Creating an inclusive and enjoyable candidate experience with Tianna Johnson of Notion

Creating an inclusive and enjoyable candidate experience with Tianna Johnson of Notion

Recently, we interviewed Tianna Johnson, Head of Talent Operations at Notion, on the Talent + Tech podcast.

Before joining Notion, Tianna worked during the early days of GitHub back in 2015 when it was just 200 employees. Then, in 2017, she helped take Lyft from 700 employees, scaling it to 7,000. In May of 2020, Tianna was recruited to join Notion as their first Talent & People employee. She’s been fundamental to building a strong foundation for the talent teams at Notion and has played a critical role in scaling Notion from 35 employees to now 150.

During our conversation, which you can listen to via here, Tianna gave us an inside look into what it truly takes to foster an inclusive talent culture of excellence and curate an enjoyable experience for candidates who apply to join your company.

Here are 11 ideas you can apply today, to create an inclusive and transparent candidate experience (which we all know is fundamental to standing out in a candidate’s job market).

1. Bring the Aloha: Being from Hawaii, Tianna uses the phrase ‘Bring the Aloha’ when referencing her philosophy on candidate experience. She explained that it’s important to build culture, from the first interaction, by actively coaching and investing in others—most importantly the people who won’t get the job. You can show this sense of Aloha at your company by replying to, and investing in, each candidate who applies—whether they get an offer or not. For example, Tianna actively writes personal messages to every single person that took the time to put in an application at Notion.

2. The Early Days For People & Talent: When you are first starting out, especially if you are bootstrapping, you can create your own processes, build an in-house talent operation by ‘duct-taping’ processes and products together and/or work closely with an HR agency. The important thing here is to understand the drawbacks and benefits of each approach and when to transition out of them.

3. Leverage VCs and Investors as a Support Network: If you’re a venture-backed company it’s really important to lean into your investors as mentors as they can provide you with the necessary resources, help you source talent and engage a plug & play for your HR functions.

4. Knowing When to Have a Talent Team: The rule of thumb for Tianna of knowing when it’s the right time to bring in a ‘Talent & People’ person to your company is when you can’t learn from your investors or the agency you are partnering with anymore. When you’ve hit that point, you need someone to build out your talent strategy—someone who can build your operations, someone who can help you to think about compliance, someone that gives you reporting and data, someone that can help you figure out your tech stack and essential training from start to finish.

5. Strengthen the Four Pillars of Talent Ops: There are four pillars to Talent Operations that you will need to reinforce at the various stages of your scaling process:

  • Formulate a clear talent strategy – This includes shaping how your operational efficiency, your compliance, your metrics, and unique talent insights are all functioning together.
  • Find the right tech stack – Find the best tools for your team to do their best work.
  • Implement critical programs and training – Discovering the kinds of programs and training you need to implement that gets everyone to do their best work.
  • Invest in the candidate experience – You have to make sure what you are doing is making the candidate feel special.

6. Treat Candidates As Users: You must be users first, think from a problem-based, not a solution-based standpoint. Give candidates the attention they deserve. Show that you value their time and effort. Provide them with the resources to be their authentic selves throughout the entire process. Tianna recommends creating interview guides for every stage to show the candidates what the process looks like and what to expect.

Make sure to read Notion’s candidate guides: Notion’s Hiring Guides and Working at Notion.

7. Recruiting Funnels Done Right: Vet thoroughly upfront as much as you can. This will save both the interviewer and candidate time. Place candidates in front of a decision-maker as early as possible—someone who can decide whether this person will be an actual fit for that person in that specific role—to move to the next round. Limit your interviews to five rounds.

For their Applicant Tracking System, Notion uses Greenhouse and for HRIS, they use Rippling.

8. Analyzing Resumes and Cover Letters: Ask yourself questions about motivations and why they are applying to the role. If they don’t have the prerequisite skills in the resume, make sure to look carefully through their cover letter to figure out if there’s something you missed. Try to understand how and where the person has made a difference in their professional lives previously.

9. Design Intentional Interviews: When interviewing a candidate you have to think through which attributes are the must-haves for the role you are recruiting for. You have to structure your questions intentionally to give you the right data point so you can measure the specific attributes. For example, on a scale of 1 to 5, what answers would give you an indication of hitting those markers you are looking for.

10. Spotting a Great Candidate: Tianna has noticed the best candidates come to the interview prepared, they know what the product is, they know the mission of the company. Their personal values closely match the company’s values. They understand that job searching is a matchmaking process, as a result, they interview the company as much as the company interviews them.

11. Spotting Great Recruiters: They have strong soft skills—they are warm and truly care about helping others, they’re people who can really think through a diversity and inclusion lens. Great recruiters are passionate about matchmaking people to the ideal jobs that the candidates seek and, in particular, are able to have an honest conversation with candidates and ask, “Is this the right thing for you?”

Bonus Idea: Tianna’s favorite question to ask during an interview is: “How do you decide and prioritize your time? On a busy day with tons of different commitments and obligations, how do you determine what gets done?” This allows her to see the candidate’s thought process in dealing with time management and gauge how they would fare in their fast-paced work environment.

Companies that truly excel at this experience will attract the best candidates and stay ahead of the game. As you create an inclusive, transparent, and innovative candidate experience, you set a powerful foundation for your company to thrive and scale dynamically.

 

If you liked this podcast and are interested in learning more about candidate experience check out our conversation about Leveraging the power of community with Malinda Coler from LessonsUp.

Be sure to check out Tianna’s go-to podcasts, This American Life and Second Life.

Photo of Tianna Johnson
Tianna Johnson

Head of Talent Operations at Notion 🚀, Ex-Lyft 🚗 and GitHub 🐙

Maren Kate
Today, my guest is Tiana Johnson. She's currently the Head of Talent Operations and Programming for everybody's favorite productivity app Notion which we use a lot here at Avra Talent. And previously, she worked at awesome startups like Lyft and GitHub. Tiana, I'm super excited to have you on the show today.

Tianna Johnson
Thank you so much for having me.

Maren Kate
Absolutely. And it's funny because over the last year we've begun using Notion more and more and now I use it obsessively. It's kind of like our point of truth for our fully remote company so a big fan of what you all are building there.

Tianna Johnson
So great to hear that.

Maren Kate
Yeah, I've become a super user to have Notion both personally and professionally. I actually looked at I know, there's a site I saw the other day, like there's a woman whose entire business is helping people become super users of Notion. I was like, that's amazing. I considered actually taking it. So I wanted to know, I always like to ask people that are in talent and talent professionals, what was your first job?

Tianna Johnson
So my first job a little bit of context is I grew up in Hawaii on the island of Oahu. And so growing up there, you learn how to swim and surf. And so I was in competitive aquatics, water woman from the age of about seven. And so my first my first job was lifeguarding and teaching private swim lessons, which carried through into college. In college, I went to school in LA and ended up starting my own aquatics business there. There's a pretty big community of people in the Los Angeles area that have private pools, so I started picking up clients. Yeah. I started a company there, which then transitioned into my first job out of college, one of my clients actually connected me with a high school that was down in the Los Angeles area that was looking for an aquatics director to come in and build out all of their programming and then run their program, which was my first job out of college, which was pretty exciting. So very much up my alley, being a competitive swimmer and water polo player.

Maren Kate
Oh, my gosh, so that leads to the other thing, I'm always curious, how I feel like recruiting and talent is, there's not like a direct path. I feel like I've never talked to anyone that's like, “How did you get in this profession?” “Oh, I, you know, I studied it in college, or I knew I wanted to do this from when I was in high school.” So, I guess, how did you go from there to what you're doing now?

Tianna Johnson
That's a great question. So I didn't even know what talent and recruiting was up until I would say a few jobs into tech. And so learning how to build a business from the ground up and doing HR and doing the recruiting and having to hire on and train people. A lot of those translatable skills helped me to get my first job in tech. So I knew after about eight years working in nonprofit, especially moving up to the Bay Area where I had to have a couple of jobs working in nonprofit just to pay the bills. I was like, Oh, it would be great to work for one company where I can pay all my bills and get paid in money and not hugs. And coincidentally, my roommate from college was working for an ad tech company. And they had just gone through some major shifts, and they were looking for someone to come in and run what was called their people function. And I didn't know what that meant. And the company had just downsized from about 170 to 30 people and they were in this like crazy rebuilding phase. They were rebranding, they were pivoting the product. And they needed someone to come in and be a culture builder, someone to provide coaching and really invest in the team. My roommate from college was like, we need someone to bring the Aloha and I was like, I can do that. That was my first job in tech. And it was definitely something where I was able to understand what HR meant, and really what recruiting meant in a technical sense, versus recruiting swimming instructors or lifeguards to work for me or things like that. So that was really how things kicked off into my tech career. And I had the opportunity in 2015 to join GitHub, pretty early days, coming in as one of the first group of people hires. When I joined the company at about 200 It was a very small team. We were really building things from the ground up. So the engineers had really been running everything up until that point. And I didn't realize that what I was doing at the time was called Talent Ops, or that that was even a thing then. But it was just about taking some of my skills from HR, and knowing a little bit about compliance and knowing what not to do building my own business helped me to build out some pretty good solid process for them, and helping to really set some of the foundation, which how I got the talent bug, where I was like, Oh, this is amazing. You can hire people and really match make them to their ideal job. That part was really exciting. And then I joined Lyft shortly after, in around 2017, where I was able to really refine a lot of my talent skills, like refine a lot of the talent ops pieces, and scale the company. We grew about ten x in three years. So we went from 700 to about 7000 when I left, which was massive growth. It was so many scaling problems that I had never dealt with before. But it was amazing. Because I was learning on the fly. I was continuing to add more tools to my toolkit, and just like learn more and more things about the space, which led me to this hole at Notion
where I came on a little over a year ago as our first People hire. I joined in March of 2020. And they were really looking for someone to come in and help build the foundation of how the Talent Team and the People Team would would grow and scale. As we were looking to go from about 35 people. We just landed at about 150, which is really exciting.

Maren Kate
That's that really leads me to a question I was really curious about asking you is when you say you were the first people hire there, were there full time recruiters already working at the company, or this was the first talent person period?

Tianna Johnson
Yeah, this was the first talent and people person period.

Maren Kate
So you were doing everything when you jumped in. You were doing screens, you were setting up the ATS.

Tianna Johnson
Yes. So when There were a couple of agencies that were helping to do some of the hiring. The VCs have have been really supportive. And they were really helping a lot of candidates, but they had been in a period where they weren't really growing because they they just didn't need to. And so when I joined, they knew that they were going to need to hire someone to lead the function. So it was a lot of foundational things. So we didn't have an ATS, we didn't have an HRIS ully baked out. There wasn't really a lot of process. So it was a lot of building from scratch and then having to take a lot of the things that had been duct taped together and creating them.

Maren Kate
So first of all, what ATS and which HRIS does Notion use?

Tianna Johnson
We are using Greenhouse for our ATS. And then for our HRIS we recently just rolled out Rippling.

Maren Kate
Okay, cool. Yeah, We've used Greenhouse. I've heard of Rippling. I haven't tried it out yet. I know that's big in the tech sector. It was one of the guys that started Zenefits or something, right?

Tianna Johnson
I think so I don't have too much context, we have someone who leads our people operations.

Maren Kate
She's handling all that.

Tianna Johnson
Exactly. She's like my co pilot on the on the people ops side.

Maren Kate
A lot of the people that will be listening to this or reading what we put together will be either in talent ops, or they're an early founder, and they're doing it all themselves. When is the right size? Or how do you think about when someone should be like, Alright, I'm going to shift from working with an outsourced recruiting firm or like at Avra, help people, we connect them with vetted recruiters who can augment their team or can stand in as an interim Talent Team. But there's always a point where you need just to have a full time people person. And when do you when do you think that is? For tech companies specifically, for startups?

Tianna Johnson
I think it depends a little bit on how the relationship is built between the agency and the company and what that type of partnership looks like. I also think it depends on the headcount. So if you're looking to hire you know, 50 engineers over the next 18 months That's a lot of money to pay to an agency. And so I think if it makes business sense, from a financial perspective to hire an in house team, that's around the time that I typically tell companies to start thinking about it. I think that there's some agencies that partner really well, with startups that are almost like an in house team for that startup. And so, in those types of relationships, I think sometimes those can sustain a little bit better and longer because it really feels like they're embedded in the team and they're a part of the company versus agencies that are just sending a lot of volume.

Maren Kate
Yeah, like the traditional contingency agencies, where it's like, here's a resume, we're gonna take 25% if you decide to, but you still have to run the whole process.

Tianna Johnson
Exactly. So I think, for me, I always tell companies that I consult with, when you hit the point where you really need someone to build out your talent strategy. So when you need someone to build out the operations, and you need someone to think about compliance, or you need someone to be able to give you reporting and metrics and help you figure out your tech stack, that's potentially a time that you need to think about, if you can't lean on your investors, or like the partnership with your agency, that's probably the time that you should think about bringing someone in house.

Maren Kate
I agree. And when you say the leaning on your investors, I've heard mixed reviews, some VCs have fully built out talent functions that that plug into startups. What have you guys experienced with yours? What type of support have they been able to give you, and where is the point like, hey, we need to find other resources.

Tianna Johnson
I think that one of the best VCs that I've worked with, they were an investor in both GitHub and Lyft with Sequoia. And they were really hands on anytime we needed help filling a hard role. They had a team that worked with the startups of our size, that I think we were really able to plug in and get mentorship from them in some ways. We have one of our VCs, now at Notion, which is First Round, that does a ton for us there, they've been truly amazing and a really great partner, as well as A Capital that has been helping to field candidates our way, if I need information on compensation data, they have a ton of information. And they have eyes into a lot of other startups that are your size and your stage. So a lot of the data that they have, they want to help the companies in their portfolio. You can really trust I think, a lot of that information, which has been at least my experience working with the VCs, and that partnership.

Maren Kate
So how do you guys structure now, going through 35 to 150? What is the talent operations? What does it look like now?

Tianna Johnson
So I think that at different stages in the company, ideally, the pillars that are built out, in my mind of what talent operations encompasses, it's pillar one is that talent strategy, which owns operations, efficiency, compliance, your metrics, your talent, insights, all of that. Pillar two is really like a tech stack. So what are the best tools to help your team do their best work? The third piece is around programs and training. So what sort of programs or what sort of trainings do you need to do? And the fourth is, really, in my opinion, the biggest one that sets teams apart, candidate experience. So what are doing to make people feel like going through the process with you is different. So, that's in my opinion what sets apart good from great teams. And at different points during your scaling, you're gonna want to focus on the different parts of the pillars, but I think candidate experience is one that people often forget, that you should think about, all the time at every single stage, because that's how you build your early brand.

Maren Kate
It’s so true, and we've seen that, working with a bunch of startups, we see that over and over. Candidate experience, I think it's easy to drop because especially when it’s early, everybody's doing so many things, everybody's wearing so many hats when it's just 10 people and the founders are all engineers, It's hard for them to manage that. But we have noticed, especially in competitive talent, in times like right now, it is so hard to, everybody is hiring and everybody is looking for tech talent, especially. So with the candidate experience how have you developed that at Notion like what is what is the the experience look like or someone, were applying and then went through the process all the way to offer letter? What does that look like?

Tianna Johnson
Yeah, so I would call this is my personal principle on how candidate experience should be. I tell my team all the time, one of our principles is showing a sense of aloha. So to every single candidate that applies to us, whether they are they get an offer from us, whether they withdraw from the process, no matter what happens, how do we make them feel appreciated? How do we make them feel supported? How do we make them feel valued? And how do we make sure that they feel set up for success, and that we're approachable and warm. So like that feeling when the airplane lands, when you're on vacation, and you're like about to start and the music starts playing, you're handed, you know, your drink, that feeling of like, all I have to do is relax and I can do this is the feeling that we want to leave candidates with is the only thing that they need to do is be able to be their authentic self going into these interviews because they feel prepared.

Maren Kate
That's fascinating. How does that look when a you're having to disqualify a candidate, when they don't have the experience? Or, you know, maybe it's a role that calls for detail orientation, and there's a bunch of misspells in the application? How are you able to represent that even when the outcome, so to speak, is like going to be not what they wanted?

Tianna Johnson
One of the things that we think a lot about on my team is our written messaging, and then the way that we communicate with candidates. So what would feel the best? What would feel the best to someone in this position? And then how do we communicate it in an empathetic and warm way. And that's that's something that we do with our customer service team, that's something that we try to do in recruiting to just have that sense of customer voice where, and being direct about why we're deciding not to move forward, so people don't feel left in the dark. And we found that a lot of people really value the transparency.

Maren Kate
That's, fascinating. Because I feel like there's kind of two schools of thought there. It's like, if you're too specific, you can get in trouble, not get sued, but you know what I mean? Would an example be if it's something where written communication is very important? And there's a bunch of misspells or grammar errors? Would you be as specific to say, like, hey, this role requires detail orientation, one thing we noticed was blank?

Tianna Johnson
Especially if it's someone who's pretty early in their career, a lot of them are really hungry to know, what can I be doing better? How can I set myself apart? And sometimes, I'll go in, and I'll even write them a personal note and be like, Hey, I just wanted to give you more context on this, if you want to do some resume work shopping with me, I'm happy to circle back with you to help you do this. And so I think our team is very much from the mindset of, helping others and trying to help coach people. And so one of our big things is we write messaging to every single person that applies to us. So it's not just a canned automated, like you apply to go into a black hole, we actually make sure that we message every single person that took the time to put in an application to us.

Maren Kate
That's very, very rare, especially, at the size you guys are at, and I can only imagine the amount of inbound applicants that are coming. Thinking in terms of, I call it a recruiting funnel, what is that initial application look like? You're using Greenhouse? How are you treating inbound applications?

Tianna Johnson
Yeah, so with the inbound applications, we ask questions, it depends on the role, but we try to ask some questions up front about, what someone's motivations are to apply for the role and then give them an opportunity to also submit a cover letter if for some reason, they don't have the work experience that might be required for the role. We read through all of the cover letters to see okay, is there something that we're missing, or is there something that we might not be Seeing that could be a translatable skill.

Maren Kate
That you could miss from the resume.

Tianna Johnson
Exactly. And this ties back to one of our company values is ‘puts users first.’ And so for us, one of the big things that we talked about on the Talent Team is, our candidates are our users. And so how do we make sure that we are really giving them the thought and the attention that they deserve when they're taking the time to apply to us and write out answers for us?

Maren Kate
I think that's a really good point. Yeah, I didn't even think about it that way. I just assumed that everybody uses a canned cover letter. But you're right, especially when people are earlier in the career and it might not make the resume and might not tell a story. Okay, so it's pretty much the initial application is starting out, optional cover letter, probably required resume, something about like, what what interests you in this job? How do you see it tying into your career? Like why Notion versus somewhere else?

Tianna Johnson
Yeah, and then with some of our roles, understanding what someone has done to make a difference is a big part of what that team is looking for. And so sometimes we'll ask them questions about like, have you had an experience where you've tried to make a difference in this particular area? If so, please, let us know more information on this? Because that's a data point that is just as valuable for that potential role. As someone being in the role before.

Maren Kate
How much time/how many questions can you ask of an inbound applican before It's too much and you're worried they're gonna bounce? How do you think about this? I'm always thinking about, what is the right time commitment that respects, because most people who apply are not going to get the job. That's just like the basics. So how do you approach that?

Tianna Johnson
We try to have it if you make it to the Greenhouse page, and you go to apply, and you're submitting your application, once you upload your resume, a lot of it auto populates for your personal information. And we're trying to keep the questions so you could answer them in under a minute. And we try to have no more than three.

Maren Kate
Okay, so you're pretty much saying in four minutes, someone can put this through.

Tianna Johnson
Yeah, exactly.

Maren Kate
We all see this in talent and recruiting and talent ops, there are people that just do not try, they upload a resume, they put like N/A, N/A, N/A, N/A or whatever. We always ask for your LinkedIn. And they'll literally copy and paste like linkedin.com. What do you think the percentage of people that are just really kind of phoning it in? Versus the percentage of people that are authentically like excited about Notion and working there, whether or not they get the job?

Tianna Johnson
So at Notion, I would say we don't get a ton of those types of applicants, I think part of it is because we're still quite small and we're still trying to build brand awareness. I can say that at Lyft, where we were getting 10s of 1000s of applicants a week. And we were going through that many applicants, we would have a lot of really interesting answers, or people phoning it in that were just doing the mass supply. A lot of that, so I would say it was probably maybe 25% at Lyft, but at Notion because the pool of inbound applicants tends to be quite smaller. And people are either users of Notion, or the way that they made it to our careers page is not because we have like massive brand awareness in certain spaces we do in like engineering, product design, but like in the people space, for example, we do quite a bit of sourcing. And so I think that we have much less people that have been phoning it in at least at Notion from what I've seen.

Maren Kate
That's really nice. And you're probably also not paying for a bunch of job ads where people do things like the auto submit. Okay, that's great. I love that. So after the written application, the same thing kind of applies, what can you do while respecting the other person and knowing most of the people aren't going to make it all the way through? What do you actually ask for at different levels? And so just roughly, obviously, not giving away the secret sauce but, what is your general recruiting funnel look like that every role goes through regardless if its Senior Engineer or Junior Customer Support Person?

Tianna Johnson
Typically what we try to do is we try to vet pretty thoroughly, upfront as much as we can just to save interviewer time to save candidate time. And so at Notion, what we do is we try to put them in front of a decision maker as early in the process as possible. So someone who can actually decide whether that person is going to be someone that will be a fit for the role to move forward into the next round. So, typically, for us, our recruiters do the first call with someone, sometimes it's actually a hiring manager. So we have a lot of our leaders that like to do sourcing themselves that are really at Notion like everyone loves to hire even our CEO, he still wants to interview every single person who potentially is going to join Notion, which is incredible. And he loves interviewing. And so our leaders are very, very willing to get on and be like the first or second call with someone to help us decide whether they would be the right person for the team. And so we typically try to make that decision maker conversation happen pretty early. That way we can really get some of that information upfront, in the essence of time, we are about to implement a rule that we're going to make sure that someone does not have more than five rounds of interviews.

Maren Kate
That's a good number. I think anything more than that is just as too much.

Tianna Johnson
Yes, and t's too many data points that sometimes just muddle the decision making. And so that's one of the things that we're really pushing for to improve the candidate experience. And then when we are thinking about how we're building out our structured interviews, our team is spending a lot of time thinking about what are the attributes that we're really looking for that are must haves for these roles? And then what is a question that will give us a data point for that for measuring if that person has this attribute? And if it's a scale of one to five? What would be an answer that would give us indication of that. So we're trying to be very thoughtful about our interview questions. To really think about that part. So we're not just asking random questions, and then not having something that we're trying to measure.

Maren Kate
What's your favorite interview question to ask?

Tianna Johnson
Oh, I'm currently hiring for some coordinators on my team. And one of the questions that I really like to ask coordinators is how do you decide how to prioritize your time and what gets done. And so I'm sure you can relate in the talent space. Sometimes it's managing chaos, and there's not enough hours in the day, and there's so many things to do. And just understanding how someone thinks through prioritization and time management and problem solving. That gives me a lot of insight into how they would approach a lot of the different things that they might encounter it Notion.

Maren Kate
I like that, that's a good one, I might have to test that one out. On the flip side of that, what do you see the best candidates doing that most don’t.

Tianna Johnson
This is an ongoing discussion with our team, we always talk about how the best candidates come prepared to the conversation, knowing what our product is, knowing what our mission is, knowing what our values are. And we have prep documentation that we send to everyone. We build out a really custom interview guide for most departments and most roles, so they know exactly.

Maren Kate
So they know where they are in the process. Oh, that's, that's clever. I've always not done that. Because I'm like, you can find it online. So if you're proactive, you do it. But that's actually a really good idea.

Tianna Johnson
Yeah, it's one way that we can also demo Notion to them. So if they've never used Notion, we're able to build out these really cool interview guides for them that really guide them through the process. But I would say the ones who come prepared knowing and have read over the interview guide material, they're able to come with really good questions to ask us because one of the biggest mistakes that I see candidates doing when they're in a job search is they forget that it's a matchmaking process. They forget about their self worth and that they should be interviewing the company just as much as the company should be interviewing them. Because it's not one sided and if you want to ensure long term match, candidates really need to ask questions and ask things they're really going to want to know that are deal breakers for them. Like do their personal value sets align with the company's personal value set? So that's like a big thing that I think differentiates between really great candidates, and then the ones that often have a miss.

Maren Kate
Yeah, that's a really good point. I tell people that a lot is the idea of you're also interviewing the company. I kind of hate the analogy to dating, but it's not it's not completely incorrect, where you don't want to say yes, just because so you ask someone out, you're not gonna say yes to marry someone just because they're like, Hey, are you interested? You need to do that double vetting. And I think it's something that often when we're looking for a job, we forget about it. And you're right, it's almost like we get frazzled. And, I've done it, versus digging in and saying, This is going to be a dual process. I love that customer interview guide, I'm totally going to try to make one for ourselves.

Tianna Johnson
I can send you the link to ours.

Maren Kate
Please do, that's amazing. As you see me scribbling notes, that's what I'm doing. So this is like a little meta, but who do you think makes the best recruiters, how do you recruit for talent professionals,

Tianna Johnson
I would say that soft skills, for me, are almost more important than some of the hard skills. So someone who is warm, someone who truly cares about helping others, someone who can really think through things from a diversity and inclusion lens. So someone who is like just kind of has that innate sense of being a people person and a people geek, as I call it, is something that, for me is really important. I think that talent professionals, you have to be passionate about that matchmaking piece, and you have to be passionate about it not just being about a button seat, but someone who truly is going to be able to thrive at the company, especially if you're in house that, for me is really important, is being able to have the honest conversations with candidates about is this really the right role for you, is this the direction that you want to go, and being able to really coach someone and be there, guide through a really vulnerable process, that feels really uncomfortable, because a lot of people have a hard time pitching themselves, or highlighting things that they do really well. And so those types of qualities, for me are really important, as well as being a good communicator and a team player. And someone that really values partnerships, so recruiters who value the partnership with their coordinators, and with their hiring managers, and can really like network and be like a good partner, because it's a two way street. I think those are the people that I tend to look for when I'm hiring for our team.

Maren Kate
And what about the hard skills? Because there's going to be people that have a lot of those soft skills, but if they don't, I mean, one of the things I always think about is detail orientation, and the ability to, you know, just document, keep organized, keep processes, like that's super important in this type of work. What are hard skills that you think are non negotiables?

Tianna Johnson
Yeah, so for me, someone who is able to operate in the gray is really important. So like someone who has good judgment and can make good decisions when it comes to problem solving. The other piece that I think is really important, that you mentioned, is attention to detail, and the ability to follow process because especially as you get to a place to where the company wants to get acquired or they want to IPO, operational excellence is a key factor in that and so, and documentation that's really, really big, is someone who's really good about knowing what to document and what not to document in an auditable system is really important. And typically, you can see that, like, when you're reading someone's resume, or like you're able to kind of read through their cover letter, how do they document and pull out the things that they've done that are most impactful.

Maren Kate
Mm hmm. Yeah, yeah, I think one of my favorite things to recruit for and to think about is what makes a great talent professional and and on both sides. There's definitely people that have a lot of experience and that show all these things. But I'm also very interested in people that maybe have never thought about the talent or the people world but have those innate soft skills, and then have interest in either a company or maybe a type of thing, like we have a product recruiter and she doesn't have a background in product. But she has that design aesthetic. She a huge people person, she understands how those those things work together. And it's made her a phenomenal recruiter for product designers, product management, like product anything she can just crush on. And so I'm always looking to think about the backstory, what other things if people done their life work wise, that could actually lend very well to talent.

Tianna Johnson
Yeah, that creativity piece, I feel like is something that is becoming more and more essential. So like, if you want to do something that's differentiated, like having someone who comes from a different background sometimes is really great, because they can come up with some creative way to do something in a way that you haven't thought of before. So I totally agree on that. I think that there's a lot of people that come from, like the customer service kind of sales side of things, too, that have become really great recruiters, as well as at Lyft, we actually had some people who decided to go from software engineering into becoming technical recruiters. So they had done the job of software engineer, and decided to make the transition to be more into like a people centric role where they were really passionate about matchmaking other software engineers to software engineering roles, having been one before, which I think is really helpful, because they have that technical piece.

Maren Kate
They have that domain expertise. Awesome. Well, we're almost at a time, this has been so interesting to just understand how you think about talent ops and how Notion runs, it seems like you guys have really got that nailed down, which is amazing. So besides Notion, what product or tool do you rely on to do your best work day to day.

Tianna Johnson
So we dog food Notion. So as you as you probably heard, we use it for everything. I would say the two biggest game changer tools, in my opinion that have come about in the last couple of years. One of them is Gem. And Gem is a sourcing tool that you can use for running drip campaigns. And it's a way that you can do like really beautiful communications to candidates. It's another way that you can also build nurture campaigns. So say that someone falls out of your pipeline, or you don't have a role that's ready for them, you can essentially run a nurture campaign with them in the same tool. You don't have to like punt it over to your marketing team to do demand gen., which I think is really great. And then the other tool that we actually just rolled out in the last six months that has been game changing for us is Ashby Analytics.

Maren Kate
Okay, I thought that was just a ATS I didn't realize there was analytics too.

Tianna Johnson
Yeah, so we just use Ashby for doing our reporting and dashboarding. And we are able to pull these really beautiful dashboards that we're able to use data to tell a story where we don't have to have a really complicated BI tool like Looker or Tableau, but we can build them and they're visualized. They're easy to build. And the cofounders have been really, really amazing to work with, in helping us build out a bunch of our dashboards. So they're probably like, the tool that we rely on the most and that we're in the most.

Maren Kate
So I can't wait to check that out. That's amazing. And then my last question before I just ask how people can find more about you and Notion. But what is your favorite podcast or book from the last year?

Tianna Johnson
So I have two podcasts that I listen to pretty regularly. One is This American Life. Oh, yeah, the best which is like super popular. And this other one that I've been really fascinated with, it's called Second Life. And it's about people who have gone through a career transition. And it talks about how they got into what they're doing now. And so there's some really interesting stories. And so being in the talent space, like you hear about just people making these really drastic changes, and it's really, really fascinating to hear the why.

Maren Kate
I love that. Oh my gosh, I'm gonna binge that on my flight to New York. Tianna, this was so amazing. Thank you for taking the time. Thank you guys for making what you do at Notion. How can people find out more about you and Notion online?

Tianna Johnson
You can find more about me you can look me up on LinkedIn. It's just LinkedIn backslash Tianna with two Ns T-I-A-N-N-A last name Johnson and then check out Notion at Notion.so. You can find a lot of information we just launched our blog. We have a bunch of information on there more about our careers pages. You can see a lot of our interview guides that we link on the careers page too if you want to look, we have a lot of interview resources on there too. So feel free to click around and see what we've built.

Maren Kate
Awesome, and I'm going to totally email you about that Interview Guide too.

Tianna Johnson
Sounds great.

Maren Kate
Okay, thanks so much for joining us.

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