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The AI Mirage in Hiring: Are Vendors Innovative Solutions or Industry Snake Oil?

March 6, 2024
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      Max Armbruster
      Max Armbruster
      CEO Talkpush

      Changing the Candidate’s Ecosystem with Alex Murphy of Jobsync

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      Episode 73 full cover

      In this episode of the Recruitment Hackers, we invited Alex Murphy, CEO and founder of Jobsync, to highlight the importance of a candidates’ ecosystem through the recruitment process and how job boards and marketplaces must adapt to current candidate’s behavior.

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      Don't feel like listening? You can read the entire transcript right here. 👇


      Max: Hello, and welcome back to the Recruitment Hackers Podcast. I'm your host, Max Armbruster, and today on the show, delighted to introduce to you, who don't know, Mr. Alex Murphy, CEO and Founder of JobSync. JobSync is a technology partner that can help to speed up the application process and improve the candidate experience, notably with marketplaces and job boards, and its very cool technology, which is trying to connect two worlds, marketplaces and ATSes. I'll let Alex explain it a lot better than me. But we'll talk about job board and about Facebook and how the sourcing world is changing. Alex, welcome to the show. 


      Alex: Max, thanks for having me. Much appreciated. 


      Max: So, did I represent what JobSync does decently or you want to take another stab at it? 


      Alex: No, I think you did. I mean, we are, at the end of the day, what we're trying to do is we're trying to help companies, specifically employers, create more efficient recruiting processes, right. So, it sounds fairly generic, most of us are trying to do that. The way we go about trying to do that is we are connecting the various systems that they use in the recruitment and talent acquisition process. So, as you said, between job boards and applicant tracking systems, this means enabling the candidates to apply while they're on the job site. So, whether that's on Indeed, and Indeed Apply, ZipRecruiter, Zip Apply, or anywhere where they may be, to use the applications natively on those job board platforms or job board marketplaces, and to not have to leave, but for the employer to still get all the questions that they need to have answered in that application, and then delivered directly into the applicant tracking system, just within a few seconds. And then the recruiter can start the recruitment process immediately, as opposed to waiting for some period of time or recognizing and seeing a huge fall off. So, the end of the day, we're helping companies get more out of the recruitment advertising spend than they were previously. 


      Max: And to put a visual on it, I mean, I'm thinking back to the days when I was a jobseeker, I was unemployed, a long time ago, and I would go to job boards like Monster, and I would have applied to 10, 20 jobs a day because, you know, I needed a job. And in that context, I would, of course, be more likely to complete an application if I didn't have to bounce around from website to website. And so, I think job boards have now recognized that and this is what you're describing with the Indeed Apply, Zip Apply, and others. That's the candidate experience improvement in a nutshell, right? 


      Alex: Yeah, I think it's interesting. There's a lot of talk about candidate experience, there's actually an award, right, the Candidate Experience Awards, the candies. And what that's really gets that side of the world kind of gets hyper focused on is what is the experience like after I apply? And unfortunately, for a long period of time, there hasn't been enough focus on the applicant experience. Right? What is the experience before I apply? Or will I even apply? An interesting kind of side note, a recruiting benefit that we have is we talk about in our job ads for when we're recruiting new people that come work with us, we talk about fixing this application experience. And we're speaking to the people that are literally going through this really bad application experience, at which point, they get really excited about being part of the solution to this problem, because pretty much every job seeker has had this experience where they are on a job site, they leave the job site to go to apply to a job. They're viewing the job for a second time because they already viewed it on the job site. They view it on the company's career site. They're then redirected to the applicant tracking system, they probably been presented with two different places where they had to sign up for some newsletter, join a talent community, they finally get to the applicant tracking system. They click Apply for the third time. And now they're presented with a login form. And they're kind of like, what is this? A login form? I haven't created an account. And that's an immediate path for that candidate to leave and go to TikTok and start watching videos, right? Like nobody wants to go through that experience at all. And so, when we communicate to prospective candidates ourselves about fixing that, it resonates pretty highly because everybody is having that same really terrible experience as an applicant. 


      Max: Talent acquisition is always running behind on a smooth experience, but yeah. Of course, in 2022, where everything goes so fast, and you can get everything done and delivered to your home in just a couple of clicks, you would want that application to be just the same, if not better. And well, before we talk about the market, Alex, how did you end up creating JobSync to begin with? It’s an insider's trick to activate JobSync in a booming marketplace, kind of working at the frontier of different tech giants. So, you need to be an insider to do what you're doing. So, I gotta ask you how you ended up in that area. 


      Alex: So, I have a co-founder, John Bell, he was the founder and CEO of a company called Boxwood Technology that he sold in 2014. Boxwood, was a job board software platform primarily for associations, they had over a thousand associations and he had started that back in the 90s. And I actually credit John, I think, with the real observation about what happened between I'll say 2002 and 2012, which was the experience for applying to jobs changed fundamentally. In 2002, virtually all applications online took place on job boards, and the application was delivered by email to a recruiter, and in the early 2000s, and then kind of really taking hold by about 2006 and 2007 in the US market, in particular, with respect to the EEOC questions, companies started to require the application process to take place on their ATS. And what John observed was this massive decline in conversion rates, and what used to be 40% conversion rates or better, meaning, if 100 people viewed my job posting 40 People would apply, had tanked to sub 10%. And in a lot of cases, with really arduous applicant tracking systems, that conversion rate might be 1%. So, one out of 100 people would apply. And so, he observed that. In parallel, I had been as a co-founder there in the early 2000s, was at Beyond for eight years, as part of the traffic and business development teams, was observing the same thing happening as from the operator side, that the product that we're selling is deteriorating, right, like we are not able to generate the applicants that we once were. So, fast forward, and I left Beyond John started a company, and we brought a bunch of different ideas together in 2019 around creating this integration platform that was focused on connecting the job boards and applicant tracking systems to make it so that we could emulate the application on the job board that was taking place on the ATS, so as to improve conversion rates, and on Indeed, their data shows that you get a 4X increase, meaning 400% improvement in applications. That's like a 400% improvement in your recruitment when you return on ad spend. That has massive implications in terms of not just your ROI, which is great, but really, at the end of the day, the thing that you're really getting more of is you're getting access to candidates that would otherwise drop out, which typically are going to be the most sought-after candidates. And so not only…


      Max: Candidates like me, 20 years ago, they need a job. So, they're going to apply to a number of positions, right? I mean, those are not bad candidates, they're hungry candidates. 


      Alex: They are in what I would say though, is that, you know, there's a lot of things that are odd in the world, right, and you could say that they're bad, right. So, like, people that have been out of work and kind of, you know, you can call it like a gap shaming or what have you. What I will say is this, though, is that if you are looking for somebody in a position that requires some level of experience and expertise, then those candidates, those people are the ones that are generally the most difficult to get at, most difficult to find, and the most difficult to actually get to follow through, right? Like, they're not as motivated to go apply right now. Right? Like, the thing that pushes them over the edge is they had a bad interaction with their boss. I like to say, like, the moment when somebody is most likely to apply is when they walk out the door of their boss, and the boss just gave them a lot of grief, right? [overlap]


      Max: …around, indeed, and they'd be like, screw this place. And they'll go look for a couple of options. But they don't feel like spending 20 minutes going through application forms, creating a username, profile, password, all that. 


      Alex: That's exactly right. I call it the subway application, you need to be able to complete the application in the time that it takes for the train to come into the station, Wi-Fi turns on, I get a job, I see it, click Apply, and before the train leaves the station, I need to be able to finish it. Right? So, that means that…

      Max: I thought we're talking about Subway sandwiches, but that takes about the same amount of time, I guess.


      Alex: Yeah, no doubt. I imagine they probably does, so.

      Max: Okay. I love that native applied concept, and I've been promoting it to my customers for years on social media saying, if, in your case, we're talking about a disgruntled employee who is spending a little bit of time on Indeed, exploring what could be. That’s not a very captive audience. But even less captive audience would be somebody who's just browsing TikTok or browsing Facebook, they see an ad, they click on it. I mean, those guys, they certainly don't have, you know, they don't have the mindset, they're not in the right frame of mind to start applying for a job for 25 minutes, because they were just kind of like having fun, killing time. So, it makes sense to keep the experience as native as possible for those even more. And so, as a historian of the space, Alex, you're saying that the space kind of moved in the late 90s, right, and 2008 or so when everybody moved everything to the ATS and completion rates dropped considerably, are you saying that we're shifting back now, that the share of applications that are completed without the ATS is increasing? 


      Alex: It is. So, you know, I think that what's happening is you're seeing, like, course corrections, so to speak, right? And there's a little bit of maybe call it something like the Goldilocks zone, right? So, we write about this where, you know, there's this concept of a quick apply, which might be like the name, email and CV of a person. And when a recruiter calls that person, if they can even call them, because often it doesn't have a phone number. So, they email them and they say, Hey, would you like to set up an interview? They get nothing, right? Or maybe they get an interview scheduled, but the person doesn't show up, right? So why is ghosting up? Why? I don't understand why did ghosting go up? Well, the person doesn't even know what they apply to. Because they had to just check a box, they may have checked 20 boxes and hit submit. Right? So, is there enough interest? I like to think back. Like, let's not just go back to 2002, let's go back to 1986. The level of effort to apply to a job: you open the newspaper, you had to find the fax number, you had to send that, you had to write out your cover letter, and you had to make that resume perfect and you had to print it and then you had to get to a fax machine, as most people didn't have fax machines. You had to sneak into the office and get it through the fax machine before somebody else saw you putting a fax through to somebody else, right? Like the level of effort was really, really high. And that meant that when you got a phone call, you reply. And today you can send out 4000 applications with a click of a button, remarkably different. On the other end of the spectrum in 2008, the recruiter said, Okay, now we have the power. And what that meant to them was I'm just going to ask you every question that I would ever need to ask and force you to spend 35 minutes going through this application. And people have just gotten fed up with it, right? They're not willing to go through it. The answer is that there's something proper in between. Five questions, seven questions, on a drop-down, simple screening questions actually can decipher, is this something that you should be interested in? We want to talk to people to come work for us that are interested in being part of a startup, being part of building a company, which means that there isn't a lot of structure yet defined, because we are defining it as we go along, right, that proverbial build the airplane in flight. So, if somebody wants lots of structure, and we can discern that in a screening question, then we can we can help save everybody time and pain and anguish, right? And every company in every job has a set of screening questions that should be asked to ascertain is this a good position for you or not? And that type of experience, I think, will go a long, long way to helping everybody get at what it is ultimately that they want, which is to have, you know, really worthwhile conversations for both candidate and recruiter. 


      Max: It's crazy sometimes that it feels like the different partners in the space are fighting for eyeballs and for the time of the candidates, you know, and like job boards, or protecting their candidates from spending time in other platforms, and vice versa, when it's to no one's advantage to hold the candidate up. We just kind of want to get through those applications as fast as possible and give people quick answers. And I think what you're doing is going to help a lot of time save, a lot of savings for the candidates when they needed most, which is when they're looking for a job. We spoke a little bit before recording about the recent announcement of Facebook jobs and your read on this situation. For our listeners who don't know, Facebook Jobs has invested for the last few years in a marketplace where millions of people have logged in and applied for jobs all over the world. And I know they generated a lot of traffic for us in different parts of the world, from Brazil to the Philippines and to the US. But that marketplaces are getting shut down, unfortunately, for all that free traffic that it was generating. But perhaps there's a silver lining with that announcement. Alex, you were saying that this initiatives maybe solidified Facebook as a great place to source? 


      Alex: Yeah, well, I mean, I think so. First and foremost, I'll just say for the record, I think it's unfortunate that they've made the decision that they made. They introduced the Facebook jobs marketplace as a response to what their users were doing, which was they were searching for jobs in the search bar within Facebook. And they were having a really bad experience. And so, the idea that the jobs marketplace would go away means, you know, without seeing what it's going to look like on the other side, I would imagine that it's going to go back to being a bad experience. So, that's too bad. The silver lining sort to speak, as you put it, in my opinion, is there now are hundreds of thousands of companies out there that recognize that Facebook has people that go look for work, and that should be a no brainer to most people, right? Like recruitment advertising should go wherever the people are, right? We are trying to reach people where people are. And people are on Facebook, they're on Tik Tok, they're on Snapchat, they're on Reddit, they're on YouTube, just like they're on job boards as well. But they're on these social platforms at a much greater investment of time, if you will, than they are on the others. The question is, can you do something to pull them in to engage with your recruitment ad, right, and this is where you were talking earlier about having that kind of more native experience. The person has to leave Facebook, right, and a tremendous amount of the activity on Facebook is happening on the mobile app, right? If they're supposed to leave Facebook in order to engage with your brand and to become, I'll say, a lead or an applicant, then the likelihood that they do so is really, really low. And so perhaps there are companies that recognize, okay, I should take my brand and go to where the candidate is, and then engage with them where they are, rather than trying to force them to come back to me. And if they do that, then there's a lot winning strategies. And you guys are one of the leaders, if not the leader, in recruitment at reaching people through Facebook ads, and really activating that audience and getting them to turn into applicants and employees, right, because at the end of the day, 9 out of 10, people are active on Facebook in some way, shape or form, Simply as a matter of reaching them with the right message at the right time in the right place, which is often that timing thing for…


      Max: I love about the Facebook job was the fact that the timing was there, right, because somebody will not go into the marketplace, if they're not looking for a job. And advertisers on Facebook don't have the option of targeting specifically job seekers, like, there's no tag for that. And I was, you know, I think advertisers would really benefit from getting that data points. But it's a sensitive data that I suppose Facebook couldn't extract or couldn't share with its advertisers. But it's still, you know, the most rich advertising platform of all in terms of targeting. I mean, you can target any job title in any location, and all kinds of other psychographics that can correlate well with your talent pool. But, when people hire there, they say, Well, I’m only hiring one or 2% of, you know, the clicks, the leads that I generate. So, it's really a bad quality, I can't, I can't manage, but I think that's the wrong way to look at it, right? If it's 1%, but the cost is, you know, is 1% of what a cost for a lead is in Indeed, then that's fine, as long as you've automated the front of the funnel. I think the cost per lead needs to be broken down into what a lead means. And I suppose what you do is you're going to take those job board leads, and then they maybe have two or three different stages of how qualified they are. Right? 

      Alex: Yeah, so I think, you know, just for one other thing that's really important in there is, you're reaching people that you otherwise wouldn't reach. Right? I mean, if you're, you know, think about like somebody like a nurse, right? How many nurses are there on Indeed, right now, eight, like, worldwide, like, it's not, there aren't a lot, nurses don't really need to work very hard to go get a new job. Most of them are leaving their jobs. And you know, that's like its own tragedy all on its own at the moment. But I can tell you that a lot of them are on Facebook, looking at what people say, thinking a lot of different things about what that conversation looks like. And if you have an ad talking about, you know, we pay you full time, but you work 30 hours, I'm making something up. Right? We have mental health facilities, we limit you to six-hour shifts, we have, you know, half an hour breaks every two hours or whatever, like, I'm just totally making stuff up. 


      Max: We have a cocktail room in the back. 


      Alex: Exactly, right, exactly. We do shots at the start of the shift. You know, whatever your benefits are. Those things are speaking to that person where they are when they're just trying to kind of unwind. And that's a way to pull them in, invite them in, to engage in a dialogue. And if you try to get them to go answer 42 questions on your, your 25-minute application, that's going to fail, right. But if you say, you know, we'd love to just chat for 10 minutes, when you've got time, if you're interested in looking for a new opportunity, that's the kind of thing that pulls that, you know, pulls up on that thread, if you will, and gets them to come engage. And all of a sudden, they start to engage, now you're in a dialogue, that's a discussion, that's how you convert. And that's the kind of thing I think that the presence of Facebook jobs for the last five years, for better or worse, and it leaving, at least hopefully, some people saw that Facebook brings value. I always love this story, our first customer, their first hire was a data scientist off of Facebook. Right? It's like, you'll say who's on Facebook. I'm like everybody, every person type, every personality type, every job type everywhere in the world, there is representation on Facebook. It doesn't mean every person's on Facebook, but every type of person, every type of role can be filled with the right ad presented the right person right time on there. And that's true across all social platforms. 


      Max: Tw billion monthly active users, two billion plus. So, if you can't find your candidate there, then might as well forget about it. 


      Alex: Right? Well, in all likelihood, the candidate probably doesn't exist, right? Like you have to go train and hire right? And so always love those stories, right, where it's like looking for somebody that has more experience than the technology has been around, right? We had a joke about iOS developer job in 2012, that the minimum requirements were 10 years’ experience of iOS development. iOS have been around for five and a half years. So, it's like, that's probably not a realistic expectation. 


      Max: Open your talent pools to people with less experience and more desire. And you'll see small miracles happen. 


      Alex: That's right.


      Max: I'd like to ask Alex to drive some of the listeners to check out JobSync. What are the quantifiable problems that you are solving for them? I believe it's the conversion rate from job board to application? That'd be one of the, if you have a low conversion rates, and single digit, like you were saying, that that would be one area where they should reach out to you. Are there other, yeah, does that describe it well and how do they get ahold of you? 


      Alex: Yeah, so first off, if you go to, you know, come and see us, I'm active on LinkedIn. My LinkedIn handle is amurphy59. I think, you know, at the end of the day, the thing that we're solving for is when your recruiting team is doing a lot of manual effort, or conducting a lot of manual effort in order to run your recruitment programs. And that's not just limited by the way to job boards and ATSes, right, it could be with any of the other systems up and down inside the stack. So, we connect to your text messaging platform or your career events platform or your assessment platform, and automate the messaging in between, so that your recruit recruitment teams are not having to manually do that work. I'd say that the number one metric that we kind of think about the most is really around reducing time to hire. So, you know, the consistent metric across all of our customers, when they start with us, they're really struggling to get applicants into their job postings at enough scale to take that job posting to an extended offer and into an actual start. And by putting our program in place, you get a lot more efficiency across the spectrum, you get more efficiency out of your ads, and your recruitment team, you get exposure to better candidates. And those three things combined means that you're going to reach you know, a slate of candidates or your kind of final five that you might want to take to final interview and offer much more quickly than you would otherwise. 


      Max: I think that that will connect with a lot of people. Non-job-related question, but one that I asked everyone on the show is a personal hiring mistake that you have made, so that our listeners can draw from that experience and avoid making the same mistake. Can you think back to somebody you hired and it didn't work out and you messed up somehow and you're able to kind of, you know, mea culpa on your mistakes, so that we don't commit the same one again? Your eyes are glazing over, you're seeing ghosts. 


      Alex: I am actually, it's like a roomful of them, right. I mean, we all make a gazillion mistakes over time. I would have to say that my number one mistake that I've made in the past, and I can say that we actually had the opposite experience recently, was set up a process to screen people out because there are minimum thresholds, right, saying this is our standard and that needs to be our standard and I want to believe in what the person on the other side of the conversation is saying to me and they didn't pass a check in the assessment process, and I let the person pass, and then that came back to bite me pretty hard. So, I would say, adhering to a process that you predefined is really the way I counter that. And I would say the mistake was not sticking to the process that I had predefined.


      Max: You were bending the rules that you were setting yourself, for yourself?


      Alex: That's exactly right. Yeah. So, we just recently went through this where we set what the standard was, and the person came through and had all sorts of good reasons why things didn't work out, and why he was underneath of the bar. And we said, look, this is just the way it's going to be, it's a really high profile, really important position, and we stuck to our guns. And so, I feel really good about it having made that mistake in the past. 


      Max: I sense that there's something about job hopping that may upset you was that related? You're looking for people, job hoppers. 


      Alex: I'm perfectly fine with job hopping. I mean, I think that, you know, a lot of the things that are memes today around, you know, call it Twitter conversations. You know, if a person left three jobs in the last nine months, you know, I want to understand what is it that's making you make a bad decision about whether or not you should go work someplace, we should spend an extra couple of weeks making sure that you get to know everything about us, right, set your expectations on what life's like here before you come. Because the last thing in the world that I want you to do is to come and leave. But, you know, I think it's really important that we all look at that the people that join our teams, they’re here, like, a) to make a paycheck, b) they want to make an impact and make a difference. But the impact-difference piece is about growing themselves in their career to set themselves up for their next gig. I’m not ignorant to that, that’s been my background, my life, right, that should be everybody’s life. I want them to get the best of what they’re gonna do next, and if they’ve been hopping jobs, something happened there, I wanna understand it. But it certainly isn’t a glaring red flag, in fact, it means that they’re gonna stand up for themselves and that they’re gonna leave. I’d rather have that person than somebody who’s gonna stick around and kind of create chaos in the background for 8 years. 


      Max: It’s more of a red flag if somebody stayed in the same job for 10 years without changing them.


      Alex: Yeah, if somebody’s been in the same exact role for 8 years, are you really ambitious? For our company, you probably’ wouldn’t be a good fit because our world is gonna change 16 times in the next four years. So, it’s about finding that right fit. At the end of the day, that’s tough, and we all make mistakes in the process. I like to look at it as just one big gigantic conversation, certainly in our stage.


      Max: Great. Well, amurphy59 is the LinkedIn handle, if you wanna continue that gigantic conversation with Alex. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you about the industry. Thanks, Alex. 


      Alex: Thanks, Max, appreciate it. 


      Max: That was Alex Murphy ofJobsync and some interesting perspective on how the pendulum is swinging from marketplace and job boards to the ATS's is where should the candidates spend the most time and how do we adapt to the changing candidate behavior? And the changing ecosystem that they live in.


      Hope you got something from this interview I certainly did. And that you'll be back for more. Remember to subscribe.


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