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Interview: ERIN CEO Mike Stafiej

Did you happen to catch ERIN at the SHRM show this summer? If you did, you’re probably wearing a Chad & Cheese T-shirt right now. You also probably learned about a start-up in the employee referral space who just raised millions for their business. In case you missed it, employers say referrals are their No. 1 source of hire. For these reasons alone, we had to invite Mike Stafiej, CEO at ERIN, on the show to break it all down for us. We also make fun of Cardboard Chad. Confused, gotta listen.


Intro: 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.

Joel: Hey guys, cheese here. This is an interview I did with ERIN, CEO live from SHRM in Vegas. Unfortunately, my mic had some issues, so I've rerecorded my questions for this edit. Don't worry, the answers sound fine, but there may not be as organic a feel as usual. Enjoy.

Mike: I'm here. This is me.

Joel: You do exist, you're not just a sloth herder in Pittsburgh, which is nice. Some of our listeners don't know you and they don't know ERIN. Give them the elevator pitch.

Mike: Yeah, So ERIN is an employee referral and internal mobility platform. We make employees, recruiters, I mean, that's our pitch. The outcome of what we do is more hires from employee referrals. So that's what we sell.

Joel: So what's your background?

Mike: So actually a nerd gone, sales guy, gone business guy. So degree in computer science, but like super blue collar, mix that all in as well. My dream, and I'm not, I'm not like exaggerating here. I was gonna go to college and I was gonna be the guy that replaced keyboards for people, because I thought you could make some good money doing that, like working in a big business. Oh, like Mike, my L key doesn't work. And like I show up and swap it out and they're like, you saved the day. Like, that was my mission. I was good at fixing computers. Right.

Joel: And how Old were You?

Mike: I mean, that was college. Like, I was gonna graduate college and like go, my internships were for Fortune 500 companies, like doing back office help desk stuff.

Joel: What Did your parents do?

Mike: Nurse and like machine room, right? So like oh, this is a college educated boy doing computer stuff.

Joel: And your dream was to replace the L Key.

Mike: Now you got to remember this is like, two, the L well, it's this L key specifically. Yeah. But there were other keys that I had my eyes on as well. The, this is like 2009, right? So like graduating college, like you can get a good job like helping people with tech. Now that was short-lived, so I had some internships, got a, basically from there on the abbreviated version is got some really cool jobs at startups and I only worked in startups, essentially my whole professional career. And I got to see companies go from nine employees to 250 employees and be part of that, right? So I started essentially as help desk, like dream come true, right? Like making 45 grand a year. And I made it like that...

Joel: Going to one Steelers Game a year.

Mike: Ah, dude, Pittsburgh, 45k in 2009. Like, I mean, that was a good out of college job. Like I was not complaining at all and benefits or excellent benefits. So anyway, I get in there and I quickly realize there's a lot of dumb people out there. So the, if you can talk about complicated things in a way that doesn't make people feel dumb, like that's something that people rewarded. And that happened at the startups I worked at. So I became a sales engineer. So I eliminated the technical hurdles on a sales cycle. Eventually quit to become a salesperson 'cause I wanted the glory. And then I realized sales is way harder than everybody thinks. I mean, extremely, extremely hard. It's fun to look at...

Joel: People think it's easy...

Mike: Everyone thinks it's easy 'cause like their perception of what sales is is what we're doing right now. Drinking in Vegas, hanging out expense cards. Like yeah, they don't realize the average sales person's life expectancy is like 16 months at a company, right? So like, it's high pressure but fun. And then eventually got into to starting a few companies and now we're here at ERIN, right?

Joel: So what was it about employment that made you say, oh yeah, I want some of that.

Mike: My dad, when I was younger was stiffed out of the referral bonus and I said, I'm gonna fix that. I'm kidding. I'm basically Batman, right? Like it's, honestly, the story is kinda unique. I was helping a lot of startups. So again, so I had a lot of startup experience through various companies and kinda like a triple threat in the tech background sales guy, with a touch in marketing, right? And I was working at, call it like a venture builder, it's like a fund that wanted to start companies. And they had several companies and they made the mistake of hiring a bunch of high up people out of big banks. And they're like, here is a company, run it. And they're like, okay, great. They have all these ideas, like now who does the work? And I come in and be like, you have to do the work.

Mike: Like this is how you do it. And then through that, like recruitment became a focus for us. And eventually, like ERIN was just something I designed like on the side and it became its own thing. Like, so, all the reason we started, it's kind of different than a lot of people out there. It was still like a, I mean I designed every pixel from day one. I just went out there sort of talking to people in New York. I'm like, Hey, like we're gonna do blockchain referrals. This is 2018, right? So like, so blockchain and AI were things we had to say. Now it's funny because in 2023 you still have to say AI, it has like come back the pandemic, put it on pause. But like, it's like, no, no, no, we'll sell it again. But, so I'm out there like blockchain AI, like displaced recruiters and people are like, I don't know what you're talking about, but if you can give me more employee referral hires, I'll pay for that. And then so really just zeroed in on that problem and then built a solution around it.

Joel: The name ERIN?

Mike: Yeah.

Joel: Talk about that.

Mike: Okay, so the, it's an acronym, Employee Referral Invitation Network. ERIN Right? But the real reason I remember specifically, my kid was like two years old and I'm putting him to bed. And I get this email from one of the guys at the Venture Builder, right? And he's like, it's an article about how companies with human names have higher investments and higher customer satisfaction ratings, right? And it like cited like Marcus, Casper, all these things. And the, and part of their premise was is that it felt like a person and like a more of like a thing rather than like work, right? Like, so if I was like employee referral business, right? Like who gives a shit about that? So anyway, I got this article, I started just thinking of like HR-type names. Like what's like a fun person in HR, so the first one was Layla, right? Layla, like Layla app. Sounds cool. Sure. is just like tons of porn. So like, couldn't use that one. So...

Joel: So ERIN not as much porn around the name ERIN.

Mike: Significantly less porn on ERIN. So then the name kind of ERIN popped in my head. And then like, the ER was an obvious like employee referrals and then kind of worked the acronym backwards from there. But it worked out. So we got there.

Joel: Clearly Why Ask Jeeves is still the number one, search engine in the world. People really connect with those names.

Mike: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You're great example of the success story with ERIN. Yeah.

Joel: Yeah. Obviously.


Joel: So you mentioned competition and standing out. The referral business, obviously, there's no public company in this business that has struck it rich. Many have come and gone. I don't need to turn the pages on those history. But you look at Firstbird that was acquired recently, Teamable, WorkTaps, which I got from Google I actually don't know if they're...

Mike: Don't even know if they're... Don't give them any credits, 'cause they don't exist.

Joel: Yes. So how are you different? Because it seems like companies buy the stuff. They don't like it. No one uses it. They try someone else. How are you guys gonna cut through that?

Mike: I think there is a few layers there. And maybe to flip just one page back in the history book, we were super naive when we started. It was not like I came out of an HR office and I was like, "Referrals can be better." We were just trying to build a solid business and solve just a legitimate problem. "If you get me more referral hires, I'll buy that." That was what everything was based off of. So actually, when we started, there was a whole bunch of other companies and the gimmick back in the day. And we didn't even know about half of them. Like, we were ignorant. So the gimmick back in the day was like, "Connect your network. We'll tell you who to refer." That's actually the whole premise that got the company started. Without that idea of, "Connect your network. We'll make it easier to refer," we would never have started the company. That was our whole pitch back in the day. We've gotten off that because we realized, one...

Mike: So there's about five other companies that did that back then, Teamable, Boon, Drafted. All of them have gone under fire sales or something like that, and it's because they stuck on that. So where we shifted pretty quickly is, through the pandemic, we realized that referrals is an enterprise problem. The bigger you are, the harder it becomes to get the numbers up. And we solve that at scale. So the value exponentially is bigger. What got us through... To just go off track for a second, what got us through some of that up and down on the pandemic is just large enterprise deals. And once we were able to solve that problem for enterprise, we were able to work backwards from there and then educate the lower end of the market on like, "This is what you need to go from 10% hire from referrals to 30-35." And then we could start making some big claims about like, "Look, here's your business at 10%. At 35%, this is what it looks like. Go tell your CFO that." So the difference, I think coming full circle on this, is we're truly an ROI-driven product. We talked earlier today, we had a little session here. I said, "If you cannot save money by hiring more employee referral hires, you should not invest in employee referrals." So obviously, we know that you're gonna save money. The trick is, is how do you get there? Right?

Mike: And part of that play where I think people have missed is, one, that they actually didn't listen to their customers. So the superpower we had, and somebody told me to stop saying this, but I'm gonna keep saying it, is since we had no preconceived notion about what the solution looks like, we just listened to our customers and built what they needed, and then we were able to sell that to other people. So some of the things that we're doing, specifically for enterprise, but that, again is trickle down to mid-market, our competitors don't even touch. They don't even say the words that we're saying on their sales call. So I feel like we have a little bit of an advantage there. But maybe to wrap it up, when you look at a lot of the acquisitions that have happened, it's definitely been because they're like, "Oh, this is a good feature of something bigger." And they bring it in. And look, that could naturally happen to any startup. I think as soon as you get success, somebody wants to make it part of their suite and they're good. But where we're really... Where I'm personally really excited about the future is I think HR tech and AI and talent acquisition altogether are kind of in a weird spot right now. And what I mean by that is...

Mike: I mean, realistically, in 5-10 years, you're gonna have less people in talent acquisition than you have today. They're being replaced by AI plays and efficiency plays. We're not here to replace recruiters, but we're here to keep humans involved in the process. And I think as the dynamic of a talent acquisition team changes, meaning you have more sysadmins than necessarily recruiters, keeping humans involved in that process is a really appealing thing to the future. That's not just referrals, there's a lot of things you can get out of that. And so we really look at it. We're an employee-first product. And now that we're in the employee's pockets with 2 million employees using the system in 100 countries, what else can you do for that employee? I will buy into, "You cannot be an employee referral product forever. If that's all that you ever do, there's a ceiling that you'll run into." But I think we have a good foundation for some pretty appealing plays, especially because of the mobile play that we have.

Joel: Is it fair to say that companies do not have more than one referral solution?

Mike: Yeah, that's a pretty safe bet.

Joel: Okay. So you're replacing generally what someone already has. Is it like the ATS where everybody hates their ATS, everyone hates their referral program and they're looking to change? And how hard is that change to make?

Mike: Yeah, it's a great question. But honestly, it's actually not... Replacement would be a big word for it. Because the ATSs have a feature that allows referrals, but they don't get deep. It's just like, "Oh, here's a share button." That's really what it is. And then you can see the sources, a share. Or on the application, "Hey, how did you find out about us?" And they say, "Oh, somebody referred me." That's the extent of the ATS referral programs. We go way deeper about that. And the problem with those solutions, so we don't necessarily look at those as competitors, but somebody that doesn't give a shit about raising referrals from 10% to 35%, they're fine with that. But they're not our customer anyway 'cause if they don't care they hire more than 10% hires from referrals, why would they even talk to us? So they're cool with the out-of-the-box tech. But if you wanted to be at 35%, none of those solutions can get you there. The real difference is creating that experience for the employee, because the employees don't use the ATSs. Those are candidate-focused products. We're an employee-focused product.

Joel: You did not say the death of recruiting, or the recruiter. I wanna make that perfectly clear. But this feels a lot like a marketing tool to me. Do you see more of what you do and more of what marketing does bleed into recruitment? And are you sort of in the pole position to take advantage of that?

Mike: Yeah. Yeah. So with the large customers that we work with, they'll have a recruitment marketing initiative, whether they outsource it or I mean they have somebody dedicated to it. So it's interesting when they get pulled into the conversation, because it's definitely like a communications issue at first, like one of the biggest problems for why referral policies fail today is 'cause nobody knows about it. Then the second is that nobody knows how to participate. And then the third is that it's a bullshit experience. You have no idea what happens after you participate. So communications is a big part of solving all three of those problems. So it's starting to get blurry there. And honestly, where I see the business headed is a lot more recruitment marketing as well. But like through the employees, I'll give you a simple example. We were talking earlier about newspapers and whatnot, like a billboard to advertise jobs, like maybe effective in some markets.

Mike: But what's really effective is when you have somebody make a 10-second video on TikTok and they have 50,000 likes, and nobody wants to see an ad there. They wanna see real people quick hit stuff. So how do you get your employees... Your employees are the ones that have to do it. You can't manufacture that. So how do you really tap into viral and you got to get through the employees to do that. That's where I see referrals maturing with technology in general. It's like with consumers and especially in certain industries. Like, we were talking earlier if... It's one thing, if you're looking for a bunch of accountants, but high volume retail, hospitality, things like that, you're not... Billboards aren't gonna work.

Mike: You need to be more in like the current tech. Glassdoor reviews, super popular. So why can't you reward your employees for helping you with those things? So employee referrals traditionally is like, get me a hire. It's actually not that it's share this job, push it out there, let the world know that we're hiring, help us with that. And our whole take with the current product is that you should reward that behavior. So if you're sharing a bunch of jobs for me, I should give you something for that, whether it's a gift card or a giveaway or whatever it may be. So the same thing goes with Glassdoor reviews, viral videos, those are things that should be rewarded as well.

Mike: And the other thing people don't think like the first part of the gig economy was employee referrals, right? It's no different than a, "Hey, go drive me here and I'll give you a couple of bucks." Employee referrals is the same thing. "Hey, go be talent acquisition for a day and I'll give you two grand." Like tapping into that. And I think really pulling back that experience and then breaking that down and spreading that across tens of thousands of employees, you're going to see a lot of roles within a company, not just talent acquisition, I think kind of like, decentralized, we'll say, and split up like, " Hey, I'll give you 50 grand a year to do this job, but I'll give you an extra grand a week if you do this job." I think there's going to be a lot of how the world changes in the next 10 years. And I hope to be able to capitalize on it.

Joel: Yeah. It has always felt more marketing to me than recruiting. Like commission junction was the original or Amazon's affiliate program, training people to have a unique URL, share it with the world and everything bought that always seemed like a natural fit. And it always seemed like that would be something marketing would understand. How do we get more hires, more exposure to opportunities through that mechanism? There was a company... Part of me thinks this is generational. There was a company called H3 before the car that did this.

Mike: I only know about them because of your podcast.

Joel: Because of the podcast.

Mike: Otherwise I'm like, "Who the hell is that?" I Googled them, I can't find them.

Joel: H3 and the founders, a friend of ours of the show. And I had conversations with him about why wouldn't this work? Because I actually joined the service. I knew someone that wanted a recruiting job. I referred them. They had sort of the unique URL. They tracked it through the, I guess, ATS at the time. And then I actually literally got a check in the mail because I referred that person to the job. And that seemed like an amazing business to me. Like if you could somehow harness that, it didn't work.

Mike: Yeah.

Joel: And when you talk to... Hans is the guy's name who founded it. When you talk to Hans, he says that social media wasn't there at the time, but more importantly, there was a generational cultural opinion that you don't just shotgun jobs. It's something you don't just shout from the mountaintops. Is it your opinion that Gen Z, younger millennials, they don't give a fuck. They'll share the shit.

Mike: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Why would they?

Joel: I want to get paid.

Mike: Yeah. Yeah. And I'll tell you, this is a great point 'cause we have this conversation with customers all the time. One of the questions I'll ask is like, "Well, if they're sharing it on social, do we want to give them the same amount of credit as if they refer them?" I'm like, "Well, what problem are you trying to solve?" Start with that. And if the problem is that you don't have enough candidates, then who gives a shit. Get them any way you can. And usually they're like, "Yeah, you're right." And I was like... And I'll tell you what, once you hit 35% hires from referrals, scale it back. Part of the problem, going back to your earlier question, where people were just missing is that the nuanced details of actually taking their paper policy and then putting it into software is really hard to scale, right?

Joel: Yeah.

Mike: And what I mean by that is, do you want to treat a social share different than a direct referral? Your program better be able to differentiate that and handle that and it should be able to have the analytics on that as well, so that you can make those decisions. And that's really what we do. That... When I say like your ATS doesn't touch that, your ATS doesn't go that deep. We go literally as deep as you can on this topic. And everything we've ever built has been designed from our customers. Not to get too abstract, jumping back here. I think that is a little bit dated in a mindset, but I also think it's always, again, what problem you are trying to solve, what outcome you are trying to drive. And if you're having a hard time hiring, I'd say who cares how you get the candidates, as long as they're quality, and then have the ability to scale that, calibrate that as you go. So that if you are getting spammed with a bunch of junk, then maybe that's not part of your plan. Most customers don't care about that right now.

Joel: Yeah. So your product is primarily employees that work at the company to empower them to market, share jobs, etcetera. It's not for the world at large to find out, "Oh, Microsoft has a job." I know I'm not an employee of Microsoft, but I know someone who might be good for this. I'm gonna share that. It's not part of that as I understand, is it going to be, do you have an opinion on keeping it in-house versus letting the world know about these opportunities?

Mike: I mean, this is, and that's kind of going back to your H3 question. Honestly, that was the original ideation of this product, which is like anybody can be referred, actually a great use of a decentralized thing, which is logging on the blockchain. And I mean... Was it that they basically did this.

Joel: Yeah.

Mike: Like, Hey, anybody can be a recruiter and then they still charged charge the same bullshit fees that an external recruiter would charge which is a huge miss. Right? Like...

Joel: Yeah.

Mike: So one, I mean, look, marketplaces in general are hard. B2B is a lot different than B2C and you're essentially talking about mixing both together and it takes a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of presence to really build that, I do have an opinion that it pulls a little bit too far away from the quality at that point. But the biggest thing, 'cause we've tackled that specific problem with some other people and we've allowed them to do that in certain ways. The biggest thing is taxes. Like, how do you, if you're giving a real bonus for that or anything worth value, which you need too to catch anybody's attention, the paperwork is not worth it. 'Cause I already have 10,000 employees, why do I need 350 million? Right? Like, the 10,000 can do it better than the 350 million and I don't want to have to get 1099s for all of them. Right?

Joel: Yeah.

Mike: So like, at least in our customer base, like they're struggling enough as it is in terms of like resources. So then like, handle the paperwork for non-employees is, would be a nightmare. That's usually what kills that conversation.

Joel: Interesting.

Mike: We can do it, but usually they decide, our customers decide not to do it.

Joel: Got it.

Mike: Because it's just not worth the headache.

Joel: Got it. So you raised $5 million late last year?

Mike: Yep.

Joel: What has the money gone toward? Or new raises.

Mike: Do you see these Chad and Cheese T-shirts?

Joel: Obviously the Chad and Cheese.

Mike: Yeah. I mean, like, these are nice ass shirts and they're like, so most of it went to the shirts. Big part of it went to the Chad cutout.

Joel: This loss and the cardboard Chad and the T-shirts.

Mike: Yeah, the high, it's a nice cardboard though. And it's stands up. Really it's a...

Joel: Oh, it's a top of the line cardboard.

Mike: So...

Joel: As only Chad would would want it.


Mike: So we had early success through the pandemic and right after. We're not like some like instant success story. It was two years of grinding it out and then the pandemic created a situation where people wanted to invest in more nuanced ways of recruiting.

Joel: Yeah.

Mike: And referrals has always been the gold standard. We got it. So we were able to build enough of like really product market fit over the last two years that drove the round. And that round was based on what we are today and also what we can become. Going back to some of the other stuff that I just shared with you. So that said, I mean, mostly growth, right? Like, say like, you see here, we have the bigger booth. I mean, we're not gonna be like HR tech, crazy big booth.

Joel: Few more people on the booth.

Mike: Yeah. Few more people. So we hired salespeople, marketing people. We doubled the size of the company in the last, six months. But we're still, I'll tell you, raising money last year was a really cool experience because like, we were profitable and then raised money and just advice for other entrepreneurs out there. It's 2023. If you did do not have a path to profitability or you're not profitable already, you're not getting the money you want.

Joel: Yeah.

Mike: So like, that has to be a number one focus. So while we're spending that to grow faster and it's been working, we're still like super cautious of just like, what's next and what's the world gonna bring to us? And we want like our growth to kind of, to fund that more than anything.

Joel: Yeah.

Mike: So the round has been awesome. It's given us flexibility, but more than anything, like our customer base has been growing the business.

Joel: So are you actively looking for new funding? It's sounds from your comments.

Mike: Yeah, yeah.

Joel: That it's a much more challenging environment.

Mike: This shows you like half, I said wolves and I'm a little sheep. Right. Like, they're just like circling me. Like there he is. [laughter] get him, get him. I think part of a CEO's responsibility is always fundraising. Whether you need the money or not, you should always have options. The time we're in right now is the that people that need the money, the people with it don't wanna give it to them. And the people that don't need the money, the people with it want to give it to them. We wanna be in that second category, right?

Joel: Yeah.

Mike: So we operate our business as if we're never gonna raise another round again. However like look, I just, I told you the 10 year plan, which is there'll be less people in talent acquisition. They'll have different roles. It's like when ATMs came to banks, right? Everybody thought, oh, like we're never gonna have tellers again. So no, like the jobs are still there, they just did different things, right? So AI's coming in and that's your ATM, I think the space is gonna change pretty dramatically over the next 10 years. And I like the fact that so many businesses have done referrals and have failed. And one thing investors always start with is like, HR techs are crowded space. I'm like, it's a crowded space with a bunch of bullshit. It all looks like crap. None of it integrates or works the way you think it does. So when you get good products in there, there's actually a lot of, there's a ton of potential from this space.

Joel: Yeah.

Mike: And we wanna be on the not only the cutting edge that's saving the bleeding edge of that at some point. So referrals is a pretty safe and traditional play.

Joel: Yeah.

Mike: But I see a ton of potential. So our future rounds of funding would fund these bigger efforts. And like I said being a referral product forever, like our story could be that we just get gobbled up like the others have. Or we could drive some really cool shit in the future. And really cool shit takes a lot of money.

Joel: I like cool shit. You mentioned integrations. How important has that been to your growth?

Mike: 100%. So listen, I'll tell you, I didn't know what an ATS was when I launched this company.


Mike: That's how outside I was. I'm not kidding. And I'll tell you, I'm trying to think of all the assholes that told me no in the beginning. Like, there was a list of ATS, they were like, you ever seen, remember this show, was it Billy Madison?

Joel: Yeah. The movie?

Mike: Yeah. Or the movie. But when he calls the one dude and he is like, Hey, I just wanted to apologize for being a dick to you in high school. And he like crosses him off the kill list. Like, that's like, that was like me with ATSs back in the day. I'm like, these are all the dudes that told me no, right? We're not gonna touch your startup. You can't integrate with us. And then I did it anyway. And then they came back and they're like, oh, like you actually know when people are unhappy with a product because they're investing in things that we do poorly.

Joel: Yeah.

Mike: Which is referrals. So maybe we should actually be friends with you. So like I love having relationship with some, but critical, I mean like every, we have one customer that's not integrated.

Joel: Wow.

Mike: Every, so not only ATSs, we do the full tech stack at this point. So as our product evolved, we realized you needed, like, it's not just about candidates, it's also about it, Hey, like employees in like eligibility. That stuff's not in the ATS, it's in the HRIS system. So we integrate there, we integrate with single sign-on. So it's really the whole tech stack. But out of our own ignorance, the way we did that was basically out of those systems into ours. So it's made these integrations a lot more painless than people expect.

Joel: Yep.

Mike: So that we can come in and like, look, if you're a Greenhouse customer, you plug in the API and it works. If you're Workday, it's like, here's the RAS report we need, and like they're, okay we already did that for our website.

Joel: Yeah.

Mike: So we keep it pretty standard and that's allowed us to streamline that and make it, honestly, probably the easiest like full tech HR tech stack integration that people have done.

Joel: You said referrals were the gold standard of recruiting. Why?

Mike: There's a few reasons for it. And one, I mean. They... When you think about starting a company, really what you're looking for is something that's done on spreadsheets today. And you want to make it better, right? Because if they're doing on spreadsheets, that means they're doing it and it's important to them. But I mean, everybody's had a referral policy for decades. The referrals are the gold standard because one, it's a faster hiring cycle and it gives you a better quality candidate, and that's measured really by retention. And the biggest reason for that, people don't always think about this, is that when you get a referral, they actually know shit about your business, that your job description's not telling. The dirty laundry's been aired. It's like, here's how it works and here's what the job really is. And when you get a high quality referral that comes through that they know what they're getting into and they already have some people inside the business. So they, culturally, it's easier to fit in faster. Everybody listening to this has either hired, been hired by a referral or have made a referral before. This is my buddy, they're a good person. I worked with them before. You're basically putting out some credibility for them and you're putting your reputation within the company on the line. So that creates overall just a better candidate for everybody.

Joel: One of the criticisms of referral programmes...

Mike: Is this DEI. As soon as I said it, I'm like, oh. I know...

Joel: Come on, man. I'm trying to sound really smart with my question, which never works anyway. But yes, if I just empower my employees, they're all going to look the same because they all know people like them a 100%. You clearly don't agree with that, but why not?

Mike: So you're basically saying you're anti-DEI on your employee base, which is kind of fucked up. But I hear the premise. We actually, so we talked about buzzwords, right? So 2018 was blockchain and AI. 2019 was DEI. Do you remember that?

Joel: Sure.

Mike: If you didn't have a DEI product.

Joel: We got a show.

Mike: Like, oh dude, we were early stage startup. We had a DEI in play. And it actually worked. So what we did is we had, it's a diversity hire incentive. So you can plug this into anything you want. If you want to hire a woman on the sales team or veterans, whatever it may be, essentially. And now we didn't source any data on it. We just said, hey, if you want to reward people actually participating in your DEI effort, here's a way to actually do that 'cause the problem with DEI is that it's limited to just the talent acquisition team in marketing, obviously. So what I mean by that is it's easy to say, we have a DEI initiative, but to actually get your company to do that at whole, you actually have no way to do that. So when you say, hey, but we'll reward you and pay you to participate in that process because that's important to us as a business, so much so that we'll pay you double the referral bonus if you give us a DEI higher, then we'll be good.

Mike: So what we did is essentially if the ATS tells us this person is qualified, that we do nothing to source 'cause it's just a slippery slope right there. But basically, and it could just be a recruiter checking the box at the end of the day, it then triggers a bigger bonus amount for that employee. It notifies them, hey, you've participated in the DEI programme. Here's a bigger bonus. So I'll give you a simple example. We had a customer in Spain, so all the people in legal right now are just licking their chops, like, got to go after. So this is in Spain, they're not in the US And I always tell people, we got to talk to your legal team before we do anything. We're just the product. Their sales team was heavily male dominated, so they double the bonus if you refer a female to work in the sales team. So a simple example, but it's effective and it says, this is what we want to do as a business and we'll pay you for it.

Joel: There are a lot of people here at the SHRM National Show, it's a general show. You're getting a lot of people that are in their 20s or just getting started out in the profession. For the listeners out there who are new to referrals, they're just starting to look at companies and solutions. What kind of question should they be asking? What kind of things should they be looking at to justify who they pick to run their programme?

Mike: Yeah, yeah, look, I think it's the very first thing is what's your policy look like? And if you're going to work with a vendor like Aaron, can they actually automate every part of your policy? Because the whole point is to eliminate manual work. And by eliminating manual work, you can actually give real time feedback to your employees. So it's not just making your job easier, it's making the experience better for everybody. So eliminating that manual work is key. The second thing is most people approach this from a one size fits all solution. But the reality is, especially if you're a large enterprise, it's like you're going to have hundreds of thousands of locations in multiple countries. And usually the policies are broken down that way. And whether you want to maintain that or not, the reality is some areas, locations, branches, countries, they're going to perform better than others.

Mike: And not only does the product need to be able to understand that structure, but it needs to be able to give you analytics 'cause look, tech is tech. You need to know what's working and you need to double down on that. So by getting analytics broken down and saying, hey, it turns out nursing in Manhattan, we're getting through the roof referrals for it. But in Pittsburgh we're getting none, why is that? Maybe it's a manager problem, maybe it's a communication problem. But if you don't have that data point, you can't make that decision. So regardless of how good the tech is, it needs to break down the data in a way that you can ingest that and make decisions. 'Cause it's like you launch this thing six months later, you got to relaunch it, right? You're going to take what's good, double down on it, take what's bad and cut it out. So those are the two big things. Automate the policy completely and then make sure that it's set up to structure the data in a way where you can get intelligence that you don't have today.

Joel: And how is your pricing structured and how is it different than maybe some of your competitors?

Mike: Yeah, so early on when we launched, we came out, I mean, role point was they were big dogs back in the day. It's fun 'cause immediately we launched and we're competing with the big dogs in the space, a 30 employee company like man. So we went head to head with them. They got bought up on Jobvite, and that kind of cleared the space. There was a bunch of other players in the space, and we actually brought their pricing down because we got so effective so early on, and we were just kind of desperate for sales. I'm not going to lie that it dragged everybody else down to them for them to price match us as our product outplayed theirs. So when that happened, it kind of set the standard. We do it based on number of employees that you have. So whether you're using the product or not, it's how big of a company are you? And part of that is because we have features that are focused on all employees, marketing to them, getting them, onboarding them into the system, processing their eligibility data.

Mike: Giving you analytics on it, even if you have, 15% using it. So we base it on your size, we take that into account and then now we have different things that you can add on. We fully white label our product for our enterprise customers. So that's a small extra fee. We don't, we try to say like, we don't make any money on it, but it's more work. So, but it makes adoption easier, right? So something we want, we really encourage our customers to do, but it's essentially how big are you and what features do you want? But the foundation is the size.

Joel: So you're saying size matters at ERIN?

Mike: You know what, thankfully this is not...

Joel: I'll get to the next question.

Mike: This Is not the case in college for me, but now size does matter.


Joel: I'll let you out on this we're hearing the ERIN Booth, we're giving away Chad Cheese T-shirts. The only thing more popular than the Chad and Cheese T-shirt is the Sloth.

Mike: Is the Sloth.

Joel: Tell me about the Sloth.

Mike: Yeah, great, great question. Scrappy young startup. We actually, coming to our first SHRM a couple years ago, they moved it multiple times 'cause of the pandemic. They ended up putting us up front, we had this awesome booth spot and where the question was what are we gonna give away? And my past experience in startups, I'm like, nobody wants your garbage. Like they're gonna throw it out. They throw away the cheap t-shirts. That's why we had to do the higher quality. You wrestled us into the $11 T-shirts instead of the $6 ones. I liked the scratchiness of the $6 ones, but whatever.

Joel: Hey, you can have all the beefy tees as well as far as I'm concerned.

Mike: But it's like, what are you gonna give away if somebody actually will keep and not like, just throw away? And the real answer to that is something they can give their kids. So we got these sloppy arms sloths people they ate them up, I mean lines around the booth and it just kind of became our thing. So like where the Sloth people now, we have t-shirts with sloths on it and the company culture, like it's really good to anchor early stage startup 'cause look, you're gonna work yourself like 60 hour weeks. Everybody is busting their ass. Anchor the culture in something silly. And it's sloths. Like we have sloth posters in the office. I told you earlier, all our conference rooms or sloth like movies replace with sloths, instead of jaws. It's claws and sloth man prophecies.

Joel: Clever.

Mike: So and not only that, like our customers really enjoy it as well. So we'll send them care packages. It's crazy how much sloth shit you can buy on Amazon but it's all over office. And it's like we needed a coat hanger and I'd search for sloth coat hangers and they exist, right? So Yeah, it's just anchored in, it was like just an innocent thing.

Joel: Was the fact that that sloths are slow put into the equation.

Mike: It's just like we came with the name and worked backwards on the acronym. It's like we make your slowest, recruiters fast or slowest.

Joel: I like the no pressure, the no stress. Yeah. I get that.

Mike: Okay. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We'll use that one moving forward. Yeah. So anyways, so the sloths mean like no pressure, no stress. Things like that.


Joel: All right. Good enough. Well Mike, thanks for hosting us here at SHRM. For our listeners that wanna know more about you or the company, where would you send them?

Mike: They will go to

Joel: I can dig it. And we have closed down. The lights are going out.

Mike: They got dim.


Joel: At SHRM. Another one in the can. Thanks for sitting down with with us. We out.

Outro: Wow. Look at you. You made it through an entire episode of the Chad and Chase podcast. Or maybe you cheated and fast forwarded to the end. Either way. There's no doubt you wish you had that time back. Valuable time you could've used to buy in nutritious meal at Taco Bell. Enjoy a pour of your favorite whiskey. Or just watch big booty Latinas and bug fights on TikTok. No, you hung out with these two chuckleheads instead. Now go take a shower and wash off all the guilt, but save some soap because you'll be back like an awful train wreck. You can't look away. And like Chad's favorite Western, you can't quit them either. We out.


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