How One Fast-Growing Company Is Filling Its Talent Funnel

Ron Storn, chief people officer at Booster Fuels, on combining automation and personalization to increase its employee headcount three-fold.
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Booster Fuels, a mobile fuel delivery startup based in San Mateo, California, is experiencing explosive growth—just as the Great Resignation is making the war for talent more intense than it’s been in years.

But Ron Storn, chief people officer, has created a plan of action, starting with increasing Booster’s talent funnel dramatically, that is getting the job done. He spoke with StrategicCHRO360 about when to use AI, why you want candidates to have a good interview experience even if they don’t join the company and how to create a more diverse talent pool.

Booster is growing at warp speed, and you’re set to increase employee headcount three-fold this year. What are the strategies that you’ve put in place to help you fill your talent funnel with quality candidates so you can scale at the rate that you need to?

When you’re growing at the rate that we are, the biggest day-to-day challenge is that it can take too long for the team to fill our talent funnel and have consistent candidate quality. Each recruiter was spending two hours on a good day clicking through countless profiles on LinkedIn to find the hidden gems, and the candidate quality was still fairly inconsistent. 

We wanted to increase the velocity at which we were filling our funnel, but obviously didn’t want quality to suffer. Being successful on both fronts involved first sitting down with our team of talent acquisition leaders to map out a strategy and ensure everyone was on board with the plan to action. A major part of that strategy was to place a heavy focus on building up our talent funnel with the best people we could find. As our growth heated up, we’ve relied heavily on technology to cut out areas that weren’t efficient uses of the team’s time. 

Sourcing is a good case in point. Some of the best candidates right now aren’t in plain sight, especially with the dynamics of the pandemic at play, so we’ve placed a bigger emphasis on sourcing in the past year. Since proactively sourcing candidates is usually more time consuming than straight recruiting, it’s been a good place for technology to offset some of the burden.   

To know that we’re ferreting out the right people in the sourcing process, we’ve shifted to what’s called attributes-based candidate search using Findem’s People Intelligence platform. The platform uses AI and analytics to automatically scan over 100,000 public data sources and find only the candidates with the attributes we’ve specified for an open role.

For example, we can run searches as specific as “someone who saw a company through hypergrowth to a successful exit, has six to eight years in energy sector and worked on products that contributed to 40 percent year-over-year growth.” So, we’re casting a wide net, but able to quickly shortlist the top 100, 250 or 500 candidates. 

Employment branding has also been huge for us and helped us get the right people for the company in our funnel, which of course, typically means they stick around for the longer haul. Remember that people are learning about your company at the same time they’re learning about potential careers, so it’s a critical inflection point in the recruitment process. Our branding centers on scale and disruption, and we’ve found a steady increase in people who are interested in working for a company that embodies these two things. 

What advice would you give to others to build their funnel?

Don’t be resistant to piloting newer sourcing and recruiting technologies to see if they can help bring more people into the funnel. See what each recruiter can accomplish with different tech tools that are relevant to their positions. 

Also, be sure to measure along the way. You’ll want to see how new tools are—or aren’t—impacting things like awareness, source of hire, quality of hire, time to hire and diversity. The talent problem at its core is often a data problem, so don’t let measurement go by the wayside when it should be a guiding light that gets you closer to your goals. 

Also, there’s a strong chance that your company is similar to Booster in that you’re focused on increasing DE&I. If so, be intentional about making sure you have quality, diverse candidates in your funnel to expand the type of talent you’re ultimately bringing into the company. You want your entire funnel to be diverse, not just the people within it, so you’re pre-empting any bias coming into the equation. Again, this is a place where I’ve seen AI and analytics be applied, so diversity isn’t a recruiter-by-recruiter decision. 

How much are you using automation or other technologies to engage with candidates and nail the candidate experience?

The candidate engagement process is super critical. There’s nothing more defeating than to see quality candidates fall out of the funnel before making it to the interview phase. Engaging candidates is all about putting together a personalized candidate outreach campaign and hitting it with the right cadence, but this can be a labor-intensive and time-intensive process and eat up a ton of man hours. Technology moves from a valuable tool to an utter necessity at this stage in the game. 

At Booster, we use a combination of automation and tailored reach-outs because you do need both. You don’t want to completely remove the human from this part of the process, but it’s amazing how much automation and personalization working together can deliver a human-like experience in your outreach. 

We use a combination of personal emails and automated campaigns with Findem’s platform to keep in frequent touch with our candidates. The benefit of Findem is that we’re able to draft personalized messages as part of the engagement process and test the response rate. We then honed those messages and turned them into templates, which we automatically send at a certain cadence. Three is typically the magic number. 

The personal touch is still very important, though. We want candidates to be ambassadors for us and feel like they’ve been set up for success in the interview process. We succeed if they feel as if they’ve learned a lot through the process and had a quality experience, whether or not they end up getting hired. 

What have you found to be the keys to a successful automation outreach campaign?

Without a doubt, make sure you’re targeting the right people in the first place. Don’t make sacrifices when it comes to being targeted and intentional in your efforts. 

Also, ensure you’re connecting with them, and meeting people where they’re at. If they have a particular interest or set of experiences, angle your campaign in a way that speaks to those.

Connect with candidates in different ways and use multiple forms of connection. Use email, phone and text, rather than just one mode. Nurture is really important to keep great candidates warm and an area where we’re looking to invest even more in the next couple of years.

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