Sean Page podcast interview – how marketing companies can improve recruitment processes

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Joining me on this episode of the podcast is the fantastic Sean Page, discussing how marketing companies can improve their recruitment processes.

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(Full transcript at bottom of page.)

Sean is a non-traditional Recruiter who works in the tech space. He was born and raised in Washington, DC in the United States. His passion is all things recruiting, people ops, and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) – which we touch upon in the episode in relation to recruitment.

In the episode we discuss:

  • Where the recruitment process is broken for marketing companies.
  • What differences he’s noticed when working with POC talent and non POC candidates.
  • His response to the comment “we don’t need more POC at this company, we need more talented people?”
  • Why he thinks companies are so reluctant to change their processes.
  • What changes does he think the industry needs to make to be better.
  • Thoughts on interview processes that are several stages long.
  • Advice for companies considering changing their processes.

…and so much more!

As always, if you enjoyed this, and previous episodes, please like, rate, share, and subscribe to the podcast – it all helps!

Useful Links:

Podcast Anchor Page: https://anchor.fm/azeemdigitalasks

My Twitter page: https://twitter.com/AzeemDigital

My website: https://iamazeemdigital.com/

Sean’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/SeanTalentW

Sean’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sean-page-capm/

Episode Transcript

Azeem Ahmad:
Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the Azeem Digital Asks podcast, the all-around digital marketing podcast where I touch on the usual stuff: Facebook, Instagram, SEO, all that normal stuff. And then topics like today, which I am really excited about. Today’s topic is all about how marketing companies can improve their recruitment processes to ensure more POC talent comes through. And nobody better to discuss this and my brilliant guest today, Sean Page. So I’m going to steal his Twitter bio and then let him give himself a proper introduction. So Sean is a talent brand manager for diversity equity, inclusion and belonging DEIB specialist. This is what I show up loud. Sean, welcome to the show.

Sean Page:
Yeah, no, thank you so much for having me, Azeem. I’m really excited to be on today just for your audience. And just so you can kind of learn a little bit more about myself. My name is Sean Page. I’m a non-traditional recruiter who works in the tech space. Currently I work for a company called Webflow and right now just a little bit more about my background. I was born and raised in Washington, DC in United States. And then prior to switching to tech, I actually worked in the nonprofit and government sectors. So I did a lot of cool work where I was like a communications professional for union. I also worked as a project manager for NGO that worked for the centers of disease control and prevention.

Sean Page:
And then also I worked for my first startup role, which was at a resume writing company called Let’s Eat, Grandma. I started off at that company and I worked my way up to becoming their first HR director. And so that’s just a little bit about my career history and then just overall myself. I’m very passionate when it comes to all things, recruitment, people ops and diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, which I tweet about often.

Azeem Ahmad:
Love that, perfect introduction. And as I said, no better person to discuss this very, very important topic. So really looking forward to learning more from you. So let’s dive straight into it. Where do you think the recruitment process is broken for companies?

Sean Page:
Yeah, I think that’s a really heavy question. I think there are just so many areas in which recruitment processes are kind of broken today, but I think it really just fundamentally starts with leadership. So, a lot of times leadership looks at recruitment as transactional at a lot of organizations. And I’m sure the people who are listening who are candidates, I’m sure you feel that way a lot when you’re in hiring processes. And so, you have a lot of CEOs who will say that recruitment’s are number one priority, but then when you look at their glass doors, you go on fishbowl, you go on all these like whisper channels, people were saying otherwise. And so there’s this disconnect between leaderships and the actual on the ground recruiters who are going through and doing these processes every day with hiring managers.

Sean Page:
And I think a lot of that fundamentally comes down to the fact that many recruitment processes don’t censor their primary customer, what should be the candidate. And so there’s a lot of times people who are going through recruitment processes often times, they don’t feel as though they’re being listened to. They don’t feel like they’re being treated properly as a candidate. And then on the hiring side of things, a lot of times companies are really leaning into their systematic biases, and wonder looking at candidates. And so there’s just a lot of disconnect between how people are identifying talent or how people are calling talent in their pipelines.

Sean Page:
And so at the bottom line, I think a lot of the problem stands for the fact that companies really focus too heavily, I think on their own timeline and bottom line and their hiring manager needs and their interviewer’s time, instead of also factor in candidate experience, understanding what candidates want, understanding what their drivers are. And so when you de-center candidates, this just causes a lot of bias to be the primary driver of decisions when it comes to hiring. And so who’s the loser in that situation? Candidates. And so I think that is just really the heart and the center of why these processes are really broken today.

Azeem Ahmad:
That answer right there really solidifies the reason why I reached out to you and wanted to get you on the show. I’m quite happy to end the episode now. Thanks very much for calling. I’m joking. Look, there’s so much to unpack. Thank you very much for sharing that. One of the things I want you to unpack a little further is where you were talking about talent and separating talent. So I’d love to learn from you soon. What differences have you noticed when you’ve worked with POC talent and non POC talent?

Sean Page:
Yeah, so I would just say from my personal experience, I find that POC talent tends to have a better understanding of their own experiences, their biases and abilities. Because, POC talent are constantly in homogenized spaces or white spaces in which they don’t see a lot of themselves. They tend to be more self-aware and they understand how to navigate difficult situations and personalities better, because they are the other in that situation. But also too, another thing that I wanted to mention I think, also there’s other identities that kind of ties into that self-awareness as well. Because, when we talk about diversity, I think POC is just one dimension of that diversity. So, POC talent that also come from other underserved backgrounds, like gender sexual orientation, disabilities, social economic classes, they also exhibit even higher instances of self-awareness as employees in my experience in periods to their counterparts.

Sean Page:
And so inter sexuality just plays an important role in understanding that difference between those different PO groups experiences. But I would say overall from my experience, POC talent tends to be more self-aware and tends to be more collaborative in their approaches because they understand the otherness factor that they’re bringing into the organizations that traditionally are homogenous marginalized.

Azeem Ahmad:
Brilliant. Thank you very much for sharing that. And yeah. Plus one, completely agreed. There are so many different facets of diversity, which I’m trying to learn and educate myself about some of which I will definitely get out of this episode. So again, a huge thank you. Thanks you twice. Now I’m going to stop and thank you. So sticking with POC, and this is a question that I’ve asked a previous guest on the podcast. And I’m always keen to hear different perspectives on this. It’s a common saying over here, certainly I’ve heard this from colleagues in previous employment as well. When we talk about getting POC in terms of higher levels into the company, a common pushback is, we don’t need more POC at this company. What we need is more talented people. How do you respond to a comment like that?

Sean Page:
Yeah, I mean, I think as someone who identifies POC, that really is a contentious comment to make, right? And I think from my perspective, the way that I kind of enter these conversations, because I’ve also heard this numerous times in my own experience as a recruiter. And a lot of times I tell those people to really pause and reflect. When we make statements like this, we make these absolute statements. They often don’t hold water because in actuality, when you’re talking about people, we’re talking about a diverse range of experiences. And so when I hear someone say that, always ask them, why are you decoupling POC people from talented people, right? What is the bias behind why you’re doing that? Because, oftentimes the people who are making those statements don’t recognize their own individual personal bias in making that statement.

Sean Page:
And I tend to, from my experience, the people who are making those statements to typically talk about meritocracy. They usually talk about the fact that like, “I got here because of my own merits and I had pulled myself up from the bootstraps”. but let’s be for real, merit is often bought. It’s not given, right? And so people of color often have to fight to get the same amount of merit and the same amount of recognition as their white counterparts. So we also have to acknowledge that. And also too, at the end of the day, there are many several talented people who are POC that are just not given the opportunity to be able to shine and to have access to that merit. So again, I think a lot of times this question is very rooted in that person’s individual biases and in their mind they don’t think we’re ever going to be talented, right?

Sean Page:
They’re already making an absolute statement, thinking that no person of color that they’re going to interact with is going to meet their standard of talent. And so when you’re dealing with someone like that, that can be really insidious because, that person often is someone in power. And so how do you change and morph that person’s mindset when they’re in a position of power, they have control over other people’s lives and they’re making a statement like this. And then we wonder why a lot of companies are in this situation where they’re at today, where they’re desperate to find diversity. Because you’re hiring people who are making these statements who make uncomfortable environments for people like us on this podcast. And then you’re asking the people on this podcast to then be comfortable with those people. How can we, if they’re being contentious by making statements like that?

Azeem Ahmad:
Absolutely. Couldn’t agree more. Thank you very much for sharing. Definitely things that I will come back and listen to when I edit this back and just nod furiously. Let’s move on and let’s talk processes. So I gave you a heads up before the recording, and here is the first opportunity I’m going to put you on the spot, which I haven’t prepared you for. Tell me about your thoughts on recruitment processes that are several stages long. I’m talking 4, 5, 6 stages long. What do you think about those?

Sean Page:
Yeah, I think a lot of times, when we’re seeing multiple stages of that lane, a lot of times hiring managers or hiring teams are looking for particular signals that, for some whatever reason, they weren’t able to find that at first three sets of interviews. And so from my perspective, a lot of times that’s an indication of a poor hiring process because it’s not like your questions weren’t intentional enough that you didn’t capture enough signals. So now you’re wasting more of your candidates time to identify those signals. And I find that, obviously there is exceptions, right? There’s other factors in this seniority, in other things as well. And so, if you’re saying for instance, someone who’s a entry-level role and they’re going through five interview process, really that’s five different people’s time that you’re incorporating into that process.

Sean Page:
You have to break that down into their actual salary. And once you start to really think and start to add things up, does that five step process really makes sense for that entry-level role? Probably not. And so I think a lot of it comes in sense from the fact, and especially I’m going to speak on startup environments, that people are allergic to structure environments. They purposely don’t want to be in a structure environment, because they want to be flexible in their own time. But the reality is you have to also be flexible in the candidates time, right?

Sean Page:
The candidate is talking to multiple other companies that are also going through a very different types of interview process. And so, your interview process also talks about your brand. It also shares your culture. So when I’m in a process where entry-level role and they’re making me go through five stages, that makes me think, “Okay, internally do I have to go through five different people to get something done?” That is also indication of that. And so I think there’s a lot of lack of attention that’s going on in those hiring process that a lot of people need to stop and reflect on.

Azeem Ahmad:
You’ve just led me very nicely then to my next question. When you talking about companies stopping and reflecting, why do you think companies are so reluctant to change their processes?

Sean Page:
Yeah, that’s a really great question. So, I think it really just sends from a place of fear, like when we’re going to go into psychology, right? You have in-groups groups and you have out-groups. So in-groups are typically the group that’s creating the culture. And then you have people outgroup kind of, interacting with that culture. And a lot of times they’re coming into and interacting with that in-group, right? And so that’s kind of the way that companies have set themselves up where the in-group are white people, right? White people are all in these environments and then people of color are the out-group, they’re on the outside. And so there’s all this contention, this confliction going on from this root of fear of this out-group is going to come in and change the culture that we set as an in-group.

Sean Page:
And it’s just a classic psychology example where a lot of people don’t understand that by being reluctant to change, you’re actually leaning into your biases by being reluctant. And so, because of that I think a lot of companies say they are open to change. But in reality, it’s always often changed that’s on their terms, right? So, anyone who is seen as an outsider that also has an idea around change, a lot of times leadership will then retack or retaliate or make it so that that person doesn’t continue to be outspoken about that change. And so, because that happens often, I think a lot of leaders see people who challenge the processes as troublemakers rather than what they actually are, which are innovators, right? People who are willing to innovate and approve your process are gift to your company, right?

Sean Page:
They are people who actually care and are passionate about the longevity of your company, about the people that you’re bringing in. And so I think a lot of the issue between short-term gains and long-term change. I think a lot of times companies lanes too heavily into short term goals, instead of really thinking about that long-term and that longevity of. You’re building up a brand, you’re building up a system for people to be sustainably, hopefully to be at your business for 20, 30, 40, 50 years. And so I think there’s just a lack of foresight there.

Azeem Ahmad:
Absolutely. Give me 10 of those types of people who want to make change of a one quiet person who just follows the crowd any day. Brilliant answer. Thank you very much for sharing. Let’s continue on with the topic of change before we bring the episode to a close. Specifically, what changes do you think the industry needs to make to be better moving forward?

Sean Page:
Yeah, I mean, I’m going to be straight up honest. I think it starts at the top. We often try to lean into grassroots movement. We often companies believe that their ICS or their individual contributors should be the ones to really be driving these changes. But in reality, those folks don’t have power, right? They can create programs, they can be creative, they can be innovative, but without power you can’t create sustainability. And so it really has to start at the top and leaders have to take the charge and the rains to do better, right? And to be better. And so I think it starts in the exec teams. It starts in the board or director meetings. And, I think they really just need to start by looking at their own boards and their own teams and seeing the lack of diversity, right?

Sean Page:
How are you championed diversity for the entire company when your whole team isn’t diverse, right? Like you have no people of color. You have no other marginalized identities. There is all white men. And maybe, if you’re lucky there might be some white women, right? And so I think because it’s so monochrome, it explains why the culture then trickles down to everyone else. And then it creates this message to everyone that, we actually don’t care about diversity. We’ll say we care about it because we know it’s great for marketing, we know it’s great for our product. We know that these are things that fundamentally we’ve been told in our business classes and what other of our CEO colleagues say. But at the end of the day, we’re not willing to bend or to be comfortable with change in order to create these more sustainable environments.

Sean Page:
And so I think it really just starts at the top. And, I think a lot of leaders need to remind themselves that you can’t say that workers matter, or you can’t say statements like we believe workers should be able to come as their full selves when you don’t knowledge their full selves, right? You don’t actually like, you listen to their voice quote, but you actually put no actions behind what they’re asking for. And so, I think it really just starts with a lot of reflection on the leadership team. A lot of just hard work. And honestly, I think a lot of leadership teams need to invest in leadership training to really better themselves and to validate their knowledge and invest in having a VP of DNI on their board as well, to help cultivate those ideas and to really help them get to that next level when it comes to diversity, equity, inclusion.

Azeem Ahmad:
I love that the answer so much purely because, a few of the things you’ve mentioned now, I’ve said it in the past. And I feel like that, me saying it over and over again, dilutes the message, but hearing it from somebody like yourself, people will definitely have their ears prick up and think right. We actually need to do something about this, which leads me very nicely to my last question for you. So I, the person in charge of making changes for my company and I was listening to this podcast, it seems daunting. There’s so much to change and using your own words of short term gains and long-term change. What advice would you give to somebody like that who are considering changing their processes? Where do they start? There’s so much to do. Where would they begin? What advice would you give?

Sean Page:
Yeah, so I always tell people like, shiny objects are always the most interesting, but they often are the ones that get dropped first, because once they stopped being shiny, people lose interest, right? And so I think a lot of times it starts with people, right? It’s really like doing a roadmap for a product. It’s the way that I always like describing people. Like your company culture is actually very similar to how you run a product, right? And it’s like, when you’re doing a product, yes, you have all these inputs, but do you do and run sprints on every single input every single time? No. You prioritize, you figure out what areas are the first focus, other product before you move on. And I think a lot of times and why organizations end up being burnt out.

Sean Page:
And I can also speak about this from my own experience of why I’ve been burnt out by organizations is the fact that a lot of times it’s like, we have 20 different shiny objects that we all wanted to complete within this short period of time, because we want to make people satisfied. But in actuality, what people are looking for is slow, sustainable change. And so you really need to address it by really identifying where are the top three priorities that we can accomplish this year that we know is going to make our employees happier, that’s going to give us the survey results that we’re looking for. But while at the same time, isn’t going to burn out or add extra burden to certain people’s plates so that their other duties aren’t being overshadowed by this work. And so I think it’s like finding that healthy balance and really understanding again, what are you working towards?

Sean Page:
A lot of times people say that really diversity, equity inclusion is important. But when I ask them to dive a little bit deeper, what do you mean by that? What does that look like to you? Because D and I looks very different to every single company. A lot of times I get blank stares, right? Because they actually haven’t thought about it. They know it’s important. They hear the catch word, but they have no idea. And they have not done a personal reflection to figure out why does this matter to me? And why should this matter to our company values? Why should this matter to our bottom line? And if you haven’t done that soul searching to really figure it out, then you’re already setting yourself up for failure. So you need to really start from the beginning, start from within, really understand what you want first, then prioritize, figure out the top three things that you can do in the next year or so.

Sean Page:
And then from there forecast, it’s just like recruitment. When you first start hiring at a company, right? You don’t have a hiring plan, you’re kind of ad hoc and doing stuff. And then eventually you get enough funding, sustainable funding, where you can then hire a certain amount of people. So then you create a hiring plan. So then you have a hiring plan for maybe six months, maybe a year, and then you get really good about it after a few cycles. And then you end up being able to have a hiring plan that you can forecast in five years, right? So it’s like working up to your goals so you can continuously build on that muscle. So by the time you’re able to see yourself in five years, you can reflect back and say, “Wow, we actually did a lot of change around DNI”. And it wasn’t performative because this stuff is actually sustainable. And people today are still using these same programs.

Azeem Ahmad:
Wow. Literally. Wow. Fantastic way to answer that question and definitely food for thought. I am positive that when the audience listens to this, they’ll come back, make some notes and come back to it again, and then again, and then again. So brilliant. Thank you very much. What a fantastic way to close out the show. Before I let you go, I have to ask if anybody’s listening to this and they want to get in touch with you, follow you on social media, or just generally connect with you, how can we do that?

Sean Page:
Yeah, sure. So you can definitely follow me on Twitter. I’m very active. My Twitter handle is at Sean, S E A N, capital talent, so T A L E N T and then capital W for Webflow. So, that’s my handle. So at SeanTALENTW. You can also follow me on LinkedIn. My name is Sean Page. You should be able to find me. I have my credentials afterwards, so my CAPM and my PHR. So it should come up. But, yeah. Thank you just so much for having me on the show today. I really appreciate this conversation and yeah, I’m just looking forward to listen to it.

Azeem Ahmad:
Now, from me to you a massive, massive thank you for giving up some of your time, sharing your knowledge and expertise. I’m very, very glad that I researched you. So thank you for being a fantastic guest.

Sean Page:
Yeah, no problem. Thank you for having me.