During the pandemic, Credit Karma took a people over profit approach and managed to retain all their employees. VP of Global Talent Acquisition, Ashleigh Anderson, goes into how they managed to do it, with the TA team at the helm, finding internal opportunities to move people around company departments in jobs they were a natural fit for. Plus, leaning down their recruiting team opened up opportunities for automation and new tech solutions.
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MAX: Hello and welcome back to the Recruitment Hackers podcast. I'm your host Max Armbruster and today on the show I've got Ashleigh Anderson, who is the VP of global talent acquisition for Credit Karma. Ashleigh, welcome to the show.
ASHLEIGH: So happy to be here.
MAX: Thank you. Thanks, Ashley, and well to get started, perhaps, could you give us a quick intro to Credit Karma.
ASHLEIGH: Absolutely. So Credit Karma is going to be a full-scale financial platform to help our more than 110 million members, improve their credit, pay off debt, and plan for the future. We want to democratize financial information. So everyday terms that mean we're gonna help you find a credit card when your credit score goes up, that has a better interest rate, help you refinance your mortgage, and even help you find better car insurance. So, save 1000s of dollars a year.
MAX: Nice, and this is focused on North America, the US, and Canada?
ASHLEIGH: We also have an office in London so we do have a product in the UK.
MAX: Okay. So before we jump into the talent acquisition space. Can you give us some of your industry perspective on how debt is evolving in America, because I believe everybody got checks in the mail and that they don't need to borrow anymore?
ASHLEIGH: I don't know that that's necessarily the case. I know that you know a large percentage of Americans still don't even have more than $400 in savings for an emergency, which is a quite scary fact and that's why we're here to help champion financial progress for everybody.
MAX: Yeah, of course, it's a big cultural thing, credit. It does change from place to place. I'm calling in from Hong Kong, China where there's a strong savings culture here. Everybody's got a few years of income, tucked under their mattress somewhere. So it's different cultures. Great so you've been in Credit Karma for three years now, and what a busy time. Maybe we'll talk about what's happened over the last year and a half with the changes that your team has been through, we talked a little bit before the show about the fact that you had to move some of your team internally while recruitment was on hold. So that's where we are going. But before we go there, I'd love actually for you to tell our audience a little bit about your background. I think you've been in recruitment for a long time, and particularly in tech recruitment for a long time. How did you end up, early days, how did you end up in talent acquisition?
ASHLEIGH: Well, so as we know nobody goes to college to be able to recruit, and there is no degree in recruiting. I applied for my first job at Microsoft in 1998 for a marketing job, and they call me, had that first interview, they're like, Hey, do you want to fly in Seattle, I'm like okay great, that's awesome. And the recruiter was like hey this is a recruiting job, and at that moment, I had no idea that there was a career in recruiting. I thought hiring was done by hiring managers. So I went out had that interview, loved everything that I heard and my first job was as a college recruiting team at Microsoft. And it was an incredible place to start. So, tech recruiting became what I loved and I stayed in that, after Microsoft I went to A.com during the .com boom. Of course, that blew up for most of us. After that, I went to a Microsoft partner company then started my own business, then went back to Microsoft in their response team. I ended up working in games for 10 years, was early at Jenga. Helped grow Jenga from 300 people to 4000 people in about four years that was an incredible experience. And then recently decided to get into mission-driven work, and went to a company called the Planet Corporation as head of recruiting. And worked there for four years and then got the call for the role at Credit Karma. My first interview was with Ken, our founder and that was what solved me.
MAX: That's a lot, a lot to unfold. I think the fact that Microsoft interviewed you coming out of college, and asking you to go into recruitment. I think recruitment is a great place to learn for people who are entering their career. But you would think that Microsoft would be more geared towards hiring experienced recruiters rather than people straight out of college. Going back to those days, what do you think of the program back then. Could the program that you were you were part of back then, still exist today, or was it a completely different world?
ASHLEIGH: I think it could. I think that it should, especially right now is it's hard to hire recruiters. I think that if you find driven passionate people who have high potential, mold them into the recruiter you want them to be, hire them right out of college, give them the tools that they need to be successful. It's really hard to hire a senior recruiter right now. I think Microsoft had the ability to make great recruiters, and I think recruiting leaders need to focus on that right now.
MAX: I believe you. I'm thinking about my early days as a recruiter and how much you learned. Like the first time, I was asked by my manager to pick up the phone and call a candidate, believe it or not, was a very scary moment for me. But, now I wouldn't think about it twice with bat an eyelid. And, you said you were working in the gaming space for a while, that's with Jenga?
ASHLEIGH: So Xbox teams and Jenga.
MAX: And were you hiring some of the creatives on the gaming side?
ASHLEIGH: I was, game designers, artists, publishing folks, you name it, also engineers, product managers, really whatever it takes to build a game we were working on them.
MAX: And do you find that it's a very different approach hiring these creatives and these designers than hiring engineers or quality assurance people and more, let's say, you know, I am thinking of it from a sort of right side versus left side brain people. Was there a separate recruitment team depending on the hemisphere of the brain that they were targeting?
ASHLEIGH: Definitely, I think the approach obviously was very different, the way that you frame an opportunity has to be different for those types of posts. I think when you don't work in games you're still dealing with creative people, UX designers, for instance, those folks are interested in talking about different things, about product design and development than an engineer would be. So I think you're always having to wear a lot of different hats talking to different people.
MAX: Yeah, we had somebody from the gaming industry before and said that it was a small world, that everybody at the executive level, it was very much network-based. But, made a career out of it. Let's jump into Credit Karma, if you don't mind, I'd love to see how things have evolved over the last year and a half, which has been turbulent for most. And you were telling me before we got started that you were able to retain that everybody on your team and all the Credit Karma employees. There were no layoff plans, and to ride the storm. How did you do that?
ASHLEIGH: Well, I think, Ken, the leadership team, Coleen, the head of people, decided to prioritize people over profit. And they said, Hey, we have really great people whose jobs are going to be affected, but we know they are smart, they're driven and they have transferable skills, and we're going to find whatever roles and other teams and other departments where they can be contributing to Credit Karma still. So, some of us spent many weeks kind of being the internal matchmaker so a new flavor of internal mobility, taking a look at what was needed in the business and who was on the bench and the recruiting team and some of the marketing teams as well. And it was an incredible experience and I'm sure like you a lot of us watched LinkedIn were companies, whether they were 100 people or 10,000 people were laying off full recruiting teams, and we didn't do that. It felt really good to actually live values. I think some companies talk this talk and they're talking about the values that they live by and people first, and then when things get tough, that gets thrown out the window, and money really is a motivator. And it just meant a lot to me and the rest of us, that Ken calling in the leadership team really decided to put people first.
MAX: Right. Yay, Ken! I am glad you could keep everybody. So was it bitter-sweet selling your recruiters to other departments, and have you lost some of them permanently?
ASHLEIGH: So I'll say this, I laughed as I'm old, obviously. I just told you that I've been doing this for 25 years. A lot of the people in my team were early in career and mid-career and I said to them, Hey, this moment is why my dad has tried to get me out of recruiting since day one. There's not a better job than I have than a recruiter when the economy is great but this moment is why. And so I said I want you to take this opportunity to see what role I put you next could really be a career change for you. And I'll celebrate that right. I love everyone on my team, maybe, finding a new role was actually a better fit for you. And we did have some of those success stories and I was super happy that I felt like, Hey, I still really have my recruiter jobs right. I did a good match I found this person a great role. A lot of folks didn't come back and we tapped them on the shoulder, but I was happy for that handful of people that stayed in engineering, marketing, product management.
MAX: You manage to put them in engineering and product roles, though that's not a natural fit. I would think they're doing sales and marketing.
ASHLEIGH: No, test engineering, product management, like a true PM role. We have technical project managers, we have people who recruit marketing managers. It was across all functions.
MAX: Fantastic. Snd those are positions in product management are very hard to fill so killed two birds with one stone.
ASHLEIGH: Yeah, exactly.
MAX: And so what happened in talent acquisition now is we went from nobody. Now there are no jobs for recruiters, there were no recruiters in a matter of six to eight months. I think it was an opportunity for a lot of companies, to ask themselves, are we right staffed on talent acquisition. What can we automate? Were you able to automate a few things during this period to operate leaner?
ASHLEIGH: Well, I would say that we definitely implemented quite a few new technologies into our systems. I'd say tech is every step of our process from the job description generation, all the way down to the offer acceptance. So yeah, we were able to really look at how we were operating in every step of our process. We say, how can we do this better, how can we make this faster, how can we take the people hours out of this. So I was really happy with the tools that we decided to implement and how that has been going.
MAX: Yeah. I don't know you went to this level of automation but we've seen some of our customers go basically all the way to an offer letter without an interview.
MAX: Yeah, scary a little bit I'd say, but it would have been a joke three-four years ago, as a gimmick. But they've rolled it out effectively with language or communication screening automated, and plugging in a few different solutions as part of the process. And basically, the human touch is only at the very end just to say congrats.
ASHLEIGH: Wow! We are nowhere close to that not going in that direction but that is impressive that they could do that.
MAX: No, no, it's scary but it's for a different kind of industry. It's for really high speed, high churn kind of positions. Okay and then you created a new role at Credit Karma, the head of the talent enablement. So we're always looking for new ways to name all things to reinvent ourselves. And so, what are you reinventing with talent enablement, or is this brand new?
ASHLEIGH: I mean I would say that it is the operations function on steroids. I would really make an analogy of let's say you're a traffic controller of talent. It's building the connectivity between all of the pieces and functions that are involved in hiring and onboarding someone, and it's really important to us right like we have such an incredible culture at Credit Karma. We want to ensure that we can run faster than we have and scale quicker than we have in terms of hiring but not lose any of the connectivity between the experience and the teams that contribute to that experience. So that is kind of the core of what the enablement will handle.
MAX: And could you illustrate that for me, you're talking about speeding up onboarding. Are we talking about basically workflow automation with certain tasks that get assigned automatically? These kinds of tools?
ASHLEIGH: Yeah, so right now, this team has built over 50 dashboards that are self-service dashboards for different partners in the business to understand all of what is happening in recruiting and model out what we're doing what the future state will look like in terms of hires. Everything from top-of-the-funnel metrics down to dashboards that enable IT to ensure they are curating the right amount of equipment for people. So it's really like taking all of the data from all of our systems and putting it in one spot so that we are making sure we'll have the information they need in order to do their job faster.
MAX: Okay. Is there one tool, it sounds like, that's a big project with 50 dashboards connecting the different parts of the operation. Is there a recommendation you can share on a tool that is a central part of this strategy? Are you using Taleo or Power BI, for instance, or is there some tech recommendation?
ASHLEIGH: Yeah, so we are using the data tool and G-Suite. We are a G-Suite company. And so that is essentially pulling out a greenhouse, out of the workday, serving into that. It's been a game-changer. I think for us, and the head of the talent enablement, he is kind of a wizard with building the data dashboards. We talk about what would be best to serve out in terms of insights, and he's able to kind of magically create all of these things quickly.
MAX: So another name for this head of talent enablement could be talent analytics.
ASHLEIGH: Part of that yes, talent analytics also runs operations, as I said tools, coordination team. We actually will be building a research team underneath them to do a lot of insights and building so we can go to our managers with really clear expectations on what talent pools look like, what they can expect in Geography, and in terms of seniority of talent. So really anything that can help us do things better and make things go faster, head of the enablement will deal with all that. And it doesn't stop there right so it's training and development really build and deliver not just team-based training, but personal training. We have an entire professional development plan where we get $5,000 a year to help you learn and invest back in your career, so tap into that. Align programs and projects across all of the talents, all the way from a brand, referral, mobility, DEI, you name it. And then, of course, he and his team are HRVP whispers, this is what I call them right. So you're making sure that we know how to interpret organizational needs into work design and then how do we go find those people to fill the work design.
MAX: It sounds like a very cerebral role that maybe is not what somebody had in mind when they came into recruitment in their early days.
ASHLEIGH: No, for sure no.
MAX: That is where it's going for sure. Keeping recruiters on their toes and then adapting to really becoming tech masters in different domains, connecting all these dashboards as you said, is very challenging, but the core of recruitments is still dealing with people and sometimes following our instincts, instead of our cerebral/instead of the grey matter. And those instincts can lead us astray. I like to ask, most of the guests on my show, if they can tell us about a recruitment mistake that they've made in the past, without naming anyone, so that we can learn from that mistake and try to avoid making the same one again.
ASHLEIGH: Okay, I'll have to think about this.
MAX: Doesn't have to be at Credit Karma.
ASHLEIGH: I mean, so many I'm just trying to choose the right one right it's not that I haven't made any mistakes. I've made so many mistakes but I want to make sure that the one I choose is good. I think I pride myself now on being very detail-oriented. And that is because of a few snafus in the past, right. And I don't know if it was this one moment but I do remember, pacing, on the phone in my daughter's bedroom, for whatever reason, and was talking through an offer with the candidate listening obviously about kind of what was still one of their objections or whatnot and giving them the numbers, and looking at my computer wells or pacing is not a good idea. And I looked at the wrong offer and gave incorrect compensation information.
MAX: Received too much.
ASHLEIGH: And it would have been fine if that number had been lower than the real number, but it was not of course because the universe would never let that happen. But I think my snafu with my learning is to tell everyone, just pay attention, don't pace, don't walk around, like make sure you've got the right numbers in front of you, be detail-oriented. Guess we are in the people business, we talk a lot it's a lot of conversations, a lot of relationship building, but at the end of the day, the details do count.
MAX: So important, yeah. You get a little confidence when you hire 10 people in a month, and then you think you can do that in your sleep between two meetings. No, that's when mistakes happen. That's a very good reminder that overconfidence can read complacency and that could drive terrible mistakes. Stay on your toes, folks. Thank you very much Ashleigh for coming to share, and I'd like to ask if people want to get a hold of you, what's the best way, or if they want to look at jobs at Credit Karma, I suppose.
ASHLEIGH: Yeah ping me up on LinkedIn. Send me a message and I am happy to answer any questions and creditkarma.com/careers, we're hiring anything and everything that has to do with product development in the tech sector, all the way from member support to machine learning engineers. What I can say about Credit Karma is we do as I alluded to have this incredible culture when we do put people first. We are on a mission to help our 110 plus million members enable them to find financial progress. So it's a great mission and we're a very good company.
MAX: Awesome. Thank you, Ashley.
: That was Ashley Anderson from credit karma, reminding us if need be that recruiters are a great talent pool for other departments. That's what credit karma did when they had a hiring freeze. She helped to repurpose and redirect some of the people in her team to other departments and they're still working there, it was a success.
So maybe inspiration when the next recession comes along, hopefully in a few years. Not too soon. Hope you enjoyed it and then you'll be back for more, remember to subscribe if you did.
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