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SR and Cielo

CEO Fireside Chat with SmartRecruiters and Cielo Announcing the New Partnership

On April 1st, SmartRecruiters CEO, Jerome Ternynck, sat down for a fireside chat with Sue Marks, Founder and CEO of Cielo Talent, to discuss the new strategic partnership that reimagines tech-enabled RPOs and delivers Hiring Success to more companies around the world.

Below is their discussion about what the partnership means, why they are excited to empower TA leaders, and what they’re excited about for the future.

So why did SmartRecruiters and Cielo decide to partner together?


So I’ll take a step back first and then answer the question. About two years ago, so pre-COVID, we spent time asking ourselves, our clients and many other experts in the broad HR and HR Tech space, what the future actually really should look like. 

You know, think about the typical consumer buying process and experience. I spent $500 on AllBirds on my mobile in about 60 seconds, a couple of nights ago.  Now compare that to most recruiting processes? There’s no comparison. 

So that led us to create a few organization-wide long term strategic initiatives, one of which was to reimagine our TA delivery models, and note I say “models” – plural – because our clients need flexibility, and a technology platform that enables great recruitment. 

I’m always struck by the way tech-buying becomes a battle of features – with large spreadsheets with check marks or Harvey balls, or whatever, and points assigned. In reality, most organizations use less than half the functionality they buy. And turnover in their departments actually really degrades the ongoing experience of that technology platform. 

So when I think of Steve Jobs, right, and one of his first, of what would become, very famous product launches. (You know black T shirt… like you’ve got the black T shirt on… and I’ve got a black collared shirt on today.) He didn’t say “This iPod was this many inches by this many inches and it has this many gigs, and blah blah blah.” He said, “It’s 40,000 songs in your pocket or in the palm of your hand.” It’s exactly why we’re thrilled to partner with SmartRecruiters. Jerome, you and your team had that same vision: flexible workflows and the marketplace allows us to be just like today’s iPhone or Galaxy –  whatever you happen to have. The right platform, and over 600 apps that we can configure for our clients. Proven scalable, flexible, agile, fast. 


Yeah, exactly. And I think the alignment here has been really interesting. Ever since we started to engage is that, well first we are united in purpose.  We deliver Hiring Success to our customers. The ability to hire amazing talent on demand.

And we do that by leveraging technology. Technology takes a lot of different flavors in organizations: Different roles, different countries, different processes, different talent markets, different tension on those markets, different behaviors. That ability to actually come with a base proposition, just like your Android or your iPhone, and actually, deliver the service at scale is really, really interesting. 

How is your partnership going to help empower talent acquisition leaders?


Yeah, I think coming out of the pandemic, people are aspirational. There’s been a lot of change that’s been accelerated because of the last year that we’ve spent. So if you’re a TA leader, if you’re actually anybody in business, your CEO and boards are talking about needing to be agile, adaptive, resilient or whatever else, right? But most organizations have a literal mess of enterprise point, and what now they might be calling “platform solutions” that look a little bit like the bottom of my backpack after I’ve been on a two-week business trip. You know, it’s a mess! And of the billion dollars that’s been invested in HR and HR Tech over the last year or so, two thirds of that is going to sales and marketing departments that are telling every TA Leader that’s listening to this, that the next best thing is their AI powered <insert product here> and it’s the most important thing they’re going to buy in the next year. 

While working with SmartRecruiters, we actually pull it all together in one neat integrated package that actually delivers what it promises – a seamless experience for candidates, hiring managers, recruiters, TA and HR leaders. So between Cielo and SmartRecruiters we really deliver that flexibility, integration, configurability, scalability, ease of use, reliability and speed that our customers are looking for.


Yeah, it’s really interesting how much innovation is happening in recruiting. And actually an investor was asking me the other day, “Why is there so much innovation in recruiting?” And the answer is simple. The problem has not been solved. It’s really hard, and if you’re a TA leader and you’re looking at all this innovation, how do you bring it together and make it consistent? Not only to say ‘We have all the features”, but also the processes and their enablement. I think that that combination of tech and services, tech-enabled RPO, is very powerful. Not only that it delivers a turnkey solution, but it actually delivers a range of solutions that you can leverage. 

So talking a bit about our partnership. What are you most looking forward to in our partnership?


Yeah, I talked a little bit about this before. You know, not using all the functionality that we buy – in any application really. One of Josh Bersin’s recent reports says, 32% of HR Tech projects go over-budget, significantly over budget. 53% miss implementation deadlines, and 42% were rated, as you know, not fully successful or failed.  I mean those are pretty dismal. And, you know, maybe that’s a little overly-negative, but we’ve been there. What we do is hard. Organizational change is hard. And it’s not that we haven’t experienced this – we have – and that’s the benefit of this partnership for all of our clients. We’ve hit those speed bumps before and we’ve solved those speed bumps. SmartRecruiters brings the tech, and we bring the service wrapper in the execution to our RPO partners. Honestly the biggest risk is not that we don’t get the right, the couple of pieces of functionality when we find an ATS, it’s that it really gets designed, configured, implemented, and executed with the customer in mind: the candidate, the hiring managers and TA and HR. That’s how you really power business results. And I know SmartRecruiters feels exactly the same way. 


Yeah, we do. And it’s very interesting to see how enterprises consume technology. I think this is where personally, I think our partnership is really powerful. We not only say “Hey, here’s a bunch of features for you.”  But it’s actually, “Oh, and here’s the methodology to make it work. Here’s the services to make it work.” Most of our customers actually start implementation with what we call the “Phase Zero”, which is an assessment of their Hiring Success maturity. Then we define together a roadmap or journey. What are the business outcomes? Because otherwise you quickly get into deep features.

So, what do you see as the biggest challenge for TA in today’s dynamic environment?


Recruiting is a team sport. Great organizations know that recruiting is everyone’s job. And, you know, everybody talks that talk, but very few really walk the walk. And that’s why we need things like “internal contracts” that hold TA accountable for things like ‘time to slate’ and hold hiring managers accountable for things like ‘response time’. The best organizations really have teamwork. To get to this spot, you’ve got to have the courage of your conviction and the ability to have some tough conversations sometimes. As well as set a vision for why this teamwork and alignment is really important. You need leadership. You need sponsorship, because today’s market requires speed and flexibility above anything else. And, you know, most organizations don’t change very quickly. 

I was talking to one of my board members, and I think I’ve got like an iPhone 10 or whatever. And he just went from the 10 to the 12, and he’s like, “You know, it’s so different I can’t help it, I can’t stand it.” I mean think about when you’re changing your enterprise TA stack -it’s hard. It’s really hard. So we’ve got to make sure that, because we’re all resistant to change, that we’ve got strong business acumen and marketing expertise – internal marketing and external marketing. We’ve got to make the business case. We’ve got to have the organizational support and power to push change through and make it last. To ensure that the organization is really positioned to be able to attract the talent that it needs. And that’s a big ask nowadays, particularly now, as we’re coming out of the pandemic. And here in the US, we’re rocketing out of this pandemic.  I mean, nobody can hire enough people fast enough. 

And the last thing we need to start doing is just hiring anybody, right? We still need to have our hiring standards. Maybe we need to reevaluate those with some of our hiring managers. But this is, I think, a permanent change. We need to be thinking about, more than ever, speed and flexibility. Because employee experience, inclusion, engagement and belonging, has become so much more important. We’ve learned that over the last year. We’ve learned what we’ve been missing, and we talk about getting back to normal. And many of us think “There was a lot of the old normal that we don’t want to go back to.” So, when I think about challenges, it’s thinking about that talent-value chain. And I’m old enough to remember when wellness was an employee benefit. And in the new world, the best companies to work for will see well-being is a facilitator and a power of business performance. 

Right, it is necessary for business performance. So, this is the thing that I think will change our world. And I know Jerome that you talk about changing the world. And I think if we can make a little bit of that happen, and then others start to follow, we can have a huge impact – and that is really exciting to me.


Yes, it is. It is a very exciting time, I think for TA in general. Actually, for a lot of talent acquisition teams honestly, they’re like staffing teams. They’re measured by faster and cheaper, cost per hire and time to fill. Faster, cheaper, faster, cheaper. And now we have the opportunity as TA professionals to really step up and be that strategic partner. And I think there’s a couple of areas here that I would encourage TA leaders to look at that we’ve seen a lot of our customers actually step up, and that’s: 1) How do you embark hiring managers into your hiring journey? A lot of TA leaders are still like, “Oh, you have this old ATS? Do the hiring managers use it?” And they’re like “No.” “Then how’d you manage the process? Is it only an email/spreadsheet?” And they’re like “Yes…” so that collaboration with hiring managers is critical, right? 

The second part 2) is internal mobility. We are talking a lot about the importance of internal mobility, skills marketplaces, talent marketplaces, etc. Internal mobility historically, in most organizations, hasn’t been touched by recruiting. So that’s the time where I think TA needs to own internal mobility. Of course, HR and talent management need to be developing talent, but when it comes to matching talent to a job, that’s a TA skillset. And we need to let TA hunt internally and market jobs internally and make a fluid marketplace.

Even better, take that talent value chain, make sure it is robust enough that employees could actually search an internal marketplace. And the SmartRecruiters marketplace allows that kind of thing to happen. 

Exactly, I think the more fluid, the better. And actually, fair internal hiring is one of the critical components of the third thing where I think TA should step up:  D&I. It’s time for TA to own this –  beyond the ‘anonymize the resume to ensure that my recruiters don’t screen’, there’s actually a methodology to achieving better diversity hiring outcomes. And yes, people will say “Well there’s no point in hiring diverse talent, if they go out of the door.” Well, actually, if you hire good diverse talent at a senior level, the organization changes really fast, right. So it starts with TA, and it’s something that CEOs have top of mind, and it’s a good moment for TA to really step up and say “Alright, this is how I’m going to contribute to that.” 

Well and take advantage of the zeitgeist right now because it’s come right back with laws around voting, in many, many states, that corporations are getting back involved – in just over the last 24 or 48 hours. So yeah, let’s capitalize on that. 

Indeed, so let’s talk about tech and innovation for a second. What new tech or innovation excites you most for TA now?


Yeah, well I made a little bit of fun of AI and all the other initials-  like NLP etc earlier. But it’s here, it’s everywhere, and it is really exciting. It will field so many changes and make us all better at what we do. All of these technologies are only really effective when they make us better at what we do, and allow us to have that people-to-people exchange that is so important to the engagement that I talked about. Recruiting starts with engaging candidates. You can find everybody nowadays, right? You’ve got to engage people in your vision for your organization and why they would want to come join the team. So, there’s a massive opportunity – if we have the courage to see it and have a plan to action it. 

There’s also a risk, and you just talked about it, Jerome. There is a big risk that I’m becoming concerned about. AI, and the other run-in-the-background blackbox algorithms and things. That they’ll project the sins of the past on to the future. I mean, there are many well-known negative cases with a negative impact on diversity, for sure. I’d like to recommend a book to the audience. It’s by Emily Chang. It’s called Brotopia, and it talks exactly about this.  It’s very readable. It is not technical. In fact, it takes the reader through the history of AI – early AI – data science, and women and technology and data science. You’re not going to like what you read. If you do read it, I think you’ll join me and my concern, and now I’m thinking about how we can do something about that. 

But I guess I’d like to close out where I ended that last question. I’ve always believed we hire a whole person, not just a person eight or 10 hours, or however many hours a day. So, this move to create more meaningful work to support more insightful management practices, to make belonging and well-being — not just organizational goals but organizational reality — we can use employee listening, etc, to make sure that we, that when we get there that we, that it actually, fits in the HR Tech or work-tech platform of the future. So I think meaningful work, in an organization with an aspirational vision, is what matters to most people, and to the best talent. And while we’re not always going to be in the kind of ‘war for talent’ that we’re in right now-  here in the US in particular, there will always be a war for the best talent. And between SmartRecruiters and Cielo and our partnership, we’re here to make sure our clients get more than their fair share of talent.


That’s actually a really good way to end our conversation here.  I think the combination of tech and services – tech-enabled RPO – allows you to leverage advanced technology in a smooth and safe way. I think there’s a lot of great things happening in AI, and in NLP, and in automation, that will eventually allow recruiters to stop being administrators, raisers of resumes,  coordinators of interviews, and then really be either marketers and sourcers that attract great talent.

I think we’re gonna see that specialization of TA. Are you a marketer and you’re bringing people in? Or a trusted talent advisor to the hiring manager? That’s really huge. And then I think AI can actually contribute to a better and more fair hiring world. And one example I want to point out is in our Smart Assistant (which is the AI we have that reads all the resumes and summarizes them and tells you which candidates we think you should look at and so on) we actually introduced new categories that say “Here are candidates that don’t have the degree/the education that you require, but they do appear to have the skills you require. Here are people who are in linear career experience, but they actually have had the experience you need. So we’re trying to surface resumes, and most recruiters would otherwise go like “Okay no.” So I think technology here can be an enabler of a better hiring process. 


Yeah, you know, Elon Musk is building a battery plant down here. I’m down in Texas near Austin, and he’s been tweeting the last 24 hours about “You don’t need a college degree, blah blah blah blah blah.” So that’s exactly what SmartRecruiters powers – is that kind of view of surfacing additional candidates.

Thank you for reading the recap of the conversation between Sue Marks & Jerome Ternynck. To watch or listen to their conversation, below is the recording of the LinkedIn Live session:

Jenae Kaska

Influencer Marketing Manager at SmartRecruiters