“Culture is King. Content is the town crier.” —Lance Robbins
In this episode of Post Status Excerpt, Lance Robbins (Global Recruitment Lead at XWP) talks to David Bisset about WordPress companies struggling to find talent in the current job market. Lance believes employers need to think about how they market themselves to prospective employees. Traditional approaches to hiring won’t work with the next generation of job seekers. What if open source values and ways of thinking point to solutions WordPress businesses can uniquely embrace?
Why This Is Important: Finding the right talent (and being found by the right employer) is challenging in the tech space. If you are looking for the right employee (or boss) then this is worth a listen.
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David Bisset: Hi there. Welcome to post that a sec cert, before we get into this episode, let me tell you about one great sponsor that this week is cloud ways. They’re proud to sponsor Post Status and you don’t work glad to have them because they live and breathe. WordPress just like me, and probably just like you.
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Lance Robbins: I was at WordCamp us and 2018. Um,
David Bisset: I was there, but I was a ghost
Lance Robbins: just, it’s huge. Um, so yeah, a little bit of, a little bit of WordCamp attendance looking forward to Europe this year. Yeah. And I’m. Connected to the WordPress community through XWP. And I get to meet lots of really cool people from all over WordPress, you know, um, you know, leading the recruiting and hiring over there.
So a lot of chances to learn, learn a lot about, you know, what WordPress is doing and in community-wise like in different spots all around the globe.
David Bisset: How long have you been with, um, your ex
Lance Robbins: WP? Uh, since 2017.
David Bisset: And what’s your, what’s your job title?
Lance Robbins: Yeah, a recruitment lead.
David Bisset: So XWP has a recruitment department.
How many people is it? Is it just you?
Lance Robbins: Um, it’s it’s me and one other.
David Bisset: Yeah, that’s incredible. How many people currently work at, uh, the company?
Lance Robbins: Uh, we’re just right at 122. That’s
David Bisset: I keep forgetting. You folks with that big,
Lance Robbins: uh, it’s, it’s pretty a recent development, right? We went in the last, um, what, 14 months or so from 40 to 120.
So we had a very, very busy year. Um, last, last calendar year, growing the team.
David Bisset: What do you think we’re going to get into you are a speaker at the upcoming WP career summit. That’s happening on April 8th. We’re going to get to that in a second, but first I wanted to get, since you are into recruitment, I wanted to get your overall thoughts on what the status or what the state of hiring and WordPress is today.
Where do you think the WordPress ecosystem lies currently in terms of looking for technical?
Lance Robbins: Yeah, that’s a good question. And I mean, I can speak to my observations.
David Bisset: Yes, please. That’s you are, you are made for this.
Lance Robbins: Yeah. Well, I don’t know how authoritative it really is. Right. But from what I, from what I see, it seems that.
Uh, particularly folks with a good bit of experience and exposure to, you know, relatively compact complex projects are in incredibly high demand, um, and are pretty well taking their pick. And at least folks that I’m talking to are typically having more than one offer coming across their desk. Um, at the same time we might be making an offer.
So it’s, it’s quite competitive and, um, You know, especially in terms of technology focused roles, you know, engineering, um, design, even though design is often less WordPress specific, um, uh, design UI design and UX design, uh, is incredibly high demand right now. Um, strategic product work, product owners, product managers are also in very high demand.
Um, and as far as it relates to work, press. I mean, so long as word press continues to grow and continues to be seen as a viable solution for more and more complex projects and problems to solve. Um, I don’t, I don’t think it’s slowing down at all. At least we don’t see it slowing down on our side. Yeah.
David Bisset: So you are actually, you’re giving me giving a talk on the, um, at the career summit.
Your title is the future of hiring is marketing. Can you summarize the gist of. Because you’re the one giving the talk.
Lance Robbins: Yeah. I’ll give you some of my thoughts around why I’m going with a title like this. And what I’m thinking about here is that, um, well, a couple of things for one, um, I think about an opportunity, you know, at a company that I represent as a product.
And so I want to represent that product in the best way possible and in an accurate way. Right. So we need to have a good product and we need to, uh, really. Represented well, and talk about it and give people insight into, into what’s here, because I think people will like the product, but maybe they just don’t know about it yet.
David Bisset: you’re going to like working for us. You just don’t know it yet.
Lance Robbins: That’s right. And, you know, so much of the, of the recruitment industry is incredibly reaction driven. Right? All of a sudden we have a need, we’ve got to fill it right now, get out there, uh, knock on doors, you know, send those messages, do the outbound work, you know, track someone down and get them in the door.
And so long as hiring is this reactive experience. Um, it’s going to be. A poor experience for candidates, it’s going to be stressful and it’s going to result in probably not the best fit and long-term tenure for team members. But if you can think in terms of a long-term strategic arc for a company that has a great product, um, you want to be building interest, you know, building content, building this magnet that attracts.
Um, buyers for that product. And so I think about it the same way. If, if a candidate, if a software engineer or project manager or designer, you know, is the buyer that we’re trying to reach, what kind of content matters to them? You know, how are we talking about the product, the opportunity here in a way that, Hey, somebody might actually be interested, um, without us having to harass them.
On their LinkedIn.
David Bisset: So how do you, we’ll get to LinkedIn in a second. I want to ask you about that, but how do you put that into a, a digital physical form? Is that in terms of blog posts or, I mean, how do you, how do you make something more welcome to the people that you’re trying to attract now? You think you will track down.
Lance Robbins: Um, I think there’s, uh, several different channels that we should be looking at. And this is something we’ll get into more specifically when we get to the, when we get to the talk. But as you know,
David Bisset: and just, you can just give me one, this is a preview. I don’t need your whole talk here.
Lance Robbins: Yeah. Right. I don’t want to fill up the fill up the whole time.
David Bisset: What’s your, what, what, what you think is the one that maybe gets most overlooked or the most underappreciated?
Lance Robbins: Hmm. That’s a good question. Uh, the most under appreciated might be social proof.
David Bisset: What do you mean by social?
Lance Robbins: I mean, um, the times when somebody who already works at your company says, Hey, you know, this is such a great place to work.
I really love it. Um, you, whether that’s on their social media or on a reviews site, something like a class door, um, or, you know, Testimonials basically. Yeah. Testimonials, right. It’s super organic. And it reaches not just the network that your company reaches, but it reaches the network that these individuals reach as well.
Um, so I think that’s under appreciated and I think if organizations will nurture that kind of thing, um, you know, not, uh, not a forced thing, obviously you want that to be organic and natural, but if you can nurture, um, that. Norm for how people engage.
David Bisset: Um, I don’t know. I don’t know normal about how people engage.
I’m still trying to figure that out myself, but I think, I think I get what you mean. Let me ask you the obvious question. How did you get recruited for XWP? How did you get in there?
Lance Robbins: Yeah, that’s uh, that’s um, that’s what I’m still trying to figure out. What am I doing here?
David Bisset: I took a glass of wine. I woke up here and I just started working for ’em.
Lance Robbins: Yeah. So I actually have a, I started my career in forestry of all things. I worked, um, running a reforestation business, um, and it was, you know, based in the Southeastern us. Um, we had tree planting crews that were covering all over the Southeastern us. And, uh, it was, it was like intense project management.
Um, and I got connected with Arland birds, our chief people officer over there, uh, And it was probably a two year conversation. Wow. To the point where, where we first started kicking the idea around, um, to me actually joining XWP, um, in a shared, uh, people ops and project management capacity in 2017. Um, I didn’t know anything about software then.
I didn’t know anything about WordPress and I didn’t know anything about. Uh, a remote company. I just knew that I wanted more flexibility and I was willing to work hard and learn. And I was excited about, you know, the culture that I was seeing there. And yeah, it’s been, it’s been a fantastic journey, you know, from there to here
David Bisset: Is two years, a typical time to have a conversation like that when the end result is coming to work.
Lance Robbins: I don’t think that’s typical, but I think it’s good to keep in mind that the people that are saying no, not right now. Are potentially two years down the road, the people that are going to be saying, yeah, the time is right. So you need to be creating this experience. That’s warm and welcoming. Um, and if you take the attitude of, if they’re say no, not right now, I don’t have time for that conversation.
You might be losing out on an incredible team member like me. Right.
David Bisset: You really do know how to sell.
Let me, uh, w what specific, what’s specific about WordPress, in your opinion, um, versus any other technology or any other attract. Um, is there something unique about WordPress that, um, that from a community standpoint or anything that makes the people that XWP is looking for a specialty attractive versus some, maybe another language or another industry in general?
Lance Robbins: Yeah, so, like I said, coming in, in 2017, not knowing that much about WordPress or software communities, the thing that is just really stood out to me is the openness and. You’re just boiling it down to the open source nature of both the technology and the community, I think is just, is really astounding coming from a world where everything is proprietary and, you know, you guard your secrets and you, you know, you do everything you can to get a one-up this, this idea of, of opening things and sharing and rooting for someone else, you know, because if they succeed, you succeed, um, it’s just an incredible set of values.
That resonates with me really strongly. And, you know, seeing folks at XVP who also resonate with our values of teamwork and giving and mastery of craft, um, you know, they’re, those things are just woven so much into the fabric of the WordPress community, especially in terms of people who are. Leading releases and contributing to the core technology of it.
Um, yeah, it’s just a really strong match there.
David Bisset: You can literally sit down. Well, this was before COVID anyway, but hopefully coming it’s coming soon. You could literally sit down at a table with somebody from a competitor and work on the same, um, for on contributor day, work on the same project together in the open source context.
Right. You know, there there’s not rivals there there’s just contributors. And even if it wasn’t away from the table, I mean, we see people mix WordCamps all the time. Like you said, there was that openness, but with WordPress open source, but I think a lot with the WordPress openness in terms of you don’t even have to be necessarily a developer, you can be, um, you know, a marketer or someone who’s brand new and they have a lot of times be able to mix.
Like you may have a market or talk to a developer and it’s that cross-pollination of, you know, you don’t have to be communicating with developers to attract or make your company seem open and welcome. You know, it’s all about networking that marketer may have a developer friend that’s looking for a new home.
Eventually. You never know, you know, you plant the seed, you know, you never know where it’s going to grow. Let’s get back to LinkedIn for a second. I don’t use LinkedIn very much. How, how important is LinkedIn? Um, for the, for the average developer may be someone who’s maybe not using it or maybe someone who’s currently right now.
Uh, maybe a freelancer. What’s your view on that? Is it creepy? Is it, is it effective? Is it somewhere.
Lance Robbins: I know there’s a lot of different opinions here on LinkedIn, but for me, I think it’s a really useful tool, right? So, um, especially if somebody is a freelancer or they’re, you know, trying to get their development career up and going, and there’s in the early years of it, the networking opportunity there is really large.
Um, and if you want to be found by a recruiter, Then that’s a great place because they’ll find you yeah. That’s stopped. Number one. Right. So if you don’t want to be found by a recruiter, then, you know, well, don’t spend your time there. Right. So it just depends on the goals of your career.
David Bisset: So, and your position though, your position you’re looking for work.
What is the number? What is the, what’s a good way for people who are looking for hires, how do they most effectively use LinkedIn?
Lance Robbins: Um, yeah, so LinkedIn has a lot of search functionality. So, you know, going through. You know, first at the first stop, right. Who is a WordPress developer. Right. So I can filter that down and filter things down to reasonable batch of people to, to, to look through.
Right. And then you’re looking through more specific things, you know, who seems like a good fit for our organization who has particular. You have technical skillsets. Um, then you can create a batch there of people that you’d like to reach out to. And, you know, that’s the, that’s the outbound strategy for most recruiters when it comes to LinkedIn.
And the other side of that, which ties into, you know, the topic of my, uh, my, my talk for the career summit is that as a recruiter, um, LinkedIn is, should not only be an outbound tool. You should be whether you are the recruiter in our organization, or you’re the founder of an organization. If it’s a smaller organization, but you need to hire, this is where you start conversations.
You’re by posting thought leadership type content, or even just engaging in comment threads the same way that you might in Twitter. Right? You didn’t have to be the one to post it, but you can add valuable input to a conversation, you know, by commenting on that. Um, and I mean, it’s just like any other social network where you’re the more active you are, the more it will reward you, uh, in terms of growing your network.
And as you are visible, You know, somebody who has a freelance career in mind finishes their, their contract and just thinking, Hmm. You know, what’s next for me? You know, if they’ve been seen, you know, you, David talking about the cool things you’re doing at an Vajra gallery, you know, every week they’re thinking, Hmm.
I wonder if there’s an opportunity there and that’s a place where that they might reach to you. So, um, it’s a two way thing and a lot of, a lot of recruiting only sees. As this is my way to find people and send them messages. Um, but treat it as a marketing tool. Just the same.
David Bisset: So what, how does this, as we begin to wrap things up here, a little.
How does company culture fit into marketing? I’ve seen company culture in good context and bad contexts unintentionally a lot of times, how does that factor in, into the recruiting process? Um, part of the marketing and if so, what can recruiters, what should recruiters be careful of or which are they keeping.
Lance Robbins: Yeah, I love that. I love this question. Um, there’s a phrase that I’ve coined and I don’t know that I like the exact wording on this year, but the concept is that, you know, people often say that culture or not culture content is king. Right. So it’s all about putting content out there. And I’ve suggested recently that culture is king content is the town crier.
David Bisset: Okay. Well, I got my quote for the episode anyway. Now it’s worth it. Say that again, though, just to make sure.
Lance Robbins: So rather than content being king culture is king content is the town crier. And so if you, if you don’t have a culture worth talking about this whole strategy, um, isn’t going to do a lot of good because people want to come to an organization to be part of the.
Where they can be excited about fitting in. They aligned with the values. They align with the type of work that you’re doing, the impact that you’re trying to make as an organization. So if you don’t have anything good in that department to talk about a marketing strategy around hiring, it’s going to be really difficult.
If the only thing you can talk about is dollars or benefits or office perks or things like this. Right. Um, so your, your question about how does culture fit in, um, at one. Culture is the source of all the marketing content that you should be thinking about as someone who’s trying to drive hiring. So recently we created at XVP a, um, a blog post that outlines in detailed transparently, what our hiring process is like, what steps you can expect.
So basically we’re pulling back the curtain of like, we, we designed the process. For hiring it, it wraps around our core values and our culture and X WP. And this is what it looks like. If you get involved, this is what you can expect. Um, so rather than trying to keep that as a proprietary secret thing, uh, to create surprises for candidates, for, you know, keep our competitors from borrowing our ideas.
Um, we just sold, you know, we bought into the open source nature of the community that we serve. And said, here’s everything that we do. Um, so that she, that’s, that’s a way for us to share, you know, what it looks like inside and then a candidate or job seeker, or maybe not even a job seeker, right. Somebody who’s got a skillset and an experience that would do really well here.
They might see that and say, oh, that’s interesting. And it begins to build interest towards X WP. Or whatever, you know, organization that you’re creating this content for.
David Bisset: Hm. And speaking of XWP, I thought it would be appropriate since you are sharing your valuable time with me. Um, what would be, if I want, if someone came up to you and said, tell me, um, tell me in a few sentences, what?
Well, cause I’ll reedit this. I thought it would be appropriate. As we close this out to give you the opportunity glance to S to share, uh, what is your brief sales pitch in terms of X WP, the company, what would you think sets it apart? And this is educational because someone outside of XWP will listen to this and go, Hmm.
I may use that. Right. Or change that, but what, what’s your elevator pitch in terms of XWP?
Lance Robbins: Yeah. Okay. Well, here’s my, here’s my pass at that. Um, it’s a few things. First of all, we have a very inclusive and flexible remote work environment. Ooh, sorry. So that resonated with somebody. I hope so in flexible, remote work environment, um, we’ve been doing much like many of the organizations in the WordPress community, but we’ve been remote since day one.
Significantly before COVID began. Um, so this is built in to the fabric, the DNA of, of how we operate as an organization. Um, uh, so that’s, that’s, that’s, that’s one element. Um, second, very interesting and challenging projects to work on. So the, the, the work that’s coming your way is not likely to be the same repetitive task or something.
That’s just reusing what you’ve learned to. Um, the, the types of projects that we’re working with are usually pushing something for each of our team members. And that’s something that people often give feedback on being something that’s really important to them. Um, and we’re a very people first culture as well.
Um, you know, we are, we invest heavily into the experience of being an employer or being a member of X to VP community. Um, Several things that we do, that a lot of organizations, you know, would like to do, but maybe they don’t, but you know, what we’re doing here is really saying that, um, we, we value each individual and, uh, we’re willing to put the money where the mouth is in that regard.
David Bisset: Wow.
You guys have a big, I was just gonna say big mouth, but that didn’t come out. Right. Well, Lance speaking of big mouse, I’m going to shut mine. I really appreciate the time you spent here today. And I’m looking forward to listening to your talk. The, again, it is the, um, the talk you’re giving us the future of hiring is marketing.
You’re giving it at the WP career summit, April 8th, the events happening between nine and five central time. So that’s think that’s 10 to six. And then everyone else will be able to pull out their calculators and figure it out for themselves. Um, and I, and it’s a really, it’s a really good conference too, because it’s both for job seekers and hiring managers, and I’ve spoken to a lot of people about tips for those seeking jobs.
But I really appreciated your tips today on kind of like the other side of the coin behind the curtain, the, how do the, how do companies attract. And like you said, it’s not just throwing out, you know, they should hopefully throw out salary ranges. Um, but you know, it’s not just the perks in the salary ranges, but there’s, there’s a lot of other things that go into it as well.
And it’s not just posting things on job boards. So thanks for giving me some insight on that and seeing how the other side works.
Lance Robbins: Yeah, my pleasure. Thanks so much for the invite to be here. I’m really excited about the WP career summit. Really happy that Post Status is doing something like this. Um, great, great to be a part of it.
We’re looking forward to it.