Interview: Tony Lee of SHRM - Exclusive

An EXCLUSIVE... It's Tony Lee and it's time to get your recruiting industry GEEK ON!

That's right the boys sit down with industry icon Tony Lee for a jaunt down Memory Lane, an update on what's new at SHRM and even talk a little Cheap Trick.

What's in this episode:

- How the WSJ got into the "job board business"

- It was Jung Lee not Junglee - Seriously?

- The birth of Adicio

- Cheezhead antics

- An Online Career Center ( insider story - "huckster extraordinaire"

- MonsterBoard before it was reborn as


Visit Uncommon now and gain access to this red-hot start-up's free trial now and receive 5 FREE candidates!


Chad: The Chad and Cheese Podcast, brought to you in partnership with TAtech, the Association for talent acquisition solutions. Visit

Joel: Chad, why do recruiters spend money on unqualified or uninterested candidates?

Chad: Dude, I don't know , because they're recruiters? I mean, what in the hell are you talking about anyway?

Joel: Okay. Stick with me here. In a PPC campaign when you're sourcing, you're paying per click and you don't know who the click is coming from, it could be a qualified click if you're lucky, but most likely it's an unqualified click, you know? And you're still gonna pay, regardless.

Chad: Yeah and it's pretty much the same in a subscription model. You're paying to open the door to any candidate, not necessarily qualified ones.

Joel: Exactly. So the answer is, current pricing models suck.

Chad: Duh.

Joel: So what if you handed over cash for only interested and qualified candidates? And I'm talking actually qualified. I mean candidates that meet all of your job requirements, from years in an industry to specific skills.

Chad: Okay, I gotcha, now you're talking about Uncommon.

Joel: Bingo, Uncommon is where fantasy comes true, and right now they only charge $9 and 99 cents for interested and qualified candidates.

Chad: Seriously dude, do you fantasize about this stuff? Weirdo. So Uncommon is simple, you set your monthly budget and Uncommon only charges you when you get an interested applicant that meets or exceeds your job requirements. To sweeten the deal they're offering a 5 free candidate trial. Just go to to make your free account. That's

Announcer: Hide your kids, lock the doors, you're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruitment industry right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark. Buckle up boys and girls, it's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.

Joel: SHRM, talent, Vegas, who's excited? Pretty much after this interview it's all downhill so we're basically peaking at our first interview and it all goes down.

Chad: So much bullshit, he's like "me".

Tony: I have to talk to these two idiots, are you kidding me?

Joel: So this is the highlight of your day [crosstalk 00:02:47]

Tony: Career. I mean come on. You know I actually woke up this morning from a dream about this, I was so excited it was in my dreams.

Joel: You weren't like sweating [crosstalk 00:03:02] we weren't in our statue of David outfits were we?

Tony: I actually have one of those on my Caesar's Palace [crosstalk 00:03:11]

Joel: Nice, nice. SHRM

Tony: I'm like, "I think you gave this to the wrong guy."

Joel: Let's interview, or let's introduce our guest before we get too much further into this. Tony Lee.

Tony: Tony Lee.

Joel: VP of editorial at Shrm. You can find out more at We are at the Shrm talent show.

Tony: Yes.

Joel: Tony is a long time industry person.

Tony: Yes.

Joel: Give our listeners an elevated pitch of your experience and where you've

come from.

Tony: Holy cow, so I started at the Wall Street Journal in the early 80s and covering job hunting and career management. I ran a publication that few of your listeners have ever heard of called the National Business Employment Weekly which is a 100 page tablet.

Joel: NBU.

Tony: NBU. Are you ready for this? It cost in the early 80s, it cost $3.95 and we sold 100,000 copies every week.

Joel: Holy shit.

Tony: It was a huge, huge profit maker.

Joel: Yeah.

Tony: The idea was, the Wall Street Journal had 22 regional editions and each one had different help wanted ads in it.

Joel: Yeah.

Tony: We put 'em all into one publication and then had four or five articles every week about how to interview more effectively, how to whatever. So it was for job seekers. And it was hugely popular because it was pre-internet.

Joel: What was the advertising cost? The $3.95 was the actual job seeker to buy it.

Tony: Right.

Joel: But if I wanted a full page ad in that sucker, what was I gonna spend?

Tony: A million.

Joel: Holy cow.

Chad: No way.

Tony: It was a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal and then that got you in.

Joel: Ah.

Chad: So is that the way we could get in?

Tony: Advertise in the journal and you gotta-

Joel: Wow.

Tony: We broke the rule for Jeff Taylor.

Joel: Wow imagine that.

Tony: [crosstalk 00:04:47] "I want full page monster ads in the back cover" and we said, "OK." We gave him some crazy price, never expected him to take it. And then David Price then threw a shoe in.

Chad: Dude.

Tony: Anyone old enough remembers what [crosstalk 00:04:54]

Joel: So in 2018 dollars that's like a billion dollar ad.

Tony: That's right.

Chad: Oh dude.

Joel: It's crazy money.

Chad: Yeah.

Tony: And we had, at that point we had blimps, we had Superbowl ads, we were a money making machine. So doing that kind of shit was nothing. Not to mention he loved to just throw it out there.

Chad: Yep.

Tony: It was pretty amazing.

Joel: God it took us all of two minutes to get onto Jeff Taylor.

Tony: All right so I'll keep going. So I did this for a bunch of times, moved over to Wall Street Journal and wrote a bunch of columns. They used to have a column called "Managing Your Career" on Tuesdays, so I would write that column a bunch and then moved to the team that created and launched And from that I became publisher of all the Wall Street Journal sites other than So Career Journal was the big career site and we also had College Journal for college students, Start-up Journal for entrepreneurs, Real Estate Journal, Opinion Journal.

Tony: So I did that for a bunch of years-

Joel: That's a hell of a lot of content.

Tony: Oh it's a ton of content, we had a big content team, we were writing stuff every day.

Joel: Are they still doing that much content in those spaces?

Tony: No, it changed.

Joel: Yeah?

Tony: Yeah, this was pre Rupert Murdoch so-

Joel: Were you working the Gutenberg Press as well?

Tony: Let me stroke my long beard to see. Yep. I mean when the internet came in we embraced it big-time and made a lot of money.

Joel: Yeah.

Tony: Yeah and you know from 99 to the early 2000s the money just poured in. Because Venture Capital was part of my deal was I helped launch Future Step, remember FutureStep?

Joel: Oh yeah.

Tony: Korn Ferry.

Joel: Uh-huh Korn Ferry.

Tony: Corn Ferry Wall Street Journal product. And the money that came outta that we helped launch something called I don't know if you remember.

Chad: Yes.

Joel: What year was that? What year was that?

Tony: 2002.

Joel: Yeah, oh shit.

Tony: The money was great [crosstalk 00:06:44] brand with somebody who would help them advance their brand and bring in folks.

Joel: Yeah.

Tony: So we went out to the journal audiences and said, "Here you need to sign up for this." And they did. It worked and it was effective-

Joel: Where are they now?

Tony: FutureStep's still going.

Joel: Okay.

Tony: Futurestep still has that as part of their portfolio. So did that for a long time and then in 2006 moved to Adicio, needs a little back story. So in 97, 98 Rick Miller, the guy who created Adicio, at the time, we needed a new platform. We had launched an online job platform through Wall Street Journal. With a company out of Seattle called Jung Lee.

Chad: Jung Lee? I always pronounce it jungle-ee.

Tony: It's Jung Lee.

Tony: J-U-N-G-L-E-E.

Chad: Really?

Tony: So their first client was [crosstalk 00:07:36]

Joel: That is way back.

Tony: Yep. There first client was the [crosstalk 00:07:40] so they laid out all the stuff how great it was gonna be and we signed up as a client. And we immediately started getting requests from companies, you know, "We need to customize this, we need to be able to post ten jobs not eight jobs." You know, whatever it was and they were like, "Yeah the next release and the next release." And then next release never came and we just kept asking for it. So one weekend the two founders of Jung Li created automated shopping cart. Within six months they sold it to Amazon for 30 million dollars, they then took the recruitment piece of their business and sold it to a company in Canada for 3 million dollars. So that shows you how much investment they had made.

Tony: So at the same time, when that became obvious, I went out and found Rick. And he was doing data aggregation. He was doing it primarily for defense contractors. You know, Lockheed Martin, [crosstalk 00:08:23] people like that. And I said well, "Can you do the same aggregation for commercial job board." And took about six months and he built it. And at the same time there was no such thing as wrapping, created wrapping, we could go in, we'd come and grab all the jobs, import them in, all that kind of stuff.

Tony: So we launch our job database, Wall Street Journal, on this Adicio platform, and within weeks the New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Orange County Register they're all like, "We need this." And so he came back and said, "Well it's just me I need money to go out and hire developers to build all of this" so put together a business plan, put it up the flagpole at the Wall Street Journal and it got approval. And we bought a 40% equity stake in Adicio, and he had the money to go hire programmers. And it boomed. Started adding all these newspaper clients and association clients and all sorts of different clients.

Tony: And it was great.

Joel: Were you guys competitive with career building newspaper relationships, Hot Jobs and Monster at the time? You were sort of another competitor in that space?

Tony: Well what it was was that the career building newspapers were kind of stuck in the career building platform and they never liked it - from the beginning. The Monster papers, initially Monster was just going to partner in [crosstalk 00:09:36] do it. Adicio's sweet spot turned out to be the independent papers, that weren't part of big chains. So you got like, Seattle, you know Boston and different who were more independent. And they ran on the Adicio platform. And then we did a partnering with Monster. So Adicio and Monster had a long partnership where Monster couldn't handle all the back end work so Adicio was actually the technology behind the Monster Newspaper Partnership Program for years.

Joel: [crosstalk 00:10:03] was that after they went, bought Hot Jobs and acquired all those newspaper relationships?

Tony: It was actually before.

Joel: Okay.

Tony: And then extended.

Joel: And then extended.

Tony: Beyond.

Joel: Okay.

Tony: Yeah, so I left. So they had gotten really growing, I had gotten on the board of Adicio while working at the Wall Street Journal. And they had gotten to the point where they had just added two big East Coast clients, Advance Internet and New York Times. And both of those papers said, "you need somebody" and so I had been working with them and they said [inaudible 00:10:31] so we worked it out and I joined Adicio full time continuing to manage the Dow Jones investment. And it was great. So did that until three years ago when I came to Shrm.

Joel: Yep. So we're seeing a lot of, you mentioned Career Builder and they didn't like that relationship. Well Career Builder has recently gone from their relationships and Real Match slash [crosstalk 00:10:55] whatever the called.

Tony: PandoLogic. [crosstalk 00:11:00]

Joel: [crosstalk 00:11:01] yeah.

Tony: Connection and he's here too at SHRM [crosstalk 00:11:07]

Joel: Recruitology is sort of heading head first into the newspaper space, is that a smart decision. Are those guys still getting tons of traffic, and is that something yeah, he's shaking his head for the listeners [crosstalk 00:11:20]

Tony: You know what's the long term future of the newspaper business? In the job board space, probably not great.

Joel: Okay.

Tony: It doesn't seem to make a lot of sense but I think there's a long term future for online newspapers. There's no question because of the local community aspect. They can put feet on the street, can do what nobody else does until the Politico or somebody else makes that kind of investment, you gotta rely on anything you can get.

Joel: That's content though, right, [crosstalk 00:11:46]

Tony: Content but the question is, if you live in Dubuque, Iowa do you need to go to a Dubuque, Iowa newspaper site to find a job?

Joel: You're going to Google. [crosstalk 00:11:55]

Tony: You're going to Google-

Joel: And then-

Tony: Thank you that's right and then going [crosstalk 00:11:59]

Joel: Not any more.

Tony: Just so they can get branded search and I mean that's just not sustainable [crosstalk 00:12:08]

Joel: If we had Terry here I think he would say something like programmatic-

Tony: Right-

Joel: Is gonna make that so much better, and they're gonna integrate with the content.

Tony: Well you know, and everyone does it. It wasn't invented there. I mean Adicio's been doing it, essentially Programmatic and niche networks from day one.

Joel: Yeah.

Tony: I mean that's always there and it's still there. And it still works. I mean if you were looking for, build up university hiring and you don't know where to go, Programmatic's gonna put you in front of a diverse audience wherever it happens to be. And frankly, I'm not sure it matters who you buy in from because it's gonna get [crosstalk 00:12:42] everybody's sharing the same source it's gonna end up the same, whether it's Jobs To Careers or whatever they're now called. Same thing, I mean they're all putting in front of that same audience-

Chad: What are they called now? [crosstalk 00:12:47]

Joel: Which I think I why you see like Job Boardio, or Board IO. Whatever we're calling it. Are getting caught because the distribution is so important.

Chad: Oh yeah.

Joel: I mean it's a commodity, I mean jobs are everywhere, they're all on google, everywhere, so how do you differentiate yourselves and put eyeballs on your jobs that aren't necessarily gonna be found.

Tony: And you know the key ends up being who has the audience. And from our perspective sure, and we've got HR people, there's no question. They go to, they trust, we stick job postings contextually targeted into whatever it is they happen to be reading on

Joel: Right.

Tony: Then they're gonna see it, they might not be actively looking but they'll see it and apply for it. We've got one of the best response rates of any job board I've ever seen.

Joel: Well it's target, it's targeted.

Tony: That's right.

Joel: It's that niche HR talent acquisition.

Tony: Axy.

Joel: And the way through, right?

Tony: And it's not necessarily the keys,. It's not necessarily the active job seekers, which makes no difference whatsoever.

Joel: So what you're talking about is, so. I mean we talk about on the podcast a lot is, we've turned into lifestyle beings when it comes to technology. We get out feeds from certain areas and we use Google to do search. And we see these things pop up on our feeds, whether it's on Linked In or whether it's information that's been provided by Sherm, it's just part of our normal day.

Tony: Yep absolutely. Well it's no different, I can't remember his name, the CEO of WebMD said, they do this intense research of their most loyal users and said, "I trust WebMD, everything you put on there's great, I would make medical decisions based on them." And the last question was, "So you have this medical question, where do you go?" "Google."

Joel: "Google."

Tony: Got it. And then when they see WebMD in the results they're like, okay.

Chad: Brand recognition.

Tony: But they see someone else, that looks like it's good, well they're gonna come up there too, they're gonna read that.

Joel: Where are you guys seeing the most growth? Is mobile booming for your audience, is it still email? Where are you reaching most of the HR folks these days?

Tony: Yeah mobiles, everybody's got a mobile device so we're platform agnostic, we publish for whoever wherever. It's almost to the point where it doesn't matter [crosstalk 00:14:52]

Joel: Is there a SHRM app, like a native app?

Tony: Oh yeah. Absolutely.

Joel: Do you know how to get downloads?

Tony: We have apps for every- this conference has an app that you can't do anything without it. If you wanna get feedback on any of the sessions you must use the app, there's no alternative. So now we've embraced that from day one.

Joel: That's great, you were through the newspaper, the high times, the beginning of the low times anyway-

Tony: The low times, yes.

Joel: And I think, we talk about the job boards a lot and how they're reinventing themselves and getting bought, do you see a lot of similarities between what the Monsters, Career Builders, Dices are going through today that the newspapers dealt with 10 years ago, 15 years ago?