This Recruiter Uses Marketing Automation Tools NOT an ATS to Collect Candidates

SUMMARY: Ken Forrester (@kfrecruiter) doesn't use a traditional ATS. Instead he believes in Marketing Automation Software to collect and track his healthcare candidates. He's also an advisor to a new A.I startup called TerraTal that he believes will help third party recruiters take back their industry.

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TOOLS MENTIONED: A.W. Forrester, Mautic, TerraTal

QUOTABLE: "A.I. does not replace a recruiter...What it does is it takes care of the top of the funnel type activities that a recruiter would do. And it puts the recruiter in a position to work with only qualified and interested candidates, or the ones that are a good fit. "

-Ken Forrester


Welcome to RecTech, the podcast where recruiting and technology intersect. Each month you'll hear from vendors shaping the recruiting world, along with recruiters who will tell you how they use technology to hire talent.

Now, here's your host, the mad scientist of online recruiting, Chris Russell!

Chris Russell: That's right, it's time for RecTech. The mission of this show is to help employers and recruiters connect with more candidates through technology inspired conversation.

If you listen, you'll hear both recruit and HR tech and there's talk about how they use tech to find talent.

Alright, first, this episode is sponsored by JobsInTheUS, they're our new sponsor. If your company needs to hire more local talent, JobsInTheUS.com, which you can post jobs for free on their national job search engine. They also operate 51 local states for every state in the country including Washington, DC. They've been online since 1999 and the job webs they power help you connect with more local candidates. You're gonna learn more at JobsInTheUS.com.

A quick note before I bring in our guest here, if you are in Boston on October 19th, come see me speak at RecruitCon. It's a one day recruiting conference that will be held at Aloft Boston Seaport. I'll be speaking on my social style, "Is your company website killing your recruiting game? How to tell and what you can do to fix it", so, I'm excited about that. My first speaking gig of the year, long overdue. And looking forward to spending a day or two in Boston up there.

You can google RecruitCon and use the discount code "Russell" R-U-S-S-E-L-L, to get $50 off the event ticket, if you want to go and save a few bucks.

Now, onto our guest. Ken Forrester is the president and founder of A.W. Forrester Co. It's an niche agency recruitment firm that focuses in the commercial health insurance industry. He started his recruitment career in 1990 as an agency recruiter. He's received rookie of the year honors, top recruiter, and highest placement fee awards. Ken believes his key to success is being able to incorporate non-recruitment solutions with traditional recruitment tactics. And we'll talk about that today. 

He is inbound certified through HubSpot and an avid user of marketing automation technology, where he's developed a strategy for sourcing and nurturing prospective candidates. He also serves in an advisory role to TerraTal, a startup data science driven recruitment platform that implements machine learning technology into their recruiting and hiring process. And we'll talk about that today as well. 

His objective is to consult with employers on best practice strategies for optimizing the hiring process. Ken, welcome to RecTech. It's great to have you.

Ken Forrester: Thank you Chris. I appreciate being here.

Chris Russell: We're gonna talk today about artificial intelligence and how it's gonna impact industry recruiters overall. And how you can capitalize on that industry knowledge. But first let me ask you, you work in ... You recruit in the commercial health insurance business. So what's that like these days, all this crazy political health care stuff going on, has it been good or bad for business overall?

Ken Forrester: Yeah, good question Chris, thanks for asking. Yeah with all the changes taking place, it's making the business a lot more complex. Guys who've been in the business for years, they really don't know what to do. And the younger generation, they're not really that focused on really learning the nitty gritty. So, it's creating a lot of challenge and at the same time, a lot of opportunities. But, the challenge remains the same, you know, how do you recruit top talent? And that's where I actually come in.

Chris Russell: Yeah.

Ken Forrester: And you know, like I said, I've been doing this for quite a while.

Chris Russell: Is there a lot of churn going on among health care companies, or what would you say is happening there?

Ken Forrester: Well, you know that's always been the case. Because in the insurance space, you know it's a lot of the old boy network, if you will. These guys have not really learned how to do marketing the traditional way. It's basically relationships. Taking someone out to golf and stuff like that. And with all this technology today, it's like I said, it's making the business a lot more complex though. They are struggling in terms of you know how to get customers, how to really build their business, and how to retain the customers that they have. 

Chris Russell: Right.

Ken Forrester: So just like, we are the industry, it's kind of the same challenge.

Chris Russell: How big is your team Ken?

Ken Forrester: We are three people right now. Three and a half actually. 

Chris Russell: Okay. 

Ken Forrester: And-

Chris Russell: And where are you based?

Ken Forrester: I am in south Florida specifically.

Chris Russell: Okay.

Ken Forrester: And you know approach to recruiting is always to keep my overhead low, in this case it, you know, increase your profitability.

Chris Russell: Sure, sure.

Ken Forrester: So, I like to work and do other things at the same time you know, from a personal perspective.

Chris Russell: Gotcha. So let's talk tech quickly, what ATS do you use down there?

Ken Forrester: Applicant tracking system. I use a number of applicant tracking systems over the years. The one I use a lot, I'm not sure they're still around, was Sendouts I think they've been acquired by Bullhorn. But today, I use a marketing of automation software called Mautic. 

Chris Russell: Mautic.

Ken Forrester: It can be customized, they have the same functionalities as the typical applicant tracking system. But, it goes a lot deeper.

Chris Russell: Okay.

Ken Forrester: Specifically you could create web pages, which you use to advertise jobs, and these things are tracked with a URL, if you will.

Chris Russell: Okay. So a landing page.

Ken Forrester: And it's called a [crosstalk 00:05:46]- Say that one more time?

Chris Russell: A landing page then.

Ken Forrester: Exactly, exactly. So you can use a landing page to advertise jobs and everything is tracked. And, you can see the activities that are taking place when someone opens an email, how it links to the job. So you know exactly who to talk to, or who to call at the right time. 

Chris Russell: Does it store resumes too though?

Ken Forrester: Yeah, resumes can be uploaded, just like any other document. 

Chris Russell: Okay.

Ken Forrester: And it could be attached to that person's record, just like ATS. But, this is not something ... They had someone actually went out and say, "Yeah, we're gonna make ATS do, upload resumes, it's like the typical ones." You have to have some type of expertise to really put that together. 

Chris Russell: Okay, so again, it's called Mautic, Ken-

Ken Forrester: It probably works very effectively-

Chris Russell: Yeah, it's called Mautic, so it's M-A-U-T-I-C, right Ken?

Ken Forrester: Say that one more time Chris.

Chris Russell: It's called M-A-U ... It's spelled M-A-U-T-I-C?

Ken Forrester: M-A-U-T-I-C.com. 

Chris Russell: Okay.

Ken Forrester: And there's a free version, so recruiters can sign up for it.

Chris Russell: Okay, so Ken, why did you opt in for that versus a traditional ATS when you were ... For your recruiting? I mean what was the reason behind that?

Ken Forrester: That's a good question. I would say if I look back at my recruiting career, I've always done it a little bit differently. Specifically, when job boards came out, I was building a job board at the same time. When social media became a part of recruiting, I was setting up social media type groups in that respect. 

So today, marketing automation is the more cutting edge, if you will. And I utilize that because there's a lot more to recruiting than just the traditional way. If you look at marketing in that respect, it's about identifying prospects, nurturing those prospects. And it tells me the right time to reach out to those prospects. No different than recruiting. So that's what I really liked about it and it's a lot cheaper.

Chris Russell: A lot cheaper. Okay. What does Mautic charge you?

Ken Forrester: Like I said, of course there's a free version, and after that there's a ... You could get in a sliding scale. The one I have right now is $1,000 per year. But I have unlimited email, unlimited records, and the only thing it does not come with is support. Meaning that, you can reach out to someone and say, "Hey, I have a problem, can you help me?" 

But, as part of the times, it's learning how to use marketing automation and with the knowledge I have in recruiting, I've been able to connect those dots. So, this is something I plan to at least present to recruiters so they can incorporate that in their business as well. 

Chris Russell: Gotcha.

Ken Forrester: That's something I've been working for quite a while. 

Chris Russell: Yep. Now you do a lot of sort of email contacting through this platform? Tell us more about that aspect of it.

Ken Forrester: Yeah. Let me just give you an example, let's say that you're trying to fill a job. And you've identified individual let's say in Dallas. Structure an email, but you can make it more personalized. And if you send an email out to those individuals, then you'll be able to determine right off the bat, which individual has opened your email. Which individual has clicked on the link to that has taken you back to the website. 

So you can tell what everyone has done. And the more activity you see from one particular individual then you know that's most likely the person to reach out to. And when you do reach out to that individual, they know who you are. They have an idea, what you're trying to do. So it makes it a lot easier for them to return your phone call, when they leave a message for you. That's what it does.

Chris Russell: Right, okay.

Ken Forrester: They kind of sell you before you're able to sell them.

Chris Russell: Alright, so tell me more about sourcing. I mean how are you sourcing your candidates, are you using any tools for that? Obviously you're using LinkedIn and things like that, but any other specific tools or extensions you might be using as well as part of your day to day activities?

Ken Forrester: From a source of perspective, since I work at mixed market and I've been doing this for quite some time. I pretty much know who all the individuals are, they're in my database. I also use LinkedIn as well. But I also use this TerraTal. Should I get into TerraTal right now? Or is something-

Chris Russell: Yeah, you can talk about it briefly. So you're an advisor in this new AI startup called TerraTal, so I guess what is that and how'd you get started with it?

Ken Forrester: Okay. Well TerraTal is a recruitment solution that is driven by machine learning and artificial intelligence. And it's whole objective is to find talent in places that no one else is looking. And more importantly, it can identify a value and talent that is overlooked. And at the end of the day, I would say that it's gonna be used as a uberization of agents and recruiting. Did you get that Chris?

Chris Russell: Yeah.

Ken Forrester: Uberization. I say this because it's gonna take recruiting beyond just a placement fee. It's gonna produce more ways for recruiters to generate more revenue. Anyway to get back to the source and aspect of it, it's pretty unique. The way it works, I think I have to give you an example. 

Chris Russell: Sure.

Ken Forrester: But, it utilizes applicants from multiple employers and the AI, I like to refer to it as an agent. It doesn't matter where the applicant comes from. It could be from applicants applying to jobs, it could be from recruiters inputting their candidates into their database. What it does it translates the job description into numbers. And it also translates the resume into numbers. That's the language that the computer can understand. And it kind of runs all the-

Chris Russell: Numbers like a score?

Ken Forrester: Absolutely.

Chris Russell: Okay.

Ken Forrester: So it matches the applicants with the job description, and it provides a score.

Chris Russell: Okay.

Ken Forrester: And let's say the score's from one to ten, ten being the highest, one being the lowest. If it's a ten, then you know that this person is someone who's worth talking to. So what it does essentially, if you start out with 100 resumes, right off the bat, it can tell you which applicant is the best one to talk to, just based on the job description. 

Chris Russell: Okay.

Ken Forrester: So, it saves the recruiter a lot of time.

Chris Russell: Okay.

Ken Forrester: In terms of sifting through resumes. 

Chris Russell: So now how do the-

Ken Forrester: But-

Chris Russell: Where does the resumes come from? Tell me more about, are these something you have to upload yourself, your own database, do they come from other sources? Tell me more about that part of it.

Ken Forrester: The resume comes in three different ways. It comes from applicants applying to job vacancies. So the first step of the process is for each applicant to answer some questions about themselves. 

Chris Russell: So is that sort of like a job posting kind of built in? Is that what you're saying?

Ken Forrester: Yes, yes. So if they apply to a job, they have to upload their resume, and then they have to go through a survey. It's the same type of questions that a recruiter would ask someone to determine if they are qualified for the job.

Chris Russell: Yeah, pre-screening questions, okay.

Ken Forrester: Exactly. And the answers in either multiple choice from a drop down window. But basically every answer is attached to a number. Inside the system, it's like just running a ... What do you call the stuff at the grocery store again? ... It's like running bar codes in that respect. 

The other one comes from recruiters like myself who have database of ... I've got maybe like 10,000 candidates in my database. If I introduce those candidates to TerraTal, then I don't have to cold call anyone, I don't have to track anyone down with emails. The system will determine which one's the best one's to do. And also, it could be from referrals as well. So anyone in the system can refer others. So, basically, instead of the applicant-

Chris Russell: So let me stop you there. So if ... Okay, so you got people apply to job postings through TerraTal, if you have a referral. So, are you sharing all that data with everyone else in the system?

Ken Forrester: Good question Chris. Everyone operates from the same database. It's not compartmentalized.

Chris Russell: Okay. 

Ken Forrester: But-

Chris Russell: It's one resume database essentially.

Ken Forrester: Exactly, exactly. But it's the AI that controls all the activities in the database. It is trained to do it. So it takes all the greed, the self-interest, and everything that you don't like about agents and recruiting, out of the picture. So basically it puts the employer first. Meaning that you want to match the employer with the best person available, the best talent available. It puts the candidate first. 

That means that, it's very important for the candidate to be in the right job. And it puts other recruiters ahead of you. Meaning that you will ... Any job that comes in, everyone is connected with each other so, every recruiter will try to determine if a new job or if their candidate is a fit for the job. And the system will tell you that right off the bat. So it's kind of like a split placement, if you will. But it's done from an automated perspective. 

Chris Russell: Okay. So Ken, tell me ... Let me play Devil's advocate for a second. Why should I trust a machine to match the right candidate to a job? Does it really work?

Ken Forrester: That's a good question. It boils down to numbers. If you go to the doctor and they're looking at your blood test report, it's all numbers. But they can take a look at your numbers and tell you exactly what's taking place in your body. If you go to an accountant to look at your tax return, they can give you an accurate picture in terms of what has taken place. 

So, numbers will give you an indication in terms of what has taken place in the past, and what activities mean today, and they can also project in the future. So when you bring things down to a science, it cuts through ... Well, they say that numbers don't lie. You've heard that before? 

Chris Russell: Sure.

Ken Forrester: And it also cuts through a lot of crap. In that respect. So it's not perfect, but that's the beauty of artificial intelligence. It kind of gets smarter the more you use it and also the bigger the database. But it does not replace a recruiter, Chris. What it does is it takes care of the top of the funnel type activities that a recruiter would do. And it puts the recruiter in a position to work with only qualified and interested candidates, or the ones that are a good fit. 

Chris Russell: Gotcha.

Ken Forrester: So again, it doesn't replace the recruiter because the recruiter will need to develop a relationship with the candidate. The recruiter will have to make sure that the offer is right. The recruiter has to make sure that the candidate resigns effectively. And to avoid all type of counter offers in this place. 

Chris Russell: Right.

Ken Forrester: So what this does is move to the top of the funnel the-

Chris Russell: The short list.

Ken Forrester: The hard, repetitive type work and it allows the recruiter to focus on the bottom of the funnel's top activity. 

Chris Russell: Nice.

Ken Forrester: Does that make any sense?

Chris Russell: Yeah it does. I mean, I think AI's going to assist recruiters in the future and not replace them overall. So it sounds like you're in agreement there. Ken, how big is the database right now at TerraTal? I mean, do you have any idea of how many resumes or profiles are in there?

Ken Forrester: Good question. We just did a re-launch about a month ago. So I deleted like 15,000 resumes and we're looking to have a couple of hundred thousand before the year is out. So, part of my purpose is to get the message out or to have conversations about this to recruiters. Because ... Agents and recruiters that is. Because we feel that agents and recruiters are in the best position right now to take back control of recruiting. Specifically, Monster has kind of jumped into the game and LinkedIn. And before that it was the agents and recruiters who actually played the biggest role in recruiting. 

And now with AI coming into the game, who knows where agents and recruiters will be? So we feel that if we can arm agents and recruiters with the tool that will ... I would say transform them from just a recruitment vendor to more of a HR strategist. And provide tremendous amount of other ways to generate revenue. And I feel that agents and recruiters can play the role that they had played before all this technology. So that's kind of what-

Chris Russell: So agency recruiters strike back. Is that the message?

Ken Forrester: That's a good way to put it. Because right now, if you look at from an agent's ... A recruiter's perspective, it's all about placement fees. And, I'll give you an example. Let's say that someone called me and this person was a good fit for a particular organization. And I call up that organization and they say, "Well, you know we don't pay agency fees." What do I do? I immediately try to pick up and go to another organization. 

Chris Russell: Right.

Ken Forrester: But the question is, what if that person was a great fit for that organization? Yeah, so are we really putting the organization first or the candidate first? Or are we putting the agency fee first? So, yeah that's an area that's ... Kind of needs to be disrupted. And there's ways to do that ... There's multiple ways in which recruiters can generate fees other than just that one arrow in the quiver, if you will-

Chris Russell: So, you're saying that this technology would help them uncover these candidates and so that will kind of force the employer to use them?

Ken Forrester: Yeah, well we feel that agents and recruiters are in the best position today to go after employers and also candidates. Because LinkedIn has what, over 500 million resumes or profiles. And I'm willing to bet that agents and recruiters have personal relationships with those individuals on LinkedIn. They have better relationships with those profiles than LinkedIn does.

Chris Russell: Sure.

Ken Forrester: So they were the ones in my opinion that kind of put LinkedIn on the map because they were the early adopters. And also, they are trying to find jobs to work on by reaching out to employers. If you could put a tool in their hands that's gonna make them more effective. And a tool in the employer's hand, which will help them reduce recruitment costs and identify the best person, then everyone wins. 

And that's kind of what TerraTal does. So it allows the recruiter to utilize the platform to do the top of the funnel type work. And it allows employers to really save money. And also, there's two ways in which recruiters can generate revenue from utilizing the same platform.

Chris Russell: How?

Ken Forrester: The first way, is they can use it in their business. You know you have to ... You know you're busy going after the chase. You've gotta find the right candidate. So, here's a tool that's gonna help you to do this. So, it's gonna free up your time so you can spend more time working on multiple deals. Or, you know you can recruit employers. So, you can sell the same platform to any amount of employers you choose. And the way you generate revenue by introducing the steward to employers, is that you will get a commission from ... When an employer signs up, when an employer renews, and every time an employer utilizes a platform. 

Let me just dive into the last part. I know all this is pretty new, Chris. So just interrupt me before-

Chris Russell: Okay.

Ken Forrester: Because I have a tendency to speak really fast when it comes to this. So, let me just focus on when an employee lies a platform-

Chris Russell: So an employer can use TerraTal as well?

Ken Forrester: Exactly, and it's the very same platform. This is totally new. You've gotta see it in action. It's kind of unbelievable. But, here's how the recruiter generates fees when the employee lies a platform. Let me just use an example, let's say that an employer's utilizing a platform and this employer has maybe ten jobs, or ten job vacancies. And let's assume that 50 applicants will apply to that job vacancy. What TerraTal does is, it identified the applicants in numerical order in terms of the ones that may be the best fit that a recruiter can reach out to. 

But in addition to that, it will look at the employer's job description, and then it will look through the entire database. And it could be 15,000, and it will bring back an elite group of talent that will be more of a better fit for the employer. So now the employer have a choice. Do I take a look at the ones who applied to my job, or do I look at the ones who came from the huge pool? Most likely, the ones from the huge pool would be a better match. But in this situation, the employer will have to pay a fee to access those candidates. 

The employer will be able to see the score because we talked about a score earlier. That this person might be a good fit. And in addition to that, the employer can see a detailed report on that particular applicant. And the detailed report is something that is similar to you bringing a candidate for an interview, and after rounds of interviews, you can learn a great deal about this particular candidate-

Chris Russell: What does that report say? Yeah.

Ken Forrester: Yeah. So the recruiter can take a look at the report to determine if this person is a good fit. If they say, that you know, "It might make sense to talk to this person." Then that employer will have to pay a $200 fee to obtain the candidate's name and contact detail. So everything is on that report with the exception of the name and the contact detail.

Chris Russell: Okay. 

Ken Forrester: So-

Chris Russell: Is any of that fee shared with the recruiter who got that job up there? The resume up there? Let's say-

Ken Forrester: Absolutely.

Chris Russell: It is. Okay. And I guess TerraTal take a piece too?

Ken Forrester: TerraTal takes a piece and each recruiter shares a little piece of it. 

Chris Russell: So, it's not so much-

Ken Forrester: So, and this is on an automated basis-

Chris Russell: Okay, so they can get paid [crosstalk 00:26:24]-

Ken Forrester: What was that?

Chris Russell: You know paid per contact if you will, as well.

Ken Forrester: Exactly. So, instead of having what, 10,000 candidates in your database, you may turn those candidates into qualified leads for other recruiters or other employers. Because how many can you work with at the same time?

Chris Russell: Yeah.

Ken Forrester: And we anticipate that this will be something similar to the stock exchange. Where you're gonna have multiple of these transactions taking place. So, my vision is that every day will be a pay day for recruiters. And it doesn't mean that the recruiter has to change their model in terms of what they're doing day to day. But the reality is that there's a change that is in front of us, and if we're not reacting to that change. Some of us may get caught flat footed. Specifically I'm referring to artificial intelligence. 

Chris Russell: Yeah.

Ken Forrester: So, this is what I envision. And I've been doing recruiting for what, 24 years, 27 years, exactly. So I know the ins and outs. And I recognize something good when I see it-

Chris Russell: Yeah. And you said you actually placed the guys who built TerraTal, right? So tell us about how that got started.

Ken Forrester: Yeah, I actually placed them twice. Maybe 20 years ago I took them out of a very small company and put them into a major organization. And I would say that has been the secret to myself in recruiting, Chris. Is, I kind of keep in touch with everyone who I placed. 

And I would say for the vast amount of ... The majority of my recruiting career, it was not the in the trenches recruiting. It was basically introducing someone I know to someone else that I've known. And what has happened is that I've been around so long that the majority of the people that I've known, they are approaching the retirement stage. So, they are, they're skills are not that in demand. 

So you know, you get to that self-actualization stage in your career where you say that, "Well, should I start over or should I do something new?" And with the technology that's out here today, that wasn't around when I got started. I think this is a very exciting time to really start over. And the question is, if you were to start over, what will you do recruiting ... Would you build your recruiting business the same way that you did 20 years ago?

Chris Russell: I think the answer is definitely no. And it's an interesting concept Ken, I think the main challenge will be to you know, of course you know, mass ... Get enough resumes in there to kind of make it work. To start that market place. But I do think, that it's a media product out there, in terms of sort of like a repository of resumes that recruiters across the country can share. And tap into and get paid for as well, is something that doesn't exist today, but it should. And it sounds like TerraTal is trying to do that. So, have you used it- 

Ken Forrester: Exactly.

Chris Russell: Yourself to find a place a candidate?

Ken Forrester: Oh, yeah, oh, yeah. 

Chris Russell: Tell me that story quickly if you would.

Ken Forrester: I use that along with my marketing automation strategy. You see, the good thing is that if you're able to successfully get your candidate to create a profile in the exchange. And like I said, you don't have to really do the hard work part or the time intensive part of it. So, it makes it a lot easier to identify the right talent. 

I've actually just started maybe a couple of months ago, a lot of the time I've spent in the time stage of it. So right now, I'm just really trying to get conversations started, because this is something that is totally new. And when something's so new, it's kind of difficult to really get your arms wrapped around it. 

So the more conversation that I have, the more folks that I have, then they can actually visualize the concept and the platform is something that is also very easy to use as well. It kind of mirrors the same agency recruitment model that I grew up with. Where if you have maybe let's say an agency with about 25 recruiters, those 25 recruiters collaborate with each other and share in the talent pool as well as the job postings, even though they're competing with recruiters outside of the organization. 

So, what TerraTal does is, it creates that agency environment and that can be done at scale. Like I said, it takes the zero sum game mentality out of the agency recruitment process, if you will. And it takes the greed and the self-interest out of it. And that's where the artificial intelligence part really adds value. In my opinion.

Chris Russell: Nice. Well Ken, I certainly appreciate the advice today. I guess last question for you, what kind of advice do you have for recruiters out there when it comes to using AI or other technology to find talent?

Ken Forrester: I would say, do not be afraid to use AI because, artificial intelligence will not replace recruiters. It may replace some of the function of recruiters, specifically at the top end. From an agency recruitment perspective. It will replace the cold calls, the chasing after candidates, the emails, trying to find the right person from a corporate recruiting perspective. It's gonna take ... The looked at screening the resumes, phone screening, and conducting interviews with the wrong candidates. 

Wrong candidates are the ones who will not make it the finalist pool, if you will. So, again, it will not replace recruiters. It will take the place of some of the functions of recruiting. So that would be my advice.

Chris Russell: Alright, well Ken Forrester, thanks for joining me today. How can people connect with you online and with TerraTal?

Ken Forrester: Yes, certainly, you can connect with me on LinkedIn and also I'm giving my email address, which is ken@awforrester.com and at Twitter @kfrecruiter. 

Chris Russell: @kfrecruiter. We'll be sure to put those links in the show notes Ken. Thanks again for talking to us today.

Ken Forrester: Thank you Chris, I really appreciate it.

Chris Russell: Yep, and also you can find TerraTal at TerraTal.com, TerraTal, and we'll link to that as well. That will do it for this edition of the RecTech podcast. Thanks again to our sponsor and remember to check out JobsInTheUS.com for your local hiring needs. Follow me on Twitter @ChrisRussell or visit RecTechmedia.com. 

Job Boards, HR Tech Startups, Employers: Call me to find out how I can help your company. 203-572-2053

Learn How This Young Recruiter Got His Fee Despite NOT Placing the Candidate

Summary: Michael McDonnell is one year into his recruiting career. He opened his own firm through the Global Recruiters Network and is already off to a strong start. In this 30 minute interview we talk about how got started, what tools he uses to recruit and a story about a candidate you may find remarkable.

He liked our process so much that he wanted to pay our fee anyway which he did, so I was blessed to be able to get that...
— Michael McDonnell

Tools Mentioned: Linkedin, CareerBuilder, Lusha, Hiretual, Hunter, Zoom (video calls), Caps X (internal ATS)

Links: Michael on LinkedIn, GRN of Columbia website


Michael McDonnell: My name is Michael McDonnell and I'm next on the RecTech Podcast.

Chris Russell: All right. Let's do this. The RecTech mission is to mission is to help employers connect with more candidates through technology and that's what this show is all about, but first.....this episode of RecTech is sponsored by Jobs In The U.S. If your company needs to hire a more local talent JobsInTheUS.com lets you post your jobs for free on their national job search engine. They also operate 51 local state sites for every state in the country, including Washington D.C.

Online since 1999, the job sites they power will help you to connect with more local talent, learn more at jobsintheus.com

Now, on to our guest. Michael McDonnell is the president and managing partner for Global Recruiters of Columbia based in South Carolina. Now one year into his recruiting job, Michael has experience in a multitude of facets ranging from his leadership experience in the army to his success while working in sales at Con Agra Brands. He recruits in the CPG and Food and Beverage Industry. Michael, welcome to RecTech. Great to have you.

Michael McDonnell: Thank you so much. Great to be here Chris.

Chris Russell: So, let's start out by telling me why you became a recruiter. I'm curious how you went into the field and what that motivation was all about.

Michael McDonnell: Absolutely so, I'm somewhat of the anomaly of people that would be in the space in the sense of a lot of recruiters have either been in the industry for a very, very long time or they've held executive c-suite type positions previously. I am not on that list, you know? I came from a good entrepreneurial background. I started my first company when I was 12 years old. It was just a little vending machine business, but I've always had that entrepreneurial spirit right? Wanted to created efficiencies through simplicity and really try to help people and that's at the heart of really why I got into recruiting. It's not only to perpetuate people's careers, but it perpetuates their livelihood for them and their families and their able to make an impact, not just an impression at a company.

The same reason that I got into the military. It's really, not necessarily just to help those who can't help themselves, but really to lend that helping hand and watch things kind of come together that was helped to be inspired or created by you. 

Chris Russell: So you like the whole entrepreneurial approach to recruiting?

Michael McDonnell: I do.

Chris Russell: Being that you went into the staffing model. The third party staffing firm.

Michael McDonnell: One thing we don't do is staffing so we actually focus on the professional and c-suite middle level type management positions, but we don't do any of the hourly or anything of that nature. No temp work.

Chris Russell: Okay. So, your last job before recruiting was in sales correct?

Michael McDonnell: That's correct.

Chris Russell: Okay. So recruiting is definitely a sales, part of that is a big sales pitch right? But tell me more about your approach to recruiting and why you're different.

Michael McDonnell: Yeah and I think that's huge. I don't want to say that it's quintessential but it is, I think, somewhat necessary to have that sales background or at least some extrovertedness to you. To be able to speak to anyone about kind of anything at any time, if you can do that pretty well you're usually pretty successful being a recruiter.

The reason that I think that we're different, it's really simple, we take a very proactive approach so, we're not just soliciting resumes, throwing things at the wall and seeing if it sticks. We truly don't post jobs on job boards because, again, the way that we're different is that we're tapping shoulder that are gainfully employed. They're not necessarily willing to make a move. They're not looking on job boards because they're happy where they are. They're doing well and they're compensated well. So, we're only going to persuade this individuals to look at a new opportunity if it's going to increase one of the seven factors of why someone makes a career move. 

So whether that's better location, better compensation, more appreciation, that proactive approach of just tapping people on the shoulder and saying "hey listen, I saw your background. It sounds really interesting. I want to know more about what you're doing and what might take you to look at a new opportunity." So, it's very holistic in that regard, authentic, trying to get that realistic viewpoint rather than people saying "hey, I need x,y, and z, do you check those box?" Because most people will say, "yeah. Yeah," you know? "I think I can I do that." And because they're trying to kind of put that square peg in a round hole and we take that opposite viewpoint. It's a lot more time inducive on our end, but it's more much more value added to the client.  

Chris Russell: Right. So, Michael, how did you learn all this? Did you have a mentor coming up or did you get any training? Tell me more about your initial start into recruiting.

Michael McDonnell: It's just came to me. Sure, yeah. It just came to me in a dream. No, unfortunately I'm surrounded by a lot of people who are a lot smarter than myself. So with GRN, we are the largest privately held search company in the U.S., so I'm able to partner with 180 firms with many different affiliates and really truly pick their brands to understand their strategy, you know, things that have been successful from them, learning from their past mistakes. We obviously go through our corporate training program headquartered in Chicago and collectively the training that they have is almost 100 years of professional recruiting in one office, where they're able to pour into you all of the good, bad, and ugly. And then I think diving right into it and getting on the phone and having conversations and failing horribly at certain things is really going to be those lessons that stick. It's not a theoretical business. You have to put the practice to understand it.

Chris Russell: So tell more-

Michael McDonnell: And then I also-

Chris Russell: So tell me more about that training part. What was that like? How long was it? Give me some background on that.

Michael McDonnell: Yeah, so our corporate training is two weeks at headquarter and then we have follow along training for the next eight weeks after that.

Chris Russell: Okay.

Michael McDonnell: And then I also have a really good friend of mine whose a member of the Pinnacle Society, are you familiar with that?

Chris Russell: Pinnacle Society. I think of heard of it, but I'm not quite familiar.

Michael McDonnell: So, it's for those that are literally top 75 recruiters in the country and so he's been doing this for well over 20 years, training offices and training different individuals. It's been successful as a [generalist 00:10:35]. And so for us, we specialize. We try to focus on a niche of ... For us it's consumer packaged goods, and then usually one layer further than that, it's consumer packaged goods and food and beverage space.

So, the training was encompassing not just what's the temperature of the market right now, but what is highest in demand within that market place or within that industry and then giving a plethora of tools. We basically, we play with those, and find which we like best to put on our tool belt, or which one's to leave in the tool shed. So that way we have those that are, you know, again, most applicable right at our fingertips that we're going to using everyday heavily and then, as we need to kind of branch out and diversify our search profits we can utilize those other tools that we were exposed to.

Chris Russell: Yeah. How did they teach you to get clients Michael?

Michael McDonnell: So, that has always been, I think as it is, at least from everybody I've ever spoken with, those marketing calls. Trying to find your next client is always the biggest challenge. Even with unemployment being, I think, the lowest it's been since 2002 at 1.5% or so, there is a huge talent demand, but there is a lot of more resources than there used to be I think 10 or 15 years ago to find that talent that's in demand. So, it really does start sometimes from a very consultative manner of just calling people and saying,"listen, this is who we are, and we just know if there's a way we may be able to help you whether it's now or in the near future." And it can be as simple as that. 

Someone says, "hey, look, I'm looking for a new sales director. Do you work with those individuals?" And absolutely we do. So the other piece of that is conversing with people that are not necessarily looking for that move but really just keeping tabs on them. Trying to understand what would make them want to make a move or why are they so good at what they do. Why are they different from the other people in their field and in their sector? So by keeping those tabs when someone says, "yeah we are kind of looking for this," well I just spoke to a couple of those type of individuals last week. Tell me more about what you need. And so, again, it's very much more ... We don't want to just look at the job description. The job description doesn't tell me the personality you're trying to find, the cultural match you need. 

It's much more intricate than just some words on a paper. Why is this person going to fit within the team? Why would they want to work for you as a boss? So going through things at a very granular level provides us not only insight to give to our candidates when moving forward, but it really opens the ears and eyes of the hiring manager sometimes so that they can better define what they're looking for. Some people say "yeah of course, they have to a four year degree," and so we challenge that, [inaudible 00:13:16] because if you're saying they need ten years of experience with a four year degree, but there is someone with 15 or 20 years experience with no college degree, you wouldn't want to talk to that individual? "Well, no, I don't even have a college degree myself. We would love to talk to them." So, it's questioning their original thinking of if you were looking for something for four months, why wasn't it successful? Were you just putting it online or are you asking for something that's impossible? And let's better understand that.

Chris Russell: Yeah. Looking back on this past year Michael, what's the most important thing you've learned so far about recruiting or becoming a recruiter?

Michael McDonnell: Yeah, that's a good question. Patience, I think patience was always something I've struggled with, just as a very fast paced type person. If you could hear my rambling sometimes just within the short conversation we've been having but, I'm trying to slow down because I understand that there's not a one size fits all, and sometimes you have to cater your demeanor to your audience, but truly having that listening, patience is sometimes the hard part. We might be looking to hear x, y, and z, and until we hear that, you can end up tuning something out, or disregarding it when it could be a critical piece of information. So truly tuning your ear to listening, and again providing that insight in consultative manner. So, the listening and patience aspect is very important.

Chris Russell: Got you. All right. You a big cold caller Michael?

Michael McDonnell: We have to be in this business sometimes. I think that for what it's worth, to digress slightly, that was part of the training. I don't mind cold calling. I think that I can talk to anyone about anything, I might not know a lot about it, but I can at least ask questions and try to learn about it, so that is a big aspect of what I do.

Chris Russell: Fair enough. All right, let's talk tech a little bit. So what are you use there for an ATS to manage your candidates if you use any?

Michael McDonnell: So we use our proprietary data base. It's called CAPS X. 

Chris Russell: CAPS X?

Michael McDonnell: And so that ... That's correct. Have you ever heard of that?

Chris Russell: No. So it's a-

Michael McDonnell: And so it. Yeah.

Chris Russell: It's a custom built-

Michael McDonnell: Yeah, it'll only be available for GRN owners.

Chris Russell: Got you. Okay. So I guess GRN is kind of almost like a franchise. You can basically go out and start your own. Is that correct?

Michael McDonnell: That is correct and so with my background, starting my own little company when I was younger and then working a little bit within the corporate environment and in the field. I decided to take my entire life savings and pour it into something I knew nothing about.

Chris Russell: Nice. Nice. Well, I've definitely ... I went through there. I know what that's like, you know, starting your own business and kudos to you doing recruiting. Recruiting is not easy and I think if you can do it well, there's a definitely a good business there so, you say, CAPS X. So, what's cool about your ETS? What do you like about it?

Michael McDonnell: So, I like it's search-ability. I might not remember where the person worked or name, what their title was, where their location was, what the compensation was, but I can remember that they got married on The Great Wall of China, well, I proposed to my wife on The Great Wall of China, so I will write a simple note like that in there, and I can, two months from now remember that there was a guy talking about getting married in China and so now I have a client that's looking for x, y, z type experience now I just simply type in China, I find him. So, it's very searchable in that type of right and then there's also the feature of being able to code things in its [basket? 00:16:42] will vary heavily by industry but it has certainly [crosstalk 00:16:46] the difference. Come again?

Chris Russell: You mean like tagging people?

Michael McDonnell: To an extent, right? But yeah, it's how you're going to ... This is a director of sales for natural foods or this is a marketing manager with huge e-commerce experience in the beverage side of the industry, so it helps you to again, kind of categorize those different individuals.

Chris Russell: Got you. Okay.

Michael McDonnell: The other aspect of why our, I think, ETS system is really unique is that it helps to track the entire progress so when I go to submit somebody whether they're in the phone interview stage or their at the acceptance letter, because there's so many stages of the interview process essentially from time of taking a job order to finding individuals that you want to submit, them either passing on the opportunity or the candidate, excuse me, the client passing on the candidate, it helps you really to keep that all in line organizationally and track that. 

Chris Russell: Yeah. Okay. Awesome. Anything you wish you can change about it?

Michael McDonnell: Yeah, all the time. No, there's some different things-

Chris Russell: There's no perfect ETS right so?

Michael McDonnell: Of course. Of course. So, we do provide that feedback to our corporate environment and usually they're pretty fast at being able to [crosstalk 00:18:02]

Chris Russell: Yeah is this something they will iterate on every year? Do they change it constantly or?

Michael McDonnell: It will and again sometimes if I find something's wrong, someone in the office finds that as well, and a partner office says it, within two weeks turn around time if it's something really simplistic that they can modify within their ... Oh goodness, I just forgot the word. But if they can essentially modify that, not algorithm, but code right? If they can change the code real quick and simply implement it then they do that. [crosstalk 00:18:31]

Chris Russell: Is it a web-based tool or is it software?

Michael McDonnell: Software.

Chris Russell: It is. Okay. Very good. Let's talk what else you use to do your daily activities to recruit and manage your candidates. Do you have any sourcing tools, plug-ins, extensions, other websites?

Michael McDonnell: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And I have to imagine every ... I don't think I've ever met a recruiter that doesn't know what LinkedIn is right?

Chris Russell: Yeah.

Michael McDonnell: So, that's a big one. It really is a great way to get an instant tap, I think, into the market. An immediate connection with an individual besides giving them a call. So, that's a big one for us. Career Builder, certainly we have a subscription there and that yields us a multitude of resumes sometimes some are new sometimes and they're older, which can also be nice, because you discover somebody that's actually moved up three levels from the last time they put their resume on Career Builder. I big one I like is Lusha, are you familiar with that platform?

Chris Russell: Yep.

Michael McDonnell: So that extension is great at sourcing different emails, phone numbers, things like that. We use that as well. Hunter, I'm sure you know most of the Google extensions that everyone else uses as well but, I've recently been using Hiretual which I like because I've not been the greatest bullion searcher, and it helps to create that bullion search kind of like a plug-in play sort of platform.

Chris Russell: Got you. Okay. Anything else? Like do you send out calendar events with Calendly or anything like that? Any other sort of [crosstalk 00:20:00]

Michael McDonnell: Yeah so Calendly is something we've looked at. For now I've just standardized and consistently just used Outlook, so I'll just send out calendar invites out like that, whether that's for a phone call for that, if that's going to be, initial phone interview. We use, not Web X, we use Zoom, that's a big platform that we use to interface just for video conferencing, whether that's [crosstalk 00:20:28]

Chris Russell: So you do your video interviews over that?

Michael McDonnell: Yeah, we do that, and then we also do our meetings. Another thing that we have our, you know people that are very, very successful or have great insight, we, once a month or so, as an entire organization, will have about a half hour to a hour long meeting to kind of sharpen our tools.

Chris Russell: Got you.

Michael McDonnell: And so, again, we use that video interfacing.

Chris Russell: Nice. Okay. Is there one tool, I know [inaudible 00:20:55], is there one tool out there that you wish existed that doesn't?

Michael McDonnell: Yeah, I think, I mean, it's kind of already becoming. When I begin starting this, I questioned from the CEO of GRN, how is AI technology going to change the game kind of for recruiting? And just like most people who think their jobs could be somewhat jeopardized or greatly changed by AI. They all say "oh, it's never going to replace the person." I'm used to technology and I see it everyday and things are perpetuating at a rate that they never have before, so that being said, I do think that that's going to be a large piece in essentially conglomerating people that are really just putting people together that are going to be a great fit for something you're looking for rather than going through that bullying stream and adding to different organization and going into trade shows. 

I think that this is going to really streamline that process. I'm not sure necessarily how or when, but I do think that it'll be within the very near future.

Chris Russell: So, will AI replace recruiters or just help them?

Michael McDonnell: I don't think it's going to replace. I think it'll replace the bad ones because bad recruiters essentially are doing what AI can do in the snap of a finger, so I think in some regard it'll be replace those that are not extremely good at what they're doing, but as far as taking them out as whole, I don't believe so.

Chris Russell: Yeah. And by the way, your LinkedIn, do you have a recruiter account? You pay for the annual license?

Michael McDonnell: Yeah, we definitely have the recruiter account. Mm-hmm (affirmative). 

Chris Russell: Got you. Some recruiters, you know, like the free stuff, but just curious.

Michael McDonnell: Yeah. I get it. I get it. Half of the individuals I work with, they use the free one, and then everybody in my office we pay to have that, just ... we find it a more streamline process, and again for communicative purposes we can save them to profiles and projects and things like that.

Chris Russell: Are you, generally speaking, a fan of LinkedIn, or are there parts about it you just try not to [inaudible 00:22:54] at all or what's your opinion of [crosstalk 00:22:56]?

Michael McDonne: You know, I really like LinkedIn. I have not really seen any really drawbacks to be completely honest. What about yourself Chris?

Chris Russell: Well, there are some of the veteran recruiters out there are do complain about LinkedIn in terms of, you know, they really crack down stuff, for instance there's this whole big recent stuff about the extensions you might use to pull up [crosstalk 00:23:21] accounts and you know, they're going after the user now to, so it's like, they've also taken stuff away from recruiters in the past in terms of just discontinuing features, things like reportive, they brought it, the shut it down, you know? So, there are some naysayers out there and-

Michael McDonnell: Yeah and I understand that. I think we have pretty good ties with some of the individuals at LinkedIn so we're able to get support and if we have questions or concerns we kind of can just go to them immediately with that and I get that. Trust me. I do understand that from time to time but, in the very simplistic generality, would I rather have it or not have it? No question. I'd rather have it.

Chris Russell: Got you. All right. Let's go to stories Michael. Tell me a story. I want to hear sort of your biggest win so far in recruiting in terms of just sourcing a candidate and getting them placed. What do you got?

Michael McDonnell: Interesting. So, actually the first placement that I ever got was with a client of mine, was just very, very much by the consultative "hey, how can I help you," type of scenario and they said "you know, we are looking to have this type of individual but it probably wouldn't be for about four or five months and that's good because we like to act proactively. If you told me, "hey, we need a person for sure in one month," it's going to be late in the game. Not impossible by no means but, at the end of the day, the more time can sometimes be a little bit better depending.

Long story short, we're working on this for about two and a half months and our process is not to submit candidates. I believe that you can post jobs to post a bunch of candidates if you want to have 100 to 200 resumes. That's not our goal. Our goal is to find you two, three, maybe four finalist, all of which can do the job based off of the criteria we discussed, and again that's without a job description. That's not how we operate. So, by doing that we came across three finalist that have gone through three or four interviews now, this again being about two and half, three months for the first time I took the job order. 

The hiring manager, which was the vice president of sales, told me at the time they did have somebody apply indirectly and we were working with them exclusively so they didn't post the job online and they weren't utilizing any other recruiters so, that raised an eyebrow right? And I was somewhat concerned in the sense of I know my candidates are very good but also they ...We have this individual that's kind of come out of the side, which instead of this being "hey, we're guaranteed to make this placement now, or at least at 99% guarantee," it's now been reduced to maybe about a 75% probability. 

Again so, long story short, the candidate had found out from one of my candidates that the opportunity was open and essentially kind of went around the back door and said "hey, I think this position's going to be great for me." And so he emailed directly and they wanted to interview him and they did. So, they actually made the offer to our individual that was not our candidate. Yeah and so, I'm a firm believer that everything does happen for a reason. I know it's very cliché, but we want to make sure at the end of day our client gets the best candidate possible. And so, we offered to certainly compare apples to apples, go through our reference check, just have some conversations. Of course this candidate can't be the theoretical "tell me about yourself and what your interest are," because you already know about the company now and the opportunity, but we still wanted to put him through a diligent process.

The hiring manager and company are so great and we're glad to have them, , but they basically had said that they love our process so much within the 25 years of them being in the industry he liked our process so much that he wanted to pay our fee any way and which he did so, I was blessed to be able to get that fee.

Chris Russell: He paid your fee but it wasn't your candidate?

Michael McDonnell: That's correct. Yeah.

Chris Russell: Okay. Hold on. That's uh ... I've never heard that before so, I mean.

Michael McDonnell: Yeah. Yeah.

Chris Russell: What was the fee first of all?

Michael McDonne: It was 48 750.

Chris Russell: And so ... Wow, I mean, that's pretty shocking Michael. 

Michael McDonnell: Yeah it was shocking to me as well. 

Chris Russell: You placed the candidate, well I mean, you got a fee but you didn't place the candidate. I don't think that happens too often out there.

Michael McDonnell: I don't think that happens quite ever. I've talked to one of the people helped trained me and worked with, whose billed over 50 million dollars in her lifetime, just her, as a single entity and so she said, "With all of the offices," she works with all offices that I partner with and none of them have ever gotten and again, I know that that's an anomaly. I truly think it's one because we really stuck to the communication at every step constantly. We do a debrief with our candidates after every interview. We do a debrief with the hiring manager. "What did you like? What did you dislike?" 

We help to kind of rearrange their thoughts, put that down on paper, send it to them to kind of keep things going because this is, they have a lot going on, as vice president of sales, all of the trade shows they're traveling to, so we want to keep that as simple for them as possible and so, I think it was just that honesty, transparency, the consultative experience, and keeping things well and organized, and promising to deliver on producing finalists for them because if this candidate that came from the outside wasn't going to be the right individual, they were going to, unquestionable, as they had said, pick our runner up if you will.

[crosstalk 00:28:47] their number one see that they're dispersing kind of came around from the other side and that wasn't available when we had started looking so.

Chris Russell: So essentially, they paid for essentially a short list almost?

Michael McDonnell: Yeah. Yeah. And don't get me wrong. I know that we'll do business with them in the future I think they're a phenomenal, stand-up company and that's why going through this we've looked at other job orders. We don't just ... If someone says "hey, I need this person. We'll pay your fee. Here you go," that's definitely not how we operate. 

One, we're going to go through our job description ourselves because we want to make sure that we're not just picking a job description. We're going to be the right partner for you. We don't want to just go chase the purple squirrel and if this is something like that we don't want it. So we choose quality over quantity when we partner we clients and that being said this was such an easy client to work for and to describe the condition and background of the company it was an easy sale in the sense of it was just a really, really great company. There were no real drawbacks.

Chris Russell: Sounds like a dream client.

Michael McDonnell: I mean it really was. It really was. More of a dream client is if they called me every month with a new position. That would be fantastic but you know, nada. That's all right. I will trade that for the quality of who they are.

Chris Russell: Nice. Well, let's wrap this up Michael. I certainly appreciate all of the advice today. So, if you were talking to someone who's thinking about getting into recruiting like yourself did back a year or so ago, what kind of advice would you tell them?

Michael McDonnell: I would say the work at the forefront is paramount. We all know that if you try to build walls on an unsteady foundation it can be disastrous later on, but it's so important to better understand if you're going to focus on an industry, not just, 'okay everybody love organic and natural foods, pay attention of that, and there's some mergers and acquisitions going on over here," but much more in depth than that. Where is the temperature of the market going in the sense of e-commerce may be really important. 

So that's something to check out or everybody understands right now with STEM there's a real lack of engineers and things of that nature, so maybe that's really important, but looking at it holistically and dynamically and really understanding it at a granual level more than just hypothetical and theoretical because if you're looking at this thing like it's going to be so simple, "I find a great person. I find a great opportunity. Match them together and that's it." It is so much more complicated than that, and truly I would say its to be so transparent because you have to remember that you're dealing with people's livelihoods, so one, I think you need to be very confidential, protecting people's resumes if they give you the privilege of having it and looking at it and two, being very upfront with them. You don't want to go through this long process, getting them interviews, and then say "oh, by the way, there is no bonus. That's not really true." So be transparent and honest and I think, when you help the world kind of get what it wants, then the world will give you what you need.

Chris Russell: Good advice. Well, Michael McDonnell from World Recruiters of Columbia, thanks for joining me today. How can people connect with you online? Tell them where to go.

Michael McDonnell: Absolutely, so of course on LinkedIn Michael McDonnell with Global Recruiters Network of Columbia or you can go to GRNColumbia.com and you can find our information there. Love for anybody that is looking for some career advice or possibly new opportunity, give us a call and see if we can help you.

Chris Russell: Yeah. By the way, do your friends hit you up, now that you're a recruiter, for resume and job search advice?

Michael McDonnell: Yeah actually, just a few days ago somebody had just got out of college, a friend of a friend had somebody coming out of college and we're definitely willing to speak with them to see. One, give them advice. Two, see how things are going. Three, kind of give a little, "what if this happened, would you do this?" So yeah, if that happens, then we try to help out in every regard.

Chris Russell: Nice. All right. Well that will do for this edition of the RecTech podcast. Thanks again to our sponsor. Check out jobsintheus.com for your local hiring needs. Follow me on Twitter @chrisrussell or visit rectechmedia.com. You can find the audio and links for this show on our blog.

You can subscribe via iTunes, Google Play, or SoundCloud. Thanks for listening.

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Talent Exec Has Proof You Should Be Using These Types of Job Descriptions

Do your job descriptions suck? Are they boring candidates to sleep? If so, you need to listen to the latest episode of RecTech. We chat with Chris Mulhall a talent executive who actually commissioned a study of what works and what doesn't when it comes to promoting your jobs. 



Chris Mulhall: My name is Chris Mulhall and I'm next on RecTech.

Speaker 2: Welcome to RecTech, the podcast where recruiting and technology intersect. Each month, you'll hear from vendors shaping the recruiting world, along with recruiters who tell you how they use technology to hire talent. Now, here's your host. The mad scientist of online recruiting, Chris Russell.

Chris Russell: All right, let's do this. Chris Russell here, managing director at RecTech Media where I consult with employers and HR tech [00:00:30] vendors on navigating the world of recruiting technology. We're going to talk today about job descriptions, specifically why you need to revamp yours and make them more engaging. But first, RecTech is sponsored by Job Fairing. If your company's hosting a hiring event or job fair, post it for free at jobfairing.com. Job Fairing helps employers and event organizers to promote their career event to local candidates via the web and social media. Learn more at jobfair-I-N-G.com.

Today's guest is Chris Mulhall, VP of talent [00:01:00] acquisition and planning at PointClickCare. I'd like to introduce Chris from a recent article I saw on LinkedIn. "How are you supposed to find the right candidate if they're not even going to consume a job description end to end or even get to the skills and qualifications section?" He asked during a session at Talent Connect 2016. "That's the challenge. How do we create more engaging content that a candidate will actually view?" At PointClickCare, a software company, Chris and his team have come close to solving this problem after realizing their [00:01:30] boring, traditional job descriptions were turning candidates away. From one Chris to another, welcome to RecTech.

Chris Mulhall: Thanks for having me, Chris.

Chris Russell: Excellent. Well, glad to have you on the show. So Chris, few employers recognize job descriptions for what they should be, which is really a marketing tool. I'm so glad I discovered this article about you guys and what you're doing with yours. When did you come to realize that you had to change your job descriptions to focus on becoming more of an advertisement that sells the job itself in the company?

Chris Mulhall: [00:02:00] Yeah, sure. For us, our company PointClickCare, we don't have that well-known employer brand, so we find that we have to be pretty scrappy with our candidate outreach, whether it be on LinkedIn through InMails or just direct headhunting. So what we were finding is our company culture is really great. We're very innovative, we're really entrepreneurial, and we would send these messages out to candidates to say, "Come check out our company, we're so cool." And [00:02:30] the candidate says, "Okay, great. Okay, send me the job description." Then we'd send them this job description, which is long and bureaucratic and lengthy paragraphs and 30 bullet points and the candidate says, "Oh, that doesn't sound so innovative in the end." So there was this huge disconnect, really, between how we were positioning ourselves in the market, which I think was accurate, versus what candidates were seeing on our job descriptions. So really, I think that was our aha moment to say, "Hey, we can do this better. We're not walking the walk [00:03:00] here. Let's start at that initial outreach, which most often cases is the job description, and figure out ways to do it better.

Chris Russell: Okay. So according to the article, you commissioned a study on the different formats, which are three of them. So video, infographic, and a comic strip. What did those results tell you?

Chris Mulhall: Yeah. I'll start first with just the context of commissioning a research study on job description. So we engaged a third [00:03:30] party to conduct a study for us and they reached out to 600 candidates, 300 technical, 300 non-technical with across the board on demographics. So between different age groups, education, gender, time in their current role in the industry that they were in. We had them consume job descriptions in four different formats, so the three you mentioned there: infographic, job descriptions, a video job [00:04:00] description, a more fun and casual question and answer type format description with a comic strip included, and then the fourth version, which is your traditional, let's say, boring text-based job description.

Chris Russell: Were these your own candidates, Chris?

Chris Mulhall: No. These were independent people who most often hadn't even heard of PointClickCare, so there's no biases coming into it, completely objective. So they consumed our job descriptions [00:04:30] in each of those different formats, and really we were trying to accomplish two things. I guess number one was, does certain type of job descriptions resonate with candidates more so than others. So depending on the field they're in, their age demographic, male or female. Did they prefer one of those formats versus the other? Then number two was to test my theory I mentioned earlier, which was, are candidates influenced, at least the perception of the company's culture based on the job description the consumed? So for example, [00:05:00] if somebody consumes a really boring and bureaucratic job description, do they may inferences about the company also being very boring and bureaucratic. So we wanted to see if that carried any weight there. So that was really our objective coming into the research study. Do you want me to go into any details on some of the findings that we got?

Chris Russell: Yeah. So what are the big takeaways, would you say?

Chris Mulhall: I guess if we look at, to answer that first point about the different job description formats and how they resonated from [00:05:30] one candidate to the next, we found that for technical candidates, so those in an IT profession, whether it was male, female, in the broad buckets of 18 to 35 or 35 and above, all four of those groups preferred the more casual language, question and answer, comic strip-type job description format. I can dig on that in a little more detail later. That form across the board was the most popular. [00:06:00] For the non-tech candidates, interestingly enough, male, female, 18 to 35 and 35 and above, all of those four groups preferred the video job description. Then we start to see more statistically significant data on the non-tech side. For women and for those 35 and above, significantly prefer the video job description over all four of the different formats. So something to keep in mind for any diversity hiring initiatives. 

[00:06:30] When we asked all candidates, both tech and non-tech to stack rank those four formats, so again, the text-based, the infographic, the video, and the casual language question and answer comic book one, all four groups or all four descriptions, the text-based, the traditional text-based description was ranked as the least favorite for the tech candidates 34% of the time and for the [00:07:00] non-tech 35% of the time. We found that really telling because, again, a stack rank last 35% or 34% of the time, but it's the description that we probably use 99.9% of the time in our job descriptions, right? So there's a huge disconnect between what candidates want to see versus what we're always reverting to when it comes to job descriptions. I think that's the first group of major themes that we saw coming out of the research study.

The second one that we saw was, [00:07:30] to my earlier question about, okay, does the content or the format really influence what the perception is of the company culture? So for that, we had a pick list of about 15 different attributes that someone might associate with a company. Things like innovative and inspiring, bureaucratic, boring. We had the candidates or the survey participants consume all four job description formats and then provide [00:08:00] some feedback from that pick list to say, "Based on that job description that you just consumed, how would you describe the company that posted it?" What we found for the tech candidates is when they looked at the comic strip and the video, they used terms, so they selected terms like innovative and adaptive, inspiring, flexible. Then when it came to the traditional text-based description, key words that came out were boring, bureaucratic, [00:08:30] things like that. On the non-tech side, very similar, as well. They really gravitated towards the video again and almost half the candidates selected innovative as being a top word that they would associate with the company that's using these types of descriptions. Again, very high levels of bureaucracy and boring-ness when it comes to what the company was probably like. We certainly saw some assumptions being made based on the types of job description [00:09:00] formats that the folks consumed.

Chris Russell: Okay. I watched the video for the Java developer ones. I loved the casualness of it. I think the first 30 seconds or so, you were interviewing people about the company, but it was more of the off the cuff remarks and funny moments while videoing. So it wasn't scripted out, I thought, and it came off as very genuine. Was that a very specific thing [00:09:30] that you wanted to convey?

Chris Mulhall: Exactly, yeah. I'm glad you picked up on that. That's really the authenticity, right? We wanted our engineering organization as to be shown as innovative and it's hard to be innovative unless you're willing to make mistakes and try different things, so I think that first 30 seconds just shows some humility, which we value, as well. You know, not being afraid to say, "I screwed up," and putting it out there, and also the willingness to take some chances and try things over again until you perfect it. So [00:10:00] really, yeah, that's the tone with the video descriptions. We want to give an authentic and realistic preview into the job, so later on in that video, we take the camera over to the work environment and again, you see that all of our engineers sit at a big long table right beside another engineer, and that's not for everyone, right? Sometimes it's tough to articulate that in a job description, let alone an interview where sometimes it's not discussed, as well. So showing that up front is a great way [00:10:30] for candidates to self-select out and say it's not for them and never apply, or they say, "You know what? I can get behind that. I like that teamwork and collaboration," and they're going to click that apply button, so really that was [crosstalk 00:10:41].

Chris Russell: I thought you went really deep into the department, too. You talked about different technologies you used, a little bit of what you're currently working on, and I thought it was pretty detailed, too, in terms of the information you got for candidates.

Chris Mulhall: Yeah, yeah. We talk about some of the technologies that we're using, as well, because again, it somewhat functions like a job description, so we want to [00:11:00] see specifics about the role, as well, not just cool shots of the environment.

Chris Russell: Can you tell us anything about the cost of creating this video? Is it expensive, is it cheap? I don't know if you could kind of give me some baseline here of what it costs.

Chris Mulhall: Yeah. We're very fortunate, I'll say, that we have an in-house videographer who was happy to partner with us on this initiative. So the cost, I mean, we covered the cost of a camera [00:11:30] for the day and equipment. It was just a couple hundred dollars. If someone were to look at outsourcing it because they don't have a videographer, again, you can probably get away with that half day or a day rate and just call around and get quotes, as well, just for the editing. One of the things we're experimenting right now is having basically no tech and basically having a higher manager function, like they're carrying a GoPro and just kind of walk them around and have the [00:12:00] voiceover lay. So yeah, there's definitely some low tech options if you don't want to look at some of the editing pieces, too.

Chris Russell: Sure, definitely. Okay. The infographic, first of all, tell the people where you created those, I think you used an online tool. Secondly, I guess that didn't work well with some of the respondents, right? Talk about that, too.

Chris Mulhall: Exactly, yeah. So we use a tool called Piktochart. In annual licenses, [00:12:30] it's about 500 dollars, and you get access to a whole bunch of different templates that you can use or you can create your own from scratch. Essentially, we went into this with creating infographic job descriptions with the thought process that we could probably articulate the information on the infographics better than we could through a traditional text-based description. You could show visuals such as the typical career path, both upward and lateral mobility. We could show some cool graphs on the industry [00:13:00] growth that we're in, which is longterm care software, and just with the aging population, it's great for sales roles that they can see they could be selling into a really fast-paced and growing market. So again, things that we felt like would be better through visuals than through a traditional bullet point on a resume. 

To your point about how it resonated with candidates. So infographics was one of the formats that we had candidates provide feedback on. As fun as it is to make [00:13:30] them, if you have the creative juices, they didn't score as well, in particular with non-tech-based candidates. The feedback that we got was that candidates sometimes saw them used more as advertisements than they did actual job descriptions and felt like they were trying to be sold something, almost like a marketing document. So there was, "Hey, does this company have an ulterior motive here? This is pretty slick." So I think it just got the guard up [00:14:00] of a few candidates for them to say, "You know what? This is a little too smooth for me. Let's go back to the tried and true text-based description." For some groups, it fared better with. So the tech candidates preferred it more so than the non-tech candidates, but overall, it didn't fare as well, especially when compared to the video and the casual language one.

Chris Russell: On that one, it looks like you're using some Dilbert strips as sort of the head lede in the Java [00:14:30] development team that I'm looking at right now. The questions listeners, I'll just kind of read you some of those. It starts out with the Dilbert comic, it goes into, "I've never heard of PointClickCare, what do you do?" Then you talk about that. "So what does a development team lead at PointClick do?" You talk about that. "What does a typical day look like for a development team lead?" You get four or five bullet points there. "What does potential growth look like? What qualifications do you look for?" And finally, "How do I apply?" Those are the questions [00:15:00] that are based in the job description itself. I like that, Chris, because it's a lot more interesting to read than just, like you said, a boring old job description. I saw somebody on Facebook recently complain they just read a job description with 23 different bullet points all in a row.

Chris Mulhall: Wow.

Chris Russell: He said that he wanted to go to sleep after that. A Q&A format like this I think is a great way to describe a job listing no matter what kind of job it is overall, [00:15:30] right?

Chris Mulhall: Yeah, totally. I agree. I feel for that person, I'm sure. We still need a better name for this. We kind of call it the one with the comic strip just because it's easier to remember. So it kind of starts with a comic strip at the top, and it doesn't have to be, it's just something that we've used not all the time, in some formats. Again, we use it as a hook. So it could be a Dilbert comic strip, which we paid for because we don't want to get sued, so we'll pay [00:16:00] the license, the comic strip from Dilbert, which is about 30 or 40 dollars. We'll create our own if we don't want to pay the money using a website called Pixton, which is a pretty fun and intuitive tool, as well. So either way, we can put that in there and you save it as a jpg, if your ATS supports jpgs to be embedded in your descriptions.

From there, then we transition to, as you said, more casual language, question [00:16:30] and answer-type format. These are typical questions that the candidates have about the job and we position ... All the essential skills and qualifications are in there, as well, but it's just more of a relaxed language rather than long paragraphs and lengthy bullet points and things like that. It's fared really well with candidates. I think they appreciate the more casual tone. Again, because descriptions get scraped and aggregated off different job boards, these translate well to different websites, too, that might not necessarily [00:17:00] support a visual. But instead, at least the text is getting picked up to different job boards. So yeah, we found it really valuable and really versatile as far different job description formats, and that's resonated really well with candidates.

Chris Russell: We'll link to all these tools in the show notes. Chris, how longs have these postings been out now? What kind of feedback have you been getting from candidates? Tell us more about the results you're getting.

Chris Mulhall: The results have been really well. So we've been doing this for about a year now, so I think we have a pretty large sample size to look at pre and using the [00:17:30] boring descriptions versus post where, again, we still have some of these boring descriptions, but we've sprinkled in some versatility in here, as well. Looking at the results, I think there's probably three common themes that I would pull out of it. The first is that we've certainly seen a reduction in our new hire attrition. What I attribute that to is just more authenticity and more of a realistic job preview within our job description. So I mentioned earlier about the video and how you can see the work environment [00:18:00] and where you'll be seated, and that allows candidates to opt-out and just not apply, rather than [inaudible 00:18:06] and two weeks into the job, they go, "Oh, I wish I knew I was sitting at this giant table with somebody's elbows right up against mine. I would have never applied." So we just look for all opportunities to be more authentic and more transparent in the description process, and in turn, I think that that transparency's related to a direct reduction in our new hire attrition. I think that's been one key result.

[00:18:30] Another result that we're seeing is there's certainly more sharable content on different social media channels. So take the typical employee that maybe isn't as active on LinkedIn as you and I are. They see a funny comic strip or a cool job description or a link to a job description video, and they're far more likely to like or to share than they would a boring text-based description, because who actually reads those when they're shared on social channels? Because of that, we're [00:19:00] seeing the regular employee that has a LinkedIn profile and a decent network sharing content that they typically wouldn't share in the past. So it's got that longer shelf life to our postings.

That really leads into my third point, which is we're seeing a significant increase in the amount of passive candidates. So because our content is more sharable and has a longer shelf life and we have engineers sharing their own job descriptions because they're fun, we're seeing candidates [00:19:30] reach out to us directly to say, "Hey, I'm not on the market right now, but your video job description came up in my feed today. I thought that was pretty cool and would love to know more about the opportunity." So it's been a great way to really expand the reach of our job postings, as well.

Chris Russell: Nice. So you think overall, it will help to increase applications across other companies?

Chris Mulhall: Yeah. I think both applications and the quality of the applications because one thing we try to make clear on all of our job description formats is that PointClickCare is not for [00:20:00] everyone and that's okay. We talk about how it's fast-paced, there's a lot of ambiguity, high growth, and that's not for everyone. So if we can be more tailored with their descriptions, as well, and not just have them far-reaching with a wide net, I think the more targeted approach has been successful for us to ensure that the quality of candidates has been increased, as well.

Chris Russell: Right. Chris, would you be able to share some of the results with me so I can share them with our audience at all in terms of some of the data you got from that [00:20:30] research study?

Chris Mulhall: Yeah, sure. I'd be happy to do that.

Chris Russell: Awesome. I guess final question, Chris. What advice to have for other employers who want to revamp their descriptions? What kind of tips can you give them?

Chris Mulhall: I think first, when we chatted about this before with different folks, there's always some apprehension from a change management perspective. I think the best advice I can give is that it's really an easy sell with [00:21:00] the managers. I mean, they all want better candidates and they all want to find the right cultural fight, so I'd encourage you to engage your managers in this process, your hiring managers. Ask for their opinions on the format, figure out what might resonate with them if they were candidates, and it's tough to kind of shoulder this on your own. I think the more information you can get, the more data points, the more feedback from people that might consume it, I think, is helpful. We do the same thing with candidates, as well. I get real time feedback. [00:21:30] What do they think of the job description? Does it influence them in any way? Same with our new hires, as well, we want to get that feedback. So I think it's important to get some feedback from the different stakeholders, whether they be managers or candidates.

The other feedback I have, as well, is we don't do this across the board with every description, whether it just be from a bandwidth or capacity perspective. We still have quite a few traditional text-based job descriptions, as well. We're gradually moving things over as we convert to a new ATS in the near future. [00:22:00] What we try and to is apply the 80 20 principal. We look at the positions that get the most hits, we'll use it for pipeline recs or feeder recs because we know that those typically have a longer shelf life. I'd give that advice to the audience, as well. If you don't have the time to overhaul all your job descriptions, start small. Take a look at a few of those pipeliner feeder recs or those high volume recs, they [00:22:30] have a longer shelf life, especially if you're sharing them on social channels. Nobody wants to click onto a dead link. Those perpetual pipeline recs are good candidates for video job descriptions, as well, and especially if you're going to pay to hire a videographer for your video job description, you might as well get a better ROI out of it and link to a position that will be posted for many months rather than just a couple weeks.

Chris Russell: Nice. Well, Chris Mulhall from PointClickCare, thank you very much for joining me today. How [00:23:00] can people connect with you and see these jobs online?

Chris Mulhall: Yeah, no. Thanks, Chris. I appreciate it. The best way to reach out to me or connect with me is through LinkedIn. Send me an invite and connect, and if anyone has specific questions outside of your show notes, I'm happy to discuss them with them. We start with LinkedIn and go from there.

Chris Russell: Really appreciate it, Chris. We'll link to everything in the show notes and you're definitely one of my new recruiting heroes, Chris. I love the fact that you went out and did your own study. I mean, I've never heard of an employer doing that sort of stuff, so [00:23:30] kudos to you and kudos to your team there.

Chris Mulhall: I appreciate it. Thanks for having me on, Chris.

Chris Russell: That will do for this edition of the RecTech podcast. Thanks again to our sponsor. Remember to check out jobfairing.com for promoting your hiring events. Follow me on Twitter @ChrisRussell or visit rectechmedia.com. You can find the audio and links for this show on our blog. Subscribe vie iTunes, Google Play, or SoundCloud. Thanks for listening.

Job Boards, HR Tech Startups, Employers: Call me to find out how I can help your company. 203-572-2053

Dean Da Costa Discusses New LinkedIn Chrome Extension Rules and Other Sourcing Goodies


Today’s guest is ...Dean Da Costa...Dean is a Strategic Sourcing and Research Technologist at a Fortune 100 company in the Seattle area. A decorated veteran and recognized sourcing expert with more than 20 years of experience, he currently writes The Search Authority, one of the most influential blogs in the business.

A frequent speaker on the recruiting conference circuit, His insight and knowledge (particularly of technology)  has made Dean one of the top sourcers and full cycle recruiters in the business today.


  1. Let’s start with the recent Linked User Agreement changes which is causing a lot of uproar among your fellow recruiters and the various Chrome Extensions they use...can you explain what it says and what that means for recruiters/vendors?

  2. SEE ALSO: https://www.eremedia.com/sourcecon/stop-the-madness/

  3. Does it affect every extension on the market that uses LI in some way?

  4. You say InMails are a waste of time...why? What’s your open rate?

  5. What tools are part of your everyday souring toolbox…..Elucify.com, Hunter, Hiretual

  6. What ATS do you currently use? Taleo, Luxo, Smashfly

  7. How much do you spend on these tools each month?

  8. What has been your biggest win so far this year from a sourcing standpoint? (tell a candidate hiring story)

  9. When it comes to vendors pitching you...what are they doing wrong? How should they approach people like you?

Job Boards, HR Tech Startups, Employers: Call me to find out how I can help your company. 203-572-2053