SmartRecruiters Blog

Recruiting is Not Rocket Science

SmartRecruiters CEO Jerome Ternynck went on DriveThruHR Radio show to discuss what happened in 2012 with respect to recruiting technology and big things that the space should expect in 2013. He is on a mission to simplify recruiting, because while there are many moving parts, as Jerome says, “Recruiting is not rocket science.”

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If you would introduce yourself, and then I would love to hear, love to hear, what is top of mind for today. (Interview begins at the 7:45 mark)

Jerome Ternynck. I’m the Founder and CEO of SmartRecruiters, the platform that makes hiring easy. Based out of San Francisco. What’s top of mind today is actually planning for what’s going to happen to us in 2013. It’s been a busy year. I don’t know how you reflect on it, but a lot has happened in 2012 and so what’s top of mind now is what we will have seen if we have this call this time next year.


You know what’s super interesting is, one of my my partners, Julie Moreland who you’ve met, she posed that question in a meeting we were at, and it was a really was a difficult one for people to answer. What does success look like? If we are sitting down having dinner, some fellowship, a glass of wine this time next year, right?

Exactly, and also what does the industry look like, you know who could’ve predicted the changes that happened in the industry? I mean think about it, in 2012, we’ve basically seen the 2 large gorillas of HR software make a move in with Oracle Taleo and SAP with SuccessFactors, and when we thought we were done, we also saw the birth of a third one, with WorkDay’s IPO, with WorkDay now valued at 8 or 9 billion dollars, which clearly makes them a big powerhouse going forward.  And in the wave of that, we’re seeing evermore new startups, and new concepts, and new ideas coming up, that are basically preparing the next generation of solutions, that enterprises will be buying over the next few years.  And it seems like there’s just a cycle of innovation, that I personally find really fascinating.


In first 6 months of year, where do you think there will be pressures on technology side,? You’re obviously SaaS, HR Tech – you have a very interesting business model with the way you are approaching it on the recruitment side for technology. So where are the pressures do you see for your sector, the people who are really focused on the recruitment technology sector?

I think clearly, we’re going to see the end of the applicant tracking, the end of the ATS as we know it, there’s a lot of people that are unhappy with their ATS, I could probably turn that around and say I have yet to meet someone that is really happy with their ATS.  I think the first generation of recruiting software that came to market 10 years ago, even 12 years ago, when the Taleos of this world were created, the software has been designed to do what the name says, tracking.  And with tracking comes automation, comes workflows, and in fact comes a lot of functionalities that are cumbersome and that are not enjoyed by the candidates clearly, but also by the managers, and at the end of the day, not even by the recruiters that were supposed to be served by the ATS.  So, I think in the wave of having systems that are more collaborative and easier to use, more social, more open to the world, more connected, I clearly see the applicant tracking market evolving or probably dying out as businesses are looking for tools to support recruiting that are more open and more social, that are more geared towards sourcing and engaging candidates as opposed to tracking applicants and certainly in the world of recruiting technology we are going to see big shifts in 2013.


Do you think that its going to be new entrants into the market that help put pressures on some of the infliction points in your space, or a reinvention and awakening to some of the people that have huge resources?

I tend to think that businesses don’t really reinvent themselves, its the DNA really thats really hard to change, the business models are hard to change, and the financial pressure is often a factor that prevents change, or prevents you from investing in long term change.  So, I don’t really see the big players pivoting and suddenly becoming user friendly, collaborative, and social simply because it’s not in their DNA, it’s not what customers have purchased in the first place, its not change that their teams can embrace, and when the time arises for them to pivot, they won’t do it.  So instead I think we are going to see new players emerge, and leverage the new generation of software that’s being produced and so, when I look at the landscape, I see a lot of initiatives that are really interesting and I’ll name a few: the first one is the arrival of big data into recruiting, and LinkedIn is the first place, the first site where a recruiter with the right access can check in on 150 million profiles, which sounds just amazing, and when you think of all the businesses that are religiously collecting resumes and putting them into their own data base, where they go die and become outdated, you have to question yourself, do I need a database?  Do I really need to store these resumes? Is the data really valuable, or has it been commoditized?  And data is readily available on LinkedIn, and it comes at no cost.

But there are already 3 or 4 startups that are in there preparing the next generation of data base, and I’m thinking about TalentBin, Entelo, Gild, these are three companies here in San Francisco, and what they do is, they basically crawl the web, and find your own online activity, and build a profile out of that.  So it’s not only that you have listed your resume, to say “I worked here from this date to this date. And I was in charge of marketing,” but it’s actually the tweets you have tweeted, it’s the groups you have joined, its the questions you have answered, it’s the blog posts you have written, it’s your entire digital life that is being read, indexed, organized, analyzed so we can say, “oh actually this guy would be an excellent marketeer in the talent marketing space, because he’s done this and this and this and that,” and so now you’re talking about having not only 100s of millions of profiles available online, but actually profiles as in much more than resumes. I think we are really heading to a time when the passive candidates were seeing is as easy as pressing a button, and you can gain access to any kind of candidate, anywhere in the world, at the press of a button. And that, from a sourcing perspective, is really a game changer.


If you create that dynamic algorithm that just gets smarter, and more intelligent as you get more information. That’s personally where I think we’re going to see some breakthroughs in 2013.When I put a label on 2012 for technology innovation rate, I don’t see it as that big of year. 2013, I think that’s when it’s going to happen. I think we’re due for some next gen. software. What do you think?

I agree, as a matter of fact, we just rolled out a passive candidate sourcing feature inside SmartRecruiters, so our hiring platform, we’ve embedded sourcing, and we went live yesterday with Talent Bin, so you can now search the TalentBin database, and import profiles directly into your recruitment software, and then start sharing these profiles with your team, inviting them to interview, taking them down the path, and quite literally sitting there on the screen and having 100million plus profiles available, and doing a search on whatever company, whatever skills or industry or function, or whatever you’d like, and just returning so many good, qualified people. I spent probably 20 minutes in it, and we’re hiring for a director of user experience, and 20 minutes into it I had 40 really good candidates that had exactly the experience I wanted that I can now go after, all nicely shortlisted in a pipeline of leads, and that’s just a new way of sourcing.  I’ve been a recruiter for many many years, and I used to pay interns to lie to receptionists to find out the name of the Director of Sales, right?  As every headhunter in the world has done, so getting access to people used to be the problem, used to be the barrier for recruiters, and now it’s not, you can find anything about anyone.  I think now we are into adoption, and this market can really explode into 2013 because it is at the stage where it works, and customers can get value from it.


Well that is so cool that you guys did, you know, that is one thing I’ve always been absolutely impressed with you and your background and the trajectory the SmartRecruiters is on. You’re intelligently trying to be the next generation of how a system should be used. High adoption. Don’t use what you don’t need. And that’s part of the weave of the tapestry. Why use what you don’t need? That’s part of what I’ve always been impressed with.

You’ve been in the business a long time. You’ve had the wins and had the losses to build on that. For me, what starts to get things complicated: social media, social technology, this social grid wrapped things up to where people could hide in inefficiencies, relative to technology, because there was lots of places to run and it took way from the core of better used adoption and better delivery of core functionality. Because you got all these new things. And now mobile is like a whole other big generation, now we’ve got to do everything mobile, so you have this lag time of people improving what the core product is. Thoughts on that?

Well, I think it shows that no one so far in the vendor landscape has been focused on answering a simple question, which is: “How do I make hiring easy? for my customers.” A lot of vendors are out there saying, “Oh I can automate this, I can help you automate that, I can help you share a job, I can share your job on Facebook, I have a mobile site, I have an assessment, I have a great niche job board for truck drivers in Minnesota.”

But no one has actually said, can we build a platform that if you want to hire someone, you can go and find everything you need to source candidates and manage them. From I create a job, I find candidates, I manage those candidates, and I make the right hire.  This is our focus at SmartRecruiters. We’re not the next generation, or the next new solution for some niche problem, were actually trying to build a platform, an ecosystem, in which best of breed vendors coexist in one holistic solution for the customer, so that they don’t have to go from 20 different places to get their job done.

So when you put this in perspective, it’s actually quite simple, what is recruiting if you just list it out, it starts with a job and then you want to source candidates, and then you want to manage those candidates. So sourcing candidates, what can you do about sourcing, do you want to show your job on your website?  Do you want to share it with your employees for referrals?  You might want to share it with your social networks?  If you’re smart, you’ll want to put it on your company’s Facebook, and you’ll usually want a mobile version of that job ad so people can view your jobs and apply from a mobile device, you’ll want to post this job to job boards, some free boards, general boards, niche boards, to the right ones if possible. You might need to use a recruiter from time to time, so you’ll want access to recruiters and understanding which recruiter you should use and who are the best recruiters, or you might actually want to do passive sourcing and go into a data base and dig out the best candidate for yourself, then do a recruiters job and really go after those candidates.

And when you look at the real possibilities, and you remove the smoke from the conversation, that is what you do with a job right? You create your job, you post it to multiple places, you source candidates or maybe you get some help, so all of these sourcing capabilities are in one place, at your fingertips, is what SmartRecruiters set out to build.  Then you want to engage candidates in a nice and easy way, so simple way for candidates to express interest, maybe you want to ask some questions to these people, and then you’ll want all your candidates in one place, so you can easily manage the interview process, and have something that your managers and your team enjoy using, where they can easily view their profiles, get on time to the interviews, put some feedback, you might want to do some assessments, a reference check, don’t forget to do a background check at the end, push the data to your HR system.  You’re done.

It’s not rocket science, recruiting is not rocket science, it’s just a numbers game, and just a process where you need to be organized, and have access to a lot of different tools in your tool box, and that’s really what were building out, – it’s a tool box – that fulfills the promise, so we can look at someone and say, “You want to hire someone? Oh sure, we can help you with that. For this kind of job, you probably want to post on this job board, if you want to use a recruiter, Bob over here is the best performing recruiter in this industry.” We’re an independent, vendor neutral platform, combined with the recruiting software, and the technology needed, so that from one place you can post a job, manage candidates, and make the right hire.


Wow, that is. One thing that encapsulates what you just said is the new best practice, the standard that needs to happen. That’s total efficiently – all parts working together – like you said it’s a numbers game. It’s a numbers game, how efficiently the process supports the numbers, ultimately. What’s the one thing that everyboy could just stop or start doing today would improve their lives relative to their talent acquisition or recruiting?

The one thing we all should have done ten years ago, and that many businesses still don’t have is make sure that all your jobs are nicely displayed on your own website, and that candidates can easily express interest without having to fill out a boring form. That’s as simple as it gets.  And if you have that, let’s talk about more, let’s start with this. It’s a nice website, all my jobs are there, the jobs are nicely described, candidates who are interested can express interest in a matter of seconds, not in a matter of 10 to 15 minutes, which loses most of the people.


Well absolutely you got to hear all your answers in a 30 minute show from the guy who definitely know about, been doing it a long time.  Very good to hear you voice, get your perspective. Heard a lot of good things about the event at your space two weeks ago. We’ll have to get you back on the show in 2013.

It’ll be my please to come back.

Jerome Ternynck

Jerome Ternynck is the Founder & CEO of SmartRecruiters, the industry's premier talent acquisition suite to find and hire great people.