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Microsoft Alum and CEO of Seekout, Anoop Gupta -- NEXXT Exclusive

This is a NEXXT EXCLUSIVE Podcast from - HR's Most Dangerous Podcast.


Announcer: This, the Chad and Cheese Podcast, brought to you in partnership with TA Tech. TA Tech, the association for talent acquisition solutions. Visit

Chad: Okay, Joel. Quick question.

Joel: Yep?

Chad: What happens when your phone vibrates or your texting alert goes off?

Joel: Dude, I pretty much check it immediately. I bet everyone listening is reaching to check their phones right now.

Chad: Yeah, I know. I call it our Pavlovian dog reflex of text messaging.

Joel: Yeah, that's probably why text messaging has a fricking 97% open rate.

Chad: What?

Joel: Crazy high candidate response rate within the first hour alone.

Chad: Which, are all great reasons why the Chad and Cheese Podcast love Text to Hire from Nexxt.

Joel: Yeah. Love it!

Chad: Yep, that's right. Nexxt, with the double x. Not the triple x.

Joel: Bow chicka bow wow. So, if you're in talent acquisition, you want true engagement and great ROI, that stands for Return On Investment, folks, and because this is the Chad and Cheese Podcast, you can try your first text to hire campaign for just 25% off. Boom!

Chad: Wow! So, how do you get this discount, you're asking yourself right now?

Joel: Tell 'em Chad.

Chad: It's very simple, you go to, and you click on the Nexxt logo in the sponsor area.

Joel: Easy.

Chad: No long URL to remember.

Joel: Yeah.

Chad: Just go where you know. and Nexxt, with two x'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 recruiting industry right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news, biased opinion, and loads of snark. Buckle up boys and girls, it's time for the Chad and Cheese Podcast.

Joel: Welcome to a special edition of the Chad and Cheese Podcast. I'm Joel Cheeseman.

Chad: And I'm Chad Sowash.

Joel: On today's exclusive podcast we have Anoop Gupta on the show. Anoop,

welcome to the show.

Anoop: Hey, thank you so much Chad and Cheese.

Joel: You bet, you bet. Give us a little bit about you and history because it is pretty cool. And tell us a little bit about your country ... Company before we drop into ... Sorry I was reading a Trump article before I [crosstalk 00:02:33]. Tell us a little bit about your company and we'll get into some Q&A.

Anoop: Okay, so I'll start with the country. I came to the United States in 1980 to be my Ph.D. in Computer Science at Carnegie Melon. And after that I spent 11 years on the faculty of Stanford University. I did my first start up there, which Microsoft acquired in '97. Then 18 years at Microsoft including some really fun roles as reporting to Bill Gates as his technology advisor, running all of the business communication services there. And then two years ago I decided to resign and start SeekOut with my co-founder who was one of the key movers and shakers behind the Bing search engine. What SeekOut is about is talent identification that helps talent acquisition teams hire faster and with higher quality candidates. Some of the things we really emphasize are companies that are looking for diversity and that have deep interest in tech talent. So SeekOut's unique algorithms and custom filters helps high tech companies identify diverse talent for those hard to fill roles.

Anoop: We have something very special for GitHub. Our aggregated and enhanced to GitHub profiles and intuitive search helps companies find untapped tech talent. We have a unique insights feature that gives you insights on the competitive landscape and allows recruiters to become talent advisors in support of the hiring managers. So all pretty powerful stuff that I'd love to share more about as we go on.

Chad: So let me get this straight, let me get this straight real quick Anoop. So you reported to, probably talked to Bill Gates on a daily basis. Then you move to the recruiting technology space and you're talking to a couple of idiots like us. Is that how this worked out?

Anoop: No, not exactly.

Joel: Did you confer with a psychiatrist or a shrink before making such a move?

Anoop: So, you know, I did spend several hours a day with Bill during the couple of years I reported to him and it was ... I just learned so much from hearing the questions he would ask and how he would prepare and what he would do. Now my move into the talent space is somewhat circuitous. What we started with given my deep messaging background is how to make sure ... We are all going outside our immediate circles to find a better couriers or whatever else, so we created a messaging system that will let people who want to seek attention like recruiters and people who want to provide attention like candidates have a much more fruitful exchange than today. We look at LinkedIn as the middle man where they control who we can see unless we pay them. They control who we can message unless we pay them. And there is no fair exchange between the buyers and the sellers. So that's where we started with and then as we learned more we said, "This is such a noble mission."

Anoop: Right, we spend so much of our lives at the workplace. And what we do, who we work with, what impact we make is deeply meaningful and it finds purpose for us. So what better to do to allow people to make better matches and get them hired in the right places?

Joel: What activities did you do at Microsoft that you've carried over to the new company. Were you hands-on on recruiting or was it just sort of, you were there on the wall? Anything come from that experience in 18 years at Microsoft that is currently in the SeekOut product?

Anoop: So what is relevant there is, my role was as a hiring manager and my team in Unified Communications when I was running that was around 1,600 people. So when you're a hiring manager, you want to say what are the things I am interested in that the recruiters are not doing? What are the kinds of conversations that should happen between a recruiter or a sourcer and the hiring manager? So a lot of the product and particularly this people insights piece that I've talked about is that hiring manager/recruiter relationship and how data can lead to much more useful conversations and productive conversations than just saying, "Hey, tell me more about this role."

Chad: So now that Microsoft owns LinkedIn, and then you've got this side ... I would say somewhat of a competitor to LinkedIn, how does that work in the market? Do you see Microsoft trying to prospectively compete and/or create a SeekOut type of platform? Or are you really just possibly showing them a new way to go and prospectively get acquired?

Joel: And have they offered to buy the company yet?

Anoop: No, they have not offered to buy the company yet. See this is a huge space that is there on how we discover talent, how we communicate with them. We are taking a look at it from a broader landscape. The thing I like to say the CV as we put it with past position titles and education is a very limited representation of who a person is, who is a candidate is. So when we, in the case of GitHub, look across 60 million repositories and bring out the contributions that a particular person has made and the hiring manager can look at that code in an instant and decide whether it is good, bad versus just a 15 minute interview. So bringing this unique information beyond just a LinkedIn resume into the candidate's profile and making it very easily searchable and then being able to reach candidates, I think makes us special and in some ways complimentary. And something long-term we think even LinkedIn ought to be doing.

Joel: Anoop, is it fair to put the Entelo, the Hiring Solved, Nameri, those companies, would you count them as a competitor?

Anoop: Yes. Entelo is used in a similar way and Hiring Solved too. We think we bring some very unique capabilities compared to all of these companies, but yes we are in the same space.

Joel: And what would some of those unique qualities be, for our viewers? Our listeners largely know who Entelo and some of these players are. How are you different?

Anoop: We are different, one is in terms of how we do GitHub and how we let people find talent. So if you look at Entelo and many of these other search engines you look at a profile and then there will be the GitHub symbol so you can go to the GitHub profile. And very often when you go there you'll find nothing useful there. Instead we let you start from the GitHub site. We built an aggregated profile that has the public information that people often search with, current company, current title, past company, past title, skills. But we also bring in information from the GitHub profile. We bring in information from each ... We will tell you, this person was the number tenth contributor to the tensor flow Google, which is Google machine learning framework that is there. So we'll bring out their contributions. We will bring out their email.

Anoop: So we bring together information that nobody else does. GitHub is a totally unique solution on how we let you source on SeekOut. Similarly, the people insights piece that we have, you can use 20 filters to control what is the competitve of a candidate talent pool landscape you want to look at. Nobody else provides that in that flexible and powerful way. Diversity we and Entelo are very similar. You might have seen a source gone paper by Phil Hendrickson, so we are pretty similar. But I believe Entelo and us are the only two people who are doing the deep analysis on diversity and letting you search and filter in powerful ways.

Joel: So we'll get into diversity here in a minute, but when you take a look at the actual platform, obviously that SeekOut has, would you classify it more as a proactive where a recruiter has to jump into the system and actually do a search against skillsets and job descriptions and pre-reqs; versus a reactive system that reacts to what your needs are when you post an actual requisition into your system?

Anoop: So it is a search tool primarily for passive candidates who may not be looking. So we are not like Monster or something where people have just said, "Hey right now I'm looking for a job or a position." Within that, there is a lot of judgment that is there on equal skillsets and so it is a place where people come to search. But we have built into some pretty cool AI machine learning capabilities inside that. For example if you were to say you're looking to hire a data scientist for Facebook. So what we do behind the scenes is we look at everybody who is currently a data scientist at Facebook, then we look at what were their past companies, what were their past titles, what were their universities, what were their majors, what are their skills and we cannot automatically surface people for you. And then with a single click you say show me African American candidates that will be suitable and we'll bring those up. It's very very powerful. We call this the position magnet in SeekOut.

Joel: So that's where the diversity piece comes in. Where you can actually do a deep search against backgrounds per se, and then you have it broken out with, I would say gender as well as race and prospective Veteran status and those types of things?

Anoop: Yes, exactly. That is true. And we do pretty complex things. Just so you know to use as an example our African American filter. We used historically Black colleges and universities. We use African American sororities and fraternities, if you're a member. We use membership in organizations like National Society of Black Engineers or National Black Accountants Associations. We also look at the census bureau and turns out that certain names are much more likely to be African American. We also use that information so these are fairly sophisticated queries that we look at index time to surface candidates. This is not a perfect filter or analysis by any chance, but it can be super helpful to recruiters.

Chad: You talked some about AI, which obviously you have some experience in working at Microsoft. We talk a lot about on the show in terms of automation. A lot of companies out there are trying to create an easy button, if you will, for recruiting. I need a Ph.D. developer with five to eight years experience in Seattle, go. And it goes out to the web, searches people, bring them back, prescreens them with a chatbot. Your product does not do that. Are you against that piece of the business? Is automation going to be a part of the product? What are just some of your general senses on that?

Anoop: So the first thing I would say is AI is a term that is, I believe, overused. It certainly has its space. It is important, but a lot of it is what I call data science, right? So if you say, "Hey I'm looking for a Python developer." So you can parse out and extract key terms from AJD. You can look at the previous developers who might be at the company who have a certain skillset and then you can get a lot synonyms. So all of that is AI and it is useful in surfacing candidates, though I would never de-emphasize the human additional initiative that might be required.

Anoop: The second thing is when you are reaching out to candidates, I think it can be

helpful, but my belief is smaller number of candidates, more personalized is always better. I'm going to take a, actually slight tangent, and talk to you about it. Google recently showed the duplex demo.

Joel: Sure.

Anoop: At the Google, right where the AI and bot is going and talking and making a representation. The CEO of the Allen Institute of Brain Sciences had a very interesting comment on that. He said, "This is terrible. Not because it's making it but it should self-identify as a bot. So when it starts the conversation, it should say, I am a bot, representing Anoop. I would like to make a appointment with the hairdresser." Because the consequences if you don't identify what is AI and what is human and what we might reveal, can be very very bad. Yes, automation can be useful, should be used. But how you ethically use it is very important.

Chad: On the front end though, you can fix that pretty easy, right? Hi, this is Chad's Google assistant. Looking to make a hair appointment. That's a funny one. That's not a big change. It's not a big change, right? I mean, it could be something that would be implemented fairly easy.

Anoop: Oh the implementation-wise it is easy. I totally agree. I think what people are trying to do is they're trying to fake. So nobody says when you, in Entelo, use their automation to send out 50 emails, "This is the Entelo bot on behalf of company xyz reaching out to you." Because the person will ignore it. They try and fake it as it's not a bot.

Joel: Yeah, and there are some branding implications there too, right?

Anoop: Yeah, yeah. So I'm all for technology and intelligence and automation. But I am also want us to be cautious about not trying to fake it and fool people because it can have very bad brand consequences.

Chad: Yeah, transparency-wise, there's no question there.

Joel: Anoop, you've probably watched or heard about the HiQ legal battle with LinkedIn and being able to scrape content, profile data, etc. Which I'm assuming will affect your business quite drastically if LinkedIn wins that case and sort of excludes spiders from getting data from them. I don't know much about GitHub in terms of how aggressively they are against bots. It sounds like they're not so much, but I'm just curious your thoughts on that legal battle, things that you're doing to sort of prepare if the worse case scenario happens, and what it means for the scraping profile business in general.

Anoop: So what we as far as, this is an area you are trying to get jobs to candidates. This is your public professional profile that is there. And our belief that our data, and LinkedIn will claim so, belongs to the end-user and not really to LinkedIn and the same in a lot of other papers, what research papers they have published, what open-sourced contributions they have made. These belong to the end-user rather than to any company. I am very optimistic both where the courts are going to go and the availability of such information to allow recruiters to make more intelligent decisions to help find candidates and offer them great opportunities to find purpose and do great stuff and have impact.

Chad: So we're talking about all of, not just LinkedIn, but we're also talking about Facebook, right? I mean, there's a lot of optics behind this right now and I appreciate the hope that HiQ comes out on top. But don't think from an optics standpoint right now, that the landscape is or the market is very hypersensitive to privacy?

Anoop: I agree and I believe the market should be sensitive, but if you look at GDPR and your look at EU Privacy Shield, they have a number of clauses, the kind of information and the use of that information, the purpose for which that information is being used, actually they're being pretty smart about that. Every EU citizen has a right to employment. So to say don't use my public profile data for that is a very unreasonable thing and I don't think they will go for that. But if you're to use they're posts on Facebook to determine they had a certain personality type and they shouldn't be hired or some other implications, I think the EU and the American companies and citizens won't like that.

Anoop: So it is a very nuanced landscape and I agree with the sensitivity part that you're saying. But I think we have to handle the nuance as it is and deal with it.

Chad: Okay, so that being said, are you spinning SeekOut, is SeekOut actually going in the direction of being an engagement type of marketing platform as well since you've got so much data. You're looking at trying to have better interaction and experience, are you guys looking to go down that road?

Anoop: So we are planning to ship in the next couple of weeks that if you organize people in a project, let's say for a particular job role, you can reach out to those candidates via SeekOut or you may decide to use a CRM system. But many people have very old CRM systems or no CRM systems at all. The reason is that sending just one email is not a way to get high response rate. I get so many emails and I have to ping Joel many times before I get a response.

Chad: Joel does not use email well.

Joel: Smoke signal only.

Anoop: So being able to manage such a campaign and remind people, I think is a very useful capability that we will be providing in the very near future.

Chad: So that being said, and knowing that email ... Really response rates on emails suck comparatively, when we talk about text messaging, those types of things, Facebook messenger. Are you looking at prospectively trying to wrap those into your communications system as well?

Anoop: We have not thought much about it. The issue that comes up is more telephony. Should we be texting people, calling people? Just from my own personal experience I would be pretty annoyed if somebody just called me out of the blue and even if I would have been interested in will create a bad impression for me and probably true for many of the tech candidates. Imagine the number of calls and messages they get and emails. And if all those are texts and phone calls, their life would be hell. But we should be open to whatever is the way to respectfully reach them, we should allow them to do.

Joel: Anoop, what should we expect in your space and your sphere of competition,

right? Do you expect more consolidation? Do you expect more competitors to launch? What does the future hold for this sourcing software category?

Anoop: I think both things will happen. Many new startups will launch and we will see consolidation too. You know, the small number of really have the deeper technology ... You get a lot of people who have very shallow stacks and just want to offer something. And I think those will disappear. People, I hope, like ourselves who bring deep technology and value and simplicity and intuitiveness to the product hopefully will get much wider an option by the community. And who knows, they may be consolidation then.

Chad: So being new to this industry, what is really the most surprising thing that you've seen thus far. Coming, obviously, with your technology background, now coming into the recruitment industry, recruitment technology industry, what surprised you the most?

Anoop: One of the things that surprised me is the emphasis on free and not wanting to pay for tools. I'll use an analogy: when I was in grad school I worked on CAD tools, how you design these VLSI Logic integrated circuit chips. And I wrote one of the programs that was very popular for almost a decade that was there. But at that time, we were designing chips for 10,000 transistors and now we design chips for 10 million transistors. So for ancillary, humanity is about tools and powerful tools expanding our capabilities. And people still want to say, "My time is not valuable. I want to spend 15 minutes trying to find an email for somebody else. Or trying to search or try to use 20 different things." So that surprised me a little that people are not, it seemed almost, they were not valuing their time.

Anoop: I think being able to do stuff without the tools is a very powerful skillset that they should have. But investment in tools that empowers us increases our productivity, is something we ought to be doing. I was a little surprised by that in the community.

Chad: So yes, and then this is what I've been saying for years, Anoop. Free is not a strategy. And that being said, I'm going to roll over into the next question, what's the price? What does it actually cost to engage with SeekOut and start to use it as a very powerful tool?

Joel: And do you have any special deals for our valued listeners?

Anoop: So we offer both monthly and annual prices. And there are three skews, we have a basic $1,000 for the whole year. A premium one, which gives you diversity and insights for $2,500 a year. And a premium tech, which includes GitHub for $5,000 a year and they're equal in monthly prices too. We think even if you make one hire using the tool it will cover the annual price. But I do have a very great special for this special Chad and Cheese audience that is there. If you buy SeekOut in the next month, in the next 30 days and you mention the Chad and Cheese Podcast when you reach out to us, we'll give you an additional 10% off.

Chad: Gotta love it.

Joel: I dig it, I dig it. Anoop, I got one more. I want to hear a funny Bill Gates story. If you don't have a funny story drop us a Bill Gates piece of wisdom on us.

Anoop: So one is Bill is a really funny guy. You might think of him from everything that you see is a lot of serious stuff. But when you're in meetings with him he'll make you laugh and he'll crack jokes left and right. I'll tell you more though about a piece of wisdom in terms of his strategy. So once I was sitting with him and I think the foundation was just starting and I asked him, "You know it's really hard to decide where to spend money and what you're going to invest in." So his first thing is, "I don't invest in White men's ailments. And that is because there is enough incentive otherwise for the former companies to do it. What is important to me to make my money count is to invest in areas where the rest of the community is not investing." And that's why he chose vaccines. A lot of drugs already existed and just the economic incentives were not there to product them at volume and the Gates Foundation has done that and saved millions of lives.

Anoop: So the big lesson is in terms of being very deliberative about seeing what are the gaps, what are wholes, what can your limited resources ... Because even Bill Gates' resources are nowhere near compared to what the nations stand and the former companies stand to say how I can make a big difference.

Joel: So find a need and fill it, basically.

Anoop: Yeah, find a need that is being underserved and then see if you have the right talents or the right resources, go and fill it.

Chad: Excellent, awesome.

Joel: Well, Anoop, thank you for joining us. We really appreciate it.

Chad: Please tell the fine listeners where they can find out more about SeekOut.

Anoop: They should go to So that is our website. You can learn a lot about that and Chad and Joel, thank you so much for having me on the Podcast, it's been wonderful.

Joel: Thank you, dude.

Chad: Thank you, Anoop. You can tell he's incredibly technical. He started all the way at the https ...

Joel: Make sure that secure URL is mentioned. We appreciate that. Thanks, Anoop.

Anoop: Hey, thank you so much. Bye bye.

Chad: Okay, okay, okay, okay. Before we go, remember when I asked you about the whole reflex and check your text messages thing?

Joel: Yeah, you know all about reflexes. And then I brilliantly tied it to text messages 97% open rate, then I elegantly, elegantly tied it to a better experience for your candidates. Don't laugh Chad, I can be elegant. Can't I?

Chad: Whatever man. I know it's redundant. You already heard about Text to Hire, but you're still not using Text to Hire from Nexxt.

Joel: What?

Chad: I know man.

Joel: C'mon man.

Chad: Since advertising takes repetition to soak in, I just thought I'd remind you again, this was all by elegant design. It's all about Text to Hire and it's all about Nexxt.

Joel: And elegant design. So go to Click on the Nexxt logo and get 25, yeah I said 25% off your first Text to Hire campaign. Engage better, use Text to Hire from Nexxt, two x's.

Chad: Boo yah.

Announcer: Thanks to our partners at TA Tech, the association for talent acquisition solutions. Remember to visit This has been the Chad and Cheese Podcast. Subscribe on iTunes, Google Play or wherever you get your podcasts so you don't miss a single show. And be sure to check out our sponsors, because they make it all possible. For more, visit Oh yeah, you're welcome.

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