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Once upon a time, I used to make fearless decisions. Or, maybe foolhardy ones. Likely it’s somewhere in the middle. And, maybe “once upon a time” is a stretch – “every now and again” feels a little more honest.

One of those decisions – to create a corporate recruitment function at a startup, when I’d never set foot in a corporate recruitment department before – put me into a position of, umm …. stress. Dozens of reqs. No ATS, no career site, no job descriptions, damaged employment brand, terrible location, hiring hard-to-fill roles like data scientists and machine learning specialists, yadda-yadda-yadda. The company was ZoomInfo – at that time a player in the recruiting industry – and I was both stressed and in my own version of Heaven.

We needed to scale, fast. Thinking like a marketer – particularly, a digital marketer – made sense to me. We in Recruiting became good friends with our Marketing team and learned about new things called blogging, social media, etc. (This was way back in the dark ages of 2006.) We used our marketing platform to push jobs out via campaigns, track open rates and even measure the funnel from that first click (sort of – again, this was all home-grown, outside of the ATS we’d pulled in, so caveat emptor). And: it worked. Beautifully. Candidate flow increased, conversion tightened and people who fit the culture we were trying to build began to walk in the door. Hell, they even started to seek us (that, to me, is a key metric – when they chase after you).

Good times. And we weren’t alone in our thinking. The industry had begun to wake up to the potential of recruitment marketing – and, at least in some corners, to the potential for technology to power that marketing. Startups started focusing on moving beyond the ATS, from sourcing tools to basic CRMs. Social media was being integrated into platforms. It was the opening of a Wild West in talent acquisition technology.

Fast forward – just a little – to 2010. I’d left ZoomInfo to start a small consultancy and was once again in a slight panic. A friend, William Tincup, connected me with someone he thought could help me out. This someone (Mike Hennessy), who founded a startup called SmashFly, was working out of his living room and wanted to buy me a sandwich.

I’ve never really forgotten that meal.

Mike talked to me about his vision, where he saw the ATS falling short and what was needed to change the industry. He was speaking my language, and as I scaled my business, ultimately folding myself into another startup three years later, we stayed in touch.

Fast forward a bit more. I’m leading recruitment technology for PwC. It’s a new role, which once again brought me into a slight panic (I need to stop doing that to my heart, by the way). I had fascinating problems to solve. PwC was eager for change, with lots of support from the exec level to innovate. I’m in Heaven again.

We knew we needed CRM, but we also needed a great deal more. A better handle on our metrics. Smarter ways to stay in touch with prospects, silver medalists, etc. Stronger direct marketing and inbound marketing. I knew Mike had been working on a Recruitment Marketing Platform that could do all of this – and I knew he had helped stir up competition as a result. The time seemed right for me to repay that sandwich with an opportunity to present his solution to a pretty significant brand, and his team delivered. They won the RFP and won the day – and, as a result, PwC was able to pole vault into cutting-edge recruitment marketing. Lots of wins.

Fast forward again. I’m building a consulting practice for HireClix, leveraging my learnings (from wins and failures). PwC has moved to SmashFly, and HireClix is their agency of record (I still get to work with a bunch of people I’ve come to love dearly at PwC – big win). We help lots of clients with technology decisions, and we partner with a bunch of great vendors. Because of PwC, we’re working with SmashFly pretty closely, and it’s a nice cultural match. So when SmashFly held their first Transform in November 2016, the first-ever Recruitment Marketing Conference, attending was a no-brainer.

Which, finally, brings me to the whole point of this post. I was sitting in the audience, watching Mike – the man who bought me a sandwich all those years ago – give the opening keynote of the first Recruitment Marketing Conference. Watching incredible leaders from some of the world’s most significant brands talk about how they’re doing recruitment marketing at a global/enterprise scale. Thinking about those years at ZoomInfo: doing everything by hand; staying up late trying to get campaigns to work, then creating reports manually since there wasn’t a system to measure the type of marketing we were doing; no real idea what was converting from our career site; the old adage of “half my marketing dollars are working, I just don’t know which half that is” ringing true. The vision of a few, back in the Wild West, trying to figure out ways and technology to solve these problems. All of that leading inexorably to Mike on that stage.

Not to get maudlin, and this is probably a little recruitment-geeky, but I swear I had half a tear in my eye. I was watching a category being announced – not created, since I’d watched that in the works for ten years, and may have had a small hand (cue small hands jokes … now) in it – but it was really being articulated and proved in that moment.

I’m sure I’ll still panic in years to come about new problems or challenges. That said, thanks to the efforts of visionaries like Mike, I’ll be able to panic over whole new things outside of talent acquisition, like, “Why is my hair all white, and where is it going?”

So thanks, SmashFly, and thanks Mike, for all of this. Happy anniversary, too – here’s to another 10 years of greatness.

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