Recruiting and Employer Branding Tips from SKIMS

Recruiting can be challenging, especially when it falls on a small talent team to manage fast-paced growth. Hear from two recruiting experts––Laura Buckle, Senior Director of Global Recruitment and Talent at SKIMS, and Tali Rapaport, co-Founder and CEO of Puck––who share tips and tricks for startup recruiting, employer branding tools, and brand engagement below.

Naomi Shammash
Naomi is a producer at Puck. She interviews people all over the world in all kinds of roles and produces episodes that tell their stories. Her background is in writing, journalism, and publishing. She graduated from Brown in 2022.

About the experts

Tali Rapaport is the co-Founder and CEO of Puck, a people-first CRM. She became passionate about recruiting technology while she was at Lyft, where she was a VP of Product. As Lyft onboarded one million drivers and her team headcount grew, she spent much of her time looking at recruiting technology, saw opportunities for improvement, and answered the call with Puck.

Laura Buckle is the Senior Director of Global Recruitment and Talent at SKIMS, a brand led by Kim Kardashian creating the next generation of underwear, loungewear, and shapewear. With over two decades of experience in recruiting and the last eight focused on the fashion industry, Laura has been with SKIMS since its inception in 2019, spearheading the establishment of every department and growing the company’s headcount from 70 to almost 400 in the last two years.

How to manage startup recruiting with a small talent team

SKIMS sold over three million products during its first year in business and was valued at over $4 billion in 2023. Laura had to leverage a recruiting team of three to keep up with the explosive growth at SKIMS while managing applicant expectations about the company brand and culture. 

How did Laura manage startup recruiting with such a small talent team? She requires two key things: organization and technological tools that enable it. Though she often sees the need for additional roles crop up, when the year begins, she knows exactly how many people she needs to hire and when. As soon as jobs get approval to be posted, “then it’s all hands on,” Laura says. To maintain control over all aspects of the recruiting process, she stays organized.

How to build relationships with hiring teams

Recruitment teams and hiring teams have to work together to find the best candidates and get them through the door. As a recruiter, how can you ensure that you understand the hiring team’s needs?

“The most important thing from that whole recruitment process is your intake meeting with the hiring manager,” Laura says. “I really do believe that the best recruiters are the ones that have that connection with their hiring team.” She prescribes two approaches to learning what exactly it is that the hiring team requires:

1. Meet with the hiring manager.

This is the approach typically taken by recruiters. Ask the hiring manager questions to enrich your understanding of the situation, and learn the details and goals you need to work effectively. 

2. Go to the department or team you’re recruiting for and observe.

This is the road less traveled, but an incredibly valuable approach. When you sit in with a department or team for a day, you get a richer, fuller picture of what they need by seeing daily processes unfold in person. By watching current employees complete tasks and interact with one another, you can learn which technical and interpersonal skills a candidate needs to thrive in the context of that department or team.

Hear from Laura about her boots-on-the-ground approach to recruiting:

Video transcript

Laura: “For example, I was recruiting for our workshop store in Austin. I got on a plane, I went to Austin, I worked a couple of night shifts in the operations side of retail to fully understand what it was that I was recruiting for. And it was one of the best things I could have done. We successfully went on to hire the Austin team, and they are still there. We haven't lost one person, which in retail is unbelievable. The turnover of staff in retail is very high and I'm really proud that we've done that. And I do think that was because I fully immersed myself into that team, and I think that's what I encourage my team to do.

I didn't know Austin. I'd never been. So, I think it was also important for me to witness how people shopped, like behavior. I'm a psychology major, so I'm always kind of, ‘What's the story behind that? What's motivating her to buy this, that, and the other?’ Or him, now. I went there just to see what that environment was like and worked all night with the team and we were just about to open. It was hard work, but it was great. And I also feel that when you are actually in that environment, hiring for retail is easier. Sometimes it's going in and doing a bit of a secret shop in a different store. If you like the person you've dealt with, then it's a conversation: ‘Hey, you know, we're opening. Are you looking, are you open for opportunities?’ It’s that kind of thing.” 

Using employer branding tools in the hiring process

At a company like SKIMS, helmed by one of the biggest influencers in the world, the brand can affect both the quantity and quality of applicants. Laura found that while SKIMS received a large number of applicants for roles, it was often hard to sift through to find the best candidates. 

“It’s a good bad problem to have,” she acknowledged, “but we were getting a lot of people that were fans of our owner. That doesn't mean that you know how to do a specific job. It was overwhelming at times. We do appreciate every application we get, but going through them, especially as a team of three, is very challenging.”

While Laura was pleased that applicants to SKIMS were excited about the products, she also wanted them to understand the company culture. To manage applicants’ expectations, Laura turned to Puck as an employer branding tool to tell the SKIMS story to applicants. Puck relayed the SKIMS culture by going straight to the source: the people. Puck interviews employees and produces audio episodes that are featured alongside job postings, so that candidates can hear directly from the people they would be working with.

“This content sells the team and it gives this authentic, transparent perspective on who's the right people for the company, and the culture helps the right people opt in and out of the process,” Tali explains. “We map the content by department so that you can have a CTO on an engineering role and a VP of marketing on a marketing role. It helps to make the message resonate.” 

The result? SKIMS hired 83% more inbound applicants in the first 90 days after going live with Puck. 

Listen to Laura explain how Puck made a big difference:

Video transcript

Laura: “Pulling Puck in and having those small mini podcasts––so when you click on one of our jobs through our careers page or through LinkedIn, it will take you to the site run by Puck––it's fantastic. You can read the job description and you have the opportunity to click on mini podcast clips where you can actually hear from the department. We're getting a lot of people clicking and listening. I feel like it has improved the quality of candidates that we're getting. The branding of SKIMS, it's great because we get a lot of people, but we have had to fine-tune it with tools like Puck to make sure that we're getting the right people.”

How to source for passive candidates

Even at a company like SKIMS, sometimes you still have to source passive candidates. When it comes to that, Laura believes in the value of persistence above all else. “You have to be a bit pushy, especially with certain roles,” she says. “There's lots of ways, but I don't give up. I’m definitely that kind of recruiter.” 

Some of the aforementioned ways Laura goes about passive sourcing include holding events for in-person interactions, searching specific LinkedIn groups for candidates, and putting candidates on nurture campaigns. 

Laura sends candidates emails with Puck podcasts attached, featuring the department leader that the candidate would work with. “It's a really different experience to get an email like this,” Tali says. “It elevates the role. It gets someone's attention. There's a one-in-five chance of getting your email opened, and then you've got a couple seconds to grab people in today's environment. You're more likely to get a response reaching out with a more appealing role.”

Want more recruiting tips?

If you’re hungry for more expert insights and career advice, hear from more recruiters. In the meantime, you can stay tuned for more advice from Puck and other industry experts.

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