Catching Up With Monster.com - CEO Scott Gutz
Scott Gutz, Monster's CEO, has been on the job about 6 mos. To say he has his work cut out for him and his team is a gross understatement. For over a decade, Monster enjoyed being the top brand in the employment industry. Those days are gone, as job boards have become antiquated in exchange for names like Google, Facebook and Microsoft who are now vying for marketshare. On this Uncommon exclusive, we dig into the State of Monster with its CEO and chief product officer, Chris Cho.
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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.
Joel: Oh yeah.
Joel: You da monster.
Joel: What's up Chad?
Chad: Oh man, eh welcome back to HR's most dangerous podcast where we've all been naughty because it's just not that fun being nice. I'm Chad Showash.
Joel: I'm Joel Cheesman.
Chad: And on today's podcast we have a special gift for our listeners, we have Chris Cho Monster's chief product guy, he's one of those guys who has all the good toys and he doesn't let anybody play with them. Welcome Chris.
Chris Cho: Thanks guys, happy to be here.
Chad: And Scott Gutz, CEO and supreme elvin commander over at a monster.com
Chad: Did I get that right Scott? That's how Kate said I should introduce you.
Joel: Is it just chief Monster, or is it just CEO now?
Scott Gutz: I like chief monster we'll go with that one.
Joel: You like that? Okay, okay I like that too. Welcome to the show guys.
Chad: Welcome to the show, hey we're gonna just jump straight into Q and A just
because everybody knows who the hell you guys are, so number one Scott, you've been the Monster hot seat for five months, how does it feel man?
Scott Gutz: It feels toasty, warm, but good.
Joel: How would you describe the state of Monster, currently?
Scott Gutz: We are focused on restoring Monster to prominence and relevance and we're very excited about the products that we're introducing in 2019, some of the products are evolving in a material way in 2019 and we're super excited about our management team, we remain excited about our brand and we're excited about our global footprint and all of the things that come with that.
Joel: I would say the first few months of the new leadership that came in there was a real focus on the users, for example you took banners off the site which I personally applauded because you guys used to be NASCAR so that's a nice change, speeding up the site being really focused on users and then getting to profitability after that. Are we at a point now that you guys feel comfortable that the site itself, the user experience is rockin' and you can really focus on the profitability?
Scott Gutz: So I'll give a quick answer and then I'll let Chris give his perspective as well, so I would say were focused on experiences, we're focused on matches and we're focused on outcomes. You're absolutely correct we've done a lot of work to improve the experience on the site, we've done work to improve the speed of the site, we've done work to enhance our capability from a search engine optimization perspective, from a Google for jobs perspective, but would I say that we're super happy would be, overall experience both from an employer and a candidate perspective, I would say no there's plenty of work we've got in front of us to make the experiences that much better going forward and it's one of those things where I think even if you asked me the same question in 12 months time, I'm gonna tell you that we're not fully satisfied because we're always going to be trying new and different things to make sure that our users, new candidates are wanting to come back and we want to make sure that our employers are having a super good experience with all the tools and solutions that we provide to them.
Scott Gutz: On the profitability side, we are continued to be focused on the experiences, the matches and the outcomes and we think by doing that we're going to get better outcomes for our candidates, better outcomes for our employers and fundamentally better outcomes for Monster, both from a profitability perspective and from an overall performance perspective. So, I think I covered all of the aspects of your questions, but maybe I'll turn it over to Chris to add some additional color.
Chris Cho: Hey guys, we're never gonna be happy with user experience and while we did invent the space in 94/95 and we introduced to the world this notion of being able to search jobs on the internet and while others have emulated, others have copied and explored new areas of what we do, we still remain very hungry to reclaim and re-pioneer the space yet once again with a great new user experience that we're building today around our job board. I just feel that job boards today are so transactional, right? You go to the homepage, or you go to the app and you type in a key word search and then you get your search results, maybe apply to a few jobs, maybe sign up for a few job alerts and then you're done, right? You don't come back until the next time you're looking for a job. We want to change that, right and we want to change that so that people find more value, we drive value back to the employers, we have a life long relationship with the job seeker and the candidate instead of a transactional one.
Chad: I totally get that and one of the reasons why we take a look at Facebook, take a look at Google, you take a look at Linkedin with Microsoft, we're looking at lifestyle platforms, right? That's exactly what you're talking about. We're talking about having that transaction when I need a job and that's it and those types of platforms are going away because every single day we use these lifestyle platforms. So, yes there are other companies who have mimicked and really, to be quite frank, out preformed Monster over the years, Monster was at the pinnacle and then got knocked off the mountain and they weren't performing as well. How do you change that, specifically, what can you do to be able to compete in a lifestyle platform landscape? That's the big question.
Chris Cho: So we have to educate, enlighten and uplift, right? The thing about social networks with social feeds and news feeds is that a lot of the content that you see, that gets pushed to you is toxic and I want Monster from a product vantage point to be the antidote to that, right, I don't want anxiety producing, fear of missing out creating content product services to be pushed to you, rather and I'll give you some examples, right. So, when you go on a Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram, or something else you're going to get oh here's where I'm vacationing and you're not, here's what I'm eating that you're not eating right now, or here's the conference, or business event that I'm attending that you're not and that's just for a lot of people, right, whether they know it or not, subconsciously being embedded and it's giving them a lot of, for a lot of people, anxiety, right?
Chris Cho: What if we altered that to be positive and understood that this ecology of job search is really rooted in one becoming, or wanting to be a better version of themselves, right? What if we included content, product services, job ads that were more relevant, that were more suited, that were more career path oriented, right? That's the kind of mentality and line of thinking that we're having.
Scott Gutz: And just to add a quick perspective to what Chris was saying, you know, we believe that in this younger generation there will be a lot more job turnover than perhaps the older generation has experienced, so there's data that suggests that this new generations may be changing jobs and by that I mean employers and not jobs within a company, 15 to 20 times during the course of their career, so as Chris said, I think we have a real opportunity to be the go-to site where we are fundamentally invested in the evolution of that persons career and that person thinks to come back to Monster first for perspective on where to go next and that's really what we're aiming for.
Chad: Okay, the big question is how though? That's all well and good the educate, enlighten on lift, that's wonderful and a day of Facebook where you get on and you're having fights with your family every single day because of politics and that kind of shit, right? Then it bleeds into Linkedin and everything else, how do you do it? Again, it sounds great and you can get up on stage and talk about it and it sounds wonderful, but it all comes down to execution,
Joel: If I could jump in for one specific example that I can name, you know, you guys a few years ago partnered with Kununu to power your employee reviews. We know that employee reviews are valuable, right, I mean it's great content people want to go back, they want to see the nitty-gritty, the inside info on the company. Glassdoor recently sold for, you know, 1.2 billion dollars so we know there's value in reviews, it seems kind of silly that you guys are outsourcing that component of your site, is there a plan to have reviews come in house and have Monster power its own review section, or is the plan to stay with Kununu and have them handle that component of content?
Chris Cho: I think reviews are one component of a seekers consideration building journey, right? Yeah, I'm really interested in learning about a companies culture by way of ratings and reviews, but then the job search is so much more than that right? It's about benefits, perks, salary information, commute times, maybe an authentic video of the hiring manager him, or herself presenting themselves with heres the individual that I want, the characteristics that they embody and what sort of contributions I expect from them, not in some sort of professionally, agency created video, but perhaps, through in a very authentic selfie style video that we've been able to capture for them and maybe in 45 seconds, 60 seconds and have them be presented as part of the job ad. So, that's the kind of thought that we have, company ratings and reviews are very important and we realize that, but they are just but one component of the job search process.
Joel: You brought a video and I'm curious you recently launched Monster Studios which I describe as Instagram for jobs, I assume you have a different explanation, or description, but how is that going and what sort of early feedback on that product?
Scott Gutz: I'll give a quick answer Chris, I would say we're super excited about Monster Studios. The companies that have expressed interested are a multiple of what we expected and we're in a beta phase right now, so we're close to a hundred customers that are participating in the beta and we have hundreds more that are asking for permission to also participate. We're moving into an alpha phase in Q-1 with an expectation for a global launch at the end of Q-1 going into Q-2. So far we're happy with the performance of the solution, our customers that are participating are happy with the performance of the solution.
Scott Gutz: We are getting ready to introduce this to candidates as we go forward, which is the most important test, as Chris said, I completely agree with his answer, if you think about all of the different considerations a candidate has when they're making a determination as to the right fit, yes you could look at commute time and compensation and information and perspective from Kununu or Glassdoor about the company itself, but getting a real perspective from the department manager and the department in which you're going to work and having things like specific company profiles associated with the particular location and that particular department, I think are super important in terms of a candidate ultimately determining whether or not it's a right match. We think video is an important component, it's one of the components that we think candidates will effectively consider going forward and we are really very, very bullish on on Monster Studios as a major element of the Monster technology staff and the Monster employer and candidate solutions going forward.
Joel: And did I hear you right, that you're launching it for job seekers? What does that look like?
Scott Gutz: So the comment was more specific to the fact that job seekers will be looking at Monster Studios in order to make a determination on the right fit, however, we are also looking at moving the video solutions into the candidate world as well that would more likely be second half of 2019, but there are some things that you need to take into consideration before the launch.
Joel: So a video resume component, essentially?
Scott Gutz: Exactly right.
Chad: That being said on the Monster Studio side of the house this is enhancing your current product, right?
Scott Gutz: That is correct.
Chad: This is not a standalone product, so how do you believe this is actually gonna impact revenues? Experience is awesome, we love it, but at the end of the day you know Ron Stod and Linda better than I do, it's all about being able to ensure that you're going to be impacting that bottom line and focusing on EBIT, alright?
Scott Gutz: Two things that I would say, one is we actually think that the way that you get ahead in this business or in many business is creating differentiation, so as a part of our job ad solution we think by including Monster Studios we're providing an enriched solution for employers and by extension a better mechanism for them to attract the right candidates. The second comment I would make is Monster is in a good situation relative to it's EBIDA performance, one of the things that's interesting is that we are fundamentally a technology and a media company, we are different from a staffing company, a staffing company uses the EBITA as their major measure.
Scott Gutz: From an EBIDA perspective Monster is doing quite well, but clearly I am here to grow the revenues, I'm here to grow the profits and my management team and I are laser focused on introducing solutions that are better serving employers, introducing solutions that are allowing candidates to find the right match and again, if we think about experiences and matches we think that leads to very, very effective outcomes for all parties involved and we hope guys, including Monster.
Chad: So on that same line of thinking experience has to do with relevant matching, right? So Zip Recruiter has taken the SMV market by storm, but you know their going to be in the enterprise market very soon. They haven't focused on clicks, the PPC side of the house, they haven't focused on apps, they've focused on quality and more toward the qualified candidate side of the house. Two questions, first and foremost, especially right out of the gate from a philosophical stand point, do you believe moving past PPC and PPA to qualified candidates is really what everyone should be focusing on right now, obviously, including Monster? If so, then when can we expect a product?
Scott Gutz: So, let me see if I understand the question, right now Monster has a variety of different solutions that we offer, which include elements of the traditional duration job, a PPC equation, a PPA equation and a PPH equation and that's not only in just our pure job ad category that exists in our services solutions, as well. Do I think that Monster is going to move to one versus all of the others? Given the fact that we're global operating in 15 different markets, I can tell you that the market expectation for products and services is different by market, by way of example, Canada is different from the US, the UK is different to Germany and I believe that we're going to continue to offer a variety of solutions that meet the requirements of the market, that being said, I want Monster to be in a position where irrespective of it's say 30 day duration job, a pay per click, a pay per applicant, or a pay per hire that our performance and the outcomes that are being generated put Monster in a very strong, relative, competitive position, that is absolutely what we're collectively aiming for.
Chad: Okay, excellent. So real quick, what's the big difference between the US and the UK with regard to those types of products? I mean, great answer, but really down to brass tax, how are you selling differently and what types of products are actually going out the door faster in the UK than they are in the US?
Scott Gutz: Yeah, so I'll give a few examples and I'll let Chris offer some perspective as well. One thing that we've seen, I'd say from a European trend perspective is that the duration job continues to be prominent in terms of what people are willing to buy, so there have been pockets of interest in PPC, we know that the competitors that offer PPC have entered those markets and are starting to introduce new models, but we are in a position to offer either duration, or PPC in any market that we operate.
Scott Gutz: On the question which is specific to the UK, it maybe just assures you one of the things that we're finding interesting is that the standard job ad if you look at, you know, year over year it is definitely on the decline, however, what we call the premium job ad which includes an active social component is taking away all of the standard share and growing at a fairly rapid pace. So, we think that that the evolution of call it the traditional job ad moving more to social channels is really starting to become very prominent and really starting to create better outcomes in the UK market and by extension in some other European markets as well. Chris you can add any color.
Chris Cho: Yeah, so social is huge in the UK and it's not as a result of our lack of ability to yield strong performance in PPC and duration, it is just the market is moving in the direction and we often look at our Monster Europe as tip of the sphere with a lot of things. They teach us and we learn from them and we try to adapt as quickly as possible what successes we can emulate here in the US with respect to avant garde products like social which really aren't super avanguard given that they were released to the market three, or four years ago. On the matter of the quality of higher aspect to it I'm a big fan of the Papa John's tagline, not Papa John himself, better ingredients better pizza, right? I'm going to adapt that and I'm gonna say when it comes to quality of hires and quality of candidates it goes down to better data equals better decisions and I don't think there's anyone here who would disagree with that, right?
Chris Cho: What we are doing is looking at the nucleus of what we have to offer, if that is relegated, not just to us, but to every other job board out there, right? The humble, but lowly resume artifact that, honestly, as a online artifact hasn't changed in the past two decades, right? It's still the same word file, same PDF file, right?
Chris Cho: We are making advances in uplifting that artifact with a certain halo of information that I think will yield to better outcomes for employers and both Scott and I are very passionate about that being part of our core strategy.
Chad: I want to hear about that, that's what I want to hear about. Tell us more about that.
Chris Cho: Yeah, well maybe in the next podcast, right?
Scott Gutz: To be continued.
Joel: Such a tease. I'd like to pivot to Google for jobs if I can for a second, what has that meant to your business, your traffic inflow, plans for leveraging it more in the future, or less and maybe are you starting to think of it as a competitor?
Scott Gutz: Initially, we have put a tremendous amount of focus on making sure that the Monster performance on Google for jobs was strong, so in the markets where Google for jobs has launched, which I think you guys are well aware, is US, UK and Canada, we actually have seen super good performance on Google for jobs, in fact, I would suggest that we are anxiously awaiting the launch of Google for jobs in other major markets where Monster operates as a way to take a step forward. So far we have seen Google as a clear path where Monster needs to be well placed and prominent in order to make sure we are appearing where we need to appear. We see organic and SEO and Google for jobs as opportunities for Monster to be much more effective of getting our jobs where they need to be. So far, I don't think we're seeing it as a competition, we're seeing it as an opportunity for Monster to excel and I expect that will be the case as we move really through the next few years.
Chad: Here's a quick question for Chris, Chris we take a look at Google for jobs and what we're hearing and nobody knows about the black box of the google algorithm, although, they know that experience means everything, so if you're focusing on experience and you're trying to obviously, demonstrate to Google that you're providing a better experience than all those other sites that are out there, even the app booked tracking systems and so on and so forth, do you believe that that is also a part of the strategy in being able to have a better, new age SEO to get better search engine rankings in Google for jobs?
Chris Cho: Yeah, no doubt, no doubt, so that we're very clear Google is an enabler and a really good industry partner, they're pushing us forward and they're doing some things outside of Google for jobs as you guys know on the Cloud side that are effectively democratizing some of that great Google search technology across the board, which has been a good thing for everyone in this industry. When in comes down to SEO, this is precisely the reason why we're going into studios, right? If you delve into that a little bit more and if you path it out and string it out a little bit if Google for jobs as they've taken precedence in Google in the past by indexing and surfacing video content, right?
Chris Cho: As an SEO differentiator then becomes part of Google for jobs, then what we really want to start understanding and using as a leveraging point is how the video content that appears on Monster can appear on Google for jobs. That's our kind of way of getting ahead of it and when we allow for really clever, smart features like the ability for people to upload their script, so if you're not a digital marketer and not a lot of people are, right? That are in recruiting and I do feel that the future of the role of the recruiter will be trending towards digital marketing and as they upload their scripts that scripts becomes arguable fodder for SEO, as well as being, close captioning text. That's viability, that's optics and that's stuff that's coming out of Monster, right?
Chad: I think that on the video side of the house you're going to get more engagement from job seekers on Monster, so if they come through Google and Google sees that you're getting more engagement because they're watching videos and you have more times on site, then obviously that's going to provide different signals to Google that job seekers are actually staying longer, which means it's a better experience. That being said, that's my personal thoughts on that, what about the API, their job search obviously has been blowing everybody else's job search away, when is, or is Monster going to go full Google?
Chris Cho: So CareerBuilder took that dive and I think that they, depending on who you talk to, they've either seen a mixed success, or a big amount of success, depending on who you talk to really right. When you look at that precedence that was set by them there's no doubt that we have high curiosity and high level of interest in exploring that sort of potential as well. We are highly interested and highly engaged in learning more about it, but we also come from a tradition of understanding that search and match is a huge competitive, strategic differentiator that is just going to be really, really hard to relinquish, right? As a core part of the offering, it's just everything about the job search is relegated into bits and bites of how the algorithm sorts it all out, that's clearly evidenced when we bought Trovix, that was clearly evidenced when we bought Sixth Sense, right which are semantic search technologies that power the experience today.
Chris Cho: So, there's more water to be squeezed out of that towel, out of those acquisitions, there's more juice to be squeezed out of that lemon, but we are also very, very adapted and under Scott's leadership we are very, very keen on understanding what sort of efficiencies that can be driven out of partnering with Google, in that sense.
Scott Gutz: I would just add, really quickly, even if we were to move to a more commoditized search solution it doesn't change the fact that the match and recommendation component of what we do is highly specialized based upon algorithms that have been built out over years that is reflecting a significant investment that we have on the data science side. Even if search is commoditized I don't think match and recommendation will every really be something which we will relinquish, to use Chris's terminology.
Joel: Interesting. Question about the gig economy, hopefully we can agree that this is a trend that is taking hold in the workplace. Any plans for Monster to leverage the gig economy, whether that's maybe partnering with somebody, or building something in house, what are your views on that?
Chris Cho: So we absolutely see in this next generation they are going to be looking at gigs as much as they may be looking at full-time jobs, so we've got a variety of different initiative that we're both exploring both from an internal perspective and from a partnership perspective, we clearly have a lot of experience with our parent company Randstad who is in part-time jobs, gig jobs and full times jobs so we've got a perspective that we're learning from them in terms of what they're seeing. We also have run some tests, I mean just by way of example, you guys are aware that we operate the military site and the fast website, on the fast website we've just started to offer part-time jobs to high school students and college students who are coming onto that site, the uptake has been probably 3x what we expected that gives us some indication that moving more towards part-time more towards gig, is an element that we absolutely have to consider if we want to be all of the jobs to all of the people as we go
Chad: What about Chad bots? They're all the rage right now and we hear Monster talking about experience, obviously, a lot which is good, but candidates are still floating in the black holes, right? So, how can Monster help with the engagement between employers and candidates and almost be that defacto platform for them, perspectively using messaging through WhatsApp, Facebook and integrating chat bots?
Scott Gutz: So I'll just give a high-low perspective and then let Chris give a bit more detail, but I could say in the context of experiences when you think about texting and chat those are absolute elements, it's the way people interact today, we understand that this is going to be something that becomes much more prominent going forward. We have multiple different partners that we are discussing the evolution of text and chat with, it is available in solutions that we are offering today as we move to our next generation of candidate search for employers we will have text capabilities built into the search process, we have a variety of initiatives now around chat, but just to make the very clear statement that we think these are very important components of the employer and candidate experiences going forward and we intend to be a leader in the space.
Chad: Okay, so for Chris real quick and maybe just for clarity Chris.
Chris Cho: Yep.
Chad: So, being able to provide customized chat bots to your clients as a product for revenue generation to be able to also bridge this divide for candidate experience who individuals who are going into black holes, is that what we're talking?
Chris Cho: That's a part of it right, so first of all huge shout out to our partners Textrecruit Eric Kostelnik that have been very influential in helping us understand what sort of potential we can unlock with great chat bot experiences and of course we are partnering with them, that's a public fact and they've been very helpful in helping us understand where chat bot technologies can be deployed, but we also look at our parent company Randstad and the investments that they've made in companies like Aleo and Wade & Wendy, right, some of the things that they're doing are very avanguard and they have very specific cases around leveraging chat bot technologies to overcome and automate a lot of the mundane things that job seekers, who by the way have been our biggest fan and loyal supporters since our birth and helping them get over things like how we can make the apply experience doable through a set of SMS interactions. Right? Instead of sitting down 19 minutes in from of a computer and being like, oh my god let me copy and paste C resume into every text box, right?
Chris Cho: I think when you look at the potential it has to offer we do see it being a combination of improving the quality of experience for our job seekers and candidates, but also delivering on the outcomes that employers want, which is really enriching and engaging the seekers, the candidate audience thoroughly so that they get, again, better data creating better decisions.
Scott Gutz: The one quick thing that I would add is as more and more traffic moves to mobile and mobile apps, or mobile web we fully expect chat and text to be that much more prominent and that much more usable in that environment.
Joel: No question.
Scott Gutz: Yep.
Joel: Historically when a new leadership comes into an organization, a new owner in general there's obviously a lot of moving parts internally, the people are unhappy, some people will be happy and I'd like to just talk a little bit about sort of the internal aspects of the organizations. Currently on Glass Door, Scott you have a 65 percent approval rating, the company as a whole has a 3.1 out of five stars. Assuming you guys are never satisfied, Scott how do you plan on getting your approval rating up for yourself, as well as, the company at large?
Scott Gutz: I think that's a fair question and again having been here for five and a half months it's been a really good experience in that I have inherited a management team that for the most part has all joined within the last 12 to 18 months, we've shared that with you guys before. Everybody from a management perspective is not defensive about the past, everybody is looking forward, everybody is here to grow the business and I've been super pleased with the fact that my management organization and by extensions, sort of the level minus two organization is super excited about moving Monster forward.
Scott Gutz: So, what are we doing? I would say that we've spent a lot of time and I've personally spend a lot of time reintroducing the Monster vision, the Monster mission, the Monster values and setting a strategy for the two thousand plus people of Monster to understand and appreciate and it's around a lot of the different things that we've discussed, it's around audience acquisition, it's around new revenue streams, it's around defending the Monster core platforms, it's around innovation which we consider to be quite important, so as we continue to broadcast our strategy and to be very transparent, in fact, it was just three weeks ago that I stood before the global organization and said these are the things that we're going to do to make Monster a great company again going forward and to improve upon the performance that we've seen in recent years and so far the response has been very, very good.
Scott Gutz: When you introduce the strategy now when we set our objectives for 2019 and moving forward the objectives will tie directly into the strategy, my personal perspective having done this a few times before is if people understand what we're doing and why we're doing it, they understand what their role is in the contribution to the overall strategy, they understand that what we're doing to differentiate ourselves from the competition if you could get those things working together and you've got good people around you, like Chris and like Kate, you know, I really, really get very excited about the future of Monster and I'm hopeful that when I get excited that that permeates through the organization, my leadership team gets excited, their teams get excited and to get back to your original question Joel, then you can start to see those scores on Glass Door going up in the right direction because we've created the right environment.
Chad: Guy's I'd like to say I really appreciate you both coming on, taking time to answer the hard questions and there aren't many CEO's and chief product officers that will actually jump on with a couple of knuckle heads like us and answer tough questions, so I mean, this was awesome we appreciate it and we hope to do this again as your continuing to push out more new product, start to drive revenue and again, thanks so much.
Joel: Thanks guys.
Scott Gutz: Well, we like you guys, our pleasure and happy holidays to everyone.
Joel: Happy holidays.
Chris Cho: Bye guys.
Chris Cho: We love you guys.
Joel: We out.
Chad: We out.
Ema: Hi, I'm Ema thanks for listening to my dad, the Chad and his buddy Cheese, this has been the Chad & Cheese podcast. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts so you don't miss a single show. Be sure to check out our sponsors because their money goes to my college fund, for more visit chadcheese.com