SmartRecruiters Hiring Success Journal

On How to Pitch Your Company, and the ‘Passive Candidate’ Myth

Ronan Mooney built the recruitment team behind one of the world’s largest tech conferences, and he’s here to share how pitching a company is a lot like promoting events for over 100,000 annual attendees.

Web Summit is an organization of more than 200 individuals focused on disrupting the conference industry with technology and data science, running a series of international gatherings across the world, with the flagship annual event held in Lisbon, Portugal. Assembling the workforce to power a global enterprise isn’t accomplished in a day, but for Ronan Mooney, Chief of Staff & Head of HR at Web Summit, this mammoth endeavor took under a year.

Mooney joined WS in spring of 2017, and since then he’s doubled the company’s headcount, hiring extensively for remote positions across the globe, helping Web Summit open offices in Lisbon, Hong Kong, and Toronto. But what goes into organizing tech conferences that attract Fortune 500 companies as well as the most innovative startups? We sat with Ronan Mooney to discuss how to pitch your company to candidates, the current state of recruiter marketing, and what motivates top-quality talent in today’s job market.

How do you pitch Web Summit to a global audience?

We don’t run our business like an events company. We run it like a tech company using a data-driven approach to make informed decisions, building our own technology to plan and execute events. When recruiting, we tell candidates about the challenges we face and how we’d like them to help provide the solutions.

What were some of the challenges in organizing Web Summit?

We are only ever as good as our last event. We have gone from running one event in Dublin to running four events around the world in fewer than five years. The 100,000 attendees we have come to our events because of the high quality we provide, and managing this is a constant moving dial, as new challenges evolve alongside amazing opportunities. We continue improving our planning and execution processes to our highest standards.

What advice can you give to other organizations when pitching their company?

Don’t ‘sell’ your company or role to prospective candidates. If you do, stop. Candidates have never been more informed about what our businesses are like to work in thanks to the internet, so set expectations and be transparent.

Run your TA strategy like you’re in a startup, by keeping a critical eye on your hiring rates and your salary levels. Make the hard choices on what your hiring focus is and how it impacts on your hiring plan. Focus on the consistent traits and values every hire should share, and get the buy-in from your internal stakeholders (not just the hiring managers) on the sourcing, screening, and closing process.

What is true today about pitching a company/event that wasn’t true a few years ago?


Talent has never had more choice on where and how they work. Companies don’t just compete to attract talent, but countries and even cities are factors as well. This is driving up the costs of talent acquisition, and requires employers to think beyond just increasing salaries and looking to areas such as career pathing, internal mobility, and work/life balance.

When pitching an event, attendees want to know that they will hear quality content, real thought leadership, real debate; that they will make meaningful connections. That’s the similarity between our events and our hiring strategy—we want to make a real connection based on shared views and interests with our candidate, to understand their views delivering quality and innovation.

How has recruiter marketing changed during your career?

People are finding jobs using their phones—uploading their CV to Indeed or signaling they are open to new opportunities on LinkedIn, and cherry-picking top opportunities. It has made candidates reactive rather than proactive in their search and we have to be smarter in how we market our roles to them, whether that’s in the job titles we use or where we choose to invest our marketing budgets.

The ‘passive candidate’ is a myth—all of us are on a spectrum of being actively open to new opportunities. There is zero evidence to support the idea that any of us are loyal to our employers to the point that we would not be open to a conversation with another company.

This fact should hearten and terrify us.

Scott Wardell

Scott Wardell

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