How Atlassian hires the best talent on the market

Companies need to spend more time in developing and communicating their talent brand to attract the right candidates, according to Atlassian

Companies need to spend more time and effort in developing and communicating their talent brand in order to attract the right candidates, according to the head of recruitment for Atlassian.

A talent brand has to be an accurate, honest and well-rounded story that genuinely explains what working life is like in a particular company, said Caitriona Staunton, head of recruiting – APAC at Atlassian.

“We’ve thought very hard about what the selling point for working at Atlassian is and what really differentiates us from other tech companies competing for talent,” she said.

“Our brand is really about the kind of impact and focus people have here from their first day, our culture of innovation, our values and our fun work environment.”

It is also important to think about the appropriate mediums to deliver the talent brand message, such as videos, blogs, social media (such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram for Atlassian) or employees themselves as brand ambassadors, Staunton added.

“For us, it’s getting that brand out far and wide in ways that will appeal to the best talent,” said Staunton, who explained that Atlassian uses a combination of direct applications, recruitment campaigns, employee referrals and headhunting to source talent.

Atlassian runs domestic and international recruiting campaigns, and these assist the company in developing its employment brand locally and overseas.

“They drum up a lot of excitement with employees but also with the external market, and we’ve had fantastic success from these campaigns,” she said.

Atlassian also has an employee referral scheme, in which current employees are offered up to $10,000 for a successful referral who stays with the business over time.

Staunton also relies on a team of “world-class headhunters” who are always looking for new ways to find and attract the right talent into Atlassian.

“Our headhunters spend a lot of time analysing locations and companies that are potentially hidden gems, where the supply of talent might be really good but the demand isn’t as strong,” she said.

“Often they’ll focus headhunting campaigns on those areas.”

Atlassian brought about 500 experienced hires into the company globally last year (about half of these were hired in Sydney) and Staunton said this has been important in “moving the needle on some brand new talent markets” for keeping up with the growth of the business.

“I don’t see my team being replaced by technology tomorrow”

To help select the right talent for the business, Atlassian employs a combination of methods, including panels of internal managers who are trained in the process of interviewing, practical challenges and on-the-job skill testing as well as face-to-face interviews.

While Atlassian doesn’t employ psychometric testing, part of the interview process focuses on assessing a candidate’s fit against the working environment and its values of being an open company, “no bullshit”; play as a team; build with heart and balance; being the change you seek; and “don’t #@!% the customer”.

“We don’t pretend that it’s for everyone; we know what our values are and we know what we look for in candidates,” said Staunton.

“We want people who are solution-oriented, who prefer taking action and look to fix things rather than complaining about problems.”

Atlassian employs a combination of technology and people-based processes in recruitment, and Staunton says she is always testing new tools and technology and running experiments to improve the talent acquisition process.

“We have a lot of new search tools to help find the best talent, as well as a brand new applicant tracking system which helps us with more in-depth analysis of funnel metrics and where we need to focus on.

“However, I don’t see my team being replaced by technology tomorrow – at the end of the day recruiting is a people process and a lot of the relationships that we built with candidates have been cultivated over months and even years.”

Staunton also observed that companies often don’t spend enough time thinking about how to make interviews as effective and efficient as possible.

“Sometimes interviewers can go on a bit of a power trip, and brain teasers are notorious in the tech industry – but these brain teasers really don’t help interviewers find great people.

“So we spend a lot of time training hiring managers to focus on structured interviews which explore the past behaviour of candidates, their achievements and potential trajectory as a predictor of performance,” said Staunton, who said interviewers are also coached on understanding and identifying different biases that can come into play during interviews.

“Unfortunately we all assume that we are great interviewers, and we assume that we have great radars for detecting great talent,” she said.

“Rushing the process of recruitment or cutting corners leads companies to hire average performers”

Most companies also don’t invest enough time and money in talent acquisition, according to Staunton.

“Hiring can seem incredibly laborious and time-consuming when you don’t consider it part of your day-to-day job,” she said.

“Rushing the process of recruitment or cutting corners leads companies to hire average performers,” said Staunton, who explained that she and her team work with hiring managers and leaders to show them why recruiting is worth the upfront investment in time and money.

“I believe that the perfect team of recruiters will lead to great paybacks for the business over the next 5 to 10 years,” she said.

“Hiring high performers into the business really means less investment from the company or the manager in the long-run.”

Staunton also observed that there is often reluctance on the part of companies or hiring managers to offer stretch opportunities to talented people.

“Top performers rarely want to move laterally from a job that they really like,” she said.

“We generally find that if they have a history of success and a strong growth trajectory, they tend to continue that track record of success when they join us so we like to bet on that top talent by giving them a stretch,” she said.

Atlassian also places a strong emphasis on the candidate experience and is “constantly thinking of funky ways to make this better”, Staunton explained.

“This experience is critical; we live in a world now where our applicants have lots of choices of where and how they can work, so we want to make sure the experience of applying for a role here is as good as it possibly can be.

“Even little inexpensive things that wow a candidate are real differentiators to winning the best talent,” she said.

For example, when successful candidates accept an offer, they receive a welcome package (delivered to their door) which contains more information about Atlassian’s mission, purpose and values, as well as Tim-Tams, a Mars Rover puzzle (Atlassian was involved in helping put the Mars Curiosity Rover into space), a poem from the company’s president as well as a holiday voucher so the new employee can enjoy some downtime before they start.

“Those little surprises really wow candidates, and if we find out anything about their personal situation through the recruiting process we might also personalise it,” said Staunton.

“For example, one of our candidate’s wives was expecting a baby, so the welcome package included a special present for when the baby arrived.

“That’s the kind of thing that candidates often tweet about and share with their friends. It’s the branding that money can’t buy really.”

Image source: Hayden Brotchie