Atlassian is one of Sydney’s greatest success stories to date. An enterprise software company that develops products for software developers, project managers, and content management, best known for its issue tracking application, Jira. Atlassian is also well known for its quirky and down to earth style and has been named as Australia’s Best Employer.

Since its conception in 2002, Atlassian has grown to serve over 60,000 customers globally, including 85 of the Fortune 100, and many million users worldwide. 

Recently at HR Tech Fest in Melbourne, we hosted a series of podcasts live, and caught up with Caitriona Staunton, Head of Recruitment at Atlassian. We were interested to find out how Atlassian manages to attract the very best talent and how they create high touch candidate experiences in their recruiting strategy.

Embed company values into the hiring experience.

One of the key takeaways was to think beyond the individual, think beyond the candidate that you're interviewing and think about everyone that's impacted by the candidates’ decision to join your company. Atlassian always try to think about the full picture, including the partner and family.

But despite their strong brand presence with engineering talent in Australia, Atlassian doesn’t just hire engineers.  When they look at all the different geographies around the world that they hire from, they are a bit more of a developing brand, particularly amongst the designer and product manager skillsets, so they need to work a bit harder on this. 

This is compounded by the fact that the technology industry today is full of great people who work in the industry who have endless options available to them when it comes to their next employer, so it’s important to never getting complacent.

"We never let ourselves forget that there are lots of awesome employers out there and great people want to work for them, so despite Atlassian’s strong brand presence, we need to work pretty hard to attract people too."

So what’s the secret to finding exceptional employees?

Regardless of what skill set they’re looking for, Atlassian wants to find people that will resonate with their company values. Atlassian places huge importance on their company values and they’re very confident that they are the secret sauce to finding great employees. For every single candidate that they hire into the company, they make sure that they have a dedicated interview based solely on the candidate’s suitability to Atassian’s values. This is the one thing that really drives quality across every discipline they hire for.

5 core values that guide Atlassian’s business  

Open company, no BS / Build with heart & balance / Don’t #@!% the Customer / Play, as a team / Be the change you seek.

They were created way back when the two CEO's posed a challenge to a group of employees: ‘You are going to Mars, you're going to create a brand new society there, which colleagues will you bring and what characteristics will those employees share.?”
They came up with 5 values that were essentially an affirmation of what the company was already living and breathing. To this day, these values have never changed. 

Company culture should evolve and change with every new person brought on board, but a company’s values should remain true.

The original idea was that no matter how big they got, they would ensure that these values held true. This is a real testament to what Atlassian has done from the very early days. Everyone who has come in has had to take forward and infuse their own DNA and create an ongoing culture. When you go from 5 people to 2000 globally, and you’re able to retain consistency with culture and respect the same values, it’s a real testament to the strength of Atlassian’s vision in the first place. 

How do you keep the values at the forefront?

Caitriona believes that the dedicated interview helps. And from the first day the employee starts at Atlassian, they spend a lot of time ensuring that everyone really understands the core of those values and what they mean. Employees also talk about these values a lot, they have fostered a blogging culture internally where employees blog about what they’re thinking and engage in open debates.

People challenge and debate the values of how they work together, and there is collaboration going on which is quite outstanding. That's a sign of a very healthy culture. Toxic cultures result in people going at each other rather than being able to critique and ensure that people are lifting themselves. 

Atlassian also has a pure awards system which is called Kudos. The idea is to empower employees to decide who they should reward, and for what. Rather than requiring a manager sign off for who you can give a Kudos voucher to, employees can directly reward a colleague. Atlassian allow employees to make that decision themselves and interestingly it is self-policed. As a result, Atlassian has rarely had to step in and get too involved. That is a really strong sign of a good culture.

Does Atlassian talk about these things when they go out hunting for talent?

100%. It starts with recruitment where they really spend the time to get to know their target audience and to understand what they care about. It would be really easy to put their cool office spaces and parks at the centre of their advertising, but that’s not what they default to. 

The 3 things that matter most to Atlassian candidates are:

1.    company culture and values
2.    the people that they're working with
3.    their ability to have impact on the world. 

Knowing this about their candidates, they choose to put these drivers at the forefront of their branding, their advertising and their entire candidate experience from when they first reach out to a candidate, all the way through to when the candidate starts with them. 

"It’s about taking culture and values and making sure its front and centre of what we do."

What channels do Atlassian use for finding these people?

•    Referrals play a key role. As Atlassian’s employees love working there, they are very quick to refer great people who are well aligned to Atlassian’s values.
•    Highly targeted advertising to the audience they want vs trying to attract as many people as possible to apply. 
•    Big budget and highly creative campaigns which they have become known for. These are usually used when they’re trying to break into a new market with new talent pools but where their brand is still developing.

Recruitment is marketing and the organisations that get that are the ones that are really starting to thrive in attracting quality candidates. 

A lot of organisations see recruitment as a process, i.e. ‘I’ve got a vacancy, and I go through a process of sourcing and hiring’. But Atlassian’s vision is different, their recruitment team see themselves as product marketers. What’s also different is that it’s all about getting that message out to their audience. They don’t have a sales team, rather it's a unique concept of enterprise software. So their recruiters really are their only sales people.

New technology is on the cusp of being launched to give high touch candidate experiences

One of Atlassian’s challenges is that they have candidates all around the world, yet one of their recruiters most effective tools is giving candidates an office tour to show them all of the awesome spaces and the people they would work with. So they are about to leverage new technology to be able to give that same experience to candidates, regardless of where they are, in the form of a virtual reality office tour. 

Candidates can choose their own adventure as they walk through the office, for example ask employees about how they build products or explore daily rituals, perks and of course their values. It’s about using technology to bring the office to candidates all over the world, giving a sense of what life would be like at Atlassian and what their view from their desk looks like.

Thanks to Caitriona for sharing this great journey of talent expedition at Atlassian. Listen to other great conversations on our podcast here.