America Back to Work Ep 5: Ryan Landau, Purpose Jobs

A strong resume or glowing introduction gets a candidate in the door, but an interview tells you if they’re truly qualified or not. However, if an interview is ineffective, it really won’t tell you anything at all.

What’s considered an ineffective interview? How do we avoid conducting them? Why does an ineffective interview do such a poor job of predicting job performance? 

In this week’s episode of America Back to Work, Ryan Landau, entrepreneur and founder of Purpose Jobs—a recruiting company focused on matching talent with purpose-driven companies—will dive into what makes an interview ineffective and provide some alternatives.

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S2Verify is one of the leading, privately held, pre-employment background screening companies in the United States. 

Arnette Heintze is co-founder and chief strategy officer at S2Verify. Before establishing S2Verify, Arnette spent more than three decades working at the highest levels of federal, state, and local law enforcement. 

He served more than 20 years in the United States Secret Service as a special agent and senior executive where he planned, designed, and implemented security strategies to protect U.S. Presidents, world leaders, events of national significance, and our nation’s most sensitive assets, including financial infrastructure.  

After retiring from the Secret Service, Arnette focused on building the growth and performance of innovative start-ups and SMBs. In 2004, he established Hillard Heintze, a globally recognized strategic security risk management and investigations firm.

In 2009, along with Bill Whitford and Jim Zimbardi, Arnette established S2 Verify with an approach and methodology that delivers fast, accurate, compliant, and affordable background screening insights crucial to better managing insider risks, threats, and vulnerabilities.  

The Avoiding the Ineffective Interview Transcript

Arnette Heintze

Welcome to America Back to Work, brought to you by S2Verify where our purpose is to help you hire with confidence and manage insider risk. I’m your host, Arnette Heintze. Thank you for joining today. Our guest is entrepreneur and founder of Purpose Jobs, Ryan Landau. After working in Washington, DC for several years, Ryan moved back to his native Detroit to launch Purpose Jobs. One of the driving forces behind this decision was Ryan’s personal experiences and frustrations with a traditional approach that most companies bring to the hiring process. The mission of Purpose Jobs is to match talent with purpose-driven companies based on values, experience, and culture. Welcome to the show, Ryan. Before we jump into the q and a, would you mind sharing a little more about the journey you took to starting Purpose jobs? I understand that along this journey, uh, you, you, a little bit of a serial entrepreneur and, but the very first business you had was selling cotton candy.

Ryan Landau

Uh, yeah. Well, first of all, thank you for having me, and, and that’s accurate. My, uh, my first company ever, if we’re going back to the age of 12, I guess we can do a little background, uh, you know, with selling cotton candy and snow cones with my brothers, we were going to parties, graduation, uh, events and things like that. And, uh, just trying to bring a little bit of joy into people’s life. But that was a, that definitely my first job.

Arnette Heintze

Yeah. Yep. Yeah. Well, share with us more about the, the idea that kind of drove you to the purpose jobs creation, because as we were talking earlier, I mean, the concept of purpose, I think is frankly understated by most businesses. They don’t connect with that true purpose, even though virtually every business has a purpose. Sometimes it’s not clearly stated. So talk to us a little bit more about that.

Ryan Landau

Yeah, so I, I guess quick background on myself to help give context of the business. So, like you said, uh, originally from Detroit left to Washington, DC because there was no opportunities in Detroit about 15 years ago. Uh, and then about, this is 10 or so years ago, ended up moving back to, uh, the city of Detroit. Um, there’s a business man named Dan Gilbert who’s really leading the force and the revitalization, um, in this city. Um, ended up joining a few companies just to see what was going on in the landscape there. But what I noticed quickly, um, the revitalization of Detroit is kind of the same story, what’s happening in Columbus, Indianapolis, um, and other, you know, St. Louis, other cities in the middle of the country. And so, launch purpose jobs, I would say for two reasons is one is traditionally tech companies have always been built in, you know, San Francisco and New York, uh, and coastal cities, but we believed in Detroit and in the Midwest, um, that there’s big opportunities here to build your company here.

So that was one reason we started the company. And then also, like you said, how can we match, um, you know, job seekers and companies based on more things than just compensation and location and skill set. There’s, you, you spend so much time at work, how can you connect with the company on a deeper level? And so with those two things in mind, we launched Purpose Jobs, uh, about five years ago. And, and today, um, you know, we’re the largest startup and tech community in the middle of the country in emerging markets. 

Arnette Heintze

And you do have a focus in the Midwest, correct?

Ryan Landau

Yeah, we, we are focused on the Midwest. Um, however, we still have national presence because a lot of people that are from the Midwest are now living in San Francisco and New York, Boston cities like that, um, and are interested in, you know, booming back home or just staying informed of what’s happening in the middle of the country.

Arnette Heintze

Yeah. As you’re helping your clients, um, especially those looking for, you know, the next career opportunity, what criteria are you, uh, selecting for, uh, how do, how you match people up with the, the right purpose?

Ryan Landau

Yeah, I think from a company’s perspective, and then we can talk from a, from a job secret perspective, it is companies care about two things. One, they care about is this a good human? Um, and then also does this help, you know, move the business forward? Going back into like the good human standpoint, we always talk about, uh, when we’re thinking about the hiring process, look at your best performers at your company right now. Think about the attributes that they have. Is it curiosity? Um, you know, are they quick learners? Are they good listeners? What, whatever those attributes are, every company, you know, what successful at one company might not be the similar success at another company. So understand those, you know, attributes of your best performers and reverse engineer those into the hiring process.

Arnette Heintze

Yeah. I love how you’ve kind of crystallized the concept around, you know, is this person a good person? Because that, at the, at the heart of what S two Verify does, we’re trying to help clients, um, make sure that the candidate that they’re selecting Yeah. Has, is a good person that they can align to the company, that they, they can work in the culture of the company. So that’s hugely important.

Ryan Landau

Uh, same page. I think that’s like a baseline even before you start talking about skill set, right? Do you have the right skills that align to the job? Do you have the right skills that can help move the business forward? Um, again, there needs to be a general sense of are you a good person? Um, and like, what does that mean that it sounds like so 30,000 foot up in the air? I think there’s real attributes that you can find as one, looking at the best performers at your company. And two is really understanding the company culture, uh, in a really thoughtful manner. I think those are two ways to, let’s call de codify, um, what are the de uh, you know, best type of candidates to hire.

Arnette Heintze

Yep. Excellent. You know, as hiring managers increasingly rely on more rigorous and objective hiring methods, such as pre-employment assessments, do you think this has the potential to address the disproportionate and emphasis on coastal talent pools that I’ve heard about?

Ryan Landau

Yeah, I, I think, you know, so we are operating with a focus in the Midwest. Um, a lot of the companies that we chat with now are, yes, Midwest companies, but we’re also working with a lot of, um, companies that are in coastal cities wanting to tap into new talent pools. So a hiring strategy for a company isn’t just a 50 mile radius around their office. It’s really sometimes, you know, America, north America or the world. And so I think, um, people from coastal cities end up hiring in the Midwest because it’s not just about hiring, it’s also about retention. And so like, how can you find great people, and then also how can you have them stay, um, at the company, we tend to see higher retention rates in the Midwest versus, um, you know, different coastal cities.

Arnette Heintze

Yeah. You know, over the last 12, 18 months, uh, you know, one of the phenomena that I think we’re seeing in the, you know, the market today is the large number of individuals who are actually quitting their jobs. Um, and have you got a perspective on what’s driving this phenomenon today?

Ryan Landau

Yeah, I, I think what’s driving the phenomenon in the last, like couple of quarters, um, is, is I think people, job seekers are looking for two things. One, they’re looking for like professional growth. Is there a path from where they are today to really grow at the company? I think that’s one. And then the other thing that we hear based on, you know, kind of the, the economic environment is stability. And so people wanna be at a company that it’s not just growth at all costs or growth without a strategy. Job seekers really wanna understand the economics, the financing behind a business to make sure that they’re joining a company not just for the next couple of months, but they can also see them building themselves and, and having a, uh, a good career there. And when, when I say career, I, I don’t mean 30 year career, but I, I mean an experience that’s lasting 3, 4, 5 plus years. And so I, I think, um, stability is really important these days and, and, uh, career pathing.

Arnette Heintze

Yeah. You know, I’ve seen recent articles in Harvard Business Review about unstructured interviews and how they have a poor record of predicting job performance, but many hiring managers continue to rely on this approach. Why do you think this is, and do you know of any alternatives that you might suggest in this space?

Ryan Landau

<laugh>? Yeah. I mean, uh, not to like simplify it, but would you rather hire based on a feeling, or would you rather hire based on a fact? And, um, the way that what we talked about earlier is hiring should be, right. There is a little bit of a feeling to it. Um, but you should really try to, you know, think about it in a thoughtful manner, like your sales process, like your marketing process, there should be a real understanding of what you’re looking for, a scorecard against those attributes, um, and how you see them reflected in top performers at your company today.

Arnette Heintze

Yeah. You know, I, I, i do you, you mentioned the concept about, you know, a, a gut feeling and there are so many businesses, you know, hiring managers that do, they just, oh, that’s a good guy, that’s a good gal. And they, they end up hiring and then having problems later. So your point is very well taken.

Ryan Landau

Um, yeah, yeah. And, and making bad hiring decisions, uh, can end up being very expensive for a variety of

Arnette Heintze

Reasons. Yeah. You know, traditional hiring methods such as reviewing resumes are notoriously prone to a bias. You know, what are some of the ways HR teams are mitigating these biases and, you know, trying to identify the best diverse talent pool they can and, and, and give, uh, everyone a good equal opportunity getting a great job.

Ryan Landau

So I think resumes are a good, you know, kind of step in the door, but I also think companies and, and we see a lot of companies doing this throughout the interview process, inserting some type of project into it. So it’s like, alright, you’re an engineer or you’re a marketing person, let’s have you do part of the job, um, during the interview process. And so what I mean is like, if you’re a marketing person, how do we get you to help you write sales or, you know, marketing copy or website copy, or if you’re an engineer, how can you help build a, a small product and stuff like that. Again, you have to be respectful to the job seekers time, and we’ve even seen some companies pay job seekers to do these projects, but again, um, not just based on someone’s name, but, um, versus the quality of work that they can do. I think that’s like a really important thing to think about throughout the hiring process. And as much as you can actually get them doing the thing that you want to do, uh, during the employment time, like, I would say, move that as forward as as possible in the interview process. Yeah.

Arnette Heintze

You know, job seekers today are, are really trying to identify the culture of the company that they want to join, but yet there’s so many companies that do struggle with, you know, getting their culture. Right. Do you have any recommendations of, you know, to company teams that are trying to get the, the culture piece of this right, for the job seekers that we have in the market today?

Ryan Landau

Yeah, I, I think from a job seeker per standpoint, think about what’s important to you and, and what’s important to you. Doesn’t mean that has to be important to everyone. And so understand that and what, I mean, understand that doesn’t mean it to be too complicated. Like put, to get a sheet of paper, write down the attributes that you’re looking for. Maybe it’s a good manager, maybe it’s career growth, maybe compensation is, is super high on list, which is, is typically up there. Um, and then from a company, as you’re looking for a job, look at their values. Look at how we, we call them values in action, um, at our company purpose jobs is because you can have a company that has great values and they just have ’em plastered on the wall, but that really means nothing. And so how have the values that they stand for, how are those in action from a day to day perspective? And I think you can understand those, um, by talking to turn team members, talking to your potential, uh, you know, manager and stuff like that. And just being really values. Okay, you stand for these, share with me a few examples how x, y, and Z lives from a day to day perspective within your company.

Arnette Heintze

Yeah, that’s great. You know, another, uh, challenge I think for some companies is the hiring and onboarding process. And, um, you know, candidates today are, are really looking for organizations that have that best approach and best, you know, uh, methodology to it. Are, are you seeing any, what are you seeing in the market today that it maybe signs of a best practice here?

Ryan Landau

Yeah, I think just having a thoughtful, documented process is one really important thing, rather than just like, Hey, we have an onboarding process. It’s not like, what is the onboarding process? And even showing that to a job seeker during the interview process, I think that’s really important. So everyone knows what they’re getting into and what we like to say around here, no surprises, right? How can we make sure on the company’s side or the candidate side, there’s no surprises. So giving them visibility to what the work is like by giving them a project visibility into what onboarding looks like by giving them like an, an agenda. Um, and then I think it’s also just about being like really thoughtful, um, in both sides asking a really good question. Um, so, so again, there there’s no surprises.

Arnette Heintze

Yeah. You know, when, when you’re working, when you’re determining whether your team is gonna work with a, a company, how do you, what, how do you assess the purpose piece if it’s not clearly stated well enough? Because I know, you know, many companies just don’t have it well articulated. So when you find a company like that, what does your team do to work with them to kind of bring that to light?

Ryan Landau

Yeah, so what we do is, um, it’s just by, I wish I could tell you there’s some, like magic is just by asking a lot of questions. And what I say by that is asking not only questions to the ceo, but also asking questions to a customer service person in a large organization. Because we wanna know, the CEO might say, Hey, these are our values, but then if you talk to the, uh, you know, kind of a frontline worker, their answer might be a little bit different. And so what we try to see is, is there a consistency across the board from what one person believes to another person believes? Um, and typically when there’s consistency on a team, um, typically our team feel is pretty good about it, versus if 75 people are giving 75 different answers. Yeah,

Arnette Heintze

Yeah. You know, I’m a big fan of, uh, Jim Collins, who’s, you know, most people are familiar with, you know, good to great. But his very first book was called Beyond Entrepreneurship, and he talks about purpose in there. He talks about vision, mission, purpose, core values, all of that. And, you know, purpose is supposed to last a company a hundred years. And, and, and one of the approaches that Jim takes in trying to find that purpose is asking the five whys. So when you work with a company, you’re just, why, why, why? If you keep asking the why question, a lot of times then where you get after five whys is really the heart of the matter. So I, I find that an extremely interesting approach.

Ryan Landau

Uh, same page. I think, again, I know I’ve said it probably a few times, I’m a bit repetitive, but curiosity and being like an active listener, um, is such an important skill set. It’s so different from just listening and, and just going with the flow. Um, and, and I agree, Jim Collins has written some good books. I actually think he brought, wrote another book called, uh, built to Last, um, that talks about enduring companies, um, like Southwest Airlines and other companies that have really sustained, um, for, for a really long time. Not only do they have good economic, um, you, you know, uh, you know, good, good economics, but they also have, you know, really strong culture.

Arnette Heintze

Yeah. You know, when it comes to, because your team will also represent job seekers, um, when it comes to determining, is a job seeker a good candidate for you to work with? Are there any criteria that you’re really looking for?

Ryan Landau

Yeah, so, so we don’t take the stance, um, you know, this is a good person or this is like a bad person, um, because, or this is a, you know, a person has good culture or bad culture because every company’s culture is so different from each other. Of course, there’s some like baseline things that we need to, um, make sure that everything’s good, like background checks and, and stuff like that. Um, but what we try to do is extract as much information out of a candidate as possible. For example, we ask, uh, candidates, um, you know, all, all the basic stuff’s, resume, compensation, location, skill set, but we also ask them like, what’s important to them. And so what we think about is when someone fill is filling out a purpose job profile, we ask them about their wheel of life. And so part of the wheel of life is obviously work, but like, what are you doing, you know, on the other sliver of your life life. Um, and so we really try to get to know people on a deeper level, and that helps us match them with a company and companies we do the same. Uh, think about it like a dating profile. We ask companies, we ask job seekers what is important to you? And there’s not a right and a wrong answer, but make matches based on those attributes.

Arnette Heintze

Yeah. You know, I was in Detroit about two years ago and right before, um, you know, the, uh, pandemic set upon us, and I was really impressed with the progress the city is making. And it sounds like you’re part of the, the, the, the city itself and supporting clients or, you know, all throughout the city. How’s the city doing today?

Ryan Landau

Um, yeah, the city has changed a lot in the last 10 years since, since I moved here, but I, but I think it’s, you know, what c has done is I think it’s just accelerated some trends. And so I think Detroit has always been a good place to live, and I think it’s always been a great place to work, but what I think has happened with Covid is it’s accelerated that. So you don’t need to pay $5,000 a month for a one bedroom apartment. You could spend $5,000 a month in Detroit and have a massive house. Um, and, and so I just think, um, those things were already things pre pandemic, but I think the pandemic has helped accelerate, has accelerated those kind of remote working cost of living, um, work life balance and things like that. Yeah.

Arnette Heintze

Yep. Yep. You know, we’re, as we wrap up our conversation today, I wanted to give you a little bit of the last word. Something I, I usually, you know, ask all the guests, which is, you know, if S two verify were to run a background screening test on you today, what, is there anything of surprising discovery that we might find?

Ryan Landau

Yeah, the one surprising thing we already talked about. Usually when I tell people that I started my career in, you know, cotton candy and snow cones and caramel apples, usually I get a head turn from, from that one. Um, so I think that’s one, if I had to think of another surprising thing, I don’t know how this would turn up on a background screen, but I think another interest of mine was interesting as I also used to be really into horses. And so I, we owned a couple horses growing up and stuff like that. So, uh, those are probably two interesting, kind of non-work related, uh, things that might show up there.

Arnette Heintze

Wonderful. Well, Ryan, thank you so much for all your insights today. You know, I know our audience will appreciate, you know, your, take your perspective, especially around this purpose concept and, uh, the nuanced approach that you’re taking, bringing into the market. Would you please share with our audience where they can find more information about you and, and purpose jobs itself?

Ryan Landau

Yeah. Um, two, two different ways, um, to, to get in contact. One is obviously you can visit our, our general website, which is purpose period jobs. Um, and then also you can email me purposely, which is Ryan Purpose Period jobs. Uh, again, I read every email, respond to every single one, and, uh, anyways that I can help, uh, happy to be helpful, uh, in any way possible.

Arnette Heintze

Well, that’s wonderful. Thank you, uh, again, Ryan, and thank you to all of you listening, watching, or reading. Please tune in to our next episode where I will be chatting with seasoned business professional Katie Marchetti. And it goes without saying, let’s get America back to work because dreams only work if we do. Thanks so much.

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