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Brand Facelift w/ Circa CEO

Diversity. It's kind of a big deal.

Vendors are fighting tooth-and-nail to be the solution of choice for employers far-and-wide. Enter Circa (the artist formerly known as LocalJobNetwork), who just went through a rebrand and recently acquired America's Job Exchange. Big moves, which means a big podcast, and the boys bring Circa CEO and prez Patrick Sheahan to the show and get down to the nitty gritty on the company, as well as the past, present and future of diversity recruiting.

Enjoy this NEXXT powered podcast.


Patrick (0s):

Not only are we gaining roughly a thousand customers from America's job exchange, which clearly sends a message to the market, that we're the market leader, but at the same time, those customers now are going to be part of a business whose sole mission is helping them build diverse teams.

Intro (15s):

Hide your kids! Lock the doors! You're listening to HRS 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 (39s):

Three white guys from the Midwest talking about diversity. You know, you want to keep listening. Welcome everybody. This is the Chad and Cheese podcast. I'm your cohost Joel Cheesman joined as always by Chad Sowash and we are happy to welcome today, Patrick Sheahan president of newly minted Circa Patrick, welcome to the podcast.

Patrick (1m 1s):

Appreciate the opportunity to be here.

Joel (1m 3s):

You're very welcome. Very welcome. So you're a Milwaukee guy, Midwest. What should we know about you before we get into the company stuff?

Patrick (1m 11s):

Yeah, family man, married, a father of two living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, longtime native of Wisconsin had had the opportunity to live in a variety of states, but, but came back when my kids were school age. So yeah,

Joel (1m 25s):

It's a great place to raise a family. Isn't it?

Patrick (1m 28s):

That's what we say. Even when it's mighty cold. That's exactly what we say.

Joel (1m 32s):

Let's get to the news part of this. So you've, you've had a lot of stuff going on from a rebrand to acquiring some companies, give us the skinny on all that.

Patrick (1m 41s):

Yeah, it's been a busy year. I joined Circa in May of 2019, and felt passionate about leading a business that had had a real sense of purpose. And I think the roots of our businesses a job board provider and brand of local job network really didn't encapsulate what we were trying to build as a, as a team. And so we worked hard over the last really seven months to embark on our rebrand as Circa with a strong sense of purpose and that we believe diverse teams have the power to transform business and felt the rebrand was, was our way of planting our flag that, you know, from this day forward, if you work with Circa things are going to be different.

Patrick (2m 24s):

As you know, I'm in concert with the name change, we announced that we had acquired America's Job Exchange, which has long, long been sort of identified as a, as a top competitor in our business and the OCCP market specifically. And we actually had been working on that acquisition for some time.

Joel (2m 41s):

I have to inject one thing and I find this fascinating, you guys, you guys really thought about your logo. So in the release about it, it says Circa's logo letters are kerned, a word, I don't even know what means, what it means to create a visual rhythm with subtle cues to connect individuals and create a more hole while you guys really thought about this.

Patrick (3m 3s):

I, I have to say we, we partnered with a fantastic agency called studio lo that helped us with that. And, and this wasn't merely, you know, our marketing team dreaming up something, you know, unique and pretty and, and putting good words behind it. It was a, it was a big effort both internally and externally

Chad (3m 21s):

Local job networks been in the industry for a very long time. You could have obviously put a new, a fresh new coat of paint, on that. But one thing that you said during kind of like the intro was that you wanted to, to let everybody know that things were going to be different. So how will they be different?

Patrick (3m 40s):

Yeah, so, I mean, clearly we have served the market with a diversity offering, but I would say that, that in my onboarding and assessment of what local job network historically had provided, particularly in the diversity space, I hate to say it, but it was, it was, it was very much sort of a check the box type deliverable. And, and, and from my perspective, I just didn't feel like that was a good enough effort that would really have sustainable competitive advantage and longterm customer relationships.

Patrick (4m 10s):

So, you know, what we wanted to say to the market was, you know, merely compliance with diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives was, was no longer good enough. And that, you know, our belief was that we actually had to deliver candidates and help companies with their diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. And so as we set forth the vision for our company, it was very much, you know, the legacy product infrastructure, the Legacy messaging, the Legacy brand didn't encapsulate what we were trying to build as a business.

Patrick (4m 41s):

So our product investments now going forward clearly are aimed at improving candidate flow. But also as we embark on our own internal diversity equity inclusion initiatives, what we're trying to do is commercialize those for small, medium sized businesses. That, that, that really are, are challenged with the talent acquisition, the, the culture challenges that we all face as employers in today's day and age.

Chad (5m 7s):

So you guys are you're, you're coming out of the box saying we're going to eat our own dog food. We're going to, we're going to actually do that ourselves.

Patrick (5m 14s):

I worked, I worked with a guy that said, ah, we actually drink our own champagne. It sounds a little bit better. Doesn't it?

Chad (5m 22s):

Any way you want to put it, Patrick, anyway, you want to put it. Here's here's, here's the problem though, Patrick, I totally appreciate and I embrace wanting to create programs that will drive diverse candidates into organizations. The problems that we've seen over the years, is that companies want to talk about it. They want to throw money at charity and they want to, and they want to hire a chief diversity officer and then give them no fucking resources.

Chad (5m 52s):

At all! So my, the big question is if you come up with these great products. Who's going to buy them because all they're doing right now is paying lip service? They're not actually paying for shit.

Patrick (6m 3s):

Yeah. I think, I think your assessment of the past is it's spot on. I find it hard to argue with that, but I do really believe that, you know, the, the, the United States in particular is what I can speak for. Cause it's my own personal experience. I feel like, like things have changed. I do feel like we've reached a moment in time where particularly business leaders have recognized that paying lip service isn't good enough anymore. And you know, I, I, I particularly found it in our organization is, is, you know, some of the, the social justice challenges that have arisen of late, you know, our workforce is quite young, you know, in their mid twenties, early thirties, and they're, they're unabashed and unafraid to speak their minds and share that, you know, they really want more diversity in the workplace.

Patrick (6m 57s):

They, they want their, their coworkers to look more like their friends and relatives and partners, that they spend their time with outside of work. So I, I think you're absolutely right, but I do believe that we're at sort of a see change moment, not because of the Ray Floyd issue. I just think even before, I think times are times are changing and things are different and you know, I'm, I'm, I'd like to say I've got a long career in leadership ahead of me. And you know, if I think about my peer group and the people that I speak with, that's what I feel and see.

Patrick (7m 30s):

And even if it's not the case, it's something that I believe in. So I think it's the right way to lead our company.

Chad (7m 35s):

Here's the thing that I would ask from you hearing that you guys are gonna, you know, drink your own champagne. One of the things that we need from corporate America, and I would love to see an organization like you do this as a leader to demonstrate how you get this shit done, no matter what your numbers look like, will you become transparent with your workforce numbers? Will you put them out for everybody to see, to see today? And then also show the trend lines? Because these are the things that we need. We need guys like you to say, Hey, I believe in this.

Chad (8m 6s):

Okay, great. You believe in it, then show us.

Patrick (8m 9s):

Yeah. That's a great challenge. I would tell you that there's the dog. No, I would tell you that actually, like I said, I've, I've been with the business for now for just over a year. I do quarterly town halls with, with the company and my first quarterly town hall, I actually, you know, asked my team and said, let's look at our diversity stats and let's share them with the organization. And so it was something that I was very transparent with our organization and we report on it quarterly. We share it with our board and I would tell you we're, we're not where we need to be.

Patrick (8m 43s):

I'm proud to say, if you look at our, our male to female mix, we're nearly equal or almost, almost even more skewed towards the female side. And, and I think that's, that's something that's really important.

Chad (8m 52s):

Nobody's where that, nobody's where they need to be though. Patrick and I think is the key is that if you are not where you need to be, you are still transported publicly, not just internally, but publicly and say we are going to do better. And this is where we're going to plant our flag and watch us because we're challenging, not just ourselves, but we're challenging you.

Patrick (9m 14s):

Yeah, no, I'm not opposed to that in any way. I mean, I think if the marketing team can present that in a way on our website, I absolutely own that. Why, why not? That's good stuff.

Joel (9m 23s):

So speaking of websites, Patrick, Chad and I are old enough to remember when diversity job posting that you just,

Chad (-):


Joel (9m 31s):

but your jobs on or some URL that had a diverse, you know, a nomenclature in it. I feel like we need to get way past that. So how are you guys, you know, is this just 2.0, or is it actually a new approach to, you know, getting in front of the right audience?

Patrick (9m 53s):

Yeah, our business has historically had a strong relationship with a large and growing roster of, of community partners that represent diverse groups, if you will. And our historical outreach management product really sent job opportunities in a push relationship to those community partners and as ISS or the efficacy of that product. My belief was that that, you know, just, just blasting people with an email or with links to job postings really wasn't an, it was an ineffective way to actually attract real candidates.

Patrick (10m 29s):

And so what we're working on internally is actually trying to create much more of a, a community partner, sorry, a community partner portal that has greater network, networking, greater interaction, greater dialogue between not only us as Circa and the community partners, but also the hiring employer and the candidate and the community partner. And I think it's important that we create an ecosystem where folks it's much more simpler and easier to use.

Patrick (10m 59s):

I would say that that thematically, I believe as a software provider, you know, we have to have a very simple and easy to use product. And I would say that today isn't representative of, of sort of the Circa Legacy products. And so that's, that's a big effort for us internally.

Chad (11m 13s):

Yeah. That's a big commitment as well, right?

Patrick (-):


Chad (11m 16s):

To be able to move away from. And we're talking about something here that not many people understand is that you were, are working with the most archaic of archaic systems. I don't mean your systems. I'm talking about state and local job backs, federal job banks.

Patrick (11m 32s):

These are the most archaic systems known to man, at least here in the United States. How are you? When I was with Direct Employers leading the National Labor Exchange efforts, our focus was to try to press better technology down into state workforce, into federal, obviously the federal side, as that was incredibly hard. What are your efforts to be able to, to hopefully do the exact same type of thing? And are you seeing those, those state and local, starting to embrace new technology?

Patrick (12m 6s):

Well, I think, I think by and large, you know, the technology solutions providers to the states like JIA solutions are, are doing a good job. And I think states, working with state and local government it's challenging. Right? And I think their ability to adapt sort of innovative technology, you know, I kind of liken it to, to, you know, the success that Uber has had sort of breaking down traditional barriers and state and local jurisdictions to, to display sort of the taxi environment. I that's kind of the, the messaging I give to my team internally.

Patrick (12m 37s):

Like, like sometimes I think we have to sort of not, not break the rules, but I think we just have to push, push the envelope of kind of what's historically been acceptable to, to get real change. You know, I, I, we tried some outreach with some of the states to forge a better relationship. I would say that's, that's been challenging to get to the right people on the phone and become top of mind. I, you know, I would venture to guess that the, the folks working in the state unemployment agencies likely are understaffed and overworked.

Patrick (13m 9s):

And, and that's, that's a challenge that unfortunately I don't have an answer for, right. So I'm still learning, but I would say it's, it's, it's one where, you know, ultimately the, the comment that I make to my team is ultimately the state agencies have the same goal that we do, which is putting people to work. If we can remind everybody of that, I think, and be aligned on that. That's what our goal is. Hopefully we can see, see a path forward

Nexxt (13m 36s):

We'll get back to the interview in a minute. But first we have a question for Andy Katz, COO of Nexxt.

Nexxt (13m 44s):

Andy, for clients that are sort of married to email and a little hesitant to text messaging, what would you tell them that text messaging is part of any integrated strategy. There's not one size fits all for anybody. Job seekers opt into different forms of communication, whether it's with Nexxt or anybody else they might want to receive email. They might want to receive SMS. They might want to receive targeted retargeting on their desktops. So it's one piece of an overall puzzle for more information, go to

Chad (14m 14s):

Remember that's with doubleX not the triple X.

Joel (14m 20s):

Sticking with government for a second. It seems like in the past decade or so, government agencies have been neutered in terms of what they can do and the manpower and, and whatnot. And you mentioned sort of being understaffed. It seems like historically companies have done in quotes diversity to, to keep them out of court, right? To keep them, to keep them out of trouble with gov government regulators? Where are we now with, with Government regulation and actually having the ability to flex on some of this stuff.

Joel (14m 58s):

And particularly with, with COVID being such a centerpiece of, of government and straining, straining, already strained resources, what's your take on what the government can do and will do in the future in regards to regulation and enforcement?

Patrick (15m 11s):

Yeah, clearly, as we talked about at the beginning of the show I've been in the market now for just a year, so I'm still learning. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Director Lean at the OCCP. I think that the changes that he's made sort of their approach to audit and enforcement to, to have more, more desktop related audits to, you know, expand reach, I think has largely been effective and, and who whomever follows him in his role. I hope that they can be equally as effective. You know, I think again, I think, you know, Director Lean, you know, ultimately he wants to give everyone regardless of their physical abilities, race, color, orientation, he wants to give them all the same opportunities.

Patrick (15m 54s):

And I think that that's, that's, that's why the OCCP exists. And I'm hopeful that, you know, that that will continue to have an impact not only on federal government contractors, but non federal government contractors as well.

Chad (16m 5s):

Yeah well, I have to say that most of the individuals that have been in his position have not been approachable. He is incredibly approachable and indefinitely listens. Right? So that's one of the things that we haven't seen from government, or at least over the years, especially in that position, that, which is definitely an enforcement position, but he he's, he's definitely a good cat. I wanna, I wanna pivot over to the America's Job Exchange by in this world was, was really a big acquisition. But the, but the question is why buy?

Chad (16m 38s):

And when are you going to transition AJE to the circa brand?

Patrick (16m 43s):

Yeah. Like, you know, clearly it's, it's a niche industry. And for us, we've had a tremendous amount of success gaining new customers over the last four to five years. And, you know, market share is, is an important metric for us. And we long identified, you know, America's Job Exchange, Direct Employers, Broad Bean e-Quest is sort of our, our roster of competitors. And, you know, America's Job Exchange is in all respect was, was, was a product line of non-core product line of a much larger web hosting businesses or in our hosting company called Navisite.

Patrick (17m 18s):

Right. And so, you know, what we believe is that not only are we gaining roughly a thousand customers from America's Job Exchange, which clearly sends a message to the market, that we're the market leader, but at the same time, those customers now are going to be part of a business whose sole mission is helping them build diverse teams, as opposed to, you know, where this sort of a product line of completely unrelated business. And so I feel ultimately we're going to be better serving those customers. And we're going to learn from those customers. There's some technology assets that we're still sort of in the early stages of evaluating whether we got to keep them longer term, but ultimately our goal is to transition those customers to the Circa platform by year end.

Patrick (17m 57s):


Chad (17m 58s):

Okay. So are you looking at keeping the, the, the Massachusetts crew in a remote kind of environment? And that being said, yes, no. Maybe are you going to stay in more of a remote environment after COVID

Patrick (18m 12s):

It goes away. Yeah. Those that were there, those that stay with the business will be in a remote and remote remote capacity. Gotcha.

Chad (18m 18s):

Okay. What about the transition from the AJE brand to Circa? What kind of a timeframe do you see that happening?

Patrick (18m 25s):

Well, it's actually already kicked off. I think this week, I believe the, I guess I haven't looked at the website, the actual AJE website will have a reference to Circa.

Chad (18m 35s):

Yeah, it does.

Patrick (18m 36s):

Yeah. And ultimately say my marketing team is just an, a technology team. They're really, they're great on both sides of the fence at AJE and at Circo as well. They are ultimately that, that that brand will be transitioned likely by year end as well.

Joel (18m 48s):

Patrick, we talk a lot on the show about automation and how AI is infiltrating recruiting and how companies hire and the sense of the companies that provide automated services, prescreening, et cetera. Talk a lot about unbiased recruiting, right? Like when the bots are doing the prescreening and the interviewing, isn't that the ultimate form of unbiased recruiting. What's your take on that? Do you guys plan on, on getting into more automation? I know you do some consulting work. What's your, what's your take on, on that?

Patrick (19m 18s):

Yeah, so AI is clearly the buzz word in technology today. I would say unfortunately, local job network was not putting forth the necessary amount of technology investment to really consider leading edge development like, like AI and at Circa, you know, I would say we're not kicking off sort of a, of an investment in AI today, but as we think about our longer term product roadmap, you know, enabling more use, leveraging, more use of, of, of programmatic search candidate matching, et cetera, clearly is as part of our business strategy.

Patrick (19m 56s):

But I would say, you know, artificial intelligence as a word is not a core competence of our business today. And rather I'd prefer to look at other providers that are providing those technology platforms and think about how we can partner with them to enable a better candidate experience and candidate flow for our employers that, that, that we count as customers. You know, it's, it's, I do believe that that artificial intelligence will help remove unconscious bias, but ultimately, you know, hiring managers, whomever, they are really have to have the right level of training.

Patrick (20m 33s):

And that's something that I would say is a first, first step for us is how can we provide, you know, tools, templates, training, et cetera, to help some of our SMB customers.

Joel (20m 45s):

So, so you're, you're saying you won't be building a robot head to interview people anytime soon?

Patrick (20m 50s):

It's not, it's not the plans for us. No, I don't know. But you know, like modern hires right down the road and, and, you know, they're doing a lot of those things. So, so perhaps that's somebody we could, we could think about partnering with to improve that, but that experience. Yeah.

Chad (21m 4s):

Yeah. There are tons of young startups and obviously well more established, that are focused on the unbiased tech. I think a lot of it has to do with the, the ability to audit, just because we know that obviously anything that we do, if it's modeling off of human behavior, we are the most biased beings in the world. So therefore it's probably a good thing to audit off of. Big question. What is your company seeing with your clients focusing on driving diverse candidate slates to the hiring manager?

Chad (21m 40s):

I think that that's probably one of the biggest steps that we can take to ensure that the candidate slates that we're putting in front of the hiring manager, at least it's not all old white dudes right out of the gate, right?

Patrick (21m 52s):

Yeah. Yeah, no, I mean, I, what I would say is invariably the, the chief complaint that anybody in, in our businesses likely gets is, is, you know, not getting adequate candidate flow. And ultimately I think really talented, talent acquisition professionals recognize that, you know, if you, if you're focused on diversity initiatives and hiring a more diverse workforce, it takes real work. It takes, it takes different effort. It takes perhaps expanding kind of the filters that you may have once used historically, you know, things like are college degrees really necessary?

Patrick (22m 31s):

Are, is having a criminal background, something that will, will now consider. I mean, those are, those are real considerations that, you know, hiring managers, talent acquisition professionals really need to engage in conversation with their senior leadership to say, if you're really committed to this, are you really, are you committed in such a way that, that we're, we're going to do something very, very different?

Chad (22m 54s):

Right? Well, and that's, that's where meritocracy really breaks down and it's nothing but a dog whistle these days because the ban the box isn't happening, or they are using these requirements that filter out more of a diverse candidate flow. A big question. Since most companies aren't seeing that, or we're not seeing that from most companies. What about the actual building of talent, diverse talent pipelines through education, you were in the education space for a little while, right?

Patrick (23m 25s):

Yeah. I ran a software as a service business that provided professional education in the healthcare and financial services and real estate world. And I, and I think, you know, there are, I think there are, are companies that, that clearly are trying to blend talent acquisition along with identifying skills gaps and delivering education to address those skills gaps, to make a candidate much more attractive, to open positions. And I love that.

Patrick (23m 57s):

I, I wish I could. I wish we, we, I could tell you that we were there. I think I have a soft spot in my heart for delivering education to our delivering education cause having done it for a number of years, but I think, you know, as, as a longer term strategy, that might be something we, we, we really think long and hard about, but I, I absolutely believe those that, you know, there are companies out there today that I think, you know, stick to their knitting and really are focused on addressing the skills gap that exists. And I'd be proud to partner with businesses like those, as opposed to trying to do it myself.

Patrick (24m 32s):

You know, we're, we're a relatively small business, but 150 employees. So one of the things that I, I come from a place of, of leadership is that we do have to focus on, you know, a handful of priorities. And if we can execute on those really well, then we've, we've likely created something special.

Chad (24m 50s):


Patrick (24m 51s):

Patrick Sheahan everybody. Patrick, thanks for joining us on the show. For those listeners who want to learn more about Circa, where should they go? would be great.

Joel (25m 2s):

Good enough, Chad, another one in the books! We out.

Chad (25m 6s):

We out. Thanks Joel.

Joel (25m 7s):

Thanks Chad.

Outro (25m 8s):

Thank you for listen to podcasts with Chad and Cheese. Brilliant! They talk about recruiting. They talk about technology, but most of all, they talk about nothing. Anyhoo, be sure to subscribe today on iTunes, Spotify, Google play, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. We out.


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