Ethan Bloomfield is a recruitment tech industry veteran who helped vendors like JobTarget & ZipRecruiter growth hack from ground zero. Ethan currently spends his time on the beach in Costa Rica while growth hacking for TruckersReport.com, another industry that need solutions to problems Ethan is currently hacking.
Enjoy this blast into the past and then catapult into the future as three industry veteran chat and argue about growth hacking, tech, process, and more...
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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.
We're slumming it today, Cheeseman.
It's Monday noon and I'm already drinking. That must mean,
... that Ethan Bloomfield is on the show. What's up everybody. I am Joel Cheeseman of the Chad and Cheese podcast joined as always by Chad Sowash and stay. We welcome to the show. It's a long title. CRO of Truckers Report, industry veteran, and friend of the show. Ethan Bloomfield, Ethan, welcome.
There he is.
Ethan Bloomfield (50s):
Thank you guys very much here from sunny Costa Rica.
Okay. So I think we're just going to jump into the shit.
Oh man, you pushed Chad's button on that.
Chad (1m 2s):
You went from Massachusetts to Costa Rica in no time flat or let's that that's at least what it seems like. How, how did that all come together and how did you find yourself on the beach with horses and shit?
Joel (1m 15s):
Right. All of a sudden there were pics of Ethan barefoot on horses on the beach. And I was like, what the hell is he up to? We're like, Oh, he moved, Oh, well, no shit?
Ethan Bloomfield (1m 24s):
Barefoot on the beach as we speak. So I have been traveling to visit Costa Rica for, I don't know, five or six years vacation prior to getting married. And then since we got married, this was our spot. And from our first trip, we were like, this would be a great place to live. It has everything. It's the climate, it's the ex-pat community. It's the connection to the US. It's very free country in terms of coming and going. It's actually, you may not know this, but I think one of, or the only country in the world with no army or military.
Ethan Bloomfield (2m 5s):
Crime is relatively low in most areas and very, very ex-pat friendly. And so we had been looking at homes down here initially as a vacation home, something we could just come visit a couple of times a year and we kind of just looked around and said, why? Why not just go and stay? I'm just as far from the airport as I was in rural Massachusetts, you know, I was an hour and a half from Logan. So I was, you know, two hours from the airport here. And I'm like, let's give it a shot for a year and see if we want to do this. And, you know, we can always come back home and still have a place to vacation.
Ethan Bloomfield (2m 47s):
And that was two and a half years ago. So that's, that's my story. And I'm sticking to it.
Chad (2m 53s):
So what about infrastructure? Cause you talk about roads. I mean, Costa Rica, not quite the same roads. What about internet? Cell signal
Joel (3m 2s):
Yankees games? Can you get Red Sox, Yankees games down there? What's up?
Ethan Bloomfield (3m 6s):
So all criteria to picking a place to live, right? So I've got a hundred Meg down, five Meg up. So the uploads, obviously it's not fiber, but we've got really good internet. And having done this for awhile, you figure out all the hacks to streaming anything you want. So it's a combination of Nord VPN, plus all the streaming services and I pretty much get whatever I want for TV. Not always live, but for me more important than baseball is always the NFL. Something, Joel, can't appreciate much lately. So, but yeah, overall, the infrastructure's good, roads are bad, but you know, there's a saying down here is bad roads, bring great people, you know, they're improving, but overall infrastructure, electricity water, the basics, internet, electricity is really solid, even where we are.
Ethan Bloomfield (4m 1s):
And we're not in any kind of a city. I think our population is 7,000 or so.
Joel (4m 5s):
Are roads the biggest con or is there a bigger, bigger setback than that?
Ethan Bloomfield (4m 10s):
I'd say from infrastructure roads are the biggest con the new biggest con guys is realizing I'm stuck. You know, as much as it's been great to be down here and watching from a distance, everything you've experienced. We can't visit the family because right now, the way our tourist visas work, we wouldn't be able to get back in the country. So supposedly that's going to be changing in the next month or two, but we've been out of the States for eight months. And you know, it's been hard in terms of not being able to visit family and missing life events, but shoot, I mean, that's happening when you're in the States.
Ethan Bloomfield (4m 51s):
So, you know, it's not the end of the world, but yeah, I'd say that's the worst thing is probably the roads.
Joel (4m 58s):
So we probably get got ahead of ourselves there, realizing that a lot of our listeners don't know who you are. You have quite an illustrious past in the industry. And I want you to just sort of go through while you're on the show, how long we've known you, your experience, what you're doing now, just sort of what you're up to industry-wise?
Ethan Bloomfield (5m 17s):
And I don't want anybody who's listening to think that when I pay you compliments, I mean them. I'll share a few, some of which neither of you probably know, and that goes back to fake it till you make it stories. I was a dot.comer in the late nineties and also in telecom. And as that all exploded, I ended up finding my ways long story short into human resource publishing and eventually selection and assessment tests. And my first business was building an applicant tracking system online around an ATS, one of the first automated ATSs. You've never heard of it, but we had about 150 installations.
Ethan Bloomfield (6m 0s):
And interestingly, I had contracted with Job Targets. Can you guys still hear me? So then I joined Job Target, which is really where it all began. I don't know if anybody knows Andrew Banever who owned the company, which eventually split into two parts. One became the association niche job board platform, which is where he started. Then the other side, which is what he runs today, was the company I helped him build, which was the one-click early distribution, programmatic-ish, I guess, back in the day. And so I, I helped join him a couple of good stories, certainly one about Joel.
Joel (6m 43s):
Ethan Bloomfield (6m 44s):
So, Joel was pretty well known back in those days and you know, I convinced Andrew, we didn't even have a product, I think I had PowerPoints that made it look like I was clicking through web pages, to introduce our ad distribution platform. And I was out there telling Don Ramer and John Malone, Equest and Arboreta, we're done, we're coming for them. And I, and I walked up with some of that same BS. And there's this group of these, you know, Stallworth industry guys sitting in San Diego on a day bed at an ERE conference and there were these guys like Joel Cheeseman, Oh my God, I got to go meet this guy. And Chris Russell, Oh my God, these are the most influential people in the world.
Ethan Bloomfield (7m 27s):
So I, I went over and started shooting the shit with you guys was really not known for anything or having done anything in the industry at that point but I told you I was. And we, you know, we started talking at that point and, and those were some of what I felt were, you know, or thought were some of the most exciting days of this industry. 2006,7 leading into the great recession. We were having a lot of fun and building business had a lot of success at job target made it through the great recession with them. And in 2012, I was recruited to come by Ann Siegel to go work at Zip Recruiter initially on the Biz Dev side, trying to expand the partnerships for the alerts programs.
Chad (8m 16s):
How big was it at that point?
Ethan Bloomfield (8m 18s):
They were nobody.
Chad (8m 19s):
How many people though?
Ethan Bloomfield (8m 20s):
20, I was number 18 or 19. I think somewhere in that range, once we got there, we spent about the first three to six months, really focused on developing the Zip Alerts platform and the, the kind of backfill for email product. But it became really clear to us really fast that our subscription product was the place to really focus time and energy. So I moved into sales leadership and helped to build the inside sales team, the outside sales team, the agency team, the customer success team, with some great partners, one of which is actually work with me today, and we'll come to that in a minute.
Ethan Bloomfield (9m 2s):
In 2015, as we got from that 20 or so people to, I think we're about two 50 or three, it just became clear that as a, you know, a senior sales leader, it wasn't going to work for me to be on the East coast. And my kids were still in high school. So we really needed to move somebody else into those roles. So I stepped out on very good relationship and actually it was thanks in part to Ian, as well as others that I started my consulting practice, Vital Few. Ian, when I left said, he'd like to keep me involved. And so I stayed on as an advisor and a consultant to him and some others in the company for about a year.
Ethan Bloomfield (9m 44s):
I was like, well, why don't I consult to other companies in the meantime, glowing endorsement from Ian and I went on to work with about 30 or 40 other industry companies, predominantly recruitment media, some recruitment tech, and had a lot of fun with that. Around the same time that I was moving down here, I had come off of actually a pretty, a failed startup. My, my idea around consulting was always to find products and services that would, that I could build based on the pain and challenges that companies faced. And so we had built outbound.ai, which was human assisted dialing platform for sales teams, et cetera, et cetera.
Ethan Bloomfield (10m 30s):
And that kind of fell apart. And I had, you know, my, my kind of corral of clients that I worked with, you know, just a handful. And my idea when I moved down here was that, you know, I have a few clients. My view of the world had changed, I don't need to be the richest guy in the game. And, you know, it's a younger person's game. And you know, not that we're ancient guys, but, you know, we were tired sometimes, more tired than others. And, and so, you know, I was down here doing that and Sam, who is the owner of Truckers Report, most of you have never met him.
Ethan Bloomfield (11m 12s):
He's owned the site for about 12 years. It was originally just the community, which has discussions, forums, CDL, practice tests. He didn't know about jobs. And he and I had met at IEWS conferences or TA tech conferences over the years. And the minute I launched my consulting practice, he had hired Vital Few to help him out. And when I got down here, he said, you know, things are kind of getting interesting in this business, on the recruitment side, but with the three people I have working here, it feels like we're kind of stalled out. How do we go next level? Will you help me find kind of an executive to do that?
Ethan Bloomfield (11m 54s):
And I spent the weekend thinking about, and I said, Sam, was that where you recruiting in that conversation? Or, you know, right. So He said kind of, but I didn't want to impose it upon you. I know you just moved to paradise and you'd rather be barefoot in the sand with your horses. And I said, you know, if this thing is just too special to ignore, so we made a deal and I decided to come in and help go to the next level in a way that you just can't when you're a consultant. Right. And both of you guys have consulted. It is hard. It is hard because your clients don't listen to you.
Chad (12m 32s):
Oh yeah, it's exactly right. Exactly.
Joel (12m 37s):
You pushed another Chad button.
Ethan Bloomfield (12m 39s):
It's a lot easier when you have the job and you're there all day. And so, you know, this company has gone since I joined from three or four full-time people. I think we're now about 30, two and a half years later, internationally and completely 100% virtually.
Joel (12m 59s):
Do you miss being the entrepreneur? And I also, I think we learned a lot from our failures as much as our successes. And I know that you're maybe downplaying the impact that you had on ZipRecruiter, particularly in the early days, but I'm curious in your failings, what would you trace that back to? Or what would you, what, what did you do wrong? I guess, what, what did you learn from it?
Ethan Bloomfield (13m 20s):
The, you know, this was the hardest lesson in life, Joel and I had to learn it like three times, because that wasn't the only failure I had as an entrepreneur. I'm not a founder. I'm a really good, like, I don't know if there's any better early stage hypergrowth company leader. I'm not a founder. And, learning that was hard. It's, it's staying in it when you're, you know, not seeing the profits come out of a business that should be profitable. It's taking the long strategy. The second is pick your partners carefully. And I don't have any ill will for the guys I partnered with, but we just had a different way of thinking about how to get to the next level.
Ethan Bloomfield (14m 7s):
I guess I'm going to answer that, you know, I feel like I'm in the Oprah chair, I'm about to cry. I just, I'm not that good of a founder. And I'm really, really good at this phase, this tenant, I mean, job target. It was 10 people when I left, it was 120 ZipRecruiter we talked about and Truckers Report. It was like three or four people. And now we're 30. So, you know, it's, it's, the track record is really in coming in where there's, the, the claws are locked in on doing something cool, but kind of growth hacking and getting to that next level is where I've found most of my success.
Joel (14m 44s):
Then for the startups out there. And there are quite a few that listen to our show that are at that, you know, one, two, three, four, five to 10 people, what is the secret to hyperactively growing to that a hundred plus employees.
Ethan Bloomfield (14m 56s):
Wow. At number one, it's gotta be that you have the right product for the right market at the right time. And there's just no way around that, just because you believe this is the new great thing. And that's one of the things I feel like I left my startups too early. I feel like many entrepreneurs stay their startups too long by, by believing that the market for what their idea is while it might be a great idea is a lot bigger than it actually was. Guys, you know, at the end of the day, I think we used to say we had like a seven to $10 billion recruitment media industry in 2007, '08. I can't imagine it's bigger than two or three max now, maybe lower than that in terms of overall revenue.
Ethan Bloomfield (15m 42s):
And so there's just not a lot of big plays out there. And so, you know, you have to be totally convinced and then you have to be right, that you have the right product for the right market at the right time. And, and each of those companies that I worked for did, right, there was nothing for SMB in the way that ZipRecruiter launched it. Nobody had thought about SMB. Nobody had thought about e-commerce for recruitment postings. I used to always tell everybody in shock, you know, Monster and CareerBuilder 300, 400, $700 million a year in revenue, they used to tell me maybe 10 or 15% of that was e-commerce orders. Everything else was there 2-3000 person sales organization and ZipRecruiter cracked that code.
Ethan Bloomfield (16m 28s):
Truckers Report again, what we had is, is that, is that unfair advantage. And that was one of the things I learned about in consulting. We had a community of drivers that was really old for the internet, right. 11 years. And we have, you know, probably the highest demand segment of recruitment media and that's lightning in a bottle. And so really be willing to look at yourself and say, you know, do I have the right product for the right market at this time? And if not, you know, be willing to make pivots. And, you know, I think we've all seen the challenge with too many pivots.
Chad (17m 7s):
Ethan Bloomfield (17m 8s):
So there's that the other is small changes have the biggest impact, the little things that you do in packaging. Look, I sell candidates to trucking companies and ad agencies, right? That's it. But how you package it, how you sell it, how you offer it. Those little hacks are the things that have the greatest impact. So we went from an exclusively, a performance performance-based CPA company, right? To a, kind of a mix, right company, right time of CPA clients and subscription clients. And we found that that has really unlocked our ability to add 20 to 30 new trucking companies to our platform every single month right now.
Ethan Bloomfield (17m 55s):
So I hope that helps them out there. It's, it's a tough one to swallow because once you've got the money and the time sunk in or invested in acknowledging that it might not be the right product for that market at that time is challenging, but there are a lot of opportunities for this technology. One of the things you and I have talked about in the past is through all of these recessions mini and big, you know, a lot of cool tech got lost.
Chad (18m 22s):
Ethan Bloomfield (18m 23s):
Just got sunset. And I think back to a lot of how much of it I'd like to bring back. Sure. Right. So that's my best advice in some of that.
Chad (18m 32s):
Some of that just wasn't time for adoption. I mean, just wasn't ready for adoption is that time now, or some of those concepts available now.
Nexxt PROMO (18m 45s):
We'll get back to the interview in a minute. But first we have a question for Andy Katz, COO of Nexxt. What kinds of companies should be leveraging programmatic? Every fortune, 1000 company out to anybody with extreme volume of jobs, you're recruiting for 20 positions a year. You don't need programmatic. You can go to a recruitment marketing agency or a job board and do a direct email with your company only. You're not in with another 20 companies and a job alert, or you're not just on a career site or a job board. You could do banner advertising, buy premium placements. So where programmatic again is one piece of the puzzle, it's not going to ever be the end, all be all. And I do believe all the programmatic platforms out there have ancillary services to support that, knowing that you can't just survive on a one trick pony.
Nexxt PROMO (19m 33s):
For more information, go to hiring.nexxt.com. Remember that's next with the double X, not the triple X, hiring.nexxt.com
Chad (19m 49s):
Back to your, your point of not being, you know, a founder. I mean, that's, that's what I think everybody has to understand. You could be a great quarterback in high school, but that doesn't make you, you know, a college or a professional quarterback, right? You might've been good to a certain level, but that doesn't mean that you can help scale and go to that next level. And/or, you just might be a great right guard, right? It's like, it's like, how do you knowing yourself in that entrepreneurial kind of like development in story and just journey. If you don't really know yourself, then that's going to be an issue. And if you're, if you're, if your investors don't know who the hell they're investing in, that's, that's another huge, huge issue that being said, there's still a shit ton of cash being spent in this space on startups.
Chad (20m 45s):
What are your thoughts? I mean, there's so much noise there. The conversational AI, chat bots matching the Hire Vue's of the world doing, you know, facial scans and recognition and those types of things. What do you think's gonna stick?
Ethan Bloomfield (20m 58s):
None of your listeners are going to like me, but let's go ahead anyways.
Chad (21m 1s):
Let's do, let's do it.
Joel (21m 3s):
Ethan Bloomfield (21m 3s):
Let's do it, Craigslist'll stick there. Great. Joel, what was the most exciting thing in 2007? It was eHarmony for jobs.
Joel (21m 11s):
Ethan Bloomfield (21m 12s):
eHarmony for jobs, everybody had eHarmony for jobs. There was like 20 of them, right? None of them exist.
Chad (21m 20s):
Ethan Bloomfield (21m 20s):
Not a one, so many people, because that's not how job search works.
Chad (21m 27s):
Well, no, no. Yeah, yeah. But, but still, but still you're talking about a bunch of points, right? So back then, remember we were always talking about big data, big data, big data. The problem was we didn't have the processing power to be able to crunch that data, to be able to do any of the matches or even understand context on that data in the first place ,today we do. So is that, is there a big difference now?
Ethan Bloomfield (21m 48s):
Yeah. Yeah, no, there's no difference because here's why it's not how recruiters recruit. A lot of people, like believe recruiters are like scouring the web for candidates and, and getting on the phone. And these are some of the best salespeople at American recruiters. Most company recruiters, non-commission based, they're not making an incentive for hires. Okay. Corporate recruiters, they are screening. They're more in line with HR and process than they are with convincing the right candidate to take this job. So surfacing the right candidates with all of the technologies, then and now, that surface look at the whole, you know, before this last bus, you know, we had eHarmony bust, eHarmony for jobs.
Ethan Bloomfield (22m 34s):
Then we have the find the gold in your database, that was Restless, I think they're still around. Crowded. I'm
Joel (22m 42s):
Ethan Bloomfield (22m 43s):
Yeah. But guess what? You find somebody in there, who's calling them? Who's calling the candidate? So they match the candidate and who's calling them? And so the challenge I have with a lot of the technologies, they are pieces of a puzzle. But until you fix what's inside your, your company in the way you are recruiting or changing it, it's not going to change what's happening. You're still mostly dealing with recruiters who are waiting for hand raisers, just like salespeople waiting for warm leads to come through the door and then screen them. So the surfacing, the best to the top is an interesting idea, but I haven't seen it work. I don't even want to get into AI though.
Ethan Bloomfield (23m 24s):
We can talk about it all you want.
Chad (23m 26s):
Plus the tech, the tech that we're talking about, we took, we took a paper process and all we did was, is shove that paper process into technology, right? At one time Recruits Soft before they became Taleo, they had a single process methodology. If you didn't buy into that, well, you couldn't buy their tech because that's how they did business. Obviously they found a way to, to customize. And because they knew that there was more cash there and that just fucked up the entire system. So I guess the biggest question is what is, what is fucking up recruiting the most today? Is it that we have a bunch of lazy asses who are waiting for somebody to raise their hand instead of proactively going after them?
Chad (24m 11s):
Or is it just way too much bureaucracy, red tape and bullshit?
Ethan Bloomfield (24m 15s):
See, I don't even know. And I'll go defend our recruiters for a second. I don't even know if it's lazy recruiters. I think that's definitely a thing, but remember we commoditized the candidate when we moved to CPC. Thank you Indeed for changing yet, another thing, but there's efficiency they created in the marketplace, which is what I credit them with is they, they actually showed us what the market was worth. Remember the seven to 10 billions now two to three, but here's what they did. They made it, so it's cheaper for me to buy 10 more candidates than spend, you know, an hour more with two candidates. Right? You see what I'm saying? It's just easier to fill the top of my funnel.
Ethan Bloomfield (24m 56s):
And it's frankly really cheap or inexpensive cheap might not be the right word. So I, I think that we're, we're just still not matured as an industry. The second thing we think of when we create these analogies to other areas of the internet and technology and efficiencies that have come around, the other challenge is when, when you sell widgets, you know, widget, a widget B and widget C, and that's what you have. But when you are recruiting for Amazon corporate, you might have a thousand different job types, right? So it's not like trucking, which is beautiful, where it's all the same job, more or less.
Ethan Bloomfield (25m 37s):
And so every system, every efficiency, does not relate to the challenge that they're trying to solve. So I don't think it's fully on the recruiters. I think in part it's because the immense efficiency that we gained from the commoditization of the job ad post, by turning it into a click and catching up with the rest of the world, drove down the cost of acquisition of users so significantly that, that it's cheaper to buy a hundred new candidates than it is to spend an hour on the phone with the first two you got.
Chad (26m 10s):
But we already spent money on those candidates. Why the fuck aren't we using them already? I mean, we have a database of candidates that we've probably bought that same exact candidate, about six times over.
Ethan Bloomfield (26m 21s):
Because the labor cost is too high for you to go in the labor cost is too high.
Chad (26m 26s):
We're just talking about matching, though. If you can actually solve this, the candidates?
Ethan Bloomfield (26m 29s):
All that does is service the candidate, Chad.
Chad (26m 32s):
Ethan Bloomfield (26m 32s):
It doesn't contact him. It doesn't convince him that a year ago when he shot you down.
Chad (26m 36s):
Isn't that what the recruiters for?
Ethan Bloomfield (26m 38s):
Depends on how you define recruiter. That's what a contingency recruiter does. They sell.
Chad (26m 43s):
That's what a corporate recruiter should be doing. I mean, it's an opening, right? And, and if that individual's already applied for a job into your system, they've already shown that they're interested.
Ethan Bloomfield (26m 55s):
Anybody ever say you're a bully? Anybody ever called you a bully?
Joel (26m 59s):
Chad (27m 0s):
Me? No, never what?
Ethan Bloomfield (27m 2s):
No, no. I actually agree with you in, in large part. In 20 years in this industry, I've learned, I can't change internal recruiting process to improve the results of my products and services. I can't say if you call these leads within five minutes in order to beat all the other companies that are going to get this lead, you'll make more hires from me. Right? I can't change what they do. I I've tried in a lot of different ways and a lot of different times to advocate for better process.
Chad (27m 35s):
It's just like consulting, right? You can't make them do what they should be fucking doing.
Ethan Bloomfield (27m 40s):
I'll tell you what. I think it starts with compensation. I think corporate recruiters need to be incented based on successful hires, more commission than base. I've said that to a lot of clients, nobody takes that advice. Most companies have very small performance-based incentive for their recruiting teams and they're certainly lower paid than contingency, but, good contingency. But yeah, they, you know, I think it all starts with, if you align the goals of the company, with the goals of the individuals and move them to performance, that would be the starting point. But again, it is really hard to change big company HR policy and recruiting falls into HR not sales.
Joel (28m 21s):
So Ethan, right now, we're having a, what I would call it tatonic shift in just the world in general, but also recruiting. And I'm curious on your take of as companies lay off recruiters, whether direct employers or staffing agencies, when the world gets back to hiring again and staffing up again, do companies by and large hire back all these people to start recruiting, or in your case, not recruiting, recruiting, or do they opt in for technological solutions like automation? One of the things I thought about as you were saying, Hey, I've unearthed a diamond in the rough, but now someone has to call them well, in automation, there's a scenario where, you know, that person gets an email.
Joel (29m 8s):
They go to a chat bot situation, they get pre-screened, they get, they get scheduled for an interview and then they just show up. So that recruiter, corporate recruiter doesn't have to make a call. Automation can do it for them. Curious about your, take on all that?
Ethan Bloomfield (29m 21s):
I'm gonna answer the end and then I'm going to go back to the beginning.
Joel (29m 25s):
However you want.
Ethan Bloomfield (29m 26s):
The description was cute. That was cute. But let's take a VP of sales who gets an email cause he was a needle in the haystack and enters a chat. But I'm just telling you VP of sales, director of sales, sales manager in a thousand person sales organization, outside sales person. And I'm just using sales. Cause I dunno, I know a little bit about that, but that's not going to engage them. You want to talk about retail? Sure. Recruiters that's that's not how you engage or re-engage a recruiter. So I'm going to go back to the beginning. I don't think that will work in re-engagement.
Ethan Bloomfield (30m 6s):
And I think a lot of the platforms that are looking for the gold in the ATS have not yet done it in combination with a strategy that gets somebody like onto the phone with a real human being, which is what it would take to recruit me, you or most of the listeners of our show. And, and so I don't think that would work with a recruiting role, which is professional, you know, salary, not hourly type work. To answer your question. I do, you know, every time and I think it's good and I, and I may get skewered for this. I think it is good when we go through recessionary periods and we do make changes in our organizations because it does force us to be extremely efficient with fewer resources.