Interview: @TheWarForTalent aka TalentCast aka James Ellis

On a slow week that saw us celebrating America's birthday, the boys are taking a break from the weekly rundown and chatting with The War for Talent's James Ellis.

Chad cornered the poor guy at a recent conference and dug into a wide variety of topics.

Enjoy, and be sure to visit our sponsors, JobAdX, Sovren and America's Job Exchange.


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, brash opinion, and loads of snark. Buckle up boys and girls. It's time for the Chad & Cheese podcast.

Chad: All right. Hey kids. It's Chad from the Chad & Cheese podcast. We are here today with ...

James: James Ellis.

Chad: ... James Ellis.

James: That's right. The most boring name in all of creation. I think there are about 1,000 of us.

Chad: But you've got a podcast.

James: It's true I do.

Chad: Yeah.

James: That doesn't make me any easier to find online. My name is completely SEO adverse. There is in fact a stupidly annoying fit dude who makes his money pushing pictures of his six pack abs names James Ellis. Not me. My ab is more of a keg shape. Yeah, that's not me.

James: But I am James Ellis. I have a podcast The Talent Cast.

Chad: The Talent Cast.

James: Yep. And I'm on Twitter @thewarfortalent. That's kind of the best way to find me, or discover me, or annoy me, or poke at me, or tell me I'm wrong.

Chad: The War for Talent. Kind of cliché.

James: The War for Talent. Yes. But the feeling I had four years ago when I realized it was available. I was like, "Are you kidding me? No one's grabbed this already? Mine."

Chad: Yeah. Oh, hell yeah.

James: To be fair, Tom Peters, who is a personal hero of mine ... he's on my Mount Rushmore ... he has yelled at me on Twitter about my account being too much. "We don't like the war vernacular anymore." I'm like, "I get it. You're my hero. This is complicated emotionally but here we are."

Chad: "But here we are, and I really like it, and it's mine."

James: Exactly. "Suggest something better, how about that. Until you can suggest something better, easy to remember that connects to this idea, thanks for your complaints."

Chad: "Not to mention, I think you're trying to push me off of it so that you can have it. That's what I think you're doing."

James: You think that was a big strategy.

Chad: That's what it was.

James: "I'm in the middle of writing my last book ever and I'm going to complain to this guy ..."

Chad: Yes.

James: "... about his Twitter handle because I want it."

Chad: That's exactly right.

James: Who's to say?

Chad: I don't know. So what do you want to talk about today? We talk about how tech stacks are stupid or what?

James: Yes. That they're stupid, yes, absolutely.

Chad: Okay. So, what is the tech stack? This is a new term, literally, right?

James: Oh, yeah.

Chad: So, over maybe, what, the last 18, 24 months or so it's like everybody has to focus on a "tech stack."

James: Yeah. So for years, and years, and years, everything was about what's your ATS. And the ATS was the Christmas tree and companies would come along and hang their particular ornaments on that particular Christmas tree. You had iCIMS, or Taleo, or Workday, or whatever you had. "Blah-blah-blah is a great tool. Does it work in my ATS? No. Well, then it's not useful to me."

James: So as the ATS's started to become less of the core of everything we do when you get CRM tools and you get communication tools, you don't have a single Christmas tree, you have a stack of technologies, hopefully, fingers crossed, pray to God that they work together in any way, shape or form. And that is not an obvious thing to say. You hope that they work together and that is what's called the tech stack. Used to be a marketing stack depending on what technologies you used to promote your product and push your message out there. But that idea of a technical stack comes from the developer side.

James: It's like LAMP. So it's Linux, Apache Service System and two others I can't remember. [crosstalk 00:03:30] I think was one of them. It was just this idea of what's your ecosystem? Where do you live? And once you define that, okay.

James: The reason we all have to define it is so other vendors can go, "Ah, you're a target. You have a tech stack I can sell to and you just put a target on yourself. And guess what, you're going to get nothing but emails, and phone calls, and pitches on LinkedIn." Cold pitches on LinkedIn. What are people doing? What are you doing? I don't know you. Yeah, I want to talk to you.

Chad: Stay away from me. Stay the hell away from me.

James: So, talking about the tech stack is like saying, "What's the weather like? Is it rainy or is it sunny?" It's like, look, you need to do a job. The tech stack is a resource but you can't run and funnel everything through your tech stake. There's so many ways to get something done. And I think we forget that. We focus so much on the tech stack usually because it takes up like 98% of our budgets ...

Chad: Yes.

James: ... and consequently we think about it. But the focus needs to be on what's the message? Who are you speaking to? How do you speak to them? What are the recruiters doing? How are they connecting people? If they're your people ninjas ... I hate when people use the word ninjas. Please find me another word that. I will refrain from rock stars.

Chad: Is it on your LinkedIn profile? That's my criteria.

James: Yeah, it's there. But if you've got recruiters who are all about being people people, the tech stack should enable, support and engender them. Or are you using it to limit them, keeping them from doing certain things?

James: So, I'm going to say let's make up an ATS names Work night. And it's a really good tool for a lot of things ...

Chad: But not everything.

James: ... but not everything because no such thing is perfect for everything. The world's greatest knife is not a very good fork. But you are trying to sell me video. You're telling the power of video is you can show stories, and you can tell the stories, and they're amazing. So my tech stack says I can't embed video in my job post. So I guess I can't.

James: So it's a way of telling vendors know. And I get that it's a defensive mechanism, but stop saying no to things. Start thinking about, "Okay, how do we do that? How do we get a video out to somebody? How do we focus on telling a message out there?"

James: I'm a firm believer that your employer brand, your message, is just as powerful with $10 worth of sidewalk chalk and a well thought out quote as it is on your let's call it $300,000 tech stack.

Chad: So, you talk about how some tech stack pieces just don't work well together. How and the hell does that even happen in the day and the age of API?

James: Well, because most of this stuff so predates the cloud thinking and API thinking. So, for those of you who are younger than 30, there was a dead phase of time in which entire rooms of your office were very, very, very cold for a very reason. To keep the heater that you called your server rack from melting. Simply put.

James: So 15 years ago, 10 years ago the cloud happened.

Chad: Before the cloud.

James: Amazon web services said, "Oh yeah, we'll just sell you bandwidth. We'll sell you cycles on our code so you can just shut all those server rooms down." So before then you've got to think of everything was in that room and HR being HR says, "Lock the door. Nothing goes in or out. We have a guard, we have a key, we have a passcode. You've got to do a retinal scan just to