The Phone Screen: University Recruiter Tim Tieu

the phone screen tim tieu

In this installment of The Phone Screen, we’re chatting with Tim Tieu, who worked on University Recruiting this past season at Asana, a fast-growing work management software startup. We caught up with Tim to learn some of the unique challenges and nuances to university recruiting, from building relationships on campus to helping students evaluate their different offers and opportunities.


How did you get into recruiting?

I first became interested in recruiting when I was in high school and I started to learn about college admissions. I was trying to figure out what the formula was or what went on behind the scenes and found it really fascinating, especially when I realized that the process is really human—it’s not just a machine that you apply to and everything is just luck, but it was easy to think that way as a high school student.

I studied Hotel Administration at Cornell. When I went to a career fair on campus during my senior year, Apple was there, which is based in Cupertino, where I grew up. While speaking with the university recruiter Alex Wrigley about her job, it clicked with me there that it was possible to focus on recruiting as a full-time career. She invited me to talk with her more about her experience at Apple’s campus when I was back home in Cupertino and that basically started my path down recruiting!

What are your favorite tools in your recruiting stack?

It’s changed a lot over the past 6 years, but I love using Mixmax. It’s an email tool I use for big mail merges and quickly scheduling phone calls directly with students. I also use Greenhouse. And, of course, I love Asana for work management—especially an area like recruiting, where you want to run your team’s latest and best process the next time around. Asana is great for kicking off a new role and getting everyone on the same page around what we were looking for and who the hiring managers and interviewers were. We could also assign due dates and provide logistical information to coordinate every stage of the hiring process, and close candidates across all teams.

What are your most successful hiring channels?

Because I was focused on university recruiting, schools that Asana employees graduated from, or schools we’ve visited in the past, tended to give us a head start with building our brand on campus. We’ve experimented with visiting different schools and working with different student groups, which we adjust after reviewing our work at the end of each university recruiting cycle. We also work with student groups to understand what they want, and plan our content accordingly. Some groups want mentorship coffee meetings, fireside chats, or Q&As, while other student groups want more technical talks. Sometimes we’ll talk about what it’s like to work at a small company vs. a larger company.

For example, at Cornell, students tend to gravitate towards larger companies, so we gave a talk around “How to Choose Your First Startup” modeled off of a talk one of our founders gave at a student conference a couple years ago. At WeCode, we recently had Lindsay Buydos, our Head of Compensation, present information about different types of compensation packages and how to evaluate offers from companies at different stages. A lot of students aren’t familiar with stock options, equity, and other benefits until they get full time offers during their senior year. Not many companies are transparent about these details, so we found an opportunity to help and educate students in that area.

What’s an example of a recruiting campaign, tactic, or hack you used that was really effective? What were the results?

The majority of my work with sourcing as a university recruiter involved talking to students way before we arrive on campus. I noticed that reaching out to students, connecting with them, and sending them things about Asana beforehand was super helpful. In order to connect with top students, I had to really think like a student, like checking out engineering department news, understanding which student groups were very active on campus, or identifying students who are really contributing to the culture and their respective communities on campus. I also tried to think about the students who I’d look up to if I was a freshman or sophomore on that campus.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other recruiters?

Because I studied Hotel Administration, I brought a hospitality side of recruiting, and tried to have a lot empathy around how difficult interviewing and job searching can be. It’s easy over time to just see candidates as a number in your pipeline, but I’d encourage everyone involved in recruiting to have empathy for candidates and learn about what they think is best for them. That means doing things like congratulating them if they get other offers and providing them all the information and connecting them to the right people to help make the right decision for themselves. There are times where recruiters may feel the need to pressure or mislead candidates into making a decision that isn’t a good fit, just to get that hire count up, but that doesn’t work out well for anyone.

Which recruiting metric do you focus on the most? How do you calculate it?

Candidate satisfaction and experience—I experienced recruiting from the mindset of making sure people have a great experience even after they accept an offer. It’s great to see your candidates become successful at a company you hired them into. Even if candidates didn’t accept or receive an offer from us, I wanted them to feel well supported through our process. Outside of Glassdoor interview reviews, we also have an anonymous candidate survey we send out after candidates complete an onsite interview, where we ask them about their experience—if there’s anything they want to comment on, and if they have any feedback for us to improve our process.

If you could change one thing about recruiting, what would it be?

For most companies, recruiting can be seen just about getting hires and supporting your teams with headcount. Though these numbers are definitely important, and a really easy way to evaluate performance, there are so many other crucial aspects to recruiting—candidate experience and hospitality, coaching candidates, and connecting with teams you’re hiring for. I’d like to have those aspects be just as important as pipeline numbers. If more companies would take these other factors in when measuring their recruiting team’s performance, it could help recruiting to be seen as more human and about relationship building, rather than purely transactional.

Want to learn more from other seasoned recruiters? Check out our previous interviews with Jenna Aronow, Ariana Moon, and Jess Park. 

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