Claudia Faust, Founding Partner, Improved Experience LLC
Company Website: www.improvedexperience.com
Company Blog: www.improvedexperience.typepad.com
Phone: 954-692-3553 OR 877-344-4300
Meet my friend Claudia Faust, Independent provider of recruiting services including executive search, professional staffing and passive candidate sourcing. As a recruiter and leader of corporate recruiting organizations for 14 years, Claudia Faust brings her passion for people and analytics to hiring and retention. Over the years she has recruited and managed staffing organizations for globally recognized brands such as T-Mobile USA, Amazon.com, Microsoft, Sprint PCS, and Burger King Corporation; her expertise includes executive search, staffing, recruiter development and training, metrics development and implementation, workforce planning, recruiting technology and vendor selection.
Claudia took this opportunity as a featured member in our interview series to do something those who know her are quite accustomed to: she shared of herself for others, and in the most personal, poignant way. When you venture forward, her responses regarding home and history, – be it children, marriage, and career, – she shares the type of deeply personal and introspective flashbacks that good friends do on a warm summer night sharing a few spirits under a full moon. When all is said and done, you leave refreshed and empowered someone cared enough about you to entrust a part of themselves. For anyone who knows Claudia, it is a familiar take away in what it is to befriend her. She is entirely authentic and even more formidable if you recognize her wisdom is not solely pertaining to a certain day in a week.
Truth be told, I look forward to conference season each Fall and Spring, it gives me an opportunity to see friends new and old, and in each venture I get a hug from my friend Claudia and that endearing smile that is so sincerely welcoming. Claudia is many things, not least among them a class act and someone who so consistently provides value to her industry. More importantly, Claudia is a friend to something far bigger than you or I – she is a confidante and mentor to the daily visitors of RecruitingBlogs.com, not to mention the spotlight featured guest sharing “Wednesday Wisdom”
Improved Experience builds feedback portals to help companies measure and improve the engagement and retention of their best talent. From earliest contact and throughout the employment life cycle, the Better HiresTM suite of products measures and benchmarks critical indicators of workforce engagement, employer brand, and recruiting effectiveness. Improved Experience products are real-time and subscription-based, utilizing patent-pending survey technology. Sales, operations and customer support are provided from Dallas, Miami and Copenhagen
Six Degrees: Tell us of your home world, Claudia.
CLAUDIA: I currently live in Plantation, Florida, about 10 miles inland from Fort Lauderdale. I say “currently” because my husband and I speak often about other places we’d like to live, and who knows where we’ll be five years from now.
My husband is a brilliant, kind, wonderful engineer, and we’ve been married for three years; it took me forever to find my match (you’d think that as a matchmaker I would have been better at choosing a life partner for myself, but that wasn’t the case for me), so he sits firmly at the top of the list of blessings I count every day. I also happen to think he’s the cutest boy in the world, but that’s another story.
I didn’t know my husband when I moved to Florida six years ago, and the story of how we met is too good not to tell you. At the time I was actually dating someone else: an Italian Count I had met while on a cruise from Venice to Istanbul; I dated the Count for over a year while thinking long and hard about what I wanted next from my life. In the summer of 2003 I decided to leave T-Mobile and step headlong into his world; we traveled frequently between his homes and businesses in Italy and south Florida for many months before I concluded that this nomadic life was not for me; I missed my kids and my friends, and even my work — alas, I was living someone else’s fairy tale; it seemed only fair to acknowledge it and move on.
It was the middle of January by then, and I had a choice: I could return to Seattle, or stay in Florida for a while. I chose the second option (no brainer), and took a condo on the beach for a much-needed sabbatical. It was a life-changing four months: I ate when I was hungry, slept when I was tired, and even recruited a bit here and there to replenish my savings account. But mostly, I walked the beach for hours every day. Family and friends came to visit, and I began to feel like an improved version of my old self once again.
It was at sunset on one of those beach walks that I had a chance meeting with the cousin of one of my neighbors, a dark-eyed Turk with a quiet smile and a European accent wasn’t easy to place (turned out to be Denmark, where he had spent many years on his own journey). We chatted for a moment and then I went for my walk, returning an hour later to discover that he was gone, but a note in a bottle was carefully tucked into my sandals. The rest, as they say, is history; we were married two years later at sunset on that same beach, and my life feels like it has come full circle.
Our blended family is split between two continents: in Denmark it includes a son, two daughters, and four amazing grandchildren, and here in the US, two sons and two more amazing grandchildren. Note the underscore on amazing , and yes I do love being a Grammie.
Last summer our family expanded again with the adoption of three feral kittens that have since domesticated well and taken over both the house and our hearts. Life suits me just fine these days.
SIX DEGREES: Tell us about a day in the life, what is that eclectic past time that makes you tick? Make us believe, Teresa “We Hardly Knew Ye!”
CLAUDIA: Travel is perhaps the most visible pleasure for me – it doesn’t matter where I go or how I get there: I can be packed in a heartbeat, and if I forget something they probably sell it there too. There are so many beautiful places to see in the world, and fascinating people from every culture to meet. How can my feet not itch to start the next great adventure?
I’m not athletic by any stretch of the imagination, but my interests are eclectic; I like to bike, ski (the jet-, water-, and downhill variety), snorkel, sail, and go for road trips in my Z3 (straight six, open road, let the big dog eat…you know what mean). I’ve also started working on a dive certification this year because the Bimini Road is both in my back yard and on my Bucket List. I love baseball (to watch, not to play); hate pub crawls (although hanging out for a while is lots of fun); love dancing (took belly dancing lessons my first year in Florida); and learned to hate golf the minute someone insisted I had to keep score. Pretty much a classic Gemini.
SIX DEGREES: How many years have you been in the staffing industry?
CLAUDIA: It feels like a lifetime, but it’s only been 14 years. Even though I’ve run a software company for several years now I still tend to think of myself as a recruiter first.
SIX DEGREES: How did you get started in recruiting?
CLAUDIA: I took a job at an executive search firm in Seattle back in 1995. The owner wanted to train someone to do candidate development for his clients in the wireless telecom industry; I spent the next two and a half years working beside him on what I like to call my hands-on MBA. I didn’t know much of anything about how big business worked before I met Marc, and I soaked up everything he was willing to teach me. It was an excellent education, and I’m thankful for it to this day.
In 1997 my curiosity about the software industry drew me to a consulting firm that placed contractors at Microsoft; it was my introduction to technical product development and the “back office” side of the Internet, and I grilled the developers and architects I placed there to understand how all the parts fit together. This is where I also accepted what a geek I am at heart: my recruiting library contains books like “C for Dummies,” and “From Cloud to Code” that opened for me the world of a well run software organization.
There was no shortage of recruiting opportunities in the late 90s in Seattle; I was recruited to Amazon.com next (where at one point my work load exceeded 400 requisitions); rather than obsess over the obvious, I mostly focused on sourcing and headhunting executive talent for new lines of business. This part of my job was pretty funny, by the way. Recruiting as a function was new to Amazon at the time and there wasn’t a lot of respect for the role there yet. So I was instructed to “go find candidates for the executive team to talk to” – but new business lines were so top secret before launch that I wasn’t even allowed to know what they were. So calls to prospects were interesting to say the least (“Hello Fortune 500 Executive, we’re looking for exceptional leaders with full P&L experience to lead business lines that I can’t tell you about or I’ll have to kill you. Interested?”). Lucky for me the Amazon.com brand was powerful even then, and the doors that it opened with candidates were truly amazing.
In 1999 I joined yet another great Seattle company, T-Mobile USA, where I had the good fortune of leading Corporate Talent Acquisition for several years. If my time at the executive search firm was an experiential MBA, T-Mobile was my final exam. TMO was in a massive growth mode that year that came to a screeching halt when the Internet bubble burst in the economic recession of early 2000, and then rebuilt with locomotive speed in the years that followed.
TMO gave me hands-on experience as a recruiting leader; I worked with an amazing team of recruiters, and had a front row seat to the effects of both good and bad HR and recruiting practices on every functional area of the business. It was, as Charles Dickens penned, “the best of times and the worst of times” as the company grew from fewer than 10 thousand employees to more than 22 thousand in four short years, and simultaneously grappled with stunning turnover rates in many departments. There’s a silver lining to every cloud though, as what I learned there became the catalyst for product development that would follow at Improved Experience.
SIX DEGREES: Tell us about your company, “Improved Experience”
CLAUDIA: Improved Experience is the company I founded with Alise Cortez in 2006, to provide enterprise feedback solutions for HR and recruiting.
Some of my biggest frustrations as a recruiting leader came from the incredible lack of data (and data collection systems, for that matter) that were available to feed the decision making process when allocating recruiting resources, or planning outreach initiatives. It occurred to me that if I could somehow capture feedback from all of the stakeholders in the hiring process – candidates, new hires, hiring managers, recruiters, even my boss sometimes – and present it in a simple and compelling way, I could put critical business intelligence into the hands of recruiting and HR leaders to measure and improve business performance.
So we built an online “feedback portal” technology – a diagnostic platform that measures and manages perception in the hiring process, after onboarding, and throughout the first year of employment. It took two years to finish the engine and the interactive survey technology that feeds it. Since then, we’ve released two products: Get Better Hires, a tool that explores candidate and new hire feedback and engagement; and Make Better Hires, a tool that explores feedback from the internal business customer about Quality of Hire, recruiting services and support, and talent market conditions.
SIX DEGREES: What single event had the most impact on your career?
CLAUDIA: I don’t think that for me it was a single event; rather, it was the opportunity to see recruiting from so many different perspectives: executive search, contract agency, corporate recruiting and corporate leadership. Each has its own unique drivers for success, and that understanding has powerfully impacted my view of recruiting as well as the business solutions my company offers today.
SIX DEGREES: Do you have a mentor?
CLAUDIA: I’ve been fortunate to work for some great companies along the way, and some very smart people. Janice Dilworth hired me at T-Mobile, and I still consider her a mentor; I wasn’t sure if it would work so well at the beginning, because she was a veteran HR administrator and I had a lot of assumptions about HR that came from years of working in a third-party environment (the old “us versus them” mindset). Janice trusted my expertise when it came to setting a bar of excellence for the team, and I came to deeply to trust her abilities to set broader strategy and protect us from the politics inherent in really big, rapidly growing companies. I learned not only from her knowledge, but by her example.
SIX DEGREES: How do you personally expect to facilitate change within our industry?
CLAUDIA: I truly believe that if something can be measured, it can be improved. My work at Improved Experience is about leveraging perception to improve business performance. By creating a mechanism that collects and reports this data in a transparent and compelling way, we can deepen communication between all of the stakeholders: the internal business customers who drive the hire, the recruiters who make it happen, and the talented candidates and employees they want so dearly want to attract and retain. And if that helps to solve the problem of the dreaded black hole in recruiting, while building stronger businesses, I think we’ll have accomplished something amazing.
SIX DEGREES: What inspires you as you continue in your career?
CLAUDIA: I’m inspired by people who don’t give up, ever. Churchill once said, quite simply, “Never, never, never quit,” and I think that that is perfectly said. I’m inspired by the part of the human spirit that rises in adversity, that stands its ground, that finds courage, that clings to hope.
My youngest son spent ten years in the hell of drug addiction; watching in horror, I was there with him. My first year as a recruiter was his first failed attempt at recovery; he was 14 years old at the time. He tried again to get clean when he was 18, and failed again. At 22 he tried a third time; 60 pounds under weight for his six foot frame by then, we all knew that he didn’t have many chances left. He finally did it, and remains clean and sober 4 years later.
People who don’t give up are rock stars to me.
SIX DEGREES: What is your next career goal?
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