S4 E40 | CXR 25 – Brad Cook reflects on two decades of recruiting with Gerry

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Gerry Crispin 0:20
This Gerry Crispin at CareerXroads, this is and I am with Brad Cook, who I’ve known for many years, and actually, I might have known him before he even got around to me because I used to follow Cisco way back in the day. And he was working there back then. So tell me, you know, and and what we’re trying to do is talk a little bit about the last 25 years that CareerXroads has been around. And I know you know, you’ve been active with CareerXroads for many years, but still, before we get to that, what what was it like when did you start Cisco, how far back do you go from a recruiting point of view?

Brad Cook, Intuitive 1:03
So from recruiting Cisco went back to 98.

Gerry Crispin 1:07
Got it

Brad Cook, Intuitive 1:08
But I didn’t fall into recruiting until 2005.

Gerry Crispin 1:13
Oh what were you doing in 98? In Cisco

Brad Cook, Intuitive 1:15
Sales, sales and operations?

Announcer 1:17
Ah, that was a whole Yes. I just learned something about you thats so obvious.

Brad Cook, Intuitive 1:25
Yes, no sales and operation filling in 05′ moved back to Sydney in 07′, left in 09′ took a year off and then move back to the US and join Informatica at the end of 2010. And 2011. I think I got introduced the you and Mark.

Gerry Crispin 1:47
Yes I Remember,

Brad Cook, Intuitive 1:49
pre Mendoza.

Gerry Crispin 1:50
But did you know Yes, I remember. We’ll get to that. So you, you were there at the time, that big meal, not right, you were in a different size. Have it

Brad Cook, Intuitive 2:00
Oh, you know I was in the business I just kept away from HR in those days I’m a sales guy I don’t like HR are gonna get into trouble do something.

Gerry Crispin 2:08
He I credit him though with being the first to make real use of it and branding and recruitment marketing he we didn’t call it those things at the time. But that’s what he was doing online and everything else he had that I don’t know if you recall was right around 98′ 99′ – 2000 when he in his career in the career site, you could be looking at jobs. And then there was a boss button that if you click the boss button, a report came up so that if somebody walked into your office and was going to look over your shoulder while you were trying to figure out what your next job should look like, was that I thought that everybody went nuts on that they thought that was the coolest freakin thing that they’d ever seen?

Brad Cook, Intuitive 3:00
Yeah, he built an absolute engine like that would do in 20,000 hires a year. He was in Asia at the time. Yeah, I think it was like 800 staff in that recruiting team globally. Yeah. But yeah, when I when I fell into recruiting, because that all got

Gerry Crispin 3:17
How did you fall into recruiting, why did you make the shift from sales?

Brad Cook, Intuitive 3:21
I’d already moved to the US. I was over there running business operations for the service as well. And I was getting bored doing operations. Yeah, I was a $4 billion business. There’s a lot of fun, but I’m getting bored doing opps. And I’ve only ever been within customer advocacy at Cisco, not across the rest of the businesses. And I was interviewing for a talent management role to move into talent management and Kate DeCamp that to this day, you know, I owe her for me getting into recruiting. She was on the interview team went no, can you come over and rebuild recruiting for us because it like she blew it up in oh two after the bubble burst. And for the next Yeah, number of years, everybody was doing their own thing. So there’s no consistent


There’s nine different business units and she said, Yeah, can you come in and rebuild recruiting a mother recruiter she gets doesn’t matter, you know, operations. You understand marketing and sales. Go on and figure it out. I work for Mike at the time who was running TA and that was what we did we reconsolidated and centralize everything. And the first exercise I did through that was to go back and find how many of McNally’s people was still there, which is three services. Half a year there was one of the one there people are kept their name, Chris Bottlavick, who’s now I think, at Amazon, and there was one more person that were the only three leaders from CSG that was still with the company. So I just picked their brains on what worked what didn’t and then started from this

Gerry Crispin 4:52
And Celia was one of the key players see

Brad Cook, Intuitive 4:56
Oh, yeah, she was

Gerry Crispin 4:56
I met her around 2000 She was killing it. She was doing stuff. Nobody. I’d never seen anybody else doing recruiting before or since.

Brad Cook, Intuitive 5:09
Yeah, so we had a great time there. and then she’d moved to the UK. And I was doing the operational side in the US and we had to rip like literally expansions in Europe are going crazy. So I got asked to go to Europe quite a few times and Celia and I had to literally spin up an IPO, you know, in a matter of a short period of time to start expanding. Yeah, yeah, she and I did a trip to Russia and all this weird stuff of trying to ramp out recruiting. So that was that was my induction to recruiting

Gerry Crispin 5:41
and you obviously got addicted to it for sure.

Brad Cook, Intuitive 5:45
To be in sales without having a quota. That’s how I look at it.

Gerry Crispin 5:48
That’s good. What What do you think is the biggest shift in how recruiting was done? As you understand it 20 some odd years ago, versus how you see things now. I know it’s not perfect now we all know that but still,

Brad Cook, Intuitive 6:03
yeah, I think my my reference point is always my early my early days of Cisco and even hiring a team there. It was it was just very manual. It was it was very relationship. You know, back in the early days, it was, in some ways it was easier because you just have to flip out a spreadsheet that sort of showed how many stock splits it had. And the when do you want to start like so I think, as a hiring manager back then it was much easier to do that moving into the US and coming out of the first crisis in 02′, it made it different. And, and even looking at those times. Yeah, we spent a lot of energy in the beginning of those days around referral. And yeah, we had an old version of Resamax that was, I think, the last version that was ever kept until Yahoo blew it up. Well, I think just the way we did things back then it was it was more than post and pray back in those days was now we didn’t know what SEO was back then. But we we just made sure we posted it on whatever job boards we could to get the name out there. But even back in those days, I think we spent a lot of energy on positive candidate experience. It really wasn’t called that back then.

Gerry Crispin 7:12

Brad Cook, Intuitive 7:12
But process of bringing talent through. I remember in some of the early days there, we did a lot of work around behavioral based interviewing. Yeah, we had a situation where we had to retrain a whole lot of managers because of some some issues that happen in some parts of the business. And, and at the time, Brian Skipper was the manager was the head of HR by Brian, why don’t we just gonna do this sales leaders and teach them how to interview? Why don’t we do for everybody? And at that point, he said, Great idea. Go and figure it out. Well, we need to do a minimum of four hours training for 10 for 10,000 managers on how to interview within the law. Well, I went to DDI and said, yeah, we need to do this and they said, We can’t do it in four hours, the two day course. So no, no, no, you’re not understanding we’re going to do this for hours. So we actually license DDI style methodology. And we built our own e learning module that was literally a four hour e learning. I engaged a company in Australia to help do the instructional design. It was like an avatar, and it was all mundra law modularized

Gerry Crispin 8:22
And we’d like to pissed off DDI though they they like you doing it their way?

Brad Cook, Intuitive 8:26
Yeah, they got money for it. And we literally sat down he is running program in HR for years, even after I left. One of my old teammates come back and said, oh, by the way, we’ve we’ve just turned off the hundred dollar charge that we sold to the business because that’s how I funded it. Every manager in South had to go through this training, they were going to pay $100 so it cost me $300,000 to build, but you couldn’t just put your eight year old son or daughter in front of it because it had all these interactions that you had to listen and it was brilliant and I became a profit center. Right after that for many, many years, I had revenue coming into TA not not going out,

Announcer 9:06
I should have I should have thought like you when I was certified to do STAR in 1975 by DDI. That’s how that’s how far back they went. That and that I got certified do that and they would not at that time, well Byron still was was the president of that. And they would not move an iota in terms of customizing that in any way, shape, or form.

Brad Cook, Intuitive 9:32
They couldn’t get it to a day and they get misses, like 2006 probably only can get it to a day. No, you got to get it, I should come back, you’re going to get to two hours. Because the ugly reality is going to be process, how to hire within the law, how to sell disco and all that sort of stuff.

Gerry Crispin 9:49
The only problem is you from a compliance point of view, you can demonstrate that you actually train them but you can’t demonstrate unless you audit, that they actually do what you train them to do.

Brad Cook, Intuitive 10:01
And we know that

Gerry Crispin 10:03
Fatal flaw and all of that. So, so you got to the point where you, you were kind of looking for what peers and colleagues because you were active and you were out there, I know you were on the speaker circuit and everything else

Brad Cook, Intuitive 10:18
Not at that point. So I guess that’s how I got connected to you guys. So, you know, I, I landed back in the US at Informatica. And it was the first time I’d ever run TA lock, stock and barrel. I knew back in those days I needed a peer and network that I could go and ask questions. And that’s when Mendoza you need to go and talk to Gerry or Mark because they’ve got his group of people. And that’s how I joined and you know, that that group today even to this day has been my go to say, how do you do it? what worked, what didn’t? And I remember one conversation, I think it was 18 months into into Informatica and we taken it from like, 120 days to fill, we got it down to like 78 and remember this conversation with you saying, I fixed every goddamn thing I can think of what’s the silver bullet that I have missed? And you actually said no silver bullets. You just got this little thing so that’s become my tagline yet see is not rocket science.

Announcer 11:17
There is no silver bullet never was never will be.

Brad Cook, Intuitive 11:21
Nope. But you know, as a sales guy I was looking for what’s the silver bullet and I couldn’t find it so I guess I’ll stop looking for it now.

Announcer 11:32
You in a way are the ideal member in this in the sense that, you know, our value proposition has always been to build a community of people who give a shit about each other and get immediately that you know, there’s a group of people, I need to mine them in a way that makes sense that makes them feel comfortable, you know how to do it without abusing the relationship. You know how to do it in pieces so that you can you know, catch them at various points. And you’re always there when they contact you because obviously you contribute a significant amount in terms of giving back that piece. And that’s that’s the only way it works is people who you know are comfortable gauged in that our biggest issue is really getting people to participate to a level that they get it and then there and then it just runs itself and then making sure that people who will never get it are identified as early as possible and let them go, you know, I don’t need your money.

Brad Cook, Intuitive 12:37
The more you give, the more you get. I learned that very early and what drives groups, but but also the other thing I learned is people can have the best ideas and you could share the best ideas. It doesn’t mean I can run away and go and implement them. You know, I one conversation. I can’t remember where it was but it was one of the guys from Target talking about so it was a branding meeting was talking about social media and how Target applied social media to reach out and, and it really made me think about the adjacencies. Wow, I’m not going to compete with target because they’re not that my same target market, but their approaches to attracting talent from a retail perspective I can employ doesn’t mean everybody else can. So I think a lot of notes, I think it probably would have been 2011. I got my first iPhone, and I started keeping notes in Evernote. And I think I’ve got most of them back back into those days. And I have I’m going back through all miles. And it’s fascinating reading to go back after a couple years and go oh, I still haven’t done that one. Let’s go Oh, holy shit. We’ve done a lot of fun.

Announcer 13:46
I love that and don’t tell Chris or he’ll be stealing your iPhone and looking for that for sure. Um, we have we actually have a tomorrow file. So when I when I was working in in a HR and recruiting at J&J we every week got together and created ideas that we know were too impractical to costly to something that wouldn’t work. But they but we, they resonated we have an affinity for the the beauty of that idea.

Brad Cook, Intuitive 14:20

Gerry Crispin 14:20
And we just try and capture it and put it into what we call the tomorrow file. And over the 10 years, I worked for j&j, we we went back on occasion and pulled a few others and then made them happen. It’s very satisfying because they want solutions, but maybe not to a problem I have today.

Brad Cook, Intuitive 14:39
Exactly. And and I think I do remember because again, you I find I was able to disconnect from the world and be so focused on the conversations at hand, my mind would just go crazy of ideas. And that’s what a lot of them are they’re ideas are our ability to do this the ability to do them. What if we could do this with all these? What if What if not just here’s what someone did. Make a note of it, it’s like, that’s a great idea. But if we did this over here, we could go somewhere else. So it’s great, I can pull it out.

Gerry Crispin 15:07
And the other thing that you you’ve caused me to think about is that ideas are not a zero sum game. So if I share my idea with you, and you copy it, do something with it, whatever. Does that mean that you know what, and whether or not I get credit? Doesn’t frickin matter. The point is, I will have another idea. And, and the point is when you don’t share ideas, yeah, is when is when you have a drought. In my opinion, it’s when you when you’re so concerned that your idea is so valuable that somehow if some of you share that with anybody, God bless, they would be making money and you would not and I’m going, I think you missed the whole frickin point.

Brad Cook, Intuitive 15:54
This shit ain’t rocket science. So,

Gerry Crispin 15:57
No it’s not rocket science

Brad Cook, Intuitive 15:58
What we do is rinse, wash and repeat. Really?

Gerry Crispin 16:01
Yeah, I know. And so it’s good. Yeah. So looking out, as we finish this up looking out of the next few years, what do you think recruiting is going to have to do in order to take this notch to a different levels? Not necessarily CareerXroads, but just know what we do as a profession?

Brad Cook, Intuitive 16:23
It’s a hard question to me right now, because I’ve drawn myself back into the era now of building some basics of the company now. So I’m not in forward thinking mode. I mean, shit, I’ve got to get some fundamentals down to where I think a lot of the Crossroads still apply for me from a from an architecture perspective, is the leveraging data in a systematic way, but same time putting the human touch back into recruiting. So it’s no we’re not going to take recruiters out of the future. Yeah, they’ll always be recruiters needed in recruiting for as long as I’m going to be around anyway. But I think the areas that they struggle with either be Yeah, discovery, re discovery, initially engagement. There’s a lot of things what that technology I sent through the other night about audio text instead of just text based chat bots, but audio, I think those those are the ways that we can start to apply RPA technologies to problems to augment what recruiters can do, or what a bot can do audio or text, and then hand back to a recruiter to do the next thing. So I think that’s I think we’re going to see again, a further consolidation of how within the technology stacks, it’s it’s going to extend the reach of a recruiter. So we can either have higher personal touch or higher req loads or better screening or better top of the funnel than we do today.

Gerry Crispin 18:00

Brad Cook, Intuitive 18:00
But it’s mostly on our side versus the hand off to the manager, I still I still think there needs to be some thinking about how do we now extend the same automation is probably not the right word, but the same process to the interview selection process. selection process today and we’ve gone through this now with, with all of the talk about unconscious bias and all that sort of stuff. But ton of our previous conversation, nothing has really changed in that selection process, to ensure it’s being done in a systematic way, besides going all the way to true psychometrics, there needs to be something in the middle between a star model and a psychometric that that managers and interviewers can do. And I think that’s probably the area that will be the next

Gerry Crispin 18:50
It could be I think it’s certainly I think there’s gonna be a bifurcation of models in the sense that one, one choke point is exactly what you do. Right, it is the hiring manager, we rely on the hiring manager to say, you have a gap in what we need, we need a human being to do the following things. And the hiring manager then tells his boss or her boss, the boss says, Yeah, you’re right. And why don’t you put that together? And and get it to HR, and they’ve got people who will put a value on that. Yeah, and write up a job description that reflects that value. And then you can can reconvert it back to something that’s marketing generated, and and the recruiters can go find that person, you can do that. I think, and this may be, you know, heresy but I think it’s not the job of a manager managers should be executing on programs, projects, you know, etc. On the work, not on the hiring. And if the manager believes that there’s a gap, there are people who have the skillsets to create a legitimate view of what that is what the market looks like, where the people are in that market. And that would be a really advanced kind of recruiter who also have some industrial organizational skills to understand the structure of business in relation to what it’s trying to execute, that understands the model that we’re in. Now, that’s a that’s somebody with a Master’s potentially or even a PhD who’s going to get that. But if you could rely on the fact that if you can create if you can see this person, and that’s a legitimate kind of thing, why do we need the hiring manager to decide that that person can do it, we should be able to have a consistent approach to how we assess their ability. Once we’ve decided this person can do this.

Brad Cook, Intuitive 20:56

Gerry Crispin 20:57
And potentially has additional things that make them even more valuable to us as a corporation as we look forward because of their include diversity, if you will, a thought and your ability to be inclusive in this culture. And why are we letting the hiring manager make that choice? I just say to the hiring manager, God bless, we’ve got a great person for you, starting on Monday, you have gotten the body now, thanks so much for your input in helping us figure all that stuff out between you and the experts in HR and the people that this person is going to have to engage. We collect we basically created the job and found the person to fill that for you. You’re welcome. You’re welcome.

Brad Cook, Intuitive 21:46
Yeah, we did that at Cisco. So I came over there was the 07′ or 08′ riff, but we knew that with the amount of people we needed to let go, it would literally cost the company millions and millions of dollars in In redundancy phase, and my team had to build a process to see when we could replace it with literally thousands of jobs open, we’re gonna let go thousands of people. Well, there’s got to be some sort of match. And we got to a point to get back into remember, we did it but we got to the point where it was as if it was a 75% match that the recruiter, after the screening of the employee believe that it was a 75% match, we had some criteria, the manager didn’t have a choice to say no, if they did, it went all the way to SVP to make a bloody good case and I don’t remember, many people didn’t get that. But we save thousands of people’s jobs, not just the money, we save thousands of people’s jobs. And it became the norm now I don’t remember what the data was afterwards as to how many people were successful. But you know, I look back at some people that have been at Cisco for 20 odd years. They went through that and they probably move jobs in one of these rifts that got placed In a position that I may have been 25%, not matched for

Announcer 23:03
And it’s proof for the for the concept that re skilling is possible.

Brad Cook, Intuitive 23:08

Gerry Crispin 23:09
People, people who’ve been great doing something to them, not necessarily the skills and doing the job, you can learn the skills to do a lot of different jobs. They took their critical thinking skills with them. They took their their ability to challenge and ask great questions and the speed with which they learn new things, that agility with

Brad Cook, Intuitive 23:29

Gerry Crispin 23:30
Your motivation to work at their ass off in order to learn this stuff they need in order work. That that is priceless. And fundamentally, yeah, you’re right. I think I think we’re missing interesting opportunities. And those are good examples of why why there’s still plenty of room to rethink recruiting in ways that we really have not, not leverage as much as possible and I think that will increase ability to move towards a much more diverse and inclusive environment.

Brad Cook, Intuitive 24:05
And I think is also speed. Yeah, we needed to get people into positions. And here’s someone that I can take now versus wait another 60-90 days for another hire because that’s managers do, I’ll wait till I find the perfect candidate. Well, that that last opportunity during those 90 days has a cost associated to it. And that’s productivity. That’s a product launch or something. So yeah, interesting times.

Gerry Crispin 24:32
And this is just an example of another conversation that we always have the it’s always fun to me, from my perspective, it’s a thing with me when I don’t. Yeah, I mean, you know, it always turns into something that I love to be stimulated by, you know, how we think about what we do in this profession. And, and you’re a perfect example of that. Is there anything else you’d like to say relative to our 25 year anniversary,

Brad Cook, Intuitive 24:56
Happy anniversary, I can’t imagine having gone through This industry without you guys being there at my side and quite frankly the conversations with you and Mark and Chris and the whole brethren of CXR members past and future and and current Yeah, I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for all of you guys I really appreciate it.

Gerry Crispin 25:19
We really enjoy it so thank you.

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