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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 get in or out. So any information you can't get in or out." That's why.

James: So they didn't want any interaction, they didn't that information getting out. They knew how to get in and out. That all that mattered. HR is not about marketing. And as HR has matured, recruiting has matured to be more marketing focused, it's realizing, it's butting up against the limitations of what the ATS could do and with how the ATS thought, and really how HR thinks.

James: Now you are starting to see ATS's that have a lot of API's, and have a lot of hooks, and they can do a lot more. But they aren't open sourced, they're not connected very well, they are limited in what they can do. So you take that example of Work Night, and you say, "Why can't I drop HTML into my job description?" And you are allowed to drop HTML but very limited.

James: Bold, a link, a header, bulleted list. And that is the end of that list. And I always go, "The amount of code that went into the backend that said I'm going to let certain things in but not all this other stuff like images." Images. What hurt could be caused by an image on a job description except, "Hey look, it's attractive. Hey look, it's an interesting building. Hey look, it's a cool office. Hey look, people doing interesting things." They've made choices from a technical standpoint to limit your ability to communicate.

Chad: Which is one of the reasons why we have so many different needs for these layers of the tech stack.

James: Yeah. So if you want to put a video an ATS like that and you can't, okay, how do you shoehorn that process in? You make a separate site and embed the video there.

Chad: Right.

James: And that's going to cost you something fierce. And that just became part of your tech stack too.

Chad: It could screw your entire process. I mean, all the different hoops that you have to jump through, all the different pages that you have to visit just to be able to get to the start of the application process.

James: Flip it around. How many steps does a recruiter have to go through to post a job? Literally, it is the one task every recruiter does. It is the most basic task in the world and every ATS goes, "You think that'd be simple but here you go. It's really like this." And you have to publish, and turn on, and turn off, and open up, and open up this field way over here, and a page way over here just to change the setting to go back and republish, rewait and see if it ... It's insane.

James: If you look at any recontent management system ... WordPress or anything like that ... like the ability to edit, and change, and publish code is seconds.

Chad: Boom, boom, yeah. It's quick.

James: To just say, "Oh, I need a new image, I need to change that word, oh, there's a typo, fix it, boom you're done." Do that in any ATS and I'll see you at the bar in an hour.

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Chad: It's show time.

Chad: So why do we have recruiters doing those types of tasks in the first place? There should be an, "I need button." You push that button. You have standardized job descriptions who were written by people who know how to write, right?

James: Yep. Beyond that. Macros that say, "Look, of the 27 steps ... the HR step, the comp step, the writing step, the approval step ... macro that bad boy out."

Chad: Yes.

James: I mean, we've all seen if this, then, that. If this happens, then that happens. Embed that sort of thinking into a one button. Write the job description, publish, gone, next. You should measure that in minutes not hours for a new job description.

James: You should get an alert saying, "Hey, I need you to approve stuff." You should be able to approve it without having to go to four different steps, four different pages, four different buttons. It's so convoluted.

Chad: Yeah. So, the tech stack sucks.

James: Yeah. And unfortunately, as long as we keep talking about the tech stack as the core of everything we're supposed to do, we're not going to change. If we think about recruiting as, "How do I use my tech stack to do X," instead of, "How do I do X? Oh, I get to use my tech stack to help support that," we're all screwed.

Chad: So, in many cases when I talk to employers companies and employers about their system, they really don't understand the range of even their applicant tracking system, which they've probably had for years. So, therefore, they have an ATS. They don't realize ...

James: They've had it for seven to 10 years.

Chad: Yeah, and they don't realize how it can source. They don't understand many just different aspects. And we're talking about admins who are focused and it's their job to be experts on this platform.

James: And in fact, they almost always are because you have to be just to survive in that [crosstalk 00:11:56] system.

Chad: But the thing is they don't get it. They don't. So how do you survive and then start to just pull redundant pieces of tech into the scenario? That's the thing that pisses me off the most. How much money are companies spending today that are just redundant systems because what they have would work?

Chad: I was actually talking to a company. We were at a conference in Minnesota and they said, "My current applicant tracking system won't allow me to actually apply a source to candidates coming in from all these different areas." And I know because I worked with that applicant tracking system before that it does. And it's probably one of the best sourcing applicant tracking systems.

Chad: So I hook her up with one of my contacts and they're off and away. They've had this platform for five years. How does this happen?

James: A couple pieces to that. So first off, look around. You're room's surrounded by technical HR leadership asks them, "Who's happy with their ATS?" And no one will raise their hand except for the person who got a new ATS in the last six months. Because they're in that service model. There's a lot of white glove helping out.

James: The second that six month window closes ...

Chad: And that honeymoon.

James: ... "You're off on your own. Got to go. Bye."

James: And have you looked at the documentation for any of this stuff. It's atrocious. It's a train wreck. Half the time they want to charge you for support. I'm like, "Wait a second. If I get an iPhone or I get an Android, and it breaks, and I have a question about it, there's a place I can go where they fix it because I just dropped $600, $700, $800 on this thing and it should come with some help." But ATS, you drop about six figures on it, and after six months, you're out of luck.

James: The other part of it is how most large businesses work. If you are big enough to justify the cost expenditure of a good size ATS you have a procurement team.

Chad: Yes.

James: They will never, ever touch that ATS. So it may be literally electrocuting you as you touch the keyboard and they don't care. It's not a pain point for them quite literally.

James: You talk to your HRIS team, they have to live with it but recruiting is a small piece of what they do. So if recruiters hate their ATS and it's embedded with a larger system, they're not going to listen. They've got much bigger stakeholders, I guess you'd say, who are focused on whether it's financed, whether it's organizational structures. There's all sorts of things a good ATS can do but if you say their all 80% good except for the 20% that are really bad, those components that really suck, you better not be in the recruiting space when that happens because that's the thing that feeds the rest of the company.

James: If you don't have good talent, if you're making it harder to find good talent in this day and age and three percent unemployment in North America, you are asking for pain. But the person who makes those decisions doesn't know about it, doesn't care about it.

James: On top of which, and having worked in the agency side that would sell software that would glue on top of ATS's ... who will remain nameless ... for six figures on top of whatever your ATS costs.

Chad: You talking about TalentBrew?

James: I didn't hear anything. I didn't say a word. I'm trying to be nice. Yes, this is nice as I get kids.

James: It takes two years for a company of any size to switch ATS's. They're so matted.

Chad: Oh yeah.

James: The tendrils of an ATS are in so many different places and so many different processes are baked around them so if you have a work around that you developed as a recruiting leader just to kind of survive and live in this harsh environment that is your ATS, your ATS they all go out the window. So consequently it's easier to never update. Consequently it's better to use seven year old software than to use the best new software because you have to do change management.

Chad: So, in many cases, not all, you see that there is just bad process methodology on the front end that companies insist upon for a new technology to be able to incorporate their process methodology, which is probably horrible. If they would take a look at the technology to be able to obviously start to use it more efficiently, they could probably chop their process in half, become much more efficient.

Chad: So again ...

James: But that's always been the fight with technology.

Chad: ... it's kind of like the give and take, right?

James: Yes. It's always been that fight of technology. How modular do you make it? How easy is it to take the recruiting part of the ATS HR system and focus on it and make it work, and still have enough API hooks back into the bigger mothership that you're still getting the data?

James: Unfortunately, if an ATS and a recruiting module of the ATS sucks and is painful but it turns out you having to live with pain means that there's better data on the backend in terms of things like who gets promoted, what is the sort of those promotions, who is moving forward, and all new organizational structures, and how do you do change management, you are feeding into the river. You're not the river. You just have to find ways of monitoring a bit better.

Chad: Which is why CIO's and CTO's are making the decisions and many of these ...

James: Yeah, because they have to see the big picture.

Chad: And they're forcing these organizations to actually go with whatever ATS is attached to that ecosystem.

James: Well, that's unfortunately just as much a cost function. And I don't have to name any names because it's true in a lot of cases. You buy one part of it, they throw the recruiting system in for free. And if the recruiting leader, head TA goes, "Yeah, but I want this other ATS." They go, "How much is it?" He goes, "It's six figures or five figures." They go, "That's throwing money away." So you're out of luck.

James: Yeah, the tech stack sucks. I just wish people would say, "Look, it's a thing ..." And I'm not going to tell you that you have no future of getting better any time soon. It's not going to change. This isn't a hope and change message. This is about, "Okay, if this is true," ... and by the way, spoiler. Totally is true. "... how do you live better in it?"

James: You can't change this boulder in the road, so to speak, so how do you get at manipulating it, moving around it. Not just work arounds in terms of the code, or work arounds inside of processes. But how you think about the ATS is just, "Look, it's a tool I have to use. What else do I put around it? What is the messaging?"

James: So, for example, if you think about ... and I'm a big marketing messaging person myself. I'm a big content marketing fan. If I had a message about why your company turned people into experts or made them feel secure in their futures and focused on their ability to grow themselves and I put it in the worst ATS in the world, I'm going to get clicks. I'm going to get some hits.

James: The problem is that we used the bad tech stack to justify bad thinking and messaging on top of it. It's the same email you send out to every LinkedIn spam customer you have. It's what you're doing. It's the same headline, it's the same pitch. It's always about, "Do you want a job?" No.

James: I was talking to a computer friend of mine and I said, "Look, you're out of Chicago and they're hiring for a VP level job." And then I'm like, "Where are you looking?" He goes, "Oh, the best people are in New York." I said, "Why isn't your subject line, "Want a free trip to Chicago?"" I'm clicking on that.

Chad: Oh, hell yeah.

James: You have my attention, mon frere. What are we talking about here? Oh, this is an interesting company that does this and this and it wants someone like me? I am in.

Chad: It's marketing, it's advertising. It's the target market, right?

James: Yes.

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Chad: It's show time.

Chad: And one the things that I don't think that we do enough in talent acquisition is understand what we are actually doing. It is advertising.

James: Yes. Sales. Not it's sales. That's like sales and marketing are brother and sister.

Chad: And that's what advertising is, right?

James: Yes.

Chad: You're trying to get your hooks into them to get through, get that that lead form, which is the application.

James: And unfortunately, when you think of it like that the trick to succeed ... and I'm using bunny ears in the air here ... is to say, "Well, if I want more applicants, I'm going to leverage more ad units. I'm going to put my ad units here instead of there. I'm going to twiddle the dials of the magic thinking where that ad shows up is what the magic is.

James: I'm going to introduce you to anybody who makes a Made for TV product and does an infomercial. Those things are 3:00 in the damn morning and they sell like hotcakes. It ain't placement folks. It's the message. It's the message every single time and then you augment it with the delivery. Not the other way around.

Chad: I would definitely say, yeah, the delivery. Just from my radio background, message is everything and then being able to target the right demos. And being able to do it with the right channels.

James: And that's transactional. I will introduce you to 1,000 people who are good at that and are paid to do exactly that. And can do it for you for very little cost.

Chad: That's not happening though.

James: But the person who can treat your company, and talk about your company, and talk about your roles as if this is the opportunity of a lifetime to help someone see a future in which they are the hero of that damn story, they are few and far between. And if they exist, they're sitting in your marketing team but you never talk to them and they never talk to you.

Chad: Oh, yeah. So why is an employer branding and marketing?

James: Okay. Now you've hit upon my favorite subject of all. Now, I'm going to put my teacher hat on.

James: If you're a marketer and you are tasked with selling ice cream cones, tacos, call it ... I don't care ... anybody who's got $1 is an addressable market. Anybody. You don't care if they're tall or short. You don't care if they went to high school or if they have a master's degree. You don't care if they have felonies or if they're Hitler. You do not care. A $1 is a $1, a $1 is a taco. End of conversation.

Chad: If it's a taco. But there are products that are demographically focused ...

James: Yes, but you can still figure out anybody whose got the $20,000, or the $5,000, or the $20 in that demographic area, anybody in that space is addressable and useful. There's no qualifications beyond do you have the money.

James: If you are selling tacos and you sell a million tacos you're getting a raise, you're getting a bonus. They're putting a picture of you over somebody's office going, "This is the guy. He did the amazing thing with the tacos."

James: You bring 1,000 people to a job post, you're screwing up. You bring a million you're getting fired. Why? Because it's a quality, not quantity.

Chad: Targeting, yes.

James: You talk about it ... and I don't mean you, sir, but I mean in general ...

Chad: It might be me.

James: It might be you. Recruiters in general think about, "How do I get my 100, my 200 applicants because that's just about big enough a pool that one of them will be the needle in the haystack." Don't get a needle, make a bigger haystack, which is just crazy town.

James: What you want really when it comes down to it is three qualified candidates. That's it. Any other application you get is wasted energy. So if you think about instead, "How do I get 1,000 candidates, or 100 candidates, or 1,000 resumes?" Or, "How do I build a pipeline and say I just need two or three people who are great at this." Then the conversation changes.

James: And marketing doesn't think about that. Marketing thinks about total addressable market, how do we reach every single one of them? How do I extract my money from them? How do I go about my day?" You are thinking about, "How do I find the one person for that job?" The magical, perfect, exact fit. Perfect skills, ability to grow, fits in the culture. The criteria is insane.

James: And I'm not telling you anything you don't know, recruiters. You know this but you don't think about it in that way.

Chad: But that's crazy. From the standpoint of if I have a bunch of silver medalists that might be great for other jobs.

James: Oh, silver medalists.

Chad: No, stick with me for a second. These wonderful CRM/engagement systems who nurture candidates. Talent pipeline engagement, right?

James: Uh-huh. (affirmative) Buzz word, buzz word, buzz word. Know where you're going.

Chad: But the thing is you have this huge database of candidates that you've paid for over the years.

James: Time out. Better yet. You've presold them on the brand.

Chad: Yes.

James: They know who you are.

Chad: Right.

James: If you've done any work at all caring, and feeding, and nurturing them.

Chad: Right.

James: They like you, they're waiting for the stars to align.

Chad: Exactly.

James: How many people ... you have 1,000 person ...

Chad: And they might buy your shit, too, by the way.

James: That's also completely valid and I think HR won't let you tap into that database. That's a separate conversation. I'm not getting there.

Chad: Guess what, if there's money there, HR doesn't have a goddamn clue because, guess what, business is going to take over.

James: Yeah. Money wins.

Chad: Sales will always beat the shit out of HR.

James: That's 1,000% true. But you're right. So, let's say you're 1,000 person company, which means you've got about 100 req's open at any given time. Fair number. How many people in a pipeline do you need?

Chad: At that point?

James: Yeah.

Chad: We're looking for ... and again, we're looking at our old technology and processes versus new, right?

James: Yeah. New thinking.

Chad: New thinking. Being able to use the engagement systems and all these other fun things, right? How many do I need? I need what I needed before, right?

James: No.

Chad: It's the same ... I think it is. No, wait. From a hiring standpoint, that's what I need. But from a nurturing, keeping them engaged with the brand and happy with who we are, that changes because the experience changes.

James: I think it's different. I think you would need a 1,000 people to hire this year, you need a talent pool of no more than 1,000 pre-sold on a brand who are good at what they do.

Chad: Yeah.

James: That's it. That's all you need. Instead of if you have 100 applicants in the current model, you have 100 to 150 applicants per req, you're talking about 10's of thousands, 15,000. Of course, we all know that two thirds of those applicants are crap. They're not qualified, they don't fit, they'll never fit.

Chad: Today. Today, they don't fit.

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Chad: It's show time.

James: The trick on an engagement tool is that you start to help people self select out. "This is our culture. This is what we're about. This is what we care about. These are our motivations. This is our brand. This is EVP." And eventually someone goes, "Yeah, this isn't quite the match I thought it was. I was in love with your consumer product and maybe this isn't the place."

James: And I think Google sees that all the time. Google does literally no advertising whatsoever. They don't have to. But they get 1,000's and 1,000's of applications every single day, 99% of which they throw out immediately. And so their really is to say, "Why you shouldn't work here." The kind of people who are happy and the kind of people who are unhappy. And that's the kind of conversation you want to have. Not about, "I have a req. How do I put a butt in the seat?" That's the difference.

Chad: And I totally appreciate that. But those people that are self selecting out still should have a great experience.

James: That's 100% true. Oh, my goodness. Because they [crosstalk 00:28:53], and they have ripples, and they have all that [crosstalk 00:28:56].

Chad: Yeah, they have ripples and they could buy products.

James: Yes. But what happens, the way you get to that level is stopping to thinking about, "I have a req. I need 150 people for it." Which means, "Okay, clean, open req in the ATS. There's zero people in it. I know it's going to get pushed to my normal channels. I've got to go beat some bushes, I've got to go shake some trees to find as if it's brand new." And the second I fill that req, I flush the toilet, 99% of those applications go away with a "Thanks but no thanks" letter that was written by a lawyer.

Chad: Pissing them off.

James: Totally butt hurt. And justifiably so. That's the problem. And when you do that you're saying your talent pipeline needs to be 100's of thousands.

Chad: And at that point, what you're saying is they're not in the black hole because we sent them a message letting them know.

James: Yeah, exactly.

Chad: And that's still bullshit. That is such a bad experience.

James: They're not in the black hole. They're dead.

Chad: Yeah. We shot them.

James: How is that better?

Chad: Yeah, we shot them in the back of the head, which means they're going to hate our brand they've got this bullshit ...

James: And there's so many ways recruiting goes wrong, that can go wrong. Every business runs a gauntlet with every single candidate of all the different ways this thing can go wrong and all the different players who can screw this up. Your hiring manager is the number one culprit of screwing this up. Why? Because this isn't their day job. They don't hire and interview people on a regular basis. But they're absolutely going to say something.

Chad: We don't look at this in the right way. This is impacting the bottom line, actual revenue. As soon as you start doing that, guess what, HR's going to get a knot jerked in their tail, the hiring managers are going to be trained appropriately.

Chad: Take a look at ... and I use it all the time and I'm beating a freaking dead horse ... but the Virgin Media where they saw that they were actually losing $6 million because they were treating candidates like shit. And they could if they hopefully retain them. If they treat them better, they could perspectively retain that $6 million, who knows. And the opportunity to grow for individuals who weren't using their products was another $7 million on top of it. So net $13 million.

Chad: So if I walk into my CHRO or my VP of Talent Acquisition and say, "You just lost me $6 million."

James: Yeah. Someone's going to move.

Chad: That's a different conversation.

James: Yes, it is.

Chad: And that's a conversation that should be had every goddamn day.

James: And the best way to have that conversation is to stop using the phrase, "Time to fill."

Chad: Yes.

James: Because that says, "Time to fill," is the fuzziest, bunniest phrase. George Carlin would do five minutes on how stupid a phrase that is. "It's time to fill."

James: The real number cost of empty seat. How long was that seat empty and how long it takes to onboard a new person? That is cost, that is money from having this person.

Chad: Yes. How much money did we lose? That's a business conversation.

James: That completely and radically changes the conversation.

Chad: Yes, and that's a business conversation.

James: And how often do you hear that number spouted? Never.

Chad: And Talent Acquisition the seat at the big table. The reason why they don't get a seat at the big table ... not in all cases ...

James: They don't speak that language.

Chad: ... they don't understand that they are a piece of the business.

James: Okay. Let's spin this conversation in a different direction. And I'm going to get myself in trouble. You're welcome.

James: But it's the same idea. Diversity inclusion. Huge fan of diversity inclusion. I'm as liberal as they come. I want everybody to get their shot to being miserable at work just like everybody else. Have you met your average diversity inclusion person? Wonderfully people. However, they're assuming that it's an inherent good to make diversity a thing and they're asking people to eat their broccoli.

James: How do you get a kid to eat their broccoli? You tell them it's going to help them grow big and strong. They're going to play sports better. They're going to have a better time at school. You give them a reason why or you hit them in the head. Either way.

James: But you can't do that internally. And that's the trick is that if you talk about something like a diversity inclusion, which you can extend to all of HR. It's just good for you. You go nowhere.

Chad: No. And it also feels like charity, which is total bullshit.

James: That's my favorite. This is a business.

Chad: Yes. Okay, so ...

James: Even charities don't treat it like a charity.

Chad: No. So, I've built veteran hiring programs. My wife builds hiring programs for individuals with disabilities.

James: Which is why I knew this would click.

Chad: Their focus is all business oriented. How we have better retention rate with our candidates than your current candidates. And what does that mean? It means less time you're having that butt not in the seat.

Chad: So, yeah, you're 100% right. That's why we have to take a look at what we do in a much different way. If we don't, we're not speaking business speak. And I don't give a shit if you have a master's from wherever the hell it is with a BA or whatever. If you're not speaking about impacting the bottom line and how ...

James: And you're starting to see this change. It's starting to trickle down. I think HR has finally started to get the message. Whether they're staffed appropriately to take that message, live and embody that message and turn it around and say, "Hey rest of sea suite, it's about this, and it's about money, it's about change, and it's about growth." That's not clear to me yet. But that sea change is starting to happen. The boat is starting to turn. I don't know how long it's going to take though before ...

Chad: Titanic.

James: Exactly ... before every CHRO, before every director of Talent Acquisition, every VP of talent or people or culture or whatever it was, every conversation has a dollar sign in it somewhere.

Chad: Yeah. I use another example. SodaStream. So SodaStream they've got this new campaign that's going on.

James: It's an atrocious [crosstalk 00:34:33] commercial.

Chad: But it weaves its culture and it's product into, "Come work for us because we believe in our product."

James: And that's the thing. I'm allowed to hate that commercial and it still be an insanely effective commercial because it's telling me, "James, you're not going to be happy here." I'm like, "Cool, I'm going to be happy some place else."

Chad: Which makes it effective. Right.

James: Exactly right. For every person you push away it's a win. Which is why when I was in the content marketing side, people would say, "How do you measure the value of content?" I'd say, "That's impossible because a good piece of content should repel and reject just as many as it attracts." You can't measure it.

Chad: Targeted.

James: There's no holistic number for it. It's always muddied water.

Chad: Okay, so I'm going to throw a curve ball at you.

James: Oh, good.

Chad: What will AI do to your recruiter buddies?

James: You and I ... Yeah. AI is going to be thing. Finally.

Chad: It is. Have you seen the Google Duplex?

James: Yes.

Chad: Have you seen that shit?

James: How many times do you think they made phone calls that fail before you have

to turn on that screen?

Chad: Oh, yeah, no, I agree.

James: But anyway. It's good. It is really good. And you can start to see that the amount ... You have to know that that is not a tool they go, "Okay, now point it at a candidate." And it does it. It is completely 1,000% optimized around the idea, "How do I get a haircut? And how do I make a reservation?"

Chad: But it could schedule interviews.

James: I don't think the turnaround is quite that easy.

Chad: I think it could be.

James: I don't think it's that easy.

Chad: Chatbots.

James: Chatbots?

Chad: See and that's the thing. The chatbot. There's really not that much difference between those two. You've got text versus voice.

James: Yeah. You've got multilingual processing.

Chad: Yes, exactly.

James: Anyway. So, I was at ... what conference was it at ... Erie and it was the first time I saw bots that made sense. That I went, "I can see how this would work in the real world. It's not just a good idea or a proof of concept or, "One day, in the sci-fi future," which is what they've been for so long. If you squint real hard you can see how they'd work. No, it's not really going to work.

James: Now they're ready. The thing is how do you point them? And where do you point them? And how do you apply it? Is it a sourcing things? Certainly possible. I'm surrounded by recruiters and I hear them say the same five questions over and over again. And I'm like these people are wonderful, smart, kind, good, intelligent people people.

Chad: Routine, baby.

James: And now they have to drive this routine. And anything you can turn into a routine, you can automate and you can kill that job.

Chad: Yes, done. Too easy.

James: And I don't that's a good thing.

Chad: I don't think you're killing the job, you're killing the task.

James: You're killing the work inside the job so that they can focus on finding the diamond in the rough, or building the relationship, or whatever it is. Because let's be fair. A good recruiter should spend twice as much time building a relationship with their hiring manager.

Chad: Uh-huh. (affirmative) Yes.

James: Because that's where the real friction is. And not sourcing candidates blindly. So you give that job to AI to say ... And I see the Pocket Recruiter is interesting. It's not quite a bot. It's interesting and I think there's a lot of value there. I think it radically changes the sourcing model.

James: I think Allyo is good. I think ... what's the one that starts with a P ... Paradox is one I really, really like.

Chad: Oh, yeah Paradox. Is that good, yeah?

James: Yeah. And I'm probably not thinking of three that are on the tip of my tongue. There's a bunch of them.

Chad: Oh, there's a ton of them, yeah. RoboRecruiter.

James: Yeah, they're ready. You just have to decide.

Chad: Well, here's the thing though. So we've got the sourcing technology that's out there. We've got the technology that will refresh your applicant tracking system. We've got all this that can all kind of take all this process ...

James: And now you're starting to see the piece that says, "Instead of doing that routine 30 minute phone screen, here are the six questions I'm going to ask you. And now I'm going to listen for the right answer."

James: Though I'm hearing that lawyers are very uncomfortable with a piece of machinery making yes or no decisions on some of this stuff. I think there are ways around it. I think there are ways of collecting that. But I think when HR points to legal that's always a sign of saying, "I'm terrified but they said I couldn't do it." They're using legal as an excuse to not do it.

Chad: And legal's always going to say no.

James: That's their job.

Chad: They're always going to say no.

James: That is 100% their job. That's what they get paid for. Good for them.

Chad: Yeah. You've got great technologies that are out there. The technologies that like Honeit's of the world, voice interviewing, all that other fun stuff.

Chad: But I believe ... this is just me ...

James: There's seven people behind him.

Chad: Yeah. I would shit.

James: They're all voices in his head.

Chad: Just seven?

Chad: So I believe that recruiters really should start to turn into brand ambassadors.

James: Yes. They should definitely add that thinking into what they're doing.

Chad: Yeah.

James: I think recruiters job is to make relationships. End of conversation.

Chad: Yeah. And they are the face of the brand.

James: For so many candidates, for so many people 100,000% agree with that. Yeah, completely agree.

Chad: And also, they are the face of the brand to their internal hiring managers, right?

James: So then the question has to be, "What do recruiters think their job is now that they're not doing that?"

Chad: Well, all this busy work shit that they're doing now ...

James: Ah, nailed it.

Chad: ... when you start to sweep that away, right?

James: Um-hmm. (affirmative) Right.

Chad: Because right now, I don't know how many times I've talked to recruiters who are like, "Oh my God, I'm so busy. I'm scheduling this. And I'm doing that. And I've got somebody who called me about something stupid."

James: If meet a recruiter who doesn't complain about being busy, check to see they've got a pulse. They're dead. They don't exist.

Chad: Oh yeah. Well, there's so many stupid mundane tasks that they have to deal with that once you sweep those away, you can get really smart people doing a great job being the face of your organization.

James: Letting them think. Letting them reason. Letting them come to a different conclusion. Let them not say, "The document said if this, then this, therefore this." Think you're a person, you're talking to people. Make an evaluation. That's what literally you're paid to do. And then you should then take that relationship with the candidate and use it to inform and leverage the relationship you have with the hiring manager about why this person who doesn't quite meet that size and shape box that they hiring manager thought that they were looking ... has to come from Harvard, has to come from a big four accounting firm, has to come from a blah-blah-blah.

James: Yeah, no. That's filling a job now. If you start to look at working jobs and longitudinally, you hire someone and you hope to god they get promoted six or seven times. But the recruits job and hiring managers focus on today, which is wrong. You need to focus on what's the next three steps.

James: So you say, "Look, you wanted someone from a big four accounting firm. This person did not go there, however, they've shown a propensity for entrepreneurship. They've shown a propensity for starting things, and starting projects, and launching projects, and making a direct business impact. Who cares if it was on the other side of the moon? Doesn't matter. If they have those skills, you can use them now and the business ... the whole organization ... can use them tomorrow."

James: And how often do you hear that conversation? Like never.

Chad: Never because we're playing checkers.

James: Yes, instead of chess.

Chad: Yeah, three dimensional chess though.

James: Well, if that.

Chad: So, sourcers. How long is it going to take for sourcers to be gone?

James: I know where your thinking is. But I have mixed emotions because I still think there's still a place for human sourcers, which is really the question you're asking.

Chad: Yeah.

James: And AI will completely wipe out the sourcing population like their rodents on an island or something. I don't think they can.

Chad: No, it's just that they have routine tasks looking for targeted types of people.

James: So once you take the routine task out of it ... Once the autoworker got a robot, what was the autoworker's job? The job was there to evaluate, and measure, and to double check, and lower the fault rate from 5% to 0.2%. Huge business advantage.

Chad: It takes a ton less of those people though.

James: Exactly but their job radically changes. Maybe the job of the sourcer is to say, "Look, for all these other things we're doing ... going to events, going to universities, sending out in mail, sending out emails. All the stuff that happens for outreach, the sourcer's job is to say, "Make sure the message says this. Make sure it ties back to this other thing. Make sure, if they're not going to be happy, you have a secondary ask. Do you know anybody who might be really good for this because there might be a way for us to give you a present and say thank you?"

Chad: I see that's what a recruiter's going to do.

James: I don't think so.

Chad: I think they will because all their tasks are going to flushed away. You don't think so?

James: Recruiter's going to focus on thinking about the job itself, and thinking about the role itself, and thinking about work longitude and then saying ...

Chad: Yeah, but from a business standpoint, what do you think they're going to do? They're going to look at the tasks ... I know what should happen, but what is going to happen?

James: I've fallen into the trap of the Star Trek trap. Let's just fast forward 500 years and imagine it's all better. How did you get there? And there are interim steps. There's so many things you're like, "Well, when this gets better." You're like, "Okay, time out. How did we just make that better? Because there are some ugly, painful, messy interim steps to get us there. And in so doing there's so many places to fall off the edge of a map."

Chad: Oh, yeah. Just from a business standpoint, you look at it and you go, "Yeah. We're good."

James: "Lowered my cost. Win." That sucks.

Chad: So, any parting words, Mr. Ellis?

James: Are there any left?

Chad: Where can listeners find The Talent Cast?

James: So if you actually like the sound of my voice, and lord, knows I must.

Chad: Good god. Holy shit.

James: I know, right. I do a weekly a podcast. There's no interviews, there's no sponsorships, there's no money. It's just literally me saying, "I have a question, or I have a problem, or I have an idea," and I work through it while people listen to me, for some reason. It's called The Talent Cast. It's every week.

James: We're taking a break in the summer but it's more to recharge my battery to make sure every episode says something and means something. I just happened to launch with a friend of mine, Brad Farris, who has a great podcast called Breaking Down Your Business. Hey, Brad.

James: He's been doing this forever. And he says, "You know what? I've looked at business over the last 15 years. And I look at all the things that have changed in Google, and software, and mobile, and this, and this, and this. And everything has changed. Everything has radically changed except for invoicing. And if you think about it, why do I need to print a page, scan a page, sign a page, to rescan a page, to email the page. That's crazy. And hiring. The process of hiring looks exactly the same today as it did 20 years ago."

Chad: Which is stupid as hell.

James: But it's a huge red flag that says the table's about to get flipped.

Chad: Oh, yeah.

James: It's about to become a thing. And I think what we're seeing is the edge of that table flip and we can easily extrapolate how that turns into something.

James: So, I think if you're listening to podcasts like this, and maybe even to mine, you can be more on the front line of what that change can be and get ahead of it. Have better conversations with your CHRO, president, vice president, TA, CEO, what have you, and say, "Look, talent's important. Talent is the root of the tree and if you don't water it right, tree dies. The tree's dead."

Chad: Yeah.

James: That's really what we're all about. I know that's what you're doing and I think it's fantastic. It's a great podcast and I'm thrilled to be here. Hopefully my podcast can add a little something to that.

James: Otherwise, @thewarfortalent on Twitter. That's where you find me.

Chad: Pretty cool. So if you're looking for smart, funny, check out The Talent Cast.

James: Whoa. You get one or the other.

Chad: It is totally the antithesis of the Chad & Cheese podcast. Okay.

James: There's less sound effects.

Chad: Excellent, man. Really appreciate you taking the time.

James: So thrilled to be here. Thanks.

Tristen: Hi, I'm Tristan. Thanks for listening to my stepdad, The Chad and his goofy friend Cheese. You've been listening to the Chad & Cheese podcast. Make sure you subscribe on iTunes, Google Play or wherever you get your podcast so you don't miss out on all the knowledge dropping that's happening up in here.

Tristen: They made me say that.

Tristen: The most important part is to check out our sponsors because I need new track spikes. You know, the expensive shiny gold pair that are extra because, well, I'm extra.

Tristen: For more, visit

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