Companies are always on the lookout for talented people. In this interview series, we talk to seasoned HR professionals to pick their brains for ideas and insights on finding the right talent for our organizations.
Hi Amber, welcome to the series! Before diving in we'd love to get to know you a little better. Can you tell us what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve been passionate and focused on people since my first internship in product marketing when the CEO of the startup requested my help with onboarding and hiring—something I had never done before.
That was the turning point that helped me realize that, regardless of how good a product is, without top talent you can’t be successful.
Over the 20 years of my career since then, I’ve enjoyed working with talent: teaching skills, developing new operating models, and building global hiring-related priorities.
Before joining BCG, I held senior leadership positions at Intel, IBM, GE and Microsoft. I joined BCG because of the opportunity presented to transform our global recruiting organization in a unique, brand-new position.
Can you please give us your favorite "Life Lesson Quote" and how it's relevant to your life?
My personal motto in life is “Learn, Do, Teach, and Learn Again”. For me, it is crucial to never stop learning, apply what you learn to your personal and professional lives, and teach others how they can leverage what you discovered.
Something important I learned from my mother, and changed my outlook towards a lot of things, “If you work hard and always act with high integrity and good intentions, everything will fall into place.” Now I just focus on giving.
Are you working on any exciting new projects at your company? How is this helping people?
Today's talent cares about purpose, meaningful work and flexibility. BCG wants to tap into the best talent to build THIS and the NEXT generation's consulting firm. This is why we recently launched our candidate value proposition, the “Beyond is where you begin” campaign.
Internally, we know that BCG continues to solve real-world challenges with world-class solutions. However, externally, data shows perceptions of who we are and what we do might be a little different. We don’t just ‘consult’ or ‘think’ or ‘plan’. We are tech-savvy, innovation-driven doers. We take on the unprecedented for clients; explore topics, industries and roles outside our comfort zone.
“Beyond is where we begin” showcases how we as an organization strive to always be evolving. We also aim to empower and engage current employees by encouraging them to share their personal “Beyond” stories, attract prospective talent by showing them how they can make a difference at BCG, and reframe how people think about consulting.
Hiring can be very time-consuming and challenging. Can you share with our readers a bit about your experience with identifying and hiring talent? What's been your most successful recruitment-related initiative so far?
BCG’s greatest asset is our people, so identifying and hiring the best talent is crucial to our success. We’ve transformed talent acquisition as a function over the last 2 years, evolving not just how we interview but how we hire and attract by leveraging technology.
We look across industries, skill sets, and experience levels and beyond resumes to find the right combination of attitude and skills. Our team receives more than one million applications a year and we hire 1% of those applicants.
As I mentioned previously, our “Beyond is where we begin” campaign has been our biggest recruiting initiative to date and one that we’re excited to continue in 2023.
To make sure we’re finding and engaging with the right talent, we additionally take a high touch-high tech approach to hiring and attracting talent.
That initiative has been highly successful for us and involves the right tools and resources to deliver a positive candidate experience, including our BCGYou app for candidates looking to get more information on the firm, connect with current BCGers, apply for roles, prepare for cases, and find details on the interview process.
We also implemented OneDay@BCG, a virtual work experience program where candidates participate in modules on cases based on real-life simulations with topics ranging from digital transformation, strategy and experience design, data science, and climate and sustainability.
And, in addition, we offer CaseCoach, an online platform with BCG-tailored courses including live case practice with other candidates.
Once talent is engaged, what's your advice for creating a great candidate experience and ensuring the right people go through the process?
The talent market is growing fast, and companies will need to leverage technology in their recruiting to compete for talent in the future.
Outdated recruiting technology is a turn-off for talent, in particular Gen Z. In fact, industry research shows that 54% of them won’t complete a job application if they feel that employers’ recruiting methods are outdated.
I can also say that virtual recruiting is here to stay. Candidates and employees have faced unprecedented change and have new expectations about the recruiting process. Over 84% of organizations shifted their recruiting process to enable virtual recruiting. 42% invested and accelerated their digital recruiting capabilities.
Other than that, recruiters need to have strong partnerships with the hiring managers to align on priorities and not only ensure gaining the attention of the right candidates but also ensure having the right representation in the interview process.
Based on your experience, how can HR and culture professionals work with the broader organization to identify talent needs?
It’s important that there is open communication across the organization, especially the leadership team, so that everyone is aligned on priorities and organizational needs.
Having regular check-ins and cross-organizational leadership meetings ensures the HR team is aware of and can meet the talent needs of the organization.
We also think it’s incredibly important that there are open lines of communication between HR leaders and employees. Leadership needs to hear directly from employees about their experiences and needs to ensure they are meeting future employees’ needs as well.
Is there anything you see that recruiters, internal or otherwise, do regularly that makes you think, "No, stop doing that!"?
I’d say we need to cut out manual screening and hiring processes. We are fortunate enough to live in an era where technology is developing so fast every day.
There are so many innovative tools and techniques that can advance recruiters through every step of the hiring process, yet I still come across so many manual processes. Be sure to make use of all the high-tech resources that we have at hand!
With so much noise and competition out there, what are your top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven't already reached out to you?
According to LinkedIn, 70% of the global workforce is passive talent, with the remaining 30% actively seeking jobs. Therefore, the recruitment statistics show you may be missing out on a massive talent pool if your recruitment only targets active job seekers.
First, we look to build relationships with candidates by first educating them on what consulting is and how we do our jobs. This helps to build relationships with talent who are still figuring out the right career path for them.
We also want to take the time to listen and motivate top talent to explore life at BCG via end-to-end segmented and personalized moments.
We know that Gen Z and early career talent expect personalized experiences, and they are more likely to respond to employers with personalized outreach. How to balance 1:1 personalization is key, especially when recruiting larger volumes of candidates or for niche roles.
Additionally, we’ve introduced AI-enabled sourcing capability and it’s learning our ways to source suitable candidates with minimal supervision. With efficient profile screening, we have mapped and reviewed more than a million candidate profiles this year.
What are the three most effective strategies you use to retain employees?
We don’t rely only on compensation as a means to entice staff to stay. It is an important component—and we ensure that we are competitive—but what creates the stickiness is the experience that they have.
First, we want to maintain balance and sustainable working norms for our employees. It is all about the 5Rs - reinforcing, recognizing, reconnecting, recharging our teams, and reimagining the future.
We are all trying to find the right blend between work and life for our people. Their safety, well-being, and resilience should always be a priority.
For instance, at BCG, we have been investing in the future of work, including hybrid and remote teaming, offering our people flexible programs/policies in day-to-day working arrangements and leave of absence.
Secondly, we continue to find ways to engage our staff and build communities that support their BCG experience.
For instance, last year we launched Accessibility@BCG, a global community to support staff with physical disabilities, neurodiverse backgrounds, chronic illness, and mental health conditions, as well as staff who are caregivers to those facing such situations. This goes along with our culture of diversity and inclusion, something we are committed to with clear actions and transparency.
And, lastly, we provide career growth opportunities. Employees are much more likely to stay at an organization if they can see the company’s commitment to their upskilling and reskilling.
We offer our people multiple options to grow professionally, including encouraging them to join employee resources groups, making space for continuing education and volunteer time.
We also support tuition reimbursement for external courses. At BCG, we live by “One BCG, Many Paths”, BCGers have the chance to work and challenge themselves across our many industries and functional practice areas, and eventually choose the one that they are truly passionate about to focus on. The possibilities are limitless!
Can you share five techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill?
Personally, I would always try to keep an open-minded approach when it comes to identifying talent. The requirement for each role is different and nowadays there is such a variety of skills that one can possess.
Therefore, there are no “one size fits all” techniques that I use. However, at BCG, there are several aspects that we would always take into consideration when hiring.
1 . Leverage technology
An area we invest heavily in technology is skills tests. While skills tests and other evaluation tools have been around for decades, we have seen advancement in this area in recent years.
Skills tests allow us to screen candidates more effectively and shorten the hiring process. We look at behavioral assessments such as strong work ethic and motivation.
2 . Move Away From the Traditional Way of Hiring
We want to tap into pools of new diverse candidates, BCG has invested in partnerships with organizations like Management Leadership for Tomorrow and expanded outreach to HBCUs and HSIs.
We have also invested in giving diverse talent the tools to succeed and have expanded our early career programs.
These programs include Growing Future Leaders, Bridge to Consulting, and Discover BCG, all of which are designed to help underrepresented students develop the tools they need to succeed in their careers.
3 . Bring The Art and Science to Your Approach
We’ve built a bionic talent model that is leveraging innovation and data/analytics to drive better outcomes. Connecting all our functions (talent acquisition, learning, leadership development, workforce planning, performance management, onboarding) requires a common data thread that all systems can read, understand and translate.
4 . Understand What Talent Wants
It’s incredibly important that we understand what talent wants, by connecting to the market and conducting valuable research. From there, we evaluate our EVP to make sure we address the most important elements of what talent wants.
5 . Ensure You’re Tracking and Measuring Progress
How is talent recruited? Is your talent process bias free? Is your talent pool wide enough; are you recruiting in the same places? How are you interviewing? We have seen leveraging AI/technology has reduced bias by 20% and increased gender diversity to 46% of hires. We have incorporated blind resume reviews, more inclusive language, stories/impact of our diverse talent communities all as a result of evaluation.
Thank you for the insights Amber! How can our readers continue to follow your work?
Some further insights from the series