This Company Decided It Wanted a Structured Hiring Process

As head of talent acquisition at AQR Capital Management, a global investment manager with 1,000 employees, Grace Koo is used to working with highly analytical employees (or “quants”). So it wasn’t terribly hard for her to sell her colleagues on the need for a more structured hiring process at the firm, which has approximately $200 billion or so in assets under management.

“Our strategy for investing is data driven, and extending that philosophy into recruiting felt natural,” Koo said during a presentation at the Greenhouse OPEN conference held in New York earlier this month.

The company has grown fast, adding hundreds of employees to its ranks over the last five years, Koo said. Hiring processes sprang up organically, with some departments taking a structured approach while others went at it more haphazardly, she said.

Koo tackled her project first by creating a handbook, in which she defined recruiting as having three steps: sourcing, assessing and closing. She created folders for each step that recruiters could access for consistency across the enterprise.

“We liken it to having a flight plan, so recruiters know the process for each step,” she said.

Not every manager in the organization was a quick convert–particularly those who already had established hiring processes–but Koo found the most effective strategy was to simply move forward, without waiting for consensus from every stakeholder, she said.

“Don’t wait for every manager to assent,” she said.

Koo also said a new tech platform was critical, noting that AQR had previously relied on “a clunky old ATS” (the company is a Greenhouse client).

Today, the hiring process flows more rapidly, she said, with candidates finding out sooner whether or not they’ve made the cut. Interviews are more effective, said Koo, and candidates are no longer routinely “asked the same questions by multiple interviewers.”

Koo said she isn’t finished tinkering yet.

“Right now I’m obsessed with assessment,” she said. “When someone we expect to be a top performer ends up being a poor performer, I want to know why. I want to find out what we did wrong.”

Andrew R. McIlvaine
Andrew R. McIlvaine is former senior editor with Human Resource Executive®.