentional) screening tool. In general, we use video for first rounds and then try to have final rounds on-site. We rarely have Covid patients, screen and clean constantly just to be safe. And my real office is down the street, outside of the hospital, so we don’t bring them into the clinical environment.

We also work to make sure people don't feel "lost" when they apply. To you and me, a delay of a few days in getting back to an applicant may seem trivial - but to someone who's unemployed, or just miserable at their work, it can be agony. We never want someone going into the weekend wondering what their status is, if their application was seen, etc. So we started doing “Friday clean-ups”. It's basically an audit, so every candidate finds out where they stand.

When we relocate, it can be a whole family, and we pay attention to that, too. We had a kid who didn’t want to move, 12 years old. Family said he was into baseball. I managed to get him on a call with an admin for the Royals. He wasn't a player, but he had the World Series ring, talked the city up a ton. The kid lit up and became a huge fan of the move. Something that's a little unique too, is our city's Economic Development Group - they’re hugely helpful with research, and "selling" Kansas City. We partner really closely - I’ve helped them with pitches for new business, so it's a mutual relationship. I even flew out to DC when they were talking about relocating the USDA here, met with the people who were being impacted, helped them understand the city and made the transition smoother.

That's the human element again: we're dealing with people's lives here. That has to be kept first and foremost. We make that our focus.

9 QUESTIONS

What question do your executives ask you the most?

They ask a lot about how we’re going to find talent, how we’re changing what we’re looking for, what our challenges are. They're engaged, and that's hugely helpful.

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

I have a volume team, and a hard-to-fill team, so it's a bit different for each. Fo the hard-to-fill, they have to have search firm experience. For volume, I'm looking for someone with a lot of heart, someone who treats people well. Typically with HR background, but the main thing is the heart. I’m a champion of the candidate experience.

What do you wish vendors understood before they contacted you?

Who we are, and what we’re up against. I work for a non=profit: if you’re going to sell me something, it had better work. I find a lot of the time vendors don’t listen

What industry blogs and publications do you find most valuable?

I read a lot, a lifelong learner, I read a lot of business books, just read one about Emotional Agility that I think every recruiter should read. I'm a member of ATAP, too - so I read what they push out, attend webinars.

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

I think we have to get TA leaders to think differently about diversity - I think we over require degrees, for example. The problem is, it's baked into the system - it goes deep. Compensation will require a degree to get more money/ salary onto a req, so we have to put it in as a requirement for roles that shouldn't need one, and that closes the door on people. The GED is another example. We need to get over this degree fixation.

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

I really hope we have crossed the diversity problem off our list, and become able to look at candidates as equitable. I've been talking with TalVista, they have some really interesting tools. I have been wanting to experiment with blinded resumes; I think we can pull some of the identifying data out to make it fairer. Similarly to how orchestras conduct blind auditions.

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

I would beef up on all the tools Talvista can offer; find ways to build everyone up - we have a program where we put diverse candidates through CNA school, and pay them at the same time so they can finish without worrying about making their rent. I'd like to do more things like that.

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

Right now it's the housekeepers.

How do you stay sane/ maintain balance?

I have a 13 year old at home, and that keeps me grounded. Oh, and I retreat to reading books.