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Own Your Brand! w/ Dan Sirk, CMO at Kununu

Employment branding is HOTT!

While most think of Glassdoor or Indeed when the topic of anonymous employee reviews comes up, there's an entire universe of platforms hoping to help employers improve their reputation, both nationally and globally. European-based kununu is one such offering, and we sat down with CMO Dan Sirk at a recent SHRM conference to learn more about the growing landscape.

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Joel: At SHRM talent in Las Vegas, pleasure to introduce Dan Sirk--

Dan: A pleasure.

Joel: From Kununu. Dan is the CMO of the North American or just US--

Dan: US.

Joel: Is there a Canadian CMO as well?

Dan: There's not a Canadian CMO.

Joel: Okay. So you're the head guy in North America.

Dan: You're the Chief marketing dude.

Chad: Yeah. Chief marketing dude.

Joel: So, many of our listeners don't know Kununu, never heard of Kununu--

Dan: What?

Joel: So, yeah, it's true. Now, if we're an Austrian based show or where ever you guys were ... I'm sure you'll talk about that a little bit.

Dan: Yep.

Joel: So give us the spiel on Kununu and we'll sort of dig into your thoughts and opinions on the industry and what's going on.

Dan: Yeah. Absolutely. So, Kununu is an employer branding and review platform, right. So, we think about what we do, we basically help companies tell their story. Then we make sure that we get that story in front of candidates at those key moments when it would influence their behavior, whether they're looking ... thinking about applying or their thinking about taking a job with the company.

Joel: It's fair to say you are a competitor to Glassdoor, reviews on Indeed; some companies that our listeners are certainly familiar with, yes?

Dan: Yes. Absolutely. I think an implicit in that question is, well what makes you guys different, right.

Chad: He's good at this. He's good at this.

Dan: He must be CMO.

Chad: Chief marketing dude, CMD.

Dan: Yeah. So, when you talk about Glassdoor, even if you ask Glassdoor what they are right, they tend to operate as a job board. Indeed also creates as a job board, right. So when you think about what that means it tends to mean that they're really trying to get candidates when they come through the door to apply to as many potential jobs on the platform.

Joel: Are you saying they're a job board primarily?

Dan: Yes.

Joel: Okay.

Chad: There you go.

Joel: Someone said it, finally.

Chad: Finally.

Joel: Thank God. Finally.

Dan: Glassdoor says it too. So I think we are ... we're really in it for the companies and our jobs done when somebody's actually applied for that job, we're not to get that person to go to any other job opportunities.

Joel: And Kununu is Icelandic for blank page right?

Chad: Icelandic?

Dan: Swahili.

Chad: Swahili. To have your hands right when you do it too.

Dan: Depends on who ask you and when you ask them but yeah.

Joel: So you originated in Europe, you have a pretty big presence there as well. A couple years ago you partnered with Monster to power their reviews. How is that going, how long is that relationship, are you looking to partner with other job sites as well?

Dan: Yeah. That relationship has been going really well. Monster has been an effective partner for us. With Google for jobs, it's a similar architecture right. These entities are looking to leverage our star ratings and our content to try and gain more traction and engagement with the folks who are engaging with that platform.

Joel: Google for jobs will present reviews on your site or at least the number of stars in the Google for Jobs. Has that met a nice increase in traffic for you guys?

Dan: Nice bump. Really nice bump.

Chad: Really? That's cool.

Dan: Yeah. Google for jobs actually didn't break out the traffic associated with Google for jobs relative to conventional search until recently, but back when we launched we saw literally a doubling of our organic traffic.

Joel: Wow. Okay. And are you looking ... is your marketing ... so partnering with other job sites is that something in the offing, is CMO, how are you guys getting your name out there, how are you sort of cutting through the clutter?

Dan: Yeah. I mean we're open to conversations about anything. We're an insurgent in this market and we're trying to make noise. I think when we think about from a marketing standpoint what we want to accomplish it's we really want to focus on the user and delivering value for the user. That's both on the C side and on the B side. When we think about the customers, what can we do to support their work, and then on the C side making sure that candidates getting to understand what it's like to work at a company before they take a job there, that's our purpose.

Joel: I feel a transparency question coming from Chad Sowash who loves transparency.

Chad: Yes. Been holding back for so long. So on the transparency side of the house, how do you actually position this to company's with regard to; transparency is here, how do you embrace it on Kununu versus --

Joel: Putting your head in the sand.

Chad: Yeah. How do you embrace it?

Joel: It's commercial time.

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Chad: It's showtime!

Dan: Yeah. I think I've been surprised and appreciative of the fact that I think a lot of HR folks that we've been talking to, here at the show not one person, I talked with 50 people, not one of them has been like, oh my god a review site I can't, you know what I mean. They know that the reviews are out there at this point, there's been a real proliferation of them. It's a reality and I think are all of them seeing it as an opportunity, probably not everybody, but I don't think everybody ... I don't see anybody whose fighting it and saying, "oh listen, that stuff just shouldn't exist, it's completely irrelevant, whatever."

Joel: Well, probably. That probably happened in the beginning but the growth has happened so quickly that they know it's going to happen. So what you're saying is, so how does an employer embrace that transparency on Kununu?

Dan: Totally. The best thing to do honestly is to claim your profile and actually


Joel: Own your shit.

Dan: Well. Claiming a profile is free on our platform --

Joel: Yeah. Yeah. Well, yeah.

Dan: -- so we really want to enable two way dialogue between candidates and the companies. If our purpose is to give an honest view of what it's like to work at the company we need the company's perspective. We make it free for people to claim their profile on our platform and we want people to be able to respond to reviews, respond to questions that candidates are asking and engage at that level as an identified person who works inside the company. That's only going to make the decision making process that much easier for the person who's coming by and trying to look for information about it.

Joel: And you guys recently launched a new feature where you could ask questions.

Dan: Yes.

Joel: Correct me if I'm wrong on this, tell us about that service and how it's going so far.

Dan: Response has been great on both sides. We launched here in the US and we were like, okay how many questions are going to role in. And we also were wondering hey --

Joel: A question might be, are there free bagels.

Dan: Free bagels is a question.

Chad: That would be a Joel question.

Dan: You would be surprised at the questions that come in, yeah.

Chad: Free beer nights.

Dan: They've really been rolling in. They've been rolling in for our customers but then also on profiles that are unclaimed and the questions really do vary, vary quite a bit. It could be something like a specific benefit, could be about working hours, could be about culture. Then there's some wacky ones that really might too wierd...

Joel: I bet. I bet. Talk about the future of this space. In most industries you have two horizontals, you have Coke and Pepsi, then you have the verticals under that. Are we going to see more segmentation, are going to see Kununu for over 50, Kununu for African Americans, Kununu or Glassdoor for that? Are we going to see few or these company's come about?

Dan: This is a great question. When you think about where the space is going overall, I think job boards are getting commoditized more and more and certainly with the rise of Google for jobs, five years from now they might not even be around. I think company's are starting to come to appreciate the fact that, listen, we need to actively promote our company and our culture and our dollars maybe shouldn't be spent quite so much over here but you'll be investing the future around of building an image for our company.

Chad: So what's I'm hearing is Glassdoor is making a huge mistake by focusing on jobs, because that stuff's going away and they should be focusing on the review area.

Dan: I would not dare to tell Glassdoor what to do. I certainly have nice things to say about Glassdoor, I've never had a negative experience with them myself.

Joel: The good news about Kununu is you haven't taken 200 million dollars from investors to be put into situation where you've got to do something that makes money now.

Dan: That's true.

Joel: Okay.

Dan: I think answering the second part of your question, where is this employer branding space going, I think is also a really interesting question. I would say there's a couple of things that are top of mind for me with regard to that. I do think segmentation is and specificity is going to be something where things are going to move. People wanting to understand not, what it's like in general but what is it like to work in this department for this, you're not going to get to this specific person, but what is it like to work as a woman in this organization.

Joel: You can see her in her sight her fairy god boss.

Dan: Exactly. Larger aggregators like us of this type of information can do a better job of dissecting and cutting that information up and serving that need and understanding it so we don't have to necessarily be customized like an inter-site which is a great site, we've worked in partnership with them. If we can cut that data on a bunch of different ways we can really help serve the user that much better. As much as possible enabling two way communication is another place where this is really going to go.

Dan: What are the questions that candidates actually have, what are the things they want to understand. Then giving the company the opportunity to engage on that level is also a real opportunity for this space, which is, really our Q & A feature is really a toe in the water thing, There's a lot more we can do with that.

Joel: For the company out there who has maybe poor reviews or reviews that they would like pump up, improve. What advice do you give a company who wants to sort of greatly improve their ratings and their stars, numbers of stars that they have?

Dan: Whether company's partner with us or choose not to I always give the same advice on this, which is, hey ask your current employees what it's like, ask them to write a review and ask them what it's like to work at the company. You would be surprised at the positive answers that you get. We did a study, because we really wanted to understand what is the bias between what's on our site and what's happening internal, for internal surveys. So we partnered with Energage and they do all the best of Boston, best of Philly, they partner up with all these newspapers. They do a bunch of internal surveys to establish which companies are the best to work for around which criteria. We match their data up against ours to see, okay what's the bias, are we moving in the same direction or are we moving in opposite directions.

Dan: What we found was we actually moved in the same direction consistently but there was a .75 bias down, so we were moving, and there was a high degree of correlation, but we were more negative than they were. If you just get current employees to actually go ahead and write reviews for your company you're going to see your score go up organically.

Joel: So how do employers actually ... how do they work with you? How do they partner ... how do ... what do they do?

Chad: How do you make money?

Dan: How do we make money? I think like I said earlier we really want to get employers engaged in our platform which is why we allow them to do some stuff for free. We're thrilled to get folks to do that, it's part of what were doing here, getting folks to sign up. For the folks that need more than that and are looking for building out a more robust picture of their culture we partner up with those folks and offer a variety of services to enable them to do that.

Joel: Tell us something new and exciting that's coming down the road for Kununu?

Dan: So we've got some changes coming with our free claim profile.

Joel: We want specifics on the show not just something something.

Chad: Come on Dan. You know better.

Dan: One of the things folks have been asking for is for us to enable them to put a logo on their free profile pages, so that is something that's in the development pipeline and hopefully we'll have that at some point.

Joel: Not the most exciting announcement however but we appreciate that. We appreciate that.

Dan: We watched Q & A in January, we can't, we're still working on it.

Joel: We won the gold man. We'll have --

Chad: Chill out. Chill out dude.

Joel: bronzes from now on until we have another gold on the wall. Dan, where can someone find out more about you guys and learn more?

Dan: Sure. I encourage everybody to go to

Joel: And spell it for the listeners.

Chad: How many u's in Kununu?

Joel: I could spell Kununu a million different way.

Chad: It's dizzying.

Dan: K-U-N-U-N-U dot com.

Joel: Easy enough.

Chad: Very good.

Dan: And you can check out ... you can check out ... I really encourage people to check out what people are talking about in their company, go ahead and claim their profile. We'd love to have you on board as somebody who's engaging on our platform.

Chad: Dan says own your shit guys. This is yours, go get it.

Joel: Thanks for your time Dan.

Dan: Thank you. Appreciate it guys.

Chad: Good job.

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