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HomeInterviewHRTech Edge Interview with John Harrington, Jr. - Director, Product Marketing, Phenom

HRTech Edge Interview with John Harrington, Jr. – Director, Product Marketing, Phenom


John Harrington, Jr., is the Director of Product Marketing at Phenom. He received his master’s of business administration from Villanova and has spent over a decade honing his product marketing skills and experience in the HR tech and cybersecurity industries.
More about John Harrington, Jr.:

Phenom has the purpose of helping a billion people find the right job. Through AI-powered talent experiences, employers are using Phenom to hire employees faster, develop them to their full potential, and retain them longer. The Phenom Intelligent Talent Experience platform seamlessly connects candidates, employees, recruiters, hiring managers, HR, and HRIS — empowering over 500 diverse and global enterprises with innovative products, including Phenom Career Site, Chatbot, CMS, CRM, AI Scheduling, Video Assessments, Campaigns, University Recruiting, Talent Marketplace, Career Pathing, Gigs, Mentoring, and Referrals.

Phenom has earned accolades including Inc. 5000’s fastest-growing companies (3 consecutive years), Deloitte Technology’s Fast 500 (4 consecutive years), five Brandon Hall’ Excellence in Technology’ awards, including Gold for ‘Best Advance in AI for Business Impact,’ Business Intelligence Group’s Artificial Intelligence Excellence Awards (3 consecutive years), and a regional Timmy Award for launching and optimizing (2020).

Headquartered in Greater Philadelphia, Phenom also has offices in India, Israel, the Netherlands, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

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Welcome, John! Please narrate the outstanding journey that meticulously carved you to be the Director of Product Marketing at Phenom.

I began my career after college working as a marketing generalist for a B2B SaaS startup (Fiberlink) that focused on mobile device management. It ended up getting acquired by IBM and incorporated into its cybersecurity business unit. It was at IBM that I began channeling my product marketing subject matter expertise. Over a period of time, I grew my skills and experience and came to focus on a wide variety of technologies in IBM Security’s portfolio. I was eventually leading teams of product marketers that were responsible for individual products, including unified endpoint management, data security, SIEM, SOAR, and XDR.

There came a time when I was working fully remotely, and I was ready to get back into the office more routinely and join a more traditional team environment. The stars aligned, and I was able to rejoin one of my former colleagues who is leading a marketing team at a hypergrowth HR tech company. This was when I signed up for the exciting challenge to grow a large and impactful product marketing practice at Phenom.

What exceptional features does Phenom provide as a talent experience platform that other similar platforms fail to do?

Automation, intelligence, and experience. In alignment with our purpose to help a billion people find the right job, Phenom has always (and will continue to) keep a strong pulse on the types of hiring, retention, and growth challenges that global organizations are facing. We deliver innovative solutions that address existing pain points and set customers up for long-term success to hire faster, develop better, and retain longer.

There’s no doubt that there are point solutions that tackle many distinct challenges head-on, but there are no vendors in the industry that can deliver the all-in-one approach for talent acquisition and talent management the way we do — through automation, intelligence, and experience.

For example, for job zones 1 and 2, such as landscapers or security guards that require little to no preparation (see more on job zones), we make it easy for organizations to stand up a fast and frictionless process to hire a large volume of workers in a very short period of time, using automation.

On the other end of the spectrum, for job zones 4 and 5, such as real estate brokers or lawyers, we deliver a holistic set of offerings that enable organizations to streamline the hiring process for candidates, recruiters, and hiring managers through tightly integrated screening, scheduling, and interview management technologies that are collectively underpinned by intelligence.

For organizations seeking to use data and context to fuel AI, which powers decision-making for employee growth, development, and retention, our combination of Talent Marketplace, Workforce Intelligence, and People Manager technologies create those all-important experiences for employees, talent management, and people managers.

Employees, for example, discover professional development opportunities that will help them upskill and grow their careers. Talent management, meanwhile, obtains a real-time view of the gaps that exist within the organization and recommendations that can be followed to overcome them. Managers achieve an inside view of each employee on their teams and can take appropriate action to inspire growth, development, and performance.

There are, and will always be, single-point solutions that address individual objectives and challenges. However, there is no single vendor that delivers exceptional experiences all from one place — and continues to gather data, insights, and signals to improve upon and personalize experiences and create better business outcomes.

Can you recall a time when you played a strategic role in designing a product roadmap, and it led to extraordinary outcomes?

Yes. I’ve been a hiring and people manager for a few years now (prior to and at Phenom) and, at times, have had individual responsibility for double-digit headcount. When I joined Phenom, I was interviewed by members of our product development team responsible for innovating and creating phenomenal experiences for managers.

During this time, I was asked a wide range of questions related to steps I’ve undertaken, pain points I’ve experienced, tools I’ve used, and aspirations for where I’d like to see people, processes, and technology evolve to create a better overall experience.

Furthermore, on an ad hoc basis, I’ve passed along feedback to product managers about the Phenom tools I presently use to attract, engage, screen, interview, and hire. Judging by the type of enhancements I’ve seen applied to the technology over time, I do feel my feedback has informed the approach that is taken to enhance our experience further. We now have a comprehensive Manager Experience (MX) that cuts across talent acquisition and talent management use cases — and I think this is really emblematic of how Phenom develops technology; getting to the core of what users are looking to accomplish and aligning the appropriate tools and technology to make it come together for them.

How did Phenom go out of its way to help companies retain their workforce at the peak of the ‘Great Resignation’?

No organization is immune to the potential for its most treasured resource — its people — to leave in pursuit of alternative opportunities. Phenom has dedicated an entire platform experience (Employee Experience) to facilitate employee growth, learning, development, and retention. Customers who have deployed Phenom Talent Marketplace are capable of giving their employees a truly personalized experience using the power of data and AI to inform decision-making.

Here’s one example — an employee with a specific set of skills and experience who has confirmed interest in considering new opportunities may receive a recommendation to consider an internal job where their skills are well-aligned with the requirements. Not only is this helping bridge the gap between their current and future state, but it is also helping talent management teams facilitate talent movement throughout the organization.

The Cigna Group is one of the largest health insurance providers in the world, with a global workforce of about 74,000. Almost half of the total hires in 2022 were employees who changed roles, while the other half were external hires. The fact that nearly half of all hires came internally speaks to the power of skills knowledge.

Additionally, Talent Marketplace supports acquisition teams to identify the best available talent for open positions while eliminating the need to cast a wide external net to do so.

Talent Marketplace is complemented by a variety of technologies that further support employee growth and development, including:

  • Career Pathing, which helps employees chart out the next steps in their career based on relevant context;
  • Mentoring, which connects employees with internal mentors who can support them with career development;
  • Gigs and Projects, which help employees develop new skills and experience while supporting organizational needs;
  • Learning & Development (L&D) Integration, which tees up appropriate education and training opportunities, using context to dictate what is the most relevant;
  • and Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), which promote community, diversity, and employee engagement.

Of course, this combination of employee-facing technology is only part of the puzzle that needs to be solved to effectively engage, grow, develop, and retain them. For this reason, Phenom introduced HR Experience, which provides Talent Management, HR Business Partners (HRBPs), and people managers with the data, context, and employee relationship management capabilities they need to undertake workforce planning, skills gap analysis, employee journey formulation, succession planning, and performance management. When using EX and HR Experience in combination, intelligence can be leveraged to ensure the right recommendations are being provided that can enrich experiences through personalization, all while driving more impactful growth & retention outcomes.

How unconventionally do you approach product marketing to ensure your efforts consistently harvest tangible outputs?

To me, an outside-in approach is absolutely essential. The HR technology market is rampant with change, and the vendors that exist in our space are continually innovating to ensure customer expectations are being met. For us to be successful in differentiating and delivering value to global customers with the adoption and use of our platform, we must pay close attention to the wide variety of stakeholders in the talent lifecycle whose requirements are constantly changing. For example, we must have a strong pulse on our users, their challenges, and aspirations and do our job to ensure they know how to embrace our approach to advance and change the way they work for the better. For business leaders, we must ensure the value derived from the use of our platform is well understood — and that it is leading to better business outcomes must be easily explained. 

In your opinion, what are the colossal loopholes in the current hiring scenario, and how is Phenom bringing about a positive change?

This may be more than just my opinion, but the current hiring scenario is broken. Candidates expect a fast and efficient interview process, with clarification as to where they currently stand, what the next step is, and how to adequately prepare for each engagement. Instead, there’s an overall lack of transparency, and candidates feel disconnected. Hiring teams, on the other hand, need to be able to communicate, collaborate, and arrive at confident decisions fast. Unfortunately, they are relying on traditional processes that do not work — and are using disconnected point solutions that were not made to work in conjunction with one another.

Phenom’s platform makes it possible for customers to take a holistic approach that was purpose-built to address each of these pain points in combination. It’s known as Hiring Intelligence, and it cuts across the entire process from the moment an application is submitted to when it’s time for an offer to be extended. Because each product within the solution is delivered from a single platform, each is tightly integrated. Furthermore, each is underpinned by an intelligence layer that delivers better outcomes, using data and context that is available from screening to scheduling to interviewing (because the data continues to be accessible to hiring teams every step of the way).

For example, recruiters typically have a mountain of resumes and job applications that they need to sift through before they’re able to discern which candidates are worthy of progressing to the screening stage of the process. Phenom’s fit score makes it possible to prioritize screening of the most qualified candidates based on their skills, title, location, and other relevant factors. Further simplifying the process, when referenced in combination, the candidate profile and job description afford valuable context that can be used to auto-generate relevant screening questions for these candidates. This saves recruiters and hiring managers valuable time they’d normally spend formulating manual questions (or worse – following a rinse-and-repeat, non-personalized, catch-all process).

The advantages grow as the process keeps moving. Once a candidate has been screened, Phenom automates interview scheduling based on the scoring produced after responses have been received. For example, a score equal to or above a four can be automatically scheduled for an interview — instead of waiting on a recruiter to determine the result of the screen and manually schedule the interview. This makes it possible to cut literal days off the process, keeping candidates moving at the pace they expect.

It continues to get better for all parties involved as we move into the interview process. Because each interview is automatically recorded and transcribed, additional interview stakeholders can get exposed to the takeaways — and can provide necessary feedback to keep the process moving forward fast. This reduces the need for additional interviews to take place, facilitates better collaboration and more confident hiring decisions by the team, and accelerates the amount of time it normally takes to extend an offer to a qualified candidate. Now, how easy was that compared to what most organizations are doing today?

Besides AI, what other major technological developments would be consequential in disrupting the HRTech realm in the coming years?

Imagine a world where every candidate and employee touchpoint was personalized. It may be difficult to do, as these are, on the whole, being delivered by manual and time-consuming processes that sacrifice efficiency and speed. 

In the not-so-distant future, HR teams will be identifying, building, implementing, and monitoring automation workflows in talent lifecycle processes — achieving constant monitoring and qualitative analysis of performance.

From this type of approach, talent acquisition will experience increased conversion rates and a higher volume of quality hires in less time. Employees will discover opportunities that enable them to upskill and evolve in their careers.

What significant professional aspirations and goals do you aim to accomplish over the next five years of your career?

An IPO is on the horizon for Phenom. This will be a significant step in the direction of achieving our purpose to help a billion people find the right job. I am excited about the role that our product marketing team will play in rising to the occasion.