Interview: Mike Temkin of Shaker Recruitment Marketing


Chad & Cheese chat with industry veteran Mike Temkin, vice president of strategic planning and development. Enjoy this look into the past of recruitment marketing and a glimpse into the future.

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Announcer: Hide your kids, lock the doors! You're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheeseman 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: Give me some levels here, mic test.

Mike: Testing 1, 2, 3. Perfect, man. [crosstalk 00:02:05] Cut.

Chad: Check, check, check.

Mike: You two are right now in basically the middle of the epicenter of disruptive media. Disruptive HR, but definitely what podcasts are right now, are definitely growing tremendously. Legacy broadcasters are definitely having to embrace it after fighting it for a while, including recently Sirius XM buying Pandora and one of the initiatives they're doing right now is making sure that as much content as they have they can be utilized for podcasts.

Mike: Because right now, the statistic I saw most recently was that at this point, those who are regular podcast listeners listen to seven podcasts per week. What's been seen in a lot of media surveys and analysis is that a lot of that listening is during drive time, when they're commuting. Either on a train or in a car, really eroding broadcast market share. The two of you are really, at this point, very important.

Joel: So the question is, how many employers do you guys have podcasting right now, to take advantage of that growing- [crosstalk 00:03:16]

Mike: They could get Chad and Cheese to actually do some stuff for them.

Joel: Well that's a whole other conversation, I'm not sure any employer wants their brand going through that kind of mess.

Mike: Well, wait a second, we are talking to clients, employers, about how you can basically find the target, turn the content of a podcast, onto a skill set. So it's not necessarily always a broad audience, it's not all American life. And like your podcast, it's very qualitative, and niche, focused for who you're going after. But, now the question I have for you, and I'm sure you're gonna throw questions at me, all's fair- and this is relevant to those of us in the industry, so it's not irrelevant, is who do you think in the month of March, as well as February and January this year, was the biggest advertiser on podcasts-

Chad: ZipRecruiter!

Mike: That's right! Yep.

Joel: That would've been my guess.

Mike: Well you got it.

Joel: But they have yet to spend one penny on the Chad and Cheese podcast.

Chad: Which I love, because it gives us instant cred.

Joel: Yeah, for everyone who says we're being bought, ZipRecruiter, biggest money machine in the podcasting advertising market hasn't given us a penny.

Mike: All right, so Chad, you got it, number one. All right, so number two is square space- I'm sorry, no number two is Robinhood financial services. Number three is square space, number four, Indeed. Trying to catch up.

Joel: What's the first mattress on the list? Casper, purple-

Mike: That I didn't see. Actually, after Indeed I believe it was Quip who sells dental services.

Chad: Yeah, I had one of those.

Mike: And then after that was Geico insurance.

Joel: So maybe I'm just getting targeted for my nap prowess for mattresses. Maybe that's my problem.

Chad: So, already out of the gate, we've started an awesome-

Joel: And we didn't do an intro.

Chad: We didn't do an intro, so today-

Mike: I'm sorry.

Chad: No, this is awesome! Today, we have Mike Tempkin, what is your title? You're like the old man at Shaker-

Joel: Gandalf in Chief-

Chad: Thirty-one years like a wizard of recruitment, marketing-

Joel: Yoda executive.

Mike: Oh that's very generous and nice of you.

Chad: That's good shit, yeah man!

Mike: It's very- I mean, definitely-

Chad: Give me some background about you, dude you've been in this industry, you've seen change, we think we've seen change-

Joel: Tell us what year one was like for you in recruitment marketing for the kids out there.

Chad: In column inches.

Mike: Well year one actually for me, my background was consumer advertising at agencies and radio and television.

Chad: I was in radio.

Mike: And then, in 1984 basically Shaker had a client, and I had known the Shaker family through my own family and also through the work they do for St. Jude, for the research hospital. So we knew each other and they were looking for, to help a client who was doing IT job fairs in 1984 that was having trouble getting the applicant flow.

Joel: Who was the employer? Do you remember it was like-

Mike: It was a career fair-

Joel: Was it Jazzercise or-

Mike: No no no-

Chad: Was it Brass Ring?

Mike: No no no.

Chad: Because they started out as a career fair.

Mike: It was actually an independent woman if I remember correctly, and she was managing these job fairs in IT.

Chad: Nice!

Mike: And wasn't getting the flow that she needed for the job fairs. Shaker family came to me, said, "We need some help," and, "what do you think we could do?" And I mentioned, well at that point, 1984, I said, "Well, we can look at radio stations, we can identify to a certain extent the listenership by skill set, to a certain extent. And then basically advertise on those stations. So we had two stations, one was a classic rock and one was an album rock format.

Chad: Oh yeah, AOR.

Joel: Because techies love classic.

Chad: Oh shit yeah, and AR, that was the format.

Mike: So I do remember it was actually here in Chicago, it was WXRT which is one of the, I guess, ultimate, eclectic, album adult rock stations. And then it was WCKG which was the classic rock at that time. And we advertised on those two stations, and she got the applicant flow she needed to fulfill satisfaction with her clients, the companies, the employers who were there. And in meeting afterwards, I said, "Okay, how did it work, what was the difference?" And she said, "Well the people from radio, we didn't get as many as we'd get from print, but the quality was better." And I said, "Well, why was the quality better?" And she said, "Because they're currently working."

Chad: Ahhh.

Mike: You know, their skills were up to speed, they didn't have to be trained on certain languages or components, and I guess as far as recruiting, the shark effect was handled by the candidate generation through media.

Chad: Yeah.

Mike: So I listened to that, again my background was health & beauty products, retailers and apparel and furniture, theater and entertainment, and so some direct response advertising, which you think about it, recruitment marketing is just direct response advertising, but instead of selling let's say exercise equipment or books or records or clothing, we're selling jobs. And instead of cash, we're looking for the resume.

Mike: So, looking at that, I went, "Okay, this was intrusive advertising." You know, classified advertising, be it print in the old days or job boards today, is basically directory advertising. People are directed to go there, to look for certain information. How do you use media to intrude upon people who don't expect the message. Who right now are pretty much complacent and content with their current job. But like any sort of consumer advertising, you put the pebble in the shoe, you basically in some ways address that complacency, that being content, with certain components, certain differentiators that are going to make a company and an opportunity possibly more attractive to- I guess, well later on, I said, and you know Chad from you're background I'm sure, for mass communication, that's what all consumer advertising is. Is just general using these mass consumer components. For recruitment though, It's a little different, you differentiate it, okay this is intrusive advertising because you're intruding upon the person when they least expect it. You know, 5:20 on a Monday afternoon, a radio spot in drive time. Someone's leaving work-

Chad: The stop set.

Mike: Yeah, the stop set, right, exactly. And you get the when their mindset is such that maybe they're a little disgruntled. They had a bad Monday at work, why do I need to do this any longer?

Joel: You know this was pretty earth shaking for 1984. I mean this was a time period where the Sunday paper had all the jobs, everyone that wanted a job got the Sunday newspaper. And for you guys to think outside the box, and say, "We're gonna promote via radio"-

Mike: Radio, and then billboards and cinema advertising.

Joel: For the time, pretty legendary.

Mike: It was different. And what's unique though, Joel, I think, is when I first came to Shaker's, now- I worked for Shaker for four years as a consultant. Doing all of this, basically none classified irregular advertising whenever it was needed, and then they asked me come in full-time. And when I came in full-time, now I was dealing with print too. And in consulting with clients and trying to differentiate recommendations based on circulation, but basically because of my background, in consumer advertising when do you buy the sports section vs. the business section vs. the entertainment section, etc. Because of the demographic differences in the sections or the readership, I went, okay, classifieds gotta have something unique to it. So I went to a media company, and I said, you know, the quantitative I've got, Sunday circulation is a million-

Chad: That's the easy part.

Mike: How many people are really looking at the classifieds section? And it was 14%. And this was during a strong economy, at that point.

Joel: And classifieds have historically always been the most popular section of the newspaper.

Mike: It was the most profitable, because you had, basically the margins were great because your expense, you didn't have editorial that you really had to write.

Chad: Yeah buying out the column and- that is crazy.

Mike: You remember the movie Spotlight, there's one scene of dialogue in the movie Spotlight which is the Boston Globe, and he says, "We've got to have a great story, we have got to hold our circulation, because right now our classified advertising is diminishing." And it was crucial. Now, the reason I brought the 14%, now the internet starts, Shaker we're working on the first internet initiatives in the late 90s and basically I go to comm score, and say, "What can you do as far as analysis on internet traffic?" And the report I get from them is 14% of all internet users were going to job boards. The active job seekers. The rest weren't going.

Chad: Oh shit, yeah.

Mike: And it was basically the same percentage statistic, and definitely the internet, even at that point, especially even now, is definitely- as far as analytics, is much more precise. Even print would be based upon a survey of a thousand people, will determine that a million people will be doing this.

Chad: And you hope they remember where the fuck they went, right?

Mike: That's right. Exactly.

Joel: What I'm hearing is, and I think a lot of people have the impression of the agency job 20 years ago was answering the phone and putting display ads in the newspaper, and maybe some of it was that, but what I'm hearing from you is, is that the strategy around the agency role hasn't really changed, it's just the number of mediums and technologies and platforms that you have to create a strategy around, would that be correct?

Mike: That's right. That's correct. The fragmentation of the options, which definitely is beneficial because let's say in the 80's, and definitely the radio picked up and I remember a client wanting registered nurses. Well in that case it was a soft adult contemporary format, of which I said to them, "Okay, 4% of their listeners are basically nurses, you have to buy, you have to pay for all of them. You won't be able to just fragment the 4%." Now of course, with digital media, we can go and in very many cases behavioral targeting, contextual advertising-

Chad: Picking the hell out of them.

Mike: Right, exactly, exactly. And at this point, the majority of the public is accepting it. They're not taking the cookies off their hard drive, they are sharing a lot of information, it's the Amazon effect, I like being identified or recognized when I come to an internet site. Now, if let's say media abuses that data, that could change. Both by the public and by the government. But right now-

Joel: That makes a sales person in the 80s, a sales person in the 90s, and 2000s and beyond, do they need new skills going forward? Or could you take a sales person from the 80s, put them in today and they'd still be successful?

Chad: Dude I was a sales person in the 80s and I went directly from radio-

Joel: I'm not interviewing you.

Chad: It doesn't matter, shut up. I went straight from radio to the internet-

Joel: And you were a teenager in 1984.

Chad: Well yeah no, I'm talking about in the early 90s.

Mike: My first job in advertising I was very precocious, I was 14 years old and I made an audition tape, I was sick one week from school, and I made an audition tape, and I called it "For Teenagers Only" because at that time you didn't have G and PG and R etc. It was just certain movies were for adults only. And I remember the one that I went to a Saturday matinee and saw a preview for Tongue Without Pity, which was-

Chad: Who was in that?

Mike: I don't remember who.

Chad: Tongue without pity, that sounds like a porn!

Mike: I couldn't see it, it was about an army base in Germany, I remember that-

Chad: Okay, it wasn't porn.

Mike: And Gene Pitney had a top 40 hit, so kids could listen, I was 14 years old, 13 years old, kids could listen to the song, but you couldn't see the movie. So I came with this concept called For Teenagers Only, made the tape, took it to radio station in the suburbs of Chicago, the guy said, "Sure kid. I'll put you on the air, but I'm not gonna pay you to be on the air. You go out there and you sell your commercials, and you'll get 15% of the spot. $10 spots." So after school I'd go on my bicycle, and I'd sell retailers on these $10 spots. So that was [crosstalk 00:15:56] So chad, I'm with him. I understand where you're coming from.

Chad: And you can sell air dude, you can sell fucking anything.

Mike: But yes, I think that the good people, both at Shaker, the people that I learned from, both in the Shaker family as well as the extended family, employees. There were definitely strategists, even when I came in in the 80s, either they really were taking time to learn the industry they were serving, be it healthcare, be it logistics, etc. Or definitely they understood the limitations as well as the opportunities of media. And that's, you had, let's say at certain other agencies you had the same sort of people, and yes, at agencies you had order takers. I would think that today an agency, in recruitment advertising as well as consumer or even B2B advertising, you can't have order takers any longer. There's the opportunity of being more precise. Because I think, yes, an order taker, even to a certain extent was intuitive, and so therefore you could make a conclusion maybe based upon previous experience with the client, or other factors. Now, yes, the intuitive factor still is somewhat important. But with all of the analytics available, it's basically how to evaluate those analytics.

Chad: That's the question though, Mike. I mean there's so much that's available today that wasn't even just a couple years ago, we're talking about the different types of technology. I mean, whether we're talking about engagement, chat bots and engagement, and then you guys being able to get into that. Hell, companies can't even spell programmatic for god's sake, let alone know what to do. So you guys have to be the experts of everything, you can't just sit on the phone and answer and say, "Yeah, we'll do that." Because you have to be experts in many different areas, right?

Mike: Right. And definitely what we have in the agency, I think the depth of the executives, definitely they have the resources to be good project managers, to definitely bring in what now we have here at the agency, at Shaker, we have experts in various different initiates. So let's say, here at TA tech, tomorrow Tony Lapur will be speaking about branding, he and his team, that's their focus. And then we have people who focus just on social media, people who just focus on programmatic, a whole department. Search engine marketing, another cost per performance advertising. So you have all these aspects, and then people of course who are just specializing on technology. So, basically the agency since 1951, has always been the base of direct response advertising for candidate generation. Call it what you will, help wanted, employment related advertising, it was candidate generation. It's still, that's the core component of what most clients are definitely going to identify as. Or brought value to them. But definitely, like you said Chad, the means of generating that candidate flow has changed. All the options are available, and, Joel as you mentioned, the analytics that are available and how you basically use those to make your recommendations more precise, more accurate.

Mike: You can make a recommendation based on analytics from let's say third quarter of 2018, and it's second quarter of 2019 and there's been a shift competitively in the marketplace, as far as let's say certain employers. It might be a shift in the economy, of basically how candidates are responding now to certain factors. There could even for that matter be changes in media utilization. Such as, a year ago, as I mentioned before, broadcast, media companies, did not take podcast really very seriously. Probably the only one there really was as far as a- I don't wanna call it a company, but an entity, was NPR. You know. And now, every media company is looking at the potential of podcasts.

Chad: Even Spotify. Spotify bought up Gimlet, I mean they're buying up content. It's all about great content. So you talk about candidate generation, which I think is awesome, but today it's not just about generation, it's about the experience that they have. How much do you guys get involved at Shaker, with regard to identifying platforms for experience, to be able to ensure that you have a higher application rate, lower ejection rate. What do you guys do around that?

Mike: We're working very diligently on the whole candidate- and for that matter the employee experience, so talent acquisition, talent management. So anything that touches candidate generation as far as external recruitment, internal referral programs, for that matter internal communications- which basically for retention, which has always been an issue I'd say for a long time as far as yes well quantitatively we can get this candidate flow, but can you document how either the messaging or the media is bringing in better candidates. And of course a better candidate is the productivity capacity in the workplace, how it relates to profitability, and therefore also how it, at that point if those are good employees, and let's say we actually change the workforce composition of a client who really wasn't happy with their previous workforce composition.

Mike: How do we change it and make it more valuable so therefore now they want to replicate it, and for referral programs, which of course really is even more cost efficient than external recruitment. So, looking at all the aspects of not just media, but the technology, the CRMS, TRMS, the talent relationship management tools, the ATSs, as far as even for that matter is the candidate experience, there's certain tools that are valuable for both the productivity of people in recruiting, hiring managers, etc. As far as making sure their time is being used much more productively, but at the same time how it impacts the candidate's experience and the candidate's impression of the company. So let's say if you have an assessment tool, you have assessment tools that go from gamification to very verbal skills, and everything in between.

Mike: What's best for the skillset you're looking for, what reflects best on the company that is utilizing that tool, how do we make that decision and help them evaluate really what will be either the best tool for all their employees, or let's say for certain sectors. You use this assessment tool for that candidate base, you use this one for the other candidate base. And what has it really been doing, is the priority of the client, is it for the productivity and the time management of their internal staff, or is it for the candidate experience so they don't fall in the dark hole. They're seeing something. Oh yes, this company basically is interacting with me. And I'm enjoying this interaction. And then from that point on, do they qualify, let's say, for a video interview. And does the candidate find the video interview an experience gratifying, or do they find it intimidating? Now, you say that's where the behavioral profile, that goes into place of let's say certain candidates, feed on their education, their background, ethnicity, etc. Their experience of life are gonna find certain tools, let's say like video interviewing, they might find it very intimidating. And others are gonna say, "Well this is great. I really enjoy this process." So it's how to basically identify either-

Chad: Where they're at.

Mike: Exactly. So, how I look at it, and some of the things that I've been kind of playing with my mind right now is yes, we've got the active job seeker, and then the passive job seeker candidate, which I've always felt is an oxymoron. You can't be passive and be seeking at the same time. So I've come to terms with that, cause I know HR still finds that to be a very valuable identifier. The passive job seeker really is the job seeker who's not gonna be attracted through a media engagement of any sort. What they are, is the person who's resume is out there, and therefore you have to reach out to them, and you have to move them out of their passivity. Then you have what I feel is a candidate of some value, and going back that experience I had in 1984 of the impulsive prospect. Using intrusive media, non-classified movie, non-directory media, non-job board, to basically go to someone when they don't expect a message, and say "Here is either a job opportunity." Or possibly even more important, a corporate culture that you'll find attractive. Which gets me to what I think is the most important, most valuable candidate for the future.

Mike: Especially now, and I don't know if you know a different statistic than I know. When I came out of college, they said you'd have 3.5 employers in your lifetime. And luckily because of a great engagement with Shaker- takes like 10 or 15, yeah. And I've had, in my life 3 major employers. So, when you've got people who are gonna go through 15 employers now, you have to basically make an impact with them when they're impressionable, and any merchandising marketer knows that people build their brand loyalties when they are between 18-34. And it's very difficult to get a person to reconsider that brand loyalty. So how in employment, do we make sure that we build up a base of aspirational candidates?

Chad: Yeah, but I don't know if we can do that in employment though. I think that is beyond, that's the brand, that's the holistic brand and how the company actually works, and the aspirational brand in itself. I think employment feeds off of that, I don't know that employment itself can be in charge of that. I don't know that we ever can, just because the company is in charge of it, right? The CEO, COO, the CRO, right?

Mike: Well, I can't speak for other agencies, you'd have to talk to them, but at Shaker, in our meetings now with talent acquisition and HR, you ask them how the business has changed. So yes, the 1980's you talk to people and personnel. Their autonomy, their authority had certain parameters. Now, we have people who are definitely very focused, very educated, very experienced in really talent acquisition which is in some ways, aspects of marketing. And then at the same time, we are sitting with marketing departments, legal departments, procurement departments-

Chad: Are you really?

Mike: Yes. They're coming in, depends upon the client-

Chad: So what would you say, percentage wise, the amount of marketing departments you guys are actually sitting with?

Mike: It's small.

Chad: But it's growing.

Mike: I think, I've seen over the years it's growing, I think it's gonna continue to grow-

Joel: So you're saying the days of the three martini launch with the personnel director, and they choose their agency based on who takes them to Capital Grill more times than other or we're actually looking at metrics?

Mike: In my experience that was more of consumer advertising than-

Chad: I was gonna say, we are in Chicago, if everybody can hear the horns and all that other fun stuff, might still be a little bit of that here in Chicago.

Mike: I think yes, seriously Joel it's a good point, but yes, today, when we are talking to prospects and being awarded new business-

Joel: A big part of your job historically was who can shmooze the best, and who can have the best personal relationships, whether you'll admit it on tape or not.

Mike: Well, relationships are important. I will say that. And the relationships are-

Chad: They still are though, they still are-

Joel: It is, but I think it's more-

Chad: Backed by data.

Joel: Yeah, data driven [crosstalk 00:27:32]

Mike: And results. Basically, even in those days with let's say the personnel director, and there's very condensed parameters. You still have to make them look good. I think that was, and you said, "Okay before you used an order taker or did you help them evaluate and analyze?" Did you say, okay, basically this publication is gonna reach so many active job seekers, if we wanna go- even in those print days, if we wanted to go and reach, and we did this for a number of clients, if we wanted to reach, let's say the non-active job seeker, what section do we need to go to? For certain jobs, use the sports section, you know? You had limitations. But you could say, okay the front section, the business section, the sports section, the entertainment section, if it was skewing more towards women in those days. You know? I don't like saying this, but the truth is the truth, you'd put it in the entertainment section. You'd try to get as close to the horoscopes or the [crosstalk 00:28:29] as you could!

Chad: It's the same thing in radio though, ACU was more female than it was male, right? So you look at demos, and you target demos. Much of what we talk about with social media, and it's more really age ranged, so whether Facebook, LinkedIn...

Joel: Like how do you feel about Facebook saying, "We're not gonna do job ads that are targeted demographically anymore."

Mike: Right. So therefore, that's a limitation now that we have to address and find alternatives.

Joel: Do you feel that was the right decision by them, to do that?

Chad: I'm gonna say it's fucking stupid, that's just me.

Joel: Again, not interviewing you.

Chad: Dammit!

Joel: Interviewing Mike Tempkin of Shaker recruitment marketing.

Mike: I would say for employment, it did have issues. And that's why you said before, "Who are you sitting with at the table now?" And in certain cases, yes, you are gonna sit with legal, because depending on the company and the issues that they're sensitive to, they're gonna say that definitely there's these limitations that the companies, the employer themselves will impose that the media won't impose. We can then go to a client and say, "Okay, we can't guarantee that this medium is going to hit that demo." But yes, we can say that the Facebook demo is different than Snapchat. LinkedIn is different in both the quantitative demographic factors as well as the qualitative factors, psycho graphics or however you want to identify it in the base of analytics, we can help a client, still today as we did 30 years ago, if it can't be targeted through behavioral aspects or other aspects, then yes we can find alternatives. But let's say, just as- looking at the figures of Amazon, and how much money they are generating through advertising.

Chad: Yeah, shit yeah!

Joel: How much do you think is recruitment advertising?

Mike: I don't think that much is. But, if I was-

Chad: Do you think it's any?

Mike: Well, we actually, to be very frank we sometimes go to media and we push them. And we did go to Amazon years ago, and we wanted to get employment advertising. And said, okay, if a person is looking for a book on ruby on rails, and we're looking for a candidate on ruby on rails, I wanna be there.

Chad: Yeah! Just makes fucking sense, right?