HR Strategies: Five Ways To Identify And Retain Fantastic Talent With Rachel Book of Fidelity & Kage Spatz

Kage Spatz
Jun 20 · 12 min read
Rachel Book

As a part of our HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field about their five ways to identify and retain fantastic talent. The goal of this series is to aid HR leaders in their hiring and retention strategies, while also teaching prospects what hiring managers are actually looking for.

Today I had the great pleasure of interviewing Rachel Book — a very important part of a company that, according to their Linkedin page, has over 50,000 people working with them in some capacity.

Rachel Book is Director, Diversity Recruiting Strategies, for Fidelity Investments. She designs innovative recruitment strategies to attract top talent to Fidelity’s career opportunities across the world. Her work focuses on increasing awareness for recruiters and hiring managers on diversity topics and positioning the firm as a destination employer for underrepresented talent.

With 20 years of experience in Human Resources and Talent Acquisition, Rachel holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and several Global Human Resources and Diversity Recruiting certifications. Prior to joining Fidelity, Rachel led talent attraction and diversity recruiting programs at Bloomberg and AT&T after completing consulting assignments with various firms on technology recruiting projects. Rachel resides in the NYC metro area with her husband and two sons and aims to achieve a thoughtful integration of all that work and life bring.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’m the first in my family with a college degree and a corporate career (we’ve got lots of teachers, business owners, and entrepreneurs). After earning a degree in psychology in two years through a non-traditional path including studies abroad, correspondence courses and CLEP exams, I started working as a project coordinator for a tech company. Soon after, they were spinning off a division and the COO came up to me and said, “We can’t use the parent company finance department anymore. So you’re going to hire a new finance department.”

I just jumped in and did it. I ended up hiring hundreds of people over the next few years. It was a unique experience, and one that taught me we should never miss an opportunity to expand our horizons. It taught me about career paths and the unique combinations of skills and experiences needed to be successful. I realized that careers are not always linear, and that people who have “stacked careers” across industries or functional areas often add more value than someone taking a more traditional path.

Recruiting is in my DNA — it’s the detective work of finding people and the sales aspect of closing the deal that is exciting. Over the past 10 years I’ve focused on diversity in talent acquisition — building programs and initiatives to reach broader talent pools in a way that is inclusive and welcoming to all, including those without a traditional background.

Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

People have the best of intentions when they are trying to assemble a diverse team but so many of us are still too quick to make assumptions. I once worked with a hiring manager who was so excited about a technology candidate named Stacey, partially because he was looking to bring gender diversity to his team and because the candidate was extremely qualified for the job. The hiring manager automatically assumed based on Stacey’s name that the candidate was female and was surprised to learn otherwise.

This experience reinforced that we all need to reconsider the definition of diversity. It is so much more than gender, race or orientation. At the end of the day, people can bring diversity in so many forms. Diversity is differences in thought, experiences, and perspectives. Without this focus, we can miss out on hiring someone who could be the best person for the job.

Are you working on any exciting new projects at your company? How is this helping people?

Yes! My current favorite is Career Jam, a series of reverse career fairs we run with our employee resource groups (ERGs) that are designed to create better connections between Fidelity employees and hiring managers where those relationships may not happen organically. So often people only form connections with people who are just like them and Career Jams were designed specifically to make connections where they may otherwise never happen — across levels, locations, business functions and more. Career Jams are a great way to recruit existing employees for new career opportunities.

Rather than rely on job postings alone, and hoping the right people find out about them and apply, Career Jam takes the opposite approach. The managers do the pitching via five-minute presentations during scheduled events. They share the unique aspects about their teams that you wouldn’t sense from reading a job description. Afterwards, they get the chance to network and get to know one another — and learn even more about job opportunities. It’s fun, low stress and shifts the balance of power to the employees — especially those who may not be as “connected” as others. Employees love it and it’s opened up some amazing opportunities for them (and their new bosses!).

Reverse career fairs sound like they can be very beneficial! Now let’s jump to the main focus of our series. Hiring can be very time consuming and difficult. Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill? Please share an example for each idea.

As the workplace and the workforce evolve, so must our techniques for identifying, attracting and assessing talent. Here are five that I believe are extremely useful for today’s environment:

1. Take a step back and validate the job description. Too often, managers focus intently on where to post a job — but gloss over what is posted. While it’s easy to recycle job descriptions, or look for a clone of the person leaving the position, that may not be the best approach. Perhaps the job and requirements have changed. Consider the composition of your existing team — which skills and experiences are missing? Diversity is a team attribute, not an individual attribute. Look at your team and try to fill some gaps — if you have a team of all extroverts, you may need an introvert to balance things out. Think what is our need versus what have we always had.

To update the job requirements/description before posting, we encourage managers to try this: Ask a few employees in the same/similar job a few questions about the position’s responsibilities and the day-to-day workload, and have them review the skills and experiences needed for success. Then use that feedback to modify the job description. It’s particularly important to differentiate between “must-have” and “nice-to-have” requirements.

Research shows women only apply for jobs when they meet 100% of the qualifications whereas men apply for a job when they meet just 60% of the requirements. Representing “nice-to-have” requirements as “must-haves” can impact the diversity of the talent pool which is why it’s so important to be transparent in the job description.

2. Expand your outreach to draw from a broader, more diverse talent pool. If you always look for the same profile, your organization will be slow to evolve. Begin by challenging your assumptions about applicant pedigrees. Must a specific degree or major be mandatory? At Fidelity, we have removed the “finance degree” requirement for certain positions because our new hire training in those areas is so robust.

We have also changed the way we approach people with gaps in their career. For a while, we hung on to the belief that advisors needed active registrations or members of our technology team needed the most current technical skills to be hired. We quickly learned through our Resume return-to-work internship that we can help accelerate career paths for financial planners, technologists and more by simply providing additional skills training. This program gives us access to talent that the traditional recruiting process overlooks, especially women who are more likely to take career breaks for personal reasons, and we benefit from the fresh perspective people gain when they step out of the corporate environment.

Also, seek out organizations you may be unfamiliar with to introduce yourself to new audiences, and leverage the wealth of social media and networking tools and channels. And if you amplify your employee referral programs, especially among your internal diversity communities, you can leverage your greatest asset — your people — to find talent within their networks.

3. Question candidates constructively. Take the time to develop consistent, structured and relevant interview questions to help you uncover evidence that the candidate has the right skills, experiences and motivations to be successful in the role. The earlier in the process you do this, the better — you don’t want your preconceived notions or biases to interfere with your ability to make objective decisions.

Don’t just question to screen out candidates; ask the questions that will screen in the best. Instead of noting qualifications a candidate doesn’t have, focus on what gaps on the team the candidate can fill instead. Fidelity takes pride in our culture of inclusion, so we seek out and appreciate individuals who may have a non-conventional background and can offer unique and diverse perspectives. Often, we learn more by asking candidates to share stories about how they have worked with people different from them.

4. Assemble a diverse interviewer panel — with respect to age, gender, ethnicity and/or experience. This is important for two reasons: it provides the candidate with a heartier interview experience that offers a glimpse of “real life” at the company and you are less likely to make decisions impacted by bias when diverse perspectives are involved in the evaluation and selection process.

5. Embrace just-in-time training for managers. Remember that mandatory unconscious bias training course you took last year? Probably not. But you can use it if you’re about to go on a major hiring spree. By having concise yet impactful training sessions ready when managers need them, they’ll be more prepared for interviewing and assessing candidates with a bias-free mindset.

With so much noise and competition out there, what are the top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?

There’s really just one way — be transparent. More specifically, though, it’s best to:

  • Always be authentic. Take the time to introduce your company, career opportunity, and community in an honest, open and genuine way. Go beyond jargon and propaganda and explain what makes your company unique. Also, consider using a tool like Textio to ensure that your job descriptions are gender neutral and resonate with a broader audience.
  • Encourage volunteers. When in-demand candidates are bombarded by recruitment calls and emails, they may simply shut you out. But they are much more likely to pay attention if they hear from a “near peer.” So, activate willing volunteers from inside the business to help with initial outreach — and watch your response rates soar!
  • Embrace the Rule of 18. Sales studies reveal that it often requires 18 touchpoints to make a sale — and recruitment isn’t any different. When pitching career opportunities to those who are not actively seeking a job, you must be diligent. Go to where they are, online and in-person. They’re unlikely to want to get married after just one date!

What are the 3 most effective strategies used to retain employees?

A cynic might say “throw more money at them.” But that’s rarely the top factor in employee retention metrics. At Fidelity, we’ve found that these three are vitally important factors in employee engagement and satisfaction:

  • Be realistic and transparent throughout the recruiting process. Open, honest dialogue will reduce the likelihood of disappointment or surprise when a new employee joins the company.
  • Welcome them aboard! A robust and welcoming first day — and entire onboarding experience — will ease the transition for any new employee. Don’t throw them into the pool and hope they figure out your firm’s cultural quirks. Connect them with employee resource groups (ERGs) and encourage them to participate right away.
  • Maintain the momentum. Don’t leave the newbie hanging after they show up. Check in often, and ensure that he/she can bring his/her/their real self to the office. If they don’t feel comfortable in doing so, their stay with you may be short — and you may have larger workplace/culture problems to deal with.

In your experience, is it important for HR to keep up with the latest trends? Can you give some examples of what this looks like?

Too often, a recruiter’s knowledge of business or technology nuances can be an inch deep and a mile wide. And that can cause plenty of problems, like hesitating to push back on a manager who rejects a seemingly ideal job candidate for fuzzy reasons.

With unfettered access to advanced technologies, we should be up-to-speed on the competition, hiring trends, compensation metrics and other factors that can impact the depth and quality of our talent pools. The better we know the market, and the industry/function we’re serving, the more we’ll be able to work in tandem with managers to find and attract the best talent available.

Take advantage of technologies like social media and advanced data analytics to inform the recruiting process. We see great success with Snapchat Filters — most recently during Pride Parades across our regional footprint to help Fidelity show up where the target talent pool already is and engage them in a platform they already use.

Can you give an example of a creative way to increase the value provided to employees without breaking the bank?

You can throw plenty of money at employee programs. But I believe a better approach is to weave workplace initiatives, such as diversity, into everything we do. That includes recruitment. Why build a parallel recruitment process targeting minorities or underrepresented populations when that focus should be embedded within all hiring programs? Yes, it’s important to expand outreach and recruiting to new audiences and locations, but when we look at recruitment more holistically, everyone benefits — and it’s much more cost effective, too.

For Fidelity, diversity and inclusion are not boxes to check. It is an ongoing process that begins with who you hire and ends with great experiences for your customers.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

What a thought-provoking question!

You may not be surprised by my answer, given my focus on diversity and inclusion. I would want to inspire people to expand their horizons, and strive to spend time with people who are different from them. Let’s all step out of our echo chambers to seek out and listen to different perspectives. Think of the many ways that can manifest — who we engage on social media, what movies we watch, who we eat lunch with in the work cafeteria. It’s learning about others and appreciating our differences.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Ability hits the mark where presumption overshoots and diffidence falls short.”

This quote, which I’ve seen attributed to the first female prime minister of Israel, Golda Meir, and 19th-century British theologian, John Henry Newman, reminds me of the struggles women sometimes encounter in the hiring process and workplace in terms of displaying both confidence and assertiveness without being stereotyped as unlikeable. I spend a lot of time discussing this with teams at work, and encouraging employees to not let these cultural phenomena get in the way of their success.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why?

I love the TV show, ‘The Good Place,” which is a perfect mix of smart, sweet and silly in 22-minute increments. And I especially admire one of its stars, actress Jameela Jamil. I saw her speak at a conference earlier in the year, and have followed her amazing work on social media to encourage body positivity messages with young (and not so young) women. She says what she thinks and she’s funny and smart. I want to hang out with her!

I’m also really interested in meeting Elon Musk’s mother, Maye Musk, who raised a successful family as a single mom while building a career as a dietician and a model. At 68 she’s being called an “it girl” and proving women are fabulous as they “acquire more birthdays”. I’d love some parenting advice from her about raising successful entrepreneurs!

Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!


About the Author: Kage Spatz went from inner-city Teacher to Forbes-featured Strategist & 3x Entrepreneur — most notably Spacetwin & Milburn Shaw. Kage’s latest project is transforming voluntary HR benefits with additional value for employees and their companies at zero cost to anyone. Connect with Kage on Linkedin or contact him directly at Kage.pro for details.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Kage Spatz

Written by

Forbes ft. Strategist @KageSpatz, Spacetwin CEO, Co-founder at MilburnShaw.com

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.