We saw Mike present at a conference last year, and the dude's knowledge of the recruitment industry, Google for Jobs and even Amazon's foray into jobs is super intriguing.
As a result, we cover a wide variety of recruiting industry topics on this UNCOMMON EXCLUSIVE. Enjoy.
PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION sponsored by: Disability Solutions connects jobseekers with disabilities with employers who value diversity and inclusion.
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Joel: Dude, you need to tone it down. I was just napping. You mean Uncommon's automated sourcing that turns passive candidates into interested and qualified applications?
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Joel: How much coffee did you have today?
Chad: A lot.
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Chad: Close, it's called automation. It's simple actually. Just feed or post your jobs into Uncommon. The platform identifies your job requirements, and in seconds Uncommon uses those requirements to search over 150 million candidate profiles. And then it pulls back only the qualified candidates.
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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 and Cheese Podcast.
Joel: Say a prayer, boys and girls. We're going to try and get through this show unscathed. I'm Joel Cheesman of the Chad and Cheese Podcast.
Chad: And I'm Chad Sowash of the Chad and Cheese Podcast.
Joel: On today's show, we have another Uncommon exclusive, a special treat today. Saw this guy speak at the Jobg8 conference in Nashville. I was super impressed with him. He lives in Aspen, Colorado, he's got an undergrad degree from Georgetown, and has a masters from the University of Chicago. Other than that, he's a pretty decent guy. Welcome Michael Woodrow to the show.
Michael: Hey, guys. Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.
Joel: Hold on, trying to get the applause button.
Chad: There it is.
Joel: There we go. I need a bigger screen to get all my soundbites.
Chad: That's what she said.
Joel: Michael, before we dive in, give the audience, who I'm guessing most do not know you personally, give us a pitch on you and what you do and why you're here.
Michael: Sure. I've got a business called Aspen Tech Labs and we actually just had our 10 year anniversary party this past Friday night, so we've been around for a little while. We work behind the scenes in the recruitment tech industry. The bulk of our business is jobs data management, so jobs scraping, and we move alot of job content around, from applicant tracking systems into advertising platforms like ZipRecruiter, Monster, and Broadbean. Lots of guys like that, we move job content around, we synchronize it, we keep things flowing between the ATSs and the advertising platforms, 'cause we also have our job word product called JobMount, and we have a cool product, hopefully we can talk a little bit about today, called Career Set Cloud, it's got a nice Google for jobs interface and a job alert system. It's a career centered product.
Joel: Yep, and JobMount and SpiderMount, a lot of our audience members in the vendors side will know that. JobMount's been around almost 10 years, right?
Michael: Yeah, it actually predated the business a little bit. My former partner, who retired recently, started doing one off job wars about 15 years ago, and then we launched Aspen Tech Labs 10 years ago, and JobMount was our first product. Yeah, JobMount and then yeah, a piece of our jobs data management business is called SpiderMount, that's the scraping business.
Joel: Yep. Let's dive in, one of the things you really wanted to talk about, and we can get to the industry stuff as we go on, but you were at Jobg8 in London and had quite a bit of takeaways from that. Can you sum up some of the highlights from that show?
Michael: I would say that first of all, one of the things that interesting is Jobg8, and there's a conference coming up in March called RecPlus, it seems like the community of attendees in Europe is, nothing against the U.S. people, but is a little more vibrant. It seems like the U.S. one is, sorry, you were there and I were there, so the usual suspects go to the U.S. ones. But in the European conferences, it's media firms, it's advertising firms, the StepStone guys are all over the place there, Russ Media, there's lots of activity from lots of different firms as opposed to the usual suspects. I think that's one thing that's interesting. It's pretty vibrant, it's really well-attended, 200 plus people are there. I think they do a good job.
Michael: One takeaway that I had that I thought was really interesting, I think most people took this away too, there's a Spanish firm called Job Today and they built their business from almost nothing in about four years. And they're kind of like a snag a job or retail or lower end employee site, and they do, almost exclusively, they do employer marketing using Facebook. You think about Facebook as being something for candidates really, not for employers, but they say SMBs are all over Facebook. They're concerned about their social presence, etc., and so they're there. You can really advertise to SMBs on Facebook, which people were just kind of blown away by that, and they showed some stats that were pretty cool.
Michael: And they said, and then for millennials-
Joel: Oh, god.
Michael: Which is their target audience, almost exclusively Instagram and Snapchat. That's where they attract their candidates. So that was a really interesting presentation, their growth ... He admitted they had some good funding and were able to spend some money where startups have trouble with that sometimes. But that was one takeaway I thought was pretty interesting.
Joel: And I know that AIM Group had a report that a job today is posted, a job in the U.S., for someone to hit up North America operations, so they're coming over here pretty quickly.
Michael: Yeah, that's interesting. They didn't talk about that at all, but it doesn't surprise me. It seems like they're well funded and they're moving. So that's something that certainly was interesting. But yeah, there was definitely a good vibe. Another thing that was one trend there was that job boards that are just providing jobs to candidates, the StepStone guys and some more of the recruiter marketing firms, they were telling me that they don't even think that those guys have a chance of surviving, that the sites really need to be a place for candidates to gather information and to interact and the jobs can be one part of what you're doing on the sites.
Michael: It sounds like the guys from StepStone particularly are spending a lot of focus on that. That might be because unemployment is so low. The other thing I learned there is unemployment in places like Hungary and Croatia and places like that are like 6%, 3%, 4%. I didn't know that. I thought those Eastern European countries were much higher, but lots of action in those places and people are being smart about recruiting, because if you have full employment, you have to be smarter about recruitment, right?
Chad: Yeah, we talked to Wolfgang down in New Orleans during TAtech over at StepStone, and those guys are an entirely different animal. They like to build everything instead of partner for things. So yeah, I could definitely see where they want to be able to grow out something that obviously is more than the job boards, more on the interaction and engagement side of the house. But all of that being said, let's get to the meat of this stuff, because you had a rant that you wanted to go on with regard to Google for Jobs, Google APIs, and Tarquin are those guys showing up to these conferences and really saying nothing. So give it to us.
Michael: I love the sponsors of these conferences. They allow me to speak or whatever, so I'm not bashing on the Jobg8 people or anything, but it just seems like this guy Tarquin, I forget what his last name is, Tarquin ...
Michael: Clark from Google shows up at these conferences and he's not part of Google for Jobs. He claims to know nothing about it. He's part of the Google Cloud side, which is the Google API, Google Hire, that whole side of it. And so if you think about the audience, the audience is recruitment tech people and programmatic advertising and job boards and everyone, and people are seeing like, "What the hell do I care about Google Cloud and Google Hire, especially?" Maybe Google API, not really sure. I don't really see that in widespread use. But he comes up there and he talks about it and people get excited that he's there, and he doesn't say anything. And when he walks away, at least the people who seem to know what they're talking about are like, "Well, that was a waste of time."
Joel: It's a nice draw to have Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and whatnot at your conference.
Michael: Yeah, I think that is a draw to have those people there, but I think I really am advocating to stop having him come to these things. And I'm going to talk to the people at AIM and Louise and everyone, you should tell him that he can't come alone anymore. He's gotta bring somebody from Google for Jobs so they can talk about what's going on.
Chad: So that's like going to Indeed and having somebody speak from Indeed but they have no fucking clue what's going on in their search group. You realize that, right? So they've modeled that like Google, and Google and their search team is pretty much behind frosted glass and shit. So you can't see, you can't really have engagement with them, not to mention, I'm sure you've seen the anti-trust suits that have come out of Europe with regard to Google, right?
Joel: Why do you think Google doesn't ... because obviously Tarquin knows what's going on at Google for Jobs. Strategically, why do you think they play that game?
Michael: You know, the only thing I can think is that they just don't want to answer the questions about, "Are you guys going to charge for advertising on Google for Jobs? Are you going to continue giving traffic to job boards on Google for Jobs?" I think they just don't want to answer those questions and then be held back later to say, "Hey, you told us this, and it's not necessarily true." So that's the only thing that I can think. That's the only reason I can think.
I mean I guess there's some Chinese wall type stuff that might make sense too, but ...
Chad: Well there's that, and I mean Tarquin, his whole job go to market is the API stuff. So his focus is to be able to go into those types of environments to be able to talk to job boards and say, "Hey, look," I'm gonna paraphrase, "your job search sucks. It's for shit. You should actually use the Google API job search just like CareerBuilder, Jibe, all these other recruitment platforms, because your stuff sucks. Ours is better." So it's not really his job to talk about Google for Jobs, it's his job to be able to sell the go to market side of the API.
Michael: Yeah, I get that. I get that that's what his job is. But I just think the conference people mislead you, someone from Google's gonna be there, we all think it's Google for Jobs and it's not. I get what his deal is, but he even started talking about Google Hire, and he was telling everyone how Google Hire's perfect for them and everything and everyone's sitting there like, "What are you talking about? We're job boards." So he must know. He's a Google guy, he's not stupid, right? He must know. I don't know, it's kind of crazy. Sorry about that rant. I just have seen it three times now, or three or four times, and you just kind of shake your head.
Michael: But I would like to talk about Google, I think we should talk about Google for Jobs at some point here because I think it's super interesting.
Joel: And before we get into that, I'm curious because you've been in the job board business so long and your product ... Give us a current state of the union for job boards, where they are now, where they're going, are you bullish, bearish, what's going on there?
Michael: I'll tell you, when I get a call from somebody who wants to start a new job board, the first thing, I basically tell the person two things. I'm like, "I don't know if you're going to buy our job board or not, but here's two things you can take away from this call regardless of which direction you go: A, don't quit your day job, and B, don't build the job board from scratch." I always tell people that. The second one maybe isn't as relevant to the question, but the first one, don't quit your day job, is ...
Michael: And kind of a side note that I tell people is, if you want to start a job board today, you need to have either some secret sauce for attracting candidates, maybe have connections to an association or your brother's in charge of the Nurse's Association of America or I don't know, something like that. But you have some secret sauce to attract candidates or you've got some access to employers that you've been in the industry long, they trust you, they know you're gonna help them hire, one or the other. You need to have one of those two things.
Michael: But if you're in the job board business, maybe I drank the Kool-Aid or whatever, but I think you need to offer candidates more than just getting hammered by job alerts, you know? And so you need to offer them some reason to stay connected with your platform. It's news, it's training, it's whatever, so that you'll be top of mind when they're looking to make a job change. I think that's the critical thing.
Joel: What are some examples of job sites and what they're doing that you see that's successful?
Michael: Let's think about that for a minute. Ones that I think are successful, ZipRecruiter is incredibly successful. We all have to agree on that, right? Is that something you guys agree with?
Michael: And I love the guys at ZipRecruiter, but I don't understand why job boards take feeds from them, frankly. It's a small amount of money to get to push your traffic back to ZipRecruiter so that they can do a better job than you soliciting your candidate with job alerts? I don't understand why job boards are willing to do that. I understand absolutely why ZipRecruiter's doing that.
Chad: So why is ZipRecruiter doing so well? Because they really are just an alert type of job board. They don't have any really additional content. So you were talking about being able to do more than just the alerts and that kind of content, but that's really all ZipRecruiter's doing, right?
Michael: Yeah, I think they're a force. And so there's somebody who can just by brute force, and basically all they do is sign up job boards to buy traffic from. So buy traffic from a job board, job boards are always looking for additional revenue streams. Most of them are willing to sell their traffic to ZipRecruiter, but then ZipRecruiter captures all those candidates and they've built this massive job alert resume database, resume database and job alert database, and they're good at it. They're much better at it and they've got the broad platform. They can send engineering jobs to an engineering person and music jobs to a music person. They can send all of those.
Michael: So I think they're probably the exception. They probably don't need to provide a whole bunch of content for people, but I don't think your average job board like jobs in sports or golf talent or jobs in football, they can't compete with somebody like ZipRecruiter when it comes to job alerts.
Joel: And Indeed's success was similar as well right? Providing backfill for all these job boards, which by the way, they put a little link in the bottom of every site saying, "Jobs provided by Indeed" which help their SEO because of the links they were getting. They're basically using the little guy to leapfrog them to success, right?
Michael: Yeah, that's how they built their business all over the world, and I hate those guys, but their business plan was absolutely genius. Because I had some job boards at the time and they were giving 'em massive amounts of organic traffic and everybody relied on them, and I was in their office in Connecticut eight years ago or something like that, meeting with them about scraping and things like that, and every Monday they had like 50 new college grads, and all they were doing was giving them all these job boards to go take their clients, call 'em directly, and say, "Why are you working with ABC Job Board? You should be working directly with us. You don't have to pay per month, we'll pay you per click," that whole thing. It was genius. That's what they've done.
Michael: The thing that really still boggles my mind and I wish I could ask Google two questions, not just one, but the second I'd ask them is, "Why the hell did you give so much status to Indeed job postings?" For years, they gave Indeed ... But why? It wasn't original content. It was just aggregated content.
Joel: The algorithm.
Chad: So here's the thing and here's what we learned, is that, and this is actually something we learned through talking to Colin Day and some of the other operators that are out there is that Indeed was providing almost live feeds into Google and providing them with jobs almost as they were posted through the applicant tracking system. So they were banging the hell out of applicant tracking systems, getting feeds from job boards, etc., etc., etc., and they seemed to be the only place that was providing that kind of content that fast. So I think it was pretty simple for Google. It was like, yeah, these guys are obviously the source. They're providing us more jobs per second than anybody else that's out there who's providing them in 24 hour, 12 hour feeds.
Joel: And by the way, the back links for there, people would go to their site, it was user-friendly, they would stay on the site. It wasn't just the frequency of scraping and uploading into Google. Nobody played the SEO game better than Indeed, which is why they became Indeed. I don't know if you can blame Google for that. Google has an algorithm and they say, "We don't play favorites, and if you are, according to algorithm, the best results for these searches, that's how you're going to be in the top of searches," and Indeed played the game really, really well.
Chad: They were incredibly focused, which nobody else was. So that being said, let's get the hell away from Indeed for a second. Let's go to Google for Jobs. How does Google for Jobs disrupt even more than they have thus far, or do you think they will? And this will just be where they sit.
Michael: I think Google for Jobs is going to be absolutely the force in job search. I just think what we're hearing from people, so we see it, we have this platform where we can scrape jobs from an ATS, you don't have to change your career site, you don't have to do anything, we just grab jobs from your ATS, we populate a parallel career site, we push those jobs to Google for Jobs, and we see the traffic. It's not massive traffic, but it is growing. And what we're seeing is we're seeing super high apply rates and we're hearing in the industry, if you guys Google it or whatever, check it yourself if you don't think I'm right, but people are saying there are higher hire rates.
Michael: So Google for Jobs is generating much higher hire rates than other places. And the only thing I can think is that when people go to Google and they look for a job, they're serious about looking for a job, right? They didn't get a job alert, they didn't get bounced into some other way or whatever, they went to Google to look for a job. Google was trying to make it really easy for them to show relevant jobs that are close to them, etc., and then they can choose where they want to go to apply. They can choose to go directly to the ATS if it's offered there or they can go to LinkedIn or they can go wherever to apply. So Google's making it easy for them.
Michael: So everything I'm seeing is super positive and if you look at the real estate that Google for Jobs is giving, it's massive. They're giving almost the entire first page to Google for Jobs. And getting back to your Indeed example, maybe that is the answer that I've been struggling for, because I do believe that Google wants to make the search experience ... Google will do whatever they can to make the search experience optimal for the person who's searching. And if Indeed was delivering that for them, then there's the answer to my quandary. And I think that's what they're trying to do with Google for Jobs. They're trying to make the search experience as simple and user-friendly as they can.
Joel: Hey, Michael, you had some really interesting insight into the things that are solid optimization tips in Google for jobs. For example, I think one of the things you said was if they're actually applying, then your jobs are going to rank better. Or if you have salary information, Google's gonna look at that more better than if you don't have salary data. Can you give some optimization tips that you've seen from your business and Google for Jobs? And I'm also curious about old SEO, so old SEO of the JobMount, getting ranked for Toledo Jobs versus maybe how a company should be looking at SEO today in a Google for Jobs world?
Michael: I would say so Google's got their schema and it's not that complicated to follow. They don't care about geolocation because they know it better than anybody. They've got their own maps API that they can run all the jobs through and they'll have the geo locations, so they don't really care about that. They certainly care about job title. They don't care about any categorization because they're taking the job titles and the content and they're better than anybody at dealing with making sense of content. And it was funny, at Jobg8 in London, people were complaining about it, "Why is Google showing me a physical therapist job in London?" and everything, and my point is, they're gonna figure it out.
Michael: They might today show you a physical therapist job in London, but every day they're getting smarter and smarter about what they're doing. So there's the Google schema, and if anybody who's listening here doesn't know what it is, just send me an email or Google it. It's pretty easy to get the jobs in that format. Follow that. They do like salary information, so even if you can have a range that you're going to rank higher or if you've got a range of salary information versus blank salary information. It's a little dicey if you're a job board and you're collecting jobs from, let's say, BP or Craft, and they don't have salary information, are you going to add that to the job to push it out to Google for Jobs? It's a little dicey to do that, but it's kind of up to everybody how they want to handle that.
Michael: But salary information is going to help you rank better. And what we're also seeing is that on the Google for Jobs screen that comes up, you'll see LinkedIn usually comes up and CareerBuilder come up. They're either two partners with Google for Jobs or something, they usually come up first or second, but the ATS, the career site, can stand up against those power houses. So I believe that over time, Google is going to give more status to the career site, because again, if you believe my premise that Google wants to make the experience as clean as possible for the user, getting that person to the ATS if it's mobile-friendly is going to be a better user experience than kicking them to Zip and then Zip kicks them to Indeed, or not Indeed, Zip kicks them somewhere else and everyone's collecting information and people are dropping.
Michael: I see that's where they're going. They're not quite there yet, but I think that's the direction they're going in.
Chad: I disagree when it comes to that, because in some cases if you go to an easy apply scenario, you're going to get somebody who actually applies through Indeed or LinkedIn or one of the actual vendors versus going through a 20 minute apply process and they eject. So I think there's no question, there's a great opportunity for applicant tracking systems in companies to focus on their user experience overall to ensure that they get much better rankings on Google for Jobs, but I don't think that's played out yet. I think that job boards and job sites are really going to work extensively on UX so that they can continue to gain rank. That's just my personal opinion.
Michael: I don't disagree with that, yeah, it makes sense. It comes back to my point, Google is smart about this. They're going to try to figure out what's best for the user. And if a quick apply is the best for the user, then they're probably going to direct somebody there. You're probably right about that.
Chad: So let's talk about another mammoth organization in Amazon. They've made some strides with AWS Educate and they also started to tack a job board onto that. We talked about this in one of our podcasts last week, a couple weeks ago. What's your take on this?
Michael: So one thing we said at Jobg8 that I thought was interesting, maybe you guys have said this already, but LinkedIn's in the job business through Microsoft, Google's obviously in the job business, Facebook's in the job business, Indeed, the biggest guys are in this business. It makes me bullish on the industry, right? So these guys wouldn't all be here if it wasn't interesting, and here comes Amazon, saying, "Hey, we don't want to be left out." SO this AWS Educate platform that they have, again, just like Indeed, you have to respect Amazon. No matter what you think about Amazon.
Michael: They're saying, "Let's build a platform and let's display jobs for Cloud engineers and let's provide training for Cloud engineers and let's provide content and other things to keep people interested," and then the idea being, I think, once those people who look favorably on AWS, when they go out into the world and they're choosing a server partner, they're going to choose AWS. So I think it's genius for them to do this, and there's so many of those jobs. I think that AWS wants to capture every Cloud job and maybe even broader, every technical job, of all the AWS partners.
Michael: And they want it to be a value ad, they're not charging for it, they want it to be a value ad for the partners. We pay AWS a lot of money and we're a tiny little company. Everybody's paying AWS, and AWS is saying, "hey, we're going to give you something else for that, too. We're gonna help you find people."
Joel: One of the things that I think definitely sparked this whole arms race in employment was Microsoft dropping 26 billion dollars for LinkedIn. That definitely got everyone's intention. Any acquisitions in Amazon's future that you see? I've been talking about Slack for a long time. I could see ZipRecruiter being gobbled up by them or maybe Facebook. What do you see on the MNA frontier?
Michael: It certainly sounds interesting. If you look at LinkedIn and you look at ... They've got that professional network that they've built. Microsoft now knows about all of us. They have all of our personal email addresses, they have everything through LinkedIn. So I think that certainly made LinkedIn interesting for Microsoft. Is that why ZipRecruiter is building this massive job alert system, because they're collecting user information? They know where these people are working, they know what jobs they're interested in, they have a lot of information there, so could that be something that's interesting? I don't know. I know the Zip guys are happy building their business and having a lot of fun doing it and everything, so I don't know about that.
Michael: But I think user information is of great value and Microsoft proved that paying for LinkedIn.
Joel: Michael, last question for me. We talk a lot about on the show automation and sourcing automation. Google released out of data the ability to post a job and automatically see who in your database is a good candidate and we see this with LinkedIn as an SMB tool where they go into their LinkedIn directory and give you candidates for the jobs you just posted. This is an Uncommon exclusive, they just launched a sourcing tool that will search 150 million candidates to bring up, candidates they believe are good fits for your job.
Joel: The question I guess is your thoughts on the automation trend. At some point, do we even need job postings and is that a viable business for the future?
Michael: It's interesting, I'm a recruiter by training. That's where I come at this. And so 20 plus years in recruiting, I'm old enough to say, "Oh, no that'll never work." But I'm also smart enough to say, "Technology is certainly going to continue to disrupt." I haven't seen anything that does a really good job with it, but if you think about what LinkedIn is trying to do, they've got this gigantic professional database and being able to help recruiters match candidates and narrow the list down and then contact them, I think there's definitely a huge amount of power in that, a huge amount. I really believe that LinkedIn is a recruitment technology firm more than anything else. I think that's where they make the bulk of the revenue, and so it doesn't surprise me that they're doing that and I'm optimistic that they're going to improve on that, but I don't know if I'd go so far as to say that we don't need postings.
Joel: It'd be a much better show if you did. Hey Michael, man, I know you're a busy guy and there are probably mountains to ski or something there in Aspen or fires to cuddle up next to, but thanks for coming on the show. For anyone that wants to know more about you or your company, where would you send them?
Michael: So they can just go to Aspentechlabs.com or I'm just Mike at Aspentechlabs.com. Shoot me an email and I'll be happy to tell you about the Google schema or how to get on Google for Jobs or anything like that. Happy to do it. So thanks guys, thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.
Joel: Thanks, Michael. And Chad?
Joel: We out.
Chad: We out.
Stella: Hi, this is Stella Cheesman. Thanks for listening to the Cheese and Chad Podcast, or at least that's what I call it. Anyway, make sure you subscribe on iTunes, that silly Android phone thingy or wherever you listen to podcasts. And be sure to give buckets of money to our sponsors. Otherwise, I may be forced to take that coal mining job I saw on Monster.com. We out.