Curiosity, Communication, and Changing Talent Markets

Midwest is best! We're back at it on Start with Who, with another phenomenal guest, Ryan Landau. Ryan is the Founder of, which connects top talent with purpose-driven startups based on values, experience and culture fit—with a focus on the Midwest!



Join us to learn from Ryan:

  • How big companies are shifting their talent searches from the coast to the heartland
  • Advice for tackling these changes in terms of remote work, compensation, and tending to values/culture
  • Why communication and curiousity are essential traits to lean into as you search for talent
  • And much more!

Thanks for listening to Start with Who: The Interview Intelligence Podcast! This podcast is presented by —where we're on a mission to make hiring and interviewing more efficient and equitable. Come check out what we're building, or connect with Grace and Ben on LinkedIn! See you next time!


(Transcribed by robots...sorry for the errors!)

Ryan: Again, the inverse of asking good questions is just talking, you've never learned anything on both sides from a job seeker or employer from talking the whole time. So I would just be like really thoughtful about the percentage of time, your talking versus listening.

Hosts: Welcome to Start with Who, the interview intelligence podcast, I'm your host, Grace Tyson, and I'm Ben Battaglia join us on our journey as we learn about talent acquisition, hiring and tackle the challenge of building an amazing team. One interview at a time. We've invited ceos, innovative people, leaders, talent acquisition experts and DIY movers and shakers as our guides would love to have you join us. Welcome to Start with Who.

Ben: Oh welcome back to another episode of start with who excited about today's episode, grace, I'm so excited. I cannot wait for this guest.

Grace: Yes, for sure. So, Ryan, will you please introduce yourself to the people, our myriad listeners? Well, first of all, Ben ingres, thank you for having me.

Ryan: So I'm Ryan, the founder and CEO of a company called We are based in downtown Detroit and we are a recruiting marketplace that's really focused on the Midwest. And so we believe that Midwest is an amazing place to build and start a company and build your career. And we're hanging out here.

Grace: Ryan, are you a midwesterner?

Ryan: I am so born and raised in the midwest, left for a while, spent some time in Denver, spent some time in New York, and now I'm back home and actually expecting a little one in the next six weeks.

Ben: Oh, congratulations.

Ryan: Thank you. So so I don't know if we're just talking about parenting advice on this chat right now, but I could really use some help. Oh,

Grace: Ben might be able to help you. I only have a dog, so perfect.

Ben: I have too many children. So I can offer you feedback on that. They're wonderful. But I am also a midwesterner. Grace is not by where you've adopted her as a midwesterner, which is great.

Grace: Yes yes. Well, today. We're excited to talk about just that location. And you are really passionate about this idea of the Midwest. I'd love to start off in here. Why? what made you want to devote your life and company to that?

Ryan: Yeah, no, it's a good question. I think when you think about recruiting and just to take a couple steps back, you know, before starting this company, purpose jobs was a part of a few other companies. And it really didn't make a difference whether we were actually one company was selling office supplies. We were trying to be kind of the Zappos of office supplies. Another company that we were doing was building software. It really didn't make a difference. What we were doing. But at the end of the day, the only thing that made a difference was the people, people and people. And so for me, it was just like when you think about the recruiting landscape out there, there's like the monsters that, indeed, these companies that are I don't want to call them brand lists, but it's just like there's no affinity or connection to them. And then there's like these headhunters, some of them are really good, but it's just expensive to do day in and day out. And so for us, it was just like, how could we build a recruiting solution that we would use for ourself powered by community and really connect people in a meaningful way. And so for us, I would just say, actually the Midwest is just the beginning of it. And definitely plans to launch in other cities outside of the Midwest. But for us, we just wanted to start in our backyard.

Grace: I love that a lot. And actually. So I lived in Boston. And I lived in San Francisco previously lived and worked in both of those places. And Amsterdam. And then something that's really impressed me coming to the Midwest is the level of talent. I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on that. I just I've been blown away. I mean, we've built probably the best team. I've ever worked with just in our backyard.

Ryan: Yeah, no, I think when you think about, like, the level of talent, there's a lot of things to think about. And we can dive in and talk about compensation. We can talk about cost of living. There's like 30 different things that we can talk about. But I think what we see in the Midwest and this is what we talk about specifically being in the recruiting space is not about all of these recruiting players will talk about, hey, I can fill these positions overnight. And I can help you hire hundreds people tomorrow. We actually take the inverse approach. And we talk about retention. And so saying, why don't you hire someone in the midwest, not only because, one, they're a great human, they can get shit done and they're just good for your team. But they're also going to help you build your company for a while. And so what we see in the midwest, besides only this like kind of common sense of values, it's just like this thought on retention and happy to talk about, like, specific numbers there. But that's what we're excited to be building in here in the Midwest.

Grace: That's great. Do you have any facts and figures, you can share putting you on the spot a little bit about retention in the Midwest versus, say, on the coasts?

Ryan: Yeah, so I should probably have better just like kind of umbrella numbers and what the region looks like. I know specifically from our numbers. What we see when we a person gets placed in a company. There's about a 93% retention rate over 2 and 1/2 years. And so once a person gets placed at the job, there's a 93% chance that they're going to be there for more than 2 and 1/2 years. And so that's what we typically see, I would say in the Midwest. We see that also, you know, there's a good and a bad part of the story. The good part of the story is people stay there for a while, typically, because there's also just like less competition and less companies in the Midwest. But then the flip side is true also. So it's about a 93% retention rate that we see. Great I like that you're investing. So much. And your people and finding them and training them. It makes a huge difference financially, but also for morale to have that retention rate. Yeah, and I think now with like COVID and everything that's going on, if people are building a remote team, everyone talks about, like I would say, like diversity, which is such an important thing. But a lot of people think about diversity is from religion, from race and the. Like that, but I think it's also really important to think about diversity on a different level, thinking about diversity, in addition, just having like a diversity of thought. And so not just trying to hire a bunch of people that are all from San Francisco, are all from New York, that are all just like thinking like, how do we bring a diverse set of thought to the team as we continue to grow?

Ben: I love that you mention that. So let's just dive right here. COVID is changing the fate, I would assume, of Midwest tech hiring. How have you been thinking about that over the last 10 months or how have you seen that play out differently?

Ryan: I would say the biggest thing that we see in the Midwest is and I say this is a really good thing, is we see a lot of players on coastal cities, Facebook and a lot of other big companies trying to hire and attract people in the Midwest. And so typically, let's talk about, you know, 24 months ago when Midwest companies were hiring, they were just facing up against other Midwest companies, which was great. But now the playing field, everyone has to level up a little bit more because now these companies, when they're trying to hire and attract people, yes, they are competing against other Midwest companies, but they're also competing against San Francisco companies, New York companies that are trying to attract these types of people. So it's been really, I would say, positive for the region from that standpoint. So I would say that's the biggest thing, as in players trying to be here specifically in the Midwest.

Ben: That makes sense. I've read about companies on the coasts who are now trying to attract people inside the country handling compensation differently. And some are scaling compensation to say, great, your cost of living for a living in rural Indiana is significantly less than it would be in San Francisco. I'm going to pay you a less and save money. Some are scaling that to cost of living like a standard cost of living adjustments. Some are scaling it at a percentage. Some are not scaling it at all. How do you think about that or how do you recommend to town leaders think about compensation when recruiting here?

Ryan: So it's a great point. And one of the things we actually did, we actually published a book on cost of living and salary. And so right now, I would agree with you, the cost of living in the Midwest is significantly less salaries you can definitely hire. Let's do a senior software engineer as an example for cheaper in the Midwest. That is what's happening today. If I had to look into a crystal ball and say, hey, let's look five years down the line, I do think everything will level out. So I think the argument for hiring a senior software engineer in the Midwest is cheaper today. Yes, that's true. I don't think that's going to be true in five years from now. And I also think how much ever, people are getting paid in San Francisco, I do think that will also level out. So I think the salaries in the Midwest will increase a little bit. And then the salaries in San Francisco will either level or decrease a little bit just to make it more of an even playing field as people are hiring not only just in the midwest, throughout the country, because to be honest, the playing field with covid, with remote working is just leveling out on. So many different levels. And I think salaries just as a part of that equation.

Grace: That's great. And I mean, it's interesting to see how that plays out. I was not necessarily expecting your answer about it leveling out to that extent, but I think it does make sense, given especially how people are moving away from the hubs on the coasts and finding new ways of working remotely. I would be curious for your thoughts, Ryan. You obviously have a lot of experience scaling companies. So as you think about transitioning a company from one location to many disparate locations, how does that impact hiring and interviewing and your process as a whole?

Ryan: I think from a hiring and recruiting standpoint. And then I think when you think about hiring, recruiting, it's only one part of like, let's just call it people funnel as in like the top of the funnel is like, how do you attract awesome people? How do you interview them? How do they get a job? And then there's this whole thing of just like people experience once they're at the company, how do they have an amazing experience? And so my answer is not only just to give some perspective, is not only just in the interviewing piece, it's more of just kind of like in the whole entire people funnel or lifecycle is. I really just think this sort of communication in culture is like communication was so easy when you could, like, run up against someone in the office. They were heading to the bathroom, had to get a snack or something. You're like, hey, what did you think of, you know, Elton John where they like a great person? What's your quick thoughts? And so there's got to be a central hub, one to streamline that communication you're starting to see. That was slack base camp in a variety of other sources and then specifically from like video and interviewing, which I know you guys are doing a few things in that space. I think that type of product, whether it's or someone else, is going to become more and more important just because we need to streamline communication, we need to streamline. What do values mean? A lot of times values. There's just like this underlying kind of sense of feeling that you get in the office. But like, how do you get that under sensing feeling with a remote team? And so I think communication is going to be the one thing that's going to need to streamline not just for recruiting and interviewing, but a part of the whole entire of like people cycle, if that makes sense.

Grace:  That's great. I have another question for you. You mentioned values of. You times in that answer, but also previously to and thinking about hiring in the midwest, not to generalize, but to ask you to generalize a little bit, is there anything that leaders should be thinking about differently when it comes to their company values, if they're hiring in the Midwest versus on the coasts, in the Midwest versus the coasts?

Ryan: I think there's some general things that when we think about as we're interviewing people, I would say one of the big things that we think about is curiosity. So now that we're just in this day of information is everywhere. So, like, you can literally Google anything these days, but googling the right question really makes a difference or having a conversation with someone in a sales call, in a success call, making sure people are curious and asking the right question. I think that is a thing that's definitely going to change, because, again, this is a whole other conversation about education. Did you go to Harvard or stanford? Those are kind of important. But I think from an education perspective, those things are actually getting less important as you're getting employed at these companies. But I would say curiosity is one of the values that we see over and over again, that employers are looking for. And team members besides all the other stuff, can they tactically do the job? Are they good communicators and stuff like that? But curiosity, I would say, is like one of the main values that we see. I don't want to use the word trending, but feels like it just makes sense here. We see trending these days. That's great. Following up on that, you've obviously led people teams in the past. And so if you were advising people, leaders in the year ahead, let's call 2020 a wash much, much like all other aspects of 2020, but look forward to twenty, 21. If you were advising CEOs or people, leaders, what's kind of you're like, this is your golden goose in the year ahead for recruiting or hiring great talent. I think the one thing that people need to think about is just making sure things are streamlined and having not two different cultures, two different interview processes, two different performance reviews. And this is like the big heads up. I would give to everyone as people are thinking about do I build my team remotely, do I build my team in office? Do I build my team hybrid? All three of those are really good options. And we could spend all day arguing about which one is the best. The answer is I don't know. But the thing that I do know is whichever you do decide, you do need to make sure that there's a streamlined process and things are the same. And so I hear very popular. People are talking about this like hybrid model. I do think the future of work is this flexible type of style of work. But a big fear and a big challenge that I would put out there is like make sure you don't have two different cultures, one that's in your HQ in India. And then one that's in your remote kind of ethos that's going around. And so I think leaders are going to have a challenging job to make sure that culture, communication and everything stays streamlined, no matter whether you're in an office, no matter whether you're online or whatever your team is. And so that is like the big I would say, heads up, I would give to people leaders as they're thinking about hypothetically opening offices in 2021 who knows what the hell is going to happen. But that's the big one. Heads up whenever that happens.

Ben: Do you think your profile changes for hiring, whether you're hiring a remote or in office, for example, if you're going to hire a manager tomorrow, do I need to change the job description. If I know they're going to be managing in person versus managing remotely?

Ryan: You know, I don't know if the job description changes because I think the job description doesn't change, whether it's remote versus an office. I think it's just changing because it's 2021 versus 2020. The job description needs to change the making sure that it's really outcome based, making sure that it's not being weighed too heavily. I'm like, did you go to Harvard using that example again, like a lot of job descriptions, you know, people don't know exactly what they're looking for, but like job descriptions and a change saying, OK, here's what the first 30 days look like. Here's what the first 90 days look like. So I think job descriptions definitely do need to evolve, but it's not so much in office versus remote.

Grace: That totally makes sense. And I'm really curious for your thoughts on job descriptions. I think what I have seen in various teams that I've been part of is a lack of emphasis on the importance of the job description. So stealing it from an old one, kind of making some minor tweaks, not really putting a lot of thought into it. What sort of importance do you put on the job description in general? What tips do you have for how we should focus on that?

Ryan: I would say one of the job descriptions that I always go back to that. I think does a great job is a company called Wistia, a video platform in. The reason it's so good is not only just because of their written text, but is because they have a video on every single job description. And it's like, all right, here is the job description today. But everyone knows whatever job you're applying for, things are going to be change and nothing is written in stone. So I think the reason I like Wistia is just because. It gives you into the insight to like, who is this team that you're actually going to be working with? So if you have a job description for an account manager, great. Like your account manager is to make sure you're doing quarterly business reviews, making sure that your customers are happy. And sure that is the job description, day one. But there is a high likelihood within the next six months that job description is going to evolve. But the thing that's not going to change is the people that are behind the business, the leaders and stuff like that. So I really think using just Wistia as an example, using your job description is giving kind of a window into what that company is like is super important.

Ben: I love that Wistia is a great example of the other company I've seen recently that I loved. How they did job descriptions was notion if you've used the collaborative tool notion and they launched like really intense notion based guides for how to succeed at their company, how to interview at their company, I just thought it was like a beautiful example of going above and beyond to give you a picture of like, what is this team that I'm joining?

Ryan: That makes it special. And easier to know if this is for sure. And I think it's all at the end of the day that I mean, earlier this conversation, we talked about retention rates, but at the same time, everyone needs to be very realistic that someone join in as your company is not going to be there forever. So the question that I have is like, what experience are you going to gain through bringing on this next employee? And from a team members perspective, if I'm thinking about joining a company, the question if I'm a job seeker that I have is like, all right, I am going to join this company. And what experience am I looking for? Am I looking just to be heads down and really just working with experienced leaders? Maybe that's OK. Am I looking for an experience where I'm taking a company from nothing to something where that's really great. But it's also really challenging because whatever direction, you have today is probably going to change in 2002 seconds. So either is like a job job seeker or as an employer. Think about what experience do you want to give to that individual or as a job seeker, what are you looking for in that job? Because look at. It's not the days. My first job out of college, I worked at IBM and everyone that surrounded me was at IBM for 30 plus years. That's probably not going to happen anymore. And so I think it's important to join a company and thinking about experience on both sides of the table.

Grace: That completely makes sense. And is actually, Ryan, a really good segue into another topic? We want to dive in a little bit deeper with you interviewing specifically. So we would be remiss if we didn't hear a little bit of your thinking on this. Do you have any hot takes on interviewing or anything? You're really passionate about being part of any good interview process.

Ryan: Yeah, so interview process. So let me take the job seeker and then let's take the employer for a second. So from a job seeker perspective, if you have an interview, you kind of already want, you got your foot in the door. So let's take a couple steps back before even interviewing. I see a lot of job seekers reaching out to people just saying, hey, I want this job, I want this job. I want this like, let's take 10 steps back. The best way to get an interview or I just like to call him is the discussion is reach out to someone for advice. And so say, OK, Ben, I know you are an awesome marketing leader. I seen you've been a lesson and some other great companies before. I would love just to pick your brain. I'm a junior marketer. I would love to just think about your career and learn more about that, because me, I'm trying to learn in my own marketing career. And so I would say the best way to get an interview is not actually asked for the interview as just ask for to talk with the leader at a company to get their advice. Because 9 out of 10 times people love talking about themselves and love dishing out advice. And so that's the way to get your foot in the door. And then as a job seeker, the last thing that I would say is, again, making sure that you're asking really good questions, making sure that they can get specific examples. OK, you say that flexibility is a core value at this company. OK, great. That sounds really nice. Can you give me an example, how flexibility has happened? Tell me about a time that someone has worked remotely or someone has done x, y and z work. So make sure that you were getting really firm examples as a job seeker and not just taking the surface level core values as they are. Ask for specific examples throughout that experience. And then specifically as an employer during the interview process. I think it's just making sure, again, I don't want to give the same answer, but it's really making sure that you're asking good questions throughout the whole entire process. And then making sure that this person isn't just another referral. And what I mean by that is referrals are great. And typically, when I ask a company, hey, how are you finding your team members? Typically referrals, LinkedIn, our number one and two, and maybe their career site, if I had to name the top three, making sure that they're bringing on in team member, making sure that they're interviewing that candidate is not just making sure that person is thinking and acting like everyone else on the team, making sure, yes, this person has the right values, but making sure that this. Person is bringing a diverse set of thoughts to the team, and so as you're interviewing, making sure that this is not just like another referral, making sure that they can add something unique to your team,

Grace: That's great. Thank you. I have another question for you. On the flip side of what you just mentioned, which I think is pure gold. Do you have any horror stories from interviewing? No need to name names, but it seems like everyone, we ask has a story to tell whether as a candidate, it being interviewed or observing, a colleague interviewing or even something that maybe you've done poorly in the past, that you've improved since a horror story.

Ryan: That's a good question. I actually don't know if I have any really good ones to share. I think at the end of the day, it's just having, like, mutual respect for each other on both sides. And this is like a partnership for the long term. So, like, not to punt the question, but like I mean, I do this daily as in and I'm talking to people and, you know, within the first 10 seconds that this is not going to be a fit either way. And so, like, doing your research, I think is important. But like, I know it's like a terrible answer. I don't think I have any more stories. So maybe I've been a little lucky.

Grace: I guess that's great. Let me rephrase. How about this? Is there anything that you think people do wrong when interviewing, like you mentioned, lack of preparation as one specific example? But are there any things that you just really advise against doing in the interview process, mostly from the company perspective, as an interviewer of a candidate?

Ryan: Yeah, I would say talking and I know that's like a funny answer to give is again, the inverse of asking good questions is just talking. You've never learned anything on both sides from a job seeker or employer from talking the whole time. So I would just be like really thoughtful about the percentage of time you're talking versus listening and listening. Is it actually really challenging? And to like just being intentional and how you're listening, asking good questions and stuff like that, but like during interviews or, you know, on either side is like stop talking and do more listening. How do you as a people leader help your hiring managers get good at listening or asking good questions? Because I think so often what happens is people leaders have this vision for what an amazing interview process could be, but it's hard to get everyone on board to interview as an organization that way or to make change globally. So I think a couple of ways to do it is to get some materials up front. And what I mean by that is I'll give two examples. One specifically making sure if you're doing it like the resume, obviously, you need to make sure that it's good with the candidate, but make sure the call is recorded. So then you can go back and listen to it. That's part one. Another thing to do is we have these things called the y, which is getting to know you. We asked candidates to fill out. It's just some type form where we're asking them questions, not only just about their experience, but about who they are as an individual. And then we make sure that hiring is not just an individual sport where it's like, all right, I'm just reading this. I'm just looking at this interview. We have these materials that you can send to the whole entire team. And so what we do is we interview someone, we'll take these pieces of material, and these collateral will throw them on to Slack, and making sure that everyone either thumbs up or thumbs down on it or they ask a question about it. So whether your company is a 10 person team, which it's easier to do, versus a 10,000 person company, which is much harder to do, but just making sure that, you know, the interview process is more of a team sport than like just this little hub of people that's making these decisions.

Grace: That's great. Ryan, this has been amazing. We like to close out each episode with a little speed round. We want to get to know you a little bit better outside of work. I'm going to ask a few questions about and just whatever pops to mind first is the right answer. That's all.

Ryan: Good Yeah. Let's party. Let's do it. Do it.

Grace: OK, what brings you joy outside of work?

Ryan: Oh, definitely spending time with family. And as I mentioned earlier, having a little Nugget last child in like six weeks. So I'm just super pumped for that. I've like way too much energy for life, so I'm just excited to just keep on moving. So exciting. That's great.

Ben: What's one thing that you've recently watched or read that you really loved?

Ryan: So Barack Obama just came out with a book called The promised land. And so I've been listening to that. The first part, it's insane because it's 700 pages and 30 hours of listening. But we actually just drove from Detroit to Florida, so had been really enjoying listening to that book just because I would say one, he's an amazing writer and he's also the one that's reading the book. So it's beautiful to hear his voice for 30 hours. And then the two is, I would say, the challenging thing is, is that he's talking about a lot of things that are challenges eight years ago, good or bad. A lot of those challenges still exist today. But definitely an interesting book to read.

Grace: That sounds amazing. That is on my to read list, Ryan. I haven't gotten to quite yet, but I've heard great things. OK, next question. Do you have a Go to favorite food or meal.

Ryan: I really enjoyed barbecue, and I know this sounds insane, so we just moved into a new house and we bought a barbecue and we've been barbecuing in the winter. And so anything barbecued, I feel good. And I'm a sauce guy. So it's just like if you have, whether it's vegetables or you have a hamburger, just load me up with sauce. And I'm in.

Grace: That's so true. Makes everything good.

Ben: I can't say I agree. Guys, I'm in no sauce guy. We can do it. I know. I mean, on aliens, Ryan just is not a podcast about me. OK, what's your favorite place you've ever traveled?

Ryan: Oh, I would say the favorite place. And we actually just talking about it this morning. Zion National Park. Yeah, there's a couple beautiful hikes there. Angel's landing, the narrows. And so I really love national parks. And I would say Zion is pretty good.

Ben: Is angel landing the one where it's like super skinny?

Ryan: Yes, super skinny. You don't want to have much sauce, because you need to make sure you hit on those really tight trails. But it's beautiful out there.

Grace: It is so beautiful. I love Zion. That is a great choice. All right. We ask everyone. This And last question. Do you believe aliens exist? Why or why not?

Ryan: I'm going to punt the question to say, if Elon Musk thinks they exist, then I think they exist. And so I'm not sure of that answer. But I do think from. I've seen from Tesla and from Elon, he does think that there is some life on Mars and some other planets. And so I know nothing about this space. So I'm just going to refer to his answer as he says, yes. So I'm in also.

Grace: All right. So, listeners, you can Google Elon Musk's opinion on aliens and Ryan will agree with that.

Ryan: Yeah, exactly.

Grace: Perfect Ryan, where can people find your company if they're interested in learning more about you?

Ryan: For sure. So if people are interested in finding more about us, you can go to purpose, period jobs. So jobs and a lot of information is out there. And so we would love to help people, whether they're looking for a job. You're not looking for a job. One of our thing is just like humanized recruiting a little bit and just having more conversations. And so happy to talk and also give my email address. It's Ryan at and we'd love to chat with anyone.

Grace: Fabulous thank you, Ryan. Thank you so much. We really appreciate you coming on and spending some time with us,

Ryan: Grace. It's been fun. And yeah, I'm excited to hang out, eat some barbecue sauce, no sauce, whatever it is. And appreciate the time, guys.

Hosts: Thanks for joining us for another episode of start with who, the interview intelligence podcast presented by Pillar. Find out more about Pillar and how to do the best interviewing of your life and build an amazing team, all starting at And if you like this episode, leave us a review or shoot us a note. We'd love to hear from you. Thanks for listening. We'll see you next time.