Watch a dozen company videos about culture and values, and the most commonly stated answer to “what makes your company different?” is a resounding “people.” Unsurprisingly, we are no different (check out our own video if you don’t believe us). People are the infrastructure of any company. At our startup stage, we recognize the value in bringing in exceptional talent to improve the product, enhance our business model, and empower every homeowner. The People team uplifts the rest of the business by hiring phenomenal talent. In the midst of the new tech talent landscape where there’s been a reduction in forces across multiple startups and the debate around flexible work environments is never-ending, Valon is focused on adapting with the times and continuing the mentality that people always come first.
Today, we’re diving into our People team’s philosophy, sharing the practices and perspectives that fortify our approach to hiring. Our philosophy is not a stagnant, unused document—it’s a holistic approach backed by our passionate People team that continues to grow alongside our business and employees. We hope anyone reading this can find inspiration in our story.
Be a trusted talent advisor
From the beginning, Valon’s people strategy has always been to hire incredibly talented individuals. With such a competitive workforce, Alice, Valon’s Head of Talent, enthuses that “a critical part of Valon’s people philosophy is to be a trusted advisor to each candidate, every step of the way.” Recruiters are essentially the front line of the gatekeeping system. Candidates look to them as a window into the hiring process, an interpreter for the business needs, and the company’s cultural ambassador. To be this trifecta resource requires a high level of transparency and understanding, which has to be apparent from the start. Maple, a technical recruiting manager with a strong affinity for honesty, articulates her stance on being a talent advisor: “In any situation where you’re building trust, you have to be your authentic self. For example, yesterday I met one of our candidates in person, and they asked: what do you not like about Valon? You should know what you’re getting yourself into: the good, bad, and ugly. No place is perfect, but it’s about what you can tolerate and what is reasonable to you. There are tradeoffs in everything.”
Being candid and thoughtfully expressing the highs and lows is all a part of being a trusted talent advisor. From a slightly different perspective Rosie, a recruiter for our mortgage operations who values the educational elements of the hiring process, says, “there’s a lot of teaching that goes into the recruitment process. I think being an advisor is about teaching and getting a chance to prove to the candidate that we’re a great company. In addition, we’re a point of contact and we have to be clear on expectations.”
With all roads leading to transparency, it’s crucial to allow recruiters a chance to navigate in their own style. There’s a balance between celebrating that Valon is a fun company, while not shying away from the ways in which we might not fit specific candidates. As Alice concludes, “Every startup has its own particular flavor and we want the future employees at Valon to join this journey and build for the long run.”
Recruitment at the forefront
In addition to managing a trustworthy relationship with candidates, recruiters also curate close partnerships with the internal team. Hiring not only grows a company, it also grows and nurtures the impression candidates have of us before they’re officially onboarded. Ian, one of our earliest recruiters, advocates, “A great hire impacts the company in a lot of beneficial ways. But a bad hire can also have detrimental impact. To establish a positive experience, we partner with our hiring managers and are not afraid to push back—we’re truly empowered to voice our opinions. Recruitment is not looked at as an afterthought here. We’re helping to lead the path to growth.” The standardizations and guidelines that come from a close and open communication with hiring managers and other internal members is what unites the team to reinforce a positive experience.
Seek the unique
It’s no surprise that so many of our Valon employees come from an eclectic assortment of backgrounds. We like to celebrate our uniqueness. Our philosophy is to seek out folks who are excited by the idea of implementing their past life skills into their current work—especially if their previous work doesn’t have a direct pathway to their current positions. McKenna, who has worked in the hospitality industry, had a lot to say about transferring her previous expertise to Valon: “Candidate experience is huge for me. Hospitality is all about creating meaningful experiences for people. I try to create a warm and approachable environment. There’s so much value in building experiences where people feel comfortable in a way that’s really unpretentious. How can you teach someone and not make them feel like they’re missing a piece of information that they should know? You want to lead with empathy and an authentic spirit.”
Even when we hire for roles on the operational side, where experience in mortgage servicing is strongly encouraged, there’s always room to explore what qualities might make up for a candidate’s lack of experience. Ramon, another recruiter for our operations team, confirms, “If someone maintains the determination to learn and grow, that right there goes a long way. And I love to work with anyone who displays that. Are they a quick learner—eager to jump in?” Being unique doesn’t have to be as definitive as coming from a completely different background than the job you apply for. Instead, it can be as simple as dawning a confidence and ambition that only enhances the experience you already have.
Our vision for the future
Valon’s mission, values, and philosophy evolve because we dare to imagine a better future. This is central to the homeowners we serve, as well as the employees we hire. Amber, a contract turned full time recruiter, dives into their thoughts on what’s next for the people team: “I’ve thought a lot about expanding our definition of diversity. Right now, we’re very focused on expanding diversity in the company across visible categories. But I’m also thinking a lot about how to make Valon a more accessible company while continuing to prioritize other aspects of diversity and inclusion.” Growth is inevitable. We’ve seen the pandemic open up accessibility with more individuals being able to work remotely. We are in a new era, but major shifts in work style and accessibility isn’t just driven by monumental events. It is implemented internally and is based on a genuine desire to broaden diversity as a natural extension of a company’s values and philosophy.