The world knows Mr. Rogers. Mr. T. And even Mr. Mister if you're of a certain age. But Mr. ATS? Yes, industry veteran Peter Gold has taken up a moniker that a certain podcast cohost dubbed "Mr. VHS" because it seemed so outdated. Well, Gold is on the podcast after that remark and after writing a recent article titled, "Let Them Eat AI," where he decries the trend of artificial intelligence making its way into recruitment technology. If you're on the team that thinks AI is a bunch of malarkey, love a good chat about the past, present, and future of the ATS, and adore a British accent, then this episode is for you.
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"00:20.68 Cheese Oh yeah" happy Monday this is your favorite podcast the chad and cheese podcast I'm your co-host Joel Cheesman joined as always by my partner in crime Chad Sowash and today.
"00:33.32 Chad Hello."
"00:36.64 Cheese We are giddy because u k is in the house Peter gold aka Mr. a t s is here Peter thanks for joining us. Welcome."
"00:45.27 Peter Gold Hey Joe thank you very much."
"00:50.82 Cheese So Beyond Mr. Ats you've been" you've been around quite a while I know a lot of our listeners will probably know you anyway. But for those who don't who are you.
"01:00.68 Peter Gold Who am I Good question. Mr. Ats Well me doesn't that say everything I kind of look at the applicant tracking system it I've been in this world for longer than I care to think and twenty odd years built an Ats many years ago. Tried to fix many times and."
"01:04.69 Cheese Says so much and yet nothing."
"01:18.76 Peter Gold Still doing it really."
"01:18.98 Chad Okay" so Mr. Ats right out of the gate Joel loves talking about branding so let's let's kick this 1 right in the nuts right out of the gate. Mr a s did you do that on purpose to make fun of the industry or did you do that because you. Embrace and love the ats so much.
"01:42.55 Cheese It's got to be some good British tongue in cheek right."
"01:43.61 Peter Gold But obviously being a thought leader in the world of what you you wanted. The serious answer didn't you being a thought Lee yeah being bit."
"01:51.63 Chad Oh I'm sorry" go here I didn't think you were being serious. Go ahead. But.
"01:52.17 Cheese Yes."
"01:57.92 Peter Gold Obviously being the thought leader in all things ats what else would I call myself I couldn't call myself Mr. applicant tracking system or Mr. e-recruitment system because that's too many words in ah" a url and then. So I just thought yeah that's it. Mr. Ats. It's got to be the only answer this I thought. Mr. Linkedin here is Mr. Linkedin? So I thought well I must be Mr. At s.
"02:10.62 Cheese Um" what.
"02:17.25 Cheese Okay" how offended were you when chad called you Mr. V h s.
"02:22.52 Peter Gold Um" better than when he called me emrats I Have to say.
"02:22.68 Chad They."
"02:27.10 Cheese Ah" that was that was not nice I'll give you that.
"02:28.69 Chad Ah" know was but that that's that yeah but that's your url m rats Dot U K Dot Co O but that's not my fault. Um, so let's talk a little bit about a kicking of the proverbial beehive in the.
"02:34.78 Peter Gold I."
"02:46.78 Chad Last little short that you did on Mr. ats dot co dot u k called let them eat a I where you pretty much kick ai in the nuts. So. It's almost like the difference between horse and buggy and spaceship right? it's like it's like something that is so crazy out there like ai which you know I there are many discussions and arguments around if ai is really and in tech in recruitment in the first place and then we talk about the ats which is literally. Ah" very small piece of the tech stacks that are around today. So why? why this dissension? Why are you hating within the ranks of recruitment tech.
"03:30.66 Peter Gold Um" the figures with ai as as we know it. It's not real yet. Although there are lots of different versions of ai and some people will say. Ah this ai does exist. It's real but the problem is people think that ai is going to solve all the problems I mean only this weekend I dared to comment on. Let the machine do the filtering of the cvs and automatically people go ai won't fix it ai will fix it I didn't even mention ai and I think my problem my problem with all this bullshit around ai is it's not real and it's not actually going to solve the problems that recruiters have and the problem. For me. The biggest problem is we are recruiting today the same way we were recruiting pretty much 20 years ago when I first built an ats and the world as we know has changed dramatically so why the hell are we using an ats badly.
"04:15.95 Chad The."
"04:27.00 Peter Gold With some fictional ai stuck on top to try and solve a problem that we're not even actually clear what the problem is anymore."
"04:31.90 Chad Well" who cares? what the label is first and foremost I mean what ai rpa m l I mean so many acronyms who gives a fuck right? Just as long as we understand what the solution provides and I think the biggest issue that we're having today in our space. Is that we're talking about the tech as opposed to the solution and what it actually does now RPA and whatever that solution is there are some great advantages to be able to provide efficiencies and scale. For recruiters and hiring managers and everybody throughout the entire chain if it's implemented correctly. Would you agree.
"05:13.10 Peter Gold Yeah" absolutely and I don't think we use the technology we have today to do a better job and if you look if you look at Amazon okay amazon when was last time you walked into an Amazon store and bought a book or bought a pair of trainers or sneakers as you call them or whatever it may be. You don't you do it all online.
"05:18.68 Chad Right? no."
"05:28.66 Chad Right."
"05:32.29 Peter Gold You go and you select what you want you watch videos. You read user reviews you pick your item you add it to your basket you pay for it. You track it and it turns up yet as recruiters. We don't let people apply for jobs in the same way they apply for. And they they buy things on Amazon. So as an example" if I've got a job. Why don't I have a video of the manager where the manager introduces him or herself and says I'm the manager this is who you'll be working for if you think I'm a bit of a dick then you obviously won't apply for a job but hopefully you won't think I'm a bit of a dick you know and. If you want to apply for the job and you actually think you meet my criteria or our criteria this is the criteria select the time for an interview and we'll interview you and of course everybody will listen go now that won't work because you'll get too many idiot supply. Well you know make it that they if they apply. It's that their cost or whatever it may be but. Use the technology to do a better job to allow the candidates to actually make better decisions and make their own decisions because at the end of the day so often managers or companies. Go oh that person is not right for us based on what? yeah absolutely.
"06:36.76 Chad Right? But this is a human problem. Not a tech problem. Yeah."
"06:44.55 Peter Gold Yeah" and we don't need ai to do any of that that using a bit of video technology using some screening questions allowing a candidate to select the time for an interview I don't see much ai required there and the problem is because we have all these supposed problems of matching and finding skills and all that malarkey. Because we say oh humans can't do it because they're Biased. We'll throw some ai on top. No don't do that just fix what you've already doing fix the process to make it work rather than try and chuck a I on top that isn't real anyway to fix a problem. You created you humans you configured this problem this shit process. You configured it. The machine didn't configure it itself. We didn't wake up 1 morning. Go hey I'm gonna change myself because I'm not bad enough I can make myself worse.
"07:30.83 Cheese Peter I Want to I want to applaud you on 1 of your quotes from your article. It was quote and the peasants know ai alone won't fix a thing indeed ai might not fix anything. We hear a lot and you everyone in this call has been around for quite a while and the. Comment I Hate my Ats comes out of almost every employer's mouth when you start a conversation about their Ats So my question to you is? Why do why? does everyone hate their Ats are there Any Ats is people do love and is this hate. The seed that is sowing all these startups that are getting billion dollar valuations where where's the disconnect here or is there a disconnect."
"08:13.28 Peter Gold You could ask the same question about their crm. They'll say the same that they hate their crm and very often for me. It's not the system. That's the problem. It's the configuration of the system. That's the problem and very often back in the days when I was a consultant I would go in. And look at problems within the recruitment process and I would say okay" why is the process like this I don't know would you mean you don't know well it's like that when I joined how long ago did you join for 3 years ago right how long have you had the ats 7 years right so this process is from 7 years ago yeah and you know there's lots of duplication in there. Yeah. So why didn't you change it or didn't know I could or it's not my job or whatever. So the problem is people inherit a bag of shit and that bag of shit just gets to be stinkier over years the more you leave it in that bag. So. It's not the system.
"09:01.93 Cheese Is it is it easier to buy new shit instead of fix the shit. That's there is that is that what's going on. It's easier to just write a check and add more shit than it is to fix what's already shitty."
"09:13.22 Peter Gold I think this is the problem. What happens is I see people lose faith in their provider. The relationship breaks down and what it becomes is a head banging exercise where the vendor says. Yes" we can change it but we're going to charge you the. Person that's inherited the system says well I didn't want it configuring like that. So why should I pay you to fix it. So ultimately the relationship breaks down and the answer is let's buy a new 1 and of course they then have the whole new project new system the world's going to be wonderful because this is all new. And it's a bit like the Procter and Gamble Heinz ketchup new ketchup all they've done is reduced or new recipe. All they've done is taken 2 grams of salt out of it. But it's all marketing and that's what happens Joel they just buy new because it's the easiest way to try and solve the problem. Because the relationship's broken down I see that over and over again.
"10:09.96 Cheese Yeah" you also talk about ah sort of the ceo direction from up top right? And ai I think is is part of that phenomenon where it's a checkbox right? where the ceo says hey I saw this story on Bloomberg or the financial times and we need some ai shit.
"10:23.51 Peter Gold Um."
"10:28.86 Cheese So go buy some um and if that's the case is ai going to not be a checkbox item at some point. For example” we see you know diversity inclusion as a big checkbox for a lot of companies. And am I right on that where it's something. It's coming from down below and it's it'll pass at some point will ai get to a point where it's not popular anymore. The novelty is gone. It's like SEO in 2000 eleven.
"10:55.50 Peter Gold Um" was that a bit of product placement there when you said phenomenon.
"10:59.79 Cheese A phenomenon. No" we are not paid for that phenom reference in the question if that's what you're getting. You're such a cynic such a Brit, Jesus.
"11:04.15 Peter Gold Okay" and. Ah I think I think eventually yes it will be It's a bit like um when h o analytics was all the thing people were trying to buy separate hr analytics kind of modules and then it eventually became obvious that you just had to merge the analytics into the kind of the platform I think in the same way that. Let's just take an ats can search the database theoretically some still can't and but for those that can that have plugged something a third party search tool into the ats it's just assumed that I can search my database of candidates and that's it nobody says. Has it got ai search in there. Well they probably do actually and but it answer your question I think ai will eventually disappear as a a standalone marketing fray not disappear Beyond I mean and it will become part of the system where people will expect the usability to be improved. They'll expect the usability to be more predictive. Um and a bit like you know when you use gmail if you use gmail it will start giving you suggestions on the rest of your sentence as you're typing and that's the kind of thing we'll start seeing in the systems I believe that it.
"12:15.88 Cheese So so Seo is kind of a good analogy here right? like when when people started building optimized job pages and optimized career sites eventually. The ats has said oh we can do that we can make our pages open to google."
"12:28.37 Peter Gold Um" yeah.
"12:32.45 Cheese Or when everything was mobile and you had to get a third party to create a mobile site eventually. The ats is said oh we can build a responsive site you think ai will be similar to that gotcha."
"12:38.00 Peter Gold Yeah" yeah yeah yeah.
"12:41.83 Chad So First and foremost ats has really been the scapegoat over the years right for this bag of shit that somebody built in in some cases. It could perform the tasks that the organization needed to do. They just didn't. Know really the system itself. Even the the administrator of said platform didn't know what was going on I mean I've run into that over the years the big question is we have so many different pieces of tech today I mean we really have a tech stack and the applicant tracking system in itself. Is a very very minute piece of how all of that actually works because there are so many different layers. So, the question I have is why aren't we actually focusing on the different variations of technologies that need to be put in place to achieve. The goal that you need as a solution for an hr department or ta department. Whatever why aren't we focusing on that and moving the conversation forward as opposed to having a nineteen ninety s conversation about an applicant tracking system which literally is a very small piece minute piece. Of the technical stack that we have today."
"13:58.35 Peter Gold I think that's exactly what is happening and I think as people like workday and oracle and sap they are building their marketplaces because they're saying actually the core element of the that's called of the ats is just purely about data control. It's about a bit of workflow. It's about. Some data control and it's giving the recruiter yeah compliance and it gives the recruiter access to the system. The lie manager the hiring manager of the candidates. The third party suppliers such as agencies. They will never go to."
"14:19.20 Chad Compliance And yeah."
"14:35.18 Peter Gold What we'll call the ats there will be something else plugged in and it it becomes more like an iphone where there's the core system which is the ats which is where which will become part of your big platform your hcm platform and then the real. The real interest is where. All of the plugins happen whether it be video or let's say search and match or whatever it may be the career site piece might be third party to make it more user. Friendly. The hourly paid hiring piece social media marketing any of those things they will just sit around the compliance engine."
"15:02.99 Chad The."
"15:11.33 Peter Gold And that compliance engine will be dumbed down and you could argue that the likes of workdays Ats and S aps Ats is already dumbed down which is why they have big marketplaces but I would argue that's been a ah smart strategy. It's like we don't want to build the best highly functional."
"15:17.86 Chad Yes" yeah.
"15:28.58 Peter Gold Recruitment platform in the world. We just need the core element and we'll plug things in and that then questions where does that leave the niche standalone ATSes because obviously page of people just bought or buying EArcu allegedly looking at what's happening. Company's house."
"15:41.89 Chad Um" well you have you have applicant tracking systems that let's say for instance iCIMS is not an applicant tracking system. It's not it is a it is a tech stack with a marketplace attached.
"15:44.29 Peter Gold Where does that's another 1 gone into a platform."
"15:50.96 Peter Gold Yeah" platform.
"15:59.58 Chad But they already have texting ability. They have matching ability. They have all these different abilities. So, it's not an applicant tracking system anymore although standardization from Nineteen ninety we call it an applicant tracking system I think these are different methodologies and and being able to get the same thing done ifap."
"16:00.37 Peter Gold Yeah."
"16:19.16 Chad Wants to build a more robust marketplace so that they don't actually have to develop it themselves makes a hell of a lot of sense. But then you have the iCIMS of the world who they're taking a different angle where they have a marketplace and they're also developing tech stacks variations of tech stacks. So the question is today."
"16:25.10 Peter Gold Um" yeah.
"16:38.71 Chad For that talent acquisition professional. That's out there who continues to look in the mirror and hate themselves. But they blame the Ats How do they fucking fix this."
"16:48.58 Peter Gold For me" they've got to go back to the basics and say what are we trying to achieve here and how can we improve what we've got to help us move closer to what we need to achieve. So for example if you're hiring people to stack shelves. Why do I need. To go through a forty five minute application form why don need to scroll and scroll and scroll and answer loads and loads of questions that shouldn't be the case but there are some retailers are getting right mean. For example my daughter applied for a job with 1 of the big grocery stores over here because she's she's a student within 2 weeks. She started 2 weeks.
"17:21.73 Chad Me."
"17:27.60 Peter Gold Applying to starting. That's how it should be yet I know of other retail organizations where 2 weeks you would probably wouldn't even get your application form looked at so the first thing for me is to say what have we got? What do we need to achieve and is what we've got. Optimize to its maximum to help us move in that direction and rather than the talent acquisition person being told. Ah" but that's the way we've always done it well that was before we're now after the pandemic we're during the pandemic the worlds changed. You can't recruit. In 2043 as if it's still 2015 and so that's the first thing I would be looking at what I've got and saying how can I improve it because I can guarantee you can improve what you've really got without spending a lot of money without adding ai on top.
"18:15.42 Chad Yeah I take it I take it a step further and say how do I blow this motherfucker up and build from ground zero because more than likely you have an old process methodology for a ton of different reasons right."
"18:28.51 Peter Gold Yeah."
"18:33.17 Chad Whether it was built 10 years ago yada Yada whether it's the same process methodology for a sales manager that it is for somebody who's stocking the shelves I mean it to me today. We just need to blow it up and start from ground zero."
"18:47.20 Peter Gold Agree but you can't always do that. So if you can't blow it up then at least you can improve because for some reason some organizations are saying you just can't go and blow it up So prove what you've got or start with saying what if I blew it up but you have to you can still make changes without blowing it up entirely."
"18:50.95 Chad Why not just."
"19:06.22 Peter Gold Sometimes internal politics dictate that you've got to play a bit of a game and you've got to do a little bit at a time and so that's what I That's ah" a bare minimum blowing it all up is ah is I Yeah love you from the military and you're American I Mean that's what you do But yeah but without blowing.
"19:20.46 Chad Ah" good point.
"19:25.76 Peter Gold And up entirely. You can still make improvements."
"19:27.49 Cheese Peter I want to pivot back to marketplaces for second and you mentioned it's sort of being like an iphone and I feel like right now things are pretty hunky dory with the Marketplaces consumers get the products they want. Um."
"19:34.61 Peter Gold Now."
"19:40.89 Peter Gold Um."
"19:45.90 Cheese ATSes have a broader feature set and the vendors are happy because they're getting access to more customers but the iphone as we've seen has a dark side right? Whether it's we're taking too much profit from what you're selling to. We're just going to copy the popular apps. And just make them our own and we're seeing a little bit of that with ats is now where companies are white labeling certain features or now you know carrying more money from vendors where does the Market. What is what do marketplaces and ATSes look like say 5 years from now. And would you agree that there is a ah dark component to where this thing might go."
"20:25.24 Peter Gold Yes there's definitely a dark component and not all marketplaces are equal and not all members of those marketplaces are equal either. So what I mean by that is there are what onces a third -party vendor is heavily integrated with the core system. it' a bit like you drive a calf off the fore court and it depreciates overnight you implement you go live with that integration and potentially it's out of sync with both systems almost overnight because it's almost hardcoded so you've then got other partners in that marketplace that aren't. Standard integrations and they're not supported by the vendor. They're just ah" here's our api the way you go build a custom integration. So first of all marketplaces are not as great and equal as you think and yes there is a dark side and those dark that dark side is. Very dark the bigger you go so the bigger you go hcm wise the more you pay for the privilege in some scenarios. So it's not as yeah there's the outside looking in. Oh we've they've got a marketplace and they've got all these vendors in there. Fantastic. We'll buy that ats and then come come. Day when you say let's go implement. Well it's going to take a bit longer than plan because you want four of our integration partners that aren't really integrated but we call them integrated so there's all that element to think about 5 years’ time who knows who knows ai will fix it all in 5 years time of course
"21:46.56 Cheese Yeah" and also yeah so I think what you're saying with with some of the vendors are like well we'd rather be our own platform and you know chad and I talk about. You know the seekouts of the world or the paradoxes of the world basically recreating what it means to go through the hiring process and the funnel and managing candidates. Do you see a day where the ats is take a backseat to some of these new platform wannabees if you will or these guys. Snake oil salesmen and they're going to fade in the ether at some point.
"22:25.34 Peter Gold I think a bit of both I think taking you know just workday as an example" they will focus on having their core compliance engine call it recruitment platform. Whatever with good connections with third -party systems and over time they will be able to eradicate the. Competitor ats is in their client base because they'll say well hang on you've got you've invested in workday single strategy. Um and therefore you should take our recruitment system and we know it's not as good as Whatever else you've got but you plug in these genuine integrations. Third -party platforms. Whatever all the kind of the paradoxes this world who take over all of the modern candidate experience piece therefore why do you need your specialist a yes. So absolutely I think I think the danger lies not for the let's call them the app. Vendors or the isvs the likes of paradox the likes of higher view I don't think the danger lies for them I think the danger lies in the middle. Those those people in the middle that are standalone ats vendor that are not big enough to take to to do all of the integrations because it takes time and effort etc. They've probably been around a long time.
"23:34.69 Chad M."
"23:36.78 Peter Gold And I think that's the piece that will disappear and it will be interesting and then actually if you're a small organization will get to the point say well if I've got 2 or 3 specialist products that do most of the hiring process. Why do I even need what we used to call an ats I don't and it's the middle that will get squeezed."
"23:53.33 Chad So what about organizations like eightfold who have taken a shit ton of cash and to be quite Frank They can't be seen as anything other than really a competitor for an applicant tracking system right now. So are those the types of I mean that."
"23:57.27 Peter Gold Um."
"24:12.99 Chad Is new more of the newer technology. Do do o those unicorns per se get squeezed."
"24:18.49 Peter Gold Well they are of course the ai ats and so or do they squeeze from the other end. Do they squeeze from the front back and and reverse into a workday or an oracle or an s a or an iCims or smart recruiters."
"24:29.16 Chad Ah."
"24:38.36 Peter Gold Do they? So do they actually really sit at the front and they actually compete in some ways with Phenomenon beamery in that let's call it. The talent marketplace is is that where they sit and is that actually where the future is and their unicorn horn keeps getting bigger."
"24:43.62 Chad The."
"24:56.89 Peter Gold As they take more of that Frontend Market share. Do they absorb the lights of paradox. Do they absorb the likes of higher view into their ecosystem."
"25:03.71 Chad So you mentioned unicorns in the in the article. So I'm gonna a quick excerpt. So with all the money being thrown at hr tech the unicorns will eventually need to show a return hence the tech ain't cheap. And the more shiny new tech. We plug into the ats the more money ta needs just to make it all work and as Joel said before and we peasants know ai alone won't fix a thing indeed ai might not ever. Fix anything so we're seeing a frothy Market. We're seeing money being thrown at these unicorns and we're looking at ta throwing money back into the system where where's it all going right. That's the question because everything we're talking about right now is really just fucking chaos. Where's this going right."
"26:01.67 Peter Gold Well I think that's a good question I don't think it's going right? anywhere at the moment. It's kind of and um" what is required to fix it I think the problem is there's so much tech and talent acquisition have budgets from 2010 yeah and so.
"26:16.45 Chad Yeah" yeah.
"26:19.11 Peter Gold You can't you can't expect a business department unit call it what you will to keep on doing things better with technology but not give them any money because these unicorns need to get a return so therefore their text not cheap and if their text's not cheap. The only way I can get it is to have a bigger budget. But then you. And so how do you pay for that and for me the the business will go. Okay I'll go and survey my internal managers and say how great is our in-house recruitment department. How great are they finding as people and unfortunately they're going to not get a very good review. So therefore the business eventually will say well Amazon don't have any front people they don't have any people doing that customer service piece at the front of Byger process. So why do we have people recruiters doing the bit that they do and for me. Tech will replace a lot of the human element because a lot of the frontend piece recruitment is highly transactional and if you take the humans out of that piece and let's just say we can get tech configured in the right way to allow candidates."
"27:14.51 Chad Ah."
"27:24.46 Peter Gold To actually get through the process and good and the quality candidates get through the right matcher candidates the diverse range of candidates get through the process then if you can get technology to do that the way you pay for. It is by getting rid of some of the people Now you can't hire. You can't find good recruiters. Whatever they look like these days anyway because they're all riding unicorns at the moment."
"27:35.58 Chad Um" yeah.
"27:44.28 Peter Gold So therefore if they don't Exist. You can't hire what doesn't exist. So it's no there's no point saying oh well if you put technology out of people. You're taking people out jobs that's Bollocks. You can't get the people so you're not taking people out jobs because they're not filling the jobs anyway. So that to me is where you got to start seeing the the move and then. When you get to the human element of the line manager saying we need to discuss these 3 interviews and we need to make sure that we need to police the process with human intervention. That's where in-house recruitment offer the most value because that's the piece she probably wouldn't want to automate and it's just understanding. What can be automated realistically to allow you to take people out the equation that don't exist because there's not enough them around and actually give the people that you have got in the right steps doing the bit that technology realistically can't do very well."
"28:32.23 Chad Yeah."
"28:33.34 Cheese All right? Peter I'm going to throw some British cynicism at you I'm going to turn the tables a little bit here so you are Mr. Ats so it seems like it's in your best interest to poohpooh all the great technology to poo-poo automation. Um" to poohpooh taking people out of the equation who are your customers like isn't it a little fair to say that you're anti all this stuff because you are Mr. ats and at some point you don't want to become Mr. ai or Mr. conversational ai or Mr. fill in the blank.
"29:08.36 Peter Gold No" not at all. It's always it's evolution and so what I'll do I'll e evolve into Mr. Conversational ai once I've killed all the ATSes off. So it's just part of and grand master plan.
"29:18.91 Cheese Ah, you heard it here. Folks Peter's going to kill all the all the ATSes. Mr. Ats thanks for coming on the show. Peter.
"29:25.88 Chad And that is Peter gold Mr. ATS dot co dot u k peter if people are listening today and they haven't connected with you. Where's the best way for them to connect with you and also to. Read up on your stuff."
"29:43.75 Peter Gold Well if they want to read about recruitment stuff. They can go to WWW dot MRATS dot code at U K if they want to talk about more interesting stuff. Just go to gravel biking dot code U K because I spend more time on my bike than I do talking about technology."
"30:00.44 Cheese And that'll be our next show everybody until then Peter Thanks for joining us Chad we out."
"30:06.61 Chad We out."