Create a Roadmap Reach Talent Acquisition Goals

Episode 24 – Amanda Davenport, Submittable

Submittable is an innovative cloud-based platform designed to streamline the submission and review process for organizations across various industries. Catering to the needs of publishers, academic institutions, nonprofits, and businesses alike, Submittable offers a user-friendly interface that facilitates the seamless submission of applications, manuscripts, artwork, and more. 

Its comprehensive reporting and analytics tools provide valuable insights into submission trends and performance metrics, enabling organizations to make informed decisions and optimize their processes. Submittable is committed to accelerating the mission-driven work of its customers by providing efficient submission management solutions that enable organizations to focus on their core objectives and achieve their goals more effectively.

Creating a clear pathway for success is how Submittable’s talent acquisition team approaches hiring – strategically rather than tactically – mapping the process, reducing inefficiencies, and consistently improving.

This episode of The Speed to Hire show features Amanda Davenport, Head of Talent Strategy at Submittable. 

Key Takeaways

  • [3:01] Build a skill portfolio to identify key competencies and streamline hiring  – Developing a comprehensive skill portfolio facilitates the identification of essential competencies in candidates, streamlining the hiring process by enabling recruiters to efficiently assess qualifications and match them with organizational needs.
  • [5:53] Boost hiring with strategic candidate experience and branding  – Enhancing the candidate experience through strategic branding initiatives not only attracts top talent but also fosters a positive perception of the organization, ultimately boosting hiring success by creating a competitive advantage in attracting, engaging, and retaining the best candidates.
  • [28:48] Refine hiring processes with audits and data-driven improvements – By conducting regular audits and leveraging data-driven insights, organizations can refine their hiring processes, identifying inefficiencies, optimizing recruitment strategies, and ultimately enhancing the quality of hires while reducing time-to-fill and cost-per-hire metrics.
  • [37:17] Leverage relationships to negotiate and secure talent acquisition investments – Utilizing strong relationships with candidates, industry partners, and internal stakeholders empowers hiring teams to negotiate effectively to secure talent acquisition investments, and strategically allocate resources to attract and retain top talent, ultimately bolstering the company’s competitive advantage and long-term success.


Video Transcript

JOSH TOLAN: Cool. Well, let’s jump in. So, Amanda, let’s start, by you telling the audience a little bit about yourself.

AMANDA DAVENPORT: Sure. So my name is Amanda Davenport. I am the director of Town acquisition at Submittable.

I’ve been in the talent acquisition space since, I guess, technically, 2018. I kind of fell into it by accident. I think there are a lot of us that way. Got into TA that way.

Prior to that, I had been working in sales – like account management, customer success management, and kind of started cutting my teeth in leadership, managing a global contact center for an IT-managed services provider.

I did a little bit of IT service delivery, and really, I think one of the things that helped me be successful throughout my career was I just really love process improvement and like to be as efficient as possible. And truly that’s how I ended up being in a talent acquisition. 

We were, hiring at volume for my team a ton of customer service reps and, you know, we shouldn’t have a very robust day to our team. And the thing with really early career candidates is the good ones get snatched up really quickly.

In the state of Washington, I mean, we have to, like, touch on our time being competitive and keeping our cost model in a place that was attractive to candidates, but that also didn’t, you know, ruin our margins.

And we were competing with a gas station down the street that was paying $17.50 an hour. So I lovingly joke that I effectively staged a coup and said, can I just try to do this?

And, it was actually not a great coup because the HR with team was like, “Great. Thank you.”

And so we kind of just, you know, played around with it and tried some things. And I was really lucky that I worked for a company that was like, “Sure. Go figure this out.”

And then they were like, “Hey, maybe we should do it for the rest of the company,” and that’s how I ended up in TA.

JOSH TOLAN: Wow. That’s a good story. The Coup Day Talent Acquisition. I like it. 

AMANDA DAVENPORT: Yeah. It was a very bad coup. I’m like, “I’m gonna do this. Or else.” And they were like, “No, please, do it!”.

JOSH TOLAN: Yeah. I guess it’s not necessarily a coup if it’s voluntary by the leaders of the organization because they realized that it was needed.

So before we jump in, I’d love to learn more about Submittable, but I’m curious about that experience, you know – when you jumped in and saw a need to make some major changes to the process and the way that you guys were hiring. 

So you’re at a company seemingly, it sounds like there was an HR team that was kinda also in charge of hiring. What were some of the, I guess, process issues that you were seeing and what did you do to resolve those?

AMANDA DAVENPORT: I mean, first and foremost, we didn’t have one. So there was that.

I mean, really we revamped the entire thing from how we write job descriptions to how the interview, the interview process, interview expectations. We’ve tried all sorts of crazy things with group interviews and one-on-one interviews, and you know, what’s too much and what’s too little and, all of that. 

We, revamped our careers page, the application process, and what we needed to see in an application. We tried to add in some automation so that we didn’t get completely inundated with applicants that just weren’t gonna be you know, qualify for whatever reason, you know, like, if we were hiring in Seattle and we had a bunch of people applying from Texas, like, how do we figure out how to get all of those out so that a human doesn’t have to spend time, you know, looking at all of those?


AMANDA DAVENPORT: And then as we kind of continue to like – words are hard – so this is what you get for scheduling this on a Friday morning.

We continue to reiterate the process.

We started to do – just develop things like core values and key competencies and attributes. And, we started to be able to articulate, you know, what were the things that the team was doing today that were really successful? If we looked at our top 20% of performers, what skills would we want to, you know, clone?

And then from an organizational design perspective, are there skills that the company would benefit from holistically that we don’t have on the team? And is there a way to work those in?

So we’re on the extra lookout for somebody who has this specific skill or this specific experience so that we can start to bring that into the team and have that as part of our skill portfolio if you will. That’s really helpful.

JOSH TOLAN: Yeah. I mean, it sounds like there was quite a bit of work to do, and you guys really started from the ground and built it all the way up. And I mean, yeah. That’s I mean, it sounds like a great challenge and a great entry into talent acquisition for you. 

I’m sure you learned a ton by going through all of that. How do you, like, for a company that might be experiencing something similar where it’s like, “Okay. We have to completely build up a foundation. Like, how did you know where to start?

AMANDA DAVENPORT: Well, I had the unique perspective of being the hiring manager.

So I knew what my expectations were that were not being met. And I knew how the work being done upfront was impacting my team’s ability to execute. And so I kinda just focus on reverse engineering it from there.

And as we got closer to the top of the funnel, how do we start to prioritize things like the candidate experience and employer branding and all of that kind of stuff to shift the type of candidate that we’re attracting?

So I think, you know, I would assume that a lot of people in that situation don’t have the luxury of being the hiring manager.

And that’s a really tough part. Right? So that’s where business partnerships come in and are really, really important.

As a side note, I will soapbox for a really long time about the importance of business acumen and understanding a business operation and how all of the different functions of a company interplay together to, you know, work and be successful.

But that starts with building strong, relationships with leadership.

And, like, the hiring manager wherever you’re hiring the most, wherever you struggle with hiring the most, you really gotta dig in and get in there and figure out what it is and why. And there’s likely a lot of coaching that needs to happen on the hiring manager’s end, potentially even some thought-shifting on why you haven’t had success previously. So, something that I think is really common.

If someone leaves, you get a new territory for a sales rep, you are going to launch a new product – whatever the use case may be. The hiring manager panics because I need butt in seat. “I need butt in seat now. Talent, go find me the butt.” Right?

And the challenge where I think talent acquisition has so much potential to be really business impactful is saying, “Okay, yeah, I’m gonna go find you that person.”

But we need to take the time upfront to really think about “what does success look like?” And if you can’t articulate that for me yet, we need to have some conversations where we’re peeling back those layers and asking a lot of questions and getting curious. 

And the cool thing about that is, that’s where you as a TA professional get that business acumen, get that operational awareness, get that, just that, like, skill awareness of, you know? What is this hiring manager going through and what are they truly trying to accomplish and what is their business initiative? 

You don’t have to understand what any or all of that is, but your job is to challenge them to think about it and to talk it out. And then out of that comes your ideal candidate profile.

JOSH TOLAN: Yep. Yeah. And I think that’s how you transition the relationship between TA and a hiring manager from being transactional to being strategic and where you’re working together. And I think to your point, you know, the business acumen is so critical.

Because it helps you get – it helps you ultimately get the buy-in from the hiring manager. Because it helps you tie the why you’re doing the things you’re doing upfront in the beginning of the hiring process to the outcomes and the things that the hiring manager is ultimately gonna care about on the line. 

And when you have the ability to tie those things and marry those things together, that’s when you get the hiring managers really buying into the process and really wanting to work with you because they can understand why they’re doing something versus, “Hey, fill out this intake form so I can learn more about the job you’re hiring for and the hiring managers.”

Okay. This is just like, you know, work for the sake of work for me. But, you know, if you can really take them through why, and you can use your business acumen to tie it into why this matters, the hiring manager and ultimately for their team.

You know, that’s really where you get that strong partnership. I think you know, you also made a really interesting point about when thinking about process improvement.

And you were talking about how you were noticing all these issues from a manager perspective, and that’s what helped influence where to start.

I think there’s actually a lot of insight there for teams that maybe are in a position or it’s like, alright, our process is broken. We gotta examine everything. Honestly, your hiring managers and your candidates will give you the answers. You just need to go talk to them and uncover what all of the issues are. 

So whether it’s you know, something in your actual hiring process, hiring managers will tell you where the bottlenecks are or when speaking with people that aren’t the right fit or whatever the issues are. And similarly, as you think about your candidate experience, if you find a way to gather that feedback from your candidates, They will tell you what you need to do. And that, at least, like, establishes a baseline of probably way more stuff to do than you even have time to do.

So I think that was a that was a great point that you brought up is, like, ultimately when in doubt, just speak to your hiring managers, just speak to your candidate and they’ll kinda point you in the right direction.

AMANDA DAVENPORT: Yeah. I just – one of the things that I found especially over my time at Submittable is just that talent acquisition when done well is much more a strategic function than it is a tactical one.

And a lot of folks in TA and outside of it are, I don’t wanna be offensive, but, like, struggling to get there, in terms of shifting their thoughts on how to and their talent folks that way.


AMANDA DAVENPORT: You know, not just a means to an end. You’re – If you do it right, you know, that is your talent management, especially if you consider that onboarding, if you do that right, should last a minimum of ninety days.

Sometimes up to six months, sometimes a year, depending on the complexity of the organization and the role and the function.

JOSH TOLAN: Yep. There’s a lot of room for error in there. If you make it out higher, there’s also a lot of room to see a ton of impact in a short period of time if you are really precise about what it is that you are looking for, and you can articulate it clearly.

AMANDA DAVENPORT: Yep. Hundred percent. I think, you know, there’s a lot of teams that when they go to hire the way they build their process is just simply to do the things they think they should be doing in order to hire somebody, but it’s not really tied to any type of desired outcome, or what are we trying to improve this time versus that time, or how can we make the experience better you know, it’s just like, “Okay. Here are our steps…

Here’s the job. Here’s who’s gonna do what as part of the process. Go!” And, like, the process will run because there’s a process.

But at the end of the day, like the outcome you’re getting or the speed at which you get that outcome or the sentiment that your candidates have about your company.

You know, are really dependent on that process and all of the things that you do to level it up and make it better and make it competitive. Right. Because at the end of the day, other employers are doing those types of things. And if you’re not and you’re just running the status quo process that, like, “Hey, I’m doing this because this is what I think we should that just these are just the steps I think we need to take in order to hire.”

You know, you’re you’re stagnant and other companies are moving past you. And I think there are so many teams now that taking a more strategic approach and are taking a leap forward. And so I think if organizations don’t look at talent acquisition as a strategic function.

At the end of the day, they’re gonna be left behind, with these other employers that are I mean, they’re hiring the people that the organization wants to be bringing on board.

And that’s really what’s gonna have the lasting impact, you know, twelve, eighteen months down the road.

JOSH TOLAN: Yeah. Exactly. So, alright. I know, you know, we got your – We got your bio and then we diverted because, you know, I thought we got into some good stuff there.

And that was awesome. But I’d love to circle back. You’re at Submittable now. Can you tell me a little bit about the company?

AMANDA DAVENPORT: Totally, this per framing, what do you wanna know? Like, how big we are, what we do?

JOSH TOLAN: Yeah. Yeah. What it is, I guess, first of all, you know, what does the company do? You know, what’s the product, the service? How many people are on the team? What does your team look like? You know, just basic information. 

AMANDA DAVENPORT: Yeah. So, Submittable. We are kind of branded as a social impact company.

We say that our mission is to accelerate that of our customers or to accelerate mission-driven work. Our products are, in the corporate social responsibility and grants management space. So we really serve three verticals.

The first is our state government and city government entities. Where we primarily are offering, submissions SaaS software to really help all of their grant programs work more seamlessly. And it looks like everything from, much more simple and accessible design to people applying for the grants – to all of the stuff on the back end, whether that’s automatic review, you know, the system being able to say, like, “Yes. You qualify. No. You don’t,” – including, fraud detection, automatic funds distribution, the ability to distribute funds from a financial institution and different forms of payment, tracking the payment success.

As well as providing data and metrics to, the program managers.

In terms of, you know, how many applicants have they received of those, how many of them were qualified, you know, what’s our success rate with payments to grab a lot of people that aren’t getting their money because something is failing.

So that’s kind of the grants management piece. Now you see that also a lot in the corporations and foundation space as well as nonprofits.

And then the other side and kind of like our newer product where we’re seeing a ton of R and D effort, this year is with employee engagement. And that looks like, volunteerism.

We just launched an ERG feature, which I’m super excited about. I lead our ERGs at Submittable, and so we’re actually gonna try it out, internally and use it. So that’s exciting.

Corporate, giving, and matching, I already said volunteering. That’s really it.

Kinda like what the company does. We’re about 220, give or take, with roughly these are very rough numbers, so don’t quote me on them, but roughly half, less than half maybe.

Let’s go forty, forty, twenty. So 40% in Mozilla, which is where we’re headquartered, 40% in the Greater Seattle Area out of our Bellevue office the remaining 20% percent, is distributed across the United States. And we let everyone and we’ve got, where I think we’re in 29 states now. So we’ve got employees all the way in Hawaii all the way to New York and everywhere – I’m with them.

JOSH TOLAN: Very cool. And what does the talent team look like?

AMANDA DAVENPORT: The talent team, you’re looking at it.

JOSH TOLAN: That was right.

AMANDA DAVENPORT: Yeah. So our People Operations team is a team of five. So we have our Chief People Officer, and we have our HR manager. We have, our HR generalist, she focuses on benefits administration, and then we have a people ops coordinator, and she’s like halftime HR pop projects, and then the other halftime helping with talent coordination.

And then, outside of that, I have these two super stellar rockstar contractors that are helping with, actual talent acquisition motion from, you know, screening and hiring and sourcing perspective.


AMANDA DAVENPORT: And then in times, like, now when we’re not super busy.

I am lucky enough to be able to lean on those contractors for support with internal process improvement and other types of project work that, like, where my list seems to be consistently growing. 

And then we’ll be like, “Oh, hey, go hire these thirty positions.” And it’s like, “Oh, okay. Let me put that on the back burner.” And so, we’re going to make some, really cool progress, on that stuff. So we’re excited about that.

JOSH TOLAN: Yeah. That’s a great point. And I, you know, there are a lot of companies that are in a similar situation right now where hiring velocity isn’t what it was, perhaps, in 2023, 2022, or whatever it is.

And so, I’m curious. You mentioned the big emphasis on process improvement – where, you know, during these times, where are you focusing your efforts to make sure that you’re making those leaps forward. So when hiring velocity does pick up again, you guys are in a much better spot than you were previously.

AMANDA DAVENPORT: So, and gently to that, you know, one of the things that I think is really is, how do you consistently gather feedback, store it, and then prioritize what you’re gonna work on when you have time?

We use Asana, and it’s a life-changing tool. So if you – I’m not a paid sponsor of, Asana, but any, Trello, like any of that kind of stuff is so super helpful.

The other thing is though we have adopted, this sprint model. So if you’re familiar with, like, the software life cycle, you know, we work in six-week sprints, to be able to carve bite-sized pieces along the way.

And then as stuff comes up, we have this bucket in the sauna where it’s like, “Oh, that sucked or that was painful, or that was really great.” We wanna see more of that, and it goes in this bucket. 

And then when we do our quarterly planning, we’re looking that and saying like, “Okay. What feels like the biggest, you know, hurdle or challenger? Where do we spend wanna spend most of our time? You know, what does our hiring projection look like? How do we prioritize how much of the stuff we get to work on versus, you know, other things?”

And then the other thing that I think is really cool is we have kind of these four overarching OKRs that were decided on from our C-suite. And so everything that we need to do when we’re going through the prioritization exercise is does it tie back to one of these four things? And if it doesn’t, then probably needs to be lower. 

You know, some of the other – so to give you an idea on what that looks like for us today – So in in 2023, we started, revamping our compensation philosophy we’re implementing job levels, we’re implementing. We’re training the way that we build our pay bands to have everyone based off of tier-one geography.

So regardless of where you are, kind of two-pronged attack there. One, that’s how we stay market competitive regardless of where hiring because we’re hiring, and budgeting to pay people in the most expensive part of the country. 

So if you’re not familiar with tier one geography, that’s gonna be Seattle, San Francisco, New York, there’s another one in there, but those are big ones, right, where it’s, like, astronomical, expensive to live. Right? So everybody at Submittable is being paid off of those bands.

So that’s part of our philosophy and how we plan attraction standpoint. The other one is also a lot easier to, administer, and so there’s a lower admin lift. On our people ops team and on payroll because we don’t have to have all of these different bands.

So that part of it, we were also, leveling roles into six levels.

And building in our career family so that we can match that with career ladders and have, more, intentional and it was successful conversations with employees about what does growth look like, both from developing skills and earning potential? 

And how do you decide if you want to be a high-earning individual contributor, or do you feel like people leadership is your thing, or you’re in sales and you hate it and you really want a code or, but I wish we saw more of engineers that are actually probably gonna be really good salespeople making that shift. Like, how do we support, that so that’s been one of the things that’s been a huge, focus on us, for us for the first quarter.

The other one is really building our robust DEIB road map.

And most – we have work to do. And you can always do better. Right?

So we’re you know, looking at how do we benchmark and, doing some research on where should we be and where are we now and how do we get there and what does that look like and what kind of initiatives does that have?

And then, the other big thing that we’re working on is, standardizing the interview process for the entire company. And so that, has a few prongs, if you will, to it one driving, standardization and just really trying to bring all of leadership together say, like, hey, when we are interviewing, here are the things that we have seen be successful, and so here are the things that we care about.

One, behavioral-based interview questions. So we believe that past behavior is a good predictor of future output. And so we’re asking questions. Based on that.

The other one is culture. And, you know, there’s a lot of, dialogue right now around culture fit versus culture ad.

I actually don’t hate culture fit if you are articulating what that means to you. So for us, it’s like does our culture fit or match what you’re looking for as opposed to do you fit us. And so it’s a candidate perspective, do we fit?

And from an employer perspective, how you add.

And so, one of our big groups, our engineering group has a set of operating principles that are core to their function and their engineering culture. And so one of the things that I’m excited about for this year is building out those operating principles for other big divisions.

But for now, we’ll be focusing on our main core values and developing interview questions that are open-ended and behavioral-based, around those.

I think, you know, we’re also looking at how do we bring in some more skill-based, assessments and, you know, maybe try to automate it, remove the lift on measuring key skills and removing, the bias from, or the subjectivity and bias from, you know, evaluating those skills. We had a lot on our plate.

JOSH TOLAN: Yeah. It sounds like you definitely have a lot on your plate. I’m curious, is there anything you’re doing right now in your, you know, maybe you’re hiring for a couple of roles? Right? So it’s intermittent, but are you doing anything proactively right now in your ATS or in your workflows or in the templates, like, you know, that type of maintenance work? So, again, when you when you start, you know, hiring at a higher velocity, you’ve made some improvements there.

AMANDA DAVENPORT: Great question. Our, CEO has kind of given me this pep talk, two years in a row, which is basically, buckle up January gets a little chaotic.

And he’s not wrong. But typically, what that means is once we figure out, you know, what our marching orders are in our direction.

Q1 oftentimes provides a lot of opportunity for us to really dig in and set ourselves up for success for the year. And so that looks like things, we do our yearly audit of job descriptions and job posts, checking them for inclusive language, accuracy, and pay bands.

Do they still match that kind of thing? Email templates, looking at who we use Greenhouse as our ATS, and my one little bit of, challenge is with their candidate experience surveys. You don’t really – you have no ability to edit any of that. 

So, we do spend quite a bit of time looking into the information that we get and trying to pull pieces of information out of that that can either go into our interview prep rights that we send candidates, feedback that can go to hiring managers about the hiring process or ways to make tweaks and the information that we provide interview loops, on how to, you know, interview readiness and all of that kind of stuff.


AMANDA DAVENPORT: We also will use this time to take a look at data over from the last year and look at things like cost per hire versus cost per comparative hire.

How many interviews on average does it take before we make the offer?

We’ll dig into our offer acceptance rate and try to pull some things there to see, you know, where did we miss the mark on those offers that didn’t get accepted and kind of pull that together and then start to make, adjustments. So that by the end of Q1. You know, we’ve taken all of our learning from 2023, applied that into our system so that we’re ready to go.

JOSH TOLAN: What did you do hits?


JOSH TOLAN: Yeah. I mean, it’s a great point. I think the fact that you just brought up looking into your A, the responses from the candidate experience service that you’re sending out, and then B the data that you’re housing in your ATS around all of the key metrics that you want to improve.

It’s really hard. I mean, obviously, you could do it, but it’s really hard when there’s a lot of hiring happening to say,  “Let’s look at our hiring analytics and see some metrics that we aim to move and make process changes to move those metrics and then see how that all plays out.” It’s hard to do when you’ve just got, you know, a million roles coming on. Like, you can make changes.

Sure. But the reality is you’ve just got so much going on. It’s it’s hard to find the bandwidth to do so. And so that’s where in a time like this, you actually have the opportunity to dig in, and this is where some of the biggest strategic changes can actually take place.

And then you’re able to measure those things when, you know, you’re able to put volume through the pipes. You know, volume tends to expose any types of inefficiencies or efficiencies, and it then allows you to easily see like, is what we’re doing working or not working?


JOSH TOLAN: So that’s awesome that you guys are digging in there. That was gonna be one of my questions is, you know, I think, you know, you’re bringing a lot by way of process improvement to talent acquisition. And so when you look to make changes, How are you measuring the impact of those things? Like, how do you – it sounds like you guys running OKR model or some adapted version of OKRs.

When you think about talent acquisition, how are you measuring the impact of the moves that you’re making? I know that’s like a broad question because, like, depending on what the objective is, you’ll have different, measurables. But, I guess, generally speaking, what’s the framework by which you approach that?

AMANDA DAVENPORT: Yes. So, my holy grail is a dashboard. If you don’t have one, I strongly believe you need one.

If you can’t afford something, like, and I’m not talking like the ones that, Greenhouse has – helpful – but you don’t get all of your data in one single pane of glass.

If you have the budget for something like Gem, buy it. If not, do what I did and find a vlog about, what the functionality of their, different dashboards are. Match that up to what your C suite cares about, and go build it yourself.

In our case, that’s what we did. So, it’s all built out in, Google.

And so we are looking at all of the typical metrics, right? Like, time to fill, time to hire open roles, acceptance rate, cost per hire, we’re looking at, the applications, you know, my team reports into the CFO. And so we’re super cost conscious and want to be able to account for every operational dollar, there.

And so, yeah. So, I live and die by that dashboard, and just taking kind of like snapshots of, you know, where were we at on a weekly, monthly quarterly basis, and that’s actually how we, end up sending our OKRs, for the quarter. Again, being measured against those big for operational goals that we get, from the C suite at the beginning of the year.

But a lot of it’s coming out of that data. And so, I also am benchmarking against two pieces of data in that dashboard. So one, what does the industry standard from the previous year suggest that we should be at for time to hire, time to fill? Acceptance rate, things like that by department.

So that’s one. And then, like, where were we at the year before? And then how do we consistently try to drive towards meeting or achieving that? Yep.

JOSH TOLAN: That makes sense. Interesting that you were so your talent team reports to the CFO.

I’m curious you know, how those dynamics play out when you’re thinking about, like, we need to make more investment in talent acquisition here. They’re tool or that tool. Like, what advice because there’s a lot of folks that aren’t reporting directly to the CFO, but they’ve gotta go to the CFO or to finance you know, for a budget to do certain things. 

So what advice now that you’re in a role where you’re reporting directly to the CFO? I imagine you have a closer working relationship in that regard. So what advice would you have for people that, you know, everybody’s being asked to do more with less? Be more efficient. Be budget conscious as we should always be in running our businesses.

So long way of asking, what advice would you have for people in talent acquisition, you know, for the best way to approach a CFO about an investment or additional spend when the mantra throughout the whole organization is do more with us?

AMANDA DAVENPORT: So we actually have a little bit of an interesting reporting model, previously, HR and TA reported into the CFO. We brought in this super kick-ass chief people officer, like, I fangirl so hard over her, like, she was the best part. 

And so she reports both to the CFO and to the CEO, which is really cool because we get a direct line to each of them. But man, really it all comes back to relationships.

Listen, TA, those of us that are in TA – We’re here and we’re successful because we’re really good at building relationships with people, and we’re good at negotiating.

So we need to leverage those things. Some examples of how to do that.

One, build a relationship with your CFO. Build a relationship with your CEO. When it comes to, talent acquisition and hiring, both of them will have some sort of exposure with it and some former facet, figure out what that is, and figure out what they care about.

That becomes how you frame conversations.

The other thing. if you need to get scrappy or creative, there are so many tools out there that are super cool, very helpful. And there’s new one pop new ones popping up all the time.

And more often than not, these companies, particularly if you’re in a startup and you share, investors are willing to give you free trials or partnership trials or extreme discounts on using these tools.

So if you can figure out how to partner with an organization, that has a specific product or tool set or thing that you need, and you can figure out how to do it for a discounted cost, or free.

Do that because that six months or that year that you get at, you know, running at no cost is six months to a year, two, one, evaluate the tool and two, build it a business case, and three, Prew ROI.

JOSH TOLAN: Yeah. That’s spot on. That couldn’t be any more spot-on. Like, one you’re building the business case. So when you go to request the budget, you have, you know, much more to show and why the investment that you want to make is a wise investment.

And two, I think under the lens of relationship building. You know, at the end of the day, a lot of that comes down to trust. And I think when you can go to somebody in the C suite, whether it’s the CFO or the CEO, and you could show them, here’s what I have already done to solve this problem on my own. I’ve been scrappy.

I’ve done this. I’ve done that. Here’s how it’s working. Here’s the early indicators of success.

Now I’m asking for this because we’ve seen what our success could look like when we’ve done it this way. And now I believe you know, we’re at the point of maturity in which we’re ready to make an investment into a bigger and better tool or whatever it is.

And I think when somebody in the C suite sees that you’ve already, you know, taken steps and you’ve made progress and you’ve done things on your own, you’ve been resourceful. And you’ve proved that there’s a strong working hypothesis here that this thing can really turn into something.

It just needs a little bit more fuel to the fire. A, you know, builds trust in the sense that they know that you have the best interest of the business in mind because you went about it by trying to be as efficient and scrappy as you possibly could.

And so it builds trust in that way. And, B, it builds confidence because you’re not just going on a whim and saying like, “Hey, I think we should do this.”

I have this idea and I wanna spend money on it. Like, you’ve actually got a working model. You’ve actually proved something. And so I think, like, you really hit at home there where, like, if you can if you can do that, You know, it takes those relationships with the C suite to a whole new level.

And I think the two-year earlier point, it kinda all ties back to business acumen. And the importance of that in talent acquisition is like when you can frame things up that make sense to people in the realm in the world in which they see the business, Like, everything is so much easier. Easier said than done, obviously.

But, you know, it’s not gonna work. Right? Like, it’s not a it’s not a full proof. You’re not always gonna bat five hundred, or a thousand. You’re not always in about a thousand. Yeah. And I’m even five-five hundred.

You can probably you’re really…

JOSH TOLAN: Yep. Well, I’m a baseball player. So if you bat three hundred, it’s good.

AMANDA DAVENPORT: We could probably get, like, a solid three hundred, maybe a three thirty.

Right? Like, but,  if you can take, like, that experience and that information to anyone in the C suite and say, look, this was the challenge Here’s how I tried to solve it. Here’s what it looks like in practice using real data with our team and our function in practice.

I know this is our bottom line. I know this is what we care about. I have reversed-engineered it into a model that says you know, based off of what I have been told q three is going to look like. If we did x y z, this is what we could expect.

That’s like a really solid cake.

And worst case scenario, they’re gonna be like, yeah, we just don’t have the budget for it right now, but man, do they know you’re a solid problem solver now? And, you’ve probably figured out some other things that you can work into your current process that is going to alleviate some of that challenge, not in the easy pretty way that it would have by investing in a new tool, but you’re gonna be better, than you were.

JOSH TOLAN: Yep. Love it. Well, Amanda, this has been awesome. I’ve learned so much in talking to you, and I’m sure the audience will as well. So I really appreciate you coming on and joining me.


JOSH TOLAN: And it was great getting to know you and a little bit more about Submittable. So thanks so much.

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