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Shiny Objects Kill Recruitment w/ Tom Becker

We welcome Tom Becker, EVP of Recruiting Ops at The Judge Group to The Chad & Cheese Bad Ass Series. That's right Tom is one 6Sigma black belt wearin' mutha that you don't want to foll with -- or at least his process.

Tom breaks down how some companies are killing the "recruiting game" and others are mere spectators in the cheap seats.

We've matched you up with another kick ass Uncommon Exclusive.. Get it? Matching? That's what Uncommon does... with candidates... and jobs... dumbass...


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 and Cheese podcast.

Chad: Yep

Joel: Ah yeah, welcome back to the Chad and Cheese bad ass series. Today, we have Tom Becker, executive VP of recruiting operations; should be executive VP of badassery, from the Judge Group. Everybody say hi to Tom.

Chad: Hi, Tom. Dude, how much coffee did you have this morning, holy cow.

Joel: I have been up since 3:30, I have had like three pots, so just roll with this shit.

Chad: Slow your roll, son.

Joel: So, Tom, are you out there? You didn't move did you?

Tom: I did not, I did not, hey guys, how you doing? Thanks for having me.

Chad: Hey, you're in Carolina, man. Have you been digging out snow all week or what?

Tom: Yeah, well we have. What's funny, was a lot of snow; I went to the airport yesterday, I'm actually in Philly today and lot's of snow by the airport but no snow where we are. You guys will get a chuckle out of this, they actually had a two hour delay over nothing. So, all the schools were delayed for no reason.

Chad: I mean, you guys don't really have any snow removal equipment though, do


Tom: Yeah, that's true, I guess.

Joel: I mean, that's kind of hard, right. I mean, it's like "yeah, we're gonna try to throw the dice here because if we say school's on and it does snow, yeah; we're pretty fucked, because there's no way we can get this stuff off the road.

Tom: Well, it's the ice that's really scary. I'm from Boston, originally, so we're used to driving with a half foot of snow, right. So we're used to it, but I don't think anybody's used to it in Charlotte, and I've been there for about 13 years, so...

Chad: It's all those angry, Southern mothers that have to send their kids to school with a little ice on the ground.

Joel: So, some background about you; tell us about you, just some quick stuff about your Bank of America days and what brought you to being EVP, mad scientist of tech shit at Judge.

Chad: Who are you and why are you here?

Tom: I actually started with a company out of Boston, it was called Keene, as a sourcer.

Chad: Ahhh...

Tom: I'm of the old school and this predates the job boards, which I know you guys love. It predates that and I actually started as a cold calling recruiter. My job was with all the receptionists and I don't think my kind exists anymore.

Chad: No.

Tom: That's where I started, I started with that. Back then, we were actually experimenting with some technology, so, it's been something I've been interested in my whole career. We were using, like, you know, "can we do events where people can sign up, and we can do online screening, before it was a thing. It was actually a lot of fun.

Tom: Anyway, I got recruited from there to go Bank of America and I just had so much fun there. What I did, was I led a sourcing team, when I was there. Then eventually I led all employment branding and also the sourcing for the company. The thing that I got the bug was the 6Sigma bug. I went from partial nerd to complete nerd at Bank of America.

Tom: Because it really made me feel like, "Oh, my God, there's so much more to recruiting, there's more to process, there's more to how do you manage performance and got my green belt there and my black belt and sort of went on from there.

Tom: Then I went back to Comsus, so I went back into the industry. It was sort of like Michael Coreleone, it just kept pulling me back in.

Tom: Once you got the bite for IT staffing or recruiting, you love it and you miss it; so I went back. I brought all this really cool stuff that I learned at the bank, there.

Tom: Honestly, guys, we just crushed it. Then we got bought by that little company out of Milwaukee, called Manpower Group.

Chad: So, were you one of the original boolean geeks, like Shalley groupies back in the mid-aughts? Were you one of those guys?

Tom: You know, it's funny, because I was always the kids standing against the wall. I don't think I was one of the cool kids with that group.

Joel: Wait a minute, did you put Shalley in the cool kid group?

Tom: I did, I'm sorry. I'm saying, I was always a boolean guy. I loved the boolean strings, I'm probably more of a Cathy, I believe semantics is the key. Once I started realizing that I'm like, "I'm not looking back, I'm not creating these little box". I just sort of left that whole school of thought.

Joel: We talked a little bit yesterday and one of the things that you said made me all warm inside. You said, "boolean's dead".

Tom: Yep.

Joel: Tell me a little bit about that.

Tom: I've been able to conduct; and we talked a little bit about this yesterday; I did a few lean assessments. I did about four in my career, principally around IT staffing or IT recruiting. What I did was, we looked and we...Do you guys remember the time and motion studies, you guys know what they are? You sit there and clock recruiter activity?

Joel: Yeah.

Tom: It's brutal. Right?

Chad: Horrible.

Tom: Horrible, it's painful.

Joel: Yes.

Tom: What I found, though, is; if you watch a recruiter, if you sit a recruiter for three days. Day one, they lie to you and they tell you what they're gonna do, right? Nothing that they do, they do, they're just trying to show you that they follow protocol. Day two , they start to forget you're there, by day three they really do what they do, right?

Tom: You get to spot all the inefficiencies and things like that. What I learned is that about 66% of a recruiter's activity is non value-added. In other words, they spend a lot of time in busy work. Fifty percent of that is sourcing, so it's all centered around endless job board searching and making these perfect algorithms. When we watch the recruiters try to make these perfect algorithms, these perfect boolean strings, it's a complete waste of their time.

Joel: Uh huh.

Tom: Right, that's where they waste their time. If you could find a way to automate that, I think that's where semantic comes in. I think semantic, if you have a good process and you're able to deliver or serve up good candidates. You're giving them back, literally two or three hours every day. I think that's why I went over to that school of thought.

Chad: For those that don't know, define semantic search, for me.

Tom: It semantically pulls out; I know you can't use a definition to give a definition, but it pulls out all of the words and it creates the meaning around those words. For example, it knows if it's programmer, programming; it's able to pull all those things. If it's Oracle, 8i, all the different versions of Oracle. It pulls all those things in the semantics out of the resume, out of the job description and it creates a much cleaner search that's able to take into account, all the other aspects, or all the semantics of what's in the resume and what's in the job description.

Tom: It goes a lot deeper and broader.

Chad: Chad and I, on the show, talk a lot about start-ups and vendors that are sort of trying to solve the puzzle of the automated sourcing tool.

Chad: You say boolean is dead. Couldn't you say that sourcing is dead or on it's way out?

Tom: Well, by the way, and I should have started with this; can I give you guys kudos or whatever; the podcast with Peter Weddle, I don't know if scared the hell out of me or if it educated me, but, a little bit of both. It was a really good podcast.

Tom: To be honest, I think that sort of where we're heading. I think it's something everyone's afraid to admit. I mean, I believe recruiters should be focused around higher value activities; which is building relationships, engaging candidates, things like that. I think you can automate a lot of the non value-added stuff. So, the process, which is sourcing, which is updating candidates, which is giving them feedback, prepping them for interview, I think all those things can be automated.

Tom: If it means sourcings dead, I don't know. I wish I was that smart, as your guest, Peter; but I think it's definitely going to be less and less in the future.

Chad: Love that book, Circa 2118, if you haven't listened to the podcast, definitely check it out, or you can go to the TA Tech bookstore and pick yourself up one.

Chad: Something else that we talked about and we hear constantly, "it's all about the bright and shiny". Now, you're a black belt, which means you can kick somebody's ass, that's what I believe that means. But, also, you're big on the process side of the house.

Chad: Talk about how this bright and shiny shit is just screwing process to death.

Tom: I don't know if I could kick butt, but I can definitely kick some process. I think there's a really good article that was written in Harvard Business Review by John Woodrow and it's exactly that. It's bright, shiny objects and the future of HR. That's actually where I got that; so I want to give kudos to them.That's where I referenced that. I feel, it seems to me, that rather than focusing on your process that talent acquisition wants to endlessly focus on all this top level funnel technologies that just these little shiny objects, rather than focusing on your process. And optimizing your process and being more efficient with your process centering around; and this could be a whole conversation around the key stakeholders, right. The candidate, the recruiter and the hiring manager.

Tom: I don't think we center around that, I think we would rather add another technology or let's focus on predictive analytics, chatbots, big data. Just forget big data, focus on little data, right? Forget top funnel, focus on middle of funnel, cause that's also just as important and almost entirely forgot.

Chad: So, apparently you strive a lot of technologies. What are the shiniest things out there, what should our listeners be looking at, in terms of the next big thing and what they might have missed

Tom: The thing about the shiny objects is, they can be amazing and they can be revolutionary, you know. You know, your episode on Chatbots was wonderful, it seems like Quincy was really focused on process.

Chad: Uh huh

Tom: So anything that really enables the process. We're experimenting with two, when we say two things, we're experiment with technology, but we also experiment with process, which I know sounds crazy, right. We'll actually do AB testing around efficiency. So, we'll say, "if a recruiter does this, does that yield more efficiency"; if a recruiter does that does it yield more efficiency?"

Tom: All those shiny objects that we should be thinking about are feedback loop technologies, I think they should be focusing more on how easy applied technology, texting seems to be a really big aspect of knowing where and how to use text. But, I think those are the three big areas, really focusing on how does it enable the process as opposed to technology just for the sake of technology.

Chad: I'm not going to let you off the hook that easy, give me some names of vendors. Don't just tell broad, broad categories.

Tom: Yeah, we use SenseHQ, I don't know if you guys, I'm sure you've heard of them. First, I know you guys did this, as well, but I want to give a shout-out to our CIO, his name is Ken Kreiger. You guys should have him on your show, he's a thirty-year veteran with the Judge Group. He is a recruiter that turned into a CIO, which is unheard of, right? So believes in the same philosophy, that the only time they will implement technology is for the sake of enabling process. We've been able to integrate SenseHQ and it's done some really amazing things. We could talk through that.

Tom: Also, TextUs, we've been able to implement fairly successfully. We're also test driving Mya, as well.

Chad: So TextUs, would that be a TextRecruit canvas competitor or something different?

Tom: What TextUs does, it's similar to TextRecruit, I think is a competitor. Basically, what we did with TextUs is we integrated it we have a homemade, in-house ATS, which I think is one of the best in the industry, I really do. I've seen the other ones and use a lot of them, but what we've been able to do is integrate texting into our applicant tracking system, where you can actually do it natively from the system; from the candidate record or even from a download that you have on your Iphone. It's as if you're texting them from your phone, as well. That's what we use and we use it for top of funnel and we're now experimenting in innovating around can we also use it for mid funnel activities. Like updating and you have interview scheduled and things like that.

Chad: I think testing process improvement is genius. I mean, that's where companies should start, as a matter of fact, it sounds like I'm beating a dead horse, for Godsakes, but all these damn companies who have really just pulled their 1990s style application process methodology into their ATS has just really fucked everything up. So, your thoughts on just blowing up the process, starting from ground zero, not even thinking about vendors, until you get your new process down and then start to look for the bright and shiny.

Tom: Absolutely, and we do a training, a session with new recruiters, probably like once every other month and I get to give a talk about process. I always say, and you guys, I think you'll get a chuckle out of this, but I always say, "if you started in recruiting 20 years ago and you went into a coma and you woke up today, you could probably get right to work".

Chad: And probably be incredibly successful because you're actually calling people and you're doing the human to human thing, as opposed to waiting for somebody to fucking e-mail you or call you.

Tom: Can you imagine that? Like they would actually be like, meeting on the phone, they may actually source people. It's pretty incredible.

Chad: Could you argue that automation will make us more human because the grunt work will be done by machines and we'll be able to have real relationships?

Tom: Well...

Chad: Or, no?

Tom: It's funny you say that cause I would, I actually think that in order to create a more engaging process you need a more efficient process.

Chad: Right.

Tom: So I think that's the key. If you free up the recruiter's time to do things like have meaningful discussions with candidates and get to know them, I think...But you can't do that if you give them an overburdening amount of reqs. You can't do that, you have to be efficient, so I think automations and efficiencies, if done right, should create a more human experience. Or more engaging process.

Chad: So we've talked about shiny things but I want to talk a little bit about fool's gold. What technologies out there do you think are just absolute shit? Or maybe trends that you think will fade quickly without much fanfare.

Tom: There's one thing that's interesting to me, that just never caught on yet. It's, or maybe it has and I just didn't pay attention enough, but video interviewing just never caught on. Or have you guys seen it? I've never seen it caught it. Everyone wanted to rush there and everyone doing video interviews but I think that's one. Right. You're right, right. Or new fandangled versions of resumes and things like that. I think that's one thing.

Tom: The other thing that seems to be, I don't know if it's fool's gold, but it seems to be really high in the hills, is giving, not only do you give feedback, but you give meaningful feedback that say "let's give you career advice and coaching". Guys, I think candidates, they want to work for a company and a manager, right? I don't think they want...I think we try to give, we try to stuff all this stuff to them and say "we're going to give you this advance career coaching and advice". I don't know, I think that's sort of fool's gold, or maybe it's just so far up there that I don't think we're gonna get there yet.

Joel: I'm gonna throw one atcha. What about block chain virtual reality?

Tom: What's funny is I was with, when I worked for Manpower, I think they tried to do a second life thing. This is like ten years [crosstalk 00:16:04] it was a complete...

Joel: Hell yeah

Tom: ...complete disaster. It was terrible. Not there, I'm sorry. Who talks about virtual reality? I don't think it's there yet.

Joel: Joel loves virtual reality. He just wants to put something on his face and have somebody feed him 24/7, sit on the couch. He would be in his boxers, he would be like in frickin Utopia.

Joel: But what about block chain? We keep hearing about block chain and how powerful it is, but we don't really see products that are worth a shit that are sold with quote, unquote "block chain".

Tom: Yeah, I agree with you, I haven't seen it yet. I think with the power of block chain, it's able to authenticate, right? And then put it across the block chamber where it's there and you can't remove it, right? It's in all of the nodes. I don't know, I think to be honest with you, it might be my fool's gold, because I think there is potential there. I just think it's got to be done well, with the right platform that's big enough and able to really provide that authentication. I think it's not only authenticating skills, it could be authenticating things like are they good workers, do they show up on time, do they get along with others. Imagine if that was a block chain and you couldn't erase that for a long time and think about the impact that will have on the workforce.

Joel: They really don't know what block chain means. Employers don't even know block chain means, right. It's almost like trying to go out there and beat them to death with a word that is so high tech that they should use, that they don't understand. So, I mean, everything that you talked about, you know; being able to validate and just the authentication pieces, I mean, all of that is incredibly important but that's not what's going to sell HR and/or talent acquisition.

Tom: Totally agree, right, I mean, remember, predictive analytics was almost the same thing. Everyone just wanted to use it; and even big data, everyone was obsessed with big data. I remember I did a talk at SourceConlink, forget your big data, use your little data, for crying out loud. You're...

Joel: Uh huh

Tom: have no idea how to use your data. Honestly, I think there is promise in block chain but I agree with you, it's not, "hey you should do block chain" it's "you should find a better way to authenticate skill sets in this IT staffing industry".

Tom: The staffing industry has massive implications cause you could go to a client and say, "here are validated JAVA developers who are proven to have a good track record, their code is actually validated by peers that have a high score and on other websites". That's really powerful.

Tom: I think, again, it's not block chain, it's solving the problem of authentication, right? That's what its doing.

Joel: We've focused a lot on technology, for obvious reasons, but I'm curious to your opinion on employment branding. Are we over rating the importance of employment branding or are we paying enough attention to it?

Tom: By we, you mean like the just general talent acquisition? Right? Like the...

Joel: Employment branding is a hot topic, right? Glassdoor was acquired for a billion plus dollars. You know, companies spend a lot of money to keep people in the building and get them in the building in the first place. The culture and what its like to work there and everything is really important. Glassdoor just put out their best companies to work for. A lot of their competitors are doing the same thing. Are we overrating the importance of that or not?

Tom: You know, I think we are. Here's what I'll tell you why and I could go either way on this, but, it seems to me that if you spend all that time on employment brand and it's not authentic. In other words, if you spend all that time getting people excited about this, you know, people drinking beer, playing...

Joel: I like that

Tom: ...foosball, or whatever it is, right? I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that. However, if you're spending all that time and then you show up, you being the candidate, and it's inauthentic. Then you've kind of wasted all that time. You've got to be authentic all the way through the process.

Joel: Isn't the value of sort of online reviews, the fact that you're getting the real nitty-gritty. You're not getting what the corporations telling you its like to work here, you're looking at the workers telling you what it's like to work there. Is that important?

Tom: That is important, right? That's what employment brand tries to leverage, right? Or try to tweak or change, right? That's really important. I do think that authenticating from the inside, you know, what it's like to really work there, I think that's incredibly, it's exposing. Or it's encouraging. That aspect of it, I think, is incredibly important. If you use that aspect as a means of employment branding then I think it's really powerful, right? But, it's more about trying to make something different, or make something attractive that potentially isn't, that's a huge downfall.

Joel: Excellent, when you're taking a look at employment branding platforms, when you take a look sourcing platforms, all these different platforms that are out there. I mean, this is a really cool time to be in recruiting. I mean, the last five years, before this big peak, really sucked. I mean, it was boring as hell, but this last, like 24 months, has been pretty awesome. What is your favorite platform today. I mean, you just can't wait to get up and use it every single day. Or, test drive it.

Tom: I don't know that we have any shiny objects here. I don't know that I, I think it's an incredibly exciting time and I think if you're not using all of them, like we use all the social platforms really well, or I should say fairly well. In that it drives candidates. We're constantly interacting with the talent communities. But, I don't have like that one or two thing that I say, "oh we gotta use to engage or attract?

Joel: Uh huh.

Tom: I think it's more where the people, where the candidates are going, right? I hate to pull a Mulligan on this one, but I don't really have one that I'm excited about.

Joel: Where are the candidates going?

Tom: I think they're searching, they're just doing a Google search, right> I think that's where the candidates are definitely going. I think mobile, right, because it drives them to like their area, their neighborhood. I don't know that they're gong to any one or places right now. It's really been distributed fairly evenly, it seems like. It seems like Google is doing a good job to make it so it's the search, right? You've got to value high on that search result. But, I don't think they're all running to one place. Unless you guys are, you probably see more than I do, but I don't see on absolutely dominating or over the others.

Joel: So, you mentioned Google a few times. What do you think about Google for jobs? How do you think that's going to impact or how has it already started to impact the industry and is that we're seeing such a huge change and more innovation?

Tom: I think so, and by the way, I love the fact that they set up shop in Japan. I think that was awesome.

Joel: So do we.

Tom: Everyone was all upset about Randstad and Monster, like Indeed. I mean, come on, it's a staffing company that owns Indeed. So I love that, right, I love what they're doing. We had a meeting with Monster a couple weeks ago. I'm not saying, necessarily that Monster or Google, or whatever. I don't think Google is gonna want to own this space. I think Google wants to provide their partners the ability to win. I think Indeed was almost gonna, they were trying to corner their backyard and I think Google just was like, "I'm not going to let that happen, I'm going to distance you immediately". And, I think that's what they did.

Joel: Interesting. Question about the gig economy. Obviously trending, we talk a lot about it on the show. I recently wrote a blog post talking about Upwork partnering with Microsoft, which I believe will potentially be a major acquisition target for someone like Microsoft, going in the next year; where they have LinkedIn, they have GitHub and now they have Upwork. Talk about your thoughts on the gig economy and maybe how that reality fits into recruiting today and tomorrow.

Tom: I think it's going to be a lot more prevalent. If you look at, like when I worked for Manpower Group, we were able to visit a lot of other markets, European markets. Latin American markets and I believe our penetration rate for contractors; before I go into gig economy; was like four percent. It's not as high as people think it is, you know, in terms of contractors. Whereas in other countries it's like 30% or 20, it's really high. I think that that's a trend that will come here. I think more of the US economy will be a gig based economy, or temporary labor economy. I actually love the work they're doing, I think when someone figures out the Uberizaton of jobs, I think that's going to be a huge innovation, right? I applaud what they're doing, I think that's the right direction to go.

Joel: Yeah, my last question is in regards to privacy, obviously you're familiar with GDPR over in Europe. We were interviewing the founder of Hiring Solved, who said they basically threw away, 29 million profiles in Europe because it just wasn't worth the time to deal with the privacy issues. How do you feel privacy is going to impact recruiting, particularly here in North America, in the future?

Tom: I think it will impact. I'll say, me personally, I'm that guy that like, doesn't care. I know that's wrong, right? If someone wants to take my data, they're just gonna do it, right? I'm probably on one extreme end of that. It seems like its going to be out further than we believe it will be here in the US, right? I think it's impacting. I lead a few forums in the IT staffing industry, one is all CFO's, another one it's all recruiting directors and I've asked this question a couple of times. Are you impacted yet by GDPR, by these other things. They're saying no, the ones that have European operations, they're saying yes.

Tom: It's more of an IT impact, we'd have to change where the data resides and how that interacts. I don't see it impacting over the immediate future, at least over the next couple of years. It's becoming more of a box in the staffing industry, "are you GDPR compliant?". I don't know that they're ready to say what that means, unless there's something big. Remember when Microsoft was sued with the whole co-employment thing? I don't think it's here yet, it hasn't reached shores yes, which really impacted companies that are principally in North America or in the US.

Joel: ...hit us yet, but assuming that it does, how does that impact recruiting?

Tom: I think it impacts more the CIOs of recruiting companies, if that makes sense? Or it impacts more the way the data resides. I don't know that it actually, again, the recruiting process is the process; what the recruiter does. It won't impact what the recruiter actually does, right? Because, then their IT organizations, they're going to have to scramble to figure out how they're going to serve up this data to the recruiter. I'm gonna go on a limb and say, "I don't think there will be a major impact. I really don't". Because it's more for IT to figure out, it won't really impact the core process of talent acquisition.

Joel: Right, because all the inter workings of GDPR and then also in 2020 there's even more strict guidelines that are going in, in California. 2020, the US, everybody pretty much does business pretty much in California, so it's gonna happen in the US by 2020. But yeah, I can see just from a process standpoint from how you keep the data, how the individual can manage the data, that's what it all comes down to. So, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I've never heard it put that way before but, obviously, clean and simple.

Tom: It may impact data bases, right? Like, where the data actually resides but again, to the recruiter, if they have an effective IT organization, they should find a way to say, "okay, you're sourcing in Europe, and now use that database". Right?. I don't know that if affects the core, fundamental process of talent acquisition.

Joel: Yeah, yeah. Well, Tom, sir. That is all we have time for today. We know you're a busy guy, being the EVP of recruiting operations and all the cool shit over at the Judge Group. We appreciate you taking the time, coming on the show and we expect you to share this with all your peers, your friends, your family and they all need to subscribe by the end of the day.

Chad: Tom, for those that want to connect with you, how would they do that?

Joel: Connect with Judge at but also on @tombecker on Twitter.

Chad: Excellent, we out.

Ema: Hi, I'm Ema, thanks for listening to my dad, the Chad and his buddy, Cheese. This has been the Chad and Cheese podcast. Be sure to subscribe on I Tunes, 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

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