For Sara Fatima, head of global talent acquisition at Verifone, empathy is the secret ingredient for hiring the right job candidate.
Fatima was part of an effort to bring in a new talent acquisition (TA) function in-house at Verifone, a leading technology provider of electronic payment transactions. Within her first two years at the company, she helped build a global acquisition team of over twenty-one people from the ground up.
She partnered with the internal HR Ops team and ATS partners to implement a new applicant tracking system in fifty-seven days, a process that normally takes five to six months. Since then, the organization has also continued to hire almost a thousand employees—even through the pandemic, her team has continued to outperform itself.
She credits her relatively quick success at Verifone to understating the importance of “not hiring for the job, but for the company.”
“Take the time to understand your organization,” advises Fatima, whose team is responsible for engaging with those interested in joining Verifone. “Understand the business and their pain. The only way you will be able to hire the right person is if you understand the people who you’re talking to. Walk in their shoes. When you develop that level of empathy on both sides of the house, only then will you find a person that is the right fit for the organization. You shouldn’t ever hire candidates for a job. Hire them for a career.”
Fatima learned these valuable lessons over several roles throughout her professional career. As a corporate recruiter at AutoTrader, now known as Cox Automotive, she managed nationwide recruitment for the company’s subsidiaries at all levels of the organization. She was also tasked with integrating three companies into AutoTrader in the same year, a project that required an understanding of how those businesses ran in order to assimilate them into the company.
“Understand what your value proposition is, whether you’re a company or a candidate,” she says. “Understand the technology and its impact, understand how the company leverages its people and technology, spend thirty minutes with the managers. Have them walk you through their life.”
After two years at AutoTrader, Fatima had an eight-year career at IBM as a recruiting program manager as well as technical talent program manager. She was responsible for identifying and securing the best available talent for the business, building talent pipelines, and delivering a positive candidate experience throughout the recruiting process. Part of that work included curating experiences and programs that catered to early professionals like university graduates and interns it was trying to hire.
Her last big IBM project included taking seven hundred engineering interns to Disney World for three days after a ten-week internship. After the immersive experience, almost every intern received an employment offer.
She attributes the 95 percent acceptance rate for that program to IBM’s work in imparting its culture to the interns before they even started working for the company. She also attributes it to her team’s ability to relentlessly reinvent the ways it went about courting talent and creating signature experiences.
“That passion of saying ‘nothing is ever perfect; we can always make it better’ is what differentiates you from anybody else,” she says.
That passion fueled Fatima when she moved into her current role at Verifone. Nothing was off limits when it came to what could be changed to improve the company’s recruiting processes, she remembers. First, she and her team looked at how long processes developed by the company’s recruitment outsourcing company took. The monstrously inefficient recruitment process and model was simply not fit to scale globally. Simple, effective, and quick improvements were made to save recruiters more time and reduce process steps.
While there’s been many positive changes to recruitment processes, Fatima and her team have also brought in a culture change to TA. When she first started in her position, she says that “no one said hi. It wasn’t personal, but it was more around how little value they saw in Talent Acquisition because the RPO had no interest in the business. They were just trying to fill requisitions and make money off of it.”
The culture change came when she started engaging more with managers and instructed her recruiters to take the same approach. As more time was invested into forging those relationships, the TA team shared its discoveries with each other, which Fatima says allowed the group to partner with its business constituencies, implement best practices, and build back its credibility.
“TA now has a seat at leadership meetings where we talk about workforce planning and talent acquisition on a biweekly basis and our feedback is valued and worked on,” she says.
Fatima’s passion for TA inspired her to write internally about what it means at Verifone. She says she wanted her talent acquisition team to take away the importance of being authentic in whatever it does.
“If someone can truly and authentically define their value proposition and their purpose, that’s when they become instrumental in success, whatever they may mean for them,” Fatima says.