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Thought Leader, Carol Mahoney ‘Is’ Talent Acquisition On Demand

Posted on March 10, 2010
Filed Under Carol Mahoney, Interviews | 1 Comment

Carol Valenti Mahoney
Consultant, Talent Acquisition On Demand
A division of Live and Leap, Inc.
Contact Email
Phone: 650-799-9431
• Business Website: “Professional TA”; F5 and Live And Leap
• Personal Blog:

Q&A with Carol Mahoney, Part 2

Six Degrees: What types of training in sourcing/recruitment are available to you and have you taken advantage of?

CAROL: I am a trained facilitator and major proponent of Best Year Yet™, a process used to drive maximum team performance through planning.

In a nutshell, the process includes creating a vision for success that is compelling and, usually, nearly unattainable. The behaviors, practices and goals then follow from that vision. Then on a monthly basis, the team comes together to measure it’s progress against the behaviors, practices and goals they set up for themselves. Sounds simple…but having a facilitator outside the team keeps the derailers and excuses from getting in the way of success. Also, in my experience, at the end of the year the team is motivated by how closely it has come to achieving the nirvana state thought so unachievable the year before. It then propels the team to “ratchet it up” even more the following year.

In my past, I co-developed and facilitated a 2-day intensive training for companies called “Guerrilla Recruiting”. The tenets and foundation of Guerrilla Recruiting have shaped my philosophy about Talent Acquisition to this day. Central to an organization’s talent acquisition success is: an engaged executive and management team; a creative, competent and accountable recruiting organization; and a relentless focus on the candidate as the customer.

Six Degrees: What tools (technology or old school file folder, for example) did you first encounter early in your recruitment career?

Carol: Under my direction, I have implemented several software systems aimed at tracking talent and automating the talent acquisition process (Skillset Software, Restrac, Home-grown Filemaker Pro system, Icarian, Resumix, Vurv). In addition, I’ve tried at least as many solutions for tracking candidates, leads, etc. What I’ve found is that the technology is never as good as it looks and that human adoption is more important than anything. My observations:

A red-wagon can be a decent candidate delivery solution. At Synopsys while we were choosing an ATS solution, our req. load increased so we needed to do something. Enter…a red flyer wagon that we used to cart around the applicant flow to all recruiters. I don’t recommend it. And, yes, it was clumsy. But it was fast and every resume was seen by every recruiter.

It doesn’t matter how good the technology is, if the recruiter or sourcer doesn’t perceive that a tool adds value, the tool is ineffective.

A good 85% of recruiters hate a structured process imposed on them. If your tool also imposes a process, the likelihood of universal adoption is low. You can beat them mercilessly but they will evade you at every turn.

It’s not always “user error” or poor configuration decisions that make a tool bad. Sometimes the tool is slow; or the search capability is uneven; or it simply does not work.

It’s not a matter of install, deploy and go. A tool must be constantly tended, maintained and improved. A company that neglects this usually hates their ATS.

A Talent Acquisition manager can’t be successful without the reporting that tools allow. Excel spreadsheets won’t do it for a mid-sized function or larger.

Six Degrees: How did your expectations of being a recruiter compare to the actual, first time you got on the phone or in the cubicle? In your opinion, how do people’s assumptions about our vocation differ from reality?

CAROL: When I started at AMD, it was a great training ground because we worked in cubicles and could listen to the recruiters on the phone and even in interviews. I had a pretty realistic expectation of what it meant to do recruiting and it was actually easier than it sounded. I got a “high” when I was talking with candidates and in the pursuit of a hire. I had no idea, though, how hard it was to serve the “other” client: the hiring manager. I vacillated between being a pleaser and being, frankly, a little arrogant and difficult to work with. It took a few years and a foray into the consultant world to really understand: the client is “king”. Yes, the candidate is important too. But no client, no candidate.

Six Degrees: Worst mistake, biggest goof, lousiest practice you thought would fly but didn’t…and how that was a learning experience?

CAROL: Looking at lousy management practices, one emerges as the winner. It’s assuming that what worked at one company will work at another. Best practices are great. I spend a healthy percentage of my time looking outward and understanding what’s working in my field. In my experience, however, one can make a huge mistake simply forcing what worked before (even at the same company) on your clients.

Conversely, it is critical to continually pulse your client organization to understand their needs. You can pick and choose from past approaches and other best practices; but then you must customize your solution, strategy, programs, etc. to fit the needs of your client.

Six Degrees: How do you personally expect to facilitate change within our industry, and/or at your place of work? If you started that process, outline the problem, your solutions, and the vision.

CAROL: If I could facilitate only one change to the Talent Acquisition management world it would be to nurture, inspire and develop career Talent Acquisition leaders. I am positive that focusing on leadership rather than deep recruiting expertise would strengthen the talent acquisition function and its influence on the organizations we serve.

Recruiting tools and best practices evolve constantly. And recruiting experts who understand the trends are critical to the function. But developing the leaders who know how to conduct the orchestra of recruiting experts will help the “music” sound better and, more important, ensure that the music is heard.

Six Degrees: “Best practice” you are most proud of developing (now or in the past) in your recruiting career?

Carol: In 2008 I introduced Best Year Yet™ to my direct report team. We set our vision and goals for the year using that approach and it was a backbone to successfully navigating one of the most difficult years at Yahoo! – the year Microsoft made the offer to buy it. I used it again in 2009 and again was able to align the team and move the organization toward achieving very aggressive goals. Though I didn’t innovate the approach, I introduced it to the team and now consider it a “best practice” for running a large organization.

Another best practice that I’m proud of developing for Yahoo! was its talent pipeline pods. The goal was to create pods of sourcers and recruiters who would fill the pipeline with qualified talent possessing key skills in advance of open positions. The pipelines were successful and are still producing results for Yahoo!

Six Degrees: What are some of the frustrating aspects/obstacles to your day to day as a staffing professional and in general?

CAROL: The most common obstacle to any recruiting organization is limited funding. A well-funded and highly accountable talent acquisition team can be the secret sauce of a successful business. Recruiters are happy, management is happy, candidates are happy, customers are happy and, eventually, shareholders are happy. A poorly funded talent acquisition team may be able to work miracles but not on a sustained basis. Recruiters love to do great work – so being put in a no-win situation where they can’t perform for their hiring managers makes recruiters crabby. And managing unhappy recruiters is worse than nails on a chalkboard.

That being said, I have NEVER worked for an organization that was flush with cash. So the trick is getting enough money in advance of the need to create results

Six Degrees: What are the most common themes of strategic and/or tactical mishaps involving past or present HR/Staffing org?

CAROL: Strategic blunders: In the haste of delivering recruiting services during a hiring spike, it is critical to ensure that you are crystal clear with executives about what deliverables they can expect as you ramp-up hiring. It sounds like a tactical blunder. However, failing to do so results in a credibility gap that is hard to repair! Executives must be clear about what they can expect from their recruiting organization IN ADVANCE of any needs. Under-promise and over-deliver. And keep the organization informed of progress regularly because of “selective memory syndrome”.

Six Degrees: Considering all of the frustrations you have experienced in your career as a recruiter, — what inspires you as you continue in your career?

Carol: I love the recruiting business. Matching talent to opportunities is important and rewarding work. And there is nothing more rewarding and more fun than working with the folks who do the recruiting – from sourcers to recruiting managers to recruiters. It’s the people who keep me in love with this career.

I also love the transparency of the recruiting business. It is enough of a numbers game to predict results and then bask in the success. Likewise, the accountability keeps the team on their toes.

Six Degrees: What one thing do you ideally hope to accomplish in 2008?

CAROL: I am in the business to solve Talent Acquisition management problems. This year I would like to emerge as the go-to person when high-technology HR and TA managers have a problem that they need to solve. I may not solve it myself, but I know that I will be able to help by bringing my network, my experience and my creativity to bear.

Six Degrees: Tell me something others may not know about you.

CAROL: I am an avid reader. Although I’m very social and love people, my favorite pastime is reading. I usually have 2-3 going at a time: 1 business or non-fiction book, and 2 purely entertainment books – 1 which I read and another which I listen to on my IPOD.

Six Degrees: How Are You Going To Change The Recruitment Industry?

CAROL: I see my company working arm-and-arm with clients to evolve the recruiting organization into a highly accountable, well-resourced effort of companies that depend on knowledge workers to win in the marketplace. Many companies are overly-fixated on cost and ignore the “art” of attracting and landing the very best talent. Likewise, other companies throw money at the problem with little result. I want to help develop the next generation of career talent acquisition leaders who drive outstanding results by: crafting a tailored and flexible TA strategy, developing MEANINGFUL metrics, and cultivating innovative teams that are a chapter ahead of the market.


Founded by Carol Mahoney, TA on Demand was launched to deliver recruiting management solutions to organizations that rely on talent to create competitive advantage. Most recently VP of Talent Acquisition at Yahoo, Inc. from 2003 through 2009, Carol has enjoyed a successful HR career, with a focus on Talent Acquisition. She is now leveraging her expertise to create a consulting practice focused on delivering Talent Acquisition Management solutions.

Past Clients & Employers:

  • Yahoo!
  • Intuit
  • Synopsys
  • Apple
  • KLA/Tencor
  • AMD
  • Digital Equipment Corp (DEC)
  • Juniper Networks
  • Consulting

    • Using structured methodology, assess Talent Acquisition capability and approach, outlining strengths and gaps.
    • Create client plan to strengthen Talent Acquisition function.
    • Coaching/Mentoring of TA Leaders
    • Talent Acquisition program work
      such as…

      • Sourcing and talent pipeline program development
      • Employer Brand
      • Candidate Assessment & Selection

    Team building

    • Customize and facilitate Best Year Yet, a team building and
      goal setting process
    • Assist in building a TA organization including
      • Assemble SWAT team to meet needs of unanticipated hiring demand
      • Identify and select top TA contributors, vendors & employees

    Recruitment Process Outsourcing

    • Staff and manage outsourced teams of recruiting resources


    One Response to “Thought Leader, Carol Mahoney ‘Is’ Talent Acquisition On Demand”

    1. Julia Edwards - Human Resource Outsourcing on March 17th, 2010 8:00 am

      This is indeed a valuable read. I liked the video of Carol. I am empowered now how to acquire talents for our company. Very good read for me I should say. Thanks. 🙂