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From Tech to Travel: How Expedia Uses Passion to Attract Tech Talent

Expedia is a big player in the online travel industry with over 20 sites under their brand like Hotels.com, Hotwire.com, and Travelocity. To power their massive web presence they are constantly looking for exceptional tech talent.

At this year’s HR.main() event in London we got to hear from Bradley Forde, Senior Program Specialist at Expedia. He shared some great insights on our Tech Recruiting Expert panel, moderated by Hung Lee, Co-founder and CEO of Recruiting Brainfood. We’ve gathered the highlights from their discussion here:

How are you finding tech candidates that are right for Expedia?

So, we’re really trying to match our product, and somewhat our environment, to what the developer would want to go for. We tend to do that through hiring events. I have set up a pizza and beer event where we didn’t actually talk about any jobs whatsoever. I was just teaching about the culture of Expedia, the type of projects that we work on and really trying to push our brand out there not as just a travel company or a technology travel space.

What has it been like getting buy-in on HackerRank?

Showing execs and hiring managers how this will benefit them has been helpful. Letting them know: ‘Hey we’re working on this solution to make your team better. We are trying to improve your processes.’ I always think whoever has the most complaints should be the stakeholder you partner with because they’ve got all of the adverse comments. You know what you’ve got to fix, there are problems, now let’s build the solutions to it. Those people are always keen to chip in. Work with them and give them onus and make sure that they become accountable.

What advice do you have for recruiters working on improving their relationships with their hiring managers?

To start, you need to have a conception meeting between the hiring team and the recruiters. You need to establish the core criteria for your technical skills, soft skills, and cultural fit up front. Being aligned on all these aspects creates a partnership that removes any adversity later down the line. 

At Expedia, we’ve worked with our developers to create all our technical assessments, always keeping in mind those core criteria. Therefore, when we go to add certain questions to our assessments, we know exactly what they’re looking for and what the intention is for that question. We’ve also assigned automated scoring on the assessments to take the manual workload from the hiring team because we know their time is valuable. We’ve chosen to remove all the constraints from them and really just improve that consultative approach.

I also think you have to manage expectations. Let them know how much time they have to commit from of their work week. That allows you to have a successful working relationship with them because sometimes you can get buoyant. You don’t manage expectations and then they don’t get to work with you because they’re too busy, so it’s important to find that balance.

What’s your take on recruiting metrics? Are you using them? And how?

We look at metrics in a few different ways. Our two main buckets are sourced candidates and applicants. For sourced candidates, a couple of things we’re looking at on a weekly basis are: How many people have I reached out to and spoken with? How many people are now in consideration for the role? If those metrics are good, then the sourcing is right. If not, then we need to make adjustments there. 

Then we have metrics at the assessment stage. We have candidate attrition, which we monitor heavily, and we also have time to interview. We’ve entered a candidate-saturated market and we can’t really afford to have a 60-day time to fill with developers. It needs to be really prompt, so that’s a core thing for our technology candidates. 

Candidate experience is also important, looking at NPS (Net Promoter Score) which we monitor heavily as well. I think there’s a healthy balance when you look at NPS. So, obviously you’ve got your brand and that needs to be strong and positive to attract talent, but you’re always going to get negative feedback from candidates that haven’t successfully been hired or gone through all of the stages. You really need to have a look at that feedback and pick up the bits that seem logical that you can fix. We are looking at NPS now. Part of me thinks NPS might just be a new trend across the recruiting industry at the moment. Interested to see where it’ll go.

Whether or not we’re facing a talent shortage is always a hotly debated topic. What are your thoughts on this?

I wouldn’t say we’re necessarily in a talent shortage. I think the methods to obtain talent are lacking in some areas. At Expedia, we don’t really care what language you’re disciplined in, it’s about how well you can code in that language. We also look at aptitude–your hunger for learning, that’s what we really prioritize. Moving in this direction has allowed us to open the funnel so much more, rather than just focusing on finding one specific type of developer. 

We also centralize the sourcing function where all they do is map talent back to the markets. So for instance: if we’re based here, I would do a commutable radius search for all of the companies that use similar tech stacks or other variables, and then from there we locate all the developers. There’s definitely not a shortage of talent. It’s just finding them that’s hard.

It also depends on the level of developer you’re looking for. I understand the need to move away from pedigree for new graduates coming into the business, but when you’re looking at people who are very senior working in a company outside of Expedia, they need to have that experience beforehand because there are so many facets to the job that they need to have been exposed to. I don’t believe the recruiting process should be the same for every level of candidate. You wouldn’t approach a new graduate and a 10-year experienced developer the same way.

So, what can we do as recruiters to try and open up talent pools that we’re currently not bringing into the pipeline?

There are tons of tools out there to aid in your process. If you’re looking to increase your female to male ratio a great tool would be Textio which highlights masculine versus feminine language in your job descriptions. I think diversity is hard because it’s easier to sell campaigns for gender as opposed to ethnicity. If you were to ask me how do I find a certain ethnicity, I wouldn’t know. But I think tailoring your efforts so they’re not biased is a great way to start. 

Check out Bradley’s full conversation with Hung Lee here:

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