Strategy & Process Consulting for
Corporate Recruiting & HR Teams

custom, real-world, collaborative recruiting consulting

Since 2005, we’ve helped organizations of all shapes and sizes improve recruiting speed, quality, and diversity.

We’re a specialized management consulting and training firm focused 100% on helping companies recruit better.  We’re former practitioners who partner closely with you – heads of talent acquisition or HR – to better define your hiring standards, create custom interview guides, improve your strategies and processes, articulate why top talent should join your firm, and elevate the performance of your recruiters and hiring managers.

All of our work starts with clearly defined deliverables based on your goals.

We’ve been trusted to help startups, who are just starting to build their foundations and culture of recruiting, as well as some of the biggest, most complex, well-known organizations on earth.  We can scale up – or scale down – our projects so that you get just what you need.

I’m interested in…

Strategy, Org Model & Process Consulting
EVP, Employment Branding & Messaging
Hiring Standards & Interview Guides
Bar Raisers & Quality Control Mechanisms
Hiring Manager Self Service Toolbox
Diversity Recruiting Strategy

Strategy, Org Model & Process Audit/Consulting

We help talent leaders audit and assess their current strategies, organizational model, programs, processes, team capabilities, and training needs.  And we do it all with a strong practitioner orientation.

If you want a big binder full of academic, ideal-state best practices, we’re not a match for your needs.  But, if instead, you seek real-world, custom best practice recommendations to help ensure you are delivering what your business needs, given your unique culture, goals, and hiring needs, we should talk.  That’s what we do.

Listen to an overview of our audit and recommendations work:

Download the Talent Acquisition Function Audit Overview
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Great inputs are key to great outputs.  So we start all strategy and process consulting work with a deep dive to understand your current state.  We review current reports and metrics, survey key stakeholders, and leverage live focus group interviews with your recruiting and HR teams, your executives and department leaders,  finance, and recent hires to identify existing best practices and unmet needs.  We usually complete all of this discovery and focus group work over the course of a month.  And you’re involved along the way – many of our clients even join our focus groups, when appropriate.

First, we align on the focus areas for your assessment.  Second, we work to understand your current state and uncover root issues.  Then, third, we collaborate with you to assess where you are today versus where you want and need to be, based on your business’ needs, not some ideal world best practice.  Once we’re aligned on the assessment, we enter the fourth phase, where we build out real-world best practices that are prioritized and aligned to your biggest needs.  We even help you build the business case for additional funding, if needed, and ensure you know the best resources – internally or externally – to help you execute on your investments in better strategies, processes, and training.

Will you get a written report?  Yes.  That’s a key deliverable.  But it’s not just some best practice, copy-pasted best practices list.  Instead, it’s built with you – and your key stakeholders – in mind, highlighting where you’re meeting needs today effectively, where you have the biggest unmet recruiting needs (with data, insights, and focus group feedback), and options for different levels of investment to meet those unmet needs.

The recommendations are specific – for example, we give you a detailed, step by step recruiting process, complete with SLAs, role definition, tools and guide recommendations, and an explanation of the WHY (not just the what and the how), so you can more easily “sell” the recommendation.  Need better metrics?  We’ll give you specific recommendations – how to calculate critical metrics, where to get the data, what realistic internal benchmarks looks like, and even example questions for surveys/assessment tools.  Or maybe you need to improve sourcing strategies for key roles?  We’ll give you a recruiting strategy, ready for your recruiting manager to leverage in her next presentation to a department leader.  You get tools, templates, guides, examples, and more, to ensure that what we give you is very actionable.

We’re regularly asked to help co-present – with you – the final recommendations to your CHRO/head of HR, and sometimes, CFO or CIO/CTO. An assessment and recommendations consulting project is not valuable if it doesn’t lead to real change, new priorities, additional investments, and overall – better speed, quality, and diversity.  So, we’re here to help you “sell” the recommendations to key stakeholders.

We’ve completed successful consulting projects for all kinds of interesting companies.

IKEA, Nike, Google, Concur, Columbia Sportswear, Sodexo, Uber, McDonalds, Seattle Genetics, Amazon, Target, Zeiss, and TripAdvisor.

We don’t compare your TA capabilities to academic best practices. We go deep to recommend how you can deliver what YOUR business needs from you.

EVP, Employment Branding, and Messaging

We partner with you to build out your employee value proposition (EVP) – why would top talent, who is already working for a great company, want to work for your company?  We go beyond the generalities that plague so many EVPs to come up with compelling content that captures what makes you, you and content that’s tailored to the personas of your target candidates.

Your EVP is written in an authentic tone, resonates with existing employees (truthful, and not too aspirational), and – most importantly – is leveraged to improve your ability to attract top talent via better job ads, more compelling career site content (including testimonials), better LinkedIn and social media content, and more effective selling skills of recruiters and hiring managers.

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You already have an EVP – it’s what your employees and candidates say about you now.  We start our EVP and branding work with a people-competitor review – what is your reputation as an employer relative to your people competitors?  If I’m a top candidate, considering a career move, what would I learn about you online?  Would I see consistent messaging?  Would I see authentic, real world pros and cons, that make me trust what I see?

First, we align on the goals for your EVP and branding work.  Why invest in this work, why now?  Some of our clients need better content to improve their non-money recruiting pitch for recruiter and hiring manager training.  Some are looking to revamp their career site, and need testimonials, or better job ad language.  And some are needing a deep dive to better understand how to match their unique selling proposition to the motivators of very hard-to-hire candidate pools – nurses, software engineers, diverse talent, MBAs from top schools, etc.

We ensure we align early to collaborate on your intended USE of your EVP and branding messaging.

Will you get a written EVP?  Yes.  That’s a key deliverable.  But we see the EVP as a foundational piece of the overall recruiting strategy.  A strong written EVP – alone – won’t help you recruit and retain top talent if it’s not leveraged in your job ads, on your career site, in your social presence, on candidate feedback sites like Glassdoor, in your recruiter selling messaging, and in your hiring manager Q&A sessions with passive talent.

And, you don’t have just ONE EVP.  You need tailored EVPs for your key job families – the reason a sales person or engineer or nurse or retail associate will join your company will vary based on their needs.  We can help you build out recruiting personas – which capture the unique motivations and profiles of top talent within a job family – to ensure that you have compelling messaging for each of your most critical roles.  Your core EVP remains the same, but your messaging needs to speak more specifically to each persona’s needs. One size does not fit all.

In the end, we make sure you get actionable content and guides to help you with the tactical work of attracting and recruiting top talent.

While a written EVP and recruitment messaging is a key deliverable, the process we use to get it is equally important.  Why?  Because you’ll need key influencers and stakeholders inside your company to feel part of the development of your EVP, so that when they read it, when they’re asked to leverage new messaging about why top talent should work here, it resonates with them – they feel a connection to the message, the words used…it feels like “us,” not some consulting firm deliverable.  That’s why we include key influencers and stakeholders – including recruiting and HR team members, executives, hiring managers, top individual contributors, marketing/communications/branding leaders, product leaders, and recent hires in the development process.

Ultimately, a strong, authentic, compelling EVP and complementary messaging leads to better (top of funnel) sourcing and candidate engagement ROI, faster hiring, fewer offer declines, and improved diversity.  What would you get if you engage us for this kind of work?

  • New career site content – including testimonials – that speaks to your top talent profile(s) motivators
  • Improved job posting language that repositions jobs away from traditional “requirements and responsibilities” to something that speaks more directly to the challenge, learning, impact, culture, and career opportunities available with your teams
  • Better recruiting pitch messaging that your recruiters and hiring managers can use to engage active and passive talent
  • Selling guides for key job families, including the most engaging questions you can ask to drive more interest in job opportunities
  • Better LinkedIn and social media content that your hiring teams can leverage and share
  • Key Glassdoor and online candidate research content that help you better explain why top talent should consider a career with your company
  • Content to help you drive more referrals, and improve selling in your recruiter or hiring manager/interview training

And we work with you – after content is developed – to build our your prioritized implementation plan.

We’ve completed successful EVP and branding consulting projects for all kinds of interesting companies, including Coldwell Banker, Premera Blue Cross, Zumiez, Marchex, Accuray, and Seattle Genetics.

Top talent has choices, and they’re interviewing you as much as you’re interviewing them. How do you authentically speak to those top talent motivators?

Hiring Standards & Interview Guides

Misalignment on “what good looks like” is the root of all evil in recruiting.  We help companies better define their hiring standards/hiring bar by developing values-based behaviors/competencies that reflect the characteristics of top performers in your unique culture, and then we build complementary interview guides that help your hiring teams gather evidence  – through behavioral and situational interviewing – that the candidate they want to hire will be successful on the job.

We also build out hiring principles that help your interviewers, hiring managers, and recruiters understand what kind of hiring decision tradeoffs are acceptable, how you think about diversity when hiring, and how you balance technical/hard skills and soft skills.  These help you articulate your way of thinking about talent and hiring – the who you hire and how you hire that differentiates your recruiting approach from other companies.

If you’re looking to raise the bar on hiring, you have to define the bar first.  We can help.  Let’s talk.

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We partner with you to define your hiring standards – your “what good looks like” (WGLL) across all of your job families.  These often include core competencies/behaviors that align to your culture, values, and purpose/mission.  Our deliverables are designed to replace generic definitions like “A-player” or “culture fit” or “high potential” with tangible, evidence based definitions that can be leveraged in interview guides, interview training, and employer branding messaging on your career site.  We ensure WGLL incorporates your point of view on diversity, as well.  (Too often, WGLL definitions are based on homogenous profiles and hiring criteria, including school and company pedigree and culture-fit.  If D&I is a big focus for you, you’ll want to make sure your hiring bar is inclusive and incorporates multiple success profiles.)

We leverage the “what good looks like” behaviors to build out interview guides that will help your interviewing teams learn how to evaluate soft skills – the HOW work gets done – by leveraging both behavioral and situational interviewing techniques.  They compare candidate answers to well defined standards, so that bias-filled decisions around “culture fit” are avoided.  We usually build out 6-10 guides total, 1 for each behavior/competency. These are foundational for interviewer training.

Getting alignment on WHO you hire and HOW you hire is critical to hiring top talent at scale.  New people, hiring new people, hiring new people is scary.  Why?  Because your culture is at risk when hiring managers/teams each bring their own sense of what makes good talent, what are acceptable risks, what is meant by diversity, and more.

We help you articulate your company’s hiring philosophy as principles that every hiring manager is expected to adopt, so that you get consistently high quality hiring decisions that help you avoid false positives (hiring someone who is not good) and false negatives (declining someone who would have been good).

While competencies and interview guides and hiring principles are key deliverables, the process we use to get those built is equally important.  Why?  Because you’ll need key influencers and stakeholders inside your company to feel part of the development of your competencies and hiring principles, so that when they read them, when they’re asked to leverage them in hiring decisions, they resonate with them – they feel a connection to the work, the words used…it feels like “us,” not some consulting firm deliverable.  That’s why we include key influencers and stakeholders – including recruiting and HR team members, executives, hiring managers, top individual contributors, and recent hires in the development process.

We partner very closely with you – heads of talent or HR – to ensure that we include the right stakeholders and influencers in the process, and build something that feels like it’s yours…not some external consulting firm deliverable.  We know that all of these deliverables are a means to an end – ultimately, you should see better alignment on what good looks like, on not only WHO we hire but HOW we hire – and that all leads to better speed, quality and diversity.  If you decide you need a partner to help you deploy this work, we can help you design and deliver custom hiring manager training, as well.

This type of work is what we’re best known for.  We’ve built out competencies/behaviors, interview guides, and hiring principles for all kinds of interesting companies.  PepsiCo, Ferrero, Uber, Nubank, Target, Starbucks, Booking, Expedia, EA games, Dolby, Pokemon, Micron, ESPN, and Epic Games/Fortnite are all clients.

New people hiring new people is one of the biggest risks to your culture. You need to have a well-articulated hiring bar specific to your org.

Bar Raisers & Quality Control Mechanisms

For some companies, hiring mistakes are just too costly, so they need a mechanism to ensure a fair, consistent, diverse, high hiring bar is leveraged across all hires.  Enter Bar Raisers.  The Bar Raiser program was co-developed by our founder, John Vlastelica, in 1999 when he led tech recruiting at Amazon.  Today, it’s scaled to hundreds of thousands of hiring decisions across the globe, and is getting traction as a mechanism for quality control and real-time hiring coaching inside all kinds of interesting companies.

If you’re considering a program like this – which, by the way, is not for every company, and is not easy to copy-paste into an existing interviewing process – we should talk.  We’ve helped companies design and implement bar raiser programs, as well as hiring committees (the model used by Google) and pipeline interviewing models. (Learn more about the pros and cons of programs like Bar Raisers and Hiring Committees at

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We partner with you to define the problem or opportunity you’re trying to solve for with a program like Bar Raisers.  It can feel pretty overwhelming to introduce something like this if you don’t have significant “pull” from the business, which includes pain around new hire quality and diversity.

But, if you have a need for:

  • Better facilitated hiring decisions, that avoid false positives (bad hires) and false negatives (missed out on good hires, especially if D&I is a focus), or
  • Some kind of accountability mechanism to ensure you’re applying objective hiring criteria based on quality interviewing practices, or
  • A real-time coach, to help raise the bar on your interviewing techniques, decision making process, and diversity approach,

…then something like Bar Raisers may be a good match.  Another option is to help your recruiters play more of a Talent Advisor role, where they operate as more of a facilitator or leader in the hiring decision debriefs.

We can go beyond great interviewer training to build out the why, what, who, and how of a bar raiser program.  We know how to engage the business, engage stakeholders, build out the rules of engagement and process of bar raising, and train up the bar raisers to be effective coaches, debrief facilitators, diversity champions, and keepers of the high bar you’ve established.

We were hired to build Amazon’s first Bar Raiser training program, and have presented on pros and cons of programs like bar raisers for LinkedIn, ERE, and SHRM.

Getting alignment on WHO you hire and HOW you hire is critical to hiring top talent at scale.  New people, hiring new people, hiring new people is scary.  Why?  Because your culture is at risk when hiring managers/teams each bring their own sense of what makes good talent, what are acceptable risks, what is meant by diversity, and more.  This is one of the primary areas where Bar Raisers can help – they can be the keepers of your unique hiring principles, to ensure hiring decisions align to your hiring principles.

We help you articulate your company’s hiring philosophy as principles that every hiring manager is expected to adopt, so that you get consistently high quality hiring decisions that help you avoid false positives (hiring someone who is not good) and false negatives (declining someone who would have been good).

How do these principles help Bar Raisers?  The Bar Raiser role depends heavily on company-wide hiring principles so that you get a consistent bar across Bar Raisers.  Without these principles, you may have good intentioned Bar Raisers each bring their own personal preferences and biases to hiring decisions, which defeats the purpose of a program like this.

We partner very closely with you – heads of talent or HR – to ensure that we include the right stakeholders and influencers in the process (via focus groups), and build something that feels like it’s yours…not some external consulting firm deliverable.

If you hire us to build your Bar Raiser program, we can not only train your initial Bar Raisers, but also create a program for ongoing training, which may include a Bar Raiser mentoring program and a Train-the-Trainer program, where we certify your most effective, respected Bar Raisers to train new Bar Raisers.

We’ve built out Bar Raiser programs for some interesting companies.  As a practitioner, our Founder, John Vlastelica, co-built and co-led Amazon’s original Bar Raisers program, starting in 1999, when he was head of tech recruiting.  He was then hired back later – after he founded Recruiting Toolbox – to build out their first Bar Raiser training program.  Since then, we’ve helped other organizations identify the right quality control mechanisms for their unique cultures – we do not recommend copy/pasting Amazon’s unique program into your company; your program will need significant customization to the challenges and opportunities you’re trying to solve for, which may start pre-bar raisers with hiring bar definition work, interview guides, interview training, and interviewing strategy and process consulting.

For example, we helped early Groupon and Juno Therapeutics establish their early Bar Raiser programs, while we helped Yahoo! implement its Hiring Committee approach after they hired their (ex-Google) CEO years ago.  Many of our clients already have some kind of Bar Raiser program in place – Uber, for example, has a program that focuses the role of the Bar Raiser less on vetoing hiring decisions, and more on debrief moderation.

Too often, we just trust that our hiring managers and interviewers are making quality hiring decisions, without any accountability mechanism.

Hiring Manager Self-Service Toolbox

A culture of recruiting, where everyone in the company – especially hiring managers – feels like they’re an extension of the recruiting team is a key ingredient in the secret sauce to great recruiting. But, getting Hiring Managers into long training sessions can be challenging.  And even if you offer up training, you need tools and templates, how-to guides with well documented processes.  We can help.

We build out self-service hiring manager toolbox content that you can load onto your intranet.  Recruiting process steps, from opening a req to on-boarding. Job ad templates.  LinkedIn profile update best practices.  Interview guides.  Selling and offer tips.   On-boarding checklists.  We can inventory what you have now, and then custom-build content you need to help you enable more self service with your hiring managers.

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We work with you to understand your goals and expectations for your hiring managers. How do you want them to participate in the recruiting process, and why?  We lead focus group conversations with recruiting and hiring manager teams to understand what tools, guides, templates, checklists, etc. would help them the most, so that whatever we build is tailored to your real world needs, an actually gets used.

After inventorying what you already we have, we build out new guides, tools, checklists to help enable more self service by your hiring managers.  This typically includes:

  • process content you need for approvals,
  • guides to help hiring managers better define their hiring needs,
  • sourcing and attraction tools (including job ad templates, employee referral solicitation language, online community engagement email templates),
  • interviewing guides (phone screens, onsite interviews, competency question guides),
  • interview process best practices,
  • selling content and offer suggestions,
  • and on-boarding checklists.

All of this is branded with your logos.

We are your partners for content, but you’ll need in-house developer resources to load your content onto your firewall protected intranet site.

We build custom hiring manager training for companies around the world.  If you need short how-to videos to teach your hiring managers how to use a job ad template or interview guide, we can build those for your.  If you need more comprehensive live interviewing, diversity, and selling training, we can build and deliver that for you, too.  Learn more about our interview training.

We’ve been building tools and guides for hiring managers since Recruiting Toolbox was founded in 2005, as part of our popular custom hiring manager training.  Clients like PepsiCo, Nubank, Target, Starbucks, Booking, Expedia, EA games, Pokemon, Micron, and ESPN have deployed guides we’ve built for them to their hiring managers.

Our first hiring manager toolbox client – where we built out more comprehensive hiring manager tools, beyond interviewing guides, was for a division of Philips Electronics.  Since then, we’ve built custom hiring manager toolboxes for companies like TGI Friday’s, Kindercare, and Edwards Life Sciences.

If we’re going to expect more from our hiring managers, we need to give them the tools to do their jobs well.

Diversity Recruiting Strategy

If you’re looking for something beyond unconscious bias training and Grace Hopper conference participation to improve your diversity sourcing ROI, we can help.  We partner with executives, diversity leaders, talent acquisition leaders, and recruiters to build out the sourcing, interviewing, and selling strategies needed to attract, select, and hire talent that adds to your culture

It all starts with work to understand and articulate your company’s WHY for diversity.  And then we work to build out the tactical changes to the way you message your EVP and job opportunities, the way you source and engage talent, the way you interview and select candidates, and the way you sell opportunities.  We audit what you’re doing today, diagnose root issues, help you establish realistic diversity recruiting goals, and then focus in on the specific strategic shifts and tactical process changes you need to make to hire quality diverse talent.

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Great diversity recruiting strategy starts with “pull” from the business.  It won’t succeed if it’s only an HR initiative.  Middle managers are the key to change, as they’re the ones hiring in volume, and making decisions every day that either help or hurt your ability to recruit top diverse talent.

So, uncovering their WHY for diversity is where we start – is it related to social good, the need for product innovation, a desire for more engagement and collaboration on their team?  Once we have the WHY, we dig into the need by understanding the current mix of talent today, and where additional identity and cognitive diversity on the teams would help. Only then – with this understanding – can we build out the recruiting strategies needed to deliver what the business needs.

We assess current sourcing strategies, and compare that to the needs of your business.  What kind of talent are you NOT able to attract?  Why?  We dig into the weeds to understand how effectively your existing sources – including referrals, which can be problematic for diversity if they’re generating only homogenous leads – are generating candidates from under-represented groups.  And then work with you to identify new sources, new engagement tactics, and new ways to leverage your employees and hiring managers to source high quality, diverse talent.  Some of this is short term hunting, while some is longer term farming, with ROI that will pay off over years.

Finding diverse talent is only part of the challenge. And honestly, it can often be relatively easy compared to the bigger challenge of ensuring that your hiring teams are not letting pedigree bias, generalizations, poorly defined “culture fit” (vs well defined “culture add”), and a dependence on gut feel and dated signals for hire quality drive their decisions.  One of the biggest concerns top talent leaders have is around false negative hiring decisions – saying no to someone we should have hired.  And when you bring in diverse talent – talent that’s not the same as the interviewing team – it’s human nature to reject that talent, even if the candidate was fully capable of doing the work.

We go beyond unconscious bias training to design an interviewing process that is fair, based on objective criteria, that creates the kind of candidate experience and interviewer experience that leads to better, faster hiring decisions and more diverse hires.

We build custom hiring manager, interviewer, and recruiter training for companies around the world.  Diversity is not a “module” in this training – it’s embedded in everything we train on…from how we define what good looks like, to how we align our interviewers on hiring requirements and focus areas, to how we interview and make decisions (including tradeoffs when candidates aren’t perfect).

If you need comprehensive live interviewing and selling training, we can build and deliver that for you.  Learn more about our interview training.

We’ve been helping companies improve their diversity ROI through our hiring manager and interviewer training programs for years.  Clients like Target, Nubank, Starbucks, Booking, Autodesk, and EA games engaged us to not only train their managers in behavioral interviewing and legal dos and don’ts, but to also communicate a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion as part of their training, and ensure that hiring managers and interviewers leave the training knowing how they can help bring in top diverse talent into their orgs.

We also build out training for companies looking to improve their recruiters’ abilities to improve diversity ROI.  Hulu, the online streaming company, for example, hired us to build a custom Talent Advisor workshop focused 100% on engaging hiring managers more effectively around D&I.  Disney hired us to help elevate their diversity sourcing capabilities.  And Adidas engaged us to build a custom workshop for their global recruiting team to learn how to more effectively coach hiring managers during the interviewing and decision making process, with a focus on reducing bias and improving diversity.

There is no quick fix or one size fits all. But there are definitely low hanging fruit changes you can make to your strategies and processes to make tangible improvements.

Interested in learning more about how we can help your teams recruit better?

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What Do Our Clients Say?

“One of the most well-informed, experienced, and passionate recruitment authorities in the business.”

VP Executive Recruiting, SAP

“Earned the trust of our business leaders and delivered great results. I highly recommend Recruiting Toolbox.”

Director HR, Zumiez

“Able to understand our complex organization and provide actionable insights and recommendations that has helped us achieve our recruiting process improvement goals.”

VP Recruiting, Sodexo

“Thought leaders in the recruiting space.”

Head of Recruiting, Europe, Nike

“Their work truly is a game-changer for companies striving to compete in a difficult talent market.”

VP HR, Rhapsody

“Fabulous to work with. Their expertise runs so deep that within minutes they establish credibility with a skeptical and analytical crowd.”

L&D Leader, Yahoo!

“Delivered excellent results, knows what it means to be a practitioner, was respectful of our culture, pushed back when needed, and provided coaching to help us implement.”

Head of Recruiting, REI

“World class!”

CHRO, NuBank