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AT&T Jail Break w/ Jenn Terry

After 20+ years of ascending the AT&T ladder, Jenn Terry Tharp is known by everyone in staffing, recruiting, and the rec tech space. Well, she's hit the eject button kids and finally

joining The Chad & Cheese to unleash her thoughts on the industry, innovation, tech, success, failure, her loathing of chatbots. and Baker Mayfield?

It's an exclusive podcast brought to you by Sovren, software so human you'll want to take it to dinner.


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Intro (43s):

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. Oh yeah. What's up kids, you're listening to the Chad and cheese podcast. I'm your cohost Joel Cheesman joined by my fearless cohost Chad Sowash.

Joel (1m 15s):

Today we are happy to introduce, bring on the show. Jenn Terry Tharp, marketing consultant Jen. Welcome to the show.

Chad (1m 25s):

Let's go with bad talent acquisition bitch. And because marketing consultant just doesn't do it for me. Just doesn't do it for me.

Joel (1m 34s):

Don't call our guest a bitch. She hasn't even said anything yet.

Chad (1m 36s):

She is awesome.

Jenn (1m 37s):

You can call me whatever you want. As long as you call me,

Joel (1m 41s):

Please share that awesomeness with them and why we're talking to you and why the hell you're on the show.

Jenn (1m 47s):

Hi. So thank you. Well, I, at least some of your listeners will know who you are because in my 20 years at, AT&T

Joel (1m 54s):

we all try to sell to you at some point.

Jenn (1m 56s):

Well, it's true. Everybody tries to sell, make, and you know, I have a big team and I never do required listening or required reading, but once the Chad and Cheese show came out, like I made you strongly required listening. So I'm certain my AT&T teams listening,

Joel (2m 13s):

What would you like to say to them right now? Cause I mean, you did the big corporate jail break suckers, right?

Jenn (2m 22s):

Like at this point I'm a month out. I've been gone for a month. So a month after 20 plus years and you know, I peace there is life after AC, right? Like we can make that trend, it's it really, it, it has been a little bittersweet, right? Like I cut my TA teeth and my marketing teeth at, AT&T, but I like the new world. Right. I'm just doing whatever makes me happy.

Chad (2m 47s):

So tell me about that though, because I mean, you get sucked into the corporate world. I know I've been there and you feel like, man, I'm in a groove and then you eject and you're like, man, I was in a fucking rut, now you might not have been in a rut, But you do feel that huge difference between the two You're a month out. What what's that feeling?

Jenn (3m 10s):

Yeah. And you know, it's interesting. And, and I kind of had a long lead and I knew I was leaving until when I left because of my coronavirus. Right. Like, so I knew I was leaving in January and I didn't leave until, you know, may. And so I got to train my replacement. My team said goodbye, like five times, you know? And, and so I sort of had the period of mourning while I still work there. So since I've been gone, it's been nothing but fun. I mean, like listening to other companies talk about their challenges, I've been dabbling in a new consulting gig.

Jenn (3m 44s):

You guys know, we talked a little bit about I've, I've been consulted with Joe VO and yeah. And then, you know, that's a, that's a really interesting gig it gets to take. So, so back to your other question, Chad. So like when I worked at, AT&T it was really, there was a lot of really good and awesome things that we did. And we did first, right? Like first mobile app for jobs, that was an utter failure. Right? Like it was horrible thing, but I was glad I did it. Right. And, and when you have a company like AT&T technology and vendors that are just like jumping over themselves to do business with you, so you get to try a lot of things, right.

Chad (4m 22s):

You try a lot of things. So I feel like I got to sort of hone that engineering and entrepreneurial spirits without having any of the risks and putting a little skin in the game and having a little risk. It's kind of nice. It's freeing.

Joel (4m 38s):

So I love, I love the perspective. And you mentioned the mobile AT&T was, was exclusively the iPhone provider in the early days. And I'm assuming that's the app that you're talking about mobile 10 years on has made a huge impact on recruiting. And I just want to know your perspective as someone from AT&T who sees it almost from the front lines, the first app, just to give me, give me a sense of what mobile has done in the last 10 years in terms of recruiting and what it's meant.

Jenn (5m 6s):

Oh, wow. It changes everything. Right. So, so in the beginning we thought we were all bad ass, put mobile app, like an iOS app out there. Right. Like we thought we were the bomb. And the reality is, I mean, I don't remember the numbers it's been a lifetime ago, but it, like, if there were a thousand downloads, 380 of them were AT&T employees. Right. Like it was just like a, a wall wall, but it showed me something. Right. It showed me that two things, number one, this wasn't going to stop.

Jenn (5m 38s):

And if it wasn't going to stop, I better be at the front of the line. I worked for AT&T. Right, right, right. And then the other one was, even if you build it, if everything behind it sucks, it sucks if your application takes like an hour and a half, it doesn't matter if you have the prettiest mobile interface, your application still takes an hour and a half. And so I think that, that for me was sort of the beginning of the customer candidate experience being an integral part of all of the technology. And it was sort of the moment when the things came together for me.

Joel (6m 9s):

Can you speak to the number or the growth in terms of traffic and applications through mobile, or were you not privy to those numbers?

Jenn (6m 17s):

Oh, no, for sure. So when we started, like when we had the iPhone app and then immediately after that, within a year, we actually took the site mobile, but not the actual Apple application. Right. It wasn't there yet. And when we started, it was somewhere around 16% finished, 25% started on mobile. And when I left, we were over 50%.

Joel (6m 40s):

Wow. And we were like, we talk a lot about fixing the mobile apply. And you mentioned Taleo wasn't there yet. So might argue they're still not there yet. We talk about, you know, chat bots, being the solution to sort of applying online through a messaging system. What, what's your take on how to fix the online application through mobile?

Jenn (6m 59s):

Well, let me start with, I get people love chatbots, but they are pins in my eyes. Like I think that it is the worst experience ever, like, Oh my gosh, pins in my eyes. So, and so I, you know, no, I don't think anybody's totally there yet. And I think that the overlays and the ATS's and how they, how they look and how they interact and all that's afraid. Like that's on it. That's not a path. It's not a path that maybe isn't as quick as we would like it to be, but it's at least it's on the path.

Jenn (7m 30s):

What I think gets the big goal F to me is like how we set up our applications in our ATS's like, really, like how many required fields do you really need to apply for a retail sales job?

Joel (7m 40s):

Right. And why are they required in the first place? Because it's not really required information. Yeah.

Jenn (7m 47s):

I have to tell you one of the things, you know, you'd think it'd be in a marketing role with social media and diversity and all this stuff. You know, if you talked about my top three work accomplishments while I was at AT&T one of them is literally getting rid of the asterix, right? Like if there was so many red required fields, we spent a whole, I mean, like we just went red line in those suckers, is it really required? No. So much so that our application completion rate was above 90% when I left.

Chad (8m 16s):

Wow. Wow. That is huge. And we talk now a lot about experience, something that we didn't even think about 10 years ago. Right. I do have to say that in working with, with Carrie and working with you back in the days when I was with direct employers and we created really a military crosswalk, that was something that was wrapped around what you guys wanted and needed. Now, it didn't work for shit, but I mean, you guys were like at the forefront of R and D in trying to figure out the solutions to the hard questions.

Chad (8m 52s):

And I know today, you guys are actually very transparent about the veterans that you hire, the amount of veterans and the individuals with disabilities and so on and so forth. What was the culture that AT&T had to be able to push for more innovation that you don't just don't see anywhere else? I mean, was that something that you saw more often or were you guys usually the innovator in every crowd?

Jenn (9m 19s):

It's interesting. And, you know, with all of the, all of the protests going on now and being really introspective about my biases and why do I think the way that I think I attribute a hundred percent of my openness to AT&T and their culture, if I could say, as a company, the one thing that I walked away with, like the most immense amount of pride is the way that they value differences. Like bar none. I thought nothing of asking or insisting of you, Chad, back in our direct employer, days that, Hey, you have to find me a way to match veterans to jobs, right?

Jenn (9m 56s):

Like that was a business imperative. And, and, you know, and, and I look at other companies now, you know, with my outside in lens on, and companies aren't even there now. And that was, I mean, how many years ago? We wouldn't even say.

Chad (10m 11s):

The thing for me though, is you're seeing outcomes because, because back then you were actually pushing vendors to do what they should have done the first place and not just pushing them, but paying them to actually do it. We have so many, so many companies are out there now saying, well, it'd be really nice to have this. It's like, okay, well, great. Is that a need? Because if it is, then you'll actually pay for it. If it's going to solve your problem, then let's go ahead and do that. AT&T did that, which is why I loved working with you guys.

Chad (10m 41s):

Most companies don't. And that being said, let me, let me parlay this before Joel gets it. You guys are constantly innovating on the website you guys have on the career website is just imagine what we can do together. And it has this lady in VR are, are you guys, have you been doing anything in talent aquisition around VR at all with AT&T? 

Jenn (11m 4s):

First shout out to Stephanie boys. Cause I know she's listening and she is like the brains behind that website and it is beautiful.

Chad (11m 11s):

It's gorgeous.

Jenn (11m 11s):

Okay. So we're going to have one of those conversations where I am going to give a dissenting opinion, right? So here's the deal. Yes. We're doing things in VR, particularly in college and work spaces. Right? Those are all things that make good sense. Follow me for a second. So if people have a headset and they're doing their virtual experience at home, I think that that's one thing, but I think it's a pretty big lift or a pretty big ask for somebody that's just exploring a career.

Jenn (11m 44s):

Right. So then it becomes like what's the most obvious way to use this? Like before the COVID we would have taken it to a career fair and given you some sort of immersive experience. Well, the reality is it's clunky. It's like time consuming. It's I mean, like it has to make sense and it's like, I never want to be one of those people that just do it to do it. Like it has to be rich and meaningful. So besides tours or job previews, or maybe like a virtual interview, if it wasn't dumb, but it's like, I mean, do I really need to put on a headset and do all that to do a virtual interview?

Chad (12m 20s):

I could just like, it seems Forced. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Cheeseman Can't wait to put goggles on because he doesn't want to have to deal with another human being on it for three years on this show. You're just hoping never to have to deal with another human being in your life.

Joel (12m 39s):

Jen, you, you oversaw a lot of the employment branding stuff at AT&T and you've seen a lot of things that, you know, sort of evolve in that time with Glassdoor and indeed reviews and blind and stuff on mobile and apps. I just want to know what your take is on, on the future of PR of employment branding and how we look at it and how important it is, how we track it and monitor it. Cause you were, you were right there on the front lines.

Jenn (13m 4s):

Yeah, it's interesting. I, I think that there's a group of folks that kind of look at employment branding as its own entity. Right. I'm not in that group. It's part of the marketing for the jobs and it's part of your consideration and it's part of your closure. And so, right. So when I look at it, I look at it just like I would, every other piece of conversion material, how much did it convert? Right. Like, so, I mean, there's all of those things about truth and storytelling and all of those things that sort of go into making a rich experience that would have somebody consider your job.

Jenn (13m 41s):

Right. Right. Well, if 40% or more of your job applicants never see your career site, you can't give it credit for that. Right. Like, like you just can't. And so I maybe look at it a little more asset and, and sort of funnel based, right? Like attention is to drive consideration for this job, did it. And how many of those convert? So like, I'm really trying to put metrics around the efficacy of the individual employment brand campaigns, as well as the implied value, like a social, right?

Jenn (14m 17s):

Like social's a big activation component of any employment brand campaign, right? Yeah. We all know that it gets harder and harder and harder to gain space without paying for things on the socials. But there is a, there's a benefit to being on the socials in both an organic way and an employee activated way that gives you exposure that you would otherwise have to pay for. Right. I mean,

Joel (14m 40s):

So what I'n hearing is there's very little attention paid to review sites and commentary from employees, at least from where your, your perspective was. And if true, then what's the future of those services?

Jenn (14m 54s):

What I would say Joel is that I there's benefit in those, if those are part of the sales cycle or buying cycle, right by this job work here. So the reality is the glass door shows up in far more searches like in far more attribution paths than it shows up as the final source. So do I care about Glassdoor? You bet. Right. Like I don't remember the percentage, but I made, it was more than 50% of our applicants touched glass door at some point during their cycle. I can't not be good there, but if it were something like, I don't want to throw shades on vendors but if it was some less known rating site not Glassdoor or Indeed.

Jenn (15m 29s):

They were like, you know, and I have a low score writing. Like I don't care. It barely shows up on my path.

Chad (15m 36s):

So question around again, maybe Overtown acquisition. And this is why I love having this conversation because I mean, you were over talent, acquisition and branding, and then really had a focus on branding and the experience did you ever collaborate with big AT&T brand and big AT&T marketing? And what did that look like? Did you guys share a vision on how to get things done? How did that, what did that look like at AT&T?

Jenn (16m 6s):

Absolutely. I know shutouts, Kayla Paskin, Christine Tool, who I know are listening to cause again, required listening. So it really, it was super collaborative. We were like, we were like a people extension of their team, right? Like, I don't know a different way to say that if there was a story or there was an idea or something that really had to do with our people and how, what they did or how they were, that wasn't seems like an us message.

Jenn (16m 37s):

And so we just sort of, we were sort of fluid in that they were super helpful. They have way bigger budgets than we do. We do. And they were super helpful.

Joel (16m 44s):

Were you guys able to actually pull some budget here and there, if it actually made business sense, because it was like, Hey look, the individuals that are coming through our career site going through our experience are prospective customers and, or they are customers. We don't want to lose them or we want to get them. Did you make that business case so that you could perspectively get more money from marketing to help you out with better?

Jenn (17m 11s):

Well, the, you know, I'm more of a shake hands, kiss babies kind of gal. Right? Like, but when I had compelling business things, where our items crossed veterans is a great example of that. Never afforded an employment branding budget to sponsor NCAA football on veterans on veterans day. Like I could've never done it. Right. So, so I think that when it, when it made sense and it sort of crossed over again, the culture things, they were really open and they were, like I said, they were always really super helpful. Like I, I always sort of feel bad when I talked to other companies and they tell me about their woes, especially now that I'm consulting.

Jenn (17m 47s):

Right. And they talk about their woes with working with and branding. And I'm just like, wow, I was so spoiled. So shout out to my friends in marketing at, AT&T though they were great. One of them actually ended up back filling me. So just to sort of show you how close that connection is, the person that took my place actually came from the marketing department. Oh, wow. Yeah. Awesome.

Joel (18m 5s):

So, so in light of that, I want to talk about COVID, it's obviously been an impactful, not just for vendors, but the recruiting sort of profession and industry. And I want to know your perspective on, you know, when we start coming out of this, when there's a vaccination, what does recruiting look like? How, how, how impactful is automation for companies are on the fence about, you know, should we go automation or not, you know, will they go automation? When we come out of this, what is the role of the, the recruitment ad agency as we come out of this, what does the world look like?

Jenn (18m 41s):

So, you know, it's interesting. I think that we were already sort of starting to skew towards some virtualization and more automated things out of necessity for the tight labor market, right? Like things needed to really be on demand. You needed to, you needed to troll deeper into pools to get people cause they were overly employed. And I think it's just going to be the same technology, but the flip of that, right? Like where we were using AI to really find people and put place them in roles and prequalify them.

Jenn (19m 13s):

Now we're going to use it to find quality people. So it's going to be the same thing. It's just going to be making the pool smaller, not larger, particularly in entry level roles and this fairs to be seen. But my take on it is that in most professional roles, unless it was in support of something that declined specifically because of this like engine, a bunch of engineers, aren't losing their jobs forever, right? Like, like, so some of the tightest data scientists are still in high demand. I was trying to find somebody to do mining and tooling and the other day, and those, those people still are at full on full employment.

Jenn (19m 48s):

So I think that rather than having to train whole staffs of people to ebb and flow, we can just use automation to sort of help make up those differences. Thoughts on that.

Chad (19m 60s):

I agree a hundred percent. I think that talent acquisition just overall is, has always been way too damn shortsighted. We forget that there's a cycle. And just because there are, you know, a a hundred candidates coming in, in applying for a job versus a thousand, we think that we can do business differently. We don't scale. Well, I think the technology that we have today allows us to do better scaling. And that being said, what's your thought from an AT&T space standpoint and beyond about remote work, everybody's working remote now.

Chad (20m 32s):

I think most are actually seeing heightened productivity. They're seeing people actually doing work just as well, if not better than before. Do you think that we're going to stay remote or do you think that it's just going to go back the old 1950s control era?

Jenn (20m 50s):

It's interesting. Right. Cause I, one of the reasons I left AT&T is, but I didn't want to relocate to our headquarters. Right. So that right in Dallas, just a hop, skip, and a jump and a still hop, skip, and a job. And I've worked remote for 17 years. So I don't know. Right. Like I think that there's still that desire, particularly in roles that require a lot of collaboration. There's still going to be that desire to pod people together, you know, pull them to places, but I don't think it's ever going to be like it was. And I think you see a lot of midsize companies just ditch the office all together.

Joel (21m 24s):

Yeah. The overhead. Right. And do you think a, do you think age wise, there's a difference. I mean, I've always talked about younger kids or not kids, but younger professionals, you know, wanting to be in a, an office and, and engage with other people and go to the cafeteria and do those things. Whereas older folks that have a home in the suburbs may be less likely to want to go, go to the headquarters. Would you agree with that?

Jenn (21m 46s):

You know, it's interesting. I think it goes on both ends, right? Like I think I'm at the top of the, I'm at the top of the free range. Let me live in my suburb home and work from upstairs office. I think in general, I'm hearing that the older workers want to have at least some structure of the office. There's, there's maybe an amount of oversight and control and you know, I don't find the same. I, I, you know, I'm, it's interesting. I live in a college town. I don't find the same thing with the younger kids. I think that they make their own community out of something different.

Chad (22m 18s):

And quite honestly, right. Like in this whole spirit I'm going to do whatever makes Jen happy. I think that that's probably better for their overall wellbeing right there. So the people that they work with, yep.

Joel (22m 30s):

I'm going to let you out on this. And, and I think you have a unique perspective in that you've seen so much technology, so many vendors that call you and pitch you, their products. I want to just get from you sort of a bear and bull scenario. What, what technology are you, are you bullish on and what are you bearish on? I'm going to go ahead and guess that programmatic you're bullish. If you're consulting with, with Joe VO and I'm going to guess you're bearish on chatbots because you weren't very complimentary of that as a, as an application process.

Joel (23m 0s):

What else are you bullish and bearish on?

Jenn (23m 2s):

So bullish also on virtual gatherings, right? Like I want to see a better, do I, do you remember the brazen careerist when she used to have that virtual career? Yeah.

Joel (23m 13s):

Meaning job fair, virtual job fair.

Jenn (23m 16s):

And not even job fairs. Right? Like if you think about the COVID and colleges and how much virtual learning is going to be going on, like, I don't just want a booth. I want someplace something virtual where you can gather a group of people. It doesn't have to be career fair related, but good networking in a way that is employer facing. Right? Like today, some of the platforms are really just about the experience, but the reality is we should all be gathering leads and sending followup emails. Right? Like, so something that makes that the virtual meeting space for jobs and I'm not, you know, I'm not, I'm not super all in on, I hate the chatbots in any variety and maybe the text ones are okay, but they are like, I mean, I know that they have some people love them.

Jenn (24m 2s):

I'm not, I, you know, I'm not speaking all the truth, you know, I, I feel like, I feel like this is going to be unpopular, but I feel like the niche diversity site, like pick them stand. Right. Like I I'm cool if you had it

Joel (24m 15s):

So bearish on niche job sites. Okay. Go on, go on.

Jenn (24m 21s):

So it's so specifically around diversity, right? Like, and so there's some that bring a lot of value in organizations that have substance to them. But if the only thing that you're doing is putting my jobs on a job site where you're putting content that you think is relative to women. If I do that, like I'm just like phoning it in. I should just build that content myself. Amen.

Chad (24m 42s):

Amen. I have, I have the hardest question for you. So are you ready? I am. So Joel probably doesn't know this, but you are like one of the biggest Baker Mayfield fans. Right. Do you feel as if this is the Browns year? 

Jenn (24m 57s):

Okay. So my husband's a Steelers fan, so it's really unpopular when I'm all in. I feel you on that, right? Like I feel bad when I'm all in on bakes, but yeah, man, I, I hope it is, but let's just be real. I mean, I love you, man. It's probably not happening, but I hope that he gives it a good run and like, I, you know, I love him. So

Chad (25m 25s):

Yeah. Do you, did you see the video of when, during the draft? I was videoing Joel as the pic Baker Mayfield came in. Yes. For the entire night he was so pissed. 

Jenn (25m 36s):

Okay. So it's been a few years. Has he grown on you?

Chad (25m 43s):


Joel (25m 48s):

Okay. So I was, I was, I was super anti because he's small, you know, he's, I think he's hit his ceiling. You know, he was 23, I think when he came to the Brown 22, 23. So I felt like he had hit a ceiling. He was, you know, when you're in, when you're in the AFC North, like you gotta be big, you gotta be a Roethlisberger, you know, like a big arm, big guy to survive. And he's none of those, you know, he's, he's a Texas kid played Oklahoma. The weather doesn't suit him very well when it's bad.

Joel (26m 19s):

He came in, you know, cocky the police video. Wasn't great. You know, he he's, he's got a chip on his shoulder and, and part of me kind of fell for that thinking, well, maybe he's not what Cleveland wanted, but maybe he's what Cleveland needed. I do think that he's focused now. He's not doing the progressive commercials and he's not doing like the underwear ads and things like that, which I think is good. I he's, he's at least growing up to the point where he says, I have to focus on football. He's got the team around him. You know, he's got a coach that made a, I don't know who the hell it was a good quarterback for a year at Minnesota.

Joel (26m 56s):

So I think they, I think they make the playoffs this year. I really do. They're not going to beat out Baltimore, but the Steelers are down an the Bengals are the Bengals this year. So they, I think they're, I think they make the playoffs, but is he the longterm answer? No, I think he hdas to have everything perfect. You to have Odell Beckham. And he's got to have Nick Chubb in the backfield has got to have a good line. He's got to have a defense that gives him the ball back and he's going to have all that this year. And he does well, but everything has to be perfect. And it's rarely perfect in Cleveland.

Joel (27m 26s):

That's my Baker Mayfield take. And we lost like 98% of our listeners.

Jenn (27m 32s):

I feel like we're done now. Well, we shall see, I, you know, I will be cheering and you know, I,

Joel (27m 39s):

I just hope they play at this point

Jenn (27m 42s):

Well. And you saw that. He said, he'd take a knee during the Anthem. So we'll see how that rolls out too. It's going to be a,

Joel (27m 49s):

Just win football games. And with that, there we go. Oh, wait. I know Jen, thank you for being on the show for the listeners that want to connect with you. You know, where, where do they go? I assume LinkedIn, but you tell me.

Jenn (28m 6s):

Yeah, LinkedIn is great. And you can also find me on the Twitters @JTerryrecruits

Joel (28m 11s):

love it. Thanks for finally coming on the show, Jen,

Jenn (28m 14s):

thank you for finally having me. We out,

Outro (28m 18s):

This has been the Chad and Cheese podcast, subscribe on iTunes, Google play, or wherever you get your podcasts. So you don't miss a single show and be sure to check out our sponsors because they make it all possible for more visit Oh yeah. You're welcome.


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