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 computerwork.com.

Chad: Computerwork.com. 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 wi