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TalentOps and data-driven recruitment - Podcast with Macpaw

min read
Feb 28, 2024
TalentOps and data-driven recruitment - Podcast with Macpaw
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In the latest episode of the “Hiring Talks” podcast, we had an exciting discussion with Anna Busol, Talent Operations Specialist from MacPaw.

This is an outstanding software company that develops and distributes software for macOS and iOS for more than 30 million users worldwide.

Our topic for this discussion is the data-driven recruitment and TalentOps role within. You’ll find out what TalentOps is, data-driven recruitment, and how it works at a company with 400+ employees.

Hiring Talks with MacPaw

Anna, tell us about your company, position, and professional background.

I've recently been promoted to a Talent Ops role at MacPaw, a leading software development company based in Kyiv, Ukraine. My academic foundation is in System Analysis, and I bring nearly six years of experience in the recruitment field to my current position. MacPaw is renowned for creating and distributing innovative software for macOS and iOS, including popular products like CleanMyMac X, Setapp, ClearVPN, among others. Since its acquisition of The Unarchiver in 2017, MacPaw has continued to support and develop this product actively. Our products enjoy a global user base of over 30 million, with every fifth Mac worldwide having at least one MacPaw application installed.

At MacPaw, we strongly emphasize the digital safety of our users, our team, and the organization as a whole. We foster a culture of cybersecurity that permeates through secure products, processes, and team awareness, continuously innovating and enhancing our offerings with features that safeguard online experiences. Additionally, MacPaw is deeply committed to supporting and developing Ukraine, reflecting our pride in our Ukrainian roots through robust Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs and initiatives.

Talent Operations is a fairly new concept, and there are many ways people explain it, but sometimes these explanations can be a bit unclear. At MacPaw, how do you see Talent Operations? And what made you realize you needed someone in this role?

Over the last few years, our Talent Acquisition team—and, as a result, our company—has gotten a lot bigger. With this growth, our hiring processes have become more complex. We saw a clear need to focus on making our hiring efficient, high-quality (because that's what we aim for at MacPaw), and cost-effective. That's basically what Talent Ops is here at MacPaw!

Talent Ops is all about supporting our Talent Acquisition team to achieve their goals best. This could involve planning how many people we need to hire, using analytics to improve hiring, making the hiring process smoother, or even ensuring candidates have a great experience with us.

For which companies is the TalentOps Specialist position essential? Is it the best fit for large companies or, contrarily, for startups?

In my opinion, we can define the following groups:

  1. Fast-growing companies or startups. As these businesses rapidly expand, they need to manage high-speed hiring while building out policies, compensation strategies, onboarding processes, etc. Talent Ops can handle this effectively.
  2. Large corporations. In larger organizations, managing talent becomes much more complex due to the sheer size of the workforce. Talent Ops can help scale processes, manage complex HR tech systems, and analyze HR metrics to drive strategy and decision-making.
  3. Companies going through digital transformation. Because Talent Ops understands both HR processes and tech implementation.
  4. Organizations with high employee turnover. Identifying issues and implementing strategies to improve retention is a key function of Talent Operations.

In smaller companies or those with simple talent management needs, HR teams may take on the responsibilities of Talent Ops as part of their regular functions. That was our case before separating Talent Ops as a separate function at MacPaw. Even though we are not a small company with simple talent management needs.


Could you explain the difference between Talent Operations and Recruitment Operations? What makes them distinct from each other?

Recruitment Operations often focus specifically on the recruitment process. Professionals in these roles work to streamline and improve all processes related to the recruitment lifecycle - sourcing, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding new employees. This could involve creating efficient interview processes, implementing applicant tracking systems, managing job postings, enhancing candidate experience, and analyzing recruitment metrics.

Talent Operations, on the other hand, takes care of a broader spectrum of responsibilities. While they interact with recruitment, their focus also includes areas beyond it. Talent Operations manages systems and processes supporting recruitment, talent management, training and development, performance management, employee engagement, and sometimes payroll and benefits. They work to streamline and improve processes throughout the entire employee lifecycle, not just the recruitment stage.

How's the TalentOps market looking these days?

Regarding the current market situation, as organizations continue to recognize the value of strategic and data-driven HR, the demand for both Talent Operations and Recruitment Operations roles is increasing. But in Ukraine, this is still a fresh role. As I was prepping for our talk, I checked how many Ops vacancies are on the market right now, and I found only 8 that mentioned talent operations in their description. So, my role might sound exotic to some people, especially my grandma!  

What fields of recruitment process do you cover in your work? Does it refer to candidate selection, engagement, interview process, or retention?

I cover all of it. Of course, we select our top priority directions based on MacPaw’s strategy. That’s where we go first. Maybe we’ll split functions in the future if the company grows significantly. It's an exciting prospect. But as for the here and now, it's all on me. Rest assured, I'm committed to ensuring the entire recruitment process at MacPaw runs smoothly, efficiently, and in alignment with our strategic goals.

Your workload seems to be kinda massive. So, setting KPIs could be a real challenge here as you cover the whole hiring process. What goals in terms of TalentOps were set for you?

At MacPaw, we work with OKR’s. In case this is a new topic for you, OKR stands for Objectives and key results and is a goal-setting framework that allows teams to set ambitious goals collaboratively. Within this framework, the company's strategic goals trickle down and become individual team goals. In essence, each team gets to figure out the most efficient and effective way to do their part in achieving the bigger picture.

At the Talent Acquisition team, we have our specific OKRs, which directly align with the company's bigger objectives. As a part of this team, my role takes shape around these OKRs. I help my team reach their goals by either tweaking existing hiring processes or designing new ones from the ground up. So, the Talent Acquisition at MacPaw team has its OKRs, and my role is to help my team achieve their goals by modifying or creating new hiring processes.

Now, an essential aspect of my job is deciding which process to work on first, and that's where my prioritized backlog comes in. It’s essentially a list that keeps me organized. It tells me which processes are most important or urgent so I can decide which ones to tackle first and next, ensuring the team is functioning efficiently and contributing to the company's strategy as planned.

Do you also keep an eye on specific KPIs to measure progress towards your targets and benchmarks?

So, of course, as a Talent Acquisition team, we are tracking % of the hiring plan we achieved. Unfortunately, I can’t go deeper into this topic because of NDA.

Could you give some recommendations on KPIs and performance metrics mid-size companies can track to improve their talent operations activities?

Metrics help us understand the quality of our achievements. So, these metrics and KPIs can differ depending on the company’s goals, culture, and many more factors. For example, this most straightforward metric shows how many hires a recruiter makes every month of the year. If we’re talking about a rapidly growing company that needs to get big quickly, we must look into this metric and set benchmarks for the team and each recruiter.

And if we go this way, we also need to arrange our processes to make a hire faster. So I’d recommend looking into ‘Time per hire,’ which is the time a candidate spends in our process from the moment they applied to the moment they accepted our offer. Next, consider the 'Interviews to Offer' ratio. This helps identify the effectiveness of your candidate screening processes and the number of interviews needed for a job offer.

A metric I'd highly recommend, especially for companies prioritizing the quality of hire, is the 'Candidate Satisfaction Rate.' This tells you how positive the candidate's experience was during recruitment.

Free calculator to measure recruitment KPIs

TalentOps is new on the market and already has misconceptions about its goals. What are some common myths about TalentOps that you've heard?

I’d say in Ukraine, we’re not even on the myth stage. It’s more like the “how to explain to my grandma what I’m getting paid for” stage. I had fewer problems explaining to people what I did as a Talent Acquisition specialist.

But if we are talking about misconceptions, my top three are:

  1. Talent Ops is just another name for HR. While Talent Ops is part of the HR function, it's not the same. HR is traditionally more focused on compliance, employee relations, benefits, and other generalist tasks. Talent Ops focuses more on strategic projects tied to company goals - such as improving recruitment processes, implementing HR tech solutions, or using data analytics to improve talent performance and retention.
  2. Talent Ops is an administrator. Talent Ops is much more than simply handling paperwork or scheduling interviews. They leverage data and strategically streamline HR processes to attract, retain, and develop talent. Their work can be highly analytical and strategic.
  3. Talent Ops doesn’t require people skills; you could hire a Data Analyst. It’s a fact that Talent Ops roles are data-heavy. However, these professionals also need to have exceptional people skills. They are selling change to organizations, after all. And they work with recruitment processes! So a background in Talent Acquisition or Recruitment is a must, in my opinion.

What do you think: Is the Talent Operations field better for recruiters who passed the recruitment process or for business analytics professionals who can look deep into the figures?

The best fit typically depends on the specific needs and structure of the organization.

Recruiters transitioning into Talent Ops bring a deep understanding of the recruitment process, including candidate behavior, sourcing strategies, and interview techniques. Their firsthand experience with candidate screening and interviewing equips them to implement practical, necessary changes to recruitment and talent management processes. They're often great at understanding the human side of hiring and managing talent, which is crucial for ensuring any processes implemented are worker-friendly and effective.

Business analysts entering Talent Ops bring their strong analytical skills, which allow them to analyze HR metrics and utilize that data to drive decision-making. They can quickly identify trends, patterns, and areas of improvement, making them incredibly useful for an organization looking to optimize its talent processes based on data.

A combination of both skill sets is ideal for the most effective Talent Ops. Understanding the recruitment process and weighing the human element against data-driven decision-making is crucial.

With sufficient training and a willingness to understand the nuances of the recruitment process, a business analyst with excellent people skills could excel in this field. Similarly, a recruiter with a strong interest in data and analytics could also make a great fit.

In my case, I’m a Talent Acquisition Specialist with an education in the System Analysis field, so I feel like I was born for this position. I can apply both my recruitment experience and analytical skills from my education.

What's your take on the differences in processes, responsibilities, and OKRs between a Recruitment Lead and a Talent Operations Specialist?

So the short answer right here is that you take Recruitment Lead responsibilities, subtract Talent Ops responsibilities and boom! You get your difference.

Obviously, the answer really depends on how your company defines these roles.

But I think for most cases, the next should work: The Recruitment Lead is ultimately responsible for the result of the recruitment team. Talent Ops is ensuring that this will happen most effectively. That recruitment team will have everything they need to make hires happen and won’t think about what tools they should use or what metrics to pay attention to.

How do we apply analytical solutions to the real-life routine of the recruitment team without losing human connection?

Technology can make our lives so much easier, and we also have discussions about these fancy AI tools that will help you screen candidates, for example. But I want to stress immediately that, as HR specialists, we are working with lots of sensitive data, and it’s crucial to remember that not all AI tools offer the same degree of data protection. A data breach could damage not only your firm's reputation but could also lead to significant legal issues. That is what we take very seriously at MacPaw. It is unsafe for our users; the tool will not pass our Security team.

And besides, it’s so important to find balance and preserve the human touch.

For example, using AI solutions for pre-screening can make your life much easier. However, to avoid any bias or scandals like Amazon faced, you need to ensure the algorithm is not discriminating against any gender, race, or ethnicity.

Make sure that humans review the shortlisted candidates by AI. A real person should assess the candidates' personal characteristics that AI can't always evaluate.

You can also use templates for emails, but make sure they are personalized for each candidate. You can at least include the candidate's name and the role they've applied for in the email to make it feel more personal.

Once you have your shortlist, face-to-face interviews are essential. In this digital era, video interviews can serve this purpose while maintaining the human touch. At MacPaw, we are not ready to say goodbye to them.

A human should make the final hiring decision. AI algorithms are not perfect, and there's a lot about a candidate's suitability for a role that can't be measured.

Whether they're successful or not, providing feedback to candidates after their interview is vital. It shows respect for their time and effort in applying and interviewing. This can be partially automated with templates but should also be personalized and specific. It shows that you care.

Do talent operations contribute more to short- or long-term results?

Short-term goals are more about solving problems, and long-term goals are about achieving goals. The majority of organizations have both :) Talent Ops contribute to both short-term and long-term results. The balance between long- and short-term goals for Talent Ops can undoubtedly vary depending on the organization's specific needs, goals, and strategic approach.

In the short term, they handle the efficient day-to-day talent management operations. They are responsible for quick, efficient, and effective hiring, thus directly influencing immediate workforce planning and filling roles crucial for business operations. Talent Ops might focus on short-term goals in companies that prioritize rapid growth or experience high employee turnover.

In the long term, Talent Ops will build systematic and scalable processes. They drive important decisions about workforce planning, talent development, and employee retention. They also add strategic value by continuously analyzing hiring metrics and recruitment data. This helps to enhance the organization's talent quality over time and reduces longer-term costs associated with high turnover rates. The Specialist might be more oriented towards long-term goals in a more established organization with stable growth and a focus on long-term sustainability.

These professionals must be flexible and adaptable to align their work with the company's strategic direction.

Could you share some real-world examples of how data-driven recruitment has led to improved hiring decisions or better talent acquisition outcomes at MacPaw?

NDA, so I cannot share about MacPaw.  However, I could share a case from my experience where data helped us eliminate the test task as an evaluation step in the hiring process.

So, in one of my teams, we were hiring Software Engineers in an extremely competitive and fast-paced market. You are talking to a candidate, and they already have several job offers on hand, so you have to move really fast. Conversely, you have a very stubborn hiring team that refuses to eliminate a test task that takes around 7 hours for a candidate to complete.

When we took a look at a funnel for the past year for Software Engineering vacancies, we noticed several things:

  1. The number of candidates in the tech interview stage was almost the same as those in the test task stage. This similarity suggests that one of these stages may not be effectively assessing candidates. It doesn't clearly indicate whether it's worthwhile to continue investing time in these candidates and our recruitment efforts.
  2. Time spent on the Test Task stage for candidates was insane for the UA market and, compared to other stages - more than 2 weeks! This made Time to hire much longer than it should have and made it uncompetitive compared to other, faster companies. Of course, candidates had been procrastinating till the last minute on our huge task, and as a result, our third takeaway:
  3. More than 30% were refusing to complete it and were accepting an offer from another company.

When we presented all this data to the team, they had no choice but to eliminate the test task. They redesigned their technical interview, added live coding, and made the interview longer. Also, they were spending time reviewing test tasks and writing feedback, and now all this extra work was gone. We were collecting feedback from candidates and hiring teams after we changed this process and made sure that these changes didn’t affect the quality of hire.

What role does technology play in enabling data-driven recruitment? Are there specific tools or software that are essential for this process at MacPaw?

Once you have an adequately described hiring process with all edge cases taken into attention, you start thinking about automatizing this particular part of your routine. For sure, some of the crucial instruments our team cannot imagine their lives without are ATS and our cozy handmade analytical dashboard.
And I’d also hate it if I didn’t mention the Together app - it’s the app we created at MacPaw when the full-scale war with russia started. The thing is, our team was spread by Ukraine, and some people were abroad on vacation when russia invaded. Someone had to flee Ukraine with their families. It was crucial to us to know where each team member is located and if they’re safe right now, whether they can work or only focus on volunteering right now, for example. So, we created this simple app that prompts regular status updates from all team members in Slack. This assured us of members' safety and gave our managers a real-time view of team capacity, enabling them to comprehend who could continue work and who needed to focus on their personal situations. Such information was pivotal in managing our operations efficiently during such challenging times.

Maybe some final recommendations from such an outstanding company? How can SMEs build or improve recruitment with a data-driven approach?

  1. Define what to measure: Not all data is valid. Determine what metrics are relevant to your recruitment process. Important hiring metrics often include time to fill, cost per hire, quality of hire, source of hire, retention rate, and interviews per offer if we are talking about the quality of the hiring process.
  2. Leverage technology: Use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to gather candidates' data and manage your hiring process in collaboration with your team, HR Information Systems (HRIS), and other HR tech to collect and analyze data. Many of these systems have built-in analytics that present data in a digestible format and can generate reports. A basic analytics solution from your ATS system will be enough if you are a small business.
  3. Analysis & Interpretation: Analyze the collected data in terms of the defined metrics to gain insights about factors such as which sources of recruitment are most effective, what traits correlate with successful employees, surges in staffing needs, etc. Define your benchmarks that relate to your company strategy, and don’t follow market trends blindly, but keep them in mind.
  4. Make data-driven decisions: With the insights gained from data analysis, SMEs can make informed predictions and decisions. For instance, if analysis shows that a particular recruitment source consistently brings in high-quality employees, then investing more in that source would make sense.
  5. Continual improvement: Recruiting should be a constant process of seeking and implementing improvement. Regular checking and updating the recruitment strategy and process based on the insights data is crucial. Make the change your routine cause change is life :)
  6. Ensure compliance and privacy: Ensure you maintain privacy and comply with all data regulations, locally and globally, like GDPR. Data security must be a priority as you collect and use data in your hiring process.

A data-driven recruitment process is a powerful tool, but your insights are only as good as your data. Make sure to cleanse your data regularly and keep it as clean, accurate, and up-to-date as possible. Also, be sure to analyze your data in context; no data point stands alone, and you should always consider it as part of the bigger picture.


Concluding our insightful discussion on TalentOps and data-driven recruitment with our guest from MacPaw, it's clear that the future of hiring is rooted in leveraging data and technology. MacPaw's approach to Talent Operations not only emphasizes the importance of a strategic, analytical framework for recruitment but also highlights the significant role of technology in optimizing hiring processes. By adopting data-driven methods, MacPaw is able to identify the best candidates, enhance the candidate experience, and, ultimately, build stronger teams.

We remind you that Hiring Talks are sponsored by the Axterior recruitment platform. This ATS manages all the recruitment processes and assists in finding the most qualified candidates in a few clicks. If you’re interested in integrating the ATS into your organization, we offer 30-day free access for your team!

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