3 Things We Learned from Sqreen’s Alison Eastaway

September 5, 2021
James Young
3 Things We Learned from Sqreen’s Alison Eastaway

We’ll let you in on a little secret... Over the past few weeks, we’ve been interviewing Talent Acquisition and HR experts from a range of fast-growing and innovative businesses to understand what they’ve been doing to build effective and forward-thinking hiring processes.

We’ll be sharing this collective wisdom very soon, in the form of our first eBook: Reimagining Recruitment. (Follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook and you’ll be the first to know when it’s live!)

Alison Eastaway — former VP People at SaaS-based security platform Sqreen — kindly contributed her time and expertise to the project.

In this teaser, we share a snapshot of Alison’s advice, considerations and priorities. Enjoy!

1. Your Senior Leadership Needs to Care about Diversity as Much as They Care about Revenue

Making the hiring process more diverse and inclusive starts way before the candidate even enters the interview room, or sends in their application after reading your advert. It starts with something more primal and human than that: desire.

“You have to ask if your executive team cares — does your board care?”

You have to want to do it. You have to want to do it beyond extrinsic motivating factors, like revenue or hiring targets. And you need to want it enough to change your processes, tools, overcome your biases and potentially slow down your time-to-hire, simply because it’s the right thing to do.

As Alison puts it: “I think you have to start by wanting to have different people in the room — and that seems really obvious. This is something at least 50% of companies want — or say they want. But you have to go beyond the PR side of things. You have to ask if your executive team cares — does your board care? And do they care at least as much as they do about revenue as they do about having anyone in the position?

“That gets really tricky,” she adds, “because it’s easier to hire somebody who fits in with your existing team — and I think that's the piece that doesn't get said out loud a lot. That’s a problem. Because if it's easier, and therefore faster, and therefore cheaper to hire people who look like you, it takes a huge amount of effort to overcome that inertia and do something different.”

2. We Need to Acknowledge That Filling Roles Based on Previous Job Titles Is Flawed

Traditional hiring practices have always been built on assumption. Before we’ve even written the job advert for a role, we assume that the best place to look for that role is among the people already doing it. We assume that we know the best traits the ideal candidate in that role will demonstrate, and that those skills are what we really need the most. But that approach is flawed, and it’s built on bias.

“Even when organisations have really great intentions around hiring, there’s still a huge gap there — that companies assume that people want to continue doing the jobs they’ve already done,” says Alison. “There’s this assumption that if I want to hire a backend engineer tomorrow, I’m going to go to my LinkedIn recruiter account and search by that job title to find a candidate.

“When you start thinking like a candidate, you realise that it’s a lot more nuanced.”

“I get it — that seems logical. You go looking for an existing backend engineer because people tend to do the same types of jobs, and it’s not completely false to think a backend engineer will still want to be one, elsewhere or in a different context tomorrow.

“But when you start thinking like a candidate, you realise that it’s a lot more nuanced and that there are a number of criteria why someone might leave a job that recruiters and hiring managers don’t take into account.”

3. We Need to Empower Recruiters to Leave Positions Unfilled

As a role goes live and CVs start to come in, Talent Acquisition specialists often face pressure from the top to hit hiring targets. But this often leads to a problem for diversity and inclusion — especially when we redefine what the best candidate for the role might be. So how can you make sure you’re truly giving people a fair shot at a job?

For Alison, the key elements of levelling the playing field lie in internal processes and alignment, such as lengthening time-to-hire and rethinking Talent Acquisition compensation.

“It’s a tough thing to reconcile and to say, we accept three more months of this role being open versus making the easy hire. Sometimes you make that call, and sometimes you don’t.

“I don't want [hiring teams] to have an objective that's misaligned...”

“Incentivising your hiring teams, for making hires sounds extremely logical, but I don’t want them making different decisions. Instead, they’re going to be paid a fully fixed salary that I hope is as generous as we can do for the stage of the company.

“I want them to be the person who can say, ‘hey, I have this person and final stage, but I just don’t think we should make the hire’. I want them to have that level of critical thinking — I don't want them to have an objective that's misaligned with that. So you need to be deeply convinced that the only way to achieve your goal — serving customers, making revenue, whatever that might be — is with diversity, because it has to be the strategy. Because if you don’t, it’s never going to get anywhere.”