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Advice / Employers / Employer Resources

Employer Spotlight: Sally Bolig on Yotpo's Culture Of Feedback and Keeping it Real

Sally Bolig
Sally Bolig/Yotpo

Here at The Muse, we know that there's no better way to understand how to ace your own employer brand than by seeing some best practices in action.

Well, you're in luck—because that's exactly what our Employer Spotlight Series does. We feature all sorts of helpful advice and insights from companies that are totally crushing their employer brands so that you can learn from their success.

This month, we chatted with Sally Bolig, Head of Talent Acquisition at Yotpo, about how to maintain realistic hiring goals when the demand for new talent is high, using employee feedback to implement productive changes within the company, and more.

Tell us a little bit about your career journey. How did you get to where you are today?

I began my recruitment career in the agency world. I was one of the first six employees in Betts Recruiting's New York City office, eventually assisting 150+ SaaS startups in building out their teams. It was exceptionally valuable to help establish brand recognition for Betts Recruiting—a company that had already earned the trust of leaders in San Francisco but was still breaking ground in the New York market. With tons of competing agencies out there, we had to be something exceptional.

Early on, we couldn’t have had more than 10 clients! That list grew tremendously over time, providing me with the opportunity to learn about a wide array of technology offerings, management structures, and countless cultures. Yotpo, my current company, was a client of mine while at Betts.

I entered Yotpo as our Head of Talent Acquisition—having had zero previous in-house recruitment experience. But what I did have was experience working with thousands of sales and marketing candidates, and I’d observed both exceptional and horrendous in-house recruiting behaviors from both an outside and candidate perspective. So one of my goals early on—one that my hiring managers have always bought into—was to rethink the candidate interviewing experience in a way that would leave applicants feeling respected and enthusiastic, even if they didn’t get the job.

Since starting, I’ve assisted in growing our U.S. presence from 40 to 170 employees, and our UK office from 0 to 12 employees. We’ve successfully solidified a 134% uptick in hiring between September 2018 and September 2019, while simultaneously and continuously strengthening our retention rates throughout the past two years. I’ve gone from helping run Talent, HR, plus all internal and hiring U.S. events, to being a member of a robust HR team complete with a VP of People, Manager of HR Operations, and HR Business Partner.

Over the years, we’ve created internal and ongoing training programs around mentorship, biases, management, and interview best practices. We’ve already seen diversity progress in our YoY hiring and our female management gender split, and we aim to continue this progression on the leadership level as well as in respect to our ethnic diversity split. Additionally, we invest in affinity groups like Yotpo Cares and Women at Work.

All of this has allowed us to earn Crain’s Best Places to Work 2 years in a row!

What is one tool or piece of advice you wish you'd known about when you first started working at Yotpo?

Don’t enter a role assuming that you know better. It seems obvious, but I genuinely witness this in most people who join a new company and come from a relevant career background. Spend your first few weeks—or even months—asking questions about what has already been tried and what the outcomes were, rather than making suggestions or asking why it isn’t being done an alternative way already.

I came into Yotpo assuming that, because I had worked alongside so many companies previously, my suggestions around processes and interview experience would be far beyond what anyone else in the company could bring to the table. I quickly learned that many of the things I felt certain would work had already been tried—and failed.

Work toward progress together. People don’t like to be told what to do. In order to be bought in, they need to be involved in creating the change.

Work toward progress together. People don’t like to be told what to do. In order to be bought in, they need to be involved in creating the change.

You lead the process of finding and hiring the best people to join the Yotpo team—which is growing very quickly. How do you keep up with the demand for new talent?

It’s nearly impossible to keep up with the demand for new talent. But while there’s no secret sauce for how to do this, I’ve learned a couple of key things throughout my experience.

First, if you rely entirely on outbounding, you’re doomed. Outbounding is necessary, particularly when you work for a brand that people aren’t always familiar with. Many talented people would also prefer that you come to them with opportunities. But recruiters are generally all reaching out to the same people and creative or tactful messaging can only get you so far. Luck plays, arguably, a much greater role—and that’s why employer branding is key.

Most of us, as candidates, have a wish list of companies we hope to join one day, and we will be reaching out to them when it’s time to switch jobs. But your company certainly won't make people’s wish lists if they’ve never heard of you. Employer branding gets your name out there but it can also provide people with a genuine glimpse into the reality of working for your organization. People want to work where employees are happy and appreciated. If that’s the reality of working at your company—and the general public has access to see that reality—it makes you a company worth considering when it’s someone’s time to start looking for a new career opportunity.

Employer branding gets your name out there but it can also provide people with a genuine glimpse into the reality of working for your organization.

Second, without realistic goals, your recruiters will become miserable, they’ll be burnt out, your open roles won’t be filled as quickly as your hiring managers want them to be—or you’ll end up with some mix of all of the above.

There is such a thing as too many roles per recruiter and everyone suffers as a result of it. Besides putting your recruiters through hell, candidate experience suffers because it’s more difficult to move candidates through the process in a timely manner and provide them with a level of attention that represents what they’d receive as an employee. Additionally, while some roles might still be filled in the anticipated period of time, others will fall to the wayside because human beings can only accomplish so much on any given day.

By pulling metrics around how long it typically takes to fill each role and looking at how many people have been hired in the last year with the number of recruiters you have on your team, you can determine how many positions each recruiter should carry at any given moment.

It also takes learning how to say ‘no’ when additional roles just don’t make sense—which is something that is far easier said than done.

What do you value the most in potential candidates?

To name just a few things we value most: self-awareness, selflessness, and tenacity.

We value self-awareness and selflessness because we understand that everyone has areas where they're already capable and areas where they're less skilled. At Yotpo, we seek out people who not only know their strong suits but also demonstrate—through their previous experience—that they're inclined to help others evolve in those areas. At the same time, it's just as important for us to hire people who are comfortable asking for help in places where they recognize they could improve.

We value tenacity because someone could look perfect on paper but that doesn’t mean they’ll put in the work. It’s tough to build a company this efficiently, and we need people who are up for the challenge. Sometimes that person has previous experience demonstrating that they can do exactly that. Other times, the person with more tenacity is the one who comes from an off-spec background—and therefore, has something to prove. If you can articulate your previous experience having overcome hurdles, along with a game-plan for how to do so here at Yotpo, you might just have a better shot than someone with a perfect resume.

What role does The Muse play in your overall talent acquisition strategy? Do you incorporate the content from your profile into your employer brand and recruiting initiatives?

One of the most notable ways we use The Muse is probably the incorporation of our video content into each of our job descriptions. Candidates can interact with our employee video testimonials directly from our careers page which allows this genuine content to be a part of their decision-making process (and makes it really easy for them to find and engage with our Muse content, if they haven't already come across our company profile on The Muse organically).

On your company profile, it says that “open and honest feedback is essential for the continued development of Yotpo's people and culture.” How has some of the feedback you’ve received from employees been used to create new programs and initiatives that support your workforce?

We compile feedback through a few different channels: performance reviews, anonymous employee surveys, and anonymous Crain’s data. Our employees were requesting more opportunities for internal growth and promotion as well as access to continued training and learning, and we’ve put that insight into action in a number of different ways.

We’ve begun to share almost every new job internally, with our staff, as opportunities employees can apply for. But even before this became common practice, we had started to discuss opportunities for cross-departmental movement—not only for top-performers but also for employees who were beginning to feel the itch for something new and had qualities that could be better applied to a different job or department.

For top-performing salespeople who want to remain within their current department, we defined the trajectory for growth more clearly through the creation of our Ladders Program, which outlines exactly what salespeople need to accomplish in order to move up into the next position.

Opportunities for continued learning come in many forms at Yotpo and begins with two weeks of onboarding sessions. Over the course of the year, we’ve brought in notable speakers such as Beth Comstock (former Vice Chair of GE, Nike Board member, and best-selling author), successful clients like Griffin Thall (CEO & co-founder of Pura Vida), and inspiring local figures like Rachael Foo (named to Business Insider’s 30 Under 30 VC and to Coca-Cola's 30 under 30 LGBT Fellows).

We’ve created a mentorship program to enable a more supportive culture of learning between employees earlier and further along in their careers. We already provide robust interview training, allyship training, and manager training, but we recently launched a diversity and inclusion program to improve representation in the workplace (hand-in-hand with soon-to-come continuous Conscious Inclusion training). For our sales employees and managers, we’re providing Winning By Design training, led by a best-in-class consultancy that specializes in business-to-business SaaS companies.

To ensure that we continue to offer the very best, we also recently hired a Head of Global Learning and Development.

If a candidate asked you what you love most about Yotpo's company culture, what would you tell them about?

People truly care about one another: as human beings, as friends, and in respect to professional evolution. Working at Yotpo has shown me first-hand the impact colleagues can have on one another’s development. Manager support and encouragement can help you reach your goals. The contribution of camaraderie gets you there even faster. People ask for help and also offer both solicited and unsolicited advice, requesting and sharing best practices.

Additionally, our leaders recognize team members in public forums. Whether it’s shout outs for noteworthy new logos and the top performers responsible for partnering with them, highlights from an exceptional event, elevating a “Marketer of the Month,” or webinars featuring thought leaders within our staff, we cross-departmentally celebrate our employees.

What are the most rewarding parts of your job?

Through my job, I have the ability to help people lead happier or more fulfilling lives. I’m aware that that sounds extraordinarily corny, but actually: we spend no less than 45 waking hours at work every week of our lives. That's a significant amount of time during which you’re either generally happy or overwhelmingly not. I get to help people figure out what will actually make them happier—what they want more of and need less of—and whether that’s even possible here at Yotpo.

I’m also provided the freedom and trust to take risks. Over the past three and a half years, my fellow leaders and I have built our Talent departments up from what amounted to very little in the way of processes and procedures. Some of what we do is common practice, but other approaches are very unique to Yotpo’s hiring and external employee recognition. I’ve always been encouraged to try new things and make changes accordingly, with full acknowledgment that for every couple of times when we thrive, there will be other times when we fall flat on our faces. But because the emphasis has been on trying and learning, I’ve been fortunate enough to feel comfortable taking bigger risks, and these have often resulted in larger wins than we would have seen had we just played by the rules.

We spend no less than 45 waking hours at work every week of our lives. That's a significant amount of time during which you’re either generally happy or overwhelmingly not. I get to help people figure out what will actually make them happier—what they want more of and need less of—and whether that’s even possible here at Yotpo.

What's something you do outside of work that makes you a better employee?

Hearing from people outside of my own company—and asking them questions—has absolutely made me a better employee. I predominantly experience this through networking events and a Talent Acquisition Leaders meeting that I attend monthly.

Networking events can provide enormous value outside of just meeting potential candidates, which is often how recruiters seem to utilize them. For example, HIRED recently hosted an event outlining their findings regarding wage inequality in the workplace, particularly as it pertained to women and people of color. WISE (Women in Sales Everywhere) holds global leadership events featuring panels of successful women who share industry best practices and represent the scope of what women are capable of accomplishing professionally. Events like this allow you to arm yourself with knowledge and inspiration that all around enable you to be a better-informed employee in your day-to-day.

Additionally, meeting with people who have common professional experiences or responsibilities provides you with a space of understanding that often doesn’t exist when you’re a director of talent—because typically you’re the only one in the room, at least in your office! Being a member of Talent Leaders in Tech has provided me access to alternative perspectives, approaches, and experiences. We often become very attached to what we believe is the “right” way of doing things. I’ve become better at my job by witnessing first-hand that sometimes other people do it better than I do, and by learning from and incorporating those approaches into my own leadership and processes.