Circular headshot of Bret Feig, VP of Talent Acquisition at Zip Co, with the Zip logo to the left and text Talent Visionaries to the right, on a dark purple background

Zip Co’s Bret Feig on Humanity, Humility, and the Power of Community

SeekOut's Talent Visionaries series features innovative leaders and their extraordinary work in creating and scaling high-performing teams. The personal philosophies and invaluable insights of these workplace champions offer new perspectives in an ever-evolving talent landscape. 

Bret Feig is the VP of Global Talent Acquisition at Zip Co, a global leader in digital retail finance and payments. Bret is a builder at heart, with an insatiable curiosity for data and technology and how both are reshaping the talent landscape. With more than a dozen years of experience driving business outcomes through people teams and tech, his background spans sourcing, corporate recruitment, and executive search. 

On learning resilience

My talent acquisition (TA) career began at a large, global recruiting agency. It was a classic bait and switch: About halfway through the interview, I realized they had called me in to join them as a recruiter. Bored with my dead-end sales job and intrigued by the unknown, I accepted. 

“Learning resilience will help you survive and flourish.” 

Getting my start at a recruitment agency was a trial-by-fire experience and taught me the 101s of recruiting tactics, and most importantly, what I liked and didn’t like about the work. Learning resilience will help you survive and flourish, in that environment and elsewhere. 

On humanizing the candidate experience

The intersection of technology and candidate experience makes the role of TA really interesting. People are soured by automation—especially the generic rejection emails that don’t offer any insight as to why they didn’t hit the bar. At the same time, it would take five people working full time to send personal replies to every applicant. So, this presents us with a compelling opportunity: How do we bring humanity to our communications and do it at scale? 

“The mark of success is when people respond to tell us that it’s the best rejection letter they’ve ever received.” 

People want to be acknowledged and heard, so my team has been experimenting with transparent communications that can be widely used. Sometimes this means emailing candidates to say “Hey, unfortunately you applied a little too late, and your resume didn’t get as much attention as it could have. Here are some tips to help you be ahead of the pack next time.”  

Another example: “The reason we’re rejecting you is that we are looking for X, Y, and Z but didn’t see that in your resume. We’re not perfect, so if we missed something and you’re strong in these areas, send us a reply with more info. We promise to consider it.” Our mark of success is when people respond to tell us that it’s the best rejection letter they’ve ever received—and that actually happens. 

We also drew a line in the sand: For anyone who’s started a formal interview process, we strive to have personal communications. We’ll try video, voicemail, or even a text message—anything we can to prioritize personal connection over generic rejection emails. 

On adopting new technology 

Recruiting has always been about both sales and people management. But the industry is transforming, and there are many skills that are necessary today that weren’t part of the work during my early days. Today, you need a good understanding of analytics, how to align talent to objectives, and how to drive the business forward through the lens of people. 

“If you overlook the importance of assessing new strategies and solutions, everyone else is going to pass you by.” 

The mantra is no longer “pick up the phone, make a call.” Being able to connect with people on the phone is still important, but the way we engage candidates has evolved. If you’re still insisting on cold calls, you’re going to become a dinosaur.  

The same is true with those who fail to adopt new technologies, like AI. If you overlook the importance of assessing new strategies and solutions, everyone else is going to pass you by. Humility is a powerful mentality.  

On the power of community

For anyone new to TA, I can’t stress enough the value of building your network. For an industry where a lot of bad behaviors can be passed down through the lines, there is a passionate community striving to pave a better path forward by sharing best practices. No matter who you interact with—no matter their title, organization, or experience—nearly everyone you meet will have failed, figured out a better way, and is willing to jump on a call to answer your questions. 

Get involved. Go to conferences and find your people. There’s SourceCon, RecFest, HRTX, Sourcers Who Code, Talent Sourcers, Recruiting Brainfood, and a million more. If you find an area you’re strong in, develop it and start speaking at these events as soon as you can.

“[TA] is a passionate community striving to pave a better path forward by sharing best practices.” 

Within the community there are also some incredible resources. I suggest reading:  

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