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Smashfly CEO, Thom Kenney

Are employers gaming Glassdoor? Why is the TAtech Recruitment Marketing Summit going to be so kick ass? WTF is going on out there?

Smashfly CEO Thom Kenney has an opinion that you have to hear. Oh, and he covers a lot more than that with the boys on this Nexxt exclusive.


Announcer: This The Chad and Cheese brought to you in partnership with TATech. TATech, the Association for talent acquisition solutions. Visit

Chad: Okay. Joel, quick question.

Joel: Yeap.

Chad: What happens when your phone vibrates or you're texting alert goes off?

Joel: Dude, I pretty much check it immediately. And I bet everyone listening is reaching to check their phones right now.

Chad: Yeah, I know. I call it our Pavlovian dog reflex to text messaging.

Joel: Yeah, that's probably why text messaging has a fricking 97% open rate.

Chad: What?

Joel: And a crazy high candidate response rate within the first hour alone.

Chad: Which are all great reasons why The Chad and Cheese Podcast love Text2Hire from Nexxt.

Joel: Love it.

Chad: Yep. That's right. Nexxt with the double X, not the triple X.

Joel: If you're in talent acquisition, you want true engagement and Great ROI, that stands for return on investment folks, and because this is The Chad and Cheese Podcast, you can try your first Text2Hire campaign for just 25% off. Wow.

Chad: Boom. So how do you get this discount? You're asking yourself right now.

Joel: Tell them Chad.

Chad: It's very simple. You go to and you click on the Nexxt logo in the sponsor area.

Joel: Easy.

Chad: No long URL to remember. Just go where you know, and Nexxt with two Xs.

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: We have 2/3s of the show being military men today. Real treat. We've got Thom Kenney, CEO of SmashFly . Thom, welcome to the show.

Thom: Thanks Joel. Good to be here.

Joel: Before that you were a CTO, right, of SmashFly?

Thom: I was.

Joel: You're an army guy and you're a Notre Dame grad. What else should we know about you?

Thom: I actually sing opera.

Joel: Really?

Thom: I do. Yeah, I've sang with the Boston symphony for a little over a decade or so before I became CEO.

Chad: How do we not know this? How did we not get some type of operatic with Guinness in Ireland? Last time we had you on the show, oh, that would've been fucking perfect.

Joel: He's a very humble man. Although you can get him to stay up later for drinks if you say something like only marines stay out till 3:00 AM or something like ... He can be badgered in that way.

Thom: I can. And I can be lured in by pizza. I like what.

Joel: It's a little sucker.

Chad: Oh dude. Yeah. Yeah, and that's good stuff. So speaking of conferences because that was during a TATech Conference. We've got another marketing, was it recruitment marketing summit coming up in Chicago, right?

Joel: Chicago.

Thom: Yeah. In just a few weeks.

Joel: Chicago.

Chad: Yeah, it is just a few weeks isn't it? I mean it's in April. So SmashFly is like the headliner on this bitch. So why'd you guys want to get involved? Tell us a little bit more about how this all came to be.

Thom: Well I tell you the experience that we've had with TATech just in general. Well the TATech team has been really, really positive. And when we look at some of the conferences that we've been to, some of the insights that we've gained and also that we've been able to give, it's a really good audience for us to talk to. And when we looked around the landscape, you've got conferences that are in Europe, you've got conferences here in the US, you've got the AI conference that's coming up in Arizona in just a couple of weeks.

Thom: We looked at this from the perspective of where is SmashFly really in this whole ecosystem? And part of that recruitment marketing platform, part of what recruitment marketing is, as we look to the future, especially as we look to push this idea of how we're leveraging automation and personalization to really create great candidate experiences. We thought what a perfect platform for us to be able to share with the industry where we think things are going and invite some really great folks working with the TATech Team to really put on a great conference specifically focused on the recruitment marketing side.

Joel: And just as a side note, the show really took off once they started featuring Chad and Cheese at the conferences, but that's neither here nor there.

Chad: He's being humble. He's being humble.

Joel: Thom the last time you spoke, it's almost been about a year since we were in Dublin together. You've been CEO for almost roughly a year now. Tell me about what you've seen, what kind of changes have really stood out to you in the last year in recruiting technology?

Thom: I think one of the biggest things that we've seen, especially in the last year, is you look to all of the small point solutions that are really coming about to help build that automation or that personalization, whether it's conversational AI, chat bots, whether it's sourcing, whether it's intelligent interviewing, psychometric analysis. There's been a lot of movement in the industry. And what I think is most interesting about it, because like you said, I was a CTO before I was a CEO, to geek out on some of this tech is phenomenal. The challenge that we have is that it's not getting easier to talk about the tech and to talk about the value of the tech.

Thom: It's almost getting a little bit harder because the tech is becoming more advanced. There's more that you can do with it and demonstrating a business proposition to the economic buyer has been one of those things that we and a lot of our friends that we're partners with had been spending a lot of time with to really demonstrate, this isn't just a really cool, neat little trick of technology. It actually moves the needle for the business because at the end of the day, that's what everybody wants.

Chad: That's one of the things that really kind of pisses me off because I geek out over this tech that's coming out. But the thing is it's not being positioned appropriately. It's like, look at all this cool stuff? Look at this glitter? Look at this glam? But we're not seeing business solutions and there are business solutions that are actually baked into them, but it seems like there are way too many product people that are like trying to shape message and not sales and marketing people who are trying to shape message.

Thom: Well, what do you want there to shape the message? Do you want somebody that's willing just to sell you anything just because it happens to be a feature? Or do you want a real deep dive from a product marketing team? When you talk about a SWOT analysis, when you're talking about a market analysis, when you talk about a growth opportunity, the tools that are being built with only a sales and marketing focus are going to be vaporware. They're going to be gone. The tools that are being built in partnership with some of the best companies in the world, those are the ones that are actually going to have staying power because they're being built to a business need that's being articulated by the business, not by the neat little shiny object that somebody is going to grab and look out for a little while and then toss in the trash.

Joel: Yeah, one of the things that stood out to me in Dublin was you saying that companies were calling you saying we need a chatbot, but not really knowing why they needed a chatbot. So have we at least evolved to a point where companies know why they need a chatbot?

Thom: A lot of our customers are, and the interesting thing is that they're articulating a business case that really helps them move that needle. Because if you think about the history of the industry has really looked at how do we optimize what the recruiter and the sourcer are doing? How do we decrease expenses? How do we decrease our time to hire? And these metrics that are important. But the reality is, what you're really trying to do is grab the talent and the hiring managers and bring them together more quickly and the right talent to the right hiring managers at the right time is one of the most important things.

Thom: What we've started to see, especially in the past six months in some of our sales cycles is customers are asking us very, very specific details about how will this chatbot, this conversational AI transform the experience for the candidates? And when we talk to those customers about what they're looking for, we had a variety of different pieces of feedback. Either people just have too much volume and they need people to get engaged without always talking to the recruiter on the phone and other folks are well, we deal with almost all passive candidates who never want to pick up the phone to talk to a recurrence. So it's a great way just to create that initial interest in the organization.

Thom: Because when we think about recruitment marketing and to some extent the ATS and through the process of discovery all the way through to higher, there's really those three top tiers of that bucket. You've got to discover the talent or discover the company, that's on both sides of the equation. You've got to generate some awareness of what the value proposition is, whether that's for an opportunity or whether that's for a mission statement for a company. And then finally you get the interest and the interest is where the call to action is to actually apply and get into that process.

Thom: We talked to our customers a lot about where do you need to tweak your model? Do people know who you are? Great. Do they know anything about you? They don't. Okay, that's an area that we can help you with. And when you link all these pieces together between social engagement, email campaigns, the way we do career marketing sites and chatbots, you bring that together in a holistic view. You demonstrate a value proposition that really is both measurable and actionable that makes a difference for a company.

Chad: We've been talking about this new survey that came out that says 75% of recruiters have no confidence in most of the technology that's out there today, which means the new AI, the chatbots, so on and so forth, which means it's going to be hard from an adoption standpoint, which is exactly what a company like yours needs. You need that adoption. Just from your standpoint, how is Emerson helping defeat that no competence kind of feeling from a recruiter? How does a chatbot like Emerson do that?

Thom: It is hard to overcome that because you have a lot of solutions out there that regardless of the industry that are just bad. I mean I remember the early days of Verizon trying to use the chat bot that they had onboard. I mean, literally wanting to throw my laptop across the room because it was so stupid. I mean no intelligence in it whatsoever. And so a lot of that experience for the recruiters, they see chatbots, they see conversational AI across the industries and it isn't just recruiting. So when we talk to these folks, the way Emerson interfaces with a CRM, I think is one of the most important aspects of what it is that we're delivering.

Thom: You're not talking about two completely separate systems. You're talking about an integrated platform where the conversations flow into the candidate relationship management system in a way that's seamless. Now the interesting thing about it is when we get the pushback from folks about, well, this isn't worthwhile and this isn't something that we can really rely on. Then we get into a scenario where we can actually show them in real world examples where this is actually making a difference and we're pretty transparent too about this is what it can do and this is what it can't do. If you want it to be able to answer any question in the world, it's not going to happen. Natural language processing, semantic analysis, it's really, really good. But most of our customers don't have a million or a million and a half dollars that they want to spend to create the perfect chatbot that's going to answer every question on the planet.

Thom: The question to them becomes, what are the biggest pain points that you have? We're the mundane tasks that you do every day and what are those tactical touchpoints that really make a difference for the talent. And if you hone in on what that messaging is and each company is different, but you hone in on what that messaging is and it can actually be impactful. One of the other things that I think is important about the way that we've implemented Emerson is it's not just a plug and play kind of chatbot. It's one that has the ability to interface with a human on the back end without ever knowing that there's a human there interfacing with that person on the front line. And an interesting stat that we have is a vast majority of people that interface with Emerson say thank you or some other version of thanks at the end of the conversation.

Chad: People are polite.

Thom: That shows an empathetic connections. They're very polite to the chatbot. Because I can tell you which ... Right. With chatbots that don't work, I can probably show you some of the ending comments of those.

Chad: Yeah, yeah. Fuck you, you saw.

Thom: Exactly.

Joel: Hey Thom, we've talked about chatbots here in the early minutes of the show, which is fun. But you guys offer quite an array of services and solutions. What else is hot on your menu list? What are companies really interested in and maybe what's on the future development map for you guys going into 2019 here?

Thom: There's really two things I think that fall into those categories of what you're talking about. The first is what we call Pipeline Intelligence. A lot of companies are looking to identify what are those metrics, what are those KPIs that tell me whether or not my recruiting teams are actually achieving the goals we want them to achieve? And time to hire isn't necessarily the only KPI.

Thom: As we look to build out the Pipeline Intelligence that digs a little bit deeper in all the data points we have, that's something we want to help fuel the decision making process both for the recruiters that are on the ground and then for the economic buyers that are trying to move their talent acquisition organizations into the next generation.

Thom: The second thing that I think is really interesting and we're hearing a lot about and that we're formulating in 2019, is Internal Mobility. It is an entirely untapped pool of talent that most companies just don't pay any attention to. And if you think about those stats that we've been talking about in 2018, 12% of candidates are active and 88% are passive. The passive candidates, guess what? A lot of them are already in your organization, especially if you've got 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 employees.

Thom: That marketing manager that's ready for that promotion to director, that engineer that's ready for that senior engineer position, or even that person who is looking to get a step up into the VP or higher, if they don't know about the internal opportunities that are there, it's hard to mine the internal employees that are already engaged with your company that already know your value proposition, that are already committed to your strategic growth. Identify those folks, show them the opportunities that are there, engage and nurture them just like you do outside talent and you'll have a great uptick in the ability to reduce some of the costs that you have first because you don't have to retrain these people. You don't have to onboard these people and you're keeping them engaged in the business and giving them great working opportunities.

Joel: I didn't hear any virtual reality in that answer, so I'm not sure what kind of future SmashFly has.

Chad: All right. Just go ahead. Let's go onto the next part. Last thing we need is a

sex robots coming up next. Joel has this thing.

Thom: Joel does works at home.

Chad: Are you taking your, your current tool sets that you which have been focused outwardly on really active candidates, or trying to pull active candidates and then turning them inward is that what it is that you have all these product sets in place already and you're just turning them onto the employee base versus external?

Thom: Absolutely. It's a little bit different of a marketing techniques. Your messaging is a little bit different because these are already employees in your organization. But think of talent, network pools. We all talk about this. SmashFly is always bragging. We've got recruiters from 69 countries in our system and we've got people from 180 countries. I mean billions and billions of data points in our system. It's pretty much just another talent network pool that exists inside the company.

Thom: You've got talent pools for say advanced technology people and you've got talent pools for marketing people and for salespeople, this is another talent pool that you can leverage inside of the SmashFly platform that says, here's an audience that I want to message to about some really great opportunities that we have. It's not a huge technological or fundamental shift for a company to think about things that way.

Joel: Thom, we've been talking about marketing is recruiting and recruiting is marketing for a long time and as I look at your site, it looks like Marketo, it looks like HubSpot. So is the rate at which recruiters are becoming marketers on pace with what you would hope it would be? Is a little slower than you thought or is it even faster maybe than what the market would perceive?

Thom: I think it's a little faster than the way the market would perceive. And the reason I say that is because I believe that the folks who are doing the recruiting are picking up the skills for marketing as they're using tools like ours. It's one of those things that just your experiential knowledge of doing a task builds a core competency and a skill set. So for me, people may not know that they're becoming marketers, but as they use our tools and as they get better at using our tools or any tools that are in recruitment marketing, it's helping build that experiential skill set.

Thom: But I think interestingly if we go back to your comment about virtual reality and what we would do with that and maybe we're going to go down without know. Virtual reality for like interviewing is awesome. But look at where we've come as a society, right? You've got virtual reality and people who are wearing the goggles and then that damn Pokémon thing where people were walking out in the middle of cars because they were chasing the ... That's augmented reality, right?

Chad: Yep.

Thom: If you think about the augmentation of technology, we can think about that exactly inside of recruitment marketing and the interviewing process and the hiring process exactly the same way. We're not trying to eliminate the human touch, which is so important in engaging talent. What we're trying to do is we're augmenting the work that these folks do every day and we're helping them do it better in a way that actually delivers better results for them, for their group, but then also for their companies. It's that augmented technology and the intelligence in that augmentation that I think really moves the needle.

Thom: Do you need to go back to the 1950s in Mad Men and make sure all of the recruiters know exactly how to advertise a product? I don't think so. The augmentation of the technology is going to empower the recruiters to do that recruiting so they will become marketers in a way specific to their area of expertise without actually having to go back and like do a master's degree in recruitment marketing or do some crazy training segment. It's going to come as a natural evolution of the technology and a natural evolution of the industry.

Chad: Okay, so candidates are saying thank you to chatbots, right? They feel like they're getting a great experience with chat bots. There's no human interaction there. And from my standpoint, I love that because we've given candidates just shitty experiences and black holes over the last 20 years. Asshole. Bastards. So do we really need that human touch? Because to be quite frank, the humans are the ones who fucked a lot of this up in the first place. And with platforms like yours, you can get into drip campaigns. You can get into very smart, sequenced types of events to make it so much easier, so much more efficient to be able to have a great candidate experience and also draw in those very highly touted candidates and have them, I guess nurtured by the time they get to the application process or the interview process.

Thom: Well look at it this way, dating apps, right? The dating app is something-

Chad: No. No. We're not talking about Tinder.

Thom: Yes. Yes. We're talking about dating apps. Look if you're in a dating app-

Joel: Tinder for jobs.

Thom: The dating app is using AI and machine learning. The dating app is engaging you at a level where you don't have to actually interface with someone.

Chad: Yeah.

Thom: Now, most people other than Joel, are going to want to actually meet a person face to face and have that conversation. If you're dating and you're looking for that companionship. When we look at chatbots, conversational AI, email campaigns, social campaigns, whatever it is, there is a point in time where you want to cross that threshold and you want that human engagement.

Thom: The idea behind the technology of creating these connections between talent and companies and hiring managers isn't about just doing it in some very detached or semi realistic way. It's about a way to create a level of engagement so that the relationship that you're developing becomes stronger at each step in the path. So you create a really good engagement with a conversational AI tool like Emerson and that takes the next level to create a really good human to human engagement with a recruiting manager, which then creates an even better experience when you sit down for that interview with a hiring manager.

Thom: Because think about it. If you walk into an organization and you're ready for an interview and you're thinking about this opportunity and maybe three or four other opportunities. If you're a company that's leveraging this technology, what do you want? Do you want somebody who's just coming in there and sitting down and wants to learn more about you and your company and what the jobs are? No, because that's a waste of everybody's time. If you can do it in a way where somebody sits down across from you at that table or that desk or at that coffee shop and they're already engaged with that company because of the experiences that they've had and they're already excited about that company, then the hiring manager's job becomes much easier because now you've got a scenario where you can truly look for fit. You can truly look for, is this the right person for the organization and then what do I do to continue this very positive experience all the way through their onboarding into their first six, nine months, one year, three year of employment.

Thom: When you see these statistics that come out and say it's just great, great feedback from companies. I say when you've got that level of engagement is very, very positive for the company and for the employee. So it's just a matter of where you start doesn't mean where you have to end up. It just means that where you start as it leads to a progression of deepening relationships and deepening experiences, the better the outcomes are going to be for the companies and for the people that are coming on board.

Joel: And speaking about positives for a company. Wall Street Journal recently reported that certain companies were potentially gaming their Glassdoor reviews. Chad and I were kind of torn on where we fell on whether this was really happening or not. Do you have any opinions on gaming Glassdoor? Whether you think it's happening? You guys sort of sit at the, sort of the corner of branding and technology. Where do you sort of side on that issue and how does Glassdoor and reviews play into sort of your business if at all?

Thom: It's absolutely happening. Firsthand knowledge. Absolutely happening.

Chad: Told You.

Thom: Yeah, it's one of those things that Glassdoor ... Glassdoor, it's a great company. It's doing a great service in many ways because people otherwise don't have a way to look at a reputation of a company, right? And SmashFly, we pay attention to what people are saying. And quite honestly we had an interview candidate that didn't have a good experience and we reached out to that candidate after seeing the Glassdoor review and I posted something on Glassdoor to apologize and to say we would love to talk to you about your experience so that we can make this better for everyone.

Thom: I think it's a tool for people looking for opportunities and for companies to address that.

Joel: Do you have real world ... So you said you know firsthand people doing this. How are they doing it exactly? Are they just saying, "Hey, leave good reviews." Or incentivizing it somehow?

Thom: I don't believe, at least in my experience, it hasn't been true that there's an incentive to actually go out and do it. But the strong power of persuasion and suggestion is it's out there in the market with different industries as well. Just having seen it from where I've been in the past.

Joel: Fair enough. Also the news recently, Ultimate Software just sold for $11 billion.

Thom: That is the machine of a combat.

Joel: We have LinkedIn at 26, so people are still more valuable than the technology. But clearly the technology is worth quite a bit of money. I assume you thought about your own business and where you guys fit in the ATS marketplace. But what do you think the $11 billion buyout means for the ATS market as well as your business?

Thom: When we think about the types of deals that folks are doing today and everyone's talking about whether or not there's going to be consolidation and growth and what the PEs are during and leveraging debt. There's a whole lot of action that seems to be going on right now in this was just ... I mean it blew out of the water what the numbers are. But I think what it says is there's a future to where these technologies are going. Because if you're a PE or a VC, you're not buying what the technology is today. You're buying what the potential is. Whether that's the potential of a leadership team, a potential of a technology or a potential of a market. You're not buying for today.

Thom: It's the Gretzky quote, right? "You don't skate to where the puck is, you skate to where the puck is going." So when we think about what that means for our industry, there's so much going on with recruitment marketing and how recruitment marketing is bleeding over into the ATS. The ATS is in the RM Tools are getting closer and closer and closer because companies are recognizing the value of that engagement across the board all the way to that point of hire. So when we look at Ultimate and what Ultimate is doing, and then some of the other ways that companies like Greenhouse are starting as a recruitment marketing tool with an ATS kind of working together from the get go. Folks are seeing where talent engagement 2.0 is really coming. It's getting to a point where your entire engagement experience is going to transcend the ATS, and I think in a few years beyond that even transcend into the employee experience as well.

Thom: A lot of these technologies are going to be leveraged across the board from the moment you discover a particular person to the moment you're interfacing with someone who's been at the company for five years and you're letting them know about a great opportunity they have about a senior marketing position in California. So this is, I think, indicative of people with money saying this industry is still growing. This industry still has so much potential. And when we were doing some recent studies last year about what our market is and what our market cap is, we look at like IDC and like what is it the $8 billion or $9 billion of total addressable market that exists for not just the job boards and the point solutions, but also for the CRMs and the ATSs. That's huge.

Thom: We'll get about a $2 billion market point for companies like ours to be able to go to. And then you look at what we've actually been addressing in the market. The feedback that we're getting both from studies and then some anecdotal that we've been doing on our own is we're really only about a quarter at penetration. So 23% to 24% penetration in the market today. That's a huge amount of room for all of us to grow. And when we think about it at SmashFly, we're less concerned about this just craziness of like war time stance, we're going to kill everybody. The reality is we've got so much opportunity just to make this pie bigger. And if we're making the pie bigger, everybody's slices get bigger, so there's plenty of room a lot of companies to do really well in this space.

Chad: And we're going to close up with a TAtech going to close up with TATech. If you're a TA leader or a TATech leader, somebody who's a vendor that's out there, you're a founder, a CEO or what have you. What should they expect out of TATech leadership summit on recruitment marketing? What should they expect and what do you really want to personally, not to mention as the summit address to that audience?

Thom: The potential. I still believe there's a lot of untapped potential in recruitment marketing and the way that it interfaces across the entire talent pipeline. And if you think about the way the technology is invigorating a lot of these talent engagement and talent acquisition teams, that takeaway I think could be huge from focusing on recruitment marketing. It's not just about putting a technology in place to optimize and save costs. It's about putting a technology in place to move the needle through your entire business. Where do you need to hire? Where are you not getting the right types of people? How are you losing people to your competition? How are you tracking folks? How are you measuring your success? How are you demonstrating your value proposition to the business owners in your own organization?

Thom: It's those types of things that when we think about the huge potential of recruitment marketing across the landscape, when you take some of the feedback that you'll get from this conference, whether it's some of the working studies that we do, whether it's some of the talks that we do, the case studies, there's so much information that you can leverage back in your own organization to really move the needle.

Joel: Good answer, Thom.

Chad: That's good. TATech Leadership Summit on recruitment marketing, and again, every time we look at these lists of what's top of the list for talent acquisition leaders. Recruitment marketing is there because they understand their candidate experience, their handling of the process has sucked over the years and this one of the big, at least I'd say top three or top two that we always see. So in April, April 17th and 18th, you'll have an opportunity in Chicago to check it out, to be a part of a summit. Go to Just click on events and register to see Thom's smiley face talk about recruitment, marketing and a bunch of TA leaders

as well.

Chad: Thom Kenney everybody. Thom thanks for joining us. For those who want to know more about you or SmashFly, where should they go?


Chad: Too easy.

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 that silly Android thingy or wherever you listen to podcasts. Be sure to give buckets of money to our sponsors. Otherwise I may have to take that coal mining job I saw on We out.

Chad: Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. Before we go, remember when I asked you about the whole reflex and check your text messages thing?

Joel: Yeah. You know all about reflexes. And then I brilliantly tied it to text messages, 97% open rate. Then I elegantly tied it to a better experience for your candidates. Don't laugh Chad. I can be elegant. Can't I?

Chad: Whatever, man. I know it's redundant. You already heard about Text2Hire, but you're still not using Text2Hire from Nexxt. I know man.

Joel: Come on man.

Chad: Since advertising takes repetition to soak in, I just thought I'd remind you again, this was all by Elegant Design. It's all about Text2Hire and it's all about Nexxt.

Joel: And Elegant Design. So go to Click on the Nexxt logo and get 25, yeah, I said 25% off your first Text2Hire campaign. Engage better, use Text2Hire from Nexxt. Two Xs.

Announcer: Thanks to our partners at TATech. The Association for talent acquisition solutions. Remember to visit

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