Inbound Recruiting at HubSpot: Q&A with Director of Recruiting Becky McCullough

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HubSpot’s Director of Recruiting reveals how the leader in inbound marketing practices inbound recruiting.

Becky McCullough, Director of Recruiting at HubSpot

Image: HubSpot. Banner Image: HubSpot.

Becky McCullough is the Director of Recruiting at HubSpot, a leading inbound marketing and sales platform with more than 19,000 customers in over 90 countries and six offices on four continents. Speaking on the phone, Becky revealed how HubSpot applies its inbound marketing savvy to talent acquisition, why interview training helps the company hire people who add to its culture, and why candidate experience is her recruiting team’s core mission.

“A scrappy, grassroots approach resonates with the modern candidate…”

HubSpot is a leader in inbound marketing. How does that shape recruitment?

We definitely make every effort to eat our own dog food on this one! [laughs] We are the leader in inbound marketing and we want to be the leader in inbound recruiting.

Often, when organizations think about talent marketing and inbound recruiting, they think about volume: how do I hit people with as much content as possible to maximize the number of individuals who convert into candidates? At HubSpot, we don’t focus on volume. We focus on being super-targeted and personal in the way we engage prospective candidates. Beyond simply telling our company’s story, we work to tell our company’s story in a way that resonates with each and every candidate who interacts with us. To do that, we develop candidate personas and strategize how to target those personas. And with every tactic we adopt, we’re always evaluating: what are our candidates going to think about this? How does this resonate with them? How is this going to improve their experience?

The big challenge that many companies face with recruitment marketing is that it’s a really time-consuming effort. I wrote a post on the Greenhouse blog about this. You really need to evaluate the tension between how human and personable your efforts are, and how scalable they are. That’s what we’re always trying to solve for, and whatever serves the candidate experience always wins out.

Is HubSpot’s approach significantly different from traditional recruitment marketing?

More traditional companies often lean on their brand in sweeping, one-sided campaigns. But more progressive companies make headway with recruitment marketing when they think of their brand as an interaction. We’ve really taken advantage of micro-interactions on our careers Slack channel, in Facebook Live videos featuring our recruiting team, at events, and in every micro-conversation we have with candidates. That has been much more impactful for us than a big brand-building campaign. A scrappy, grassroots approach resonates with the modern candidate who is looking for instant gratification in their engagement with companies.

How do you activate and manage employee advocacy on social media? Are there risks involved when you “hand over the keys” to company accounts?

It goes back to a core tenant of our culture: we put people first. We invest immensely in our employees because we want our them to really, truly love coming to work. When people have amazing experiences, when they love it here and they want to share it, we’d be silly not to take advantage. Whether we are asking for volunteers, or whether excited HubSpotters come to our team to ask if they can help with candidate cultivation, we are more than happy to oblige them.

There are risks, but frankly, we think they are pretty small compared to the benefits of giving employees that spotlight. As a company, we really value the phrase “use good judgment”. We don’t have a handbook, we have those three words. And so our employees know that they are brand ambassadors when we give them the keys – they know it reflects on them just as much as it does on HubSpot. So we really trust our employees, in that respect.

What are some of the ways you assess whether candidates reflect HubSpot’s “HEART” values: humble, effective, adaptable, remarkable, and transparent?

Culture is really tough to assess. It’s easy to fall into a “culture fit” pothole that negatively influences diversity in the work environment. Our biggest goal when we’re looking for people with HEART is to avoid solving for sameness. Instead, we want to evaluate people on how they would add to our culture. It’s a mindset; we’re not looking to see if a person embodies HEART in a familiar way, we’re asking ourselves if the person embodies HEART in different contexts than what we’re used to.

And so, we’ve been very focused on providing our interviewers with behavioral interview training. There is a lot of evidence that using past performance and experience as a predictor of future behavior is very effective. Regardless whether we’re talking to a twenty-year industry vet or a recent college grad, behavioral interviewing helps us learn how humble, remarkable, effective, adaptable, and transparent a candidate is. Educating our interviewers to focus on the attributes and separate them from the situations has been helpful for us in evaluating candidates for HEART.

“Our core mission is to create a remarkable candidate experience.”

Does providing interview training help make selection easier because everyone is starting with the same toolkit for evaluating candidates?

That’s the goal. We are still in early stages with this, but the goal is to set up interviewers to be more calibrated, focus more on data and observations and less on intuition, and provide more meaningful feedback to the candidate. That hopefully leads to smarter decisions and better hires.

The HubSpot Culture Code discusses the importance of delighting customers. Does delight also play a part in the candidate experience?

Delighting our candidates, creating that remarkable candidate experience is our core mission. Our core mission is not to hire on time. Our core mission is not to have this offer acceptance rate of 100 percent. Our core mission is to create a remarkable candidate experience. We want to make sure that every candidate – no matter how they interact with us, or how far they make it through our process – walks away with a positive experience.

We are super-focused on measuring our efforts. Like a lot of companies, we maintain a strong Glassdoor presence; we’re really proud of the positive interview feedback we receive. I personally follow up with candidates who report a negative interview experience, to learn about how we can get better. We also do a candidate experience survey: any candidate who interviews with HubSpot is given the option to evaluate their experience – both external and internal candidates. We use a simple Net Promoter Score-type question. We’re really proud, not only of the score that we get but the response rate that we get. Our candidates are engaged and happy to help us get better.

What one piece of inbound recruiting advice would you offer to talent leaders?

Start small. Think about what’s going to easily integrate into your existing workflows, and think about how you can measure it. Because as soon as you have data to demonstrate the success of your talent marketing efforts, you’ll get attention and support from your leadership team. That’s how you grow it into a program like the one we’re really proud of at HubSpot. It didn’t start with this huge, sweeping investment.

Start small, iterate frequently, measure often, and celebrate wins. Do that, and you’ll be on your way to a full-fledged recruitment marketing program.


Christian De Pape, Recruiting Social’s Head of Marketing and Content
About the author

Christian De Pape is Head of Marketing and Content at Recruiting Social. Connect with him on LinkedIn.


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