Meet our ‘Headcount Heroes’: Recruiting Teams That Crushed Their 2017 Goals

Episode I: Rivkah Azoulay and François Morin, Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group

The month January is named after the Roman god Janus, protector of gates and doorways, who is depicted with two faces: one looking into the past, the other into the future. Similarly, companies tend to spend January looking back at the successes and learnings of the past 12 months, while anticipating what lies ahead in the next 12.

Often, these company-wide retrospectives zero in on the success of go-to-market teams like Sales. The biggest deals, the quota-crushers, the bar-raising logos, the last-gasp contracts: all the fun stuff is thrust into the spotlight.

But what about the Talent Acquisition team? When is their moment in the sun?

At any company experiencing reasonable growth, Talent Acquisition deserves just as much of a shout-out as Sales. Have you ever tried hitting revenue growth goals without high-quality, fully ramped sales reps in place? It ain’t fun. Without the help of a disciplined recruiting team that digs deep, steers the hiring ship and meets its own aggressive targets, most companies wouldn’t stand a chance of accomplishing their most important goals.

And so this month, we’re turning the spotlight on those high-performing talent teams. We call them our ‘Headcount Heroes’. Maybe they hit a hiring goal that seemed impossible. Perhaps they set out to revamp a particular part of their recruiting process, or improve the efficiency of one of their sources of hire. Throughout the month we’ll be sharing their stories, because we’re proud to work with them and we think they deserve the same kind of accolades routinely lavished on their sales counterparts.

We’ll begin with the team at Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group. The company is no stranger to talent transformation and lofty goals, with Xavier Poulin-Gladu having joined the organization 18 months ago to overhaul their overall recruiting strategy, rip and replace core systems, and roll out a new candidate experience worthy of such a globally admired brand.

When I asked Xavier which goal he and the team were proudest of crushing in 2017, he shared this story.

“In November last year, the NFL Experience Times Square was launched. A subsidiary of the Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, the NFL Experience was created in collaboration with the National Football League and offered employment opportunities at our New York City office as well as the attraction’s ground floor. In a period of three and a half months, our team successfully recruited for 140 positions, 110 of which are currently interfacing with fans at the NFL Experience attraction.

“It was imperative that we achieved an on-time grand opening with smooth operations and a positive client experience. The biggest challenge was the volume of hires needed, particularly for part time positions suitable for outgoing personalities and extroverted temperaments. This was compounded by an active job market (NYC) where candidates are considering many opportunities at the same time. We learned the importance of marketing the employer brand in order to differentiate the NFL Experience from competitors in the job market.


“The Headcount Heroes in this story are my colleagues Rivkah Azoulay, Talent Acquisition Advisor, in strong partnership with François Morin, Talent Partner, who moved to New York for four months to be physically present while we were building the NFLX team. Both of them worked very closely with the first leaders who were hired; those leaders had strong networks and were of great help to fill the various positions.

“There were several keys to Rivkah and François hitting this aggressive goal successfully. To recruit for the 110 positions on the attraction’s ground floor (40 of which where Retail Associate positions and 70 Fan Experience positions), the team put on an event called Talent Combine. A combine generally refers to an event where football athletes are put through tests to showcase their athletic ability. Candidates could sign up for six different time slots during which they would take part in three different activities:

(1) work-related situations
(2) performing a touchdown dance
(3) 1:1 speed interviewing

“In particular, we brought a very out-of-the-box idea by incorporating the touchdown dance into our recruitment process. This was a risk because we required candidates to do something vastly different from typical job interviews. The first time we did it, we noticed that candidates were hesitant to participate in such an activity until one of our managers with hidden dance skills stepped in and exposed his talents to the crowd, setting the tone for a lighthearted enjoyable activity. The other candidates followed suit and showed us their moves. Lesson learned: make sure that all the ambassadors at our events demonstrated the qualities that we expected from our candidates.

“Following the event, the recruiting team conducted more than 60 interviews in 4 days to have deeper conversations with candidates who were met during the event. The fact the entire team has easy access to Lever allowed for transparency throughout the recruitment process, and we saw 100% adoption of the platform among managers using it for the first time. Ultimately, we may have set our sights high but we successfully achieved our objective and, more importantly, we hired the right individuals for this exciting project.”

High fives to our Headcount Heroes at Cirque du Soleil for their creativity and agility in crushing a daunting but fun goal. I only hope no one ever asks me to perform a touchdown dance, in an interview setting or otherwise.

Did you quarterback a recruiting success in 2017 that you’re ready to share on the Lever Talent Innovation Blog? Email us with the details at and we’ll add it to our highlights reel.

Talent Acquisition, it’s your time.