HRExaminer Radio

HRExaminer Radio is a weekly show devoted to Recruiting and Recruiting Technology airing live on Friday’s at 11AM Pacific

HRExaminer Radio

Guest: Maia Josebachvili, VP, Strategy & People,
Episode: 129
Air Date: November 17, 2015

Maia has a decade of experience building teams at high-growth technology companies. She is currently VP of Strategy and People at, a software company and Recruiting Optimization platform. Maia is responsible for overseeing Internal Strategy, Recruiting, People Operations, Talent Management, and Employee Experience.Prior to Greenhouse, Maia founded Urban Escapes, a travel and events company that focused on creating ‘social adventures for young professionals.’ During her time as CEO she was named one of Inc. Magazine’s 30 Top Entrepreneurs Under 30 Years Old. She went on to sell Urban Escapes to LivingSocial, an Amazon-backed e-commerce company. As part of the acquisition, Maia joined the LivingSocial team as GM of New Initiatives, where she built a team of 75 full-time and 700 part-time employees across the country.



Audio MP3



Begin transcript

John Sumser:                        Good morning and welcome to HR Examiner Radio. I’m your host, John Sumser, we’re coming to you, as almost usual, live from beautiful downtown occidental California where technology dug its first real roots in the state of California. Today, we’re talking with Maia Josebachvili who has one of the names that it’s so scary to pronounce that the first thing I have to ask “Did I get it right, Maia?

Maia Josebachvili:             I can’t even believe you tried, but yes, you did.

John Sumser:                        Worried about it all night. “Josebachvili.” Tell me a little bit about Josebachvili. That’s such as amusing last name.

Maia Josebachvili:             What’s funny is I actually only go by Maia and usually tell people not to even try, but I don’t have a really great story about it to be honest. It’s that one last name that happened to keep getting passed down.

John Sumser:                        That’s great. Maia is the vice president of Strategy and People at the HR industry’s hottest startup which is Greenhouse, it’s a recruiting oriented platform, so I want to ask you to introduce yourself, Maia, and we’ll get started there.

Maia Josebachvili:             Sure. Like you said, I am the VP of Strategy and People at Greenhouse and I might be biased, but I think I have the most fun job in the company. I get to work with our recruiting team, our people operations team, talent management, employee experience, facilities and internal strategy to think about what I think are the 2 most interesting parts of our business which is our people and our growth.

John Sumser:                        How did you end up coming to work at Greenhouse? Nobody wakes up in the morning when they’re 5 years old and says, “What I want to be is the vice president of Strategy and People, and that’s the work I’m going to start on.”

Maia Josebachvili:             I would say I got here through some really illogical and disjointed steps, but in my career, I suppose I’ve been a skydiving instructor, a derivatives trader on Wall Street, I started my own company, a travel company where I was the founder and CEO, I ran that for a few years and I sold it to Living Social and ran a few of the business units there, so if you can see a theme in all that, please tell me because I have yet to find one.

John Sumser:                        It sounds like you have a strong desire to have extreme experience, that’s what I would say. Skydiving instructor and derivatives trader being as you like your adrenaline pumping.

Maia Josebachvili:             Yes, that’s true.

John Sumser:                        How long have you been working in the HR space?

Maia Josebachvili:             There’s 2 ways to answer that. Formally, I’ve been at Greenhouse now, it’s been a little over a year and I was involved 2 years ago as well, but I would also argue that I’ve always really been thinking about HR because as a founder and CEO, your job is to think about your people, and when I was at Living Social, I hired and managed a team of 75 full time people and 700 part time people across the country and overseas as well, so even though I’ve only been in the role of running HR at an HR company for a little while, I would say that I’ve been playing the role and playing in the space for my whole career really.

John Sumser:                        As you’ve gotten to know the industry, do you think that that’s a common view of how HR works? I’m tempted to give you the cynical description of HR which is that it’s all of the crap that you have to do that you didn’t realize you had to do when you started the company, and that managing and creating an extraordinary motivational environment is not something that they try people do very often, and so do you think that you’re unusual in your approach to HR?

Maia Josebachvili:             I think I’m optimistic. I will say that. I’m in a really unique space and I feel really lucky all of the time because running an HR team at an HR technology company I think is a little bit different than other places, so we definitely think about that all the time and have a lot of time from everyone to think about that, but I will say that I’ve seen a lot of changes in the industry. I see a lot of HR leaders having these conversations, talking about this, and yes, we still do the backend stuff. What did you say? That no one knows you have to do? I won’t say we don’t do that but I think people are starting to have really strategic conversations about what role we should be having in companies and I’m seeing that a lot at lots of different companies certainly here in our space in the Silicon Valley.

John Sumser:                        Silicon Valley is a very, very interesting bubble. I think the way that people often think about HR is that it builds based on the last thing that it got sued for, and so one adds to HR capabilities based on which mistakes you made and there’s lots of them because the regulatory environment is pretty complicated and it’s easy to either not know what you’re supposed to do or do something that you think is right and discover that the very thing you think is right is wrong. That’s what happens to cause HR departments to grow I think is you bump into walls that are the difference between your assumption and what coherent business practices, and if you start a company to build with it, you hardly ever think about these other related thing, so I love the spin and would love to see contagion in the idea that the job of HR is to drive the motivation environment, but I’m not sure …

Maia Josebachvili:             I’ll take that on as a to do.

John Sumser:                        You know whatw? I wish I could help the audience understand what it’s like to see you in action. This would be the place on a talk show where we’d show a chunk of video of Maia speaking. Maia is this electric, charismatic evangelist for Greenhouse, and when she is in the room giving a presentation, the set of attention is clearly on her and she has a delicious, animated, clear way of talking about what she’s doing, so tell me about Greenhouse with that sort of big setup.

Maia Josebachvili:             Man, John, you’re too nice. Now I’m all flustered and flattered, thank you, so Greenhouse is a recruiting optimization platform and we essentially power a company’s recruiting process from the initial making a plan and thinking about who you’re going to hire to using your historical data to make better decisions about where you’re going to look for them to getting your whole team to collaborate on how you’re going to evaluate that person person and ultimately convince them that this is the right job for them, and we’re having a lot of fun in the space. We get to work with some of the smartest companies out there in helping really shape where this new wave of recruiting in HR in general is going, so I will stay more optimistic and I think it is changing and I’m really excited to be part of that.

John Sumser:                        That’s cool. Do you think the change is coming from a generational difference or is it coming from a technological difference or is it some combination of both of these things that’s driving the change or we’re just getting more sophisticated with …

Maia Josebachvili:             It has to be all of it because I don’t want to sit here and use the buzzword of “Millennials” but it’s true, right? The workforce is changing, whereas people use to stay in jobs for a very long time, I think the new wave of people who are looking for jobs and being employed have slightly different tendencies, and so it’s really crucial to find the right people and develop them and retain them because it’s not just a given, right? I think it’s forcing companies to be thinking that way. We also just have access to a lot better technology, so we just launched Greenhouse Analytics platform that you and I have spoken about, and it’s the first of its class.

It’s a really powerful way to look at your recruiting data and I’d love to take credit and say that we’re the smartest and we figured it out, but I’ll be honest, a big part of it is also the technology is now available to be able to use a very powerful BI tool to power your data and sent it through Redshift, so I would say a combination of those.

John Sumser:                        Actually, let’s back it up. Let’s make sure that we’re clear. Is Greenhouse an applicant tracking system? Is that what it is?

Maia Josebachvili:             We have all that functionality. I think we’re trying to stay away from using that as the term. Obviously, people know what that is but it’s a lot easier to describe it as that, but we don’t distract our applicants. We provide really great data and we provide a platform where you can collaborate with your hiring mangers and your recruiters and your coordinators to figure out the best candidate, so we have all the functionality of an applicant tracking system but I would personally pretty bummed if that’s how we’re though about in the next few years.

John Sumser:                        That’s interesting. Do you have a name for the category that is in applicant tracking systems that you are number 1 in?

Maia Josebachvili:             We’re starting to think about it so if you have ideas, we’ll take them.

John Sumser:                        Good answer. The Analytics platform, tell me about the Analytics platform.

Maia Josebachvili:             Sure. You’re talking about my little baby now.

John Sumser:                        Good.

Maia Josebachvili:             I came from, like I said, I was actually a mechanical engineering undergrad and a derivatives trader, so I’ve been pretty into data for a very long time and I was really excited when I first joined the company, and John, one of our founders, told me that they were working on this and if I want to get involved, I could have a hand in helping shape it. I worked with our product team and our strategy team for a long time to really get this thing off the ground and the point behind it is a really powerful tool, like I said, we’re powered, there’s different ways you can have it, but the basic idea is we take all the data and rather than build all the reports ourselves, we send it over to Redshift and store your data in such a way that you can build customer reports with a data analyst, and you can do some really powerful stuff that …

I think people in the recruiting field have always wanted to be more data driven, they just didn’t have the tool, and with our new analytics platform, you can visualize data, you can different reports, you can slice and dice by different departments. We use it internally and it’s done wonders for our recruiting process. We’ve essentially doubled our output over the course of 2 months just by being able to track our data and metrics and understanding where to focus.

John Sumser:                        That’s really interesting. I heard an amazing principle the other day that I think can really buy, and that is the value of the data is inversely proportional to the number of ad hoc reports that are generated about the data, and what that means is one reporter report imposes a narrative on chaos, that’s what reporting does, it imposes a narrative on a chunk of data, and that narrative holds as long as it isn’t subject to question. The more ad hoc reports that are in circulation, which are all generated from some particular user or department perspective on the data, the more it becomes clear that what’s really underneath the reports is chaos rather than the narrative.

There’s a growing interesting argument for only having canned, precise analytics to a deep approval process rather than free form discovery inside of the data when you’re set in an organization, when you’re set doing some research. Other side, of course, you want to have some freedom, but if you’re publishing reports and doing organization, the theory I believe is that there is a certain number of reports beyond which what you’re doing is confusing things rather than clarifying them. Given your background, does that make sense too?

Maia Josebachvili:             It doesn’t just make sense, I love it and want to take it and say it over and over again. Yeah, absolutely, so just because you have a maximum flexibility, it also speak for myself here, it wouldn’t be my recommendation that you should make hundreds of reports. We look at 5 KPIs every month and every week we look at one of those metrics to see how we’re tracking, and the other reports are helpful to the game if we something arrive with our high level KPI, but we send the same 5 metrics and the same 5 reports to our whole organization and what we use the customizations for is to be able to create custom views so each of our hiring managers can see the numbers for their team, but I love that concept. I think less is more.

John Sumser:                        In that same conversation, there’s another bit of insight, but it’s a little looser, but I thought I’d run it by you in that is that there is fundamentally no difference between an Analytic set and performance management because performance management and analytics are asking the exact same question. The only difference is that one has to sit from an individual perspective and the other has to sit from an organizational perspective. Maia?

Maia Josebachvili:             Interesting. Now you’re really putting me on the spot.

John Sumser:                        If you can jump out of an airplane …

Maia Josebachvili:             Performance management is a bit of a loaded word. What we look at a lot, the one metric we work with our recruiters on is the number of qualified candidates … Work with every month, so we don’t goal our team unhired because we think that could incentivize the wrong behavior. If at the end of the day, we finish 4 on-sites for a certain role and we’re still not sure, I really want our recruiters to be the ones at the very end saying, “Hey, guys, I know we just put a lot of effort into this, but this isn’t the right person,” so I think aligning incentives is good. We don’t look at total hires for our recruiters. We look at the qualified candidates number, and based on historical data, we say, “This is how many you should be passing through each month so that it can likely lead to the number of hires we want.”

We use it for that. I don’t want to say it’s performance management because they could still be great performers and not be hitting their qualified candidate numbers for a certain reason, so I guess maybe that’s where I felt a little bit on the spot, so we definitely use it to help understand how our recruiters are doing and see if we can help them remove roadblocks and do better at their jobs, but I wouldn’t tie it completely to their performance. I would say it’s more indicative of the outcome that they might have.

John Sumser:                        Maybe a different way of saying what they said is that performance management is really a conversation about the analytics. It seems to me that … Right? The Core reportable stuff is to say it’s the conversation that you have about that’s different.

Maia Josebachvili:             I’ll buy that one, yes.

John Sumser:                        I saw the coolest thing that you will be jealous of. It was a well manicured interface that accumulated all of the data associated with recruiting transactions and allowed you to, from the view of a single recruiter, go all the way from the top level dynamic down to the decisions made, so you could go from a low qualified candidate count to a review of 2 or 3 candidates to see why they didn’t make the list in the same conversation, right? From the metric to the resume was the terrain about the analytics path its covered and it made for a really interesting conversations with recruiters because you could have the full conversation and you could have a, “It looks like the numbers are right in this area and you’re making decisions in the following way. Let’s talk about how you’re doing that,” and that’s an informed conversation about performance.

What I mean is that great performance management requires great analytics.

Maia Josebachvili:             Yes, and I love that. We just had a situation a couple of months ago about one of our recruiters who’s working on a sales engineer job, which is just traditionally a really tough role, and it was open for a long time and she wasn’t getting that much traction and she took it upon herself to look at all her conversion rates and open rates of all her prospect and emails, changed a few things, realized that she was getting a lot more bites and completely altered her strategy based on the data she saw, and of course she closes at 6 weeks later with a fantastic candidate, and it was such a great case study because had she kept going, it could have been one more month before anything happened, but she took it upon herself to look at the metrics that she was working with, changed stuff, and it completely changed her outcome.

John Sumser:                        I think that’s interesting. I’m not a big fan of the idea that you can predict anything. The best piece that I’ve seen says something like the best predictive analytics in the world cannot predict the delay of your planning.

Maia Josebachvili:             Right.

John Sumser:                        Right? All you really care about is that. All the rest of the predictions of the world don’t matter if you can’t predict the things that you need to predict, but this process that you’ve just described where somebody has an adequate set of data so that they can see the trend in their work and modify their work to modify the trend, that’s powerful stuff, right? Tight quantitative feedback loops can make all the difference in the world if you have a workforce full of people who know how to use them, and that’s new to HR and recruiting, the idea that you can quantify the stuff and improve performance by attending to the qualification is not how the discipline has traditionally worked particularly in companies under 30 or 40,000 people.

Maia Josebachvili:             Yeah. Definitely true.

John Sumser:                        It must be fun to be bringing that target.

Maia Josebachvili:             It’s a blast and it feels a little bit daunting sometimes but then you look at other parts of the organizations and you realize they’ve done the same thing. I like to talk about marketing a lot but there was a point in time when marketing was not quantitative at all, right? In one of our side decks we show, we have the picture of Madman era, and they were definitely not looking at final conversion metrics, but now marketing is incredibly data driven and marketing leaders know if you put dollar into the machine, you get a dollar and 30 out 67 days later, so other parts of the companies have done it and I think now it’s our turn to start to figure that out and I’d like to think we can accelerate it because of the technology we have at our fingertips today.

John Sumser:                        That’s a really another great place to have a conversation. Yesterday, I’m on a “Marketing that’s full of idiots keep” right now, and yesterday, I got what is conventionally called a piece of “Drip email” or the results of a drip campaign, and the piece of email read, “I’m following up to see if you read the piece of email that I sent you last week,” and it was as if this person had a relationship with me. It was intrusive, it violated my sensibilities of privacy because this person made all sorts of assumptions, and it was a damned piece of spam, and so when I hear of people who are trying bring that sort of technology into the recruiting process, I wonder if anybody’s paying attention to the fact that to get a 2% click rate, you have to piss off 98% of the people you touch in one way or another.

It is a strip mining kind of operation rather than a sustainable force because when you irritate that many people every time you want to do a transaction, eventually, they turn on you, right? It’s not free to have 98% of the people not respond to your email. It’s an expensive erosion of the brand and the people who look at transaction marketing, as near as I can tell, have no sense that what they’re doing is eroding their brand. How do you do that-

Maia Josebachvili:             I think that’s a great point. If someone told me-

John Sumser:                        Talent pools are really limited.

Maia Josebachvili:             Sure, and if someone send … I have nothing but amazing things to say about my team. They would never come to me and say, “I have a 2% click rate” because if they realize that one of their emails was getting that, they would stop really quickly for all the reasons you just mentioned, so when we do actively prospect, it’s really important for us to be finding people and sending them valuable information for a job that they would actually be interested in, so we like to see our open rates and response rates more in the 30s, certainly.

John Sumser:                        Still, for every person who you’re right, you’re wrong for 2 people? If you got slapped every time you insulted those other 2 people, you would probably slow down. There’s just not a way for them to give you feedback other than good, are you?

Maia Josebachvili:             You make a fantastic point. I would hope, and I obviously can’t say for sure because I haven’t been on the other receiving end of the emails we sent, but I would hope that it’s not an offensive annoyance because usually what we’re saying is “You seem really smart and your background looks great,” so even if you’re not interested, it’s at least more flattering than just saying, “Did you read my email I sent you last week?” My assumption, and maybe I’m wrong in it, but my assumption is that these emails were sending are more flattering than they are annoying, at least at my whole, right?

John Sumser:                        I don’t want to make this about that. We’ll bump off of this over the next one, so it’s precisely that the email was written so that I’ll open it? That’s so manipulative and so insulting. It’s precisely the dynamic it gets the conversion rate up that makes it a horrible emotional experience, even if it’s a micro transgression rather than a macro transgression, a horrible emotional experience for somebody for whom the email is not relevant.

Maia Josebachvili:             If it’s not relevant, I completely agree. I’d say probably 20% of our company now has come from direct emails like that, and again, I can’t speak for them, but my understanding is they’re all really happy in their new roles here, so I think a lot of good comes out of it too because especially a year ago, we were not a brand people had heard of. We’re still a really small company and I think we’re a great job for lots of people. The people who are here would I’m sure agree with that, and they wouldn’t have heard of us if we hadn’t done it, so there is some value, and I’m not discounting what you’re saying. I completely see that part too.

John Sumser:                        I don’t mean to discount the value for the people who it worked for. It’s really good for the people who it works for. I’m looking at the other side of the coin and I don’t know-

Maia Josebachvili:             You make a great point with that.

John Sumser:                        Yeah. What are you excited about that’s coming up? You’ve got to have a living stuff there, you’re an evangelist, are they going to buy you a plane to jump out of it?

Maia Josebachvili:             I haven’t done that of a plane, it’s been a little while, so we’ll see. I think we’re coming into a really interesting time right now. This past year has been really about getting our footing and understanding the landscape and really building out the core product and building out our core team, so just for context, in January of this year, the company itself was, I want to say 35 people, and we’re going to end the year close to 200 now, and customer count has grown with that.

John Sumser:                        Oh my goodness. How do you remember who’s who and how did they all find the bathroom? That’s an extraordinary level of growth.

Maia Josebachvili:             Our design team made really good finds.

John Sumser:                        I’m watching a friend of mine join a really big company and it’s taking months to just get through to the … I think of it as the membrane that separates the company from the rest of the world, and just getting all the way through the membrane and into the company is taking months of work and discomfort and joy and understanding and connection, and so you’ve got a massive number of people doing that in the system that it has to be evolving because of the people who are coming. It must be staggering to watch that.

Maia Josebachvili:             Yeah. The word I use is “Fun.” I think there’s a lot of challenges that come with it, but it’s also one of the coolest problems to work on and I’d say the thing that is making it easiest for us is because we put so much, and this is into our recruiting process, which are really hard just to find the right person for the job but we equally wait finding the right jobs for the right person. There are many times I’ve talked to fantastic candidates and said to them, “I think you would be great at this job and I don’t think it’s the job that’s going to motivate you forever. I’d love to stay in touch about other things,” or not even forever but for a reasonable amount of time, so I think when you get the right people in the right job, really great things happen and the whole transition becomes a lot easier.

We’ll see if I keep saying this in a year, but for now, I really love the onboarding process that our team has created because I think we’re really putting people in to the fire right away and saying, “Good. Do great things because we know you can, we know this is the job that you’re going to be awesome at.”

John Sumser:                        Fantastic. We have blown through our allotted half hour. What should I have asked you that I didn’t?

Maia Josebachvili:             When are we getting that coffee? You didn’t ask me for that coffee we keep talking about.

John Sumser:                        We’ll get there. Now that you’re in [inaudible 29:43] we’ll definitely get there.

Maia Josebachvili:             I know.

John Sumser:                        How about some closing ideas? Anything you want to be sure people leave with when they think about Greenhouse or Maia?

Maia Josebachvili:             How about even a little more [grainers 30:01] back to this concept of HR changing and how you were saying maybe it’s not happening or not happening fast enough, I’m really excited about the change we’re seeing in the industry and I know at Greenhouse, we all are as well, but the conversation we have internally isn’t how do we sell more software. It’s how do we help companies get better at their people practices, how do we make them better at recruiting? I don’t think that we’re going to solve ourselves, I really think it’s going to take the whole industry to think about it and come together and exchange best practices, so if there’s anything I would want people to walk away with is let’s engage in that conversation.

Tweet at me, you can be my 400th Twitter follower. John, I’m just trailing behind you, right?

John Sumser:                        It doesn’t matter what it is.

Maia Josebachvili:             I think let’s keep the conversation going. I really want to have conversations with people who are thinking about this as well because there’s so many good ideas out there and if we get them all together, I think we can accelerate this change a lot faster.

John Sumser:                        That’s great. Please reintroduce yourself to let people know how they might get a hold of you.

Maia Josebachvili:             Sure. That means I have to spell my last name then. I’m Maia and I’m the VP of Strategy and People at Greenhouse and I’d say the best way to get a hold of me is on Twitter, so that’s @Josebachvili. See what you made me do now? It’s J-O-S-E-B-A-C-H-V-I-L-I.

John Sumser:                        Okay. Thank you so much. It’s been a delightful conversation. We should do it again soon. We’ve been talking with Maia Josebachvilili who is the vice president of Strategy and People at Greenhouse which is a remarkable young company building new recruiting technology. Thanks again, Maia. It’s been great to have you on board, and thanks for listening in. We will see you again same time next week. Have a great day. Bye.

End transcript

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