Optimizing The Hiring Process with Bianca Lager

In this episode of The Hire Talent's podcast, Optimizing the Hiring Process, we are joined by Bianca Lager

Bianca is the President of Social Intelligence where she drives the vision to support organizations in protecting workplace culture and preventing harassment. Bianca obtained an MBA from Pepperdine University with a concentration in Dispute Resolution and is a LinkedIn Learning Instructor.

To work with Bianca you can contact her at:
Optimizing The Hiring Process Podcast


Bianca Lager: Hi.

Fletcher: I welcome everybody to The Hire Talent podcast, optimizing the hiring processes for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs. I have a great entrepreneur here with us today, Bianca Lager. She's the CEO of Social Intelligence, which is a super cool business and I can't wait to talk to her all about it. It's a topic I'm super curious about. So welcome, Bianca, thanks for being here.

Bianca Lager: Hi. Thank you so much, Fletcher, excited to be here.

Fletcher: Yeah. I always kick off just how did you end up starting this business, and tell me about your journey a little bit and how this came to be.

Bianca Lager: Sure. I didn't start it, that is first thing's first. I was recruited to run the show.

Fletcher: Wow, okay.

Bianca Lager: I got my MBA somewhere along the way during mid career. I had a background in sales and marketing and was running essentially small businesses. I was a business manager in the event industry and different things in Santa Barbara where I live. And I just felt-

Fletcher: Yeah, beautiful place.

Bianca Lager: It is. It is. I can't complain. Certainly, I feel very blessed and it's an interesting place especially in that event industry that I was in, because one finds themselves at Oprah's house suddenly, and it's an incredible experience. But along the way I felt like gosh, I don't know that I know what I'm doing that well. And I was running other people's businesses, that's been my expertise I guess, and I decided to-

Fletcher: Hired gun.

Bianca Lager: I am. I decided to join the technology industry and get my MBA at the same time. So I got a corporate gig in the software field, a great company called Lynda.com and I started doing my MBA basically at every waking hour that I wasn't at work. My commute from Santa Barbara to Malibu to Pepperdine, I always tell people not to feel too sorry for me. It was actually really hard.

Fletcher: Yeah. That's like a hour and a half or something.

Bianca Lager: Yeah. No, it was hard, that's for sure. So along the way, hustled hard during that time, and of course, I'm just a regular gal trying to take on less student loans as I can and was volunteering at places. And I was just really, really hustling at all angles. I was bartending on the weekends, I was doing all sorts of stuff. And at the end of my MBA journey, I was in a place where it was like okay, settle down now, let's get a big girl job and settle down and take a chill. And so I did and I found what I thought was going to be a great corporate dream job and I definitely was excited, there was so much growth potential and all sorts of stuff.

Had a very snarky boss and in retrospect I am really glad I didn't have to stay there. What ended up happening was my neighbor, my friend, had a company called Social Intelligence for a few years and we all went to dinner one night. Me and his wife have been very good friends for a long time, and so it wasn't an unusual thing. We went to dinner and I'm sort of mid spoon, soup up halfway to my mouth and my dear friend, Max Drucker, essentially says, "Hey, in my business we have two product lines, things are getting complicated. I want to spin off the companies into two different companies. I want to run one and I want you to run the other one." And as one does, one says yes.

Fletcher: Yeah, it's an exciting opportunity, very entrepreneurial.

Bianca Lager: Very much. Very much, and it was cool. And I mean, of course, that began the journey. So I can't take credit for it being my brain child, but essentially I like to take credit for turning a product line into an industry I like to say. So that's where-

Fletcher: So when did you start with Social Intelligence?

Bianca Lager: That was five years ago.

Fletcher: Okay, good.

Bianca Lager: Yeah.

Fletcher: It's interesting, everybody has their own path there. I love that it was a connection with a neighbor. The best way to find great people is through your own network, right? Referrals is the number one source of the best hires, and so we're always advocating that. And obviously, people come to our companies probably and work with people like us when they're not doing that and they're hiring strangers.

Bianca Lager: Yeah. How do you mimic that process, right? And I mean, for me, I always tell people and one of the core values I have is yes, you can get lucky, but you have to be prepared, right?

Fletcher: Yeah, love that. Mine's manufacturing luck.

Bianca Lager: Exactly. And so I had exposure to somebody that had these resources, however, I was prepared to meet that moment in my own way, and just by his own observation noticed my hustle and-

Fletcher: You were sharing with him the things that you were doing at work and he was getting a flavor for how your style was?

Bianca Lager: Yeah. And so-

Fletcher: And [crosstalk].

Bianca Lager: Right. And yes. And to your point, in the hiring process that's what we'd all love to do, to have that long runtime to see how people are in the wild and watch them adapt and overcome obstacles and all that kind of stuff. And so for him, he felt very confident that this was the right thing because of that exposure on both our sides. And yes, the conundrum of all of us who hire folks is forever how could you put that in a bottle.

Fletcher: I love it. This concept of when, what, preparation meets opportunity equals success kind of thing. So it's cool. So tell us about ... I'm really interested in the Social Intelligence. We've lots and lots of clients and a lot of them will ask questions often about this like, "Hey, what do you think about looking at people's social media accounts?" And I don't know, I don't even know where to begin to advise them. Sometimes I feel like there's probably some legal repercussions or compliance issues to ... Yeah, of course, it doesn't hurt if you see them spouting off some crazy stuff or doing some inappropriate things, it's probably not a great hire if that's what they're doing in their personal lives. But help us understand a little bit better what you guys have done with this concept?

Bianca Lager: Yeah, completely. Max's, our founder's original brainchild was really this idea from the candidate perspective, right? 2010 is when the company first formed, and so you think about 11 years ago-

Fletcher: Yeah, where were we? Where were we? Was their Facebook yet?

Bianca Lager: Yeah, right. Did we even care about these things yet? And truly, what an evolution and what a complete change of how it's been. And so, you can imagine certainly then this idea of well hey, you know what, it's really not fair that your boss is just pulling up your Facebook.

Fletcher: No.

Bianca Lager: Essentially, Max found himself doing that and his team doing that and saying, "Well, wait a minute, that's not right," and the biases that are created. And then of course, Facebook is still in its young stage as far as our society and what it really all meant and even the information on there was all over the place, it was a lot. And it was cumbersome, still is obviously, to really weed through what you're reading through.

Fletcher: Sift through.

Bianca Lager: Yeah. And truly at the end of the day, unethical, frankly.

Fletcher: Yeah. When you start talking about bias, it's the most biased thing that you could do is probably look at somebody's social media account. There's so much talk in this day and age about how do we become less biased. There's companies out there doing blind resumes. I was just talking to somebody yesterday, they have a company who they don't even accept a resume, they just give the candidate five questions and then based on how they answer it, then they have an objective scoring system, and then based on that, then they invite people to the next level. So that company's gone to extreme lengths to eliminate bias in all ways. I don't even know if we've come up with a fool-proof solution to that. I mean, something like that is ... Right?

Bianca Lager: Right. It's a constant work in progress I think for many organizations and certainly it's difficult, and some biases are potentially positive things. And so, it's a whole conversation in terms of how bias works and that there's a psychology to it for sure. I think for Social Intelligence it was also about efficiency. It's like well, are you going to have these constant introspective conversations as a company and trying to really figure this out and study this? If you have the resources and those are your values then great, but not every company is going to be aligned that way. And so, it was really about what is universally true. At the end of the day what are companies worried about when they're looking online for stuff, what are some core things that are generally universally true?

Fletcher: So what are those things that most companies are concerned about and why they turn to social media?

Bianca Lager: Essentially, it's what our core product focuses on, which are behaviors, we talk about them a lot, behavior categories, which is intolerance. That's a big bucket of information that includes racism, it includes sexism, includes essentially derogatory information against somebody in a protected class because of their protected class status. It's complicated, but we'll set that aside. Next.

Fletcher: Yeah, we won't go down that road, but I can see all the complications associated with trying to assess that based on social posts, right?

Bianca Lager: Right, and that's why you want somebody who has expertise in defining those behaviors and specifically that type of content online, rather than try to take that on in your own organization. It's a lot of work. Violence.

Fletcher: Okay, obvious.

Bianca Lager: Full stop and full sentence there.

Fletcher: Yeah. We don't want to hire anybody who thinks violence is cool, and then next thing you know they're in a fight at work or something, right?

Bianca Lager: Right, and that's a mild example. We don't even have to talk about the extremes, but they're out there, they exist, both for employees, for clients, for everybody. Sexually explicit material. That's actually one of them that some companies take or leave actually. Some companies are like don't care. Some companies really need a more buttoned up reputational experience out there and so that's important. And the last one is-

Fletcher: So is there a connection ... Sorry to interrupt.

Bianca Lager: No, it's okay.

Fletcher: Is there a connection between that kind of stuff and, say, sexual harassment in the workplace, or?

Bianca Lager: Yeah, potentially.

Fletcher: I mean what kind of studies have been done?

Bianca Lager: That's another sort of rabbit hole, but certainly that is the concern for our clients is to say, "Hey, for a variety of reasons, whether it's reputational, we just don't want to be exposed to that." What falls into this bucket a lot of times for us is porn, either the consumption of and broadcasting of that consumption, or the actual-

Fletcher: People actually do that?

Bianca Lager: Oh yeah. I mean, on their Amazon wishlists.

Fletcher: Wow.

Bianca Lager: And explicitly-

Fletcher: That's public information? So whatever I put on my Amazon wishlist, other people can see that?

Bianca Lager: Yeah, potentially. Again, this is an area where you don't think about it. You think about Facebook, you think about Twitter, but you don't think about how public is my Amazon wishlist. You really need to take a look and make sure things are okay, because some stuff is fairly not just risque, it's crossing the line and boundaries into things that my coworker saw this, it's like, "Whoa buddy."

And so, there's that and of course the production of. And so if there's potential candidates or employees that are actually posting their own sexually explicit ... And we get really pretty specific in terms of sexual acts is really what we're talking about there. But you can see also too how the different values of a company that might be different depending on what industry you're in, depending on what the norms are, the cultural norms. It can very much depend, and so, we do obviously work with our clients to make sure it reflects what their values are. And the last-

Fletcher: What about people that are partying at night clubs and Lake Havasu, these kind of-

Bianca Lager: That blends into the last category a little bit, which is potentially illegal behavior. Now, that's where you draw the line, because nobody cares about your red solo cup, nobody cares about how many glasses of wine you had last Friday night. But to that basic point that Max, this brainchild of social media screening back in 2009, the idea is but maybe those biased people will think that, "Oh, this guy parties too much." I had a recruiter tell me once at a conference, "I just look at somebody's Instagram and if they post too many selfies or too many pictures of food, I don't move them on in the process."

Fletcher: Of food? What's wrong with a foodie?

Bianca Lager: Hey, yeah.

Fletcher: I like foodies.

Bianca Lager: It's just such a prime example of like, "What are you talking about? How does that make them qualified or not qualified? What?"

Fletcher: So if you start talking about using explicit drugs and things like that, then that's when you're starting to get ...

Bianca Lager: Right.

Fletcher: It's inappropriate.

Bianca Lager: Really specific behaviors, theft, I'm stealing. It's a lot of drugs and it's a lot of theft. And those kinds of things-

Fletcher: So people bragging about shoplifting and things like that?

Bianca Lager: Bragging. That's how it works-

Fletcher: Look at this purse I lifted or something or what?

Bianca Lager: Right. And so it's different than a criminal background screen and we can talk about the legal stuff too, but these reports are consumer reports just like criminal background screens. So you have to go through a series of regulatory procedures just like a criminal background check if you need to obtain one of these. And so, there's a differentiation there because we're not reporting on criminal history. This is bragging stuff that's like, and I always give this example, if somebody is saying, "I love to drink and drive. Look at me. There's my picture of me drunk-"

Fletcher: With my roadie or whatever.

Bianca Lager: Right. That's something we're flagging, but people tend not to the way they speak on social media, the people tend to not speak of it in the way that's like, "I was arrested last night. Here's my mea culpa. I take responsibility." Arrest records and stuff, those are for criminal reports, but this is a bragging situation.

Fletcher: So do people ... They have to give you consent then to do these searches?

Bianca Lager: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Fletcher: So candidate comes into the hiring process, just like you might get to the background check phase, then the candidate's giving that explicit consent?

Bianca Lager: Same thing. It's the same thing.

Fletcher: So do people drop out of the process when you ask them like, "Okay. Hey, we'd like to do a social media background check on you."

Bianca Lager: No. No. No.

Fletcher: They don't even remember what they put up there.

Bianca Lager: I think it's a couple reasons. I think one, they're not very clear about what that means and, or some people don't really understand potentially the offense or the consequence, or maybe it's something that happened ... I mean, these reports have a limit of going back to seven years, but that's still a good chunk of time, and so you post something four years ago, it just might not be something that you're thinking about. That, and if you're a habitual ... About 1% of the time do we find that the most colorful reports, we say, it's where people have a hit in all four categories. And so that happens about 1% of the time.

Fletcher: Wow.

Bianca Lager: Yeah, I know. So you're a habitual ... Like you obviously ... Like this is your jam. So our feeling and our sense is that not that they're not aware of the content, but that it is more like a I'm trying to be funny, I am trying to get attention, the shock value of it all to gain followers. Whatever it is, it is intentional.

Fletcher: So has there been any studies around okay, if people are exhibiting ... I mean, we're talking about, what, racist, sexually explicit, inappropriate, drug use and violent behavior basically are our four buckets?

Bianca Lager: Yeah.

Fletcher: Is there any relationship to people who have shown a history of bragging or sharing or being interested in these things in public, like on social media that's in public essentially, right?

Bianca Lager: Yeah, right.

Fletcher: Is there any relationship to that and what happens once they're on the job?

Bianca Lager: Not that we've conducted. And I think this ... Well, what I know-

Fletcher: Because those people don't get hired after you guys are done with them.

Bianca Lager: It is something we've thought about in terms of studying it and I think we're in a unique position to where I don't know how many research companies would have access to that information in that way.

Fletcher: No, very few.

Bianca Lager: Right. And then just actually following somebody and seeing what that is. I think those aren't the reasons though that organizations need to deal with this or necessarily are inclined. Potentially, there's other types of studies that talk about what you're talking about. Why do you do any background check? It's the risk of negligence, making sure you don't have-

Fletcher: Have you done your due diligence.

Bianca Lager: Right. Lawsuits, bullying, harassment, and then unique to social media, that bad publicity, the reputational risk. And there's a lot of pressure from consumers now, they're like, "I Googled this guy. You didn't Google this guy? Look at this." And so-

Fletcher: Yeah, you send a service technician in the home and they're completely inappropriate and then next thing you know, the consumer's-

Bianca Lager: Look at those tweets, right?

Fletcher: Yeah. Now they have a claim against you as a company because it's so obvious that there was something wrong, right?

Bianca Lager: Yeah. Or, there was a level of trust that they gave to you and should that trust have been given. And so, certainly that is the drive and the motivation and I'm sure lots of research around exactly how companies have had outcomes that avoid those types of things, but avoiding risk, insurance essentially, is a different beast. But the psychology I think that is also interesting, another factor here that our clients use these reports for, isn't just keep this person out of a job, it's not just we're trying to be like red flag, no. Now, especially with a lot of initiatives around diversity and inclusion in businesses, not all these tweets and all this content is ... they're not deal breakers, right?

Fletcher: Yeah.

Bianca Lager:And so, some  of these reports, depending on the level of severity here, become either documentation, just good to keep around if something else comes up then we at least have this as like letting go, terminating the relationship.

Fletcher: If they do start saying inappropriate things at work, it's like, okay, now we see a history of that and making public statements about this and they also did it here at work. Now we're going to move to terminate this person that we've got additional evidence.

Bianca Lager: Exactly.

Fletcher: So are they doing them on existing employees then, too?

Bianca Lager: Yeah.

Fletcher: Are they asking people to sign up and say ...

Bianca Lager: Yes, and it's certainly become a more prevalent thought in a lot of our client's minds. In those cases too, along with the documentation, especially for current employees, it's something that we call teachable moments, right?

Fletcher: Yeah.

Bianca Lager: Hey, let's talk about your tweet here, let's talk about your use of this word or that word or whatever it is, and I'm going to give you the opportunity to delete it, to confront it, to learn that hey, here's our policy, here's our code of conduct, here's our social media policy, whatever it is. This is running up against this, so let's work together to see. And a lot of times that does actually create moments where people can learn and grow and understand and then thrive in their careers. So this isn't necessarily just about you don't get the job, you're fired.

Fletcher: Stuff I was posting when I was 18 ... Actually, well, it didn't exist, but if I were 18-

Bianca Lager: Me neither.

Fletcher: But if I were 18 and I had social media, I'm sure I would have posted some things that I probably shouldn't have, but-

Bianca Lager: Yeah, thank goodness.

Fletcher: Yeah, right?

Bianca Lager: I'm glad I'm the same age as Mark Zuckerberg, because we came as same timeframe.

Fletcher: Yeah, exactly. But you definitely live and learn, and you also learn people have the opportunity to correct themselves, so that's definitely good that you can leverage that to help educate folks. I think it's super interesting. I mean we go back, in our world everything's about criterion outcomes, can we tie what we're doing in the hiring process back to performance outcomes of some sort, and so it's always an area of interest for us. A big piece of what we do is how do we statistically prove what we're doing and those kind of things. And so, totally would be interested in exploring that subject.

And I guess the reason why it's so important that businesses out in the real world like ours I think that do this kind of work or in these realms of predicting on the job performance or predicting risk, reducing risk, or being more involved in these scientific studies is because a lot of times it gets left the academics. And no offense to them, I mean, we partner with Bowling Green State University in the assessment side and they're considered the number one assessment scientists in the country, and they're great, but we have frank conversations with them too, they have challenges of getting the real world data too. They wish they could get it more easily, and it's very, very difficult to get. So I'm always interested in where do we get it and how do we get it.

Bianca Lager: Yeah. I think there's a lot to be said also for broader categories that apply here in terms of how did diversity and inclusion initiatives help improve performance on your team. And inclusivity, including hostile work environments, knowing how hostile work environments negatively affect work, we certainly cite a lot of stats throughout our website and our blog on research surrounding how people feel at work in those types of environments, the turnover that occurs because of it, just the hindrance of production when people aren't performing at their best, or people are distracted essentially by these other issues, and not even if it's necessarily direct.

Certainly you can understand the outcome when somebody's being sexually harassed or somebody's being bullied or has a hostile environment or a hostile experience, but the surrounding team that experiences that, the company, how that bleeds out into-

Fletcher: Yeah, the toxic environment.

Bianca Lager: Right.

Fletcher: I think most companies, unless you're running Wolf of Wall Street type business, I think they're probably aspiring more to something like an In-N-Out type of culture where it's really disciplined and good manners and team work and all these other more positive things. But if you're an organization that has these positive values and missions and trying to reinforce those, it's amazing, if your eye's not on the ball there constantly, you begin to allow that cancerous type of behaviors infect the organization. And it starts to drive out the positive drivers of that, the people who are being harassed or being threatened with violence or bullied at work or whatever other crazy thing that happens. And those are the good people that you want to foster that more positive, and slowly the tide begins to turn, right?

Bianca Lager: Certainly, and I think not all companies are after even the more ... We find that the industries that are really interested in social media screening are not necessarily ones that have the aspirational ... There's that, certainly, that aspirational like, "Hey, we can do better, we can be the best in terms of the positivity in the culture," but also highly regulated ones. People with fiduciary duties, financial, healthcare, education, people who are in charge of our children, these are positions of duty of care towards folks that do have a higher level of trust that are associated with it.

And then of course, there are technology companies and a variety of companies for whatever reason that those equity and positivity is at their core values and that is definitely in alignment here too. But truly also I think it's about upholding that human dignity aspect of it to their clients and to themselves, and just that level of trust. People have to trust us. People have to be able to come to us and know that the guy who's my financial advisor or the nurse who's giving me my vaccine is someone who isn't discriminatory towards me or doesn't want to beat me up. I think there's a variety of things.

Fletcher: Yeah, no, for sure. No, that makes a lot of sense. So I was curious about your guy's overall hiring philosophies. Where in the process do you guys typically recommend using a screening tool like this? And then just in general, what are some tips or tricks in the hiring process that you recommend to make sure that you get the best people?

Bianca Lager: It's such a loaded question, right?

Fletcher: Yeah, I gave you two questions at once.

Bianca Lager: Okay, so in terms of the social media screening, generally we recommend doing it when you are doing your other background screens. Most of the time it's post-offer for folks. So we are very, very big on operational efficiency and automation of workflow, because the entire point of outsourcing your social media screening efforts is so that you don't have to do a ton of work. You're not adding a new headcount or having to do a whole process flow just surrounding this.

Fletcher: And how to figure out how to interpret the information that you're getting, right?

Bianca Lager: Right.

Fletcher: And so that's the beauty of what you guys do is you create some structure around how to interpret that, right?

Bianca Lager: Yeah, we help give some guidance there and there is certainly a level of review just like a criminal background check. You have to decide if that DUI's meaningful to your organization and generally companies have their own criteria for those kinds of things.

Fletcher: If you're going to drive a company vehicle, yes, if you don't, ever, maybe not such a big deal.

Bianca Lager: Yeah, we actually have a great training program we offer to new clients. It's kind of fun, I think it's fun, because most people haven't had exposure to social media screening reports. So we walk them through a series of assessments that they could apply in their own organization and we give them a lot of information, we're like, "Hey, you can use only a part of this, you can use one. But basically, test out these ways of looking at these reports." And making it very concrete ... Back to your example of that very structured idea of how to get through information and how to unbias your information, it's the same concept of hey, let's create a really solid structure-

Fletcher: A structure for interpreting what you've learned here? Yeah, okay.

Bianca Lager: Right. Yeah, exactly. And then people actually get to practice live, and then you benchmark against ... Because also, it's like are we on the same page? Do me and Fletcher actually agree-

Fletcher: Yeah, we agree.

Bianca Lager: Yeah. That happens for a variety of things, especially in HR departments. So anyway, it's a really interesting activity, and then of course the content is just so mind blowing sometimes, some people are very much like, "Oh my gosh." Like, "Oh my gosh, I can't believe we're looking at this kind of tweet." And it's like, "Yeah, this what we're talking about."

Fletcher: Real life.

Bianca Lager: Yeah, exactly. So that's very helpful if you've never experienced those things before. And then just trying to keep your process ... Obviously, you want to partner ... A lot of background screening providers now partner with my company or with some of my competitors so that it's just a one click thing. Wherever you're getting your criminal report, you're getting your other things and it's all in the same flow. It's all on the same API, it's all going to the same place and all that good stuff. So then it's a matter of what do you do with the results and that's how we support our clients in that way.

And then from there, the goal is to really not have it create a lot of extra internal conversations. We always say we don't want you to have to do a lot of introspective definitions of who you are and what you would say. We say, "Hey, this is what other people do. Does this work for your organization? Here's some training to help support it and let's implement this." And it's actually a lot more concrete and adaptable and adoptable than it seems from the beginning of the conversation.

Fletcher: Good. So aside from social intelligence, what's the one thing that you recommend people do in the hiring process that will improve their outcomes?

Bianca Lager: From my own perspective?

Fletcher: Sure.

Bianca Lager: My goodness. Well, outside of social media screening, I think about this a lot, I've been thinking about this a lot lately. We just have a new hire here, super excited, going really well, we're all really excited. And it was a referral, someone that had worked here before said, "This person's great, here you go." I actually knew her old boss so I could call him up, be like, "Shaun, is this true?" And again, it's that same-

Fletcher: Good. Check that reference.

Bianca Lager: Yeah, right. And so reference checking I think is definitely something that is super important, but a lot of companies are out there trying to push an AI solution on it, and it is ... You certainly need to add technology there. There are ways that you can definitely automate this, but I think there's also really cool companies, and I'm going to find this company's name because ... Crosschq, thank you. My friend, Mike Fitzsimmons, who's the CEO of Crosschq, they have created a really amazing solution that includes a human element to that reference checking concept.

And they help automate it so that it's less cumbersome and it's not like where's this person's phone number, who is it, submitting the information to how people are responding to the reference questions, the questions you ask them. It's a really, really, really well thought out platform, the user experience is really good. I'm just a really big fan and also of Mike in general. He has a really great vision for the company.

Fletcher: That's great, yeah.

Bianca Lager: So-

Fletcher: Reference checks is the big one. I love that and I'm glad you brought that up. I think it's so often overlooked. In this day and age people think you can't get them, because so many people have company policies against it. So we actually did a massive study around reference checking-

Bianca Lager: Oh really?

Fletcher:... that's being at published at SIOP, The Society for Industrial Occupational Psychologists here in the spring. So we're doing a poster there and we'll be presenting on it, but they're looking at hundreds of reference checks and through an automated reference checking tool that we offer there.

Bianca Lager: Oh, interesting.

Fletcher: And it was pretty interesting. One of the things we found is it actually created less bias against women, which was-

Bianca Lager: Doing the reference checks?

Fletcher: Yeah, doing reference checks, we found that the previous supervisors would provide more positive feedback about women than they would men, which was contrary to all previous research where previous research always showed that there's always some unconscious bias against women in the hiring process in other words, or in employee evaluations. So the types of language that people would use to evaluate women would be more negatively toned than when evaluating men.

Bianca Lager: Interesting.

Fletcher: So it's this subtle thing, right? There's our societal unconscious bias that when women are assertive in the workplace maybe they get marked down for that, as opposed to when men are assertive they get marked up for that behavior.

Bianca Lager: Right. She's bossy, which is a negative thing. He's assertive and takes control.

Fletcher: Yeah, exactly. That's a positive. So it was interesting though-

Bianca Lager: Story of my life, Fletcher, story of my life.

Fletcher: Yeah, well, you're the CEO, right? So you should be assertive, that's how you get things done. Now obviously, appropriately assertive and we all have to be that way. And I'll tell you as a man, I'm more often more inappropriately assertive than I should be. I've made plenty of mistakes as a young leader.

Bianca Lager: We all have.

Fletcher: And probably to this day, just being too rough on people.

Bianca Lager: That's how we learn. That's how we learn. Yeah, for sure.

Fletcher: There's a balance there, right, on how you use your assertiveness?

Bianca Lager: Definitely.

Fletcher: But it was really, really interesting to see that A, that the previous supervisors of female applicants were giving in general a slightly more positive feedback than their male counterparts. And then overall, what's really interesting is that previous supervisors were giving the most constructive critical feedback. Not critical in a bad way, but more constructive critical feedback than non-supervisory type raters or references.

Bianca Lager: Interesting.

Fletcher: So I thought that was a pretty interesting deal.

Bianca Lager: Yeah. You're presenting that information soon?

Fletcher: Yeah, at SIOP.

Bianca Lager: Oh great. All right, well, I'll tune in. I mean, that stuff's really fascinating to me and also I think it just feeds into my own efforts in terms of I'm a big advocate for women empowerment and their careers and negotiating salaries and just career advancement in general. I'm a mom and it's like that's a whole other element to it that makes things difficult. But beyond that, we're always interested in keeping up with other great ways, obviously, people can improve their hiring process. And at the end of the day, all of us in the game are here to try and make sure that organizations do have access and are able to attract and attain the best talent. I have a question for you, Fletcher, if you don't mind.

Fletcher: Sure. Yeah, go for it.

Bianca Lager: I might flip the script here a little bit.

Fletcher: Don't worry, I'm an open book.

Bianca Lager: Well, I grew up in San Diego, I notice you went to SDSU?

Fletcher: Yeah, I went to the not so smart school, but yeah.

Bianca Lager:  Hey, that's my hometown school. No, it's good.

Fletcher:  Go Aztecs.

Bianca Lager: Go Aztecs. We went to many Aztec games growing up.

Fletcher:  Tony Gwynn, Marshall Faulk.

Bianca Lager:  Marshall Faulk. Yeah, absolutely. Oh gosh, yeah completely. Tony Gwynn Stadium there now. But you majored in philosophy, it made me curious, does the core of that philosophical questions of what motivates people-

Fletcher: What's the meaning of life, the universe and everything?

Bianca Lager: Yeah, sure. Does it still drive a lot of your interest in this data and finding evidence and things like that? I was curious about it.

Fletcher: Yeah, well, I wanted to be a lawyer, and so-

Bianca Lager: So did I once upon a time.

Fletcher: Yeah. Then I got through four years of school and I actually finished my philosophy degree in two and a half years. I was telling this story to a young entrepreneur I'm mentoring who just won a GSA contest, it's like a little, mini Shark Tank thing.

Bianca Lager: Oh cool.

Fletcher: So we went out to dinner to celebrate and he's going on to the next level. But I was telling him this story and I finished it in two and a half years and so then you need a certain number of credits in order to actually graduate, so you have to find some other classes to take. But then I got a minor in finance and it's well balanced. But no, the philosophy side, I was a troubled kid and struggling to figure out the meaning of life, the universe and everything, and what's the purpose and why am I here, what am I doing and just all those kind of things. I think at a certain point I found peace with that, but philosophy teaches people how to think about abstract ideas in actually a logical way.

That's really the art of philosophy is how do I take something that's fuzzy like the meaning of life and then break it down into a set of really logical arguments or thought processes in order to make an argument for whatever you come up with really, essentially. If it's God, you still have a foundation of logical arguments that you're using to justify that's the purpose or something like that.

Bianca Lager: And hate to be just one sided and selfish here, but it is actually a lot of what Social Intelligence does, it's the same concept. It's such a great definition, it's taking those abstract thoughts and then putting them into a logical series that has practical outcomes.

Fletcher: Yeah, you consistently talk about getting in fights and threatening violence on people or doing this, it starts adding up and it's like well, it's logical to see that this person probably has some anger issues.

Bianca Lager: Yeah. Content on social media is wild, right?

Fletcher: Yeah.

Bianca Lager: It's always different, it's all over the place, it seems like such a gray ... People I hear they say, "Oh, it's such a gray area, I don't want to touch it." And it's like well, there's actually ways to break it down and to make it extremely actionable and all that. I'm always interested in people that have that purview of life to dissect humans or human thoughts and then understand how that behavior relates to practical outcomes.

Fletcher: I think that's exactly a good way to summarize what philosophy's all about. We're dealing with people in the hiring business, it's not easy. We're trying to systemize and also continue to humanize it. We were talking about reference checks, which I'm a huge fan. I mean, I'm just shocked at how many people don't do them, and they don't do them correctly when they do do them. And as much as we've created an automated tool for that, I still tell my clients the best reference check you're ever going to do is when you speak to that previous supervisor. If I'm the hiring manager, I'm the one that should be talking to the other person's previous supervisor, because they're the chief consumers of that person's previous work product. If that person was good or bad dealing with customers, the boss heard about it. If they hit or didn't meet performance goals, the boss knew about it. If they were a problem generator or a good team player, the boss is the one assessing them on these things.

So they're really the most objective and again that's why I brought up the research project, it showed that they are the most objective person to get this feedback from. And so I think all the evidence continues to point at that, the importance of reference checks in that process. So I'm a huge advocate for making sure people are aware of that and take that really extra ... I mean it takes five minutes.

Bianca Lager: It's good to know though. I've done my share of hiring clearly and you never really know what all the things are, and the power of all that is really important and it's just something that's been top of mind for me. So it's good to know somebody that studied it is actually like, "Yeah, do that."

Fletcher: I think here's another good point. You were hired essentially through a referral, through a relationship, right?

Bianca Lager: Same thing. Right.

Fletcher:  I think you just mentioned you just made a hire through a referral. Well, what's a referral?

Bianca Lager: Right, it's a reference check.

Fletcher: It's a reference check. It's a form of reference check. Now, I don't recommend just taking the one referral and only relying on that. I'd probably think you did the right thing. You went and checked some additional references, but it was a darn good start. You ended up with somebody who you got excited about in your team. So-

Bianca Lager: Yeah. No, completely.

Fletcher: We do it for everything we buy on Amazon.

Bianca Lager: Sure do.

Fletcher: We do it if we do an Uber or a Lyft, that star rating is a reference check, right?

Bianca Lager: Right. I know. Everyone's afraid of that Black Mirror episode, to where it's a little too far, little stars floating above our head. But truly, we're complex creatures and so the same way the social media data, it flows into that whole equation, that rounding out the ideas here of what's going on in this person's life and what their attitude is and what their motivations are.

Fletcher: Well, I love it. Well, it's been really, really great to have you on.

Bianca Lager: Thank you.

Fletcher: This was a really fascinating conversation and concept. I was super happy when I saw this come across my desk, an opportunity to chat with you. So tell us where do we find you?

Bianca Lager: Yes, that's important, right? So socialintel.com. One L people, intel is one L. Socialintel.com. And for your listeners, and we're happy to be a part of your audience, thank you so much Fletcher for having us on, if you go to our website, you can dig around and see more about how it all works and how to do it. If you want a sample report, go ahead and fill out a quick form. And if you let us know that hey, I heard you on with Fletcher, just drop us a note and let us know and we'll set you up with our wholesale pricing, which is something we only give to our consumer reporting agency partners, but if you're just a direct organization-

Fletcher: Referral. Referral.

Bianca Lager: Yeah, a referral. Yeah, then we'll hook you up with the good stuff for life, not just a free trial situation.

Fletcher: Nice. And everything will be on the landing page here for this podcast, as well a transcript, as well as links to check out Bianca, as well as Social Intelligence, and contact information.

Bianca Lager: Awesome.

Fletcher: And we'll obviously be sharing this all through social media and everything. It was really great. Thank you for having you on.

Bianca Lager: Thanks, Fletcher. Really appreciate it.

Fletcher: All right.

Bianca Lager: Thank you everyone for listening in.