March 28, 2017
How CarGurus Built a Talent Growth Engine and Doubled in Size

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something very special about working in HR at a growth-stage company – perhaps it’s welcoming the new hires as they start in droves. Of course, growing a team is the result of the entire company’s success and effort. But it’s often those of us in HR who get to greet new hires on their first day of new employee training, so we have a unique perspective on hiring numbers. And for CarGurus this past year, those numbers were especially huge – our team grew from almost 220 to just over 400 people.

So, with more than 10,000 candidates applying for CarGurus job openings in 2016, I wanted to share some insight on how we carefully found the people that best fit each opening while still maintaining the open, entrepreneurial culture that’s at the core of CarGurus.

Creating an agency instead of using one

There is a big difference between creating an open job position and helping to fill one. Certainly, a recruiting department cannot take credit for the former because it is usually the result of overall growth, but it is a recruiter’s job to handle the latter.

Over the past year, the CarGurus recruiting team has more than tripled from three recruiters last January to a team of more than 10. Watching the recruiting team grow into CarGurus’ own de facto agency has been truly rewarding, mainly because we can use our own unique method to find talent.

For starters, unlike agencies, we do not consider our recruiters to be salespeople in the traditional sense of being tied to a desk until a certain number of calls are made. Rather, they are more like CarGurus ambassadors that tout our company’s great benefits, perks and culture. We took the best parts of the agency model and applied it to CarGurus. This means that we can factor in numbers like calls per week and interviews per day, but we are not completely owned by them since our hiring is more about talking with the right people and not to the most people.

When 50 is more than 100

At CarGurus, we encourage our employees to think of creative solutions, and recruiting is no different. It was not feasible to think that we would fill more than 200 job openings by limiting ourselves to the same routine of phone calls and in-person interviews. We knew that we had to experiment with new ideas to keep up with the fast growth pace, so we began experimenting with creating our own recruiting events.

In the same way that we want to talk with the right people and not to the most people, we also strove to host the right candidates and not the most candidates. Instead of renting out a bar in Boston, we organized tailored events meant to attract different interests. This included hosting events at our office such as Scotch tastings, ping pong tournaments and referral events where Gurus could only attend if they brought a qualified job candidate along with them. We also hosted experience events like Celtics and Bruins suites and a Fenway Park tour where attendees took swings in the batting cages. In the end, we wanted an intimate setting with 30-40 qualified candidates talking with hiring managers and Gurus to learn more about our company and culture, as opposed to a larger, 100-person event.

Social isn’t just for media, it’s for recruiting

While the events were certainly successful, we had to get out of our comfort zones and experiment to achieve the company’s hiring goals. Even though social media can be a “scary” frontier because the result or reaction is often unpredictable, we wanted to increase our social media presence to show CarGurus’ culture to the job-seeking world. 

So, we created targeted social media accounts for CarGurus’ HR/hiring teams on platforms like Instagram and Twitter and published more frequently on LinkedIn. We tweet about local tech community events, Instagram about our partnership with the Red Sox Foundation and constantly post pictures on LinkedIn. This effort was so successful that one of our own recruiters has shifted her focus to being our very first Employment Branding Specialist where her primary role is to increase social awareness of our company’s culture and job openings.

What’s next? Despite this growth, CarGurus certainly has the same culture and feel that it did a year ago, complete with free, catered lunches and great benefits. To date, our “less is more” recruiting philosophy is working for us, and this honed-in approach lets us boast a < 5% voluntary turnover rate in 2016 as compared to the industry standard of around 15-20%, according to the 2015 CEB Turnover Benchmarking Survey. CarGurus will be on the lookout again this year for positive, entrepreneurial candidates who can help us build something great. Of course, we’ll be sticking to our mantra that a job opening is better left unfilled than filled with the wrong person. 

Kristen Kenny is the Vice President, People and Talent at CarGurus.  Follow Kristen on Twitter: @kvkenny.