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Tech: A Force for Good DEI

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are on the lips of Talent Acquisition professionals all over the world.

Many of those companies talk-the-talk when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion, but most do not walk-the-walk. Of course, vendors who service the recruiting industry have a heightened level of responsibility to be good corporate citizens. That's where popular ATS solution SmartRecruiters comes in. The company has committed to going above and beyond talking about diversity by actually becoming a force, beyond press releases and empty rhetoric and it all starts with an anti-racism stance to doing the work.

Enter founder and CEO Jerome Ternynck on the podcast to dig into what's going on at the company, and learn what others in the space can do to model themselves after SmartRecruiters.

Another The Chad & Cheese podcast challenging the status quo, powered by Nexxt. How are you going to target more diverse candidates for that requisition you just opened? That's a good question to ask Nexxt.


Jerome (0s):

Well, you either enjoy the system which makes you a racist or you fight the system, which makes you anti-racist

INTRO (9s):

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 (30s):

Oh yeah. 2020 is not so bad we've got one of our favorite guests coming back to chat with us. What's up everybody? You're listening to the Chad and Cheese podcast. I'm your co-host Joel Cheeseman joined as always by Chad Sowash. Chad, how are you?

Chad (46s):

Good man.

Joel (47s):

Welcome to the show. A past guest Jerome Ternynck founder, CEO board member, geez. How many more titles can you get?

Chad (59s):


Joel (59s):

From Smart Recruiters, Jerome, welcome to the show. Let's go. We're talking about diversity.

Chad (1m 4s):

Ah, we're talking about anti-racism today. We're going beyond diversity. My friend, we're going into the anti racism waters and I don't, I don't think anybody else in our industry has actually used that terminology in a manifesto like Smart Recruiters has? Have you seen that? Joel?

Joel (1m 25s):

Nothing. Nobody touting it as much as these guys for sure. And no, one's sort of putting their balls out there for, for guys like us to put into the test. So big applause, big applause for that just by putting yourself out there.

Chad (1m 40s):


Joel (1m 40s):

So, Jerome, the last time, last time we chatted you were pimping a book. Just really curious how how's the book going and how was it received since we last spoke?

Jerome (1m 48s):

It's actually been received really well. And if I judge by the fact that I recently got a note from someone saying, Hey, Jerome, your book is in back order. I can't seem to get it on Amazon. And yeah, we've actually been selling everything that we created initiative, which is a few thousand copies and it's generally being well-received. So I'm happy about that and know that people have something else to do these days, then be at home and read a book.

Joel (2m 16s):

Yeah. Are you going to add a chapter on the Covid phenomenon and how things might have changed might change from that?

Jerome (2m 22s):

That might be a book in itself, right?

Joel (2m 24s):

Yeah. Good point.

Chad (2m 25s):

Yeah. I want to know if Jerome actually voiced the audible version because I think that would be a very tranquil.

Joel (2m 33s):

It sounded like a Jacques Cousteau, deep sea mission.

Chad (2m 36s):

Deep sea hiring.

Joel (2m 37s):

Hello everybody. We are talking about hiring success tests, how visionary CEO is compete for the best talent.

Jerome (2m 44s):

Here's an anecdote for you. I actually go down to a, a TV, a live show like this probably four or five years ago. My PR team was all excited! "Hey Jerome, on this, there's a segment. They're going to talk about unemployment. And they won't to talk to the news anchor, like to prep the show. And I get on the phone with this reporter and like literally four sentences in she says, I'm sorry, do you, do you have any one American in your team? I don't think your accent is going to make it. And she totally kicked me out of the show. Oh, anyway.

Chad (3m 21s):

Oh, that's awesome. Oh, well guess what, Jerome, this is your second time on. So we're not kicking your ass off, but that being said, we talked before about your plan to become an anti-racist force in the recruitment market. And again, that's going beyond pretty much what everybody else is saying. Everybody's talking about unbiased tech, but they're not talking really anti racism. So what's the difference between not being a racist and being anti-racist.

Jerome (3m 51s):

Like, there's no option to be like, non-discriminatory I think you either enjoy the system and which makes you a racist or you fight the system, which makes you anti-racist. And I think that applies with that applies for everything. You know, the conversation has been a lot about race and forever, but it's valid for forms of discrimination. And so we're really here. What we're saying is we're going to actually take a stand and actively fight all forms of discrimination. Obviously starting with racism in recruiting.

Chad (4m 31s):

If you're just sitting around and you're a white guy, like Joel and I are not doing anything, you're not voicing anything and you're not actively combating racism then. I mean, really you're just enjoying the racism that's happening around you. You might feel like it's wrong, but that doesn't mean that you're anti-racist? Anti-racist means you're actually standing up, you're saying something and you're doing something about it, right?

Joel (4m 55s):

Speaking up.

Jerome (4m 56s):

Yeah. You're you're speaking up and well, first I think it means you understand your privilege and it, again, it can be your privilege about being white and racism. It can also be your privilege without not being disabled. And you know what, maybe you don't even think about it that you're like, you're not disabled. Oh, that's great. Well, who cares? Right? What are you actually doing for people who are disabled? So you can extend this to any form of minorities or underprivileged, underrepresented groups. Obviously the ethnic diversity here as it is at the heart of the conversation. And as a white man, you have a lot of privilege.

Jerome (5m 38s):

I happen to have most of them, both being a man, being white, being privileged having a good job. And I personally like this is a pretty compelling reason was like, Oh, I might just going to continue to enjoy my good life or I'm going to put my privilege to work, to change life for others.

Chad (5m 56s):

So the big question is, you know,

3 (5m 59s):

When you hear cause racist is, is a very, very tough, hard smack you in the face word, right? It's uncomfortable, which is exactly what white, white dudes need right now. When it comes, when it comes down to using that kind of verbiage, do you find that it could perspective repel some people and push them away from what the good that you guys are trying to do versus bring them in?

Jerome (6m 26s):

You know, I think that goes to white silencing, right? And to the whole tone policing that goes around, this is like, Oh, let's not be too hard. These poor white people, they actually, you know, I disagree like, no, let's not turn police. And yes, as a black person or a person of color, you have the right to be angry. And as a white person, I have to listen to your anger and not ask you to tone police yourself cause it makes me uncomfortable. Yeah.

Chad (6m 59s):

Hundreds of years of people, of color being uncomfortable and that's putting it nicely to get into an uncomfortable conversation, being a white man. I think you can handle it

Joel (7m 10s):

No one's rying for us. No, one's crying for us. Jerome. So, so I'm curious from you guys kind of made some official statements and policies in your recruiting. So for the listeners that don't know what exactly is Smart Recruiters doing now to include diversity and racism at the company.

Jerome (7m 29s):

We published a plan a few months ago that we said, this is what we're going to do. And the plan has four, four key action. One is awareness. So we're going to start by making sure that all Smartians is how we call ourselves. You will have a good understanding of what white privilege and over discrimination looks like. So that, that part is easy. It's probably every, every company should do it. Second. We said, we're going to be a role model than ourselves. And so that, you know, we're not out there educating the market about what they should do without doing it ourselves. And that goes into, you know, diverse leadership, diverse team, diverse hiring, obviously inclusion and development.

Jerome (8m 9s):

So just us, ourselves being a role model, then we three and four are kind of more interesting cause they go to, what can we do to change the market? And so we've been busy setting new standards. So we want to actually help organization understand what diversity hiring is and how to implement. We can talk more about that. Cause we're, we're building a new standards for Diversity Hiring Success, as we call it. And then the fourth point is innovation. I mean, we have 130 engineers and developers, designers, product managers, that's a pretty big innovative force. And so we said, we're gonna put engineering efforts towards diversity innovation.

Jerome (8m 53s):

So innovation, in D&I hiring.

Joel (8m 55s):

So you guys have been around for, I don't know, 15 years or so, definitely over a decade. Well, over a decade.

Jerome (9m 0s):

We are actually going to celebrate our 10 year anniversary in two weeks.

Chad (9m 9s):

There it is.

Jerome (9m 10s):

I'm not even a teenager.

Joel (9m 12s):

You're officially a decade old or so.

Jerome (9m 15s):


Joel (9m 16s):

What was the catalyst to do this now? Was it the black lives matter movement? Was it me too? Was it just sort of the political environment? Like what took you 10 years to sort of take this initiative?

Jerome (9m 27s):

The realization that there is no such thing as being passive on the right side of history and clearly George Floyd was that realization for me personally, if you look at what we've done in the last decade, as much as you look at the agenda of our conferences, and we've brought a lot of diversity discussion to the table, a lot of inclusion, we created the reverse recruiting movement that helps underprivileged candidates find jobs. We had like literally half of our agenda conference would be around, around discrimination. We brought numerous under privilege candidates and thought leaders to TA leaders.

Jerome (10m 10s):

Like we've been sort of absolutely on the good side of history and also our, how we design our software. But we never really said, Hey, could we become a force against discrimination? And I seen, this is the realization, is that go? Actually, if you, if you really do want to change things, if you want to be a good ancestor, as they say, then, then you're going to have to fight it. And you have to be a force in the market.

Chad (10m 35s):

So is speaking up pretty much the extent because most vendors we're seeing today, they're talking about D&I, they're talking about D&I. They're talking about unbiased in some form or some virtual, virtue signaling that's happening in their messaging one way or the other. But in most cases we're seeing that it is attached to a product or we're seeing that it's attached to check a box, to be able to include them prospectively in their tech stack or what have you, what makes Smart Recruiters so much different than everybody else out there who's talking the unbiased game?

Jerome (11m 14s):

So we're not tender commercially selling something. We're actually establishing a new standard for diversity hiring. So we've spoke to probably 50 TA leaders, global TA leaders to draft the 10 Principles of Diversity Hiring, which we published as a draft on hiring We are at this moment actually going through think tanks and discussions with our wider ecosystem was anybody really who wants to participate. And by the end of the year, we will, we will actually publish those stand diversity standards for hiring.

Jerome (11m 56s):

And we, from there, we will actually create a diversity hiring masterclass. Part of our hiring success methodology. We're create a maturity model that allows companies to measure their diversity hiring practices. And we're actually looking at to getting companies to take a pledge, to go and achieve those diversity hiring practices and put a badge or some form of public recognition for those who do. So we're really trying to say, look, we have a thousand enterprises using SmartRecruiters some huge names like LinkedIn or Visa or Twitter, boys, like really big companies. If we can grab our customers and say alright, together define what great diversity hiring looks like and see if we could actually help other TA leaders who often really want to do the right thing, but don't know where to start.

Jerome (12m 46s):

If we could actually guide them and help them with content, with education, with a proper standard and rewarding those who do with public praise, then we would probably be able to move the needle.

Chad (12m 59s):

Okay, can you do that without workforce composition transparency? Can you do it without that? Because really there's a lot of talk. And I've seen this throughout my years, being obviously a veteran and trying to be able to build veteran hiring pipelines. And also obviously, Julie works on the side of the individuals with disabilities and diversity and so on and so forth. We hear a lot of talk from companies who say they want to do things, but overall, the outcomes just aren't there. Are you going to make it standard that your organization and all the other organizations who want to be included have to be transparent to make their information public so that we can all see that they really are driving outcomes?

Jerome (13m 44s):

I think that touches on a bigger topic is that before you make your numbers public, you actually have to get numbers and categorization in itself is already a problem. Like there's many countries, France being one of them where it is illegal to ask someone, are you black? Are you white? Yeah.

Chad (14m 3s):

Well then you don't start there. Jerome. I mean, that's the thing is like, let's say for instance, like Atlassian, right? Take a look at Atlassian and they have like 5,000 employees and they're spread all throughout the globe. You start where it's easiest to start. Right. As opposed to not doing it at all.

Jerome (14m 21s):

Yeah. I, I agree in one of the principles of one of the 10 principles is actually clear representation objectives. And that treats to the extent permitted by law, the company has stated representation objectives for a job category and executives are measured against those targets.

Chad (14m 43s):

Yeah. So, yeah. So of Yes.

Jerome (14m 47s):

You do need a baseline. Yes. You do need to communicate this baseline. And more importantly, you need to make your executives accountable, not the TA leader. If you're a VP sales for, for Georgia only, you know, has zero, whereas super bad representation numbers, then he should be fired. Not the TA person who didn't manage to get, you know, pipeline of black candidates like this, right. So you have to make your executive, your executive responsible for it.

Nexxt (15m 16s):

We'll get back to the interview in a minute. But first we have a question for Andy Katz, COO of Nexxt Andy, if a company wants to actually come to next and utilize your database and target texting candidates, I mean, how does that actually mean? Right. So we have the software to provide it two different ways. If an employer has their own database of opted in text messages, whether it's through their ATS, we can text on their behalf or we have over eight and a half million users that have opted into our text messaging at this point. So we can use our own database. We could dissect it by obviously by geography, by function, any which way some in sometimes we'll even parse the resumes of the opted in people to target certifications.

Nexxt (16m 5s):

So we really can dive really deep if they want to hone in on, you know, just give me the best hundred candidates that I want to text message with and have a conversation back and forth with versus going and saying, I need 30,000 retail people across the country. And that's more of a, you know, yes, no text messaging back and apply For more information, go to Remember that's Nexxt with the double X, not the triple X

Chad (16m 35s):

One of the reasons why I ask, obviously it's incredibly important because if you put your numbers out there, you automatically become accountable for everybody because they can see it. Now we challenged Patrick Sheehan from CERCA because they are an organization who presses unbiased, hiring and diversity and so on and so forth. And, and we challenged Patrick. We said, Patrick, if you believe in it, show us. Like it at LaSeon and Apple and many of the other organizations show us and they did so to be able to start to see organizations do that, and then hopefully it becomes expected.

Chad (17m 20s):

And you playing the leader in this role is, is pretty profound, don't you think?

Jerome (17m 27s):

I think it will be. And I think this is where, what excites me in this whole thing is that where actually we can drive change. I mean, we process 4 million plus applicants a month. So that's kind of a lot of people that are actually going through SmartRecruiters software every month to find a job. And that's a lot of recruiters and hiring managers on the other side, who are reading those resumes, making those decisions, publishing those job descriptions, setting standards for hiring and actually if we could change those, that already would be a market change. So that's where becoming a force and foreign state anti-racism anti-discrimination, the word force is important here.

Jerome (18m 9s):

Like we really need, we really want to apply all of our force, like put all of our power into this battle.

Joel (18m 15s):

Real quick Jerome is pay transparency part of this initiative? And if not, will it be in the future?

Chad (18m 20s):

Good question.

Jerome (18m 21s):

Yeah, it isn't at the moment. It's one of the topics that's been most debated actually to put pay transparency in there due to the two things that are related to this in the plan today, the diversity principle are abusive, neutral job descriptions. So job descriptions are inclusive user language and they, you know, they only have minimum requirements. And so it's like hire for skills, not schools. And the other piece that I think is really important here is fair internal hiring. So all internal jobs are made available to all employees and they go through a fair and standard hiring process to design, to avoid arbitrary promotions.

Jerome (19m 3s):

Because right now what's happening is yeah, you could solve the initial hiring, but then most of the internal hiring goals, not really through recruiting. And I think it's really important for many reasons, but for diversity as well, that talent acquisition should own internal recruiting. They should own internal mobility. Don't leave this to HR and to managers to, so I want to promote Bob because we play golf together and it's really results are this. And if you do create an internal talent marketplace, if you make that transparent, if you let TA actually proactively market and hunt internally, you're going to have that salary balance and that salary transparency get better, right?

Jerome (19m 51s):

Because yes, there is an entry point, but there's also how it's being managed after that.

Joel (19m 55s):

So, the answer, your question is you're debating it internally on the right way to do it, but it sounds like it is something that you want to move toward. Is that correct?

Jerome (20m 4s):

Yeah. I think we, I think yes, pay transparency is important. It's a bit nuanced, but it is important.

Joel (20m 13s):

Okay. Let's talk, let's talk a little tech. You mentioned how many applicants SmartRecruiters gets, how many resumes you're you're processing? How does tech automation, whatever come into play when you guys are recruiting? So we hear a lot of technologies where, you know, they'll take out the name of the person, the school, the things that aren't necessarily important or they'll have an automated scoring system. What exactly are you guys doing from an automation standpoint or are you not doing anything in regards to making your hiring and recruiting more unbiased?

Jerome (20m 47s):

Specifically to the selection process? I think there are two big aspect to that. One is the resume screening. So the screening stage and how you avoid bias. So no bias screening is one of the 10 principles. And if you did need to leverage technology or fair process to ensure that applicant profiles qualifications are consistently evaluated. We use an algorithm there, which actually gives good results and removes the human bias. So people are like, Oh yeah, but it replicates all bias and say, yeah, it does replicate all bias.

Jerome (21m 30s):

Like you like to hire people from Stanford. I get that the machine likes that you like people from Stanford, but also the machine doesn't know that your candidate is Mohammed and not Adam. And last time I checked or actually last time, the BBC check Adam is getting four times more interviews than Mohammed for exactly the same, the same resume today, across a hundred companies in the UK, that was a recent survey. So we see that actually solves a lot of issues. I'm on the fence with resume anonymization. It's nice. But I, to me, this is a band-aid on a cancer. And if you start there, like how far do you hide it?

Jerome (22m 10s):

France had the big debate where they ended, ended up making an anonymous, resume a law in France, like 12 years ago or so I was at the heart of those conversations and the rule had really poor effects. So anyway, I'm on the fence about that particular feature, but using technology to remove bias at screening is important. Now what's actually really, really removes bias is if you make it transparent, the reason why recruiting is prone to discrimination is because there is no technology being used because hiring decisions are made at the water cooler by a single hiring manager who can use the full extent of his or her biases.

Jerome (22m 52s):

And we all have biases. I mean, this is a natural thing for human beings. It could be more pronounced. It could be, you know, good or bad, but we all have biases. And so the way to combat bias is actually to have a team and a process evaluate candidates. And so there we enforcing a collaborative hiring process, which is structured interviews and structured scorecards ensures that you have a bias reduction or actually no bias in the actual hiring decision.

Chad (23m 23s):

It sounds like you want to have more transparency internally, but externally, externally from a public standpoint, that's that that's in some cases, a bridge too far.

Jerome (23m 33s):

Nope. I wouldn't say that. I'm all for transparency. Yeah. I think transparency is the best way to fight discrimination.

Chad (23m 40s):

Agreed. So in what I'm hearing is that technology, not the silver bullet, if you don't have an organization who is trained to be, anti-racist the technology isn't going to fix it, is that what I'm hearing?

Jerome (23m 55s):

Oh, the technology will take you a long way actually it will do a lot. If you have no technology, you have no, no ability to control or to make a process structured and transparent so you have inconsistency and decisions being made behind closed doors. That's where discrimination strikes.

Joel (24m 13s):

We love talking about marketplaces. Whenever we talk, talk to ATSs and you guys have categories. And as of, right now, there's nothing around diversity and inclusion or unbiased recruiting. Now you certainly have apps like Zaur, chat bots that that promise to take a lot of the unbiased recruiting out of it. But I'm curious, is there any initiative to have a separate category for diversity and inclusion and highlight those companies that help employers hire with less bias is there may be a plan to take a, you know, some of the 50 million that you guys raised last year and put towards maybe helping some companies that enable unbiased recruiting.

Joel (24m 55s):

Any plans around the marketplace and helping this initiative?

Jerome (24m 58s):

Yeah, absolutely. So we have, we hired a chief diversity officer actually that started a month ago. Rocky Howard. One of our assignments is to actually look at the diversity ecosystem and all the vendors we have, we have over 300 vendors pre-integrated to SmartRecruiters, there's a lot of them and we've actually been reviewing them. And definitely we'll be pushing and putting some vendors on the spotlight. We're building now like a community of the chief diversity officers or diversity officers of all of our customers. And as we discuss those standards, which technology would help us for it. So yes, a big plan to highlight and extend the market based on that.

Jerome (25m 40s):


Joel (25m 40s):

Awesome. Okay. Thanks. Jerome.

Chad (25m 42s):

Awesome. Awesome. Yeah. Jerome, I got, I got to say, I got to say, man, I love seeing that you guys are actually pushing the discussion even further, not just talking about, you know, bias, you're talking about being anti-racist, you're talking about forcing the discussion about forcing decisions and doing things that we have to do overall.

Joel (26m 8s):

Walk the walk.

Chad (26m 9s):

And we're going to continue to challenge you on this as you challenge everybody else. And we appreciate you coming on every single time. Again, everyone, Jerome Ternynck CEO from SmartRecruiters, Jerome, if they wanted to find out more about this initiative, where should they go?

Jerome (26m 27s):

On We have a diversity section there. And then on where the standards are probably right. So is really the industry standards for hiring success. We're not meaning to make this as much SmartRecruiters initiatives. So go there and be part of it. Grab the standards, make them yours, make them better, give us feedback and let's see if we could change it.

Chad (26m 51s):

Love it, love it.

Joel (26m 53s):

Thanks, Jerome.

Jerome (26m 53s):

<Something French>

Chad (26m 54s):

We out.

Joel (26m 55s):

We out. Bon Soir!

OUTRO (26m 57s):

Thank you for listening 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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