#HRHeroes: Keerthi Rannore of Altimetrik on Reimagining Candidate Experience

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Candidate experience emerged as a major trend in talent acquisition a few years back and since then, the focus upon it has only become stronger. Some companies have taken bold and impressive steps towards facilitating a good candidate experience - Zappos has actually stopped posting jobs, just so that they’d have an opportunity to get to know the candidate better.

Closer to home, one company that is revolutionizing candidate experience is Altimetrik. Altimetrik is a software and solutions company headquartered in Michigan with over ten hubs in various locations across the globe, serving hyper-growth sectors such as banking, ecommerce and healthcare.

A while back, Altimetrik took apart their hiring process and identified a few inconsistencies in how candidates were interviewed.

  • Interviews are conducted in silos - the rounds followed one another, the candidate performed the requested tasks in isolation. Yet, working in any company in the real world is hardly like this.
  • Getting the candidate into a room and asking them questions would hardly bring out their best.
  • The interview environment wasn’t providing enough opportunities for candidates and the interviewers to collaborate.

The leadership team applied design principles to address these gaps and came up with an elegant and unique solution - the Playground.

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The Playground is an experience that aims at transforming interviews through a heavy emphasis on candidate delight.

It is Altimetrik’s platform constituting the ecosystem and culture that is needed to catalyze transformation. The Playground experience includes a physical space designed exclusively to facilitate collaboration, a reinvented interview process and a mobile app to facilitate it. It is also designed as a mini ecosystem that mimics Altimetrik with Platforms, Capability Centers and Enterprise Assets Base.

I met with Keerthi Rannore, Associate Vice President, People Experience at Altimetrik last month and saw the Playground myself. Here is what I learnt from that fantastic experience.

The Playground looks absolutely amazing. I can only imagine the effort and thought that went into it. Could you tell us how this came to be?

The Playground was the brainchild of the leadership team at Altimetrik. We firmly believe that collaboration is the base upon which a good workplace is built. Yet, interview environments were hardly collaborative. As we thought of different ways to tackle this, it became clear that a process level change wasn’t going to cut it.

We were looking at transforming an age-old practice, so it made sense to change everything about it.

The way the Talent Acquisition team envisioned the Playground was a room where the candidate walked in through one door and walked out another with an offer in hand. The Marketing team turned this image into an actual physical space which was designed for better collaboration, with elements such as workstations, a cafe nook and lots of open areas.

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Simultaneously, the Tech team pitched in with an solution for make communication more seamless and make the process more transparent - an interview app. This app would effectively prepare the candidates for the interview process.

Finally, the Procurement and Finance and Admin team really pulled together and actually set up the Playground - they worked 11 straight days to make it happen!

I think the overall experience was quite inspiring for me because it was a group effort with all the teams giving it their 100% towards getting the best people to the company.

Pramod YG, the QE Manager here was gracious enough to take me around the Playground. But it would be great if you could do the same for our readers. Do tell us more about this place.

The Playground is designed through and through to deliver a stellar candidate experience. As a process, it was built with two things at its core - innovation and collaboration. As soon as a candidate comes in for an interview, they are seated at the coffee room - as you can see, it is designed to simulate a cafe. The casual ambience instantly puts the candidate at ease, as they feel like they’ve come for a chat with friends, rather than an interview.

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Then, a Technical Coach assigned to the candidate meets them. This person will stay for the entire duration of the interview, helping out the candidate and enabling them to succeed. Each candidate is given a task which is a simulation of the everyday projects we work on at Altimetrik. More than anything, we evaluate the candidate’s approach to the given challenge.

The candidate is given a free rein on the medium - whiteboard, laptops, scratch pads, bean bags, standing desks - whatever makes them most comfortable. When they are done with a round, the Technical Coach has a discussion with them and with other stakeholders if any.

As you can see, there are only two closed rooms here, everything else is open. The entire room has been done up to avoid claustrophobia and encourage collaboration between people.

And what does the Hiring team look for in a candidate in a single day? How is the person assessed through this entire process?

So the actual candidate assessment process happens through 4 stages based on what we are looking for.

  1. Core Competency - The candidate takes a tech aptitude test, which takes about two hours or so. This is a basic test for core competencies and the candidate can take it before they come here or at the Playground. In our experience, the candidates prefer to take this test right here and that is why we’ve provided the workstations.
  2. Solutioning - The candidates are given a challenge that simulates actual problems we tackle at Altimetrik. In the solutioning round, we look for how they break down the problem and their approach to the solution. We assess if the candidate can understand the bigger picture here, and if they can see how they are contributing to the team and the company. The Technical Coaches are involved in all these rounds. 20170106_AltimetrikBlog_discussion.png
  3. Capability Center Index - While the candidate works on implementation of the solution from the previous round, the Technical Coaches and other stakeholders compute the Capability Center Index (CCI) score for the candidate. The CCI is based on scores assigned for various parameters in each round. Only if the CCI for a candidate is above a certain number, do they proceed to the next round.
  4. Behavioral Interview - Depending on whether the candidate is hired as an individual contributor or a leader, we look for different things in the behavioral interview. For an IC, we look for the focus they place on customers while solving a challenge, how innovative they are, what steps they take to align themselves to their teams. For a leader, we look for their ability to rally their team to the company and vice-versa, empathy and ability to add value to the customer.

How are you analyzing the success of the Playground?

It is through the interview app that I mentioned and Pramod took you through. The app is called Aspire. It contains all the details that a candidate would require - time, date, venue, address and navigation, the interview rounds involved, details about the Technical Coach. The aim of Aspire is to make information regarding the interviews, seamless and easily accessible to the candidate.

We also ask for feedback regarding the process from the candidates.

So far, we’ve been only getting 10/10 reviews on our Candidate Experience since Playground!

That is fantastic! I am truly happy that the effort Altimetrik has put into this innovation has paid off. Speaking of which, I also heard about your Capability Centers. Can you talk a little about that?

Sure! So we are in the software, services and solutions space, which means many of our clients work on a project basis. Our biggest priority would always be bringing down the time cycles for all our processes. At the same time, there should be no compromise in quality.  

These are the challenges we aimed to solve with a Capability Center. We build a team of talented full stack developers who will undergo rigorous training and upskilling. We continue to nurture until the right project comes up and then deploy them immediately. The Capability Centers give us a great control over the quality of the solutions we deploy, since we have hand-picked and trained the best people on board.The turnaround time is also vastly reduced, since the continuous nurturing ensures they hit the ground running.

It looks like Capability Centers share the same philosophy as talent pipelines, a popular practice advocated in Outbound Hiring - proactively selecting candidates and nurturing them. What is your take on talent pipelines?

I think building a talent pipeline is a must-have for companies these days. Any organization will only have a finite number of roles to fill. The skills required can be bucketed based on rarity and effort required to hire. Once this is done, choose the top bucket - rare skills and high effort to hire - and start sourcing to build a talent pipeline. Put them on a mailing list and keep in touch at least once a month.

If you know there will always be a demand for certain roles, it doesn’t make sense to wait until last minute to find a candidate.

Nothing brings down your time to hire and effort to hire like having a pipeline of nurtured candidates.

And what about Quality of Hire? Do you think a nurtured talent pipeline can help there too?

In general, I believe if you go outbound, your Quality of Hire will automatically improve - Outbound Hiring deals with passive candidates primarily. Candidates who are really talented always have opportunities coming their way - so they tend to be passive. Since these are the people we are now targeting, there is of course an improvement in quality.

That aside, yes - your talent pipeline obviously has only the people you think are really talented, that is why you’re putting in the effort. So this allows good control over who enters your hiring funnel.

Okay then, Keerthi. It has been fantastic talking talent with you. Any final thoughts before we’re off?

You know the empathy and understanding companies give their customers? Candidates should be treated the same way because if you think about it, they behave exactly like customers - they evaluate multiple options before making a decision, they value brands and they take to social media if they have any displeasure.

A candidate-centric approach like Outbound Hiring is the need of the hour as it focuses on treating people and right, and it brings the right people in.

A great company starts with its people and that starts at Talent Acquisition.

Here's a look into life and opportunities at Altimetrik:  

 

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