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Jenny Cotie Kangas On Building Better Talent Acquisition Systems

What hidden talent might be uncovered if recruiters viewed the world a little differently? In this episode of Hire Quality, seasoned recruiting expert Jenny Cotie Kangas recounts how an injury that left her without her memory gave her a unique perspective that she leverages in talent acquisition. Prepare to be inspired and gain valuable insights that will elevate your recruiting strategies.

Devyn Mikelll

Hire Quality is a show built for Talent Acquisition Professionals.

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[0:00:06] Devyn Mikell: Hey, this is Devyn Mikell with the Hire Quality podcast. Super excited to be interviewing you. So could you introduce yourself, your role in the company that you work at? 

[00:00:15] Jenny Cotie Kangas: Hi, Devyn. My name is Jenny Cotie Kangas or JCK for short. I am a consultant that helps companies work through really the how for getting talent acquisition right. So whether it's AI regulation, or SOX compliance, or systems in the HR tech setting world, and they're guide in that journey with them.

[00:00:36] Devyn Mikell: What is top of mind for you as a talent leader at your organization?

[00:00:40] Jenny Cotie Kangas: What's top of mind as a talent leader or someone who works in the talent space is, how do I move forward and truly move forward, instead of perpetuating some of the easy excuses that we’ve had in the past on things. Whether it's, "Oh, it's the vendor's fault" or othering kind of finger pointing, and just truly work on what's the problem, how do we reverse engineer better solutions to solve it, and move forward. Knowing that the how is going to be gleamed through our failures, and that's going to help us get it right.

[00:01:12] Devyn Mikell: What is something you wish you knew about leading a talent that you didn't know when you first started. 

[00:01:18] Jenny Cotie Kangas: I wish I would have known sooner the importance of failure as it relates to getting things right. I was so afraid to fail when I started out as a recruiter. What I didn't realize is that, a lot of the times, we think about things as being part of the asking, but really, we need to build our strategies to get to know. The reversed engineer version of that is getting the yes. If we're intentional about recognizing what worked, what didn't, what we would change, that's how we sharpen our strategies to get these things right. That's really I wish I would have embraced failure a lot sooner in my journey.

[00:01:54] Devynn Mikell: What's something unique about you as a talent leader at your organization that makes you a perfect fit for that job?

[00:02:01] Jenny Cotie Kangas: One thing that makes me uniquely suited for the work that I do is the fact that in March of 2020, I fell and hit my head, and I lost all of my memory. I had to rebuild going on, and my strategy is, whether they're at work, or home, or life, and really kind of be curious, and try to reimagine the world. I think that perspective is very helpful for people who are going on these journeys through the talent acquisition space. Because it's really easy to get stuck in the how we've always done it, and that ability to be agile, and think outside the box, or to flow, and reimagine things differently I think is a very important piece, and it's at its core. That's who I am foundationally.

[00:02:46] Devy Mikell: We made it to the last questions, and this one's a fun one. What is the worst question you've ever been asked in an interview?

[00:02:55] Jenny Cotie Kangas: As a woman, being asked, "Well, what is your plan with children? Do you plan on having more kids? Because we really need somebody to be committed to the role." And also asking if somebody's pregnant, or what their plans are regarding pregnancy and family planning. It's just so incredibly not okay. 

[00:03:14] Devyn Mikell: What's up everyone? I'm Devyn, the host of Hire Quality, and you just heard my guest today on a Qualify interview with me. But now, she's here and ready to have a hire quality conversation. See what I did there? I'm joined by Jenny Cotie Kangas or JCK for short. I'm going to use that moving forward. So JCK is a – I'll call it AI guru. She's an AI systems and enablement consultant, and also an advisory board member for But I'm sure I undersold that intro. So JCK, can you take it, add some sizzle to it? Tell the world about you and what you do today.

[00:03:53] Jenny Cotie Kangas: Yes. First, Devyn, thanks so much for having me here today. It's great to have a real conversation with some of the space and I appreciate you. Hey, everybody out there, I'm Jenny or JCK. I am a consultant that helps people learn how to get hiring right. So what does that mean? So often in the talent acquisition world, it can be fraught with inefficiencies, whether it's in the tech side, the process side, and the workflow side. I'm really somebody that comes alongside of people who are on their journeys, and helps guide them into how to get those pieces right. Whether it's using design thinking, or systems thinking, and reverse engineering solutions that work for them.

Key piece is, there's not a one-size-fits-all, and anything in our space. So it's really important to be able to ask those right sharp questions to figure out what's truly needed for that individual person, and then reverse engineer something that works for them. So that's just a little bit about me. I'm also an AI evangelist, I guess you could say, and I'm sure we'll talk about that a lot more.

[00:04:49] Devyn Mikell: Oh, I know we will. Before we do, though, I always like to bring out a piece of the Qualifi interview that you did. One of the pieces I'll bring out is, you like me sharing this feeling of, we need to move forward and talent. I'll say it for myself, tired of hearing the same old excuses of why we're not moving forward as a function. When you think about the idea that a talent acquisition needs to start moving forward, and stop using the same old excuses, what does that look like from – let's start with, what are those same old excuses that you like that you hear on repeat? And then let's move towards, what is some of the ways that moving forward looks like for you?

[00:05:32] Jenny Cotie Kangas: Sure, great question. So what are some excuses I often hear? It's the vendor's fault, the tech doesn't work, I just need to buy something else. Talent acquisition is just broken, we're never going to get it right. There's no hope. What's the point? We're trying our best is another one that's said a lot. "Oh, we're just trying your best. We've done so much." Y'all, here's the deal. If you incrementally move up the bar, so like, let's say, the bars and the floor. And if you incrementally move up the bar, yes, you have made a difference. However, and for those of you listening in audio, I'm holding up my hands, and I have a pen in my hand, and I am demonstrating the pen on my hand, and then moving incrementally up. But if you truly know that the bar can be up here, you're selling yourself short, because there's so much more that you can do there.

What does it look like to move forward? I think moving forward, the most important piece is to begin. Like I said before, there's not a one-size-fits-all in this space, what's going to work for you, what's going to work for me, what's going to work for my clients, it's not going to be a one-size-fits-all. But they are going to have a crucial similar step in that they are choosing to begin. When we choose to begin, we're looking at what's that next right step. If anybody who is listening here has children at home or is familiar with the Frozen movie, Anna's things, this is – I have three kids. So Anna's things, this movie about like her song about like The Next Right Thing. That's what you have to remember in the TA space. It's about doing that next right thing, that next right step. We don't have to map the entire staircase or have a blueprint for it, we just need to know what that next right step is. And when you take that next step, often you're going to find that, okay, the staircase is actually varying this way, or it's varying this way, or something might happen. You're going to sharpen your strategy. I'm going to pause. I'm getting a little passionate and see if you have any follow-up questions.

[00:07:27] Devyn Mikell: I love it. If passion was an animal, it'd be my spirit animal. But that made me think of this really great – and it's really only profound to me, it seems because I've told other people, "Listen, yes, it doesn't land the same." But one of my mentors in my life told me to stop focusing on trying to do things right and start focusing on doing the right things. I don't know why. I mean, that like hits me hard. Because it's like, if you focus on doing things right, you're only going to think about outcomes, and not inputs. I feel like doing right things. just focused on inputs, because the outcomes will come from inputs, if that makes sense. So you saying what you just said, like really reminded me and resonated with that. Kudos.

 [00:08:08] Jenny Cotie Kangas: Hold on. I'm writing this down real quick, because that's really important. For all y'all listening, write that down. I always joke that I tend to speak in tweetable moments. When you're trying to get somebody to get buy into a new concept, it's so important to have those latch-on pieces, like stop trying to do things right, and start trying to do the right things. I always say, I want to get it right, I don't want to be right, which is a kind of very similar piece. But like I want to get it right, and in order to get it right, you have to know what the collective goal is, right? It's not about me getting my idea to the finish line. It's about getting us to the finish line. Those can be very different things. So being able to let go of the like, I just want to be right, and want to prove that my ideas the best, and understand that this is about us collectively getting this right. It's a different shift. So I love that. Thank you.

[00:09:00] Devyn Mikell: Absolutely. How did we get here? You're an AI evangelist, you are – I've seen it. You're a speaker at events, you're killing it for all intents and purposes in the talent acquisition world or talent world in general. Where did this begin for you? How did you either intentionally get into talent or fall into talent like many of us out there?

[00:09:24] Jenny Cotie Kangas: I originally fell into talent like many do in this space. I did a project for a company called Panera Bread. They're local. I'm in the Twin Cities in Minnesota, for those of you who are listening. My local Panera, we're trying to figure out what they were doing wrong with talent acquisition. They brought me in as a project manager who had never touched talent acquisition before, because the idea was, they wanted somebody from outside of the space to kind of give a different view to it. So I jumped in many years ago, did that full discovery because I'm a project manager by trade. Before we move, we always want to figure out what is like, yes, you come in, thinking this is the idea. But so often in project management, the idea that you go to solve is not actually the problem that you need to solve.

So it's by doing that thorough discovery and understanding what's an underlying issue, what's a symptom. Because if you're going to go put any sort of effort in front of something, we want to make sure that we're putting that effort towards issue mitigation, not symptom mitigation. Anyways, so go into that. One of the big things that I recognized when I was – I'm a data nerd, was that we were actually losing a lot of people to talk about, which was shocking to me. Because I'm like, "What the heck is going on here? How are [inaudible 00:10:36] Taco Bell?"

Once I saw this in the data, I started going into Taco Bells. One of the things that I noticed, this is again before I understood our space. This is many years ago. When I walked into a Taco Bell, I knew that they were hiring. Now, I know today that that's employer branding, right? But Panera, when I went back and asked like, "Where's your hiring collateral? Where's this? Where's that?" They pulled out the stuff that was copy or content that was off-brand that had the wrong colors, that had the wrong font." It had 150 things that a little like placard, characters. I was like, "This doesn't look right." So I actually went back to Canva, and I was like, "I'm going to do some that looks great for me." So I actually rebuilt our logo, Panera, the employer brand on Canva. It ended up getting rolled out. It was just very simple, clean, got to the point.

So that was my first time in talent acquisition. One of the things that I recognized in that project was, there seemed to be a lot of whitespace regarding change in talent acquisition. I wanted to know if it was just that situation, or if this is broader with the HR space. I took on a project as an HR generalist, because in my mind, I was like, "Okay, it's in the talent side." I know nothing about HR, came across this thing called the SHRM Competency Model, which is, here's the area of HR, and it's got all these different competencies. My thought was, how do I get to know all the different pieces? The answer for that was an HR generalist role. So I went into a project as an HR generalist. That was my opportunity to really dig in and understand how does this all work. It was during that time where I asked her benefit broker, "I'm really interested in networking, what would you recommend?" She was so funny, she was like, "You know, I just have this feeling about you that you would really do well in the HR tech side. There's this networking group called Learn, which is the leading edge of HR tech that's here locally in the Twin Cities." She's like, "I think you'd enjoy. You should check it out."

 That ended up being, I guess, my toe dip into this world. I volunteered for a conference because I wanted to go to this learning conference, but I didn't have the money and a budget. If you volunteered, you got a free ticket. So I volunteered and I was put in front of Jason Averbook, who's a very well-known speaker in our space. He's with Leapgen, Mercer. I was the greeter outside of his opening keynote or closing keynote, one of the things. I saw him speak about removing friction from experiences. I was like, I was hooked.

The other person I saw speak at that time was Stacey Harris. Stacey Harris is an incredible, incredible data genius, who tells stories with numbers. She makes a data consumable, so that you can get people to understand, and like actually buy into the concepts that you're trying to sell. I saw her, and it's just like, "Okay. Yes, I want to know more about this." That was my first kind of step into the space. I was in this space for many years. I'll get to this part, but I might as well just go into it. In March of 2020, I got COVID-19, and I was in the hospital – and kidney failure. I was one of the first patients here in Minnesota to have COVID. Ended up in kidney failure. In the hospital, I fell and I hit my head, and I lost all my memory.

I stayed in talent acquisition after that, because I had a leader who reached out to me about a role that she had for an organization, for her organization. She's like, "I have this broken tech, I need somebody who can do this." She knew me, she knew that I hadn't done as much as the HRtech side before. But she knew I knew how to learn, and so she gave me an opportunity to begin. So I stayed in the HR space, because somebody gave me a chance to begin here during COVID. What I came to find was that – I actually just had a post about this today on LinkedIn. When I went into the space back into the space in 2020, I was so nervous that people were going to look at me differently because I didn't have my memory. I was like, they're going to invalidate me as being able to like solve these problems and stuff if I leave it at that.

So I hid that part of me, I came to find in this journey for the last three years is that, one of the things that makes me so impactful is the fact that I lost my design bias for how we historically solve these problems with the HR space, in the talent acquisition space. What I mean by design bias is, all of us have a bias for how we solve these problems. That's a lien from our unique experiences. So like Devyn, if I said, I'm going to give you $2,000 to go hire a role, where are you going to put that money? What would your answer be?

[00:15:09] Devyn Mikell: Like I can actually answer?

[00:15:10] Jenny Cotie Kangas: Yes.

[00:15:10] Devyn Mikell: I'm probably going to hire something in the sales category.

[00:15:15] Jenny Cotie Kangas: Where would you market that role? Because I'll give $2,000 to market that role? Where would you put that money?

[00:15:22] Devyn Mikell: I'm going to LinkedIn.

[00:15:23] Jenny Cotie Kangas: There you go. See. Depending on the persona of who you're looking for, your candidate might not be on LinkedIn. So we all have designed biases for how we solve these problems that again, are gleaned from our unique experiences. The fact that I didn't have any of those. When I saw a problem, use those design thinking skills to understand what is the problem, let's look at it from a 360-degree view, and let's reverse engineer it to solve that in the most efficient way possible. I didn't have to overcome the, we've always done it that way, kind of bias, and we don't solve problems that way bias. It helped me to be able to move forward, and build technology, and experiences that hadn't been done before. I'm going to pause for a second because I have a tendency to just cut it.

[00:16:06] Devyn Mikell: No, I'm sitting here on the side. Just [inaudible 00:16:07]. I'm completely writing this story.

[00:16:11] Jenny Cotie Kangas: Oh, gosh. Actually, the person who connected us, so Torin Ellis. I met Torin – so a little bit backstory. When I hit my head and was recovering from my head injury, I was only allowed to be on a screen for 15 minutes, or I'd pass out, or have a seizure, which is an issue when the world goes back to being on screens because of COVID-19. As I was clear to be able to listen to any sort of content that wasn't classical music or country music, and could finally like listen to actual conversations too, because it was too hard for my brain, I was introduced to Clubhouse.

I went on Clubhouse, and Clubhouse didn't have a screen. So those of you who aren't familiar with Clubhouse, it was an audio-only networking platform. So you could essentially – it could be like Devyn and I in a room together, and we're just having a conversation. So there wasn't a really barrier to entry, you could have conversations with anybody. It was audio only, which is really, really important for me because I couldn't be on the screen at that time. So I could just put my phone in my pocket, and I could just listen and learn. It was an option that didn't drain my batteries, which is really important. That's where I met Torin Ellis.

Torin used to have these conversations that he would have on a regular basis. I didn't know that there was this whole idea of like having like this inner circle in HR, and these influencers and analysts things because I just thought people are people. If you have a question, you ask, right? So got to know Torin very well. Torin also taught me one of the most important pieces that I think about every day, which is, when you're building experiences, it's so incredibly important to ask, "Who isn't present here?" It's one of the most key pieces to get DE&I right, is being able to make sure like when we're going to build those experiences, you think of all the different personas of humans who might be going through this experience. Are they going to be uniquely impacted by this?

So if I have somebody who has autism, for example, and I have this scoring thing that's going to interview – it's going to score my interview, but it's all based on your responses, and like I might have a disability. For me, I don't have my memory. When I went back into the TA space, a lot of the leadership evaluation kind of assessment, are all based on giving situational-based interview responses that are historical, which is uniquely doesn't work for me, because I don't have all my memory. So being able to ask that question was just so incredibly important, and very thankful for Torin, and he's been a great mentor and guide kind of on this journey.

[00:18:47] Devyn Mikell: Man, I have a lot of questions, and this is why – I promise, it's organic.

[00:18:52] Jenny Cotie Kangas: Go, fire away.

[00:18:53] Devyn Mikell: I'll start with the one that's most near. So you mentioned that, who's not included here? I think too – I've talked to a few teachers before, and there's this concept of teach to the middle. When you're teaching a class, you might have – especially in certain schools, you might have highly advanced students, and unadvanced by the category of the school in the same classroom. Then you have those in the middle. So, the idea is like, "Hey, teach to the middle, and you kind of get a good fit for all is the idea." You're pushing some, you're slowing some down maybe a little bit, but it's kind of like the bell curve. When you think about what you just said, which is like, "Who's not present?" The assessment story you said was like, Hey, that uniquely left me out." Would you say, as a consultant, "We need to figure out how to do this. This hiring process needs to fit everyone or we don't do it" or is it, teach to the middle in a hiring process? You know what I mean?

[00:19:52] Jenny Cotie Kangas: Great question. I have three kids who are not in the middle. They're brilliantly, brilliantly, brilliantly smart on one side, but they also have some social-emotional needs on the other side, that's considered. It's called, 2e kids are twice exceptional. So having teachers that are going to be able to meet them where they're at through that academic side, but then also built them up in the areas where they might be lacking is so important. I'm thankful that we have a district that works for that.

As it relates to talent acquisition, when you're going to build, I think that the general understanding right now today is you need to build your processes for the rule. But the truth is, you need to build your processes for the exception to the rule. Those unique use cases that might be outside the box, the person who has autism, the person who's blind, for example. But we need to build our processes for the exception, not for the rule. When we think about that, when we think about like designing for all different options, including – I know one of the things that came up in Clubhouse one day, I was building with another vendor in the space. We had a recruiter who is, he's blind, and he's like, "Cool, tell me how your experience can meet me." Because he's like, "You're talking about all this cool, sexy tech, but how do I go through it?" I was like, "How have I never thought of this?"

Well, turns out and I didn't know this before this conversation, the vendor I was working with paradox. They actually had the ability for their chatbot, Olivia, to assess whether or not somebody was using a screen reader. And if they were using a screen reader to respond automatically invoice, instead of responding in text. That's a way that you're able to, again, reverse engineer solutions that are going to work for everybody.

Another example of this is the concept of universally designing buildings in terms of construction. So if I have a building that's universally designed, I might have a wheelchair ramp, so somebody in a wheelchair can go into it. I might have braille, so somebody who's blind can navigate it. I might have just the different aspects so that everybody could be able to navigate that journey. So incredibly important, right? The flip side of that, if I do that right in universally designed buildings, I have more people of all different diverse areas and backgrounds in that building. That's the same thing that you need to do with talent acquisition.

If you reverse engineer solutions that are going to meet the exception and the rule, the flip side is you're going to have candidates from diverse backgrounds. It's one of the most critical ways to get DE&I right. We all talk about like, we want to recruit, and we want to meet people who are that, and X, Y, Z, but then we force people to go through experiences that require them to register on the website or something like that that's going to make it harder. And it's putting barriers up to them being able to get into our building, which is our applicant tracking system, or into our organization. That's not what we want to do. Speaking of that, inclusivity, right? I have a child who's home sick today. There is my six-year-old, and all types are welcome here, right?

[00:22:59] Devyn Mikell: Oh, yes. When you think about moving forward, and how you work with companies, I guess – let's start with like, what types of companies do you typically find yourself working with today?

[00:23:10] Jenny Cotie Kangas: Today I'm working with – so I will say, before I started this journey, I thought that I needed to look for this specific type of company that I wanted to join. Like, if they're this big of a size, or if they're this complex of an issue, or whatever it was. What I've come to realize is like, I want to work with people who are committed to getting it right. So it's actually the buyer. So people who don't want to just put lipstick on a pig, or I want people who are going to uncover the real issues, and want to get their hands dirty and solve them. It's changed my ICP, or my ideal customer profile a little bit.

Who I'm working with today are people who are, they have a fire in their belly to get this right. Typically, they're doing things that are outside the box from the norm to because that's one of the things that I love to do, is I want to build strong. I want to build in ways that are scalable, and repeatable, and ultimately, that are going to last. Because when we build, we want to build something that's secure, that's going to stand the test of time. You can't scale on a house of cards. It's not going to stand up if friction happens, or things like headwinds, like a COVID-19 or something, God forbid happen, like they're going to fall.

People that I work with today are people who, again, have a fire in their belly to get it right, are willing to go on that journey, and to just begin. If anybody listening here who fits that profile, reach out to me, I'd be happy to help.

[00:24:32] Devyn Mikell: Absolutely, yeah. Okay, you're an AI and systems enablement consultant. I feel like there's a lot to get like – if I was talking to – if there's 100 people in the room that had that title, there's so many ways that every person might be different in how they look at that role. For you, is it – and it could be all of them. I'm sure that's not a few. But is it like, AI and systems enablement for the sake of efficiency, for the sake of diversity, for the sake of hire quality? No pun intended? Or is it something else or is it all of them? What is your bread and butter when you look at like – if someone's like, "Hey, I see that you're AI and systems enablement consultant. I'm also talking about this one over here. They're really focused on this. What are you focused on within that?" What would you say back to that question?

[00:25:23] Jenny Cotie Kangas: Yes. I would say that I am somebody who – I'm a problem engineer. That's probably a better way to understand it. So what's the problem for the unique organization, and then let's reverse engineer a solution to solve that problem in the most efficient way, in the most scalable way, in the way that's going to solve for diversity. So I'm looking at it from like a universal design concept for the building aspect. When I say building, it's the processes, it's the workflows, it's the how-tos. So where a lot of people will talk about what and why we need to do something. I'm somebody who helps enable the how. So it's not just the how we do it for today, but it's how we adopt the mindsets.

Kind of like our own internal operating systems for how we're going to solve it tomorrow, not just for the problem, again, that we're solving today, but when those problems come up in the future. And then, again, because one of the benefits of my head injury is, I'm only able to be on a screen for so many minutes in a day. Otherwise, I'll pass out, or have a seizure, which is not ideal. But one of the benefits of that is, when I look at experiences, I'm constantly evaluating. Is there a way that we can simplify this? Is there a way that we can do this faster? Is there a way that makes more sense to do that? Because for me, I have to do that on my own. It's just part of my operating system. It's one of the reasons that I'm such a huge AI evangelist.

AI for me, as somebody who has a disability has become a way that's leveled the playing field so much more. Because my disability affects my ability to have cognitive load, like the things that are going on my brain. I'm incredibly good at generative AI, and I can call out the right sharp prompts that will get me 85% of the way on the things that historically would drain my batteries. So I'm able to accomplish so much more in a day's time, because I'm cutting through the stuff that drains me. And so, yes, that's not a very linear answer, Devyn. I'm sorry. 

[00:27:19] Devyn Mikell: No, that's great. Like every time you answer something, I have three questions that come out of them. I'm like, man, we're going to run out of time. I bet you in the future, we're going to have another podcast. But for those who are listening, most likely recruiters, talent leaders thinking about AI. Historically, this group of people is a little – they're on the laggard side. So like just being honest, most of talent acquisition is on the laggard side when it comes to technology. But everyone's thinking about AI in some sort of way right now. Where do you feel like it's a no, no?

[00:27:52] Jenny Cotie Kangas: Yes. So real quick, because one of the things that I think is really important post-head injury to do is when anything comes up that might not be a universally understood term. I like to pause for a second and just define it. When Devyn says lagger, he is referring to a concept that comes from crossing the chasm, which is –anytime you have any sort of change, you typically – it's broken into five pieces. So you have the innovators, you have the early adopters, you have the early majority, you have the late majority, and then you have the laggers. The laggers are typically like 16% of this chasm, which is the bell curve. So related to, yes.

HR tech or in the HR space, we're often a little slower to adopt in terms of innovation. I think a lot of that comes back to, we've trained HR leaders that there is black and white. So here is the way you have to do that. Then, when things like pandemics happen where you have to wipe it all away, and like building gray gets a little harder. But related back to AI, where do I think people can get it wrong? Don't use AI for content. If you're going to use AI for content generation, you need to remember that it'll get you 80% of the way, maybe 60% of the way. It is not 100% of the way folks.

What I mean by that is, generative AI, for example, like a ChatGPT or Bard, it's a large language model, and it's trained on existing, essentially everything on the internet that was there before 2021. The thing you need to remember is everything on the internet before 2021, a lot of it was extremely bias, especially in terms of charge. What I mean by that is, the male-to-female charge of a language that comes out of ChatGPT, it's often heavily leaning on the male side. So if that's the case, and I'm saying – let's say, I'm writing my EVP, so like my employer value proposition or my employer branding side. If I'm doing that, and I'm casting this megaphone out there to people, and I'm using ChatGPT that's giving me a much – it's a much more highly, like male leaning content or copies. I'm now casting out to a predominantly male audience. If my goal is to have inclusivity, I've now just counteracted that goal.

So if you're using it for content, it's really critical to use something like a [inaudible 00:30:15], that's going to help you understand what the bias charges in there, because words matter so much. It's really important there. I think AI is so much better utilized to help you build your strategy, to help you source questions that you should be asking. One of the ways that I like to think about it is, if I was talking to a friend who's like a universal consultant, and I'm just backporting with them. I'm like, "Hey, Devyn. I want to do this thing, and it kind of looks like this. I'm kind of thinking that, and I'm just sharpening my idea." That's how you talk to ChatGPT to say, "I am a person who is a consultant that works in AI enablement. I'm talking to Devyn, who works for this company, and I'm going to be on a podcast for X, Y, Z. I want to come up with six interview questions that might be important or relevant to this space. What might those be?"

Or, it's another use case. "I'm looking to build a business case to invest in more technology in the HR tech world. My leadership based on the most recent 510(k), or our SEC disclosures are interested in X. So let me back up a second. It's important when you build your business cases like for investing in technology, to connect to what's really important at the top from a leadership standpoint. One of the ways that you can do that is go to your SEC disclosures. If you're a publicly traded company, you can copy and paste them into ChatGPT, and say, "Based on this, what are the key areas related to talent acquisition that my organization is interested in or committed to?" Then you take that and say, "Based on that, I want to make a business case for leadership for more technology to solve that. Can you help me write the business case?" Boom. "By the way, it's for executive leadership, and I've got to cut through the noise, be concise, and increase readability." It will help you build things like that. Those are really great use cases for generative AI, not necessarily the content.

[00:32:14] Devyn Mikell: Gotcha. The one question I wanted to get that I think people might be curious about when this incident happened with your head injury. Actually, real quick, this actually is my own curiosity. When you were the one of the first patients to have COVID in the hospital, did you know? Was it at the point where you knew that COVID was a thing or were you even before that?

[00:32:39] Jenny Cotie Kangas: No, COVID was a thing. Not only COVID was a thing, but everybody was terrified by COVID. This is March of 2020. For the doctors, for the nurses, for everybody, COVID was the thing that could kill you, and I was the person who had it. So it was this incredibly – it was this incredibly interesting experience. Because when you go to a hospital, you go – typically, because you need help. But what I experienced was, I was the one everybody's afraid of. So the first hospital I actually went to with COVID, I was like, I think I'm dying, because I was really, really, really sick. I went to the ER, the hospital discharged me with the instructions. "We think you're in kidney failure, but we want you to follow up with your general physician because we don't have the resources to handle a COVID patient right now." Which is, [inaudible 00:33:27] dying, right?

[00:33:28] Devyn Mikell: Like, where are you going to go?

[00:33:29] Jenny Cotie Kangas: Yes, it was crazy, and so I went home, and this is like 12 days into it. Technically, I wasn't supposed to be contagious at that point. But I had asked my ex-husband to come over, and I wanted to see my kids because I didn't think I was going to make it through the night. In case I didn't, I wanted to make sure to say goodbye to them. The next day, I decided, I was, "This can't be. I got to try again." I went to another hospital, and on the way there, I hadn't talked to my parents a lot leading up to this because I wasn't doing well. I was worried I was going to die. That was just a hard thing to tell my parents. I was talking to my dad, and he was like, "I want you to own that conversation, like you're walking into a boardroom. Advocate for what you need. Do not leave until they give it to you.

I walked into the second hospital which actually operationalize for COVID properly, separate entrances and everything. I walked up to the nurses, to the check-in station and said, "Great news. I survived COVID, because I've gotten through and there's a Reader's Digest article that I'm quoted in about COVID when I had it. I got through COVID and I was feeling better. So it's day eight, I was starting to feel better. Up to day eight, I have like temperatures of like 106. It was crazy. I was so sick." And then day 13, I was in kidney failure. So I was like, I got through it, which is great. I survived, but I think I have kidney failure. The lady at the desk is like, "Oh, you too, huh? We've got a whole floor of people like you."

[00:34:54] Devyn Mikell: Oh, wow.

[00:34:53] Jenny Cotie Kangas: Here, there was all these people like early onset of COVID who are going into kidney failure, because I think the high temperatures and stuff that people are going through, I knew I had COVID, and I also knew that COVID was an abstract fear for so many until [inaudible 00:35:12]. So I story told my experience with COVID on LinkedIn, and had lots of people that were following it, because I was somebody within, typically like six degrees of connection, who actually had this, who's really sick with this, who was going through it. It was real, like it made it real for several people.

[00:35:31] Devyn Mikell: Right. Like you're a fathomable person.

[00:35:33] Jenny Cotie Kangas: Yes, yes. Then when I was in the hospital. So early on in COVID, there was a PPE shortage. So the stuff that nurses and doctors wore to keep themselves safe, there was a shortage of that. Which meant, if you had COVID, and you were in a COVID room, doctors and nurses didn't come in very often. I was in a temporary, like an extra room that they had put up because of COVID, and there was no windows on these rooms. When I fell and lost consciousness in the hospital, nobody knew. Two hours later, a student who is there, per se, as an intern, came to discharge me, and found me faced down on a pool of blood. I had fallen and they didn't know what happened. It's this way before where we are today, which is leveraging people's phones, if they're in those rooms, or having windows, and all those things like that.

[00:36:24] Devyn Mikell: Yes. Then the last question before we move into the next segment, to kind of wrap the – I guess, not wrap the bow, but wrap up the curiosity piece.

[00:36:32] Jenny Cotie Kangas: Land the plane.

[00:36:34] Devyn Mikell: Yes. When you lost memory, you lost a bias, right? Did you lose literally everything that you've ever done, you don't recall?

 [00:36:44] Jenny Cotie Kangas: Yes.

[00:36:44] Devyn Mikell: Or like it's almost like selective, if that makes sense. Are you literally are like, "I am brand new. This is why I'm so good at this"?

[00:36:52] Jenny Cotie Kangas: My lived experiences, my memories were gone. There are certain things that were second nature for me, like making a business case, it turned out. Was like intuitive to me, it was like just part of my operating system. How I knew that was right after this had happened. I didn't have a ton of language back yet, but I had the ability to understand when a strategy wasn't working. So I had a call with my neurologist, and they were talking about like next steps. Again, I can only be on a screen for 15 minutes or less in a day.

So we're on Zoom, it's counting down. He's like, "Yes, I want you to do puzzles of Legos in your apartment." My house is being rebuilt because of water damage, and it all stopped during COVID because everything stopped. I was like, "Cool. Why?" He explained like, "We need a basic repeatable task to help retrain your brain, like connect the dots to refire in your brain." I was like, "Puzzles and Legos aren't going to work. How would you clear me to do electrical?" He was like, "What?" I was like, "Here's the deal. You want me to do a basic repeatable task, I have 70 outlets to do. It's a basic repeatable puzzle. You get what you're looking for, I get what I am looking for, and getting my kids closer to home, which is important." He's like, "What do you have against puzzles and Legos?" I was like, "No, I have a thing against strategies that aren't successful."

So like that business case piece was intuitive to me. Things like riding a bike weren't. So like, I went to go ride a bike the first time, I literally fell over. Another really, really short, fun story.

[00:38:23] Devyn Mikell: That's wild.

[00:38:23] Jenny Cotie Kangas: I lost everything about popular culture. It would be sometimes really defeating when I'd come across things that like I didn't understand. You're going to have to break this into two episodes, I think Devyn. I'm sorry.

[00:38:35] Devyn Mikell: Yes, it's all good. I'm [inaudible 00:38:37] it out. I'm enjoying it. 

[00:38:40] Jenny Cotie Kangas: One day, my fiancé, Andrew said, he goes, "You know Michael Jordan?" My eyes light up because I have no poker face. So you can always see what I'm thinking. He's like, "You know who that is?" I was like, "Yes, I know who Michael Jordan is." It's like, I'm thrilled. I actually know who this person is. He's like, "Cool. Who's Michael Jordan?" I was like, "He's the character in the first Space Jam movie." He's like, "You're not wrong." Then he proceeds to – he's very patient with me sometimes – take me through this journey, and like teach me who Michael Jordan is, how he like redefine the game of basketball. He's showing me. I'm like, "How does people's bodies do that with dunking?" Because I've never seen a dunk before.

So he's showing me all these like iconic dunks that are on YouTube or whatever. We get to one very specific dunk, and I looked at it and I was just like, "Huh." He's like, "Why did you say huh?" I was like, "Nah, it's probably going to sound crazy." He's like, "No, no. Why did you say huh?" I was like, "It kind of looks like the Nike symbol." He's like, "Yeah, where have you seen that symbol?" I was like, "On the shoes." He's like, "What are the shoes called?" I was like – my jaw dropped because I thought Jordan was the designer. I didn't realize Jordan was the person that was inspired this to happen. But there's been fun kind of experiences like that, and there's also been things that have happened that so often, we just kind of forget how things work.

So like when I was relearning sports, we went to a soccer game. I was with my friend, and my fiancé. He's like, "What's most interesting for you about soccer?" And the only experience I've had with soccer was like, I just started watching Ted Lasso. So that was the only experience I've had to soccer. It's like, "Aren't you guys just perplexed by the fact that this is the only timekeeping that counts up?" And they looked at me like, "What?" I'm like, "Yes. Soccer counts up. Everything else counts down." And then there's this magic time in soccer, where nobody really knows like what's there, for these penalties. I was like, "That's insane." They're like, "Huh." It's helped people to, I guess, rethink the kind of way we've always done it.

[00:40:49] Devyn Mikell: Yes, different perspective for sure. It's wild. All right. Well, I will, I guess do the next segment of the show, because I have to. I don't want to. I would love to keep doing this. But we'll move into the next segment. So basically, this is the opportunity for the audience to get involved. You get first pass at the question of the week. But for those who are listening, the question of the week link will be in the show notes below. Wherever you're looking, it's more than likely below the play button. So your question of the week, JCK is, what is the most common mistake you see recruiting teams make when setting up a new hiring process?

[00:41:29] Jenny Cotie Kangas: Great question. The most common mistake that I see recruiting team is using when they're setting up a hiring process, is they start with the existing workflow or the equation, and they try to iterate sequentially just a little bit from there by changing the different pieces of that of that puzzle. Instead of looking at what's the problem? How do we solve the problem in the most efficient way? So if you're setting up a new way of doing something, don't box yourself in with taking your existing process, and just making the tech fit your existing process. That's bonkers. This is your opportunity to ask, what works? What doesn't? What do we change? How can we do this differently? Who's not present here? The [inaudible 00:42:15]. how do we get this right? And what's wrong? What are we looking to measure?

Those are some of your opportunities to take like, again, what's the problem, get really laser-focused on that. And then reverse engineer from a whitespace. Don't reverse engineer from the existing kind of workflow or equation. That's, I'd say, one of the most common mistakes that I see people go through. And the other thing that I see people go through, they don't solve for somebody who can't fit the existing process, right? Like, it's really important that we have basic repeatable ways that we solve these problems. There's things like the EEOC that are saying like, "You have to have the same consistent way of screening people or of interviewing people, or whatever it is. Fill in the blank." But within those consistent ways, you also have to have a way to be able to give an accommodation for somebody where that path doesn't work.

The other piece where I see people get it wrong is, they solve, again, that one equation, but they don't even pay any consideration to if somebody can't fit this exact way, how are we going to solve that? And having like that alternative kind of journey path, I think is so incredibly important. Thinking about that as a pre-mortem is important too. So pre-mortem is before it happens, right? How can we get this wrong? How do we solve it better? How do we build it better? In post-mortem, is on the flip side like, what worked? What didn't? What do you change so you can sharpen your strategy? So I think that was my answer.

[00:43:43] Devyn Mikell: Got you. Well, this is not something I will forget. This whole podcast is crazy. There's so many gems in here. I know that the audience, whoever it is, I don't even – honestly, I'm not a recruiter by trade, and I know for sure there's things that I took from this. How can they follow you? How can people stay in touch with you, and continue to learn about the world of JCK?

[00:44:12] Jenny Cotie Kangas: Absolutely. Follow me on LinkedIn [inaudible 00:44:14]. Yes, send me a message, add me on there, just connect. If you see me at a networking event, whether it's HR Tech, or [inaudible 00:44:23], or whatever, come say hi. Also connect the dots for me like, "Hey, I heard you on this show." It will be great. So thank you so much again, Devyn, for taking the time to have me on the show. This has been an amazing experience. I truly, truly appreciate it and holy cool product because I got to use it through this journey, which was so cool too. So thanks for the little taste as well.

[00:44:42] Devyn Mikell: Appreciate it. Absolutely. Well, if you enjoyed this as much as I did, make sure that you subscribe so you never miss a beat. There's going to be more episodes just like this. But until then, we'll see you on the next one. Thanks.


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