Podcast

How Hiring is Changing: Eliminating Resumes and Bias

Podcast

How Hiring is Changing: Eliminating Resumes and Bias

Podcast

How Hiring is Changing: Eliminating Resumes and Bias

Podcast

How Hiring is Changing: Eliminating Resumes and Bias

Podcast

How Hiring is Changing: Eliminating Resumes and Bias

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Podcast

How Hiring is Changing: Eliminating Resumes and Bias

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Podcast

How Hiring is Changing: Eliminating Resumes and Bias

32:48
MIN
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About the Episode
Are resumes irrelevant? How can we remove bias from recruitment processes? Can hiring be made easier yet still result in the best outcomes? These are questions Wes Winham Winler mulls over often. He believes many hidden gems get overlooked by outdated processes and assumptions. In this episode, the Founder and CEO of Woven discusses how his company is changing the way people get hired. As a neurodiverse individual with autism, he understands how hiring can be biased. He covers a wide array of hiring problems he’s working hard to solve, from the necessity of projects to the issues with resumes.
Episode Highlights

Projects can be revealing
Reviewing a prospect’s work through a take-home project can make hiring much easier and faster. 

Resumes lack context
Resumes can only provide so much information; adding specific questions to your application can fill gaps. 

Differences are important
Avoid falling into the pattern of hiring people who have similar skills, attitudes, and demeanors to yours.

Meet our Guest

Wes Winham Winler believes hidden gems are the best hires. He came to this conclusion after 10 years as the head of engineering for a technology company, where he ran into issue after issue with hiring. As the CEO and Founder of Woven, a technical assessment platform built to help orgs hire great engineers, he now spends his days figuring out how to best match engineers to jobs. He’s passionate about removing bias from hiring and reimagining how to source great candidates. As someone on the autism spectrum, he has a unique perspective on how to unearth candidates who may be traditionally cast to the side.

Episode Transcript

Chris Byers: Wes Winham has built a business helping hidden gem engineers get hired. What are hidden gems? We'll hear from us on that later. As CEO of Woven, he's developed the technical assessment platform that enables companies to evaluate potential talent without relying on resumes, and often that talent has been overlooked. Getting caught. An applicant tracking software, overloaded inboxes and, more importantly, unrecognized bias. His passion for giving the underdog a leg up is evident through the success of his company winning accolades such as the 2020 Indiana Startup of the Year. What's behind his drive to give those who may not stand out a shot? Let's find out. I am Chris Byers, a form sac, and this is ripple effect, a show celebrating the positive impact your decisions create. West, welcome to the show.

Wes Winham Winler: It's great to be here, Chris.

Chris Byers: Anything I missed in that intro,

Wes Winham Winler: I think you nailed it. That was much better than my version.

Chris Byers: Sounds good. How did you get to this realization of wanting to help hidden gems be found?

Wes Winham Winler: Well, for me, it was mostly by screwing up a little bit, as is tradition. I was the only engineer, so thus head of engineering at a startup and happens to a lot of people. You become a manager one day and realize you have to hire because nobody else is going to do it. And for me, I hired three people in pretty quick succession, and they were all awesome. I was feeling really good about myself. I had built this process I read, thinking fast and slow. I had these behavioral interview questions. I was feeling really good about myself. I could look in someone's eyes and spot talent, or so I thought. And then I hired my fourth person and it did not work out. So maybe I did not have this magic ability. And on a small team, miss hires. Really, they hurt customers. But for me, I hired someone who was a good person who was trying really hard and I put him in a position where he was not going to be successful because my hiring process wasn't good enough. So that was really the the impetus to figure out how to be better at hiring so I could never go through that pain again. I went and read all the psychology literature I could. What does science say about predictive hiring? What, what are the nerds doing? And then I went and interviewed a bunch of grizzled engineering managers who had been through this over and over. And what are y'all actually doing to avoid this pain? And the overlap was, if you're going to hire dancers, you should probably watch them dance, which like, Yeah, yeah, that does make sense. Not what I was doing. Built something that's like a little project you might hurt him. Called a take home project homework project where you're actually doing a little bit of the job and that fix my mess. Hiring a problem. I hired another 20 engineers. That's that way and had nothing but success. And it's fast forward to 2014. So we're an Indianapolis based company at the time, and I decided to go remote with my hiring. So with engineer hiring, I was getting 10 candidates a month. So it was pretty easy. Then I go remote. I'm open to anyone in the world and I get 100 per week. Very different. So then I'm struggling. It's a Friday. I've got a ton of resumes, a man box. And to be honest, I don't like reading resumes. They feel like B.S.. I just don't like them. So mostly out of laziness and kind of bias, I decided to send everybody who applied that week my project mass email and moving on. And then I get results back the next week, and most of them are not very good. Resumes do predict some things, but one of them was amazing. It was like exactly what I was looking for. So not just good code, but it was clean code and documentation and all the like. The little details that make for a great engineer, and I'm stoked because this is a mid-level engineer, three to five years of experience, someone that really gets it. And I go back and look at this candidate's resume, and he has zero years of experience. That was just shocking that the best candidate and my candidate pool with someone that if I would have read his resume first, I absolutely would have rejected this candidate. That was the light bulb moment for me, that there are hidden gems out there and that kind of kicked off this mission of how can we build something to find him?

Chris Byers: That's great. I think what's interesting is I think actually in engineering, it's a little bit more common to use a project to help guide a conversation. But we've actually found some really good success over the years, really doing that in every job. So hire a CFO, come up with a project for them. And that is, of course, after we've gotten through resume, et cetera. And I think that's an important point you're trying to make. But I do think that getting people's real life work in your hands can make such a huge difference in getting to know them. Let me back up a little bit and define for us what a hidden gem is.

Wes Winham Winler: I like to think of a hidden gem as someone that you would have overlooked if you just went on service criteria. So you just went on the resume that are just on the application phase, but this person is a great fit for the role. So that's a hidden gem. They come in a lot of flavors. They depend on the type of hiring process you look for. One of the things about hidden gems in most roles is recruiting has a really hard job. They have to use mostly resumes and a short conversation about a role that they're not really an expert in to decide who do they want to send on to the hiring manager who is typically very busy? That's why they're hiring, and that doesn't so much like to talk to people that really aren't fitting their criteria. So one of the things that happens is recruiters tend to over time get biased towards tightening their criteria rather than loosening it because they get that negative feedback from the hiring manager. But they don't get as quick positive feedback when they do send someone on the borderline that works out. I went out and talked to a bunch of recruiters when I started the company, and I found out that the most common criteria when I asked them of what gets them to move someone to the next stage is enthusiasm, which on the surface seems very reasonable. But there are some people who show enthusiasm very different. For example, folks on the autism spectrum. Room tend to have a lower dynamic range when it comes to talking and what they're interested in. We have recruiters who are trying to do their best, who are mostly cuing on things that are seem pretty reasonable like enthusiasm. If someone's more enthusiastic about your company, that's probably going to be a better hire. I think that's a reasonable assumption. But the result is people who might be great at the job when you get to know them, when they actually do the job. There's a bias against moving those folks forward, and that might be a hidden gem. Some that actually gets to the recruiter call but can't show well enough in that rapport building phase. So get screened out before they talk to a hiring manager.

Chris Byers: It sounds like you've used technology to really try to solve this problem. Can you share some examples of maybe some people who would have been overlooked but weren't because of that technology?

Wes Winham Winler: So we had a customer that was hiring a DevOps engineer. So DevOps is it's a really fast growing field. It's really hard to find people because it's new. So they were having lots of trouble, not a lot of candidates. And at the same time, this gentleman mark was laid off from his previous role. So they downsized the whole test automation department and he's on the job market and he'd been there for months. Really have a hard time because test automation is not an in-demand title like DevOps is an in-demand title. So he's applying to these DevOps roles because he thinks he has the skills and he's not hearing back. He applies to our customer who looks at his resume and is probably not. But because they have a way to assess candidates beyond the resume sends them to us. Mark shows his skills and scores in the top five percent. We're like, Hey, you should talk to Mark here. They do they. He does well in the interview. They love him. He goes on site, he does well, and I get a text message the third day that he's already automating parts of the infrastructure. This is great. Come to find out. In the last year, Mark is now the director of that whole department. Is ten people reporting to him for a job that he wouldn't have got to interview for because his resume title didn't quite match up. So it's really all about these people that are making career transitions or their learning curve is a little bit faster than you might expect. And one of the things I've talked to people about doing and I've heard success is really focusing on the application. It's the step that is the easiest in the world to skip. Usually it's Oh, I got to write this job description. Maybe we'll put a little bit of care into that to try to to sell it, but often not even that. But then the application, not a lot of people think about, well, look, we'll get some resumes and we'll look through. The thing about a resume is that's generic. It's about the person and their general guess for what is interesting. You as the hiring manager, you know a lot more about what's interesting to you. So let's say you're hiring for a sales role. You want people who have done sales before, but one of the really important parts for hiring sales is the previous contract value. So sales at one hundred thousand a deal looks at the same kind of doesn't matter what you're selling. The motion is similar versus sales at $5000. A deal looks very different. It's very fast, it's very transactional, and the people that are great at one type of sale are not necessarily great at the other. A resume is very unlikely to have their average contract value, even though that might be the most important predictor of who's going to be successful. So we have a history, and I know people with history of hiring salespeople who don't have tech experience but do have business experience in non-tech at similar contract values. And because they put that in their screener, they can talk to people who are getting rejected from all these tech roles they're applying to because they don't have that tech background, but they do have the fundamental skills, and all of this is adding one line to your application.

Chris Byers: As with everything, when we adopt software, we have this tendency to say, Oh, it's going to fix all my problems. What are the things we all just still need to learn? Yep, let's go adopt woven. But oh, but hey, you need to think about this, and I think you're talking about a little bit of it in how you write job descriptions. But what are some just fundamentals we all need to learn about, I guess, being more open and more inclusive in the way that we hire.

Wes Winham Winler: Hiring is just it's just fundamentally hard. It's one of those irreducible, hard things that all we can do is get a little bit less bad at it. But the good news is there's so much upside. There are very few business leaders that don't believe that the people are what make their business or their team successful. It's almost a truism at this point. But rather than throwing our hands up about hiring, they're like little steps we can take to be a little bit better. I think the number one step would be instead of starting with a job post, which is almost a sales document, or it should be a sales and marketing document starting with the profile of the person you're going to hire. So usually even people that do this, they're typically talking about what their background experience is, what type of companies they've been at, which is a good place to start and get the brain flowing. But eventually, you want to abstract from these AKA. What are the capabilities, what are the things this person needs to be able to do and get that down to three to five plus maybe three to five attributes which are a little bit less changeable and starting from there? Then you ask yourself, How can I learn about these things? How can I gather data? And there's pretty standard tools. Some are the behavioral interview where you ask, Tell me about a time question. Some of them might be hypothetical questions like, How would you do X? Another example is work samples like the projects that you get to your CFO. The alternative is we just get stuck on that first profile and someone's applying to us, but they didn't work at the right company, so they don't fit the profile. So we reject them versus going capabilities first. Now I've got this set of tools in my tool belt to learn about these underlying capabilities. And I had a little bit of my screener. I have a little bit and that I can hand off to my a recruiter who's going to ask some questions early on and we can start gathering data and we're a little bit more open to profiles that are kind of weird. And in a competitive hiring market, we have to be open to weird profiles or we're going to be hiring for a long time. And that's how we can just be a little bit better as being more capabilities first. How do we get evidence about those second?

Chris Byers: So you're talking about this idea of really giving people a chance or a shot that maybe they didn't get? I'm curious, do you have your own personal story of how maybe somebody in your past gave you a shot or a chance that you might not otherwise have gotten

Wes Winham Winler: as a fourth grader? I finished the last three weeks homeschooled because my fourth grade teacher couldn't handle me, thought I was a very typical child. I have only a vague memory of this and just being very confused. What I found out is that was my tendency to, let's say, point out whenever my teacher maybe said something that was incorrect or maybe undersold, something that I thought was really interesting.

Chris Byers: It's a very respectful way to say it, by the way.

Wes Winham Winler: Yeah, I now realize I was that jerky little fourth grader that was correcting their teacher and driving her crazy. I didn't perceive it at the time. I loved learning about things. I love learning new things for myself, so I just assumed everybody loved that and didn't notice the whole social piece that being corrected is a status thing. We don't like to be corrected. So that is an example of a lot of things in my life that I just took a long time to get. And I, mostly through the patience of people around me, was able to keep moving on to keep going to the next stage of my life in college. And I had great parents who were really supportive. But a lot of people don't have that, and I didn't really realize how lucky I was. I thought that's how everyone was. I read a book in 2011 called The Time Is Called Age of the Info War. It was about this random technology topic that the world is changing in a way that people who are very attracted to information are benefiting, whereas other people aren't. And one of the sections in the book was about autism, and I knew about autism as this thing that kids had. That was pretty debilitating and that was about it. And I think I knew some friends of friends who had autistic kids and that that was basically all I knew. And I started to learn about it as a different neurological profile that actually has some benefits and lots of costs. And I was new to me, and as I was reading through the list of differences, I was like, Man, this is like a page out of my biography, and I felt like every section I was just blowing my mind like, Oh yeah, if you correct people, they're going to be mad at you. So I'm suspecting that autism, I learn about autism, learned that it's different. And at one point, while doing research for that, i o psychology work around hiring. I start to get too familiar with the terms and the papers, and I have access to the journals and I just some thumbing through. I see a paper on an instrument for diagnosing autism. I'm like, Oh, I know how to read this. I know how to actually translate this instrument into something I could do and score myself. So I take it, and I am either in the top 99 and a half percent of most autistic non-autistic folks, according to scale, or even like the 60th percentile of autistic people. I thought I would be in that direction, but I didn't realize it would be that overwhelming. And then I filed, by the way, and just thought about it and started to see people on Twitter talking about autism. And it was it's this fight because there's two camps. I'm not an expert in autism, by the way. I'm just I'm just very interested in it. And I am autistic myself, and we could talk a little bit about self-diagnosis for autism, if that would be interesting. But there are two camps here, and one camp is mostly parents of kids who have been diagnosed with autism, who have a really strong disability that makes it difficult for them to accomplish day-to-day tasks and bond with peers and get along in school. And those folks I have a lot of empathy for because I think that's tough. And then there are adults who have realized that they are autistic and has told them really true things about themselves that help them understand themselves. Better. And those two camps sometimes don't see eye to eye because the experience is very different.

Chris Byers: Your own self-discovery, I think, is important. If there are other people out there who have an opportunity for that self-discovery, I think talking through that is great. I do think self-awareness in lots of ways is what I think drives our ability to make smarter decisions. And so I think again, appreciate you sharing. Maybe let's step back a little bit to kind of your history before woven. As you talked about, you've spent a long time building engineering teams. What would you say your biggest challenge was and you probably referred to one of them in terms of hiring. But what else comes to mind?

Wes Winham Winler: I think most crafts where as an individual, there is just so much to learn about how to be better at that craft. The transition to leadership is very challenging because the things that make you confident at that craft the pattern recognition, the ability to focus for amount of time and perform, whether that's performing on a call with a customer or performing for an hour with your editor and solving a hard problem. Those things are actually not good. As a leader. So you have this tendency to Oh, I see this problem. I know how to solve it. I'm going to go get on that call or I'm going to go dove into the code and fix it. And that's actually a thing that makes you a worse leader. So I for a long time, I was like the chief problem solver rather than an actual leader. An actual leader is focused on helping the team move in the same direction, helping the team improve, helping each individual improve at the things they care about and that are useful. And it's not being the person that's going to jump in and save and solve problems. So it took me quite a while to get over that hurdle. And I think for engineering especially, that's one of the hard challenges is transitioning from the person who does it and gets the immediate reward to the person who teaches it and coaches it and ask questions, and you don't get that immediate reward. It's actually frustrating because you're suppressing this part of yourself that you're so proud of, and it gives you so much joy because of this long term reward of improving a person and making your team better. To be honest, that is still challenging. Today, I have a sticky note on my monitor that says time to problem solve, and that's remind me to give other people time to problem solve before I jump in.

Chris Byers: I think as a leader, you've pointed out something that I struggle with on a very regular basis because it's far too often that I'm like, I could go do this. And the effort to explain or the effort to actually, to your point, the effort to just be patient is probably the hardest thing because I'm like, I can get it done real fast. Let me just go, take care of this. So I think you've hit on an important point there. What are some signals that as you've used technology, as you've thought about this whole idea of really sifting through and getting to the right candidates or some key signals you've found in great candidates that you won't see on a resume?

Wes Winham Winler: I don't want to like totally throw out resumes because there is data there. The typical resume signals are is there a positive trajectory like someone moving up and doing bigger projects? But I'm familiar enough with the research where they give people a bunch of resumes and then they ask people to sort them into piles and just how incredibly depressing that research is. So one of my favorites is they took a similar resume and they gave one person a relevant second degree. So like math plus computer science for a very mathy like Ph.D. level position. And for one of the resumes, they get them that second degree for the other resume, they just made the first word and each bullet point a verb. So Giroux project completion or GRU usage, those sort of things, which tells a better story. Guess which one got more callbacks? The person who got a second relative degree or the person who changed one word as bad as you think is 25 percent more callbacks for that, that verb word and the resume. And I'd like to think I'm immune to this, but I'm probably not like when reading resumes. It's just easier to skim through. So my goal usually and I don't always do this because sometimes you just have to get resumes and keep going. But my goal is to not look at resumes until I've evaluated the screener because I can usually think of two to three questions someone can answer in a tweet. They're going to tell me much more about the relevant experience than the resume. That's my goal is to not read a resume until I'm talking to someone because you can see how they talk about their problem, how they communicate, what they've done, what they think is important. So, yeah, I try not to read resumes.

Chris Byers: You've talked about autism and this kind of learning that you went through. How do you think that's impacted you as a leader?

Wes Winham Winler: One thing that I think is a benefit is because I have really strong weaknesses that I'm aware of. I'm able to compensate for those by building deliberate practices. So I have a company where it's a little bit easier to orient yourself because more things are written down where things are explicit, which I think is good for a company. It means sometimes you go slower rather than going faster. I also am a little bit more aware that some people are different, which I think we all need to be reminded of constantly because it is so easy to just assume everyone has the exact same as you. I used to think that autism was a deficit in a lot of ways. When my mental model now is closer to, there are defaults that we all have and we pretty much assume that everyone else has the same defaults. And a lot of the problems in the world are when we interact with folks who have different defaults. About one is ask culture versus gas culture. So when you ask someone, is it safe to say no? Or is that ask a very strong commitment? And that's ask culture versus guess culture where you really don't ask anyone anything. You just say, Man, that's a really nice shirt and that person is supposed to read in, and that means they really want. One of the research for their birthday is one example of different defaults. So just being aware that the defaults are different and being constantly reminded that I am different whenever I think of meeting with greats and then I ask someone about it later, and it absolutely didn't, or I think something is very clear and it's not.

Chris Byers: Yeah, I think your point of I was just talking to my wife about this the other day, how I think as leaders that one of the most difficult things is knowing what other people don't know because we all do very much to your point, presume like, Oh, I had this experience, everybody's had this experience. And yet we forget, Oh yeah, we've had 10 20 whatever years of experience that does add up, and sometimes you don't realize how all that impacts your decisions as you've then started to translate that into this knowledge of how maybe you think about things and how we need to think about how other people might not see it quite the same way. How's that translated into leading a company?

Wes Winham Winler: For me, it looks like a company that has just maybe what might be described as highly structured goals, let's say. So we have three cascading goals systems with a company of 14 people. So the idea is everybody knows exactly what they're working on all the time versus relying on talking to your boss and kind of reading the mood to see what is more or less important. So we have quarterly V Times, which is a horrible acronym, but Salesforce invented it, and I think it's pretty good. It's a mix of planning a goal setting system. Then we have monthly OK hours, which are you break that quarterly goal into a few objectives, which are great motivating sounding things we would like to do and a few key results, which are how do we know we've made progress towards that great sounding objectives? And then also weekly commitments. So every week on Friday, we get together and we help each other think of what is the one or two things that are very much in our control that we can do next week that is going to make progress towards those monthly goals, which rolls up to that quarterly goals. I think that means people at least know what they need to be doing. It means you don't have to ask what the next piece of work is. But I think that's a style and my guess is some people would be very not in favor of that much explicit work and structure. But for me, that's how I know I'm doing the right thing, that I'm staying on task and how I get feedback about what we should be doing versus what a startup. Startups don't die from starvation. They die from indigestion. There are so many good ideas, there are so many things we could be doing that are actually are good ideas. The arts and science is choosing. What are the things we say no to so we can be really good at the things that are more important?

Chris Byers: It's great. I do think you've touched on a handful of things that as a remote organization are really important, and I definitely talk about a lot. And then you talk about written communication. I actually think that's extremely valuable and in a remote world because it just gives people time to digest time to read it in their own way. There's just all these unsaid things in a remote world, and this just helps you communicate those things. Whereas if you're all sitting in the office together, you do get a little bit of that osmosis of talking to the person next to you or you overhear things. And so I think you have to be much more explicit in a remote culture, and it sounds like you guys have really thought about that.

Wes Winham Winler: Yeah, I think even in that she's talked about the osmosis, I have the experience of being in those rooms and not picking up on the osmosis, actually, and maybe everyone else did, because I'm mostly not paying attention to it. So I think I overcompensated for my my deficiency by going process first, which is great in a remote world because we're all on the same page. I've talked to some other autistic folks who talk about how remote is can be so frustrating for normal folks. For autistic folks, which is autistic, is the inverse of autistic. If you ever hear that word on the internet now, you know is we're all in the same autistic box. We've got a Zoom call with restricted interaction. We've got a chat box. So we're all like a little bit autistic as a result of work in the remote world. So some of the things that make things inclusive for neurodiverse folks also make it better for everyone. And that's about writing. That's about having explicit time for chit chat, which sounds like a crazy thing, but making sure people have time to do those little human interactions and write things down.

Chris Byers: I was actually reading a book recently called The Culture Map by author Aaron Meyer, and what's interesting is I was fascinated because she's actually talking about country cultures and goes through a lot of different assessments. But it's all about communication styles and how we perceive authority and whether we're high context and low context. It's like, Man, this is actually it would be really valuable in a company because even if we're all from the same country or the same city, we all have different methods of communication and how much information we're going to give you and not give you. And I think that you've honed in on that as an important point. If you can illustrate that to people, you can really speed up getting on the same page

Wes Winham Winler: as a great book. I learned it was surprising to me how positive American culture is and how as far as feedback, like directness of feedback that most European cultures are much more likely to tell you what is wrong and that be OK like French culture is here is all the things that are wrong with you. OK, have a good day. Whereas someone did that to me, I'd be like, Oh my gosh, this person hates me because that's the cultural norm in America. We have the the crap sandwich idea where you say something good, you say something and you say something good is a common crutch. And the different cultures vary a lot, like in Russia that would be seen as way more disingenuous than it this year. It's really interesting how different groups of people have settled on norms that totally work for them as long as everyone agrees. But as soon as you have people with different norms, everyone thinks people are rude or they don't get the message.

Chris Byers: Each conversation we have on the show ends up highlighting innovative ideas and fresh perspectives. West is focused on helping companies hire hidden gems, asking people to go beyond resumé and accolades. What's if you could give advice to our listeners? How would you encourage people to go beyond traditional means for finding talent?

Wes Winham Winler: My number one advice is is when you are accepting applications is to write a form that asks simple questions about things that you really want to know about someone that that simple act forces you to think about what you actually care about because you only get two or three questions. And I think you'll find people who are great that you would have overlooked on the resume. And those are the folks that are going to be most loyal. They're going to have the steepest learning curve. They're getting overlooked in the market. So it's great for them, and it's also great for us

Chris Byers: as we wrap up the conversation of get the handful of final questions, the first one. How would you suggest listeners think about talent differently than they do today?

Wes Winham Winler: One of the easiest things to do when we're thinking about talent is to recognize people who have the exact same strengths as we do. So it's much easier to recognize someone who was good at the things we're good at because we pay attention to them, and that's why we're good at them. One of the hardest things to do as a leader is to hire people who are bad at things you care about, but are good at things that are different from you, and then to manage someone who is a different shape than you. So that's one of the things I personally struggle with and think about a lot is how do I build a team who is not just flawed in? The same ways in great in the same way, because that doesn't build an organization that is effective overall.

Chris Byers: And what do you think people listening can do to create a positive impact for other people?

Wes Winham Winler: One of the things I took away from my first boss at the pleasure working with is the idea that thinks is free. It's cheap. It is so easy to think someone, but it is so easy to forget to do. I can remember times where I got thanked from peers that really lodged my memory. But it is absolutely free to thank someone. So I have tried to cultivate a habit of thanking people for things that I appreciate, even if it's part of their job and to be specific in that things. So it's not. I appreciate your help. I appreciate the way you proactively reached out to tell me this was going to be a little bit late. That's exactly the type of person I would work with. So just a few slack messages like that a week can really build a lot of goodwill in the company. It makes people happier, makes people appreciate it, and it feels good to say thank you.

Chris Byers: Are there any ways you're looking to create impact in the future?

Wes Winham Winler: Right now, a job is one of the most important predictors of mental health of stability. Jobs come with health insurance, but the act of changing job of training for a new job is the same as it was 200 years ago. We have a a world that's moving faster and jobs are turning over more and more quickly, and skills are turning over more and more quickly. But nothing else has evolved to help people train faster or find those jobs more quickly. My goal for an impact is to fix that problem, to make it easier to change jobs, to find a new team, to make it easier to bring new folks on your team. That will be successful because one of the reasons right now we are out of a recession. But the number of unemployed people is just steadily decreasing at a very slow rate because we have not gotten any better at matching people to jobs. And that's the problem, I think. I could focus on for the next 50 years of my life.

Chris Byers: In recent episodes, guests have brought up the way that they view or have experienced failure. How do you view failure?

Wes Winham Winler: I think we all have an understanding of how failure teaches us things. I think of another way to look at failure is as a habit we need to get into. So I have a weekly five 15, which is it takes me 15 minutes. Write five minutes, read. It's a way of keeping up to date with my management team, and one of my items is what have I tried and failed at this week? And I don't view it as a success if I don't have something to put, their failure is a habit. That means that we are trying something new, and I worry that if I ever get out of the habit of trying things and failing them, that I'm going to stop growing. So I think failure is a learning tool, but it also can be a habit to make sure that we're actually trying things new and growing.

Chris Byers: To learn more about how people are reimagining their world of work. Head over to practicallygenius.com. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Ripple Effect.

Podcast

How Hiring is Changing: Eliminating Resumes and Bias

Podcast

How Hiring is Changing: Eliminating Resumes and Bias

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How Hiring is Changing: Eliminating Resumes and Bias

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Chris Byers: Wes Winham has built a business helping hidden gem engineers get hired. What are hidden gems? We'll hear from us on that later. As CEO of Woven, he's developed the technical assessment platform that enables companies to evaluate potential talent without relying on resumes, and often that talent has been overlooked. Getting caught. An applicant tracking software, overloaded inboxes and, more importantly, unrecognized bias. His passion for giving the underdog a leg up is evident through the success of his company winning accolades such as the 2020 Indiana Startup of the Year. What's behind his drive to give those who may not stand out a shot? Let's find out. I am Chris Byers, a form sac, and this is ripple effect, a show celebrating the positive impact your decisions create. West, welcome to the show.

Wes Winham Winler: It's great to be here, Chris.

Chris Byers: Anything I missed in that intro,

Wes Winham Winler: I think you nailed it. That was much better than my version.

Chris Byers: Sounds good. How did you get to this realization of wanting to help hidden gems be found?

Wes Winham Winler: Well, for me, it was mostly by screwing up a little bit, as is tradition. I was the only engineer, so thus head of engineering at a startup and happens to a lot of people. You become a manager one day and realize you have to hire because nobody else is going to do it. And for me, I hired three people in pretty quick succession, and they were all awesome. I was feeling really good about myself. I had built this process I read, thinking fast and slow. I had these behavioral interview questions. I was feeling really good about myself. I could look in someone's eyes and spot talent, or so I thought. And then I hired my fourth person and it did not work out. So maybe I did not have this magic ability. And on a small team, miss hires. Really, they hurt customers. But for me, I hired someone who was a good person who was trying really hard and I put him in a position where he was not going to be successful because my hiring process wasn't good enough. So that was really the the impetus to figure out how to be better at hiring so I could never go through that pain again. I went and read all the psychology literature I could. What does science say about predictive hiring? What, what are the nerds doing? And then I went and interviewed a bunch of grizzled engineering managers who had been through this over and over. And what are y'all actually doing to avoid this pain? And the overlap was, if you're going to hire dancers, you should probably watch them dance, which like, Yeah, yeah, that does make sense. Not what I was doing. Built something that's like a little project you might hurt him. Called a take home project homework project where you're actually doing a little bit of the job and that fix my mess. Hiring a problem. I hired another 20 engineers. That's that way and had nothing but success. And it's fast forward to 2014. So we're an Indianapolis based company at the time, and I decided to go remote with my hiring. So with engineer hiring, I was getting 10 candidates a month. So it was pretty easy. Then I go remote. I'm open to anyone in the world and I get 100 per week. Very different. So then I'm struggling. It's a Friday. I've got a ton of resumes, a man box. And to be honest, I don't like reading resumes. They feel like B.S.. I just don't like them. So mostly out of laziness and kind of bias, I decided to send everybody who applied that week my project mass email and moving on. And then I get results back the next week, and most of them are not very good. Resumes do predict some things, but one of them was amazing. It was like exactly what I was looking for. So not just good code, but it was clean code and documentation and all the like. The little details that make for a great engineer, and I'm stoked because this is a mid-level engineer, three to five years of experience, someone that really gets it. And I go back and look at this candidate's resume, and he has zero years of experience. That was just shocking that the best candidate and my candidate pool with someone that if I would have read his resume first, I absolutely would have rejected this candidate. That was the light bulb moment for me, that there are hidden gems out there and that kind of kicked off this mission of how can we build something to find him?

Chris Byers: That's great. I think what's interesting is I think actually in engineering, it's a little bit more common to use a project to help guide a conversation. But we've actually found some really good success over the years, really doing that in every job. So hire a CFO, come up with a project for them. And that is, of course, after we've gotten through resume, et cetera. And I think that's an important point you're trying to make. But I do think that getting people's real life work in your hands can make such a huge difference in getting to know them. Let me back up a little bit and define for us what a hidden gem is.

Wes Winham Winler: I like to think of a hidden gem as someone that you would have overlooked if you just went on service criteria. So you just went on the resume that are just on the application phase, but this person is a great fit for the role. So that's a hidden gem. They come in a lot of flavors. They depend on the type of hiring process you look for. One of the things about hidden gems in most roles is recruiting has a really hard job. They have to use mostly resumes and a short conversation about a role that they're not really an expert in to decide who do they want to send on to the hiring manager who is typically very busy? That's why they're hiring, and that doesn't so much like to talk to people that really aren't fitting their criteria. So one of the things that happens is recruiters tend to over time get biased towards tightening their criteria rather than loosening it because they get that negative feedback from the hiring manager. But they don't get as quick positive feedback when they do send someone on the borderline that works out. I went out and talked to a bunch of recruiters when I started the company, and I found out that the most common criteria when I asked them of what gets them to move someone to the next stage is enthusiasm, which on the surface seems very reasonable. But there are some people who show enthusiasm very different. For example, folks on the autism spectrum. Room tend to have a lower dynamic range when it comes to talking and what they're interested in. We have recruiters who are trying to do their best, who are mostly cuing on things that are seem pretty reasonable like enthusiasm. If someone's more enthusiastic about your company, that's probably going to be a better hire. I think that's a reasonable assumption. But the result is people who might be great at the job when you get to know them, when they actually do the job. There's a bias against moving those folks forward, and that might be a hidden gem. Some that actually gets to the recruiter call but can't show well enough in that rapport building phase. So get screened out before they talk to a hiring manager.

Chris Byers: It sounds like you've used technology to really try to solve this problem. Can you share some examples of maybe some people who would have been overlooked but weren't because of that technology?

Wes Winham Winler: So we had a customer that was hiring a DevOps engineer. So DevOps is it's a really fast growing field. It's really hard to find people because it's new. So they were having lots of trouble, not a lot of candidates. And at the same time, this gentleman mark was laid off from his previous role. So they downsized the whole test automation department and he's on the job market and he'd been there for months. Really have a hard time because test automation is not an in-demand title like DevOps is an in-demand title. So he's applying to these DevOps roles because he thinks he has the skills and he's not hearing back. He applies to our customer who looks at his resume and is probably not. But because they have a way to assess candidates beyond the resume sends them to us. Mark shows his skills and scores in the top five percent. We're like, Hey, you should talk to Mark here. They do they. He does well in the interview. They love him. He goes on site, he does well, and I get a text message the third day that he's already automating parts of the infrastructure. This is great. Come to find out. In the last year, Mark is now the director of that whole department. Is ten people reporting to him for a job that he wouldn't have got to interview for because his resume title didn't quite match up. So it's really all about these people that are making career transitions or their learning curve is a little bit faster than you might expect. And one of the things I've talked to people about doing and I've heard success is really focusing on the application. It's the step that is the easiest in the world to skip. Usually it's Oh, I got to write this job description. Maybe we'll put a little bit of care into that to try to to sell it, but often not even that. But then the application, not a lot of people think about, well, look, we'll get some resumes and we'll look through. The thing about a resume is that's generic. It's about the person and their general guess for what is interesting. You as the hiring manager, you know a lot more about what's interesting to you. So let's say you're hiring for a sales role. You want people who have done sales before, but one of the really important parts for hiring sales is the previous contract value. So sales at one hundred thousand a deal looks at the same kind of doesn't matter what you're selling. The motion is similar versus sales at $5000. A deal looks very different. It's very fast, it's very transactional, and the people that are great at one type of sale are not necessarily great at the other. A resume is very unlikely to have their average contract value, even though that might be the most important predictor of who's going to be successful. So we have a history, and I know people with history of hiring salespeople who don't have tech experience but do have business experience in non-tech at similar contract values. And because they put that in their screener, they can talk to people who are getting rejected from all these tech roles they're applying to because they don't have that tech background, but they do have the fundamental skills, and all of this is adding one line to your application.

Chris Byers: As with everything, when we adopt software, we have this tendency to say, Oh, it's going to fix all my problems. What are the things we all just still need to learn? Yep, let's go adopt woven. But oh, but hey, you need to think about this, and I think you're talking about a little bit of it in how you write job descriptions. But what are some just fundamentals we all need to learn about, I guess, being more open and more inclusive in the way that we hire.

Wes Winham Winler: Hiring is just it's just fundamentally hard. It's one of those irreducible, hard things that all we can do is get a little bit less bad at it. But the good news is there's so much upside. There are very few business leaders that don't believe that the people are what make their business or their team successful. It's almost a truism at this point. But rather than throwing our hands up about hiring, they're like little steps we can take to be a little bit better. I think the number one step would be instead of starting with a job post, which is almost a sales document, or it should be a sales and marketing document starting with the profile of the person you're going to hire. So usually even people that do this, they're typically talking about what their background experience is, what type of companies they've been at, which is a good place to start and get the brain flowing. But eventually, you want to abstract from these AKA. What are the capabilities, what are the things this person needs to be able to do and get that down to three to five plus maybe three to five attributes which are a little bit less changeable and starting from there? Then you ask yourself, How can I learn about these things? How can I gather data? And there's pretty standard tools. Some are the behavioral interview where you ask, Tell me about a time question. Some of them might be hypothetical questions like, How would you do X? Another example is work samples like the projects that you get to your CFO. The alternative is we just get stuck on that first profile and someone's applying to us, but they didn't work at the right company, so they don't fit the profile. So we reject them versus going capabilities first. Now I've got this set of tools in my tool belt to learn about these underlying capabilities. And I had a little bit of my screener. I have a little bit and that I can hand off to my a recruiter who's going to ask some questions early on and we can start gathering data and we're a little bit more open to profiles that are kind of weird. And in a competitive hiring market, we have to be open to weird profiles or we're going to be hiring for a long time. And that's how we can just be a little bit better as being more capabilities first. How do we get evidence about those second?

Chris Byers: So you're talking about this idea of really giving people a chance or a shot that maybe they didn't get? I'm curious, do you have your own personal story of how maybe somebody in your past gave you a shot or a chance that you might not otherwise have gotten

Wes Winham Winler: as a fourth grader? I finished the last three weeks homeschooled because my fourth grade teacher couldn't handle me, thought I was a very typical child. I have only a vague memory of this and just being very confused. What I found out is that was my tendency to, let's say, point out whenever my teacher maybe said something that was incorrect or maybe undersold, something that I thought was really interesting.

Chris Byers: It's a very respectful way to say it, by the way.

Wes Winham Winler: Yeah, I now realize I was that jerky little fourth grader that was correcting their teacher and driving her crazy. I didn't perceive it at the time. I loved learning about things. I love learning new things for myself, so I just assumed everybody loved that and didn't notice the whole social piece that being corrected is a status thing. We don't like to be corrected. So that is an example of a lot of things in my life that I just took a long time to get. And I, mostly through the patience of people around me, was able to keep moving on to keep going to the next stage of my life in college. And I had great parents who were really supportive. But a lot of people don't have that, and I didn't really realize how lucky I was. I thought that's how everyone was. I read a book in 2011 called The Time Is Called Age of the Info War. It was about this random technology topic that the world is changing in a way that people who are very attracted to information are benefiting, whereas other people aren't. And one of the sections in the book was about autism, and I knew about autism as this thing that kids had. That was pretty debilitating and that was about it. And I think I knew some friends of friends who had autistic kids and that that was basically all I knew. And I started to learn about it as a different neurological profile that actually has some benefits and lots of costs. And I was new to me, and as I was reading through the list of differences, I was like, Man, this is like a page out of my biography, and I felt like every section I was just blowing my mind like, Oh yeah, if you correct people, they're going to be mad at you. So I'm suspecting that autism, I learn about autism, learned that it's different. And at one point, while doing research for that, i o psychology work around hiring. I start to get too familiar with the terms and the papers, and I have access to the journals and I just some thumbing through. I see a paper on an instrument for diagnosing autism. I'm like, Oh, I know how to read this. I know how to actually translate this instrument into something I could do and score myself. So I take it, and I am either in the top 99 and a half percent of most autistic non-autistic folks, according to scale, or even like the 60th percentile of autistic people. I thought I would be in that direction, but I didn't realize it would be that overwhelming. And then I filed, by the way, and just thought about it and started to see people on Twitter talking about autism. And it was it's this fight because there's two camps. I'm not an expert in autism, by the way. I'm just I'm just very interested in it. And I am autistic myself, and we could talk a little bit about self-diagnosis for autism, if that would be interesting. But there are two camps here, and one camp is mostly parents of kids who have been diagnosed with autism, who have a really strong disability that makes it difficult for them to accomplish day-to-day tasks and bond with peers and get along in school. And those folks I have a lot of empathy for because I think that's tough. And then there are adults who have realized that they are autistic and has told them really true things about themselves that help them understand themselves. Better. And those two camps sometimes don't see eye to eye because the experience is very different.

Chris Byers: Your own self-discovery, I think, is important. If there are other people out there who have an opportunity for that self-discovery, I think talking through that is great. I do think self-awareness in lots of ways is what I think drives our ability to make smarter decisions. And so I think again, appreciate you sharing. Maybe let's step back a little bit to kind of your history before woven. As you talked about, you've spent a long time building engineering teams. What would you say your biggest challenge was and you probably referred to one of them in terms of hiring. But what else comes to mind?

Wes Winham Winler: I think most crafts where as an individual, there is just so much to learn about how to be better at that craft. The transition to leadership is very challenging because the things that make you confident at that craft the pattern recognition, the ability to focus for amount of time and perform, whether that's performing on a call with a customer or performing for an hour with your editor and solving a hard problem. Those things are actually not good. As a leader. So you have this tendency to Oh, I see this problem. I know how to solve it. I'm going to go get on that call or I'm going to go dove into the code and fix it. And that's actually a thing that makes you a worse leader. So I for a long time, I was like the chief problem solver rather than an actual leader. An actual leader is focused on helping the team move in the same direction, helping the team improve, helping each individual improve at the things they care about and that are useful. And it's not being the person that's going to jump in and save and solve problems. So it took me quite a while to get over that hurdle. And I think for engineering especially, that's one of the hard challenges is transitioning from the person who does it and gets the immediate reward to the person who teaches it and coaches it and ask questions, and you don't get that immediate reward. It's actually frustrating because you're suppressing this part of yourself that you're so proud of, and it gives you so much joy because of this long term reward of improving a person and making your team better. To be honest, that is still challenging. Today, I have a sticky note on my monitor that says time to problem solve, and that's remind me to give other people time to problem solve before I jump in.

Chris Byers: I think as a leader, you've pointed out something that I struggle with on a very regular basis because it's far too often that I'm like, I could go do this. And the effort to explain or the effort to actually, to your point, the effort to just be patient is probably the hardest thing because I'm like, I can get it done real fast. Let me just go, take care of this. So I think you've hit on an important point there. What are some signals that as you've used technology, as you've thought about this whole idea of really sifting through and getting to the right candidates or some key signals you've found in great candidates that you won't see on a resume?

Wes Winham Winler: I don't want to like totally throw out resumes because there is data there. The typical resume signals are is there a positive trajectory like someone moving up and doing bigger projects? But I'm familiar enough with the research where they give people a bunch of resumes and then they ask people to sort them into piles and just how incredibly depressing that research is. So one of my favorites is they took a similar resume and they gave one person a relevant second degree. So like math plus computer science for a very mathy like Ph.D. level position. And for one of the resumes, they get them that second degree for the other resume, they just made the first word and each bullet point a verb. So Giroux project completion or GRU usage, those sort of things, which tells a better story. Guess which one got more callbacks? The person who got a second relative degree or the person who changed one word as bad as you think is 25 percent more callbacks for that, that verb word and the resume. And I'd like to think I'm immune to this, but I'm probably not like when reading resumes. It's just easier to skim through. So my goal usually and I don't always do this because sometimes you just have to get resumes and keep going. But my goal is to not look at resumes until I've evaluated the screener because I can usually think of two to three questions someone can answer in a tweet. They're going to tell me much more about the relevant experience than the resume. That's my goal is to not read a resume until I'm talking to someone because you can see how they talk about their problem, how they communicate, what they've done, what they think is important. So, yeah, I try not to read resumes.

Chris Byers: You've talked about autism and this kind of learning that you went through. How do you think that's impacted you as a leader?

Wes Winham Winler: One thing that I think is a benefit is because I have really strong weaknesses that I'm aware of. I'm able to compensate for those by building deliberate practices. So I have a company where it's a little bit easier to orient yourself because more things are written down where things are explicit, which I think is good for a company. It means sometimes you go slower rather than going faster. I also am a little bit more aware that some people are different, which I think we all need to be reminded of constantly because it is so easy to just assume everyone has the exact same as you. I used to think that autism was a deficit in a lot of ways. When my mental model now is closer to, there are defaults that we all have and we pretty much assume that everyone else has the same defaults. And a lot of the problems in the world are when we interact with folks who have different defaults. About one is ask culture versus gas culture. So when you ask someone, is it safe to say no? Or is that ask a very strong commitment? And that's ask culture versus guess culture where you really don't ask anyone anything. You just say, Man, that's a really nice shirt and that person is supposed to read in, and that means they really want. One of the research for their birthday is one example of different defaults. So just being aware that the defaults are different and being constantly reminded that I am different whenever I think of meeting with greats and then I ask someone about it later, and it absolutely didn't, or I think something is very clear and it's not.

Chris Byers: Yeah, I think your point of I was just talking to my wife about this the other day, how I think as leaders that one of the most difficult things is knowing what other people don't know because we all do very much to your point, presume like, Oh, I had this experience, everybody's had this experience. And yet we forget, Oh yeah, we've had 10 20 whatever years of experience that does add up, and sometimes you don't realize how all that impacts your decisions as you've then started to translate that into this knowledge of how maybe you think about things and how we need to think about how other people might not see it quite the same way. How's that translated into leading a company?

Wes Winham Winler: For me, it looks like a company that has just maybe what might be described as highly structured goals, let's say. So we have three cascading goals systems with a company of 14 people. So the idea is everybody knows exactly what they're working on all the time versus relying on talking to your boss and kind of reading the mood to see what is more or less important. So we have quarterly V Times, which is a horrible acronym, but Salesforce invented it, and I think it's pretty good. It's a mix of planning a goal setting system. Then we have monthly OK hours, which are you break that quarterly goal into a few objectives, which are great motivating sounding things we would like to do and a few key results, which are how do we know we've made progress towards that great sounding objectives? And then also weekly commitments. So every week on Friday, we get together and we help each other think of what is the one or two things that are very much in our control that we can do next week that is going to make progress towards those monthly goals, which rolls up to that quarterly goals. I think that means people at least know what they need to be doing. It means you don't have to ask what the next piece of work is. But I think that's a style and my guess is some people would be very not in favor of that much explicit work and structure. But for me, that's how I know I'm doing the right thing, that I'm staying on task and how I get feedback about what we should be doing versus what a startup. Startups don't die from starvation. They die from indigestion. There are so many good ideas, there are so many things we could be doing that are actually are good ideas. The arts and science is choosing. What are the things we say no to so we can be really good at the things that are more important?

Chris Byers: It's great. I do think you've touched on a handful of things that as a remote organization are really important, and I definitely talk about a lot. And then you talk about written communication. I actually think that's extremely valuable and in a remote world because it just gives people time to digest time to read it in their own way. There's just all these unsaid things in a remote world, and this just helps you communicate those things. Whereas if you're all sitting in the office together, you do get a little bit of that osmosis of talking to the person next to you or you overhear things. And so I think you have to be much more explicit in a remote culture, and it sounds like you guys have really thought about that.

Wes Winham Winler: Yeah, I think even in that she's talked about the osmosis, I have the experience of being in those rooms and not picking up on the osmosis, actually, and maybe everyone else did, because I'm mostly not paying attention to it. So I think I overcompensated for my my deficiency by going process first, which is great in a remote world because we're all on the same page. I've talked to some other autistic folks who talk about how remote is can be so frustrating for normal folks. For autistic folks, which is autistic, is the inverse of autistic. If you ever hear that word on the internet now, you know is we're all in the same autistic box. We've got a Zoom call with restricted interaction. We've got a chat box. So we're all like a little bit autistic as a result of work in the remote world. So some of the things that make things inclusive for neurodiverse folks also make it better for everyone. And that's about writing. That's about having explicit time for chit chat, which sounds like a crazy thing, but making sure people have time to do those little human interactions and write things down.

Chris Byers: I was actually reading a book recently called The Culture Map by author Aaron Meyer, and what's interesting is I was fascinated because she's actually talking about country cultures and goes through a lot of different assessments. But it's all about communication styles and how we perceive authority and whether we're high context and low context. It's like, Man, this is actually it would be really valuable in a company because even if we're all from the same country or the same city, we all have different methods of communication and how much information we're going to give you and not give you. And I think that you've honed in on that as an important point. If you can illustrate that to people, you can really speed up getting on the same page

Wes Winham Winler: as a great book. I learned it was surprising to me how positive American culture is and how as far as feedback, like directness of feedback that most European cultures are much more likely to tell you what is wrong and that be OK like French culture is here is all the things that are wrong with you. OK, have a good day. Whereas someone did that to me, I'd be like, Oh my gosh, this person hates me because that's the cultural norm in America. We have the the crap sandwich idea where you say something good, you say something and you say something good is a common crutch. And the different cultures vary a lot, like in Russia that would be seen as way more disingenuous than it this year. It's really interesting how different groups of people have settled on norms that totally work for them as long as everyone agrees. But as soon as you have people with different norms, everyone thinks people are rude or they don't get the message.

Chris Byers: Each conversation we have on the show ends up highlighting innovative ideas and fresh perspectives. West is focused on helping companies hire hidden gems, asking people to go beyond resumé and accolades. What's if you could give advice to our listeners? How would you encourage people to go beyond traditional means for finding talent?

Wes Winham Winler: My number one advice is is when you are accepting applications is to write a form that asks simple questions about things that you really want to know about someone that that simple act forces you to think about what you actually care about because you only get two or three questions. And I think you'll find people who are great that you would have overlooked on the resume. And those are the folks that are going to be most loyal. They're going to have the steepest learning curve. They're getting overlooked in the market. So it's great for them, and it's also great for us

Chris Byers: as we wrap up the conversation of get the handful of final questions, the first one. How would you suggest listeners think about talent differently than they do today?

Wes Winham Winler: One of the easiest things to do when we're thinking about talent is to recognize people who have the exact same strengths as we do. So it's much easier to recognize someone who was good at the things we're good at because we pay attention to them, and that's why we're good at them. One of the hardest things to do as a leader is to hire people who are bad at things you care about, but are good at things that are different from you, and then to manage someone who is a different shape than you. So that's one of the things I personally struggle with and think about a lot is how do I build a team who is not just flawed in? The same ways in great in the same way, because that doesn't build an organization that is effective overall.

Chris Byers: And what do you think people listening can do to create a positive impact for other people?

Wes Winham Winler: One of the things I took away from my first boss at the pleasure working with is the idea that thinks is free. It's cheap. It is so easy to think someone, but it is so easy to forget to do. I can remember times where I got thanked from peers that really lodged my memory. But it is absolutely free to thank someone. So I have tried to cultivate a habit of thanking people for things that I appreciate, even if it's part of their job and to be specific in that things. So it's not. I appreciate your help. I appreciate the way you proactively reached out to tell me this was going to be a little bit late. That's exactly the type of person I would work with. So just a few slack messages like that a week can really build a lot of goodwill in the company. It makes people happier, makes people appreciate it, and it feels good to say thank you.

Chris Byers: Are there any ways you're looking to create impact in the future?

Wes Winham Winler: Right now, a job is one of the most important predictors of mental health of stability. Jobs come with health insurance, but the act of changing job of training for a new job is the same as it was 200 years ago. We have a a world that's moving faster and jobs are turning over more and more quickly, and skills are turning over more and more quickly. But nothing else has evolved to help people train faster or find those jobs more quickly. My goal for an impact is to fix that problem, to make it easier to change jobs, to find a new team, to make it easier to bring new folks on your team. That will be successful because one of the reasons right now we are out of a recession. But the number of unemployed people is just steadily decreasing at a very slow rate because we have not gotten any better at matching people to jobs. And that's the problem, I think. I could focus on for the next 50 years of my life.

Chris Byers: In recent episodes, guests have brought up the way that they view or have experienced failure. How do you view failure?

Wes Winham Winler: I think we all have an understanding of how failure teaches us things. I think of another way to look at failure is as a habit we need to get into. So I have a weekly five 15, which is it takes me 15 minutes. Write five minutes, read. It's a way of keeping up to date with my management team, and one of my items is what have I tried and failed at this week? And I don't view it as a success if I don't have something to put, their failure is a habit. That means that we are trying something new, and I worry that if I ever get out of the habit of trying things and failing them, that I'm going to stop growing. So I think failure is a learning tool, but it also can be a habit to make sure that we're actually trying things new and growing.

Chris Byers: To learn more about how people are reimagining their world of work. Head over to practicallygenius.com. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Ripple Effect.

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Infographic

How Hiring is Changing: Eliminating Resumes and Bias

Wes Winham Winler of Woven covers a wide array of common hiring problems he’s working hard to solve, from the necessity of projects to the issues with resumes.
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Chris Byers: Wes Winham has built a business helping hidden gem engineers get hired. What are hidden gems? We'll hear from us on that later. As CEO of Woven, he's developed the technical assessment platform that enables companies to evaluate potential talent without relying on resumes, and often that talent has been overlooked. Getting caught. An applicant tracking software, overloaded inboxes and, more importantly, unrecognized bias. His passion for giving the underdog a leg up is evident through the success of his company winning accolades such as the 2020 Indiana Startup of the Year. What's behind his drive to give those who may not stand out a shot? Let's find out. I am Chris Byers, a form sac, and this is ripple effect, a show celebrating the positive impact your decisions create. West, welcome to the show.

Wes Winham Winler: It's great to be here, Chris.

Chris Byers: Anything I missed in that intro,

Wes Winham Winler: I think you nailed it. That was much better than my version.

Chris Byers: Sounds good. How did you get to this realization of wanting to help hidden gems be found?

Wes Winham Winler: Well, for me, it was mostly by screwing up a little bit, as is tradition. I was the only engineer, so thus head of engineering at a startup and happens to a lot of people. You become a manager one day and realize you have to hire because nobody else is going to do it. And for me, I hired three people in pretty quick succession, and they were all awesome. I was feeling really good about myself. I had built this process I read, thinking fast and slow. I had these behavioral interview questions. I was feeling really good about myself. I could look in someone's eyes and spot talent, or so I thought. And then I hired my fourth person and it did not work out. So maybe I did not have this magic ability. And on a small team, miss hires. Really, they hurt customers. But for me, I hired someone who was a good person who was trying really hard and I put him in a position where he was not going to be successful because my hiring process wasn't good enough. So that was really the the impetus to figure out how to be better at hiring so I could never go through that pain again. I went and read all the psychology literature I could. What does science say about predictive hiring? What, what are the nerds doing? And then I went and interviewed a bunch of grizzled engineering managers who had been through this over and over. And what are y'all actually doing to avoid this pain? And the overlap was, if you're going to hire dancers, you should probably watch them dance, which like, Yeah, yeah, that does make sense. Not what I was doing. Built something that's like a little project you might hurt him. Called a take home project homework project where you're actually doing a little bit of the job and that fix my mess. Hiring a problem. I hired another 20 engineers. That's that way and had nothing but success. And it's fast forward to 2014. So we're an Indianapolis based company at the time, and I decided to go remote with my hiring. So with engineer hiring, I was getting 10 candidates a month. So it was pretty easy. Then I go remote. I'm open to anyone in the world and I get 100 per week. Very different. So then I'm struggling. It's a Friday. I've got a ton of resumes, a man box. And to be honest, I don't like reading resumes. They feel like B.S.. I just don't like them. So mostly out of laziness and kind of bias, I decided to send everybody who applied that week my project mass email and moving on. And then I get results back the next week, and most of them are not very good. Resumes do predict some things, but one of them was amazing. It was like exactly what I was looking for. So not just good code, but it was clean code and documentation and all the like. The little details that make for a great engineer, and I'm stoked because this is a mid-level engineer, three to five years of experience, someone that really gets it. And I go back and look at this candidate's resume, and he has zero years of experience. That was just shocking that the best candidate and my candidate pool with someone that if I would have read his resume first, I absolutely would have rejected this candidate. That was the light bulb moment for me, that there are hidden gems out there and that kind of kicked off this mission of how can we build something to find him?

Chris Byers: That's great. I think what's interesting is I think actually in engineering, it's a little bit more common to use a project to help guide a conversation. But we've actually found some really good success over the years, really doing that in every job. So hire a CFO, come up with a project for them. And that is, of course, after we've gotten through resume, et cetera. And I think that's an important point you're trying to make. But I do think that getting people's real life work in your hands can make such a huge difference in getting to know them. Let me back up a little bit and define for us what a hidden gem is.

Wes Winham Winler: I like to think of a hidden gem as someone that you would have overlooked if you just went on service criteria. So you just went on the resume that are just on the application phase, but this person is a great fit for the role. So that's a hidden gem. They come in a lot of flavors. They depend on the type of hiring process you look for. One of the things about hidden gems in most roles is recruiting has a really hard job. They have to use mostly resumes and a short conversation about a role that they're not really an expert in to decide who do they want to send on to the hiring manager who is typically very busy? That's why they're hiring, and that doesn't so much like to talk to people that really aren't fitting their criteria. So one of the things that happens is recruiters tend to over time get biased towards tightening their criteria rather than loosening it because they get that negative feedback from the hiring manager. But they don't get as quick positive feedback when they do send someone on the borderline that works out. I went out and talked to a bunch of recruiters when I started the company, and I found out that the most common criteria when I asked them of what gets them to move someone to the next stage is enthusiasm, which on the surface seems very reasonable. But there are some people who show enthusiasm very different. For example, folks on the autism spectrum. Room tend to have a lower dynamic range when it comes to talking and what they're interested in. We have recruiters who are trying to do their best, who are mostly cuing on things that are seem pretty reasonable like enthusiasm. If someone's more enthusiastic about your company, that's probably going to be a better hire. I think that's a reasonable assumption. But the result is people who might be great at the job when you get to know them, when they actually do the job. There's a bias against moving those folks forward, and that might be a hidden gem. Some that actually gets to the recruiter call but can't show well enough in that rapport building phase. So get screened out before they talk to a hiring manager.

Chris Byers: It sounds like you've used technology to really try to solve this problem. Can you share some examples of maybe some people who would have been overlooked but weren't because of that technology?

Wes Winham Winler: So we had a customer that was hiring a DevOps engineer. So DevOps is it's a really fast growing field. It's really hard to find people because it's new. So they were having lots of trouble, not a lot of candidates. And at the same time, this gentleman mark was laid off from his previous role. So they downsized the whole test automation department and he's on the job market and he'd been there for months. Really have a hard time because test automation is not an in-demand title like DevOps is an in-demand title. So he's applying to these DevOps roles because he thinks he has the skills and he's not hearing back. He applies to our customer who looks at his resume and is probably not. But because they have a way to assess candidates beyond the resume sends them to us. Mark shows his skills and scores in the top five percent. We're like, Hey, you should talk to Mark here. They do they. He does well in the interview. They love him. He goes on site, he does well, and I get a text message the third day that he's already automating parts of the infrastructure. This is great. Come to find out. In the last year, Mark is now the director of that whole department. Is ten people reporting to him for a job that he wouldn't have got to interview for because his resume title didn't quite match up. So it's really all about these people that are making career transitions or their learning curve is a little bit faster than you might expect. And one of the things I've talked to people about doing and I've heard success is really focusing on the application. It's the step that is the easiest in the world to skip. Usually it's Oh, I got to write this job description. Maybe we'll put a little bit of care into that to try to to sell it, but often not even that. But then the application, not a lot of people think about, well, look, we'll get some resumes and we'll look through. The thing about a resume is that's generic. It's about the person and their general guess for what is interesting. You as the hiring manager, you know a lot more about what's interesting to you. So let's say you're hiring for a sales role. You want people who have done sales before, but one of the really important parts for hiring sales is the previous contract value. So sales at one hundred thousand a deal looks at the same kind of doesn't matter what you're selling. The motion is similar versus sales at $5000. A deal looks very different. It's very fast, it's very transactional, and the people that are great at one type of sale are not necessarily great at the other. A resume is very unlikely to have their average contract value, even though that might be the most important predictor of who's going to be successful. So we have a history, and I know people with history of hiring salespeople who don't have tech experience but do have business experience in non-tech at similar contract values. And because they put that in their screener, they can talk to people who are getting rejected from all these tech roles they're applying to because they don't have that tech background, but they do have the fundamental skills, and all of this is adding one line to your application.

Chris Byers: As with everything, when we adopt software, we have this tendency to say, Oh, it's going to fix all my problems. What are the things we all just still need to learn? Yep, let's go adopt woven. But oh, but hey, you need to think about this, and I think you're talking about a little bit of it in how you write job descriptions. But what are some just fundamentals we all need to learn about, I guess, being more open and more inclusive in the way that we hire.

Wes Winham Winler: Hiring is just it's just fundamentally hard. It's one of those irreducible, hard things that all we can do is get a little bit less bad at it. But the good news is there's so much upside. There are very few business leaders that don't believe that the people are what make their business or their team successful. It's almost a truism at this point. But rather than throwing our hands up about hiring, they're like little steps we can take to be a little bit better. I think the number one step would be instead of starting with a job post, which is almost a sales document, or it should be a sales and marketing document starting with the profile of the person you're going to hire. So usually even people that do this, they're typically talking about what their background experience is, what type of companies they've been at, which is a good place to start and get the brain flowing. But eventually, you want to abstract from these AKA. What are the capabilities, what are the things this person needs to be able to do and get that down to three to five plus maybe three to five attributes which are a little bit less changeable and starting from there? Then you ask yourself, How can I learn about these things? How can I gather data? And there's pretty standard tools. Some are the behavioral interview where you ask, Tell me about a time question. Some of them might be hypothetical questions like, How would you do X? Another example is work samples like the projects that you get to your CFO. The alternative is we just get stuck on that first profile and someone's applying to us, but they didn't work at the right company, so they don't fit the profile. So we reject them versus going capabilities first. Now I've got this set of tools in my tool belt to learn about these underlying capabilities. And I had a little bit of my screener. I have a little bit and that I can hand off to my a recruiter who's going to ask some questions early on and we can start gathering data and we're a little bit more open to profiles that are kind of weird. And in a competitive hiring market, we have to be open to weird profiles or we're going to be hiring for a long time. And that's how we can just be a little bit better as being more capabilities first. How do we get evidence about those second?

Chris Byers: So you're talking about this idea of really giving people a chance or a shot that maybe they didn't get? I'm curious, do you have your own personal story of how maybe somebody in your past gave you a shot or a chance that you might not otherwise have gotten

Wes Winham Winler: as a fourth grader? I finished the last three weeks homeschooled because my fourth grade teacher couldn't handle me, thought I was a very typical child. I have only a vague memory of this and just being very confused. What I found out is that was my tendency to, let's say, point out whenever my teacher maybe said something that was incorrect or maybe undersold, something that I thought was really interesting.

Chris Byers: It's a very respectful way to say it, by the way.

Wes Winham Winler: Yeah, I now realize I was that jerky little fourth grader that was correcting their teacher and driving her crazy. I didn't perceive it at the time. I loved learning about things. I love learning new things for myself, so I just assumed everybody loved that and didn't notice the whole social piece that being corrected is a status thing. We don't like to be corrected. So that is an example of a lot of things in my life that I just took a long time to get. And I, mostly through the patience of people around me, was able to keep moving on to keep going to the next stage of my life in college. And I had great parents who were really supportive. But a lot of people don't have that, and I didn't really realize how lucky I was. I thought that's how everyone was. I read a book in 2011 called The Time Is Called Age of the Info War. It was about this random technology topic that the world is changing in a way that people who are very attracted to information are benefiting, whereas other people aren't. And one of the sections in the book was about autism, and I knew about autism as this thing that kids had. That was pretty debilitating and that was about it. And I think I knew some friends of friends who had autistic kids and that that was basically all I knew. And I started to learn about it as a different neurological profile that actually has some benefits and lots of costs. And I was new to me, and as I was reading through the list of differences, I was like, Man, this is like a page out of my biography, and I felt like every section I was just blowing my mind like, Oh yeah, if you correct people, they're going to be mad at you. So I'm suspecting that autism, I learn about autism, learned that it's different. And at one point, while doing research for that, i o psychology work around hiring. I start to get too familiar with the terms and the papers, and I have access to the journals and I just some thumbing through. I see a paper on an instrument for diagnosing autism. I'm like, Oh, I know how to read this. I know how to actually translate this instrument into something I could do and score myself. So I take it, and I am either in the top 99 and a half percent of most autistic non-autistic folks, according to scale, or even like the 60th percentile of autistic people. I thought I would be in that direction, but I didn't realize it would be that overwhelming. And then I filed, by the way, and just thought about it and started to see people on Twitter talking about autism. And it was it's this fight because there's two camps. I'm not an expert in autism, by the way. I'm just I'm just very interested in it. And I am autistic myself, and we could talk a little bit about self-diagnosis for autism, if that would be interesting. But there are two camps here, and one camp is mostly parents of kids who have been diagnosed with autism, who have a really strong disability that makes it difficult for them to accomplish day-to-day tasks and bond with peers and get along in school. And those folks I have a lot of empathy for because I think that's tough. And then there are adults who have realized that they are autistic and has told them really true things about themselves that help them understand themselves. Better. And those two camps sometimes don't see eye to eye because the experience is very different.

Chris Byers: Your own self-discovery, I think, is important. If there are other people out there who have an opportunity for that self-discovery, I think talking through that is great. I do think self-awareness in lots of ways is what I think drives our ability to make smarter decisions. And so I think again, appreciate you sharing. Maybe let's step back a little bit to kind of your history before woven. As you talked about, you've spent a long time building engineering teams. What would you say your biggest challenge was and you probably referred to one of them in terms of hiring. But what else comes to mind?

Wes Winham Winler: I think most crafts where as an individual, there is just so much to learn about how to be better at that craft. The transition to leadership is very challenging because the things that make you confident at that craft the pattern recognition, the ability to focus for amount of time and perform, whether that's performing on a call with a customer or performing for an hour with your editor and solving a hard problem. Those things are actually not good. As a leader. So you have this tendency to Oh, I see this problem. I know how to solve it. I'm going to go get on that call or I'm going to go dove into the code and fix it. And that's actually a thing that makes you a worse leader. So I for a long time, I was like the chief problem solver rather than an actual leader. An actual leader is focused on helping the team move in the same direction, helping the team improve, helping each individual improve at the things they care about and that are useful. And it's not being the person that's going to jump in and save and solve problems. So it took me quite a while to get over that hurdle. And I think for engineering especially, that's one of the hard challenges is transitioning from the person who does it and gets the immediate reward to the person who teaches it and coaches it and ask questions, and you don't get that immediate reward. It's actually frustrating because you're suppressing this part of yourself that you're so proud of, and it gives you so much joy because of this long term reward of improving a person and making your team better. To be honest, that is still challenging. Today, I have a sticky note on my monitor that says time to problem solve, and that's remind me to give other people time to problem solve before I jump in.

Chris Byers: I think as a leader, you've pointed out something that I struggle with on a very regular basis because it's far too often that I'm like, I could go do this. And the effort to explain or the effort to actually, to your point, the effort to just be patient is probably the hardest thing because I'm like, I can get it done real fast. Let me just go, take care of this. So I think you've hit on an important point there. What are some signals that as you've used technology, as you've thought about this whole idea of really sifting through and getting to the right candidates or some key signals you've found in great candidates that you won't see on a resume?

Wes Winham Winler: I don't want to like totally throw out resumes because there is data there. The typical resume signals are is there a positive trajectory like someone moving up and doing bigger projects? But I'm familiar enough with the research where they give people a bunch of resumes and then they ask people to sort them into piles and just how incredibly depressing that research is. So one of my favorites is they took a similar resume and they gave one person a relevant second degree. So like math plus computer science for a very mathy like Ph.D. level position. And for one of the resumes, they get them that second degree for the other resume, they just made the first word and each bullet point a verb. So Giroux project completion or GRU usage, those sort of things, which tells a better story. Guess which one got more callbacks? The person who got a second relative degree or the person who changed one word as bad as you think is 25 percent more callbacks for that, that verb word and the resume. And I'd like to think I'm immune to this, but I'm probably not like when reading resumes. It's just easier to skim through. So my goal usually and I don't always do this because sometimes you just have to get resumes and keep going. But my goal is to not look at resumes until I've evaluated the screener because I can usually think of two to three questions someone can answer in a tweet. They're going to tell me much more about the relevant experience than the resume. That's my goal is to not read a resume until I'm talking to someone because you can see how they talk about their problem, how they communicate, what they've done, what they think is important. So, yeah, I try not to read resumes.

Chris Byers: You've talked about autism and this kind of learning that you went through. How do you think that's impacted you as a leader?

Wes Winham Winler: One thing that I think is a benefit is because I have really strong weaknesses that I'm aware of. I'm able to compensate for those by building deliberate practices. So I have a company where it's a little bit easier to orient yourself because more things are written down where things are explicit, which I think is good for a company. It means sometimes you go slower rather than going faster. I also am a little bit more aware that some people are different, which I think we all need to be reminded of constantly because it is so easy to just assume everyone has the exact same as you. I used to think that autism was a deficit in a lot of ways. When my mental model now is closer to, there are defaults that we all have and we pretty much assume that everyone else has the same defaults. And a lot of the problems in the world are when we interact with folks who have different defaults. About one is ask culture versus gas culture. So when you ask someone, is it safe to say no? Or is that ask a very strong commitment? And that's ask culture versus guess culture where you really don't ask anyone anything. You just say, Man, that's a really nice shirt and that person is supposed to read in, and that means they really want. One of the research for their birthday is one example of different defaults. So just being aware that the defaults are different and being constantly reminded that I am different whenever I think of meeting with greats and then I ask someone about it later, and it absolutely didn't, or I think something is very clear and it's not.

Chris Byers: Yeah, I think your point of I was just talking to my wife about this the other day, how I think as leaders that one of the most difficult things is knowing what other people don't know because we all do very much to your point, presume like, Oh, I had this experience, everybody's had this experience. And yet we forget, Oh yeah, we've had 10 20 whatever years of experience that does add up, and sometimes you don't realize how all that impacts your decisions as you've then started to translate that into this knowledge of how maybe you think about things and how we need to think about how other people might not see it quite the same way. How's that translated into leading a company?

Wes Winham Winler: For me, it looks like a company that has just maybe what might be described as highly structured goals, let's say. So we have three cascading goals systems with a company of 14 people. So the idea is everybody knows exactly what they're working on all the time versus relying on talking to your boss and kind of reading the mood to see what is more or less important. So we have quarterly V Times, which is a horrible acronym, but Salesforce invented it, and I think it's pretty good. It's a mix of planning a goal setting system. Then we have monthly OK hours, which are you break that quarterly goal into a few objectives, which are great motivating sounding things we would like to do and a few key results, which are how do we know we've made progress towards that great sounding objectives? And then also weekly commitments. So every week on Friday, we get together and we help each other think of what is the one or two things that are very much in our control that we can do next week that is going to make progress towards those monthly goals, which rolls up to that quarterly goals. I think that means people at least know what they need to be doing. It means you don't have to ask what the next piece of work is. But I think that's a style and my guess is some people would be very not in favor of that much explicit work and structure. But for me, that's how I know I'm doing the right thing, that I'm staying on task and how I get feedback about what we should be doing versus what a startup. Startups don't die from starvation. They die from indigestion. There are so many good ideas, there are so many things we could be doing that are actually are good ideas. The arts and science is choosing. What are the things we say no to so we can be really good at the things that are more important?

Chris Byers: It's great. I do think you've touched on a handful of things that as a remote organization are really important, and I definitely talk about a lot. And then you talk about written communication. I actually think that's extremely valuable and in a remote world because it just gives people time to digest time to read it in their own way. There's just all these unsaid things in a remote world, and this just helps you communicate those things. Whereas if you're all sitting in the office together, you do get a little bit of that osmosis of talking to the person next to you or you overhear things. And so I think you have to be much more explicit in a remote culture, and it sounds like you guys have really thought about that.

Wes Winham Winler: Yeah, I think even in that she's talked about the osmosis, I have the experience of being in those rooms and not picking up on the osmosis, actually, and maybe everyone else did, because I'm mostly not paying attention to it. So I think I overcompensated for my my deficiency by going process first, which is great in a remote world because we're all on the same page. I've talked to some other autistic folks who talk about how remote is can be so frustrating for normal folks. For autistic folks, which is autistic, is the inverse of autistic. If you ever hear that word on the internet now, you know is we're all in the same autistic box. We've got a Zoom call with restricted interaction. We've got a chat box. So we're all like a little bit autistic as a result of work in the remote world. So some of the things that make things inclusive for neurodiverse folks also make it better for everyone. And that's about writing. That's about having explicit time for chit chat, which sounds like a crazy thing, but making sure people have time to do those little human interactions and write things down.

Chris Byers: I was actually reading a book recently called The Culture Map by author Aaron Meyer, and what's interesting is I was fascinated because she's actually talking about country cultures and goes through a lot of different assessments. But it's all about communication styles and how we perceive authority and whether we're high context and low context. It's like, Man, this is actually it would be really valuable in a company because even if we're all from the same country or the same city, we all have different methods of communication and how much information we're going to give you and not give you. And I think that you've honed in on that as an important point. If you can illustrate that to people, you can really speed up getting on the same page

Wes Winham Winler: as a great book. I learned it was surprising to me how positive American culture is and how as far as feedback, like directness of feedback that most European cultures are much more likely to tell you what is wrong and that be OK like French culture is here is all the things that are wrong with you. OK, have a good day. Whereas someone did that to me, I'd be like, Oh my gosh, this person hates me because that's the cultural norm in America. We have the the crap sandwich idea where you say something good, you say something and you say something good is a common crutch. And the different cultures vary a lot, like in Russia that would be seen as way more disingenuous than it this year. It's really interesting how different groups of people have settled on norms that totally work for them as long as everyone agrees. But as soon as you have people with different norms, everyone thinks people are rude or they don't get the message.

Chris Byers: Each conversation we have on the show ends up highlighting innovative ideas and fresh perspectives. West is focused on helping companies hire hidden gems, asking people to go beyond resumé and accolades. What's if you could give advice to our listeners? How would you encourage people to go beyond traditional means for finding talent?

Wes Winham Winler: My number one advice is is when you are accepting applications is to write a form that asks simple questions about things that you really want to know about someone that that simple act forces you to think about what you actually care about because you only get two or three questions. And I think you'll find people who are great that you would have overlooked on the resume. And those are the folks that are going to be most loyal. They're going to have the steepest learning curve. They're getting overlooked in the market. So it's great for them, and it's also great for us

Chris Byers: as we wrap up the conversation of get the handful of final questions, the first one. How would you suggest listeners think about talent differently than they do today?

Wes Winham Winler: One of the easiest things to do when we're thinking about talent is to recognize people who have the exact same strengths as we do. So it's much easier to recognize someone who was good at the things we're good at because we pay attention to them, and that's why we're good at them. One of the hardest things to do as a leader is to hire people who are bad at things you care about, but are good at things that are different from you, and then to manage someone who is a different shape than you. So that's one of the things I personally struggle with and think about a lot is how do I build a team who is not just flawed in? The same ways in great in the same way, because that doesn't build an organization that is effective overall.

Chris Byers: And what do you think people listening can do to create a positive impact for other people?

Wes Winham Winler: One of the things I took away from my first boss at the pleasure working with is the idea that thinks is free. It's cheap. It is so easy to think someone, but it is so easy to forget to do. I can remember times where I got thanked from peers that really lodged my memory. But it is absolutely free to thank someone. So I have tried to cultivate a habit of thanking people for things that I appreciate, even if it's part of their job and to be specific in that things. So it's not. I appreciate your help. I appreciate the way you proactively reached out to tell me this was going to be a little bit late. That's exactly the type of person I would work with. So just a few slack messages like that a week can really build a lot of goodwill in the company. It makes people happier, makes people appreciate it, and it feels good to say thank you.

Chris Byers: Are there any ways you're looking to create impact in the future?

Wes Winham Winler: Right now, a job is one of the most important predictors of mental health of stability. Jobs come with health insurance, but the act of changing job of training for a new job is the same as it was 200 years ago. We have a a world that's moving faster and jobs are turning over more and more quickly, and skills are turning over more and more quickly. But nothing else has evolved to help people train faster or find those jobs more quickly. My goal for an impact is to fix that problem, to make it easier to change jobs, to find a new team, to make it easier to bring new folks on your team. That will be successful because one of the reasons right now we are out of a recession. But the number of unemployed people is just steadily decreasing at a very slow rate because we have not gotten any better at matching people to jobs. And that's the problem, I think. I could focus on for the next 50 years of my life.

Chris Byers: In recent episodes, guests have brought up the way that they view or have experienced failure. How do you view failure?

Wes Winham Winler: I think we all have an understanding of how failure teaches us things. I think of another way to look at failure is as a habit we need to get into. So I have a weekly five 15, which is it takes me 15 minutes. Write five minutes, read. It's a way of keeping up to date with my management team, and one of my items is what have I tried and failed at this week? And I don't view it as a success if I don't have something to put, their failure is a habit. That means that we are trying something new, and I worry that if I ever get out of the habit of trying things and failing them, that I'm going to stop growing. So I think failure is a learning tool, but it also can be a habit to make sure that we're actually trying things new and growing.

Chris Byers: To learn more about how people are reimagining their world of work. Head over to practicallygenius.com. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Ripple Effect.

Chris Byers: Wes Winham has built a business helping hidden gem engineers get hired. What are hidden gems? We'll hear from us on that later. As CEO of Woven, he's developed the technical assessment platform that enables companies to evaluate potential talent without relying on resumes, and often that talent has been overlooked. Getting caught. An applicant tracking software, overloaded inboxes and, more importantly, unrecognized bias. His passion for giving the underdog a leg up is evident through the success of his company winning accolades such as the 2020 Indiana Startup of the Year. What's behind his drive to give those who may not stand out a shot? Let's find out. I am Chris Byers, a form sac, and this is ripple effect, a show celebrating the positive impact your decisions create. West, welcome to the show.

Wes Winham Winler: It's great to be here, Chris.

Chris Byers: Anything I missed in that intro,

Wes Winham Winler: I think you nailed it. That was much better than my version.

Chris Byers: Sounds good. How did you get to this realization of wanting to help hidden gems be found?

Wes Winham Winler: Well, for me, it was mostly by screwing up a little bit, as is tradition. I was the only engineer, so thus head of engineering at a startup and happens to a lot of people. You become a manager one day and realize you have to hire because nobody else is going to do it. And for me, I hired three people in pretty quick succession, and they were all awesome. I was feeling really good about myself. I had built this process I read, thinking fast and slow. I had these behavioral interview questions. I was feeling really good about myself. I could look in someone's eyes and spot talent, or so I thought. And then I hired my fourth person and it did not work out. So maybe I did not have this magic ability. And on a small team, miss hires. Really, they hurt customers. But for me, I hired someone who was a good person who was trying really hard and I put him in a position where he was not going to be successful because my hiring process wasn't good enough. So that was really the the impetus to figure out how to be better at hiring so I could never go through that pain again. I went and read all the psychology literature I could. What does science say about predictive hiring? What, what are the nerds doing? And then I went and interviewed a bunch of grizzled engineering managers who had been through this over and over. And what are y'all actually doing to avoid this pain? And the overlap was, if you're going to hire dancers, you should probably watch them dance, which like, Yeah, yeah, that does make sense. Not what I was doing. Built something that's like a little project you might hurt him. Called a take home project homework project where you're actually doing a little bit of the job and that fix my mess. Hiring a problem. I hired another 20 engineers. That's that way and had nothing but success. And it's fast forward to 2014. So we're an Indianapolis based company at the time, and I decided to go remote with my hiring. So with engineer hiring, I was getting 10 candidates a month. So it was pretty easy. Then I go remote. I'm open to anyone in the world and I get 100 per week. Very different. So then I'm struggling. It's a Friday. I've got a ton of resumes, a man box. And to be honest, I don't like reading resumes. They feel like B.S.. I just don't like them. So mostly out of laziness and kind of bias, I decided to send everybody who applied that week my project mass email and moving on. And then I get results back the next week, and most of them are not very good. Resumes do predict some things, but one of them was amazing. It was like exactly what I was looking for. So not just good code, but it was clean code and documentation and all the like. The little details that make for a great engineer, and I'm stoked because this is a mid-level engineer, three to five years of experience, someone that really gets it. And I go back and look at this candidate's resume, and he has zero years of experience. That was just shocking that the best candidate and my candidate pool with someone that if I would have read his resume first, I absolutely would have rejected this candidate. That was the light bulb moment for me, that there are hidden gems out there and that kind of kicked off this mission of how can we build something to find him?

Chris Byers: That's great. I think what's interesting is I think actually in engineering, it's a little bit more common to use a project to help guide a conversation. But we've actually found some really good success over the years, really doing that in every job. So hire a CFO, come up with a project for them. And that is, of course, after we've gotten through resume, et cetera. And I think that's an important point you're trying to make. But I do think that getting people's real life work in your hands can make such a huge difference in getting to know them. Let me back up a little bit and define for us what a hidden gem is.

Wes Winham Winler: I like to think of a hidden gem as someone that you would have overlooked if you just went on service criteria. So you just went on the resume that are just on the application phase, but this person is a great fit for the role. So that's a hidden gem. They come in a lot of flavors. They depend on the type of hiring process you look for. One of the things about hidden gems in most roles is recruiting has a really hard job. They have to use mostly resumes and a short conversation about a role that they're not really an expert in to decide who do they want to send on to the hiring manager who is typically very busy? That's why they're hiring, and that doesn't so much like to talk to people that really aren't fitting their criteria. So one of the things that happens is recruiters tend to over time get biased towards tightening their criteria rather than loosening it because they get that negative feedback from the hiring manager. But they don't get as quick positive feedback when they do send someone on the borderline that works out. I went out and talked to a bunch of recruiters when I started the company, and I found out that the most common criteria when I asked them of what gets them to move someone to the next stage is enthusiasm, which on the surface seems very reasonable. But there are some people who show enthusiasm very different. For example, folks on the autism spectrum. Room tend to have a lower dynamic range when it comes to talking and what they're interested in. We have recruiters who are trying to do their best, who are mostly cuing on things that are seem pretty reasonable like enthusiasm. If someone's more enthusiastic about your company, that's probably going to be a better hire. I think that's a reasonable assumption. But the result is people who might be great at the job when you get to know them, when they actually do the job. There's a bias against moving those folks forward, and that might be a hidden gem. Some that actually gets to the recruiter call but can't show well enough in that rapport building phase. So get screened out before they talk to a hiring manager.

Chris Byers: It sounds like you've used technology to really try to solve this problem. Can you share some examples of maybe some people who would have been overlooked but weren't because of that technology?

Wes Winham Winler: So we had a customer that was hiring a DevOps engineer. So DevOps is it's a really fast growing field. It's really hard to find people because it's new. So they were having lots of trouble, not a lot of candidates. And at the same time, this gentleman mark was laid off from his previous role. So they downsized the whole test automation department and he's on the job market and he'd been there for months. Really have a hard time because test automation is not an in-demand title like DevOps is an in-demand title. So he's applying to these DevOps roles because he thinks he has the skills and he's not hearing back. He applies to our customer who looks at his resume and is probably not. But because they have a way to assess candidates beyond the resume sends them to us. Mark shows his skills and scores in the top five percent. We're like, Hey, you should talk to Mark here. They do they. He does well in the interview. They love him. He goes on site, he does well, and I get a text message the third day that he's already automating parts of the infrastructure. This is great. Come to find out. In the last year, Mark is now the director of that whole department. Is ten people reporting to him for a job that he wouldn't have got to interview for because his resume title didn't quite match up. So it's really all about these people that are making career transitions or their learning curve is a little bit faster than you might expect. And one of the things I've talked to people about doing and I've heard success is really focusing on the application. It's the step that is the easiest in the world to skip. Usually it's Oh, I got to write this job description. Maybe we'll put a little bit of care into that to try to to sell it, but often not even that. But then the application, not a lot of people think about, well, look, we'll get some resumes and we'll look through. The thing about a resume is that's generic. It's about the person and their general guess for what is interesting. You as the hiring manager, you know a lot more about what's interesting to you. So let's say you're hiring for a sales role. You want people who have done sales before, but one of the really important parts for hiring sales is the previous contract value. So sales at one hundred thousand a deal looks at the same kind of doesn't matter what you're selling. The motion is similar versus sales at $5000. A deal looks very different. It's very fast, it's very transactional, and the people that are great at one type of sale are not necessarily great at the other. A resume is very unlikely to have their average contract value, even though that might be the most important predictor of who's going to be successful. So we have a history, and I know people with history of hiring salespeople who don't have tech experience but do have business experience in non-tech at similar contract values. And because they put that in their screener, they can talk to people who are getting rejected from all these tech roles they're applying to because they don't have that tech background, but they do have the fundamental skills, and all of this is adding one line to your application.

Chris Byers: As with everything, when we adopt software, we have this tendency to say, Oh, it's going to fix all my problems. What are the things we all just still need to learn? Yep, let's go adopt woven. But oh, but hey, you need to think about this, and I think you're talking about a little bit of it in how you write job descriptions. But what are some just fundamentals we all need to learn about, I guess, being more open and more inclusive in the way that we hire.

Wes Winham Winler: Hiring is just it's just fundamentally hard. It's one of those irreducible, hard things that all we can do is get a little bit less bad at it. But the good news is there's so much upside. There are very few business leaders that don't believe that the people are what make their business or their team successful. It's almost a truism at this point. But rather than throwing our hands up about hiring, they're like little steps we can take to be a little bit better. I think the number one step would be instead of starting with a job post, which is almost a sales document, or it should be a sales and marketing document starting with the profile of the person you're going to hire. So usually even people that do this, they're typically talking about what their background experience is, what type of companies they've been at, which is a good place to start and get the brain flowing. But eventually, you want to abstract from these AKA. What are the capabilities, what are the things this person needs to be able to do and get that down to three to five plus maybe three to five attributes which are a little bit less changeable and starting from there? Then you ask yourself, How can I learn about these things? How can I gather data? And there's pretty standard tools. Some are the behavioral interview where you ask, Tell me about a time question. Some of them might be hypothetical questions like, How would you do X? Another example is work samples like the projects that you get to your CFO. The alternative is we just get stuck on that first profile and someone's applying to us, but they didn't work at the right company, so they don't fit the profile. So we reject them versus going capabilities first. Now I've got this set of tools in my tool belt to learn about these underlying capabilities. And I had a little bit of my screener. I have a little bit and that I can hand off to my a recruiter who's going to ask some questions early on and we can start gathering data and we're a little bit more open to profiles that are kind of weird. And in a competitive hiring market, we have to be open to weird profiles or we're going to be hiring for a long time. And that's how we can just be a little bit better as being more capabilities first. How do we get evidence about those second?

Chris Byers: So you're talking about this idea of really giving people a chance or a shot that maybe they didn't get? I'm curious, do you have your own personal story of how maybe somebody in your past gave you a shot or a chance that you might not otherwise have gotten

Wes Winham Winler: as a fourth grader? I finished the last three weeks homeschooled because my fourth grade teacher couldn't handle me, thought I was a very typical child. I have only a vague memory of this and just being very confused. What I found out is that was my tendency to, let's say, point out whenever my teacher maybe said something that was incorrect or maybe undersold, something that I thought was really interesting.

Chris Byers: It's a very respectful way to say it, by the way.

Wes Winham Winler: Yeah, I now realize I was that jerky little fourth grader that was correcting their teacher and driving her crazy. I didn't perceive it at the time. I loved learning about things. I love learning new things for myself, so I just assumed everybody loved that and didn't notice the whole social piece that being corrected is a status thing. We don't like to be corrected. So that is an example of a lot of things in my life that I just took a long time to get. And I, mostly through the patience of people around me, was able to keep moving on to keep going to the next stage of my life in college. And I had great parents who were really supportive. But a lot of people don't have that, and I didn't really realize how lucky I was. I thought that's how everyone was. I read a book in 2011 called The Time Is Called Age of the Info War. It was about this random technology topic that the world is changing in a way that people who are very attracted to information are benefiting, whereas other people aren't. And one of the sections in the book was about autism, and I knew about autism as this thing that kids had. That was pretty debilitating and that was about it. And I think I knew some friends of friends who had autistic kids and that that was basically all I knew. And I started to learn about it as a different neurological profile that actually has some benefits and lots of costs. And I was new to me, and as I was reading through the list of differences, I was like, Man, this is like a page out of my biography, and I felt like every section I was just blowing my mind like, Oh yeah, if you correct people, they're going to be mad at you. So I'm suspecting that autism, I learn about autism, learned that it's different. And at one point, while doing research for that, i o psychology work around hiring. I start to get too familiar with the terms and the papers, and I have access to the journals and I just some thumbing through. I see a paper on an instrument for diagnosing autism. I'm like, Oh, I know how to read this. I know how to actually translate this instrument into something I could do and score myself. So I take it, and I am either in the top 99 and a half percent of most autistic non-autistic folks, according to scale, or even like the 60th percentile of autistic people. I thought I would be in that direction, but I didn't realize it would be that overwhelming. And then I filed, by the way, and just thought about it and started to see people on Twitter talking about autism. And it was it's this fight because there's two camps. I'm not an expert in autism, by the way. I'm just I'm just very interested in it. And I am autistic myself, and we could talk a little bit about self-diagnosis for autism, if that would be interesting. But there are two camps here, and one camp is mostly parents of kids who have been diagnosed with autism, who have a really strong disability that makes it difficult for them to accomplish day-to-day tasks and bond with peers and get along in school. And those folks I have a lot of empathy for because I think that's tough. And then there are adults who have realized that they are autistic and has told them really true things about themselves that help them understand themselves. Better. And those two camps sometimes don't see eye to eye because the experience is very different.

Chris Byers: Your own self-discovery, I think, is important. If there are other people out there who have an opportunity for that self-discovery, I think talking through that is great. I do think self-awareness in lots of ways is what I think drives our ability to make smarter decisions. And so I think again, appreciate you sharing. Maybe let's step back a little bit to kind of your history before woven. As you talked about, you've spent a long time building engineering teams. What would you say your biggest challenge was and you probably referred to one of them in terms of hiring. But what else comes to mind?

Wes Winham Winler: I think most crafts where as an individual, there is just so much to learn about how to be better at that craft. The transition to leadership is very challenging because the things that make you confident at that craft the pattern recognition, the ability to focus for amount of time and perform, whether that's performing on a call with a customer or performing for an hour with your editor and solving a hard problem. Those things are actually not good. As a leader. So you have this tendency to Oh, I see this problem. I know how to solve it. I'm going to go get on that call or I'm going to go dove into the code and fix it. And that's actually a thing that makes you a worse leader. So I for a long time, I was like the chief problem solver rather than an actual leader. An actual leader is focused on helping the team move in the same direction, helping the team improve, helping each individual improve at the things they care about and that are useful. And it's not being the person that's going to jump in and save and solve problems. So it took me quite a while to get over that hurdle. And I think for engineering especially, that's one of the hard challenges is transitioning from the person who does it and gets the immediate reward to the person who teaches it and coaches it and ask questions, and you don't get that immediate reward. It's actually frustrating because you're suppressing this part of yourself that you're so proud of, and it gives you so much joy because of this long term reward of improving a person and making your team better. To be honest, that is still challenging. Today, I have a sticky note on my monitor that says time to problem solve, and that's remind me to give other people time to problem solve before I jump in.

Chris Byers: I think as a leader, you've pointed out something that I struggle with on a very regular basis because it's far too often that I'm like, I could go do this. And the effort to explain or the effort to actually, to your point, the effort to just be patient is probably the hardest thing because I'm like, I can get it done real fast. Let me just go, take care of this. So I think you've hit on an important point there. What are some signals that as you've used technology, as you've thought about this whole idea of really sifting through and getting to the right candidates or some key signals you've found in great candidates that you won't see on a resume?

Wes Winham Winler: I don't want to like totally throw out resumes because there is data there. The typical resume signals are is there a positive trajectory like someone moving up and doing bigger projects? But I'm familiar enough with the research where they give people a bunch of resumes and then they ask people to sort them into piles and just how incredibly depressing that research is. So one of my favorites is they took a similar resume and they gave one person a relevant second degree. So like math plus computer science for a very mathy like Ph.D. level position. And for one of the resumes, they get them that second degree for the other resume, they just made the first word and each bullet point a verb. So Giroux project completion or GRU usage, those sort of things, which tells a better story. Guess which one got more callbacks? The person who got a second relative degree or the person who changed one word as bad as you think is 25 percent more callbacks for that, that verb word and the resume. And I'd like to think I'm immune to this, but I'm probably not like when reading resumes. It's just easier to skim through. So my goal usually and I don't always do this because sometimes you just have to get resumes and keep going. But my goal is to not look at resumes until I've evaluated the screener because I can usually think of two to three questions someone can answer in a tweet. They're going to tell me much more about the relevant experience than the resume. That's my goal is to not read a resume until I'm talking to someone because you can see how they talk about their problem, how they communicate, what they've done, what they think is important. So, yeah, I try not to read resumes.

Chris Byers: You've talked about autism and this kind of learning that you went through. How do you think that's impacted you as a leader?

Wes Winham Winler: One thing that I think is a benefit is because I have really strong weaknesses that I'm aware of. I'm able to compensate for those by building deliberate practices. So I have a company where it's a little bit easier to orient yourself because more things are written down where things are explicit, which I think is good for a company. It means sometimes you go slower rather than going faster. I also am a little bit more aware that some people are different, which I think we all need to be reminded of constantly because it is so easy to just assume everyone has the exact same as you. I used to think that autism was a deficit in a lot of ways. When my mental model now is closer to, there are defaults that we all have and we pretty much assume that everyone else has the same defaults. And a lot of the problems in the world are when we interact with folks who have different defaults. About one is ask culture versus gas culture. So when you ask someone, is it safe to say no? Or is that ask a very strong commitment? And that's ask culture versus guess culture where you really don't ask anyone anything. You just say, Man, that's a really nice shirt and that person is supposed to read in, and that means they really want. One of the research for their birthday is one example of different defaults. So just being aware that the defaults are different and being constantly reminded that I am different whenever I think of meeting with greats and then I ask someone about it later, and it absolutely didn't, or I think something is very clear and it's not.

Chris Byers: Yeah, I think your point of I was just talking to my wife about this the other day, how I think as leaders that one of the most difficult things is knowing what other people don't know because we all do very much to your point, presume like, Oh, I had this experience, everybody's had this experience. And yet we forget, Oh yeah, we've had 10 20 whatever years of experience that does add up, and sometimes you don't realize how all that impacts your decisions as you've then started to translate that into this knowledge of how maybe you think about things and how we need to think about how other people might not see it quite the same way. How's that translated into leading a company?

Wes Winham Winler: For me, it looks like a company that has just maybe what might be described as highly structured goals, let's say. So we have three cascading goals systems with a company of 14 people. So the idea is everybody knows exactly what they're working on all the time versus relying on talking to your boss and kind of reading the mood to see what is more or less important. So we have quarterly V Times, which is a horrible acronym, but Salesforce invented it, and I think it's pretty good. It's a mix of planning a goal setting system. Then we have monthly OK hours, which are you break that quarterly goal into a few objectives, which are great motivating sounding things we would like to do and a few key results, which are how do we know we've made progress towards that great sounding objectives? And then also weekly commitments. So every week on Friday, we get together and we help each other think of what is the one or two things that are very much in our control that we can do next week that is going to make progress towards those monthly goals, which rolls up to that quarterly goals. I think that means people at least know what they need to be doing. It means you don't have to ask what the next piece of work is. But I think that's a style and my guess is some people would be very not in favor of that much explicit work and structure. But for me, that's how I know I'm doing the right thing, that I'm staying on task and how I get feedback about what we should be doing versus what a startup. Startups don't die from starvation. They die from indigestion. There are so many good ideas, there are so many things we could be doing that are actually are good ideas. The arts and science is choosing. What are the things we say no to so we can be really good at the things that are more important?

Chris Byers: It's great. I do think you've touched on a handful of things that as a remote organization are really important, and I definitely talk about a lot. And then you talk about written communication. I actually think that's extremely valuable and in a remote world because it just gives people time to digest time to read it in their own way. There's just all these unsaid things in a remote world, and this just helps you communicate those things. Whereas if you're all sitting in the office together, you do get a little bit of that osmosis of talking to the person next to you or you overhear things. And so I think you have to be much more explicit in a remote culture, and it sounds like you guys have really thought about that.

Wes Winham Winler: Yeah, I think even in that she's talked about the osmosis, I have the experience of being in those rooms and not picking up on the osmosis, actually, and maybe everyone else did, because I'm mostly not paying attention to it. So I think I overcompensated for my my deficiency by going process first, which is great in a remote world because we're all on the same page. I've talked to some other autistic folks who talk about how remote is can be so frustrating for normal folks. For autistic folks, which is autistic, is the inverse of autistic. If you ever hear that word on the internet now, you know is we're all in the same autistic box. We've got a Zoom call with restricted interaction. We've got a chat box. So we're all like a little bit autistic as a result of work in the remote world. So some of the things that make things inclusive for neurodiverse folks also make it better for everyone. And that's about writing. That's about having explicit time for chit chat, which sounds like a crazy thing, but making sure people have time to do those little human interactions and write things down.

Chris Byers: I was actually reading a book recently called The Culture Map by author Aaron Meyer, and what's interesting is I was fascinated because she's actually talking about country cultures and goes through a lot of different assessments. But it's all about communication styles and how we perceive authority and whether we're high context and low context. It's like, Man, this is actually it would be really valuable in a company because even if we're all from the same country or the same city, we all have different methods of communication and how much information we're going to give you and not give you. And I think that you've honed in on that as an important point. If you can illustrate that to people, you can really speed up getting on the same page

Wes Winham Winler: as a great book. I learned it was surprising to me how positive American culture is and how as far as feedback, like directness of feedback that most European cultures are much more likely to tell you what is wrong and that be OK like French culture is here is all the things that are wrong with you. OK, have a good day. Whereas someone did that to me, I'd be like, Oh my gosh, this person hates me because that's the cultural norm in America. We have the the crap sandwich idea where you say something good, you say something and you say something good is a common crutch. And the different cultures vary a lot, like in Russia that would be seen as way more disingenuous than it this year. It's really interesting how different groups of people have settled on norms that totally work for them as long as everyone agrees. But as soon as you have people with different norms, everyone thinks people are rude or they don't get the message.

Chris Byers: Each conversation we have on the show ends up highlighting innovative ideas and fresh perspectives. West is focused on helping companies hire hidden gems, asking people to go beyond resumé and accolades. What's if you could give advice to our listeners? How would you encourage people to go beyond traditional means for finding talent?

Wes Winham Winler: My number one advice is is when you are accepting applications is to write a form that asks simple questions about things that you really want to know about someone that that simple act forces you to think about what you actually care about because you only get two or three questions. And I think you'll find people who are great that you would have overlooked on the resume. And those are the folks that are going to be most loyal. They're going to have the steepest learning curve. They're getting overlooked in the market. So it's great for them, and it's also great for us

Chris Byers: as we wrap up the conversation of get the handful of final questions, the first one. How would you suggest listeners think about talent differently than they do today?

Wes Winham Winler: One of the easiest things to do when we're thinking about talent is to recognize people who have the exact same strengths as we do. So it's much easier to recognize someone who was good at the things we're good at because we pay attention to them, and that's why we're good at them. One of the hardest things to do as a leader is to hire people who are bad at things you care about, but are good at things that are different from you, and then to manage someone who is a different shape than you. So that's one of the things I personally struggle with and think about a lot is how do I build a team who is not just flawed in? The same ways in great in the same way, because that doesn't build an organization that is effective overall.

Chris Byers: And what do you think people listening can do to create a positive impact for other people?

Wes Winham Winler: One of the things I took away from my first boss at the pleasure working with is the idea that thinks is free. It's cheap. It is so easy to think someone, but it is so easy to forget to do. I can remember times where I got thanked from peers that really lodged my memory. But it is absolutely free to thank someone. So I have tried to cultivate a habit of thanking people for things that I appreciate, even if it's part of their job and to be specific in that things. So it's not. I appreciate your help. I appreciate the way you proactively reached out to tell me this was going to be a little bit late. That's exactly the type of person I would work with. So just a few slack messages like that a week can really build a lot of goodwill in the company. It makes people happier, makes people appreciate it, and it feels good to say thank you.

Chris Byers: Are there any ways you're looking to create impact in the future?

Wes Winham Winler: Right now, a job is one of the most important predictors of mental health of stability. Jobs come with health insurance, but the act of changing job of training for a new job is the same as it was 200 years ago. We have a a world that's moving faster and jobs are turning over more and more quickly, and skills are turning over more and more quickly. But nothing else has evolved to help people train faster or find those jobs more quickly. My goal for an impact is to fix that problem, to make it easier to change jobs, to find a new team, to make it easier to bring new folks on your team. That will be successful because one of the reasons right now we are out of a recession. But the number of unemployed people is just steadily decreasing at a very slow rate because we have not gotten any better at matching people to jobs. And that's the problem, I think. I could focus on for the next 50 years of my life.

Chris Byers: In recent episodes, guests have brought up the way that they view or have experienced failure. How do you view failure?

Wes Winham Winler: I think we all have an understanding of how failure teaches us things. I think of another way to look at failure is as a habit we need to get into. So I have a weekly five 15, which is it takes me 15 minutes. Write five minutes, read. It's a way of keeping up to date with my management team, and one of my items is what have I tried and failed at this week? And I don't view it as a success if I don't have something to put, their failure is a habit. That means that we are trying something new, and I worry that if I ever get out of the habit of trying things and failing them, that I'm going to stop growing. So I think failure is a learning tool, but it also can be a habit to make sure that we're actually trying things new and growing.

Chris Byers: To learn more about how people are reimagining their world of work. Head over to practicallygenius.com. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Ripple Effect.

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Chris Byers: Wes Winham has built a business helping hidden gem engineers get hired. What are hidden gems? We'll hear from us on that later. As CEO of Woven, he's developed the technical assessment platform that enables companies to evaluate potential talent without relying on resumes, and often that talent has been overlooked. Getting caught. An applicant tracking software, overloaded inboxes and, more importantly, unrecognized bias. His passion for giving the underdog a leg up is evident through the success of his company winning accolades such as the 2020 Indiana Startup of the Year. What's behind his drive to give those who may not stand out a shot? Let's find out. I am Chris Byers, a form sac, and this is ripple effect, a show celebrating the positive impact your decisions create. West, welcome to the show.

Wes Winham Winler: It's great to be here, Chris.

Chris Byers: Anything I missed in that intro,

Wes Winham Winler: I think you nailed it. That was much better than my version.

Chris Byers: Sounds good. How did you get to this realization of wanting to help hidden gems be found?

Wes Winham Winler: Well, for me, it was mostly by screwing up a little bit, as is tradition. I was the only engineer, so thus head of engineering at a startup and happens to a lot of people. You become a manager one day and realize you have to hire because nobody else is going to do it. And for me, I hired three people in pretty quick succession, and they were all awesome. I was feeling really good about myself. I had built this process I read, thinking fast and slow. I had these behavioral interview questions. I was feeling really good about myself. I could look in someone's eyes and spot talent, or so I thought. And then I hired my fourth person and it did not work out. So maybe I did not have this magic ability. And on a small team, miss hires. Really, they hurt customers. But for me, I hired someone who was a good person who was trying really hard and I put him in a position where he was not going to be successful because my hiring process wasn't good enough. So that was really the the impetus to figure out how to be better at hiring so I could never go through that pain again. I went and read all the psychology literature I could. What does science say about predictive hiring? What, what are the nerds doing? And then I went and interviewed a bunch of grizzled engineering managers who had been through this over and over. And what are y'all actually doing to avoid this pain? And the overlap was, if you're going to hire dancers, you should probably watch them dance, which like, Yeah, yeah, that does make sense. Not what I was doing. Built something that's like a little project you might hurt him. Called a take home project homework project where you're actually doing a little bit of the job and that fix my mess. Hiring a problem. I hired another 20 engineers. That's that way and had nothing but success. And it's fast forward to 2014. So we're an Indianapolis based company at the time, and I decided to go remote with my hiring. So with engineer hiring, I was getting 10 candidates a month. So it was pretty easy. Then I go remote. I'm open to anyone in the world and I get 100 per week. Very different. So then I'm struggling. It's a Friday. I've got a ton of resumes, a man box. And to be honest, I don't like reading resumes. They feel like B.S.. I just don't like them. So mostly out of laziness and kind of bias, I decided to send everybody who applied that week my project mass email and moving on. And then I get results back the next week, and most of them are not very good. Resumes do predict some things, but one of them was amazing. It was like exactly what I was looking for. So not just good code, but it was clean code and documentation and all the like. The little details that make for a great engineer, and I'm stoked because this is a mid-level engineer, three to five years of experience, someone that really gets it. And I go back and look at this candidate's resume, and he has zero years of experience. That was just shocking that the best candidate and my candidate pool with someone that if I would have read his resume first, I absolutely would have rejected this candidate. That was the light bulb moment for me, that there are hidden gems out there and that kind of kicked off this mission of how can we build something to find him?

Chris Byers: That's great. I think what's interesting is I think actually in engineering, it's a little bit more common to use a project to help guide a conversation. But we've actually found some really good success over the years, really doing that in every job. So hire a CFO, come up with a project for them. And that is, of course, after we've gotten through resume, et cetera. And I think that's an important point you're trying to make. But I do think that getting people's real life work in your hands can make such a huge difference in getting to know them. Let me back up a little bit and define for us what a hidden gem is.

Wes Winham Winler: I like to think of a hidden gem as someone that you would have overlooked if you just went on service criteria. So you just went on the resume that are just on the application phase, but this person is a great fit for the role. So that's a hidden gem. They come in a lot of flavors. They depend on the type of hiring process you look for. One of the things about hidden gems in most roles is recruiting has a really hard job. They have to use mostly resumes and a short conversation about a role that they're not really an expert in to decide who do they want to send on to the hiring manager who is typically very busy? That's why they're hiring, and that doesn't so much like to talk to people that really aren't fitting their criteria. So one of the things that happens is recruiters tend to over time get biased towards tightening their criteria rather than loosening it because they get that negative feedback from the hiring manager. But they don't get as quick positive feedback when they do send someone on the borderline that works out. I went out and talked to a bunch of recruiters when I started the company, and I found out that the most common criteria when I asked them of what gets them to move someone to the next stage is enthusiasm, which on the surface seems very reasonable. But there are some people who show enthusiasm very different. For example, folks on the autism spectrum. Room tend to have a lower dynamic range when it comes to talking and what they're interested in. We have recruiters who are trying to do their best, who are mostly cuing on things that are seem pretty reasonable like enthusiasm. If someone's more enthusiastic about your company, that's probably going to be a better hire. I think that's a reasonable assumption. But the result is people who might be great at the job when you get to know them, when they actually do the job. There's a bias against moving those folks forward, and that might be a hidden gem. Some that actually gets to the recruiter call but can't show well enough in that rapport building phase. So get screened out before they talk to a hiring manager.

Chris Byers: It sounds like you've used technology to really try to solve this problem. Can you share some examples of maybe some people who would have been overlooked but weren't because of that technology?

Wes Winham Winler: So we had a customer that was hiring a DevOps engineer. So DevOps is it's a really fast growing field. It's really hard to find people because it's new. So they were having lots of trouble, not a lot of candidates. And at the same time, this gentleman mark was laid off from his previous role. So they downsized the whole test automation department and he's on the job market and he'd been there for months. Really have a hard time because test automation is not an in-demand title like DevOps is an in-demand title. So he's applying to these DevOps roles because he thinks he has the skills and he's not hearing back. He applies to our customer who looks at his resume and is probably not. But because they have a way to assess candidates beyond the resume sends them to us. Mark shows his skills and scores in the top five percent. We're like, Hey, you should talk to Mark here. They do they. He does well in the interview. They love him. He goes on site, he does well, and I get a text message the third day that he's already automating parts of the infrastructure. This is great. Come to find out. In the last year, Mark is now the director of that whole department. Is ten people reporting to him for a job that he wouldn't have got to interview for because his resume title didn't quite match up. So it's really all about these people that are making career transitions or their learning curve is a little bit faster than you might expect. And one of the things I've talked to people about doing and I've heard success is really focusing on the application. It's the step that is the easiest in the world to skip. Usually it's Oh, I got to write this job description. Maybe we'll put a little bit of care into that to try to to sell it, but often not even that. But then the application, not a lot of people think about, well, look, we'll get some resumes and we'll look through. The thing about a resume is that's generic. It's about the person and their general guess for what is interesting. You as the hiring manager, you know a lot more about what's interesting to you. So let's say you're hiring for a sales role. You want people who have done sales before, but one of the really important parts for hiring sales is the previous contract value. So sales at one hundred thousand a deal looks at the same kind of doesn't matter what you're selling. The motion is similar versus sales at $5000. A deal looks very different. It's very fast, it's very transactional, and the people that are great at one type of sale are not necessarily great at the other. A resume is very unlikely to have their average contract value, even though that might be the most important predictor of who's going to be successful. So we have a history, and I know people with history of hiring salespeople who don't have tech experience but do have business experience in non-tech at similar contract values. And because they put that in their screener, they can talk to people who are getting rejected from all these tech roles they're applying to because they don't have that tech background, but they do have the fundamental skills, and all of this is adding one line to your application.

Chris Byers: As with everything, when we adopt software, we have this tendency to say, Oh, it's going to fix all my problems. What are the things we all just still need to learn? Yep, let's go adopt woven. But oh, but hey, you need to think about this, and I think you're talking about a little bit of it in how you write job descriptions. But what are some just fundamentals we all need to learn about, I guess, being more open and more inclusive in the way that we hire.

Wes Winham Winler: Hiring is just it's just fundamentally hard. It's one of those irreducible, hard things that all we can do is get a little bit less bad at it. But the good news is there's so much upside. There are very few business leaders that don't believe that the people are what make their business or their team successful. It's almost a truism at this point. But rather than throwing our hands up about hiring, they're like little steps we can take to be a little bit better. I think the number one step would be instead of starting with a job post, which is almost a sales document, or it should be a sales and marketing document starting with the profile of the person you're going to hire. So usually even people that do this, they're typically talking about what their background experience is, what type of companies they've been at, which is a good place to start and get the brain flowing. But eventually, you want to abstract from these AKA. What are the capabilities, what are the things this person needs to be able to do and get that down to three to five plus maybe three to five attributes which are a little bit less changeable and starting from there? Then you ask yourself, How can I learn about these things? How can I gather data? And there's pretty standard tools. Some are the behavioral interview where you ask, Tell me about a time question. Some of them might be hypothetical questions like, How would you do X? Another example is work samples like the projects that you get to your CFO. The alternative is we just get stuck on that first profile and someone's applying to us, but they didn't work at the right company, so they don't fit the profile. So we reject them versus going capabilities first. Now I've got this set of tools in my tool belt to learn about these underlying capabilities. And I had a little bit of my screener. I have a little bit and that I can hand off to my a recruiter who's going to ask some questions early on and we can start gathering data and we're a little bit more open to profiles that are kind of weird. And in a competitive hiring market, we have to be open to weird profiles or we're going to be hiring for a long time. And that's how we can just be a little bit better as being more capabilities first. How do we get evidence about those second?

Chris Byers: So you're talking about this idea of really giving people a chance or a shot that maybe they didn't get? I'm curious, do you have your own personal story of how maybe somebody in your past gave you a shot or a chance that you might not otherwise have gotten

Wes Winham Winler: as a fourth grader? I finished the last three weeks homeschooled because my fourth grade teacher couldn't handle me, thought I was a very typical child. I have only a vague memory of this and just being very confused. What I found out is that was my tendency to, let's say, point out whenever my teacher maybe said something that was incorrect or maybe undersold, something that I thought was really interesting.

Chris Byers: It's a very respectful way to say it, by the way.

Wes Winham Winler: Yeah, I now realize I was that jerky little fourth grader that was correcting their teacher and driving her crazy. I didn't perceive it at the time. I loved learning about things. I love learning new things for myself, so I just assumed everybody loved that and didn't notice the whole social piece that being corrected is a status thing. We don't like to be corrected. So that is an example of a lot of things in my life that I just took a long time to get. And I, mostly through the patience of people around me, was able to keep moving on to keep going to the next stage of my life in college. And I had great parents who were really supportive. But a lot of people don't have that, and I didn't really realize how lucky I was. I thought that's how everyone was. I read a book in 2011 called The Time Is Called Age of the Info War. It was about this random technology topic that the world is changing in a way that people who are very attracted to information are benefiting, whereas other people aren't. And one of the sections in the book was about autism, and I knew about autism as this thing that kids had. That was pretty debilitating and that was about it. And I think I knew some friends of friends who had autistic kids and that that was basically all I knew. And I started to learn about it as a different neurological profile that actually has some benefits and lots of costs. And I was new to me, and as I was reading through the list of differences, I was like, Man, this is like a page out of my biography, and I felt like every section I was just blowing my mind like, Oh yeah, if you correct people, they're going to be mad at you. So I'm suspecting that autism, I learn about autism, learned that it's different. And at one point, while doing research for that, i o psychology work around hiring. I start to get too familiar with the terms and the papers, and I have access to the journals and I just some thumbing through. I see a paper on an instrument for diagnosing autism. I'm like, Oh, I know how to read this. I know how to actually translate this instrument into something I could do and score myself. So I take it, and I am either in the top 99 and a half percent of most autistic non-autistic folks, according to scale, or even like the 60th percentile of autistic people. I thought I would be in that direction, but I didn't realize it would be that overwhelming. And then I filed, by the way, and just thought about it and started to see people on Twitter talking about autism. And it was it's this fight because there's two camps. I'm not an expert in autism, by the way. I'm just I'm just very interested in it. And I am autistic myself, and we could talk a little bit about self-diagnosis for autism, if that would be interesting. But there are two camps here, and one camp is mostly parents of kids who have been diagnosed with autism, who have a really strong disability that makes it difficult for them to accomplish day-to-day tasks and bond with peers and get along in school. And those folks I have a lot of empathy for because I think that's tough. And then there are adults who have realized that they are autistic and has told them really true things about themselves that help them understand themselves. Better. And those two camps sometimes don't see eye to eye because the experience is very different.

Chris Byers: Your own self-discovery, I think, is important. If there are other people out there who have an opportunity for that self-discovery, I think talking through that is great. I do think self-awareness in lots of ways is what I think drives our ability to make smarter decisions. And so I think again, appreciate you sharing. Maybe let's step back a little bit to kind of your history before woven. As you talked about, you've spent a long time building engineering teams. What would you say your biggest challenge was and you probably referred to one of them in terms of hiring. But what else comes to mind?

Wes Winham Winler: I think most crafts where as an individual, there is just so much to learn about how to be better at that craft. The transition to leadership is very challenging because the things that make you confident at that craft the pattern recognition, the ability to focus for amount of time and perform, whether that's performing on a call with a customer or performing for an hour with your editor and solving a hard problem. Those things are actually not good. As a leader. So you have this tendency to Oh, I see this problem. I know how to solve it. I'm going to go get on that call or I'm going to go dove into the code and fix it. And that's actually a thing that makes you a worse leader. So I for a long time, I was like the chief problem solver rather than an actual leader. An actual leader is focused on helping the team move in the same direction, helping the team improve, helping each individual improve at the things they care about and that are useful. And it's not being the person that's going to jump in and save and solve problems. So it took me quite a while to get over that hurdle. And I think for engineering especially, that's one of the hard challenges is transitioning from the person who does it and gets the immediate reward to the person who teaches it and coaches it and ask questions, and you don't get that immediate reward. It's actually frustrating because you're suppressing this part of yourself that you're so proud of, and it gives you so much joy because of this long term reward of improving a person and making your team better. To be honest, that is still challenging. Today, I have a sticky note on my monitor that says time to problem solve, and that's remind me to give other people time to problem solve before I jump in.

Chris Byers: I think as a leader, you've pointed out something that I struggle with on a very regular basis because it's far too often that I'm like, I could go do this. And the effort to explain or the effort to actually, to your point, the effort to just be patient is probably the hardest thing because I'm like, I can get it done real fast. Let me just go, take care of this. So I think you've hit on an important point there. What are some signals that as you've used technology, as you've thought about this whole idea of really sifting through and getting to the right candidates or some key signals you've found in great candidates that you won't see on a resume?

Wes Winham Winler: I don't want to like totally throw out resumes because there is data there. The typical resume signals are is there a positive trajectory like someone moving up and doing bigger projects? But I'm familiar enough with the research where they give people a bunch of resumes and then they ask people to sort them into piles and just how incredibly depressing that research is. So one of my favorites is they took a similar resume and they gave one person a relevant second degree. So like math plus computer science for a very mathy like Ph.D. level position. And for one of the resumes, they get them that second degree for the other resume, they just made the first word and each bullet point a verb. So Giroux project completion or GRU usage, those sort of things, which tells a better story. Guess which one got more callbacks? The person who got a second relative degree or the person who changed one word as bad as you think is 25 percent more callbacks for that, that verb word and the resume. And I'd like to think I'm immune to this, but I'm probably not like when reading resumes. It's just easier to skim through. So my goal usually and I don't always do this because sometimes you just have to get resumes and keep going. But my goal is to not look at resumes until I've evaluated the screener because I can usually think of two to three questions someone can answer in a tweet. They're going to tell me much more about the relevant experience than the resume. That's my goal is to not read a resume until I'm talking to someone because you can see how they talk about their problem, how they communicate, what they've done, what they think is important. So, yeah, I try not to read resumes.

Chris Byers: You've talked about autism and this kind of learning that you went through. How do you think that's impacted you as a leader?

Wes Winham Winler: One thing that I think is a benefit is because I have really strong weaknesses that I'm aware of. I'm able to compensate for those by building deliberate practices. So I have a company where it's a little bit easier to orient yourself because more things are written down where things are explicit, which I think is good for a company. It means sometimes you go slower rather than going faster. I also am a little bit more aware that some people are different, which I think we all need to be reminded of constantly because it is so easy to just assume everyone has the exact same as you. I used to think that autism was a deficit in a lot of ways. When my mental model now is closer to, there are defaults that we all have and we pretty much assume that everyone else has the same defaults. And a lot of the problems in the world are when we interact with folks who have different defaults. About one is ask culture versus gas culture. So when you ask someone, is it safe to say no? Or is that ask a very strong commitment? And that's ask culture versus guess culture where you really don't ask anyone anything. You just say, Man, that's a really nice shirt and that person is supposed to read in, and that means they really want. One of the research for their birthday is one example of different defaults. So just being aware that the defaults are different and being constantly reminded that I am different whenever I think of meeting with greats and then I ask someone about it later, and it absolutely didn't, or I think something is very clear and it's not.

Chris Byers: Yeah, I think your point of I was just talking to my wife about this the other day, how I think as leaders that one of the most difficult things is knowing what other people don't know because we all do very much to your point, presume like, Oh, I had this experience, everybody's had this experience. And yet we forget, Oh yeah, we've had 10 20 whatever years of experience that does add up, and sometimes you don't realize how all that impacts your decisions as you've then started to translate that into this knowledge of how maybe you think about things and how we need to think about how other people might not see it quite the same way. How's that translated into leading a company?

Wes Winham Winler: For me, it looks like a company that has just maybe what might be described as highly structured goals, let's say. So we have three cascading goals systems with a company of 14 people. So the idea is everybody knows exactly what they're working on all the time versus relying on talking to your boss and kind of reading the mood to see what is more or less important. So we have quarterly V Times, which is a horrible acronym, but Salesforce invented it, and I think it's pretty good. It's a mix of planning a goal setting system. Then we have monthly OK hours, which are you break that quarterly goal into a few objectives, which are great motivating sounding things we would like to do and a few key results, which are how do we know we've made progress towards that great sounding objectives? And then also weekly commitments. So every week on Friday, we get together and we help each other think of what is the one or two things that are very much in our control that we can do next week that is going to make progress towards those monthly goals, which rolls up to that quarterly goals. I think that means people at least know what they need to be doing. It means you don't have to ask what the next piece of work is. But I think that's a style and my guess is some people would be very not in favor of that much explicit work and structure. But for me, that's how I know I'm doing the right thing, that I'm staying on task and how I get feedback about what we should be doing versus what a startup. Startups don't die from starvation. They die from indigestion. There are so many good ideas, there are so many things we could be doing that are actually are good ideas. The arts and science is choosing. What are the things we say no to so we can be really good at the things that are more important?

Chris Byers: It's great. I do think you've touched on a handful of things that as a remote organization are really important, and I definitely talk about a lot. And then you talk about written communication. I actually think that's extremely valuable and in a remote world because it just gives people time to digest time to read it in their own way. There's just all these unsaid things in a remote world, and this just helps you communicate those things. Whereas if you're all sitting in the office together, you do get a little bit of that osmosis of talking to the person next to you or you overhear things. And so I think you have to be much more explicit in a remote culture, and it sounds like you guys have really thought about that.

Wes Winham Winler: Yeah, I think even in that she's talked about the osmosis, I have the experience of being in those rooms and not picking up on the osmosis, actually, and maybe everyone else did, because I'm mostly not paying attention to it. So I think I overcompensated for my my deficiency by going process first, which is great in a remote world because we're all on the same page. I've talked to some other autistic folks who talk about how remote is can be so frustrating for normal folks. For autistic folks, which is autistic, is the inverse of autistic. If you ever hear that word on the internet now, you know is we're all in the same autistic box. We've got a Zoom call with restricted interaction. We've got a chat box. So we're all like a little bit autistic as a result of work in the remote world. So some of the things that make things inclusive for neurodiverse folks also make it better for everyone. And that's about writing. That's about having explicit time for chit chat, which sounds like a crazy thing, but making sure people have time to do those little human interactions and write things down.

Chris Byers: I was actually reading a book recently called The Culture Map by author Aaron Meyer, and what's interesting is I was fascinated because she's actually talking about country cultures and goes through a lot of different assessments. But it's all about communication styles and how we perceive authority and whether we're high context and low context. It's like, Man, this is actually it would be really valuable in a company because even if we're all from the same country or the same city, we all have different methods of communication and how much information we're going to give you and not give you. And I think that you've honed in on that as an important point. If you can illustrate that to people, you can really speed up getting on the same page

Wes Winham Winler: as a great book. I learned it was surprising to me how positive American culture is and how as far as feedback, like directness of feedback that most European cultures are much more likely to tell you what is wrong and that be OK like French culture is here is all the things that are wrong with you. OK, have a good day. Whereas someone did that to me, I'd be like, Oh my gosh, this person hates me because that's the cultural norm in America. We have the the crap sandwich idea where you say something good, you say something and you say something good is a common crutch. And the different cultures vary a lot, like in Russia that would be seen as way more disingenuous than it this year. It's really interesting how different groups of people have settled on norms that totally work for them as long as everyone agrees. But as soon as you have people with different norms, everyone thinks people are rude or they don't get the message.

Chris Byers: Each conversation we have on the show ends up highlighting innovative ideas and fresh perspectives. West is focused on helping companies hire hidden gems, asking people to go beyond resumé and accolades. What's if you could give advice to our listeners? How would you encourage people to go beyond traditional means for finding talent?

Wes Winham Winler: My number one advice is is when you are accepting applications is to write a form that asks simple questions about things that you really want to know about someone that that simple act forces you to think about what you actually care about because you only get two or three questions. And I think you'll find people who are great that you would have overlooked on the resume. And those are the folks that are going to be most loyal. They're going to have the steepest learning curve. They're getting overlooked in the market. So it's great for them, and it's also great for us

Chris Byers: as we wrap up the conversation of get the handful of final questions, the first one. How would you suggest listeners think about talent differently than they do today?

Wes Winham Winler: One of the easiest things to do when we're thinking about talent is to recognize people who have the exact same strengths as we do. So it's much easier to recognize someone who was good at the things we're good at because we pay attention to them, and that's why we're good at them. One of the hardest things to do as a leader is to hire people who are bad at things you care about, but are good at things that are different from you, and then to manage someone who is a different shape than you. So that's one of the things I personally struggle with and think about a lot is how do I build a team who is not just flawed in? The same ways in great in the same way, because that doesn't build an organization that is effective overall.

Chris Byers: And what do you think people listening can do to create a positive impact for other people?

Wes Winham Winler: One of the things I took away from my first boss at the pleasure working with is the idea that thinks is free. It's cheap. It is so easy to think someone, but it is so easy to forget to do. I can remember times where I got thanked from peers that really lodged my memory. But it is absolutely free to thank someone. So I have tried to cultivate a habit of thanking people for things that I appreciate, even if it's part of their job and to be specific in that things. So it's not. I appreciate your help. I appreciate the way you proactively reached out to tell me this was going to be a little bit late. That's exactly the type of person I would work with. So just a few slack messages like that a week can really build a lot of goodwill in the company. It makes people happier, makes people appreciate it, and it feels good to say thank you.

Chris Byers: Are there any ways you're looking to create impact in the future?

Wes Winham Winler: Right now, a job is one of the most important predictors of mental health of stability. Jobs come with health insurance, but the act of changing job of training for a new job is the same as it was 200 years ago. We have a a world that's moving faster and jobs are turning over more and more quickly, and skills are turning over more and more quickly. But nothing else has evolved to help people train faster or find those jobs more quickly. My goal for an impact is to fix that problem, to make it easier to change jobs, to find a new team, to make it easier to bring new folks on your team. That will be successful because one of the reasons right now we are out of a recession. But the number of unemployed people is just steadily decreasing at a very slow rate because we have not gotten any better at matching people to jobs. And that's the problem, I think. I could focus on for the next 50 years of my life.

Chris Byers: In recent episodes, guests have brought up the way that they view or have experienced failure. How do you view failure?

Wes Winham Winler: I think we all have an understanding of how failure teaches us things. I think of another way to look at failure is as a habit we need to get into. So I have a weekly five 15, which is it takes me 15 minutes. Write five minutes, read. It's a way of keeping up to date with my management team, and one of my items is what have I tried and failed at this week? And I don't view it as a success if I don't have something to put, their failure is a habit. That means that we are trying something new, and I worry that if I ever get out of the habit of trying things and failing them, that I'm going to stop growing. So I think failure is a learning tool, but it also can be a habit to make sure that we're actually trying things new and growing.

Chris Byers: To learn more about how people are reimagining their world of work. Head over to practicallygenius.com. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Ripple Effect.

Chris Byers: Wes Winham has built a business helping hidden gem engineers get hired. What are hidden gems? We'll hear from us on that later. As CEO of Woven, he's developed the technical assessment platform that enables companies to evaluate potential talent without relying on resumes, and often that talent has been overlooked. Getting caught. An applicant tracking software, overloaded inboxes and, more importantly, unrecognized bias. His passion for giving the underdog a leg up is evident through the success of his company winning accolades such as the 2020 Indiana Startup of the Year. What's behind his drive to give those who may not stand out a shot? Let's find out. I am Chris Byers, a form sac, and this is ripple effect, a show celebrating the positive impact your decisions create. West, welcome to the show.

Wes Winham Winler: It's great to be here, Chris.

Chris Byers: Anything I missed in that intro,

Wes Winham Winler: I think you nailed it. That was much better than my version.

Chris Byers: Sounds good. How did you get to this realization of wanting to help hidden gems be found?

Wes Winham Winler: Well, for me, it was mostly by screwing up a little bit, as is tradition. I was the only engineer, so thus head of engineering at a startup and happens to a lot of people. You become a manager one day and realize you have to hire because nobody else is going to do it. And for me, I hired three people in pretty quick succession, and they were all awesome. I was feeling really good about myself. I had built this process I read, thinking fast and slow. I had these behavioral interview questions. I was feeling really good about myself. I could look in someone's eyes and spot talent, or so I thought. And then I hired my fourth person and it did not work out. So maybe I did not have this magic ability. And on a small team, miss hires. Really, they hurt customers. But for me, I hired someone who was a good person who was trying really hard and I put him in a position where he was not going to be successful because my hiring process wasn't good enough. So that was really the the impetus to figure out how to be better at hiring so I could never go through that pain again. I went and read all the psychology literature I could. What does science say about predictive hiring? What, what are the nerds doing? And then I went and interviewed a bunch of grizzled engineering managers who had been through this over and over. And what are y'all actually doing to avoid this pain? And the overlap was, if you're going to hire dancers, you should probably watch them dance, which like, Yeah, yeah, that does make sense. Not what I was doing. Built something that's like a little project you might hurt him. Called a take home project homework project where you're actually doing a little bit of the job and that fix my mess. Hiring a problem. I hired another 20 engineers. That's that way and had nothing but success. And it's fast forward to 2014. So we're an Indianapolis based company at the time, and I decided to go remote with my hiring. So with engineer hiring, I was getting 10 candidates a month. So it was pretty easy. Then I go remote. I'm open to anyone in the world and I get 100 per week. Very different. So then I'm struggling. It's a Friday. I've got a ton of resumes, a man box. And to be honest, I don't like reading resumes. They feel like B.S.. I just don't like them. So mostly out of laziness and kind of bias, I decided to send everybody who applied that week my project mass email and moving on. And then I get results back the next week, and most of them are not very good. Resumes do predict some things, but one of them was amazing. It was like exactly what I was looking for. So not just good code, but it was clean code and documentation and all the like. The little details that make for a great engineer, and I'm stoked because this is a mid-level engineer, three to five years of experience, someone that really gets it. And I go back and look at this candidate's resume, and he has zero years of experience. That was just shocking that the best candidate and my candidate pool with someone that if I would have read his resume first, I absolutely would have rejected this candidate. That was the light bulb moment for me, that there are hidden gems out there and that kind of kicked off this mission of how can we build something to find him?

Chris Byers: That's great. I think what's interesting is I think actually in engineering, it's a little bit more common to use a project to help guide a conversation. But we've actually found some really good success over the years, really doing that in every job. So hire a CFO, come up with a project for them. And that is, of course, after we've gotten through resume, et cetera. And I think that's an important point you're trying to make. But I do think that getting people's real life work in your hands can make such a huge difference in getting to know them. Let me back up a little bit and define for us what a hidden gem is.

Wes Winham Winler: I like to think of a hidden gem as someone that you would have overlooked if you just went on service criteria. So you just went on the resume that are just on the application phase, but this person is a great fit for the role. So that's a hidden gem. They come in a lot of flavors. They depend on the type of hiring process you look for. One of the things about hidden gems in most roles is recruiting has a really hard job. They have to use mostly resumes and a short conversation about a role that they're not really an expert in to decide who do they want to send on to the hiring manager who is typically very busy? That's why they're hiring, and that doesn't so much like to talk to people that really aren't fitting their criteria. So one of the things that happens is recruiters tend to over time get biased towards tightening their criteria rather than loosening it because they get that negative feedback from the hiring manager. But they don't get as quick positive feedback when they do send someone on the borderline that works out. I went out and talked to a bunch of recruiters when I started the company, and I found out that the most common criteria when I asked them of what gets them to move someone to the next stage is enthusiasm, which on the surface seems very reasonable. But there are some people who show enthusiasm very different. For example, folks on the autism spectrum. Room tend to have a lower dynamic range when it comes to talking and what they're interested in. We have recruiters who are trying to do their best, who are mostly cuing on things that are seem pretty reasonable like enthusiasm. If someone's more enthusiastic about your company, that's probably going to be a better hire. I think that's a reasonable assumption. But the result is people who might be great at the job when you get to know them, when they actually do the job. There's a bias against moving those folks forward, and that might be a hidden gem. Some that actually gets to the recruiter call but can't show well enough in that rapport building phase. So get screened out before they talk to a hiring manager.

Chris Byers: It sounds like you've used technology to really try to solve this problem. Can you share some examples of maybe some people who would have been overlooked but weren't because of that technology?

Wes Winham Winler: So we had a customer that was hiring a DevOps engineer. So DevOps is it's a really fast growing field. It's really hard to find people because it's new. So they were having lots of trouble, not a lot of candidates. And at the same time, this gentleman mark was laid off from his previous role. So they downsized the whole test automation department and he's on the job market and he'd been there for months. Really have a hard time because test automation is not an in-demand title like DevOps is an in-demand title. So he's applying to these DevOps roles because he thinks he has the skills and he's not hearing back. He applies to our customer who looks at his resume and is probably not. But because they have a way to assess candidates beyond the resume sends them to us. Mark shows his skills and scores in the top five percent. We're like, Hey, you should talk to Mark here. They do they. He does well in the interview. They love him. He goes on site, he does well, and I get a text message the third day that he's already automating parts of the infrastructure. This is great. Come to find out. In the last year, Mark is now the director of that whole department. Is ten people reporting to him for a job that he wouldn't have got to interview for because his resume title didn't quite match up. So it's really all about these people that are making career transitions or their learning curve is a little bit faster than you might expect. And one of the things I've talked to people about doing and I've heard success is really focusing on the application. It's the step that is the easiest in the world to skip. Usually it's Oh, I got to write this job description. Maybe we'll put a little bit of care into that to try to to sell it, but often not even that. But then the application, not a lot of people think about, well, look, we'll get some resumes and we'll look through. The thing about a resume is that's generic. It's about the person and their general guess for what is interesting. You as the hiring manager, you know a lot more about what's interesting to you. So let's say you're hiring for a sales role. You want people who have done sales before, but one of the really important parts for hiring sales is the previous contract value. So sales at one hundred thousand a deal looks at the same kind of doesn't matter what you're selling. The motion is similar versus sales at $5000. A deal looks very different. It's very fast, it's very transactional, and the people that are great at one type of sale are not necessarily great at the other. A resume is very unlikely to have their average contract value, even though that might be the most important predictor of who's going to be successful. So we have a history, and I know people with history of hiring salespeople who don't have tech experience but do have business experience in non-tech at similar contract values. And because they put that in their screener, they can talk to people who are getting rejected from all these tech roles they're applying to because they don't have that tech background, but they do have the fundamental skills, and all of this is adding one line to your application.

Chris Byers: As with everything, when we adopt software, we have this tendency to say, Oh, it's going to fix all my problems. What are the things we all just still need to learn? Yep, let's go adopt woven. But oh, but hey, you need to think about this, and I think you're talking about a little bit of it in how you write job descriptions. But what are some just fundamentals we all need to learn about, I guess, being more open and more inclusive in the way that we hire.

Wes Winham Winler: Hiring is just it's just fundamentally hard. It's one of those irreducible, hard things that all we can do is get a little bit less bad at it. But the good news is there's so much upside. There are very few business leaders that don't believe that the people are what make their business or their team successful. It's almost a truism at this point. But rather than throwing our hands up about hiring, they're like little steps we can take to be a little bit better. I think the number one step would be instead of starting with a job post, which is almost a sales document, or it should be a sales and marketing document starting with the profile of the person you're going to hire. So usually even people that do this, they're typically talking about what their background experience is, what type of companies they've been at, which is a good place to start and get the brain flowing. But eventually, you want to abstract from these AKA. What are the capabilities, what are the things this person needs to be able to do and get that down to three to five plus maybe three to five attributes which are a little bit less changeable and starting from there? Then you ask yourself, How can I learn about these things? How can I gather data? And there's pretty standard tools. Some are the behavioral interview where you ask, Tell me about a time question. Some of them might be hypothetical questions like, How would you do X? Another example is work samples like the projects that you get to your CFO. The alternative is we just get stuck on that first profile and someone's applying to us, but they didn't work at the right company, so they don't fit the profile. So we reject them versus going capabilities first. Now I've got this set of tools in my tool belt to learn about these underlying capabilities. And I had a little bit of my screener. I have a little bit and that I can hand off to my a recruiter who's going to ask some questions early on and we can start gathering data and we're a little bit more open to profiles that are kind of weird. And in a competitive hiring market, we have to be open to weird profiles or we're going to be hiring for a long time. And that's how we can just be a little bit better as being more capabilities first. How do we get evidence about those second?

Chris Byers: So you're talking about this idea of really giving people a chance or a shot that maybe they didn't get? I'm curious, do you have your own personal story of how maybe somebody in your past gave you a shot or a chance that you might not otherwise have gotten

Wes Winham Winler: as a fourth grader? I finished the last three weeks homeschooled because my fourth grade teacher couldn't handle me, thought I was a very typical child. I have only a vague memory of this and just being very confused. What I found out is that was my tendency to, let's say, point out whenever my teacher maybe said something that was incorrect or maybe undersold, something that I thought was really interesting.

Chris Byers: It's a very respectful way to say it, by the way.

Wes Winham Winler: Yeah, I now realize I was that jerky little fourth grader that was correcting their teacher and driving her crazy. I didn't perceive it at the time. I loved learning about things. I love learning new things for myself, so I just assumed everybody loved that and didn't notice the whole social piece that being corrected is a status thing. We don't like to be corrected. So that is an example of a lot of things in my life that I just took a long time to get. And I, mostly through the patience of people around me, was able to keep moving on to keep going to the next stage of my life in college. And I had great parents who were really supportive. But a lot of people don't have that, and I didn't really realize how lucky I was. I thought that's how everyone was. I read a book in 2011 called The Time Is Called Age of the Info War. It was about this random technology topic that the world is changing in a way that people who are very attracted to information are benefiting, whereas other people aren't. And one of the sections in the book was about autism, and I knew about autism as this thing that kids had. That was pretty debilitating and that was about it. And I think I knew some friends of friends who had autistic kids and that that was basically all I knew. And I started to learn about it as a different neurological profile that actually has some benefits and lots of costs. And I was new to me, and as I was reading through the list of differences, I was like, Man, this is like a page out of my biography, and I felt like every section I was just blowing my mind like, Oh yeah, if you correct people, they're going to be mad at you. So I'm suspecting that autism, I learn about autism, learned that it's different. And at one point, while doing research for that, i o psychology work around hiring. I start to get too familiar with the terms and the papers, and I have access to the journals and I just some thumbing through. I see a paper on an instrument for diagnosing autism. I'm like, Oh, I know how to read this. I know how to actually translate this instrument into something I could do and score myself. So I take it, and I am either in the top 99 and a half percent of most autistic non-autistic folks, according to scale, or even like the 60th percentile of autistic people. I thought I would be in that direction, but I didn't realize it would be that overwhelming. And then I filed, by the way, and just thought about it and started to see people on Twitter talking about autism. And it was it's this fight because there's two camps. I'm not an expert in autism, by the way. I'm just I'm just very interested in it. And I am autistic myself, and we could talk a little bit about self-diagnosis for autism, if that would be interesting. But there are two camps here, and one camp is mostly parents of kids who have been diagnosed with autism, who have a really strong disability that makes it difficult for them to accomplish day-to-day tasks and bond with peers and get along in school. And those folks I have a lot of empathy for because I think that's tough. And then there are adults who have realized that they are autistic and has told them really true things about themselves that help them understand themselves. Better. And those two camps sometimes don't see eye to eye because the experience is very different.

Chris Byers: Your own self-discovery, I think, is important. If there are other people out there who have an opportunity for that self-discovery, I think talking through that is great. I do think self-awareness in lots of ways is what I think drives our ability to make smarter decisions. And so I think again, appreciate you sharing. Maybe let's step back a little bit to kind of your history before woven. As you talked about, you've spent a long time building engineering teams. What would you say your biggest challenge was and you probably referred to one of them in terms of hiring. But what else comes to mind?

Wes Winham Winler: I think most crafts where as an individual, there is just so much to learn about how to be better at that craft. The transition to leadership is very challenging because the things that make you confident at that craft the pattern recognition, the ability to focus for amount of time and perform, whether that's performing on a call with a customer or performing for an hour with your editor and solving a hard problem. Those things are actually not good. As a leader. So you have this tendency to Oh, I see this problem. I know how to solve it. I'm going to go get on that call or I'm going to go dove into the code and fix it. And that's actually a thing that makes you a worse leader. So I for a long time, I was like the chief problem solver rather than an actual leader. An actual leader is focused on helping the team move in the same direction, helping the team improve, helping each individual improve at the things they care about and that are useful. And it's not being the person that's going to jump in and save and solve problems. So it took me quite a while to get over that hurdle. And I think for engineering especially, that's one of the hard challenges is transitioning from the person who does it and gets the immediate reward to the person who teaches it and coaches it and ask questions, and you don't get that immediate reward. It's actually frustrating because you're suppressing this part of yourself that you're so proud of, and it gives you so much joy because of this long term reward of improving a person and making your team better. To be honest, that is still challenging. Today, I have a sticky note on my monitor that says time to problem solve, and that's remind me to give other people time to problem solve before I jump in.

Chris Byers: I think as a leader, you've pointed out something that I struggle with on a very regular basis because it's far too often that I'm like, I could go do this. And the effort to explain or the effort to actually, to your point, the effort to just be patient is probably the hardest thing because I'm like, I can get it done real fast. Let me just go, take care of this. So I think you've hit on an important point there. What are some signals that as you've used technology, as you've thought about this whole idea of really sifting through and getting to the right candidates or some key signals you've found in great candidates that you won't see on a resume?

Wes Winham Winler: I don't want to like totally throw out resumes because there is data there. The typical resume signals are is there a positive trajectory like someone moving up and doing bigger projects? But I'm familiar enough with the research where they give people a bunch of resumes and then they ask people to sort them into piles and just how incredibly depressing that research is. So one of my favorites is they took a similar resume and they gave one person a relevant second degree. So like math plus computer science for a very mathy like Ph.D. level position. And for one of the resumes, they get them that second degree for the other resume, they just made the first word and each bullet point a verb. So Giroux project completion or GRU usage, those sort of things, which tells a better story. Guess which one got more callbacks? The person who got a second relative degree or the person who changed one word as bad as you think is 25 percent more callbacks for that, that verb word and the resume. And I'd like to think I'm immune to this, but I'm probably not like when reading resumes. It's just easier to skim through. So my goal usually and I don't always do this because sometimes you just have to get resumes and keep going. But my goal is to not look at resumes until I've evaluated the screener because I can usually think of two to three questions someone can answer in a tweet. They're going to tell me much more about the relevant experience than the resume. That's my goal is to not read a resume until I'm talking to someone because you can see how they talk about their problem, how they communicate, what they've done, what they think is important. So, yeah, I try not to read resumes.

Chris Byers: You've talked about autism and this kind of learning that you went through. How do you think that's impacted you as a leader?

Wes Winham Winler: One thing that I think is a benefit is because I have really strong weaknesses that I'm aware of. I'm able to compensate for those by building deliberate practices. So I have a company where it's a little bit easier to orient yourself because more things are written down where things are explicit, which I think is good for a company. It means sometimes you go slower rather than going faster. I also am a little bit more aware that some people are different, which I think we all need to be reminded of constantly because it is so easy to just assume everyone has the exact same as you. I used to think that autism was a deficit in a lot of ways. When my mental model now is closer to, there are defaults that we all have and we pretty much assume that everyone else has the same defaults. And a lot of the problems in the world are when we interact with folks who have different defaults. About one is ask culture versus gas culture. So when you ask someone, is it safe to say no? Or is that ask a very strong commitment? And that's ask culture versus guess culture where you really don't ask anyone anything. You just say, Man, that's a really nice shirt and that person is supposed to read in, and that means they really want. One of the research for their birthday is one example of different defaults. So just being aware that the defaults are different and being constantly reminded that I am different whenever I think of meeting with greats and then I ask someone about it later, and it absolutely didn't, or I think something is very clear and it's not.

Chris Byers: Yeah, I think your point of I was just talking to my wife about this the other day, how I think as leaders that one of the most difficult things is knowing what other people don't know because we all do very much to your point, presume like, Oh, I had this experience, everybody's had this experience. And yet we forget, Oh yeah, we've had 10 20 whatever years of experience that does add up, and sometimes you don't realize how all that impacts your decisions as you've then started to translate that into this knowledge of how maybe you think about things and how we need to think about how other people might not see it quite the same way. How's that translated into leading a company?

Wes Winham Winler: For me, it looks like a company that has just maybe what might be described as highly structured goals, let's say. So we have three cascading goals systems with a company of 14 people. So the idea is everybody knows exactly what they're working on all the time versus relying on talking to your boss and kind of reading the mood to see what is more or less important. So we have quarterly V Times, which is a horrible acronym, but Salesforce invented it, and I think it's pretty good. It's a mix of planning a goal setting system. Then we have monthly OK hours, which are you break that quarterly goal into a few objectives, which are great motivating sounding things we would like to do and a few key results, which are how do we know we've made progress towards that great sounding objectives? And then also weekly commitments. So every week on Friday, we get together and we help each other think of what is the one or two things that are very much in our control that we can do next week that is going to make progress towards those monthly goals, which rolls up to that quarterly goals. I think that means people at least know what they need to be doing. It means you don't have to ask what the next piece of work is. But I think that's a style and my guess is some people would be very not in favor of that much explicit work and structure. But for me, that's how I know I'm doing the right thing, that I'm staying on task and how I get feedback about what we should be doing versus what a startup. Startups don't die from starvation. They die from indigestion. There are so many good ideas, there are so many things we could be doing that are actually are good ideas. The arts and science is choosing. What are the things we say no to so we can be really good at the things that are more important?

Chris Byers: It's great. I do think you've touched on a handful of things that as a remote organization are really important, and I definitely talk about a lot. And then you talk about written communication. I actually think that's extremely valuable and in a remote world because it just gives people time to digest time to read it in their own way. There's just all these unsaid things in a remote world, and this just helps you communicate those things. Whereas if you're all sitting in the office together, you do get a little bit of that osmosis of talking to the person next to you or you overhear things. And so I think you have to be much more explicit in a remote culture, and it sounds like you guys have really thought about that.

Wes Winham Winler: Yeah, I think even in that she's talked about the osmosis, I have the experience of being in those rooms and not picking up on the osmosis, actually, and maybe everyone else did, because I'm mostly not paying attention to it. So I think I overcompensated for my my deficiency by going process first, which is great in a remote world because we're all on the same page. I've talked to some other autistic folks who talk about how remote is can be so frustrating for normal folks. For autistic folks, which is autistic, is the inverse of autistic. If you ever hear that word on the internet now, you know is we're all in the same autistic box. We've got a Zoom call with restricted interaction. We've got a chat box. So we're all like a little bit autistic as a result of work in the remote world. So some of the things that make things inclusive for neurodiverse folks also make it better for everyone. And that's about writing. That's about having explicit time for chit chat, which sounds like a crazy thing, but making sure people have time to do those little human interactions and write things down.

Chris Byers: I was actually reading a book recently called The Culture Map by author Aaron Meyer, and what's interesting is I was fascinated because she's actually talking about country cultures and goes through a lot of different assessments. But it's all about communication styles and how we perceive authority and whether we're high context and low context. It's like, Man, this is actually it would be really valuable in a company because even if we're all from the same country or the same city, we all have different methods of communication and how much information we're going to give you and not give you. And I think that you've honed in on that as an important point. If you can illustrate that to people, you can really speed up getting on the same page

Wes Winham Winler: as a great book. I learned it was surprising to me how positive American culture is and how as far as feedback, like directness of feedback that most European cultures are much more likely to tell you what is wrong and that be OK like French culture is here is all the things that are wrong with you. OK, have a good day. Whereas someone did that to me, I'd be like, Oh my gosh, this person hates me because that's the cultural norm in America. We have the the crap sandwich idea where you say something good, you say something and you say something good is a common crutch. And the different cultures vary a lot, like in Russia that would be seen as way more disingenuous than it this year. It's really interesting how different groups of people have settled on norms that totally work for them as long as everyone agrees. But as soon as you have people with different norms, everyone thinks people are rude or they don't get the message.

Chris Byers: Each conversation we have on the show ends up highlighting innovative ideas and fresh perspectives. West is focused on helping companies hire hidden gems, asking people to go beyond resumé and accolades. What's if you could give advice to our listeners? How would you encourage people to go beyond traditional means for finding talent?

Wes Winham Winler: My number one advice is is when you are accepting applications is to write a form that asks simple questions about things that you really want to know about someone that that simple act forces you to think about what you actually care about because you only get two or three questions. And I think you'll find people who are great that you would have overlooked on the resume. And those are the folks that are going to be most loyal. They're going to have the steepest learning curve. They're getting overlooked in the market. So it's great for them, and it's also great for us

Chris Byers: as we wrap up the conversation of get the handful of final questions, the first one. How would you suggest listeners think about talent differently than they do today?

Wes Winham Winler: One of the easiest things to do when we're thinking about talent is to recognize people who have the exact same strengths as we do. So it's much easier to recognize someone who was good at the things we're good at because we pay attention to them, and that's why we're good at them. One of the hardest things to do as a leader is to hire people who are bad at things you care about, but are good at things that are different from you, and then to manage someone who is a different shape than you. So that's one of the things I personally struggle with and think about a lot is how do I build a team who is not just flawed in? The same ways in great in the same way, because that doesn't build an organization that is effective overall.

Chris Byers: And what do you think people listening can do to create a positive impact for other people?

Wes Winham Winler: One of the things I took away from my first boss at the pleasure working with is the idea that thinks is free. It's cheap. It is so easy to think someone, but it is so easy to forget to do. I can remember times where I got thanked from peers that really lodged my memory. But it is absolutely free to thank someone. So I have tried to cultivate a habit of thanking people for things that I appreciate, even if it's part of their job and to be specific in that things. So it's not. I appreciate your help. I appreciate the way you proactively reached out to tell me this was going to be a little bit late. That's exactly the type of person I would work with. So just a few slack messages like that a week can really build a lot of goodwill in the company. It makes people happier, makes people appreciate it, and it feels good to say thank you.

Chris Byers: Are there any ways you're looking to create impact in the future?

Wes Winham Winler: Right now, a job is one of the most important predictors of mental health of stability. Jobs come with health insurance, but the act of changing job of training for a new job is the same as it was 200 years ago. We have a a world that's moving faster and jobs are turning over more and more quickly, and skills are turning over more and more quickly. But nothing else has evolved to help people train faster or find those jobs more quickly. My goal for an impact is to fix that problem, to make it easier to change jobs, to find a new team, to make it easier to bring new folks on your team. That will be successful because one of the reasons right now we are out of a recession. But the number of unemployed people is just steadily decreasing at a very slow rate because we have not gotten any better at matching people to jobs. And that's the problem, I think. I could focus on for the next 50 years of my life.

Chris Byers: In recent episodes, guests have brought up the way that they view or have experienced failure. How do you view failure?

Wes Winham Winler: I think we all have an understanding of how failure teaches us things. I think of another way to look at failure is as a habit we need to get into. So I have a weekly five 15, which is it takes me 15 minutes. Write five minutes, read. It's a way of keeping up to date with my management team, and one of my items is what have I tried and failed at this week? And I don't view it as a success if I don't have something to put, their failure is a habit. That means that we are trying something new, and I worry that if I ever get out of the habit of trying things and failing them, that I'm going to stop growing. So I think failure is a learning tool, but it also can be a habit to make sure that we're actually trying things new and growing.

Chris Byers: To learn more about how people are reimagining their world of work. Head over to practicallygenius.com. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Ripple Effect.

Chris Byers: Wes Winham has built a business helping hidden gem engineers get hired. What are hidden gems? We'll hear from us on that later. As CEO of Woven, he's developed the technical assessment platform that enables companies to evaluate potential talent without relying on resumes, and often that talent has been overlooked. Getting caught. An applicant tracking software, overloaded inboxes and, more importantly, unrecognized bias. His passion for giving the underdog a leg up is evident through the success of his company winning accolades such as the 2020 Indiana Startup of the Year. What's behind his drive to give those who may not stand out a shot? Let's find out. I am Chris Byers, a form sac, and this is ripple effect, a show celebrating the positive impact your decisions create. West, welcome to the show.

Wes Winham Winler: It's great to be here, Chris.

Chris Byers: Anything I missed in that intro,

Wes Winham Winler: I think you nailed it. That was much better than my version.

Chris Byers: Sounds good. How did you get to this realization of wanting to help hidden gems be found?

Wes Winham Winler: Well, for me, it was mostly by screwing up a little bit, as is tradition. I was the only engineer, so thus head of engineering at a startup and happens to a lot of people. You become a manager one day and realize you have to hire because nobody else is going to do it. And for me, I hired three people in pretty quick succession, and they were all awesome. I was feeling really good about myself. I had built this process I read, thinking fast and slow. I had these behavioral interview questions. I was feeling really good about myself. I could look in someone's eyes and spot talent, or so I thought. And then I hired my fourth person and it did not work out. So maybe I did not have this magic ability. And on a small team, miss hires. Really, they hurt customers. But for me, I hired someone who was a good person who was trying really hard and I put him in a position where he was not going to be successful because my hiring process wasn't good enough. So that was really the the impetus to figure out how to be better at hiring so I could never go through that pain again. I went and read all the psychology literature I could. What does science say about predictive hiring? What, what are the nerds doing? And then I went and interviewed a bunch of grizzled engineering managers who had been through this over and over. And what are y'all actually doing to avoid this pain? And the overlap was, if you're going to hire dancers, you should probably watch them dance, which like, Yeah, yeah, that does make sense. Not what I was doing. Built something that's like a little project you might hurt him. Called a take home project homework project where you're actually doing a little bit of the job and that fix my mess. Hiring a problem. I hired another 20 engineers. That's that way and had nothing but success. And it's fast forward to 2014. So we're an Indianapolis based company at the time, and I decided to go remote with my hiring. So with engineer hiring, I was getting 10 candidates a month. So it was pretty easy. Then I go remote. I'm open to anyone in the world and I get 100 per week. Very different. So then I'm struggling. It's a Friday. I've got a ton of resumes, a man box. And to be honest, I don't like reading resumes. They feel like B.S.. I just don't like them. So mostly out of laziness and kind of bias, I decided to send everybody who applied that week my project mass email and moving on. And then I get results back the next week, and most of them are not very good. Resumes do predict some things, but one of them was amazing. It was like exactly what I was looking for. So not just good code, but it was clean code and documentation and all the like. The little details that make for a great engineer, and I'm stoked because this is a mid-level engineer, three to five years of experience, someone that really gets it. And I go back and look at this candidate's resume, and he has zero years of experience. That was just shocking that the best candidate and my candidate pool with someone that if I would have read his resume first, I absolutely would have rejected this candidate. That was the light bulb moment for me, that there are hidden gems out there and that kind of kicked off this mission of how can we build something to find him?

Chris Byers: That's great. I think what's interesting is I think actually in engineering, it's a little bit more common to use a project to help guide a conversation. But we've actually found some really good success over the years, really doing that in every job. So hire a CFO, come up with a project for them. And that is, of course, after we've gotten through resume, et cetera. And I think that's an important point you're trying to make. But I do think that getting people's real life work in your hands can make such a huge difference in getting to know them. Let me back up a little bit and define for us what a hidden gem is.

Wes Winham Winler: I like to think of a hidden gem as someone that you would have overlooked if you just went on service criteria. So you just went on the resume that are just on the application phase, but this person is a great fit for the role. So that's a hidden gem. They come in a lot of flavors. They depend on the type of hiring process you look for. One of the things about hidden gems in most roles is recruiting has a really hard job. They have to use mostly resumes and a short conversation about a role that they're not really an expert in to decide who do they want to send on to the hiring manager who is typically very busy? That's why they're hiring, and that doesn't so much like to talk to people that really aren't fitting their criteria. So one of the things that happens is recruiters tend to over time get biased towards tightening their criteria rather than loosening it because they get that negative feedback from the hiring manager. But they don't get as quick positive feedback when they do send someone on the borderline that works out. I went out and talked to a bunch of recruiters when I started the company, and I found out that the most common criteria when I asked them of what gets them to move someone to the next stage is enthusiasm, which on the surface seems very reasonable. But there are some people who show enthusiasm very different. For example, folks on the autism spectrum. Room tend to have a lower dynamic range when it comes to talking and what they're interested in. We have recruiters who are trying to do their best, who are mostly cuing on things that are seem pretty reasonable like enthusiasm. If someone's more enthusiastic about your company, that's probably going to be a better hire. I think that's a reasonable assumption. But the result is people who might be great at the job when you get to know them, when they actually do the job. There's a bias against moving those folks forward, and that might be a hidden gem. Some that actually gets to the recruiter call but can't show well enough in that rapport building phase. So get screened out before they talk to a hiring manager.

Chris Byers: It sounds like you've used technology to really try to solve this problem. Can you share some examples of maybe some people who would have been overlooked but weren't because of that technology?

Wes Winham Winler: So we had a customer that was hiring a DevOps engineer. So DevOps is it's a really fast growing field. It's really hard to find people because it's new. So they were having lots of trouble, not a lot of candidates. And at the same time, this gentleman mark was laid off from his previous role. So they downsized the whole test automation department and he's on the job market and he'd been there for months. Really have a hard time because test automation is not an in-demand title like DevOps is an in-demand title. So he's applying to these DevOps roles because he thinks he has the skills and he's not hearing back. He applies to our customer who looks at his resume and is probably not. But because they have a way to assess candidates beyond the resume sends them to us. Mark shows his skills and scores in the top five percent. We're like, Hey, you should talk to Mark here. They do they. He does well in the interview. They love him. He goes on site, he does well, and I get a text message the third day that he's already automating parts of the infrastructure. This is great. Come to find out. In the last year, Mark is now the director of that whole department. Is ten people reporting to him for a job that he wouldn't have got to interview for because his resume title didn't quite match up. So it's really all about these people that are making career transitions or their learning curve is a little bit faster than you might expect. And one of the things I've talked to people about doing and I've heard success is really focusing on the application. It's the step that is the easiest in the world to skip. Usually it's Oh, I got to write this job description. Maybe we'll put a little bit of care into that to try to to sell it, but often not even that. But then the application, not a lot of people think about, well, look, we'll get some resumes and we'll look through. The thing about a resume is that's generic. It's about the person and their general guess for what is interesting. You as the hiring manager, you know a lot more about what's interesting to you. So let's say you're hiring for a sales role. You want people who have done sales before, but one of the really important parts for hiring sales is the previous contract value. So sales at one hundred thousand a deal looks at the same kind of doesn't matter what you're selling. The motion is similar versus sales at $5000. A deal looks very different. It's very fast, it's very transactional, and the people that are great at one type of sale are not necessarily great at the other. A resume is very unlikely to have their average contract value, even though that might be the most important predictor of who's going to be successful. So we have a history, and I know people with history of hiring salespeople who don't have tech experience but do have business experience in non-tech at similar contract values. And because they put that in their screener, they can talk to people who are getting rejected from all these tech roles they're applying to because they don't have that tech background, but they do have the fundamental skills, and all of this is adding one line to your application.

Chris Byers: As with everything, when we adopt software, we have this tendency to say, Oh, it's going to fix all my problems. What are the things we all just still need to learn? Yep, let's go adopt woven. But oh, but hey, you need to think about this, and I think you're talking about a little bit of it in how you write job descriptions. But what are some just fundamentals we all need to learn about, I guess, being more open and more inclusive in the way that we hire.

Wes Winham Winler: Hiring is just it's just fundamentally hard. It's one of those irreducible, hard things that all we can do is get a little bit less bad at it. But the good news is there's so much upside. There are very few business leaders that don't believe that the people are what make their business or their team successful. It's almost a truism at this point. But rather than throwing our hands up about hiring, they're like little steps we can take to be a little bit better. I think the number one step would be instead of starting with a job post, which is almost a sales document, or it should be a sales and marketing document starting with the profile of the person you're going to hire. So usually even people that do this, they're typically talking about what their background experience is, what type of companies they've been at, which is a good place to start and get the brain flowing. But eventually, you want to abstract from these AKA. What are the capabilities, what are the things this person needs to be able to do and get that down to three to five plus maybe three to five attributes which are a little bit less changeable and starting from there? Then you ask yourself, How can I learn about these things? How can I gather data? And there's pretty standard tools. Some are the behavioral interview where you ask, Tell me about a time question. Some of them might be hypothetical questions like, How would you do X? Another example is work samples like the projects that you get to your CFO. The alternative is we just get stuck on that first profile and someone's applying to us, but they didn't work at the right company, so they don't fit the profile. So we reject them versus going capabilities first. Now I've got this set of tools in my tool belt to learn about these underlying capabilities. And I had a little bit of my screener. I have a little bit and that I can hand off to my a recruiter who's going to ask some questions early on and we can start gathering data and we're a little bit more open to profiles that are kind of weird. And in a competitive hiring market, we have to be open to weird profiles or we're going to be hiring for a long time. And that's how we can just be a little bit better as being more capabilities first. How do we get evidence about those second?

Chris Byers: So you're talking about this idea of really giving people a chance or a shot that maybe they didn't get? I'm curious, do you have your own personal story of how maybe somebody in your past gave you a shot or a chance that you might not otherwise have gotten

Wes Winham Winler: as a fourth grader? I finished the last three weeks homeschooled because my fourth grade teacher couldn't handle me, thought I was a very typical child. I have only a vague memory of this and just being very confused. What I found out is that was my tendency to, let's say, point out whenever my teacher maybe said something that was incorrect or maybe undersold, something that I thought was really interesting.

Chris Byers: It's a very respectful way to say it, by the way.

Wes Winham Winler: Yeah, I now realize I was that jerky little fourth grader that was correcting their teacher and driving her crazy. I didn't perceive it at the time. I loved learning about things. I love learning new things for myself, so I just assumed everybody loved that and didn't notice the whole social piece that being corrected is a status thing. We don't like to be corrected. So that is an example of a lot of things in my life that I just took a long time to get. And I, mostly through the patience of people around me, was able to keep moving on to keep going to the next stage of my life in college. And I had great parents who were really supportive. But a lot of people don't have that, and I didn't really realize how lucky I was. I thought that's how everyone was. I read a book in 2011 called The Time Is Called Age of the Info War. It was about this random technology topic that the world is changing in a way that people who are very attracted to information are benefiting, whereas other people aren't. And one of the sections in the book was about autism, and I knew about autism as this thing that kids had. That was pretty debilitating and that was about it. And I think I knew some friends of friends who had autistic kids and that that was basically all I knew. And I started to learn about it as a different neurological profile that actually has some benefits and lots of costs. And I was new to me, and as I was reading through the list of differences, I was like, Man, this is like a page out of my biography, and I felt like every section I was just blowing my mind like, Oh yeah, if you correct people, they're going to be mad at you. So I'm suspecting that autism, I learn about autism, learned that it's different. And at one point, while doing research for that, i o psychology work around hiring. I start to get too familiar with the terms and the papers, and I have access to the journals and I just some thumbing through. I see a paper on an instrument for diagnosing autism. I'm like, Oh, I know how to read this. I know how to actually translate this instrument into something I could do and score myself. So I take it, and I am either in the top 99 and a half percent of most autistic non-autistic folks, according to scale, or even like the 60th percentile of autistic people. I thought I would be in that direction, but I didn't realize it would be that overwhelming. And then I filed, by the way, and just thought about it and started to see people on Twitter talking about autism. And it was it's this fight because there's two camps. I'm not an expert in autism, by the way. I'm just I'm just very interested in it. And I am autistic myself, and we could talk a little bit about self-diagnosis for autism, if that would be interesting. But there are two camps here, and one camp is mostly parents of kids who have been diagnosed with autism, who have a really strong disability that makes it difficult for them to accomplish day-to-day tasks and bond with peers and get along in school. And those folks I have a lot of empathy for because I think that's tough. And then there are adults who have realized that they are autistic and has told them really true things about themselves that help them understand themselves. Better. And those two camps sometimes don't see eye to eye because the experience is very different.

Chris Byers: Your own self-discovery, I think, is important. If there are other people out there who have an opportunity for that self-discovery, I think talking through that is great. I do think self-awareness in lots of ways is what I think drives our ability to make smarter decisions. And so I think again, appreciate you sharing. Maybe let's step back a little bit to kind of your history before woven. As you talked about, you've spent a long time building engineering teams. What would you say your biggest challenge was and you probably referred to one of them in terms of hiring. But what else comes to mind?

Wes Winham Winler: I think most crafts where as an individual, there is just so much to learn about how to be better at that craft. The transition to leadership is very challenging because the things that make you confident at that craft the pattern recognition, the ability to focus for amount of time and perform, whether that's performing on a call with a customer or performing for an hour with your editor and solving a hard problem. Those things are actually not good. As a leader. So you have this tendency to Oh, I see this problem. I know how to solve it. I'm going to go get on that call or I'm going to go dove into the code and fix it. And that's actually a thing that makes you a worse leader. So I for a long time, I was like the chief problem solver rather than an actual leader. An actual leader is focused on helping the team move in the same direction, helping the team improve, helping each individual improve at the things they care about and that are useful. And it's not being the person that's going to jump in and save and solve problems. So it took me quite a while to get over that hurdle. And I think for engineering especially, that's one of the hard challenges is transitioning from the person who does it and gets the immediate reward to the person who teaches it and coaches it and ask questions, and you don't get that immediate reward. It's actually frustrating because you're suppressing this part of yourself that you're so proud of, and it gives you so much joy because of this long term reward of improving a person and making your team better. To be honest, that is still challenging. Today, I have a sticky note on my monitor that says time to problem solve, and that's remind me to give other people time to problem solve before I jump in.

Chris Byers: I think as a leader, you've pointed out something that I struggle with on a very regular basis because it's far too often that I'm like, I could go do this. And the effort to explain or the effort to actually, to your point, the effort to just be patient is probably the hardest thing because I'm like, I can get it done real fast. Let me just go, take care of this. So I think you've hit on an important point there. What are some signals that as you've used technology, as you've thought about this whole idea of really sifting through and getting to the right candidates or some key signals you've found in great candidates that you won't see on a resume?

Wes Winham Winler: I don't want to like totally throw out resumes because there is data there. The typical resume signals are is there a positive trajectory like someone moving up and doing bigger projects? But I'm familiar enough with the research where they give people a bunch of resumes and then they ask people to sort them into piles and just how incredibly depressing that research is. So one of my favorites is they took a similar resume and they gave one person a relevant second degree. So like math plus computer science for a very mathy like Ph.D. level position. And for one of the resumes, they get them that second degree for the other resume, they just made the first word and each bullet point a verb. So Giroux project completion or GRU usage, those sort of things, which tells a better story. Guess which one got more callbacks? The person who got a second relative degree or the person who changed one word as bad as you think is 25 percent more callbacks for that, that verb word and the resume. And I'd like to think I'm immune to this, but I'm probably not like when reading resumes. It's just easier to skim through. So my goal usually and I don't always do this because sometimes you just have to get resumes and keep going. But my goal is to not look at resumes until I've evaluated the screener because I can usually think of two to three questions someone can answer in a tweet. They're going to tell me much more about the relevant experience than the resume. That's my goal is to not read a resume until I'm talking to someone because you can see how they talk about their problem, how they communicate, what they've done, what they think is important. So, yeah, I try not to read resumes.

Chris Byers: You've talked about autism and this kind of learning that you went through. How do you think that's impacted you as a leader?

Wes Winham Winler: One thing that I think is a benefit is because I have really strong weaknesses that I'm aware of. I'm able to compensate for those by building deliberate practices. So I have a company where it's a little bit easier to orient yourself because more things are written down where things are explicit, which I think is good for a company. It means sometimes you go slower rather than going faster. I also am a little bit more aware that some people are different, which I think we all need to be reminded of constantly because it is so easy to just assume everyone has the exact same as you. I used to think that autism was a deficit in a lot of ways. When my mental model now is closer to, there are defaults that we all have and we pretty much assume that everyone else has the same defaults. And a lot of the problems in the world are when we interact with folks who have different defaults. About one is ask culture versus gas culture. So when you ask someone, is it safe to say no? Or is that ask a very strong commitment? And that's ask culture versus guess culture where you really don't ask anyone anything. You just say, Man, that's a really nice shirt and that person is supposed to read in, and that means they really want. One of the research for their birthday is one example of different defaults. So just being aware that the defaults are different and being constantly reminded that I am different whenever I think of meeting with greats and then I ask someone about it later, and it absolutely didn't, or I think something is very clear and it's not.

Chris Byers: Yeah, I think your point of I was just talking to my wife about this the other day, how I think as leaders that one of the most difficult things is knowing what other people don't know because we all do very much to your point, presume like, Oh, I had this experience, everybody's had this experience. And yet we forget, Oh yeah, we've had 10 20 whatever years of experience that does add up, and sometimes you don't realize how all that impacts your decisions as you've then started to translate that into this knowledge of how maybe you think about things and how we need to think about how other people might not see it quite the same way. How's that translated into leading a company?

Wes Winham Winler: For me, it looks like a company that has just maybe what might be described as highly structured goals, let's say. So we have three cascading goals systems with a company of 14 people. So the idea is everybody knows exactly what they're working on all the time versus relying on talking to your boss and kind of reading the mood to see what is more or less important. So we have quarterly V Times, which is a horrible acronym, but Salesforce invented it, and I think it's pretty good. It's a mix of planning a goal setting system. Then we have monthly OK hours, which are you break that quarterly goal into a few objectives, which are great motivating sounding things we would like to do and a few key results, which are how do we know we've made progress towards that great sounding objectives? And then also weekly commitments. So every week on Friday, we get together and we help each other think of what is the one or two things that are very much in our control that we can do next week that is going to make progress towards those monthly goals, which rolls up to that quarterly goals. I think that means people at least know what they need to be doing. It means you don't have to ask what the next piece of work is. But I think that's a style and my guess is some people would be very not in favor of that much explicit work and structure. But for me, that's how I know I'm doing the right thing, that I'm staying on task and how I get feedback about what we should be doing versus what a startup. Startups don't die from starvation. They die from indigestion. There are so many good ideas, there are so many things we could be doing that are actually are good ideas. The arts and science is choosing. What are the things we say no to so we can be really good at the things that are more important?

Chris Byers: It's great. I do think you've touched on a handful of things that as a remote organization are really important, and I definitely talk about a lot. And then you talk about written communication. I actually think that's extremely valuable and in a remote world because it just gives people time to digest time to read it in their own way. There's just all these unsaid things in a remote world, and this just helps you communicate those things. Whereas if you're all sitting in the office together, you do get a little bit of that osmosis of talking to the person next to you or you overhear things. And so I think you have to be much more explicit in a remote culture, and it sounds like you guys have really thought about that.

Wes Winham Winler: Yeah, I think even in that she's talked about the osmosis, I have the experience of being in those rooms and not picking up on the osmosis, actually, and maybe everyone else did, because I'm mostly not paying attention to it. So I think I overcompensated for my my deficiency by going process first, which is great in a remote world because we're all on the same page. I've talked to some other autistic folks who talk about how remote is can be so frustrating for normal folks. For autistic folks, which is autistic, is the inverse of autistic. If you ever hear that word on the internet now, you know is we're all in the same autistic box. We've got a Zoom call with restricted interaction. We've got a chat box. So we're all like a little bit autistic as a result of work in the remote world. So some of the things that make things inclusive for neurodiverse folks also make it better for everyone. And that's about writing. That's about having explicit time for chit chat, which sounds like a crazy thing, but making sure people have time to do those little human interactions and write things down.

Chris Byers: I was actually reading a book recently called The Culture Map by author Aaron Meyer, and what's interesting is I was fascinated because she's actually talking about country cultures and goes through a lot of different assessments. But it's all about communication styles and how we perceive authority and whether we're high context and low context. It's like, Man, this is actually it would be really valuable in a company because even if we're all from the same country or the same city, we all have different methods of communication and how much information we're going to give you and not give you. And I think that you've honed in on that as an important point. If you can illustrate that to people, you can really speed up getting on the same page

Wes Winham Winler: as a great book. I learned it was surprising to me how positive American culture is and how as far as feedback, like directness of feedback that most European cultures are much more likely to tell you what is wrong and that be OK like French culture is here is all the things that are wrong with you. OK, have a good day. Whereas someone did that to me, I'd be like, Oh my gosh, this person hates me because that's the cultural norm in America. We have the the crap sandwich idea where you say something good, you say something and you say something good is a common crutch. And the different cultures vary a lot, like in Russia that would be seen as way more disingenuous than it this year. It's really interesting how different groups of people have settled on norms that totally work for them as long as everyone agrees. But as soon as you have people with different norms, everyone thinks people are rude or they don't get the message.

Chris Byers: Each conversation we have on the show ends up highlighting innovative ideas and fresh perspectives. West is focused on helping companies hire hidden gems, asking people to go beyond resumé and accolades. What's if you could give advice to our listeners? How would you encourage people to go beyond traditional means for finding talent?

Wes Winham Winler: My number one advice is is when you are accepting applications is to write a form that asks simple questions about things that you really want to know about someone that that simple act forces you to think about what you actually care about because you only get two or three questions. And I think you'll find people who are great that you would have overlooked on the resume. And those are the folks that are going to be most loyal. They're going to have the steepest learning curve. They're getting overlooked in the market. So it's great for them, and it's also great for us

Chris Byers: as we wrap up the conversation of get the handful of final questions, the first one. How would you suggest listeners think about talent differently than they do today?

Wes Winham Winler: One of the easiest things to do when we're thinking about talent is to recognize people who have the exact same strengths as we do. So it's much easier to recognize someone who was good at the things we're good at because we pay attention to them, and that's why we're good at them. One of the hardest things to do as a leader is to hire people who are bad at things you care about, but are good at things that are different from you, and then to manage someone who is a different shape than you. So that's one of the things I personally struggle with and think about a lot is how do I build a team who is not just flawed in? The same ways in great in the same way, because that doesn't build an organization that is effective overall.

Chris Byers: And what do you think people listening can do to create a positive impact for other people?

Wes Winham Winler: One of the things I took away from my first boss at the pleasure working with is the idea that thinks is free. It's cheap. It is so easy to think someone, but it is so easy to forget to do. I can remember times where I got thanked from peers that really lodged my memory. But it is absolutely free to thank someone. So I have tried to cultivate a habit of thanking people for things that I appreciate, even if it's part of their job and to be specific in that things. So it's not. I appreciate your help. I appreciate the way you proactively reached out to tell me this was going to be a little bit late. That's exactly the type of person I would work with. So just a few slack messages like that a week can really build a lot of goodwill in the company. It makes people happier, makes people appreciate it, and it feels good to say thank you.

Chris Byers: Are there any ways you're looking to create impact in the future?

Wes Winham Winler: Right now, a job is one of the most important predictors of mental health of stability. Jobs come with health insurance, but the act of changing job of training for a new job is the same as it was 200 years ago. We have a a world that's moving faster and jobs are turning over more and more quickly, and skills are turning over more and more quickly. But nothing else has evolved to help people train faster or find those jobs more quickly. My goal for an impact is to fix that problem, to make it easier to change jobs, to find a new team, to make it easier to bring new folks on your team. That will be successful because one of the reasons right now we are out of a recession. But the number of unemployed people is just steadily decreasing at a very slow rate because we have not gotten any better at matching people to jobs. And that's the problem, I think. I could focus on for the next 50 years of my life.

Chris Byers: In recent episodes, guests have brought up the way that they view or have experienced failure. How do you view failure?

Wes Winham Winler: I think we all have an understanding of how failure teaches us things. I think of another way to look at failure is as a habit we need to get into. So I have a weekly five 15, which is it takes me 15 minutes. Write five minutes, read. It's a way of keeping up to date with my management team, and one of my items is what have I tried and failed at this week? And I don't view it as a success if I don't have something to put, their failure is a habit. That means that we are trying something new, and I worry that if I ever get out of the habit of trying things and failing them, that I'm going to stop growing. So I think failure is a learning tool, but it also can be a habit to make sure that we're actually trying things new and growing.

Chris Byers: To learn more about how people are reimagining their world of work. Head over to practicallygenius.com. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Ripple Effect.

Chris Byers: Wes Winham has built a business helping hidden gem engineers get hired. What are hidden gems? We'll hear from us on that later. As CEO of Woven, he's developed the technical assessment platform that enables companies to evaluate potential talent without relying on resumes, and often that talent has been overlooked. Getting caught. An applicant tracking software, overloaded inboxes and, more importantly, unrecognized bias. His passion for giving the underdog a leg up is evident through the success of his company winning accolades such as the 2020 Indiana Startup of the Year. What's behind his drive to give those who may not stand out a shot? Let's find out. I am Chris Byers, a form sac, and this is ripple effect, a show celebrating the positive impact your decisions create. West, welcome to the show.

Wes Winham Winler: It's great to be here, Chris.

Chris Byers: Anything I missed in that intro,

Wes Winham Winler: I think you nailed it. That was much better than my version.

Chris Byers: Sounds good. How did you get to this realization of wanting to help hidden gems be found?

Wes Winham Winler: Well, for me, it was mostly by screwing up a little bit, as is tradition. I was the only engineer, so thus head of engineering at a startup and happens to a lot of people. You become a manager one day and realize you have to hire because nobody else is going to do it. And for me, I hired three people in pretty quick succession, and they were all awesome. I was feeling really good about myself. I had built this process I read, thinking fast and slow. I had these behavioral interview questions. I was feeling really good about myself. I could look in someone's eyes and spot talent, or so I thought. And then I hired my fourth person and it did not work out. So maybe I did not have this magic ability. And on a small team, miss hires. Really, they hurt customers. But for me, I hired someone who was a good person who was trying really hard and I put him in a position where he was not going to be successful because my hiring process wasn't good enough. So that was really the the impetus to figure out how to be better at hiring so I could never go through that pain again. I went and read all the psychology literature I could. What does science say about predictive hiring? What, what are the nerds doing? And then I went and interviewed a bunch of grizzled engineering managers who had been through this over and over. And what are y'all actually doing to avoid this pain? And the overlap was, if you're going to hire dancers, you should probably watch them dance, which like, Yeah, yeah, that does make sense. Not what I was doing. Built something that's like a little project you might hurt him. Called a take home project homework project where you're actually doing a little bit of the job and that fix my mess. Hiring a problem. I hired another 20 engineers. That's that way and had nothing but success. And it's fast forward to 2014. So we're an Indianapolis based company at the time, and I decided to go remote with my hiring. So with engineer hiring, I was getting 10 candidates a month. So it was pretty easy. Then I go remote. I'm open to anyone in the world and I get 100 per week. Very different. So then I'm struggling. It's a Friday. I've got a ton of resumes, a man box. And to be honest, I don't like reading resumes. They feel like B.S.. I just don't like them. So mostly out of laziness and kind of bias, I decided to send everybody who applied that week my project mass email and moving on. And then I get results back the next week, and most of them are not very good. Resumes do predict some things, but one of them was amazing. It was like exactly what I was looking for. So not just good code, but it was clean code and documentation and all the like. The little details that make for a great engineer, and I'm stoked because this is a mid-level engineer, three to five years of experience, someone that really gets it. And I go back and look at this candidate's resume, and he has zero years of experience. That was just shocking that the best candidate and my candidate pool with someone that if I would have read his resume first, I absolutely would have rejected this candidate. That was the light bulb moment for me, that there are hidden gems out there and that kind of kicked off this mission of how can we build something to find him?

Chris Byers: That's great. I think what's interesting is I think actually in engineering, it's a little bit more common to use a project to help guide a conversation. But we've actually found some really good success over the years, really doing that in every job. So hire a CFO, come up with a project for them. And that is, of course, after we've gotten through resume, et cetera. And I think that's an important point you're trying to make. But I do think that getting people's real life work in your hands can make such a huge difference in getting to know them. Let me back up a little bit and define for us what a hidden gem is.

Wes Winham Winler: I like to think of a hidden gem as someone that you would have overlooked if you just went on service criteria. So you just went on the resume that are just on the application phase, but this person is a great fit for the role. So that's a hidden gem. They come in a lot of flavors. They depend on the type of hiring process you look for. One of the things about hidden gems in most roles is recruiting has a really hard job. They have to use mostly resumes and a short conversation about a role that they're not really an expert in to decide who do they want to send on to the hiring manager who is typically very busy? That's why they're hiring, and that doesn't so much like to talk to people that really aren't fitting their criteria. So one of the things that happens is recruiters tend to over time get biased towards tightening their criteria rather than loosening it because they get that negative feedback from the hiring manager. But they don't get as quick positive feedback when they do send someone on the borderline that works out. I went out and talked to a bunch of recruiters when I started the company, and I found out that the most common criteria when I asked them of what gets them to move someone to the next stage is enthusiasm, which on the surface seems very reasonable. But there are some people who show enthusiasm very different. For example, folks on the autism spectrum. Room tend to have a lower dynamic range when it comes to talking and what they're interested in. We have recruiters who are trying to do their best, who are mostly cuing on things that are seem pretty reasonable like enthusiasm. If someone's more enthusiastic about your company, that's probably going to be a better hire. I think that's a reasonable assumption. But the result is people who might be great at the job when you get to know them, when they actually do the job. There's a bias against moving those folks forward, and that might be a hidden gem. Some that actually gets to the recruiter call but can't show well enough in that rapport building phase. So get screened out before they talk to a hiring manager.

Chris Byers: It sounds like you've used technology to really try to solve this problem. Can you share some examples of maybe some people who would have been overlooked but weren't because of that technology?

Wes Winham Winler: So we had a customer that was hiring a DevOps engineer. So DevOps is it's a really fast growing field. It's really hard to find people because it's new. So they were having lots of trouble, not a lot of candidates. And at the same time, this gentleman mark was laid off from his previous role. So they downsized the whole test automation department and he's on the job market and he'd been there for months. Really have a hard time because test automation is not an in-demand title like DevOps is an in-demand title. So he's applying to these DevOps roles because he thinks he has the skills and he's not hearing back. He applies to our customer who looks at his resume and is probably not. But because they have a way to assess candidates beyond the resume sends them to us. Mark shows his skills and scores in the top five percent. We're like, Hey, you should talk to Mark here. They do they. He does well in the interview. They love him. He goes on site, he does well, and I get a text message the third day that he's already automating parts of the infrastructure. This is great. Come to find out. In the last year, Mark is now the director of that whole department. Is ten people reporting to him for a job that he wouldn't have got to interview for because his resume title didn't quite match up. So it's really all about these people that are making career transitions or their learning curve is a little bit faster than you might expect. And one of the things I've talked to people about doing and I've heard success is really focusing on the application. It's the step that is the easiest in the world to skip. Usually it's Oh, I got to write this job description. Maybe we'll put a little bit of care into that to try to to sell it, but often not even that. But then the application, not a lot of people think about, well, look, we'll get some resumes and we'll look through. The thing about a resume is that's generic. It's about the person and their general guess for what is interesting. You as the hiring manager, you know a lot more about what's interesting to you. So let's say you're hiring for a sales role. You want people who have done sales before, but one of the really important parts for hiring sales is the previous contract value. So sales at one hundred thousand a deal looks at the same kind of doesn't matter what you're selling. The motion is similar versus sales at $5000. A deal looks very different. It's very fast, it's very transactional, and the people that are great at one type of sale are not necessarily great at the other. A resume is very unlikely to have their average contract value, even though that might be the most important predictor of who's going to be successful. So we have a history, and I know people with history of hiring salespeople who don't have tech experience but do have business experience in non-tech at similar contract values. And because they put that in their screener, they can talk to people who are getting rejected from all these tech roles they're applying to because they don't have that tech background, but they do have the fundamental skills, and all of this is adding one line to your application.

Chris Byers: As with everything, when we adopt software, we have this tendency to say, Oh, it's going to fix all my problems. What are the things we all just still need to learn? Yep, let's go adopt woven. But oh, but hey, you need to think about this, and I think you're talking about a little bit of it in how you write job descriptions. But what are some just fundamentals we all need to learn about, I guess, being more open and more inclusive in the way that we hire.

Wes Winham Winler: Hiring is just it's just fundamentally hard. It's one of those irreducible, hard things that all we can do is get a little bit less bad at it. But the good news is there's so much upside. There are very few business leaders that don't believe that the people are what make their business or their team successful. It's almost a truism at this point. But rather than throwing our hands up about hiring, they're like little steps we can take to be a little bit better. I think the number one step would be instead of starting with a job post, which is almost a sales document, or it should be a sales and marketing document starting with the profile of the person you're going to hire. So usually even people that do this, they're typically talking about what their background experience is, what type of companies they've been at, which is a good place to start and get the brain flowing. But eventually, you want to abstract from these AKA. What are the capabilities, what are the things this person needs to be able to do and get that down to three to five plus maybe three to five attributes which are a little bit less changeable and starting from there? Then you ask yourself, How can I learn about these things? How can I gather data? And there's pretty standard tools. Some are the behavioral interview where you ask, Tell me about a time question. Some of them might be hypothetical questions like, How would you do X? Another example is work samples like the projects that you get to your CFO. The alternative is we just get stuck on that first profile and someone's applying to us, but they didn't work at the right company, so they don't fit the profile. So we reject them versus going capabilities first. Now I've got this set of tools in my tool belt to learn about these underlying capabilities. And I had a little bit of my screener. I have a little bit and that I can hand off to my a recruiter who's going to ask some questions early on and we can start gathering data and we're a little bit more open to profiles that are kind of weird. And in a competitive hiring market, we have to be open to weird profiles or we're going to be hiring for a long time. And that's how we can just be a little bit better as being more capabilities first. How do we get evidence about those second?

Chris Byers: So you're talking about this idea of really giving people a chance or a shot that maybe they didn't get? I'm curious, do you have your own personal story of how maybe somebody in your past gave you a shot or a chance that you might not otherwise have gotten

Wes Winham Winler: as a fourth grader? I finished the last three weeks homeschooled because my fourth grade teacher couldn't handle me, thought I was a very typical child. I have only a vague memory of this and just being very confused. What I found out is that was my tendency to, let's say, point out whenever my teacher maybe said something that was incorrect or maybe undersold, something that I thought was really interesting.

Chris Byers: It's a very respectful way to say it, by the way.

Wes Winham Winler: Yeah, I now realize I was that jerky little fourth grader that was correcting their teacher and driving her crazy. I didn't perceive it at the time. I loved learning about things. I love learning new things for myself, so I just assumed everybody loved that and didn't notice the whole social piece that being corrected is a status thing. We don't like to be corrected. So that is an example of a lot of things in my life that I just took a long time to get. And I, mostly through the patience of people around me, was able to keep moving on to keep going to the next stage of my life in college. And I had great parents who were really supportive. But a lot of people don't have that, and I didn't really realize how lucky I was. I thought that's how everyone was. I read a book in 2011 called The Time Is Called Age of the Info War. It was about this random technology topic that the world is changing in a way that people who are very attracted to information are benefiting, whereas other people aren't. And one of the sections in the book was about autism, and I knew about autism as this thing that kids had. That was pretty debilitating and that was about it. And I think I knew some friends of friends who had autistic kids and that that was basically all I knew. And I started to learn about it as a different neurological profile that actually has some benefits and lots of costs. And I was new to me, and as I was reading through the list of differences, I was like, Man, this is like a page out of my biography, and I felt like every section I was just blowing my mind like, Oh yeah, if you correct people, they're going to be mad at you. So I'm suspecting that autism, I learn about autism, learned that it's different. And at one point, while doing research for that, i o psychology work around hiring. I start to get too familiar with the terms and the papers, and I have access to the journals and I just some thumbing through. I see a paper on an instrument for diagnosing autism. I'm like, Oh, I know how to read this. I know how to actually translate this instrument into something I could do and score myself. So I take it, and I am either in the top 99 and a half percent of most autistic non-autistic folks, according to scale, or even like the 60th percentile of autistic people. I thought I would be in that direction, but I didn't realize it would be that overwhelming. And then I filed, by the way, and just thought about it and started to see people on Twitter talking about autism. And it was it's this fight because there's two camps. I'm not an expert in autism, by the way. I'm just I'm just very interested in it. And I am autistic myself, and we could talk a little bit about self-diagnosis for autism, if that would be interesting. But there are two camps here, and one camp is mostly parents of kids who have been diagnosed with autism, who have a really strong disability that makes it difficult for them to accomplish day-to-day tasks and bond with peers and get along in school. And those folks I have a lot of empathy for because I think that's tough. And then there are adults who have realized that they are autistic and has told them really true things about themselves that help them understand themselves. Better. And those two camps sometimes don't see eye to eye because the experience is very different.

Chris Byers: Your own self-discovery, I think, is important. If there are other people out there who have an opportunity for that self-discovery, I think talking through that is great. I do think self-awareness in lots of ways is what I think drives our ability to make smarter decisions. And so I think again, appreciate you sharing. Maybe let's step back a little bit to kind of your history before woven. As you talked about, you've spent a long time building engineering teams. What would you say your biggest challenge was and you probably referred to one of them in terms of hiring. But what else comes to mind?

Wes Winham Winler: I think most crafts where as an individual, there is just so much to learn about how to be better at that craft. The transition to leadership is very challenging because the things that make you confident at that craft the pattern recognition, the ability to focus for amount of time and perform, whether that's performing on a call with a customer or performing for an hour with your editor and solving a hard problem. Those things are actually not good. As a leader. So you have this tendency to Oh, I see this problem. I know how to solve it. I'm going to go get on that call or I'm going to go dove into the code and fix it. And that's actually a thing that makes you a worse leader. So I for a long time, I was like the chief problem solver rather than an actual leader. An actual leader is focused on helping the team move in the same direction, helping the team improve, helping each individual improve at the things they care about and that are useful. And it's not being the person that's going to jump in and save and solve problems. So it took me quite a while to get over that hurdle. And I think for engineering especially, that's one of the hard challenges is transitioning from the person who does it and gets the immediate reward to the person who teaches it and coaches it and ask questions, and you don't get that immediate reward. It's actually frustrating because you're suppressing this part of yourself that you're so proud of, and it gives you so much joy because of this long term reward of improving a person and making your team better. To be honest, that is still challenging. Today, I have a sticky note on my monitor that says time to problem solve, and that's remind me to give other people time to problem solve before I jump in.

Chris Byers: I think as a leader, you've pointed out something that I struggle with on a very regular basis because it's far too often that I'm like, I could go do this. And the effort to explain or the effort to actually, to your point, the effort to just be patient is probably the hardest thing because I'm like, I can get it done real fast. Let me just go, take care of this. So I think you've hit on an important point there. What are some signals that as you've used technology, as you've thought about this whole idea of really sifting through and getting to the right candidates or some key signals you've found in great candidates that you won't see on a resume?

Wes Winham Winler: I don't want to like totally throw out resumes because there is data there. The typical resume signals are is there a positive trajectory like someone moving up and doing bigger projects? But I'm familiar enough with the research where they give people a bunch of resumes and then they ask people to sort them into piles and just how incredibly depressing that research is. So one of my favorites is they took a similar resume and they gave one person a relevant second degree. So like math plus computer science for a very mathy like Ph.D. level position. And for one of the resumes, they get them that second degree for the other resume, they just made the first word and each bullet point a verb. So Giroux project completion or GRU usage, those sort of things, which tells a better story. Guess which one got more callbacks? The person who got a second relative degree or the person who changed one word as bad as you think is 25 percent more callbacks for that, that verb word and the resume. And I'd like to think I'm immune to this, but I'm probably not like when reading resumes. It's just easier to skim through. So my goal usually and I don't always do this because sometimes you just have to get resumes and keep going. But my goal is to not look at resumes until I've evaluated the screener because I can usually think of two to three questions someone can answer in a tweet. They're going to tell me much more about the relevant experience than the resume. That's my goal is to not read a resume until I'm talking to someone because you can see how they talk about their problem, how they communicate, what they've done, what they think is important. So, yeah, I try not to read resumes.

Chris Byers: You've talked about autism and this kind of learning that you went through. How do you think that's impacted you as a leader?

Wes Winham Winler: One thing that I think is a benefit is because I have really strong weaknesses that I'm aware of. I'm able to compensate for those by building deliberate practices. So I have a company where it's a little bit easier to orient yourself because more things are written down where things are explicit, which I think is good for a company. It means sometimes you go slower rather than going faster. I also am a little bit more aware that some people are different, which I think we all need to be reminded of constantly because it is so easy to just assume everyone has the exact same as you. I used to think that autism was a deficit in a lot of ways. When my mental model now is closer to, there are defaults that we all have and we pretty much assume that everyone else has the same defaults. And a lot of the problems in the world are when we interact with folks who have different defaults. About one is ask culture versus gas culture. So when you ask someone, is it safe to say no? Or is that ask a very strong commitment? And that's ask culture versus guess culture where you really don't ask anyone anything. You just say, Man, that's a really nice shirt and that person is supposed to read in, and that means they really want. One of the research for their birthday is one example of different defaults. So just being aware that the defaults are different and being constantly reminded that I am different whenever I think of meeting with greats and then I ask someone about it later, and it absolutely didn't, or I think something is very clear and it's not.

Chris Byers: Yeah, I think your point of I was just talking to my wife about this the other day, how I think as leaders that one of the most difficult things is knowing what other people don't know because we all do very much to your point, presume like, Oh, I had this experience, everybody's had this experience. And yet we forget, Oh yeah, we've had 10 20 whatever years of experience that does add up, and sometimes you don't realize how all that impacts your decisions as you've then started to translate that into this knowledge of how maybe you think about things and how we need to think about how other people might not see it quite the same way. How's that translated into leading a company?

Wes Winham Winler: For me, it looks like a company that has just maybe what might be described as highly structured goals, let's say. So we have three cascading goals systems with a company of 14 people. So the idea is everybody knows exactly what they're working on all the time versus relying on talking to your boss and kind of reading the mood to see what is more or less important. So we have quarterly V Times, which is a horrible acronym, but Salesforce invented it, and I think it's pretty good. It's a mix of planning a goal setting system. Then we have monthly OK hours, which are you break that quarterly goal into a few objectives, which are great motivating sounding things we would like to do and a few key results, which are how do we know we've made progress towards that great sounding objectives? And then also weekly commitments. So every week on Friday, we get together and we help each other think of what is the one or two things that are very much in our control that we can do next week that is going to make progress towards those monthly goals, which rolls up to that quarterly goals. I think that means people at least know what they need to be doing. It means you don't have to ask what the next piece of work is. But I think that's a style and my guess is some people would be very not in favor of that much explicit work and structure. But for me, that's how I know I'm doing the right thing, that I'm staying on task and how I get feedback about what we should be doing versus what a startup. Startups don't die from starvation. They die from indigestion. There are so many good ideas, there are so many things we could be doing that are actually are good ideas. The arts and science is choosing. What are the things we say no to so we can be really good at the things that are more important?

Chris Byers: It's great. I do think you've touched on a handful of things that as a remote organization are really important, and I definitely talk about a lot. And then you talk about written communication. I actually think that's extremely valuable and in a remote world because it just gives people time to digest time to read it in their own way. There's just all these unsaid things in a remote world, and this just helps you communicate those things. Whereas if you're all sitting in the office together, you do get a little bit of that osmosis of talking to the person next to you or you overhear things. And so I think you have to be much more explicit in a remote culture, and it sounds like you guys have really thought about that.

Wes Winham Winler: Yeah, I think even in that she's talked about the osmosis, I have the experience of being in those rooms and not picking up on the osmosis, actually, and maybe everyone else did, because I'm mostly not paying attention to it. So I think I overcompensated for my my deficiency by going process first, which is great in a remote world because we're all on the same page. I've talked to some other autistic folks who talk about how remote is can be so frustrating for normal folks. For autistic folks, which is autistic, is the inverse of autistic. If you ever hear that word on the internet now, you know is we're all in the same autistic box. We've got a Zoom call with restricted interaction. We've got a chat box. So we're all like a little bit autistic as a result of work in the remote world. So some of the things that make things inclusive for neurodiverse folks also make it better for everyone. And that's about writing. That's about having explicit time for chit chat, which sounds like a crazy thing, but making sure people have time to do those little human interactions and write things down.

Chris Byers: I was actually reading a book recently called The Culture Map by author Aaron Meyer, and what's interesting is I was fascinated because she's actually talking about country cultures and goes through a lot of different assessments. But it's all about communication styles and how we perceive authority and whether we're high context and low context. It's like, Man, this is actually it would be really valuable in a company because even if we're all from the same country or the same city, we all have different methods of communication and how much information we're going to give you and not give you. And I think that you've honed in on that as an important point. If you can illustrate that to people, you can really speed up getting on the same page

Wes Winham Winler: as a great book. I learned it was surprising to me how positive American culture is and how as far as feedback, like directness of feedback that most European cultures are much more likely to tell you what is wrong and that be OK like French culture is here is all the things that are wrong with you. OK, have a good day. Whereas someone did that to me, I'd be like, Oh my gosh, this person hates me because that's the cultural norm in America. We have the the crap sandwich idea where you say something good, you say something and you say something good is a common crutch. And the different cultures vary a lot, like in Russia that would be seen as way more disingenuous than it this year. It's really interesting how different groups of people have settled on norms that totally work for them as long as everyone agrees. But as soon as you have people with different norms, everyone thinks people are rude or they don't get the message.

Chris Byers: Each conversation we have on the show ends up highlighting innovative ideas and fresh perspectives. West is focused on helping companies hire hidden gems, asking people to go beyond resumé and accolades. What's if you could give advice to our listeners? How would you encourage people to go beyond traditional means for finding talent?

Wes Winham Winler: My number one advice is is when you are accepting applications is to write a form that asks simple questions about things that you really want to know about someone that that simple act forces you to think about what you actually care about because you only get two or three questions. And I think you'll find people who are great that you would have overlooked on the resume. And those are the folks that are going to be most loyal. They're going to have the steepest learning curve. They're getting overlooked in the market. So it's great for them, and it's also great for us

Chris Byers: as we wrap up the conversation of get the handful of final questions, the first one. How would you suggest listeners think about talent differently than they do today?

Wes Winham Winler: One of the easiest things to do when we're thinking about talent is to recognize people who have the exact same strengths as we do. So it's much easier to recognize someone who was good at the things we're good at because we pay attention to them, and that's why we're good at them. One of the hardest things to do as a leader is to hire people who are bad at things you care about, but are good at things that are different from you, and then to manage someone who is a different shape than you. So that's one of the things I personally struggle with and think about a lot is how do I build a team who is not just flawed in? The same ways in great in the same way, because that doesn't build an organization that is effective overall.

Chris Byers: And what do you think people listening can do to create a positive impact for other people?

Wes Winham Winler: One of the things I took away from my first boss at the pleasure working with is the idea that thinks is free. It's cheap. It is so easy to think someone, but it is so easy to forget to do. I can remember times where I got thanked from peers that really lodged my memory. But it is absolutely free to thank someone. So I have tried to cultivate a habit of thanking people for things that I appreciate, even if it's part of their job and to be specific in that things. So it's not. I appreciate your help. I appreciate the way you proactively reached out to tell me this was going to be a little bit late. That's exactly the type of person I would work with. So just a few slack messages like that a week can really build a lot of goodwill in the company. It makes people happier, makes people appreciate it, and it feels good to say thank you.

Chris Byers: Are there any ways you're looking to create impact in the future?

Wes Winham Winler: Right now, a job is one of the most important predictors of mental health of stability. Jobs come with health insurance, but the act of changing job of training for a new job is the same as it was 200 years ago. We have a a world that's moving faster and jobs are turning over more and more quickly, and skills are turning over more and more quickly. But nothing else has evolved to help people train faster or find those jobs more quickly. My goal for an impact is to fix that problem, to make it easier to change jobs, to find a new team, to make it easier to bring new folks on your team. That will be successful because one of the reasons right now we are out of a recession. But the number of unemployed people is just steadily decreasing at a very slow rate because we have not gotten any better at matching people to jobs. And that's the problem, I think. I could focus on for the next 50 years of my life.

Chris Byers: In recent episodes, guests have brought up the way that they view or have experienced failure. How do you view failure?

Wes Winham Winler: I think we all have an understanding of how failure teaches us things. I think of another way to look at failure is as a habit we need to get into. So I have a weekly five 15, which is it takes me 15 minutes. Write five minutes, read. It's a way of keeping up to date with my management team, and one of my items is what have I tried and failed at this week? And I don't view it as a success if I don't have something to put, their failure is a habit. That means that we are trying something new, and I worry that if I ever get out of the habit of trying things and failing them, that I'm going to stop growing. So I think failure is a learning tool, but it also can be a habit to make sure that we're actually trying things new and growing.

Chris Byers: To learn more about how people are reimagining their world of work. Head over to practicallygenius.com. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Ripple Effect.

Chris Byers: Wes Winham has built a business helping hidden gem engineers get hired. What are hidden gems? We'll hear from us on that later. As CEO of Woven, he's developed the technical assessment platform that enables companies to evaluate potential talent without relying on resumes, and often that talent has been overlooked. Getting caught. An applicant tracking software, overloaded inboxes and, more importantly, unrecognized bias. His passion for giving the underdog a leg up is evident through the success of his company winning accolades such as the 2020 Indiana Startup of the Year. What's behind his drive to give those who may not stand out a shot? Let's find out. I am Chris Byers, a form sac, and this is ripple effect, a show celebrating the positive impact your decisions create. West, welcome to the show.

Wes Winham Winler: It's great to be here, Chris.

Chris Byers: Anything I missed in that intro,

Wes Winham Winler: I think you nailed it. That was much better than my version.

Chris Byers: Sounds good. How did you get to this realization of wanting to help hidden gems be found?

Wes Winham Winler: Well, for me, it was mostly by screwing up a little bit, as is tradition. I was the only engineer, so thus head of engineering at a startup and happens to a lot of people. You become a manager one day and realize you have to hire because nobody else is going to do it. And for me, I hired three people in pretty quick succession, and they were all awesome. I was feeling really good about myself. I had built this process I read, thinking fast and slow. I had these behavioral interview questions. I was feeling really good about myself. I could look in someone's eyes and spot talent, or so I thought. And then I hired my fourth person and it did not work out. So maybe I did not have this magic ability. And on a small team, miss hires. Really, they hurt customers. But for me, I hired someone who was a good person who was trying really hard and I put him in a position where he was not going to be successful because my hiring process wasn't good enough. So that was really the the impetus to figure out how to be better at hiring so I could never go through that pain again. I went and read all the psychology literature I could. What does science say about predictive hiring? What, what are the nerds doing? And then I went and interviewed a bunch of grizzled engineering managers who had been through this over and over. And what are y'all actually doing to avoid this pain? And the overlap was, if you're going to hire dancers, you should probably watch them dance, which like, Yeah, yeah, that does make sense. Not what I was doing. Built something that's like a little project you might hurt him. Called a take home project homework project where you're actually doing a little bit of the job and that fix my mess. Hiring a problem. I hired another 20 engineers. That's that way and had nothing but success. And it's fast forward to 2014. So we're an Indianapolis based company at the time, and I decided to go remote with my hiring. So with engineer hiring, I was getting 10 candidates a month. So it was pretty easy. Then I go remote. I'm open to anyone in the world and I get 100 per week. Very different. So then I'm struggling. It's a Friday. I've got a ton of resumes, a man box. And to be honest, I don't like reading resumes. They feel like B.S.. I just don't like them. So mostly out of laziness and kind of bias, I decided to send everybody who applied that week my project mass email and moving on. And then I get results back the next week, and most of them are not very good. Resumes do predict some things, but one of them was amazing. It was like exactly what I was looking for. So not just good code, but it was clean code and documentation and all the like. The little details that make for a great engineer, and I'm stoked because this is a mid-level engineer, three to five years of experience, someone that really gets it. And I go back and look at this candidate's resume, and he has zero years of experience. That was just shocking that the best candidate and my candidate pool with someone that if I would have read his resume first, I absolutely would have rejected this candidate. That was the light bulb moment for me, that there are hidden gems out there and that kind of kicked off this mission of how can we build something to find him?

Chris Byers: That's great. I think what's interesting is I think actually in engineering, it's a little bit more common to use a project to help guide a conversation. But we've actually found some really good success over the years, really doing that in every job. So hire a CFO, come up with a project for them. And that is, of course, after we've gotten through resume, et cetera. And I think that's an important point you're trying to make. But I do think that getting people's real life work in your hands can make such a huge difference in getting to know them. Let me back up a little bit and define for us what a hidden gem is.

Wes Winham Winler: I like to think of a hidden gem as someone that you would have overlooked if you just went on service criteria. So you just went on the resume that are just on the application phase, but this person is a great fit for the role. So that's a hidden gem. They come in a lot of flavors. They depend on the type of hiring process you look for. One of the things about hidden gems in most roles is recruiting has a really hard job. They have to use mostly resumes and a short conversation about a role that they're not really an expert in to decide who do they want to send on to the hiring manager who is typically very busy? That's why they're hiring, and that doesn't so much like to talk to people that really aren't fitting their criteria. So one of the things that happens is recruiters tend to over time get biased towards tightening their criteria rather than loosening it because they get that negative feedback from the hiring manager. But they don't get as quick positive feedback when they do send someone on the borderline that works out. I went out and talked to a bunch of recruiters when I started the company, and I found out that the most common criteria when I asked them of what gets them to move someone to the next stage is enthusiasm, which on the surface seems very reasonable. But there are some people who show enthusiasm very different. For example, folks on the autism spectrum. Room tend to have a lower dynamic range when it comes to talking and what they're interested in. We have recruiters who are trying to do their best, who are mostly cuing on things that are seem pretty reasonable like enthusiasm. If someone's more enthusiastic about your company, that's probably going to be a better hire. I think that's a reasonable assumption. But the result is people who might be great at the job when you get to know them, when they actually do the job. There's a bias against moving those folks forward, and that might be a hidden gem. Some that actually gets to the recruiter call but can't show well enough in that rapport building phase. So get screened out before they talk to a hiring manager.

Chris Byers: It sounds like you've used technology to really try to solve this problem. Can you share some examples of maybe some people who would have been overlooked but weren't because of that technology?

Wes Winham Winler: So we had a customer that was hiring a DevOps engineer. So DevOps is it's a really fast growing field. It's really hard to find people because it's new. So they were having lots of trouble, not a lot of candidates. And at the same time, this gentleman mark was laid off from his previous role. So they downsized the whole test automation department and he's on the job market and he'd been there for months. Really have a hard time because test automation is not an in-demand title like DevOps is an in-demand title. So he's applying to these DevOps roles because he thinks he has the skills and he's not hearing back. He applies to our customer who looks at his resume and is probably not. But because they have a way to assess candidates beyond the resume sends them to us. Mark shows his skills and scores in the top five percent. We're like, Hey, you should talk to Mark here. They do they. He does well in the interview. They love him. He goes on site, he does well, and I get a text message the third day that he's already automating parts of the infrastructure. This is great. Come to find out. In the last year, Mark is now the director of that whole department. Is ten people reporting to him for a job that he wouldn't have got to interview for because his resume title didn't quite match up. So it's really all about these people that are making career transitions or their learning curve is a little bit faster than you might expect. And one of the things I've talked to people about doing and I've heard success is really focusing on the application. It's the step that is the easiest in the world to skip. Usually it's Oh, I got to write this job description. Maybe we'll put a little bit of care into that to try to to sell it, but often not even that. But then the application, not a lot of people think about, well, look, we'll get some resumes and we'll look through. The thing about a resume is that's generic. It's about the person and their general guess for what is interesting. You as the hiring manager, you know a lot more about what's interesting to you. So let's say you're hiring for a sales role. You want people who have done sales before, but one of the really important parts for hiring sales is the previous contract value. So sales at one hundred thousand a deal looks at the same kind of doesn't matter what you're selling. The motion is similar versus sales at $5000. A deal looks very different. It's very fast, it's very transactional, and the people that are great at one type of sale are not necessarily great at the other. A resume is very unlikely to have their average contract value, even though that might be the most important predictor of who's going to be successful. So we have a history, and I know people with history of hiring salespeople who don't have tech experience but do have business experience in non-tech at similar contract values. And because they put that in their screener, they can talk to people who are getting rejected from all these tech roles they're applying to because they don't have that tech background, but they do have the fundamental skills, and all of this is adding one line to your application.

Chris Byers: As with everything, when we adopt software, we have this tendency to say, Oh, it's going to fix all my problems. What are the things we all just still need to learn? Yep, let's go adopt woven. But oh, but hey, you need to think about this, and I think you're talking about a little bit of it in how you write job descriptions. But what are some just fundamentals we all need to learn about, I guess, being more open and more inclusive in the way that we hire.

Wes Winham Winler: Hiring is just it's just fundamentally hard. It's one of those irreducible, hard things that all we can do is get a little bit less bad at it. But the good news is there's so much upside. There are very few business leaders that don't believe that the people are what make their business or their team successful. It's almost a truism at this point. But rather than throwing our hands up about hiring, they're like little steps we can take to be a little bit better. I think the number one step would be instead of starting with a job post, which is almost a sales document, or it should be a sales and marketing document starting with the profile of the person you're going to hire. So usually even people that do this, they're typically talking about what their background experience is, what type of companies they've been at, which is a good place to start and get the brain flowing. But eventually, you want to abstract from these AKA. What are the capabilities, what are the things this person needs to be able to do and get that down to three to five plus maybe three to five attributes which are a little bit less changeable and starting from there? Then you ask yourself, How can I learn about these things? How can I gather data? And there's pretty standard tools. Some are the behavioral interview where you ask, Tell me about a time question. Some of them might be hypothetical questions like, How would you do X? Another example is work samples like the projects that you get to your CFO. The alternative is we just get stuck on that first profile and someone's applying to us, but they didn't work at the right company, so they don't fit the profile. So we reject them versus going capabilities first. Now I've got this set of tools in my tool belt to learn about these underlying capabilities. And I had a little bit of my screener. I have a little bit and that I can hand off to my a recruiter who's going to ask some questions early on and we can start gathering data and we're a little bit more open to profiles that are kind of weird. And in a competitive hiring market, we have to be open to weird profiles or we're going to be hiring for a long time. And that's how we can just be a little bit better as being more capabilities first. How do we get evidence about those second?

Chris Byers: So you're talking about this idea of really giving people a chance or a shot that maybe they didn't get? I'm curious, do you have your own personal story of how maybe somebody in your past gave you a shot or a chance that you might not otherwise have gotten

Wes Winham Winler: as a fourth grader? I finished the last three weeks homeschooled because my fourth grade teacher couldn't handle me, thought I was a very typical child. I have only a vague memory of this and just being very confused. What I found out is that was my tendency to, let's say, point out whenever my teacher maybe said something that was incorrect or maybe undersold, something that I thought was really interesting.

Chris Byers: It's a very respectful way to say it, by the way.

Wes Winham Winler: Yeah, I now realize I was that jerky little fourth grader that was correcting their teacher and driving her crazy. I didn't perceive it at the time. I loved learning about things. I love learning new things for myself, so I just assumed everybody loved that and didn't notice the whole social piece that being corrected is a status thing. We don't like to be corrected. So that is an example of a lot of things in my life that I just took a long time to get. And I, mostly through the patience of people around me, was able to keep moving on to keep going to the next stage of my life in college. And I had great parents who were really supportive. But a lot of people don't have that, and I didn't really realize how lucky I was. I thought that's how everyone was. I read a book in 2011 called The Time Is Called Age of the Info War. It was about this random technology topic that the world is changing in a way that people who are very attracted to information are benefiting, whereas other people aren't. And one of the sections in the book was about autism, and I knew about autism as this thing that kids had. That was pretty debilitating and that was about it. And I think I knew some friends of friends who had autistic kids and that that was basically all I knew. And I started to learn about it as a different neurological profile that actually has some benefits and lots of costs. And I was new to me, and as I was reading through the list of differences, I was like, Man, this is like a page out of my biography, and I felt like every section I was just blowing my mind like, Oh yeah, if you correct people, they're going to be mad at you. So I'm suspecting that autism, I learn about autism, learned that it's different. And at one point, while doing research for that, i o psychology work around hiring. I start to get too familiar with the terms and the papers, and I have access to the journals and I just some thumbing through. I see a paper on an instrument for diagnosing autism. I'm like, Oh, I know how to read this. I know how to actually translate this instrument into something I could do and score myself. So I take it, and I am either in the top 99 and a half percent of most autistic non-autistic folks, according to scale, or even like the 60th percentile of autistic people. I thought I would be in that direction, but I didn't realize it would be that overwhelming. And then I filed, by the way, and just thought about it and started to see people on Twitter talking about autism. And it was it's this fight because there's two camps. I'm not an expert in autism, by the way. I'm just I'm just very interested in it. And I am autistic myself, and we could talk a little bit about self-diagnosis for autism, if that would be interesting. But there are two camps here, and one camp is mostly parents of kids who have been diagnosed with autism, who have a really strong disability that makes it difficult for them to accomplish day-to-day tasks and bond with peers and get along in school. And those folks I have a lot of empathy for because I think that's tough. And then there are adults who have realized that they are autistic and has told them really true things about themselves that help them understand themselves. Better. And those two camps sometimes don't see eye to eye because the experience is very different.

Chris Byers: Your own self-discovery, I think, is important. If there are other people out there who have an opportunity for that self-discovery, I think talking through that is great. I do think self-awareness in lots of ways is what I think drives our ability to make smarter decisions. And so I think again, appreciate you sharing. Maybe let's step back a little bit to kind of your history before woven. As you talked about, you've spent a long time building engineering teams. What would you say your biggest challenge was and you probably referred to one of them in terms of hiring. But what else comes to mind?

Wes Winham Winler: I think most crafts where as an individual, there is just so much to learn about how to be better at that craft. The transition to leadership is very challenging because the things that make you confident at that craft the pattern recognition, the ability to focus for amount of time and perform, whether that's performing on a call with a customer or performing for an hour with your editor and solving a hard problem. Those things are actually not good. As a leader. So you have this tendency to Oh, I see this problem. I know how to solve it. I'm going to go get on that call or I'm going to go dove into the code and fix it. And that's actually a thing that makes you a worse leader. So I for a long time, I was like the chief problem solver rather than an actual leader. An actual leader is focused on helping the team move in the same direction, helping the team improve, helping each individual improve at the things they care about and that are useful. And it's not being the person that's going to jump in and save and solve problems. So it took me quite a while to get over that hurdle. And I think for engineering especially, that's one of the hard challenges is transitioning from the person who does it and gets the immediate reward to the person who teaches it and coaches it and ask questions, and you don't get that immediate reward. It's actually frustrating because you're suppressing this part of yourself that you're so proud of, and it gives you so much joy because of this long term reward of improving a person and making your team better. To be honest, that is still challenging. Today, I have a sticky note on my monitor that says time to problem solve, and that's remind me to give other people time to problem solve before I jump in.

Chris Byers: I think as a leader, you've pointed out something that I struggle with on a very regular basis because it's far too often that I'm like, I could go do this. And the effort to explain or the effort to actually, to your point, the effort to just be patient is probably the hardest thing because I'm like, I can get it done real fast. Let me just go, take care of this. So I think you've hit on an important point there. What are some signals that as you've used technology, as you've thought about this whole idea of really sifting through and getting to the right candidates or some key signals you've found in great candidates that you won't see on a resume?

Wes Winham Winler: I don't want to like totally throw out resumes because there is data there. The typical resume signals are is there a positive trajectory like someone moving up and doing bigger projects? But I'm familiar enough with the research where they give people a bunch of resumes and then they ask people to sort them into piles and just how incredibly depressing that research is. So one of my favorites is they took a similar resume and they gave one person a relevant second degree. So like math plus computer science for a very mathy like Ph.D. level position. And for one of the resumes, they get them that second degree for the other resume, they just made the first word and each bullet point a verb. So Giroux project completion or GRU usage, those sort of things, which tells a better story. Guess which one got more callbacks? The person who got a second relative degree or the person who changed one word as bad as you think is 25 percent more callbacks for that, that verb word and the resume. And I'd like to think I'm immune to this, but I'm probably not like when reading resumes. It's just easier to skim through. So my goal usually and I don't always do this because sometimes you just have to get resumes and keep going. But my goal is to not look at resumes until I've evaluated the screener because I can usually think of two to three questions someone can answer in a tweet. They're going to tell me much more about the relevant experience than the resume. That's my goal is to not read a resume until I'm talking to someone because you can see how they talk about their problem, how they communicate, what they've done, what they think is important. So, yeah, I try not to read resumes.

Chris Byers: You've talked about autism and this kind of learning that you went through. How do you think that's impacted you as a leader?

Wes Winham Winler: One thing that I think is a benefit is because I have really strong weaknesses that I'm aware of. I'm able to compensate for those by building deliberate practices. So I have a company where it's a little bit easier to orient yourself because more things are written down where things are explicit, which I think is good for a company. It means sometimes you go slower rather than going faster. I also am a little bit more aware that some people are different, which I think we all need to be reminded of constantly because it is so easy to just assume everyone has the exact same as you. I used to think that autism was a deficit in a lot of ways. When my mental model now is closer to, there are defaults that we all have and we pretty much assume that everyone else has the same defaults. And a lot of the problems in the world are when we interact with folks who have different defaults. About one is ask culture versus gas culture. So when you ask someone, is it safe to say no? Or is that ask a very strong commitment? And that's ask culture versus guess culture where you really don't ask anyone anything. You just say, Man, that's a really nice shirt and that person is supposed to read in, and that means they really want. One of the research for their birthday is one example of different defaults. So just being aware that the defaults are different and being constantly reminded that I am different whenever I think of meeting with greats and then I ask someone about it later, and it absolutely didn't, or I think something is very clear and it's not.

Chris Byers: Yeah, I think your point of I was just talking to my wife about this the other day, how I think as leaders that one of the most difficult things is knowing what other people don't know because we all do very much to your point, presume like, Oh, I had this experience, everybody's had this experience. And yet we forget, Oh yeah, we've had 10 20 whatever years of experience that does add up, and sometimes you don't realize how all that impacts your decisions as you've then started to translate that into this knowledge of how maybe you think about things and how we need to think about how other people might not see it quite the same way. How's that translated into leading a company?

Wes Winham Winler: For me, it looks like a company that has just maybe what might be described as highly structured goals, let's say. So we have three cascading goals systems with a company of 14 people. So the idea is everybody knows exactly what they're working on all the time versus relying on talking to your boss and kind of reading the mood to see what is more or less important. So we have quarterly V Times, which is a horrible acronym, but Salesforce invented it, and I think it's pretty good. It's a mix of planning a goal setting system. Then we have monthly OK hours, which are you break that quarterly goal into a few objectives, which are great motivating sounding things we would like to do and a few key results, which are how do we know we've made progress towards that great sounding objectives? And then also weekly commitments. So every week on Friday, we get together and we help each other think of what is the one or two things that are very much in our control that we can do next week that is going to make progress towards those monthly goals, which rolls up to that quarterly goals. I think that means people at least know what they need to be doing. It means you don't have to ask what the next piece of work is. But I think that's a style and my guess is some people would be very not in favor of that much explicit work and structure. But for me, that's how I know I'm doing the right thing, that I'm staying on task and how I get feedback about what we should be doing versus what a startup. Startups don't die from starvation. They die from indigestion. There are so many good ideas, there are so many things we could be doing that are actually are good ideas. The arts and science is choosing. What are the things we say no to so we can be really good at the things that are more important?

Chris Byers: It's great. I do think you've touched on a handful of things that as a remote organization are really important, and I definitely talk about a lot. And then you talk about written communication. I actually think that's extremely valuable and in a remote world because it just gives people time to digest time to read it in their own way. There's just all these unsaid things in a remote world, and this just helps you communicate those things. Whereas if you're all sitting in the office together, you do get a little bit of that osmosis of talking to the person next to you or you overhear things. And so I think you have to be much more explicit in a remote culture, and it sounds like you guys have really thought about that.

Wes Winham Winler: Yeah, I think even in that she's talked about the osmosis, I have the experience of being in those rooms and not picking up on the osmosis, actually, and maybe everyone else did, because I'm mostly not paying attention to it. So I think I overcompensated for my my deficiency by going process first, which is great in a remote world because we're all on the same page. I've talked to some other autistic folks who talk about how remote is can be so frustrating for normal folks. For autistic folks, which is autistic, is the inverse of autistic. If you ever hear that word on the internet now, you know is we're all in the same autistic box. We've got a Zoom call with restricted interaction. We've got a chat box. So we're all like a little bit autistic as a result of work in the remote world. So some of the things that make things inclusive for neurodiverse folks also make it better for everyone. And that's about writing. That's about having explicit time for chit chat, which sounds like a crazy thing, but making sure people have time to do those little human interactions and write things down.

Chris Byers: I was actually reading a book recently called The Culture Map by author Aaron Meyer, and what's interesting is I was fascinated because she's actually talking about country cultures and goes through a lot of different assessments. But it's all about communication styles and how we perceive authority and whether we're high context and low context. It's like, Man, this is actually it would be really valuable in a company because even if we're all from the same country or the same city, we all have different methods of communication and how much information we're going to give you and not give you. And I think that you've honed in on that as an important point. If you can illustrate that to people, you can really speed up getting on the same page

Wes Winham Winler: as a great book. I learned it was surprising to me how positive American culture is and how as far as feedback, like directness of feedback that most European cultures are much more likely to tell you what is wrong and that be OK like French culture is here is all the things that are wrong with you. OK, have a good day. Whereas someone did that to me, I'd be like, Oh my gosh, this person hates me because that's the cultural norm in America. We have the the crap sandwich idea where you say something good, you say something and you say something good is a common crutch. And the different cultures vary a lot, like in Russia that would be seen as way more disingenuous than it this year. It's really interesting how different groups of people have settled on norms that totally work for them as long as everyone agrees. But as soon as you have people with different norms, everyone thinks people are rude or they don't get the message.

Chris Byers: Each conversation we have on the show ends up highlighting innovative ideas and fresh perspectives. West is focused on helping companies hire hidden gems, asking people to go beyond resumé and accolades. What's if you could give advice to our listeners? How would you encourage people to go beyond traditional means for finding talent?

Wes Winham Winler: My number one advice is is when you are accepting applications is to write a form that asks simple questions about things that you really want to know about someone that that simple act forces you to think about what you actually care about because you only get two or three questions. And I think you'll find people who are great that you would have overlooked on the resume. And those are the folks that are going to be most loyal. They're going to have the steepest learning curve. They're getting overlooked in the market. So it's great for them, and it's also great for us

Chris Byers: as we wrap up the conversation of get the handful of final questions, the first one. How would you suggest listeners think about talent differently than they do today?

Wes Winham Winler: One of the easiest things to do when we're thinking about talent is to recognize people who have the exact same strengths as we do. So it's much easier to recognize someone who was good at the things we're good at because we pay attention to them, and that's why we're good at them. One of the hardest things to do as a leader is to hire people who are bad at things you care about, but are good at things that are different from you, and then to manage someone who is a different shape than you. So that's one of the things I personally struggle with and think about a lot is how do I build a team who is not just flawed in? The same ways in great in the same way, because that doesn't build an organization that is effective overall.

Chris Byers: And what do you think people listening can do to create a positive impact for other people?

Wes Winham Winler: One of the things I took away from my first boss at the pleasure working with is the idea that thinks is free. It's cheap. It is so easy to think someone, but it is so easy to forget to do. I can remember times where I got thanked from peers that really lodged my memory. But it is absolutely free to thank someone. So I have tried to cultivate a habit of thanking people for things that I appreciate, even if it's part of their job and to be specific in that things. So it's not. I appreciate your help. I appreciate the way you proactively reached out to tell me this was going to be a little bit late. That's exactly the type of person I would work with. So just a few slack messages like that a week can really build a lot of goodwill in the company. It makes people happier, makes people appreciate it, and it feels good to say thank you.

Chris Byers: Are there any ways you're looking to create impact in the future?

Wes Winham Winler: Right now, a job is one of the most important predictors of mental health of stability. Jobs come with health insurance, but the act of changing job of training for a new job is the same as it was 200 years ago. We have a a world that's moving faster and jobs are turning over more and more quickly, and skills are turning over more and more quickly. But nothing else has evolved to help people train faster or find those jobs more quickly. My goal for an impact is to fix that problem, to make it easier to change jobs, to find a new team, to make it easier to bring new folks on your team. That will be successful because one of the reasons right now we are out of a recession. But the number of unemployed people is just steadily decreasing at a very slow rate because we have not gotten any better at matching people to jobs. And that's the problem, I think. I could focus on for the next 50 years of my life.

Chris Byers: In recent episodes, guests have brought up the way that they view or have experienced failure. How do you view failure?

Wes Winham Winler: I think we all have an understanding of how failure teaches us things. I think of another way to look at failure is as a habit we need to get into. So I have a weekly five 15, which is it takes me 15 minutes. Write five minutes, read. It's a way of keeping up to date with my management team, and one of my items is what have I tried and failed at this week? And I don't view it as a success if I don't have something to put, their failure is a habit. That means that we are trying something new, and I worry that if I ever get out of the habit of trying things and failing them, that I'm going to stop growing. So I think failure is a learning tool, but it also can be a habit to make sure that we're actually trying things new and growing.

Chris Byers: To learn more about how people are reimagining their world of work. Head over to practicallygenius.com. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Ripple Effect.

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Lindsay is a writer with a background in journalism and loves getting to flex her interview skills as host of Practically Genius. She manages Formstack's blog and long-form reports, like the 2022 State of Digital Maturity: Advancing Workflow Automation.