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ATS is Bad Ass?

It's not every day you get to talk to someone who's been in the online recruitment industry as long as Chad & Cheese have, but that's just what happened when the boys got a chance to chat with David Webb of Brightmove, an ATS you've never heard of (the company is hoping to change that), but is popular with users. We got Webb to open-up about everything from automation, how job seekers will apply to jobs in the future, and even how Indeed's one-click apply feature is royally screwing over employment branding efforts.

Enjoy this Sovren exclusive.


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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: Oh shit, it must be Monday.

Chad: Yeah, it's fucking Monday all right.

Joel: Where's my cup of coffee? Here we go. Here we go.

David: You guys work on every national holiday or just Veteran's Day?

Chad: Just Veteran's Day. Yeah, that's it.

Joel: Well, Chad being a veteran, he's blessed this show. Yeah. I wanted to take the day off like every day, but Chad said, "No, we're recording." Goddammit. Oh shit.

Joel: Yeah, it's Monday kids.

Chad: It's Monday. There's no second take. All right people.

Joel: Monday morning.

Chad: And we have David Webb, CEO of Brightmove on, and I'm going to read this because Joel, you're going to find this funny as hell. This came from David's PR lackeys over there. David Webb is a man with a plan and an expert in all things recruiting and recruiting technology, especially ATS. He is the CEO of Brightmove, which is doing ATS differently by pairing it with large scale RPO.

David: I didn't approve that, but it is technically accurate.

Chad: All right Dave. So let's get it from the horse's mouth on this instead of from some PR lackey, for goodness sake. Who is David Webb and why should anybody care?

David: I'm the DJ Cool Herc of applicant tracking systems. I'm one of the original guys from 1995.

Chad: OG.

David: Yeah. Before that was even a word I think. But when I was in college, I got a job with a visionary guy and we built one of the first job boards when Dice was still a BBS and Monster was still a staffing company. So that should say it all.

Joel: You've seen some shit.

Chad: What site was it?

David: It was called

Chad: When Monster was still a staffing organization. When was this? What year?

David: 1994 and 1995. And for all the nerds out there, we built the site

and PL sequel. And yes, that is a procedural language for database reports.

Joel: So do you remember Job Web and all that shit?

David: I don't remember that one. There wasn't a community. There wasn't even applicant tracking systems per se as a service.

Joel: There were spreadsheets if that and filing cabinets.

Chad: Yeah. We were coming from the days of filing cabinets and newspapers. So nothing was really electronic at that point, right?

David: People dreamed of a day when you could trade stocks online.

Chad: Yes. So this brings us to a part of what we're going to be talking about today is your new movement of trying to help everybody believe that ATS is badass, and nobody believes you because everybody hates their ATS. So tell us why this new propaganda tour ATS is badass. Tell us why this is so big.

Joel: We've had 25 years to get it right. What's the deal?

David: So the deal is there's kind of three different audiences that you have to cater to and build business rules around. You have the recruiter, you have the hiring manager, and you have the job applicant. And it's kind of like three enterprise systems rolled into one, and you're trying to make something that fits everybody's business model. And that's just hard. I've worked on enterprise systems for large banks and large distribution companies where we did credit collections of $900,000 an hour and ship 10,000 orders a day out of a warehouse. And those were simple compared to the applicant tracking system.

Joel: Now for a long time the problem with applicant tracking systems that I saw was that they all had to be customized for each client, which is really not how software works. Are we finding some resolution or solutions to that problem?

David: We use instead of building a kind of a workflow that everyone had to fit into, we built a workflow definition system. So we kind of cater to how you do business instead of forcing you into a certain way of doing your recruiting. But having said that, if you're still outside of that realm, maybe you should look at the applicant tracking systems and how they're helping successful companies recruit and be open minded to changing your process a little bit.

Chad: That's the biggest problem though is that... So let's go back in the days of RecruitSoft before they became Taleo. RecruitSoft was a standardized platform. It was still client server at the point, but it was a standardized platform and that's how they were selling it. And that's the only way they sold it. Only until, I don't know, five, 10 years later they started doing customizations because they saw the big money on the wall.

Chad: The thing is that if you do go through those customizations, especially the amount of customizations you need from client to client to client, it breaks the whole damn system. Not to mention process efficiencies suck because we're trying to jam late 1990s, early 2000s process methodologies into technology.

Chad: So what you're talking about with regard to being able to manage all these different processes for the different people, that's always going to change because we, the software providers, talking about you guys, you aren't actually taking a big enough stand and all you're doing is just waiting for the money to come in and you will customize anything. So it's never going to change.

David: Some people take that approach, and what you described is a problem with software architecture, not a problem with the business model. So I'm familiar with what you're talking about. There's some other companies that I did some work for and every time they brought on a new customer, they'd spin up a new copy of the code and they customize it and they'd run it. Well that doesn't scale and that's not how Brightmove works. We have one code base, and when we need to customize something, we designed the software so that that customization can or cannot be applied to the other customers or configured for everybody in the community. So I see that more of an architecture problem than an industry problem.

Chad: But here's the big problem. You've been around for 15 years, I've never heard of Brightmove. And the last one, what was it? I think Ongig came out with the top 50 ATS's, and Brightmove isn't on it. So yes, you're talking about how you guys are so fashion forward, but nobody knows who the hell you are. So from an adoption standpoint, that's the only thing that matters, right?

David: Oh yeah.

Chad: So you've been around for 15 years. Why aren't you the big dog? iCIMS has been around about the same amount of time. Everybody knows who they are. Why don't they know who you guys are?

Joel: Well, they've just hired a PR firms. So they're on their way. It's all good.

David: No, that's a fair question. And you're not wrong. I'll tell people the same thing. The reason why is because we were founded by a bunch of nerds who are really good at writing software and we suck at public relations and marketing. Like my degree is a computer science, not podcasting or social media. So it's the company has to evolve.

David: And I bootstrapped this thing at night while I had a full time job or two full time jobs. So I could have gone out and raised a bunch of money and done it a different way, but I didn't know what I didn't know at the time. So what I did is I hustled and now I have a company and now I have marketing. And nobody owns any of this except for me and my original business partners. So we're in the driver's seat going forward.

David: It's just two different ways to get to the same point. We took the long way, but we're still in control I guess is one of the perks of that.

Joel: Give me your take on sort of the state of the ATS business. Having so much experience in history in this thing, I got to think you have some interesting perspective on where it's been, where it is and where it's going.

David: It's commoditized for sure. And there's too many mediocre players, and people are starting to be dishonest about the features that they have and calling automation AI and calling machine learning AI. There's going to be a new breakthrough. I don't know when it's going to happen. We're obviously working on it in our labs and trying to figure out what that differentiator is going to be, but something's going to have to change. I think everyone's kind of in flux waiting to see what's going to happen with some other kind of ancillary companies like LinkedIn and Google. Obviously Google Hire threw in the towel. You guys did a show about that. So I don't know if that's good or bad signal to the industry.

Joel: So you mentioned a lot of the things. You mentioned automation and commoditization, which I think are things we've talked about on the show as well. I'm curious also mentioning LinkedIn, my take is everyone sort of wants to be that one platform to do everything in recruiting, hiring, whatever it is. So you see Jobvite acquiring folks, you see iCIMS acquiring, you see obviously LinkedIn, the 800 pound gorilla. What are your thoughts on sort of your own company's sort of desire to be that one platform? Who's doing it right? Is that where the world's going to go or does everyone have it wrong? What's your take?

David: We don't desire to be the one platform because once you try to do that, you become mediocre at everything. And what we're trying to be is the best recruiting platform for PEOs, RPOs and staffing companies. And if there's another company that does something better than us, we just want to integrate with them, and we want to give the customer the freedom to choose the best of everything out there and just have it all work together.

David: We do the same thing as consumers of CRMs and email marketing tools. We might want to pair HubSpot with MailChimp or some other platform because they do something really well. And I think if you try to do everything, you're not going to be good at everything. That's the pattern I've seen.

Chad: Agreed, agreed. Point solutions are ruling everyone's top of mind now though, right? So nobody's talking about the applicant tracking system. Talking about chatbots, talking about programmatic, talking about candidate nurturing RMPs. And then they're all around the buzzwords with AI, RPA, ML. How can your system, your applicant tracking system, start to get some of that mindshare? because there's so much happening out in the market right now, how can any ATS gather any top of mind whatsoever with all the noise that's happening out in the market right now?

David: I think the honest answer is you have to guess well because nothing is certain, and if you integrate with the right person early on and you pick a good one, you can be... And they take off, you can kind of ride that integration as their recommended platform. It's probably close to impossible to keep all of your integrations up to date with every possible point solution out there. Very cost the prohibitive. The customer would have to absorb a lot of that and they don't want to do that. So I believe a lot of it is luck and then having the skill and the staff and the resources to respond to things quickly. And that's kind of what we've always been able to do.

Chad: Well that sounds like that's your model though is that you don't want to be everything to everyone. So therefore you have to partner with those point solutions to be able to ensure that there's an RNP that's there, there's a chatbots that's there. You have the opportunity to help your clients get there. But instead of buying them the iCIMS and the Jobvites of the world, you're partnering with them. But they're still incurring what you were just talking about those fees. So how do you get out of that? There's a we don't want to be all things to everybody because we're not going to be good at all of them. Totally understand that. But then there's the other side that you just talk about, the actual cost impediment to possibly changing to another ATS like Brightmove because you do have all these point solutions that you have to integrate and it's going to cost to be able to do so.

David: Yeah. So doing integrations with everybody out there isn't scalable. So what we do is we create a core developer platform and an API that's versatile and easily consumable. So you can kind of share those as you start to do your integrations. So that's one way we do that. The other thing we've done is we've taken our data knowledge and our big data knowledge and we're kind of revolutionizing the way that you move between applicant tracking systems. And that's a pretty painful process right now depending on where you're going to and where you're coming from. And we're trying to get that data migration down to hours or days instead of months. So that's another approach we're taking there to reduce that cost of making the switch.

Joel: So you don't charge for integration. Am I hearing that correctly?

David: That's not true. If we have an integration already in place, then we do not charge extra for it. Now you might have to pay a text messaging company for the account to do the integration or you might have to pay MailChimp for the email marketing account to do the integration. But we don't say...

Joel: So if I'm a text recruiting startup, what would it take for me to integrate with your solution?

David: I'm sorry. If you're a text recruiting...

Joel: Text recruiting. Well, whatever chatbot, text recruiting solution, whatever software I wanted and I wanted to integrate with your solution, what would that take for me to do that?

David: We'd give you a list of our event publishing, web hooks and a list of our web service rest callbacks. And that would be everything you would need to get your input and output from Brightmove to integrate.

Joel: So I wouldn't have to write a check.

David: Not to Brightmove, not to use the things that we already have.

Joel: Okay. Can you help me understand why eight? Because to me the future of like building applications onto ATS is the way that they're going to be the one platform that people trust and use. But they seem to make it so difficult, whether it be cost prohibitive or tech restrictive. Do you have any take on why they sort of make it so difficult to integrate?

David: I don't. We try not to make it difficult. I think a lot of times we talk to other companies to do integrations. A lot of times there's just a lack of understanding about how an integration works. I think a lot of times salespeople sell things that companies don't have and then that makes things uncomfortable when it comes time to execute.

Chad: Shocker.

David: So the world has not changed.

Joel: So fair enough. So I want to talk about you mentioned metrics in one of your earlier answers, and one of the things I love about ATS is you guys really know sort of the metrics on the ground in terms of what's driving traffic to job postings. We hear a lot or talk about the death of job boards and what's taking place there. What's sort of your insight in terms of what's driving traffic to job sites, what's really working and counter to that, what's really dropping off the cliff, if anything?

David: Sure. So I'll start by saying if you're a staffing company or a recruiting company and you don't know the answer to that question, you should take a look at Brightmove or another system that is measuring those things for you because you can't make intelligent decisions about how to change your job advertisements or where to pay for that advertising unless you know the answer to those questions.

David: This is one of those areas where there are point solutions, but this was so important to us we actually built our own recruiting analytics module. And what we've seen in measuring our customer's data and looking at the numbers to address your question directly is that we see a big drop off on direct applications on your company careers page and a very high increase in the number of applications through the bulk apply systems like ZipRecruiter apply and Indeed apply. So a lot of people applying to the jobs aren't seeing your company brand at all. They're just kind of saying, search for this. There's a hundred. Do you want to apply to these with one click? Yes, I do. And then off it goes. So those are the patterns we're seeing.

Joel: Just so everyone's clear, this is sort of the one click apply, right? So I'm on, I'm on Indeed. I see a job I want apply now with your Indeed account. I click, I click apply. I don't even go to the corporate site. The application goes right to the company through your ATS. And I don't even have to go to the company site. That's what I'm hearing, correct?

David: That's correct.

Chad: So here's the question though, back to the integration piece. Your site says real time job posting integration is only available for a Monster in CareerBuilder. So David, 2010 called, they want their job distribution model back. But seriously, what type of job distribution engine do you have in place? If you do have these one click applies and they're built in, I would assume those are partnered solutions. Did you build those yourself? Tell us a little bit more in depth about that. Because if you're just doing realtime postings to Monster and CareerBuilder, that's kind of lackluster compared to competitors, right?

David: Well, I'm limited to what those other companies can handle.


Chad: So ZipRecruiter and Indeed can't handle realtime postings?

David: They do feeds. So it's near real time. I mean, they can request a list of all of our current jobs anytime they want. And I think they pull about every six hours. Those guys have a lot of volume and it's a math problem. It takes them hours to process all of the new feeds that they pick up. So that's not to say that those antiquated job boards that have been around for a long time are the only ones that we integrate with. There's a whole lot, but those are the ones where if you make the change on the screen and click save and go refresh it on their site, you'll see the change right away. But the like Indeed and ZipRecruiter, that's not how they really do it. They prefer feeds of all the jobs of all the customers.

Chad: Gotcha. Gotcha. So totally get that from that standpoint. If you are doing feeds, how many feeds are you doing, and are you also pushing over to programmatic? So the performance based, not just the duration.

David: Not pushing to programmatic. I'm not sure what you're talking about there.

Chad: So do you know programmatic based, performance based ads, right?

David: No, sorry. Not familiar with that.

Chad: Okay. So this is probably something you should be very on top of because we're talking about going out and having performance based ads like Google AdWords on Indeed. I mean, just pretty much... Not all of the job boards have those, but most of them are moving toward. Not to mention we've had four programmatic job companies, advertising agencies, whatever you want to call them, have been acquired in just the last couple of months. So this is very big in our space right now from a technology standpoint, programmatic distribution, performance based versus duration.

Joel: So Professor Chad has given you your homework, Dave.

David: All right. And I'm giving my homework to somebody else. Hey, like I'm a delegator. I know what you're saying, and I try to keep up with everything.

And it's probably impossible for all of us to keep up with everything.

Chad: Just need to listen to Chad and Cheese more. [crosstalk 00:20:18]

Joel: Slow the podcast, Dave. I'm going to let you add on this. Because you've been around for so long, we rarely talk to someone around longer than we have been. I want you to get out your crystal ball and tell me what applying to jobs looks like in five to 10 years from now. And I also want you to give me some insight because we're hearing the R word recession bounced around quite a bit. Are you seeing anything in terms of fewer jobs posted or is there anything on your side of the table that you see would be a red flag for the economy?

Joel: So number one, what does the future look like for applying? And number two, what is sort of the macroeconomics look like?

David: If it's okay, I'll answer this in the reverse order. So, the macroeconomics right now is that there is no slow down. As far as I know, the unemployment rate is not going up or hasn't been reported to go up. The number of jobs that we're distributing and hosting has not gone down. And the beauty of the macroeconomic economy or sorry, the macro economics of the ATS industry is that it doesn't really matter to us because the ATS is still a vital part of recruiting. So right now we have a lot of jobs and not very many candidates. And that's important from the job advertising and attracting viewpoint.

David: The converse is that you have few jobs and you have even more applicants to every job and that's where you really need a good ATS to help you filter to the right one and the best one. So either way, we really don't see from our business a drop or a rise as those things change.

David: As far as the future of applying to jobs, man, I sure hope it gets more personal and not more robotic. So I'm all for automation. I love efficiency. I think that you're going to see new jobs created out of automation and as far as applying to jobs go, maybe it's not through your web browser, maybe it's through your phone. Yeah, I'm not really sure.

Chad: When you say over the past decade and a half, two decades, applying for a job has sucked for candidates in the first place because they just go right to a black hole.

Joel: Sounds like they just click one apply and they're done with it.

Chad: Okay. I'm still asking my question. So if you take a look at being more personal and SHRM actually did a survey for job seekers that said they would rather be engaged by a chatbot than go into a black hole. So from that standpoint, isn't the technology, whether it's bots or it's a black hole, which one would you choose?

David: I think that people saying that technology is a black hole is a misconception of the technology. If you think technology and recruiting is a black hole, either you're not qualified for the job that you're applying for or you're applying at a crappy company that doesn't have good recruiters. There's no excuse with today's technology that there can't be a dignified response to everybody that applies to a job, even if it's thanks but no thanks.

David: So if you're not getting callbacks for the jobs you're applying to, I would say take a good look at your resume, make sure it's up to date, make sure it's accurate and authentic. Don't try to spam the system. ATS, like Brightmove, look for crappy resumes and filter them out even if they have all the keywords for that the job's looking for because that's how we save recruiters time and money by helping them get the right candidate to the top, not the not the one with the most keywords on their resume.

David: So hope that answers your question, but I don't think the technology is to blame. It's a garbage in, garbage out kind of ecosystem. And that applies to the recruiters and also to the job applicants.

Chad: Humans are to blame, people.

Joel: I like that answer.

Chad: Humans are to blame.

David: Blame for everything. Everything's our fault.

Chad: Of course it is. We're the ones driving it.

Chad: David, thanks so much for coming and taking our Monday morning. All of the anger that we had, we took it out on you. Really appreciate it. And if somebody wants to find out more about you and more about Brightmove, where would they go?

David: Thanks for having me guys. Website's the best place, and we're all over the standard social media channels. And you can find me on LinkedIn. Just search for David Webb, Brightmove and hopefully I'm the first one that comes up.

Chad: Excellent, man.

Joel: Thanks, Dave. We out.

Chad: We out.

David: Thanks, guys.

Ema: Hi, I'm Ema. Thanks for listening to my dad, the Chad and his buddy Cheese. This has been the Chad and Cheese Podcast. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play or wherever you get your podcasts so you don't miss a single show. Be sure to check out our sponsors because their money goes to my college fund. For more, visit

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