The Hollywood Recruiter: An Interview with SoCal’s Lesa Evans

April 18, 2012 at 12:32 PM by Vivek Reddy

The following interview is with Lesa Evans, one of Southern California's best and brightest technical recruiters. Lesa has recruited for many of the region's marquee names including ABC/Disney, Beachmint and LiveNation. When Lesa isn't hunting for Ruby and Java developers she's busy building an employment readiness program for teens and young adults called Reaching Hire. You can follow Lesa on Twitter: @lesaevans and @reachinghire or add Lesa to your circles on Google+.

Entelo: Lesa, welcome to the Entelagon, where we ask you all sorts of tough questions (not really). Softball to start. You're a proponent of ROI-driven recruiting. What does that mean?

Lesa: The recruiting function of any business should be focused on the growth and integrity of their internal database. Specifically, whatever resources are used for sourcing should be proactively mined to build a pipeline of passive candidates. There is a bias against candidates who have resumes posted to the major job boards as if they are somehow less qualified or wonderful because they use a job board. This is not true! Also, we have to acknowledge that active job seekers posted today will all be passive candidates in 6-12 months. The second part of ROI-driven recruiting involves the process itself because so many companies are dependent upon one, all-star recruiter to make things happen. Recruiting is a sales/marketing function, and should be treated as such. There should never be a candidate who does not get a follow up call (not email) after an interview – ever, and yet it happens all the time. By having the right process in place, very simple yet important tasks will get done and perpetuate referrals, which is the most cost-efficient way to hire. The best part of ROI-driven recruiting is that it has a zero cost of entry to implement and maintain.

E: You've seen a lot in this space. What are the areas where you most commonly see startups and other growing companies make mistakes?

L: Startups in particular often limit their candidate pool by requiring people to work full-time, specifically by not engaging remote and/or contract engineers. There is a notion that full-time employees are inherently better for the business but that is not necessarily the case. Another area refers back to the first question in that startups typically do not track their recruiting efforts in a database. So when they do grow to the point of having a resource dedicated to recruiting, there is no history to reference. This leads to a lot of re-work, an overall chaotic process that results in inefficiencies across the board, in wasting everybody’s time. A third common and big issue in the interview process for startups and growing companies is in technical aptitude tests. Requiring candidates to take a test before they have had any interaction with the hiring team (initial phone interview) gives companies a bad rap because seasoned engineers simply won’t take the time to do such an exercise, and therefore eliminates any possibility of them referring additional candidates. Pre-interview tests are the equivalent of referral repellent.

E: Along similar lines, when you've seen people succeed in big ways in terms of building incredible teams, what do you typically attribute that to? What are the common threads among winners?

L: Recruiting is a sales function, and the companies who keep that in mind and engage their candidates as they would their customers always come out ahead. Some companies do the wine and dine thing, which is nice, but just having honest dialogue with candidates in an engaging process is really all it takes. Don’t keep them waiting for their interview, treat them with dignity and respect, do aptitude exercises together with them, and then leave them with a sincere smile. It’s so simple, and so very effective. This is my favorite topic and I never tire of strategizing with companies to help them design and implement a great recruiting process that results in higher numbers of referrals from candidates in every stage of the process.

E: Who have you learned from over the years? Who inspires you as a recruiter and who do you learn from?

L: My good friend Bob Mannina was my first mentor when I started in 1997 and gave me this sage advice: Do what you love and the money will come; if you do it for the money you’ll burn out. I learned so much from Bob, but mostly that I can be successful in recruiting without compromising my integrity or my desire to enjoy what I do every day. Laura MacConnell is a good friend who I met in 2007. She has been instrumental in teaching me how to broaden my horizons and think big. She constantly challenges my assumptions and logic, which helps me recognize more opportunities and possibilities for all of my clients and candidates. In general, I am a knowledge hound and seek out information from every interaction and adventure. And of course, I learn from my clients and candidates constantly because their backgrounds, objectives and considerations always uniquely shape each search.

E: Let's look ahead a decade. It's 2022. Hilary Clinton (or Jeb Bush depending on what state you are reading this in) is wrapping up her second term as President of the U.S. and Elon Musk just became the first private citizen to walk on the moon. What does the world of recruiting look like?

L: Differences will continue to get bigger in how recruiting is viewed and managed in large organizations versus smaller ones. In large organizations, the role of the in-house recruiter has been narrowed down to mostly administering the process as opposed to proactively sourcing and recruiting with a high level of engagement, interest, and insight. With the advent of various online tools and sourcers, internal recruiters are expected to produce 65-80 hires per year in the technology sector, which is impossible to do with high levels of engagement, interest, or insight. By contrast, recruiters in smaller organizations have a broader scope of responsibilities and typically have very high levels of engagement, interest and insight, being so immersed in the business and close to all of the action. Agencies, meanwhile, are experiencing a similar shift with the use of sourcers, mirroring the corporate recruiting dichotomy, in that the large firms cannot recruit with a high level of engagement, interest or insight, leaving the high touch and high level of service recruiting to the small boutique firms. The proliferation of software tools available to recruiters has been so beneficial to our search process but somewhat detrimental to our reputation among IT folks across the board. I will not be surprised to see more people blocking their contact details and profiles entirely from recruiters somehow. The good news for everyone, except the big job boards, is that their prices should fall along with their market penetration, and this will help smaller companies most of all.

E: When you're not hard at work helping growing companies find great people, what occupies your time?

L: I do a lot of reading about technology and startups and spend a little too much time on Google+. I’m a dedicated mom, a good home chef and I tackle various creative projects as time and whimsy permit.

E: You've also started Reaching Hire which we love. Can you tell us more about that?

L: Reaching Hire is employment readiness training for teens and young adults. It is my pursuit of passion and I have big plans to grow it in a few directions. At present in the US we have a crisis with the unemployment rate for 16-24 year olds being over 25%. Compound that with employers’ growing frustration with millennial employees who don’t play nice in the sandbox, and it’s easy to see there is a lot of work to do with and for this age group. My objective with Reaching Hire is to be a comprehensive resource for young people entering the workforce to help them prepare and work successfully. My secret mission along the way is to inspire more young people to consider information technology careers for themselves, by introducing the industry in a more relaxed and approachable format.

E: What an admirable goal, Lesa. We wish you the best on this front as the younger generations could definitely use your insight to better prepare themselves for rewarding careers. Thank you for your time and we'll look forward to seeing you grow more companies in the LA area! A reminder to check out Reaching Hire and to follow Lesa on Twitter @lesaevans or add her on Google+.

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