If you think about the goal of the interview process, it's about getting to a point somewhere down the road where both sides (candidate and company hiring) can say “this works for me,” and then come to an agreement of terms. That's it, boiled down to its most simple form. And not unlike many Talent Acquisition leaders, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about how to make that simplest form come to life for the majority of our interactions while keeping quality high.

It's easier said than done.

In the case of Rapid7, we focus more on cultural fit than specific skills, which can take some time to get right. We look for super smart, good attitude/high aptitude, focused, collaborative listeners who connect with our core values and we challenge them daily and move quickly – sugar coat this and you can end up with people who don't fit or worse yet, are caught off guard after starting and realize they've made the wrong choice. DISASTER. We're doing better in this process and continue to look for the right balance, but decided the time try something new was now.

(Image above shows the café before everyone showed up – out of respect for our guests' privacy, we didn't want to post photos during the event.)

Why not just throw it all out there and see who engages?

Okay, that's a little bit dramatic, but it does describe our thinking for the Employee Referral and Networking night, which we had at our Boston office on August 12 – an event all about honesty, conversation, feedback and direct sharing but without the pressure of an interview. Don't be mistaken – you hear some of the terms above, and no doubt an interview comes to mind; however, the event was meant to be anything but that and done so quite deliberately.

From the start, participants from the Rapid7 side understood that there was to be no mention of specific roles unless our guest requested, the focus of the interactions was to be driven by what our guests deemed to be important (if that meant jobs, then so be it). Also, if we didn't have the answer, we tracked down someone who did — no bullshitting.

In addition, the questions from our speaker panel were meant to share personal stories about how certain leaders connected with the organization and what they did to help others (hires within their org) connect in their own unique way.

In my view there are 3 keys to a successful networking event for those of us on the recruiting side:

  1. No BS: Your guests are in process or considering a career move and want information – do whatever you can to provide that information, address concerns, and above all be honest about opportunities in your organization's overall offering.
  2. Hold on the pushy recruiter routine: There is a time to gather hot buttons and push hard for a close. The Networking event is not it. Recruiters should be facilitators, troubleshooters, seen but heard less than others from the organization who are in attendance. Your time will come – sit back for a bit
  3. Lead with your most important resources: Employees with a particularly strong social presence? Industry leader? Leading work that resonates with your target audience – build the event around them, get them sharing their story, get others their with perspectives on their story.

I personally learned a lot from holding this event.

First, our employees – free of specific talking points and jobs to sell — embraced the opportunity to have a few drinks and chat about their roles, what it is about Rapid7 that they have stuck around for, and most importantly, their view of the talent needed to take this organization forward.

Second, our guests shared that the bare minimum of presentations and a formal agenda allowed them to engage as they wished worked for them.

We missed an opportunity in not providing a tour of the site – we were trying to be respectful of those working during the event, and this represents a lost opportunity. Next time, we'll start later and offer tours.

Otherwise, overall it was an event with good food, great beer, better conversations — all in an attempt to try something different.