Whether you are hiring new talent or starting at a new company, navigating the hiring and onboarding process can be tricky. As a candidate you want to know how to stand out and as a recruiter you want to make sure your company’s culture and values resonate with those you are looking to hire.
To get a sense of what it’s like on both sides of the experience, I talked with Leigh Anne Williams, US Recruiter, and Tiffany Hui, Content Manager, at Brandwatch. Tiffany recently joined the company after meeting their recruiting team at Hustle Summit, FindSpark’s epic career fair and diversity recruitment event in New York and Chicago. We talked about how candidates and recruiters can communicate their values and how important first impressions are, whether you’re attending a networking event or preparing a new employee for their first day.
Emily: Tell us about the overall culture at Brandwatch. How do you think about the company at a brand level?
Leigh Anne: We’re a global organization and our headquarters are in Brighton in the UK. In addition to New York City, we also have offices in Berlin, Stuttgart, Singapore, Paris, and San Francisco. I think that there’s something really special about working for a global company — every office you visit has a distinct “Brandwatch” feel, yet each has its own unique culture and traditions.
Our Brandwatch culture and values around the world, including at our US headquarters here in New York City, is exemplified by a team that is passionate about all we do. We’re all very eager to learn and grow. We embrace change, and thanks to this spirit, Brandwatchers know it’s okay to make mistakes. We push to challenge people and we make it acceptable to ask, “Why?”. Asking why is never going to be seen as attacking somebody. Throughout the office you see people smiling, happy to be here and encouraging each other to try new things.
Emily: What are some top level things that you look for in candidates to make sure that they will fit into that environment? What is a early good sign in knowing they might be a fit?
Leigh Anne: A lot of people define this as a candidate having a “cultural fit,” but at Brandwatch we try to step away from that because we don’t want to hire the exact same personality type with identical education and experiential background time and time again. We want to diversify our hiring, in every sense of the word.
We look for people that match our core values, which are: Be bold; Be brilliant; Be authentic; Be accountable; and Be connected. Throughout the interview process we identify traits in people that match our core values. For example, did someone give examples of when they were being bold and took a major risk? Is a candidate sharing a professional experience that showcases they take accountability for a project or a team? That’s when our radar goes off and we know we’re in the presence of a kindred Brandwatch spirit.
Emily: Tiffany, you’ve been at Brandwatch for a few months now and you first connected with the social intelligence company’s recruitment team at Hustle Summit in January. If you had to think back to Hustle Summit, your early conversations with their recruiting team and your interview process, what did you do to stand out and demonstrate that you aligned with their values, and ultimately land the job?
Tiffany: Considering there were so many people looking to connect with the companies that were at Hustle Summit, my approach was not so much catching the recruiter's attention as it was to stay true to myself and to be authentic. With a limited amount of time, my strategy was to have the strongest conversation possible with Derek, who was representing Brandwatch at the event. I wanted to be sure I created a moment of memorable engagement.
To other job seekers going to a recruiting event like Hustle Summit, I recommend going in prepared with information about the company. Show you’ve done your research to get their attention. Know why you’re there and what you want to talk about with them. I approached my initial conversation with Brandwatch as, “This is who I am,” then I shared a little about me. I also made sure to share - specifically - what I was searching for in terms of job opportunities. Be sure to get to the point, but begin by forging a subtle relationship. My approach was not to try too hard, and to go in with a plan to align myself with their organization, in an organic way of course.
Leigh Anne: When Derek and I were talking about the conversation he and Tiffany had at Hustle Summit, we noted she really hit on the Brandwatch values and embraced them in a way that our employees do every day.
Emily: Once someone joins the team at Brandwatch, how do you work to onboard new team members and what is something they appreciate the most? Knowing how global Brandwatch is, how does onboarding differ between offices? Or do you strive to keep it consistent across the company?
Leigh Anne: Onboarding starts the second a new employee joins Brandwatch because we want them to feel like a Brandwatcher from the moment they accept the offer. We do a lot to make them feel like they are already welcome before they set foot in the office for their first day.
A week before they start we send out an email that details where to go when they arrive, who will greet them, and what to expect on the first day. We send them a questionnaire to fill out about their hobbies and favorite places they’ve traveled, and upload their mini bio to our Team site so everyone can start to get to know the new hires. Our Team page is great, you can see everyone who is in your office or working in your specific department, and connect with them. While you do so, you can learn a little bit about them.
On an employee’s first day they begin an induction process that is two weeks long. During those 10 working days, a new employee will meet with people throughout the business—such as our customer success team, sales and marketing teams. These meetings ensure they truly understand our business and form relationships with people in different areas of the company. We have about 80 people in the New York Office, so it takes time to get to know everyone and what they do. These early meetings ensure that if, for example, a new employee has a question about marketing they have someone on that team they can go to who will let them know where to direct questions and the structure of the marketing team.
Every two weeks we have a national North America team meeting and invite all the new people to introduce themselves. We ask fun questions (my personal favorite is “what’s your go-to karaoke song?”) and encourage everyone to introduce themselves to new team members. Making new employees feel welcome and showing them what it’s like to work at Brandwatch is the responsibility of the entire company, and we all do so with gusto.
We also introduce new hires in our global Slack group. We let everyone know who the new hires are and what team they are joining. We want these new, awesome people to get out into the Brandwatch world and immerse themselves into our business and culture as soon as they join.
Emily: Tiffany, what were you most nervous about before your first day and what surprised you most during the onboarding process?
Tiffany: Honestly, I was afraid of a lot of things before I started. But I really wondered about the relationship with my primary manager and the company in general—how would that turn out? Building relationships with my colleagues is very important to me and I had to remind myself that learning the overall company culture and how everyone treats each other is a long process. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Induction was a great way to break the ice and meet people I won’t necessarily be working with every day. The fact that everyone would be aware of my presence, even though I wasn’t initiating the interaction myself, put me at ease.
Building those relationships would take a lot longer if someone had to take that on themselves as a new hire.
Emily: Since you are both on different sides of the onboarding process, what are your biggest pieces of advice for creating a welcome experience for new employees and making a good first impression?
Leigh Anne: Do what you can to prepare, but be open to the curveballs you will inevitably be thrown. Your new professional experience is a journey. More than anything else, be true to who you are by simply being yourself. Make your presence known and approach your new job as a new adventure of learning and growth. Everyone knows you’re new and there’s a lot to learn. Remember, you are joining a team that wants you there.
Tiffany: Stretch yourself to go beyond your comfort zone. Go above and beyond what you’re used to and experience a little discomfort that will push you to be better in the future. Approach every interaction, meeting or new task and challenge with enthusiasm and with a desire to learn more every day. Here at Brandwatch, the team has so much energy and offers a lot of support. Everyone is constantly striving to do what’s best for our business and people are always willing to lend a hand, learn something new and answer questions. I know that my approach to working at this company, to embrace their values and culture, has made it a great transition.
Photography by Tavish Timothy