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Susan Vitale Speaks!

Susan Vitale, CMO at popular ATS iCIMS, has 15 years experience in the industry. In addition to just being one of our favorite people, she's always a great person to have on and talk shop. In this episode, Susan tells the boys about the latest iCIMS rebrand, where applicant tracking systems will be in 10 years, who's coming to their online conference, and much more.

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INTRO (1m 5s):

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 (1m 24s):

Monday, Monday, Monday, what's up everybody. This is Joel Cheeseman of the Chad and Cheese podcast as always I'm joined by my faithful cohost Chad Sowash. Chad, how are you?

Chad (1m 37s):


Joel (1m 38s):

'ello there.

Chad (1m 38s):


Joel (1m 39s):

Today, we are honored, very honored to have the illustrious.

Chad (1m 42s):

OK, that's strong.

Joel (1m 44s):

iCIMS Chief Marketing Officer, friend of the show, Susan Vitale!

Chad (1m 49s):


Applause (1m 50s):

clapping and cheers.

Joel (1m 51s):

15 year veteran. She's a little scared to be on the show today, Chad, I, I don't know why.

Chad (1m 58s):

Probably, cause you played that sound effects about 20 times. He was like, what the fuck is going on?

Joel (2m 5s):

All right, Susan, for, for those lost souls that don't know who you are, give them, give them the spiel real quick

Susan Vitale (2m 10s):

OK, Doke. Well, I'm Susan Vitale. I'm the Chief Marketing Officer with iCIMS, the Talent Cloud Company that empowers organizations to attract, engage, hire, advance, diverse winning teams. I lead our brand and growth marketing efforts. And as you mentioned, been with the company for just over 15 years now, so honored to be here and luckily to be back with you. And I mean that sincerely.

Joel (2m 34s):

Honored to be here.

Chad (2m 36s):

Let's let let's dig into that, but that past a little bit, shall we Susan? So you climbed the corporate ladder and now you're the CMO, totally get that. But let's start at the beginning. So in 2005, you graduated from Lehigh. Then you went straight to iCIMS as a marketing coordinator. Tell us that story. How did you get the gig? Who did you report to and why did you take the job in the first place? What does an applicant tracking system in 2005?

Susan Vitale (3m 3s):

It's funny. So I was in college and I got a call. My resume had been found on MonsterTrak for those of us who remember that. And I date myself. I got a call when I was a senior in college at Lehigh university, interested in chatting further about some opportunities by our then director of marketing and sales, Adam Feigenbaum. Came in and took an interview and I've been very honest with Eisenhower that I had no intentions of actually taking a job at an applicant tracking software company and have what New Jersey in a dentist office suite. It was really an opportunity to get some experience with an interview, but got to meet Adam, got to meet Collin, our founder and now chairman and really just wonderful people is as you both well know, great opportunity and both of those, the people in the opportunity have kept me here for now past 15 years,

Chad (3m 56s):

There've been a ton of changes in our industry since you've joined. Obviously what are some of the biggest changes, especially around applicant tracking?

Susan Vitale (4m 4s):

Well, I think applicant tracking is blocking and tackling, for talent acquisition or recruiting software. Nowadays. I think the pendulum continues to swing over the years of best of breed, full suite, best of breed, full suite. One of the big milestones. I think I, if I recall in our company's history is our move back in 2012 to say, we're not going to go across all things, talent management and go an inch deep mile wide. We see recruiting as critically important, it's consumer facing it's different from the rest of HR, but it's more than just applicant tracking. And that's where we really started to make some investment and put some energy behind areas like new hire onboarding and candidate relationship management, and video and social and mobile and things like that.

Susan Vitale (4m 50s):

So to me, that's been the biggest shift. Almost anybody can say they have applicant tracking software, but to have something that's really rich and, you know writing for today's global enterprise is a different story, but an ATS alone is certainly not enough. The other big thing I've mentioned is that probably since I've been in this industry, pundits will say the ATS is dead. The ATS is dying, the ATS is going away. And I've yet to see that actually. Yeah,

Joel (5m 17s):

As, as heartwarming as that trip down memory lane was, let's talk about the present and you guys have recently rebranded. So the sharp red, the italics SIMS and the i, and Ike...

Chad (5m 34s):


Joel (5m 35s):

... All that stuff like, so walk us through the why and the how of the rebrand.

Susan Vitale (5m 41s):

Well, it's been a really fulfilling experience and I mean, that it's been an exhausting experience to go through a brand refresh like this, but it's been really fun too. So probably about seven months ago or so we were thinking about where our is, was, is going and how that lined up with the industry, what the industry, where the industry was, is, and was going and felt like there was an opportunity for iCIMS to better reflect where we fit in and where we're going, and frankly, where we want to take the industry. And so there was an opportunity to say from a look and feel perspective, certainly, I mean, that's really the fun part of a lot of this, but just as importantly, if not more importantly is the story that goes alongside it and the way in which we represent our portfolio to our customers and the market overall.

Susan Vitale (6m 31s):

So we went through lots and lots of research and strategy work. It doesn't just happen overnight as I'm sure you both are well aware. So we went through a lot of strategy work related to what our employees were feeling, what customers were feeling, et cetera, and really wanted to spend a lot of time on this concept of a brand archetype. There is a wheel of brand architects out there and we landed in this creator archetype that says, we're here to create what's next. And just as importantly, we're here to enable and empower others to create what's next for their own organizations. And you can create amazing things when you have the right people on the right team at the right time. And that's sort of like the goosebumps you get when things are clicking and jiving, et cetera.

Susan Vitale (7m 14s):

So that was really the kind of the heart behind it. And then of course, we got to do some really beautiful work from a creative perspective. We did think about changing the name, but, but ISIMs has some phenomenal brand equity out there.

Joel (7m 28s):

What were some of the names that you floated out there that didn't get caught up?

Susan Vitale (7m 32s):

Oh, I'm saving all of them for when I create my own company one of these days.

Chad (7m 36s):

Good answer, good answer.

Joel (7m 39s):

Did you pay for outside help or was this all internal?

Susan Vitale (7m 43s):

We did. We worked with a number of different agencies, but also a number of our internal resources, were not just involved actually, despite working with some third party agencies, one of our in-house designers came up with our new logo. So shout out to Kevin and our entire design and creative team, including Aggie and Justine, and many, many other people that worked their ass off. And I think they did an absolute, tremendous job. And I'm so proud that their work really is setting the stage for the iSIMS of the future.

Joel (8m 13s):

Wow! Listen to you, many outside companies, you guys are just printing money there at iCIMS aren't you. So speaking of printing money, you guys have.

Susan Vitale (8m 22s):

We didn't know where it's going to go, but it's a beautiful space.

Joel (8m 25s):

Susan, just roll with it. So speaking of printing money, you guys have a conference coming up with some pretty big names, performing presenting, I don't even know what to call it when they're this big of a celebrity. Talk about that and, and how much, you know, Trevor Noah and those guys costs to actually have come to your event.

Susan Vitale (8m 44s):


Joel (8m 46s):

Cause we want them to be at our event, right Chad?

Susan Vitale (8m 50s):

Yeah. Yeah. So we do have, we have iCIMS inspire coming up. It's actually our first time doing a big ass amazing virtual conference of this size, big ass is this very specific way that we count the number of registrants and so that's the territory we are now in. So we've got thousands and thousands of incredible registrants here. The event is November 17th and 18th. It is happening live virtually, although the sessions will be available on demand as well. And you mentioned we have some awesome speakers. So we're having a keynote conversation with Mindy Kaling and Trevor Noah who have been lovely to work with. And I now feel like I can call them just by Mindy and Trevor, because we're good friends.

Joel (9m 34s):

Oh, fancy.

Susan Vitale (9m 35s):

Now, we also have Moira Forbes. We have Jason Dorsey, who knows quite a lot about in a very interesting way, all these different generations and how we can connect with and work with different generations. We have Janette Renee, who is really phenomenal in areas of wellness and self care, which I can't help as soon as I say that to look at the giant bag of gummy bears on my desk, which has been my lunch. So we need to talk with her. We have Cynthia Marshall, I don't know if either of you have heard her speak before she is freaking awesome. She is the CEO of Dallas Mavericks and has done an unbelievable job as it relates to diversity and inclusion and culture at that organization.

Susan Vitale (10m 18s):

We also have Erica Bellini, who I love! You two might remember, I was just so delighted to have her at our influence event last year. And we also have really amazing customer speakers talking about their experiences, their stories, some of which have been customers of ours for a long time. Some are newer, but as an example, Tommy Watt who leads TA and Mobility, and as the Chief Diversity Officer of Memorial Sloan Kettering. We have Marie Artem, who I love from Enterprise Holdings. We have Chloe Radha from Sedexo and a host of just really fantastic talent. We're so proud to put on the event!

Joel (10m 55s):

Are Chad and Cheese is going to be there?

Susan Vitale (10m 58s):

You tell me, I hope so!

Chad (11m 2s):

I'd like to put in a request for Moira Rose from Schitt's Creek next year. That'd be great!

Susan Vitale (11m 9s):

Hahaha, that's awesome. Have you seen some of these little kids dressed up as Shitt's Creek for Halloween that's been circulating online. It's so funny.

Chad (11m 19s):

It is, that's pretty amazing. I want to go back a little bit to the feeling of being able to be that brand. I mean, you've been the brand, the colors, the Ike for over a decade. I know the refreshing piece that finally became refreshing, but how hard was that? Because that was pretty much, those were your colors. That was your logo that literally personally, I would have thought felt like it was yours. How hard was it to break out of that shell?

Susan Vitale (11m 52s):

Way easier than you'd expect. I mean, I think we've done a good job of trying to retain some core elements to our brand. So for example, we still have red as part of our color palette. It's just part of the secondary. Ike is still there, but it has a little bit of a make-over. The name itself, I mean, we truly scrutinized and agonized over a lot of these things and it becomes truly, as, as you have these conversations with folks inside and outside the organization, you feel like somebody is recording you because it becomes this satire of what happens in a marketing meeting where we're like splitting hairs over these really silly things, but they matter. And there, there are emotional connections to a brand for the employees, for the customers. I mean, you would not imagine how many notes I got internally of people saying you can't get rid of Ike.

Susan Vitale (12m 41s):

My customers are obsessed. Here are pictures of our customers with just like a shrine to Ike, which is both troubling and awesome. So we really did try and consider that and ensure that the best parts of our legacy came through and in the future. But man, we were ready for it. We were so ready for it and just needed the opportunity and the energy behind it to do it. So, you know, it's a very personal thing for me, as you know, and, and actually there were times I got a little emotional going through it because I'm like this really matters. And I'm so proud of what we've built in February we announced our 20 year anniversary as a company. And I felt like this is the right time to do it, right? We can put this, this history in a box, but a glass box. So we can keep looking back at it and being really proud of what we've done, but let's take this thing to the next level, for the next chapter.

Chad (13m 26s):

So Kevin, yeah, you can reach out to us buddy, cause we want to hear all the stories about the time she gave you the evil eye over this new logo, moving on. So from the standpoint of repackaging, I mean, this is a new message. It's a new iCIMS. Why was it necessary?

Susan Vitale (13m 44s):

Well, there were a couple of practical reasons that were part of this and there were also some maybe less practical and more, just more future facing reasons. But when I look at the practical side, we have built a lot and acquired a lot of the last couple of years and there needed to be a rationalization of that portfolio. That's spoken in frankly, human language. I think we overcomplicated some of our marketing and our representation of the portfolio over the last few years, as we sorted through acquisitions, which happens. Even the companies need to live in it and roll around in it a little while to really do this well and get customer feedback on how it's going and get industry feedback on how it's going and how it's landing.

Susan Vitale (14m 25s):

And so I'm proud of the fact that we said some of this is working and some isn't. Let's do it right, moving forward. Let's use descriptive language on the portfolio. We don't need to have so many means to market that we over-complicate things and require a glossary in it, you know, for people to get it. So a lot of it was around rationalization of the portfolio and simplification, both for internal and external audiences. Another big piece to this, and there were two more, one is really being clear that we see AI as this underpinning across the portfolio. It's not just a product that you buy and you check the box.

Susan Vitale (15m 6s):

I think as both of you, well know we, we acquired not too long ago and, and you know, Andrea and team, and they're just super smart and fun. Just awesome. So home-based group and that layered on top of some of the other AI work we've been doing internally, some of which was patent pending. So we had a lot of energy in here already and opening helped give a lot more fuel to that fire, but it was important for us to say, this needs to be clear. We need to be clear that AI has sort of this engine underneath all of these products, it's not just one product. And the third and final sort of catalyst to this was our interest in better representing the work that iCIMS does and can do for our customers around mobility.

Susan Vitale (15m 48s):

We've been talking about it for years. And in fact, I remember early days, some of the work we were doing for some very big brands around their mobility programs, but we needed to show some additional energy behind it where, you know, the data shows there just aren't enough, necessarily people outside of company's four walls, virtual or otherwise to fill all of these roles and employees leave companies because of perceived limited advancement. And so we wanted to really put a stake in the ground and say, it's not just about a transactional hire it's about that spark that comes when you have the right people in the right teams. And some of that includes advancing people's career into new roles, gigs and prod projects. It's not just about an internal career site that you've moved from a marketing coordinator to a marketing manager as an example.

Susan Vitale (16m 33s):

There are new ways of thinking about work and jobs that we need to power through some mobility technology. And so those are, those are just a couple of reasons.

Joel (16m 40s):

So Susan, knowing that you listened to our show religiously, I know that ...

Susan Vitale (16m 45s):

It's incredibly calming. It's, it's like a meditative experience, really.

Joel (16m 49s):

I know. And as much as I want to ask you about the CareerBuilder outage and how many of their ATS clients are calling you guys up. I will refrain from that. Instead, I'm going to ask about other big news in the industry this past week, you guys integrated, did something partnered with this little company called Microsoft. So lay it out in your terms exactly what's going on and why it benefits everybody.

Susan Vitale (17m 15s):

Thanks. And, yeah, thanks for covering that briefly on your show. I talked to Mike Wilczak, by the way, he feels like you're not giving him enough love.

Chad (17m 23s):

Wait a minute somebody's jealous over there! Somebody's jealous.

Susan Vitale (17m 31s):

I talked to Mike about it. And I had a lot of fun with him on that one. So no, he's, he's done a phenomenal, phenomenal job for our company, as it relates to MNA strategic partnerships, strategic planning and where we're going as a brand. And as you might recall, when Mike joined, that was really the star of, of opening up his partner ecosystem and doing a lot more with the community around us versus just our own product. So as much as I joke being from Jersey, and I like to poke fun at Mike, we are incredibly appreciative and I love the guy. As it relates to the news you were, you were specifically asking about, we did announce, we were really excited, we got an, a top HR Product Of The Year award from the HR tech conference for our work with Microsoft specifically, we're doing some really cool things with the Microsoft teams technology.

Susan Vitale (18m 25s):

And I, I think both of, you know, having been in this industry long enough, even the best recruiting platform and talent technology with the best user experience and the coolest slickest analytics, et cetera, people don't always want to live in, particularly as you think about hiring managers and those who might not be, say recruiting all day. So the work with Teams allows a lot of the, the day-to-day recruiting work to really live in the applications that people live in every day. And, and Teams obviously being a big one, particularly nowadays is everybody is remote. So we'll be able to better integrate some of that through Teams specifically, as we think about how to automate interview scheduling, how to queue up interview feedback forms and send interview feedback directly through Teams, literally real time as somebody who's going through this video interview.

Susan Vitale (19m 18s):

Better self scheduling capabilities as well, and then just better collaboration as we think about forms, et cetera, how do we have less clicks, less friction, less applications to have to push data to and through and have that live within Teams. So we'll, we'll be announcing more of that and showing more of it at Inspire in November. But for now, we're just so excited to share that it's coming and that it's been recognized by the HR tech conference as an awesome new tech.

Joel (19m 46s):

Interesting. So, so Chad and I like to talk about the current pandemic and the state of the world is sort of an accelerant to things happening really fast. And instead of months or years, these things are happening much faster. And I'm just curious as someone who's been doing this for a long time, what does an ATS look like 10 years from now?

Susan Vitale (20m 6s):

Well, I couldn't agree more first that I see this pandemic among many, many other things as being an accelerant to a lot of the conversations and the work and the technology advancements, et cetera, that companies have been discussing for a very long time. And when we think about where we're going and therefore where we believe the industry is going, I see this pandemic is accelerating conversations about digital transformation and the future of work. And you can kind of roll your eyes and say, yep, everyone's been talking about that. And that's kind of the point is that we've all been talking about it, maybe taking some steps forward, but now we're taking leaps forward because we have to, not because we think it's something that will look good on a resume.

Susan Vitale (20m 47s):

And when we think about what this looks like in the future, I don't, I don't think of it as just an applicant tracking system. To me, it doesn't really matter what we label it, that it's the backbone technologies that you need to attract awesome talent to connect and engage and communicate with them, to hire them effectively and to advance them. And I see this as more of a continuum or a loop than maybe a straight funnel or a line. And as we think about that, it's about how do we have the right balance of AI and people. Obviously, AI is becoming a really big, important part of how everybody does their jobs. And as we think about staffing, but there also human elements that are still only from humans, right?

Susan Vitale (21m 30s):

Creativity, imagination, things like that. So how do we balance that better? And how does technology tap into the best parts of us and automate the rest? How do we think about gig work contingent and evolving marketplace of talent? How do we think about project-based work, et cetera? So I share all this because in some respects, I think that a lot of consulting organizations really do this well in terms of model, not always in terms of tech, but they think of people as a lot more fluid than hiring them into a transactional role. And it's about people on bench and you want to move them on to really exciting, important work that moves your business forward and grows your business. And to me, that's really a model we can all consider as we think about hiring people, to be on great teams and not just the role they're hired into, but that what that means for the team around them.

Susan Vitale (22m 19s):

And if they're going to, you know, move that team forward as well, whether on a specific project or for a part-time role or a full-time role and what their overall trajectory looks like, and their path looks like within your, within your business.

Chad (22m 33s):

So, Susan, I want you to put your, your big brand marketing hat on for a second. We're seeing organizations focus heavily on standing for something they believe in. Emboldening behind a purpose, which goes further than industry, for example, Oreos just dropped a short film, which supports LGBTQ rights. Joel, and I love the Audi commercial with the father and the daughter that supports gender equality.

Joel (22m 59s):

Don't make me cry, don't make me try.

Chad (23m 1s):

I'll try not. And Smart Recruiters has just dropped a manifesto of sorts on how to build an anti-racist organization. What do you think about these types of innovations or these, these initiatives in our space? Are they important? Do you see iCIMS doing some things like this? What are your thoughts?

Susan Vitale (23m 21s):

They are absolutely important. I think, when we were going through this brand exercise, we had a lot of conversations around bringing humans and humanity back to it. And frankly, for a while, I think when we did a competitive audit, a lot of the companies in our space were really big at showing screenshots and hands screenshots and hands. But you never really saw people, and it wasn't about how they were working or the impact they had on the businesses that they came into. So it was really important for us to not necessarily over-rotating, and get super fluffy on this and not really have the substance behind it. But when we thought about our, why we said bringing the right talent together with the right teams can transform business and the world, and it's not to go so far, that again, we don't say, well, we're a software company and we provide great service, et cetera, but we have to bring it up a level, to re inspire people about why we do what we do and the impact we can all have if we get it right.

Susan Vitale (24m 25s):

So I think it's critically important. At Inspire this year as a little bit of a nod to that, we're planning on sharing a bit more about a pledge that, that we're taking as well as we're encouraging our community to take. So we've got thousands and thousands of customers. We've got 10,000 plus talent innovators in this customer community of ours. When we think about the partner network, et cetera, I mean, we can really shape what the workforce looks like moving forward. And so it's important for us to take that seriously, and see it as a responsibility and not as a, a social responsibility checkbox that we relegate to one individual in a junior role.

Susan Vitale (25m 7s):

It has to be part of the brand. So we'll share more about it in just a couple of weeks.

Joel (25m 11s):

All right, Susan, I want to go back to the future and let you out on this one. In your 15, some years in this industry, what's been one thing that's really surprised you or something that you said, I didn't see that one coming.

Susan Vitale (25m 24s):

There are probably like 11 snarky answers I can give to that, but

Chad (25m 27s):

that's what I'd like. Give me that. I didn't see two idiots doing a podcast that anybody would listen to.

Joel (25m 37s):

Or me being a guest on that show, Good Lord.

Susan Vitale (25m 43s):

I think, sometimes and I'm sure you guys can probably relate. I can't believe we're still having the same conversations in some of these respects that we were having 15 years ago. I would hope as part of the silver lining of the hot mess that we are all in right now is that we stop talking about it. And we start getting on the train and doing it in terms of some of the transformation that needs to happen because you know, our new tagline of talent, power, transformation, isn't just a tagline, it's real. That tech alone, isn't going to do this stuff, but the companies and people need to get on board and move this stuff forward. So, you know, the fact that people are still using really crappy technology to do really important things.

Susan Vitale (26m 26s):

I mean, probably 10 years ago, we talked about it as the elephant in the room, that executives will talk about talent being critically important to their organizations and then use horrible technology to get it done. And then point fingers at recruiting to say, why you suck? That's ridiculous. I can't believe we're still having diversity and inclusion conversations to the basic level that we are. The conversation should always exist. We should always be pushing everybody forward, but there are some basic things that people are acting our way, acting like they're way harder than they really are. And that to me is really disheartening.

Chad (27m 1s):

Exactly. Well, Susan Vitale, everybody, Susan, if someone wants to tap into your extensive golden girls trivia knowledge, or maybe they might just want you to fill in for an online bridge or penuckle tournament, how can they connect with you?

Susan Vitale (27m 23s):

Well, you can hit me on Twitter or LinkedIn as probably both are pretty easy. It's Susan_Vitale on Twitter. And you can just look, look me up on LinkedIn as well, just by this Susan Vitale name and yeah, I'll you geek out to Golden Girls all day, every day. And as a fun fact is that I once won a Golden Girls trivia at Golden Girls drag on a Valentine's weekend, nothing says romance quite like that. So, so there you go.

Chad (27m 55s):

Well that's one lucky guy.

Joel (27m 57s):

I got nothing! I got nothing! Susan, we love you.

Chad (28m 2s):

Love ya back.

Joel (28m 3s):

We out.

Chad (28m 4s):

And we out.

Susan Vitale (28m 5s):

We out.

OUTRO (28m 6s):

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


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