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June 10, 2019

How to Pinpoint Top-Quality Candidates from a Stack of 4,000 Applications — Interview with Julie Zollo, Elevation Church

interview with Julie Zollo Elevation Church

When Julie Zollo joined Elevation Church as Staffing Director in 2015, she had her work cut out for her.

The Southern Baptist multi-site church was growing fast.

More members meant more staff. And more staff meant more hands in the hiring process. "We were using a really simple document system to manage applicants. But as more hiring managers got involved, we realized we needed a system that would give us better collaboration tools and a better way to organize everything," Julie recalls.

So Julie did her due diligence. She set out to find the perfect applicant tracking system to deliver the best candidates, without putting additional stress or costs on her team.

Today, Elevation Church has 17 locations and a weekly attendance rate of 25,000. Here's how Julie and her lean team of recruitment rockstars filled hundreds of positions last year, without compromising quality.

How did you know it was time to change your hiring system?

When I came on board four years ago, our organization was growing fast and we quickly realized our system was way too email-based.

We were forwarding things, replying and people were getting left out of important hiring conversations. There was so much confusion.

It was clear that as our staffing demands increased and more hiring managers got involved, we needed a better way to stay organized.

What were you looking for in an applicant tracking solution?

We were looking at all types of solutions—solutions that were expensive, solutions that were cost-effective, all types. But no matter where we looked, it seemed like we couldn't quite land the features we wanted.

When we stumbled upon Breezy on a software review site, I was like 'OK, I'll check it out.'

I had done a lot of research but for the first time, I had finally found a solution that was always improving and adding features.

That's what really drew me to Breezy because we're the same way. We're always improving and innovating in our space. It's something that's very important to us and we like to work with companies that have the same passion for continuous innovation and improvement.

I also liked that Breezy felt like a startup. The interface was clean and inviting. It was a user-friendly experience and because we spend a lot of time in our applicant tracking system, we want to make sure we enjoy it.

We've been excited along the way to see how every feature is enhanced. It's almost like a surprise to us. Every month we're like 'What are they gonna add next?!'

What were the must-have features you knew you needed?

We knew automated emails were a must. But for us, it's also important to get to know candidates face-to-face. We wanted a system that would make video interviewing easy.

Before Breezy, we were using Skype and it was always a little clunky for the candidate. Now we're able to simply send them a link that goes straight into their calendar and is auto-populated with all the instructions.

It makes us feel like we're giving the candidate a professional experience, and one where they feel well cared for. It was also important for us to be able to record those video interviews within the app itself and from what I'd seen, no other system besides Breezy offered that.

The automated emails also help us give the candidate a good experience without taking up a ton of bandwidth for our team. From rejection emails to updates on how things are moving along in the hiring process, the emails definitely feel more personal but we don't have to physically sit there and write one email at a time.

Were there any headaches in the rollout process?

Every time you roll out a new system, there can be some resistance. But getting set up with Breezy was surprisingly easy.

I think that's because Breezy's interface makes it feel totally doable. The @mentions feel like social media, things we already use in our everyday life. Adoption wasn't an issue because it felt like a natural rhythm for us. Of course, it also helped that people realized that now we finally had a central place where nothing would get lost.

Whenever we do have feedback, we send that in and the Breezy team is always very responsive.

It's so important for us to be partnered with a company that really listens to the feedback we're giving—that can be a rare thing to find. But with Breezy, it's not only that they're listening it's also that the rollouts are quick. We know our feedback isn't just being sat on.

What's the most exciting or unexpected benefit of using Breezy?

Text messaging has been really helpful, and it's something that we just weren't able to do before.

An email can linger in an inbox for a while but if you text an applicant, you'll normally provoke a quick response.

Like everyone else, we're learning that most people let phone calls go to voicemail but text eliminates the fear of picking up the phone and allows us to connect with candidates faster. Once we have a point of contact with a candidate and we've established some rapport, we're able to easily follow up with them at each stage of the process.

Now we can stay connected with our candidates, without taking up so much time on our end.

What are your hiring goals and how do you track them?

We track as much as we possibly can. One of the things in Breezy that we like the most is the ability to track applications over time to see the flow of candidates coming in for each role and for the organization overall.

The views that are coming in are important to us. The number of applications coming in is important to us. And the EEOC is really important to us. We run all our background checks through Breezy.

Quality of hire is also very important. We're OK with waiting on candidates if it means we're able to find the right fit for our organization. Winning for us means we're able to find people who are just as passionate about our mission as we are and are willing to run just as hard and fast as we do. Which of course, is not always easy to find.

Breezy makes it easier by helping us be very upfront with our applicants.

We explain exactly what we're looking for. We write our job descriptions around that and we set up a custom application in Breezy that will help us filter for that. Plus, we're able to use the logic that Breezy gives us to filter candidates quickly.

The amount of time that we're able to turn candidates around has also been faster because of the ease of collaboration that's now happening. We were looking for a system that was completely customizable and Breezy gave us that.

What do you like best about Breezy and why?

It feels like Breezy really listens and is in tune with the people who sit in our seat.

It's clear that your team actually thinks about what the experience is like for recruiters and candidates, and you make it really easy for us to treat our candidates well.

Plus, now we have one central hub where we can all communicate. Breezy's enabled our hiring managers to be clear about who they're looking for role and get on the same page about our top candidates, all in one space.

The collaboration that Breezy allows has been second to none. We use it as our exclusive recruitment communication tool. We won't even discuss candidates outside of Breezy.

There's only three of us on the staffing team and last year we saw over 4,000 applications come through. We're a non-profit and we have a responsibility to be lean. For us, it was crucial to choose a system that would keep our staff as lean and effective as possible. And there's no way we'd be able to handle it all without a solution that's as quick and agile as Breezy.