At a moment of growing inequality and division, who is advancing the vanguard of economic and social progress to bolster our most vulnerable communities? Whose work is fostering the inclusive growth that ensures every individual thrives? Who will set the ambitious standards that mobilize whole industries, challenging their peers to reach new altitudes of social impact? 

In 2024, Impact Next — a new editorial flagship series from NationSwell — will spotlight the standard-bearing corporate social responsibility and impact leaders, entrepreneurs, experts, and philanthropists whose catalytic work has the potential to shape the landscape of progress amid urgent need for social and economic action.

For this installment, NationSwell interviewed Indeed’s Abbey Carlton, Vice President of Social Impact and Sustainability, and Maggie Hulce, Chief Revenue Officer.

Greg Behrman, CEO and Founder, NationSwell: How was it that you arrived in social impact work — could you each tell us a little bit about your journey to get to where you are now? 

Maggie Hulce, Chief Revenue Officer, Indeed: I spent most of my early career struggling with the question of where I could do the most good in the world — “Is it better to be part of a corporation, or to be in government? Where can you actually drive the most change?” 

I found myself gravitating to drivers of economic opportunity: workforce development, access to education, and the challenge of finding meaningful work that also pays well. Indeed is unique in how deeply the mission to help people get jobs is embedded in the culture.  At the same time, Indeed is a tech company, with the ambition to disrupt a huge industry and the potential to improve the lives of billions of people. That combination has been pretty magical, honestly. 

Abbey Carlton, Vice President of Social Impact and Sustainability, Indeed: Growing up in the rural Midwest at a time when a lot of factory jobs were going away and seeing the impact that had on people, families, and communities made an early impact on me — I saw firsthand all of the ripple effects that come when people don’t have jobs and opportunities. 

Economic opportunity has really been the animating theme of my whole career, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to come to Indeed, where hundreds of millions of people go to find jobs every month; I believe we are changing how hiring happens. 

It’s been really exciting to get to work alongside business leaders like Maggie, who see that social impact doesn’t have to be this niche thing to do off to the side — it really is core to our mission and our business.

Behrman, NationSwell: You’ve mentioned how embedded and connected to the core of the business social impact is; what else is different, special, or exemplary about the work you’re doing at Indeed? 

Hulce, Indeed: In our space, there is a very natural synergy between what is good for both sides of our ecosystem — job seekers and employers — and the social value that comes from making hiring faster, more effective, and more fair. 

To make hiring more effective, you first have to understanding skills and occupations deeply. You have to collect a lot of data about job seekers and jobs, and then you have to use that data to make recommendations that are nuanced, because people are nuanced in what they solve for when choosing where to work.  

We can also use all the information we collect to make data-driven arguments to employers about how to optimize their jobs or hiring processes.  This coalesces with what we’re trying to do to make hiring more fair and to help people connect with opportunities that they might be overlooked for. 

Carlton, Indeed: We’ve set four really ambitious ESG commitments for 2030, two of which Maggie and I work together very closely on: First, to help 30 million job seekers facing barriers get hired by 2030, and second, to shorten the duration of job search by half. Those are goals that will have a huge impact on people who struggle to find work, and, if we do it right, will really improve economic opportunity for lots of people. They will make our business better, they will make hiring better, they will make it easier for our clients to connect with a broader and more diverse talent pool. 

Behrman, NationSwell: Could you give an example of what that work might look like in practice?

Carlton, Indeed: Let’s say I’m someone who has gone through a cybersecurity boot camp at Year Up, and now it’s time for me to go out and look for a job: What is it like for me to look for a job on Indeed? If we can put a spotlight on where that on-ramp works really well, and where there are opportunities to help somebody who’s gone through a non-traditional educational program to explain what that is and what they learned and what skills they’ve built, we can build that into how we think about our job seeker profiles going forward.

Hulce, Indeed: Abbey’s team has played a big role in helping our product and engineering teams understand the challenges that people face when they don’t have a bachelor’s degree.  Our teams are asking: How do we help job seekers represent their skills in our ecosystem?  How do we help them present their skills in a way that’s compelling to employers?  And how do we influence employers to remove college degree requirements? 

At a certain level, inertia is the biggest barrier we face.  But, we’ve seen data-driven conversations with employers can actually change things.  For example, we can help employers realize that for certain roles, removing college degree requirements is a good business decision, as it helps them reach a much broader pool of talent.  It’s a unique role we can play, as we see both sides of the market. 

Behrman, NationSwell: What would your advice be to other leaders in the space who are similarly hoping to drive impact outcomes while making the business case for this work internally? 

Carlton, Indeed: I’ve learned that if you see your role as a social impact leader as being the counterbalance to the business strategy or being off to the side, then you might not invest in understanding the problems other teams are trying to solve across different areas of the business. Opportunities arise when you can connect those dots, whatever they may be. 

Hulce, Indeed: Our mentality internally is always, “We should be customer #1.” We care a lot about equity in our practices, so it makes sense that we should be practicing on ourselves first. If we have an idea, we want to know how well it will work.  So we try it out, and see what we learn.  This approach also helps us build more empathy for our customers.

Carlton, Indeed: What Maggie and I have done together recently is think about whether there is a single galvanizing focus that we could bring to the company so that all of these good things don’t get diluted, and we really think about skills-first hiring as being that focus. 

If we think about promoting economic mobility, that is a way that Indeed is uniquely positioned to drive change. So we’re going to pull that lever and focus on centering skills in the hiring process, because that’s how we believe we can make hiring more equitable for all job seekers.

Behrman, NationSwell: What is it about your personal leadership that you think has helped you to be effective?

Hulce, Indeed: I think a lot about the importance of optimism – believing that change is possible — and the idea that you need to triangulate with different types of brains to actually solve some of your hardest problems. 

As a leader, I also reflect on how to get people excited about what we’re trying to do. How do you get them to believe in what is possible? And how do you get them to work together to challenge and change the status quo? 

The last part of leadership I think about a lot is the importance of time spent developing and investing in people, in giving them opportunities to grow.  

Carlton, Indeed: When I was leaving the Rockefeller Foundation, my then-boss gave a toast where he described me as firm in my principles and flexible in my methods — that is the way that I try to work.

When you are in this work, you come to realize how deep, entrenched, systemic, and long-term it is. I have tried to navigate the space of doing work on jobs and economic opportunity with some pretty firm principles and beliefs, but with a lot of flexibility on how we get there, trying new things in the process. 

Behrman, NationSwell: Who are some of the peer leaders you really admire that you want to shine a spotlight on?

Carlton, Indeed: Hamdi Ulukaya, who founded Chobani and then the Tent Partnership for Refugees, is a leader whose work I have been following and admiring for some time now — I am in awe of some of the ripple effects his work has had. Last year, Indeed had the opportunity to be a part of the coalition that Tent has brought together and to sponsor a number of large-scale hiring events focused on refugees in Europe. I think his leadership is such an inspiring example of the role that business can play in galvanizing real deep change around social issues.

Hulce, Indeed: I’ll call out our CEO, Chris Hyams, as someone who has been so incredibly thoughtful about how he weaves together what we’re trying to do as a company and the importance that it can have on society. From his advocacy for responsible AI to our ambitious goals with ESG, he is definitely leading from the front.

Behrman, NationSwell: Are there any resources — books, essays, poems, quotes — that have informed your leadership that you might recommend to other leaders?

Hulce, Indeed: I am halfway through Big Bets by Rajiv Shah, which discusses how to bring people together to drive bold change. I’d also recommend a book by Deanna Mulligan called Hire Purpose.  She was the CEO of an insurance company, and her book discusses reskilling, upskilling, and long term talent strategy.