How Credit Karma Saved Its Recruiters

Increasingly, chatter about hiring freezes and slowdowns is turning into more than just chatter. And as more economists predict a recession, it’s critical to formulate a strategy for managing your own recruiting team. To do so, it’s worth examining what Credit Karma did during the pandemic. Rather than lay off recruiters, the organization deployed them into non-recruiter roles throughout the business.

At the ERE Recruiting Conference, Nov 7-9, in Atlanta, Rafael Rice will be delivering a presentation called “When Hiring Halts: Creating Internal Mobility for Recruiters to Build Skills and Avoid Layoffs.” Rice, a senior manager of talent acquisition at Credit Karma, will talk about how the company found new internal posts for its recruiters, enabling them to grow knowledge and skills. (Notably, Rice was one of the TA pros who was deployed.) Equally valuable, Rice will reveal what happened with those recruiters as hiring picked up again.

I recently spoke to Rice about his upcoming presentation and the actions that Credit Karma undertook on behalf of its recruiters

ERE: At the height of the pandemic, recruiters were laid off left and right. I say this partly to underscore the notion that Credit Karma wouldn’t necessarily have been looked down on for doing the same, so what made your business decide to save jobs by re-assigning people on our team?

Rice: It stemmed from the top, from our chief people officer and other leadership, that they actually care about people. When Covid happened, as at many companies, our growth and scale came to a complete stop. Crickets. That’s when leadership made the decision that it was most important to take care of people.

It was also a no-brainer for leaders that all employees, including recruiters, have transferable skills. So the first step was to find out who excelled in which skills to see which new roles would be best for people. It quickly became evident, too, that many recruiters who were already partnering with specific teams in the company — be they marketing, legal, finance, research, and so on — already had a good understanding of the work that those teams did. That knowledge, along with transferable skills to apply that knowledge, helped determine which roles might be best for recruiters. 

So often, recruiters talk about the importance of internal mobility, but rarely, if ever, do they apply the notion to themselves. What was the reaction among your recruiters to being redeployed?

It was generally positive. People appreciated that leadership cared enough to keep them employed, and many were excited to try new, challenging things. We were all seeing other companies laying off their recruiters, so it was good to see that leadership had confidence in us that we would still be valuable to the company beyond our recruiting roles. 

No pushback or hesitancy from people about doing something that’s “not my job”?

No, we all got on the bus. It also helped that we were all welcomed with open arms into our new departments and teams.  

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Once the pandemic eased and business and hiring picked up again, did people go back to their former recruiting jobs?

This is the best part of the story. The whole process, the whole culture of internal mobility that was developed, truly unlocked potential in people. We had recruiters become product managers, engineers, you name it, and they loved their new roles so much that they stayed in them. Most of our team did not come back. To this day, many continue to flourish in their new careers. Of the roughly 40+ recruiters who were dispersed, only about four or five made the choice to return to recruiting. 

Wow! Call me a cynic who looks on the dark side of things, but I wonder what that says about the recruiting profession that once people are given a chance to leave it, they don’t want to return.

I think it just shows that people love to learn new skills and do different things. There are many reasons why any given individual chose to stay in their new role. Perhaps they simply found something new inside of themselves and want to continue exploring it for now. Maybe they’ll eventually come back to recruiting, too, at some point. 

At the same time, let’s face it. Recruiting is often stressful. Some people just don’t want that stress, but others can thrive with it. I’m one of those people, which is why I came back to recruiting. I like being uncomfortable and challenging myself. I do well with the stress and the grind. At the end of the day, though, the best thing to come out of all this is that people were able to leverage their skills and interests in ways that work for them. That matters a lot.


Want more insights from Rafael Rice? Experience his session, “When Hiring Halts: Creating Internal Mobility for Recruiters to Build Skills and Avoid Layoffs,” at the ERE Recruiting Conference in Atlanta, Nov. 7-9. 

Vadim Liberman is editor of ERE.net and TLNT (the devil wears TJ Maxx) — a workplace renegade advancing how we think, work, and live. He has previously worked as a strategy consultant to HR and recruiting tech companies at The Starr Conspiracy, as a talent management professional at Prudential, and as senior editor of The Conference Board Review, a magazine for business leaders. Vadim loves to talk about all things HR, talent acquisition, and Bravo TV shows. Bring it!

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