Hiring Heroes - our interview with Oli Cavaliero

Hiring Heroes - our interview with Oli Cavaliero

Hiring Heroes - our interview with Oli Cavaliero



Tell us about your background

I have always been somewhere in or close to the industry. I spent a lot of time working overseas and when I returned to the UK, I continued in hospitality but transitioned into the recruitment agency side of things, working for Appetite4Recruitment. After a couple of years I transitioned in-house with Five Guys as their Recruitment Manager at the beginning of their UK expansion. Sticking with the burger theme, I moved to Honest Burgers where I spent 7 years, initially in recruitment and later expanding my career covering all things talent, employer branding and internal communications. It was such a great 7 years that I'll continue to be proud being part of for many years.

After leaving Honest, I joined GAIL's Bakery for a year heading up their Talent and Employer Brand function and most recently I've joined Pizza Pilgrims as Head of People and Engagement. I've been a fan of Pizza Pilgrims for a few years as a customer, and their vision as an employer. Their values and ambition perfectly match mine, so it's really rewarding being part of it.

What are some of the most nagging challenges you face when it comes to hiring?

The biggest challenge in recruitment is retention. But we also shouldn't become overly fixated on the idea of “retain, retain, retain” because it's healthy for people to explore new opportunities. As an industry, we need to care more about the experience someone has had, rather than how long they stay. If they've been with us for 6 months or 6 years, as long as they've had an amazing experience with us, that's all that matters.

Ultimately, everyone within the business should always be hiring. Whether that is actively participating in interviews or simply speaking to people, our guests or local our neighbours. Your team represents your employer reputation every day, and even outside of work when they're telling their family and friends about the experience they've had. I believe that everyone should be thinking about how we can attract more talent into the industry.

As for nagging challenges, I don't believe there are any nagging challenges, per se. I think, as an employer, you must strive to stay one step ahead in meeting candidates' expectations. We need to challenge ourselves on how we can improve our hiring process, and enhance the candidate experience. If we don't do this, it's no surprise if a candidate isn't interested in joining us, especially when there are two or three amazing companies next door that are also hiring. The real challenge is pushing ourselves to provide better incentives, create a great work environment, and represent this in every single candidate's journey.

How have supply shocks, Brexit, the global pandemic impacted hiring?

Covid and Brexit created a gear shift. As an industry, we can discuss these matters endlessly, but unless we take action to enhance our industry and workplace, and adapt our approaches, we'll continue discussing them for years to come.

By focusing on providing exceptional experiences, we can become a more attractive industry to work in. Whilst there are more UK nationals working in the industry now, we have to make sure we are giving them the best possible experience possible. Candidate expectations haven't changed, they've just accelerated in certain areas. We were talking about development, work-life balance, well-being, and pay pre-covid. As an employers we should be constantly trying to better ourselves.

We had a strategy in place for Brexit when I was at Honest Burgers. Covid made us shift from gear 2 to gear 5 overnight. We have to always think ahead to where we will be in 5 years time.

What have you seen that works (or doesn't work) when trying to solve these?

Your employer brand has to match what people are saying internally. There's no point in saying one thing externally, if your employees are saying another. Your employees represent your employer brand. If it's disjointed then you will lose trust, and when individuals start their employment with lost trust, it's unlikely to work out.

When you establish expectations from the initial interaction and maintain consistency throughout, people feel more valued and they know what impact they will have. I'm a firm believer that people want to understand how they add value to the business, regardless of whether they are working one 8-hour shift per week or 40-hours a week. Everyone wanted to feel a sense of belonging within an organisation. The first 30 days are particularly crucial in helping someone feel this sense of belonging. We refer to it as 'the honeymoon period,' a time for mutual learning, where it's ok to make mistakes and you are giving feedback. It's a much nicer term than 'probationary period,' which can evoke a sense of apprehension. 'Honeymoon period' feels more supportive.

You can have an amazing interview experience but if an individual isn't cared for, doesn't feel like part of the team, or has to chase their training plan during the initial 30 days, they may begin to question whether they can trust their employer. Effective communication during this honeymoon period is vital. If you can nail that, then you are going to do well and it sets expectations for the rest of the relationship.

We often hear “10% of my roles cause 90% of my problems”. Does this resonate with you?

No, probably not. Perhaps I look at it differently, but the way I see it: the bigger the challenge, the more creative you need to get. There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to hiring. Different locations will have different challenges and you have to be ok with that. So, if you're aware that you have a location that might be a bit more challenging to recruit in, then you should invest more into your succession planning and how you retain team members by giving them the best experience possible. In an area that is easier to recruit in, your methods will be slightly different and even a bit more relaxed, but that doesn't change the effort you put into the employee experience. Whether it's after 6 months or 6 years, everyone leaving should feel they've had an amazing experience working there. Ultimately, it boils down to the fact that you need to change gear in different locations, adapting your approach and being more proactive.

Why is the candidate experience in the hiring journey important?

It's a matter of trust. We're in a candidate-led market. There's a lot of choice out there. You need to show up as the best option for the candidate. And it also helps set expectations for the individual. Ultimately, your goal is to ensure that everyone working for you receives an incredible experience, and you want that experience to be reflected in the candidate journey. You want candidates to understand how they add value and impact your team, so they have a sense of belonging and clarity on what is expected of them from day one.

Transparency in the candidate experience is really key. Candidates want transparency regarding what the role is going to entail, what the business is like, and the expectations of them. You need to show them what life is really going to be like when they work for you.

How have you used data to inform your recruitment strategy?

I love looking at data to see how we are performing internally and externally.

When it comes to assessing our hiring needs, we look at our current job openings and staff retention. From there, we can project the number of management positions required over the next 3, 6, and 9 months. This gives us an idea of our headcount needs.

In terms of evaluating our attraction performance, we examine the number of visitors to our website and how many of them convert into applicants. This helps us gauge the effectiveness of our website. We also assess the performance of our job adverts, including the number of applications received, and specifically, the number of applications per vacancy advertised, to determine how well our adverts are performing.

Additionally, I look at data from platforms like Glassdoor and Breakroom to get insights into our employer brand.

What do you think is the biggest opportunity for hiring leaders when it comes to talent acquisition and candidate experience?

Employer branding. You can either wait for people to apply to you, or you can proactively showcase who you are as an employer, which, in turn, will attract candidates to apply to you.

What's a major talent acquisition trend you're paying attention to in 2023/24?

Technology has obviously advanced rapidly. There's a lot available.

But generally I believe there is more that can be done in the employer branding space. Nowadays, candidates tend to research employers a lot more before applying, so it's crucial to identify what sets us apart from our competitors, and then talking about that more extensively. You can think of it as a glass window through which people are looking in. Ideally, many people would want to join, but at the same time, I think it's important to be transparent and show people why they shouldn't want to join us too.

What's one piece of parting wisdom you have for future hiring leaders?

It's crucial to discover what makes your business unique and sets you apart from competitors, and then use that as your superpower. And make your message consistent. The more consistent your messaging, the more trust you build with candidates. Ensure you talk about it consistently on as many platforms as possible to widen your talent pool.