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

March 6, 2024
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      5 min read
      Max Armbruster
      Max Armbruster
      CEO Talkpush

      The World of Digital Recruitment Marketing with Jared Hummel from Parqa

      Ready to level up your recruitment?
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      Episode 56 title cover

      In this episode of the Recruitment Hackers Podcast, Max interviews Jared Hummel, President at Parqa Digital Marketing Agency. Jared talks about the importance of investing long-term in SEO, websites, social media, and other marketing tools for staffing agencies. A million dollars can go much further on automation and related services, than hiring 10 new recruiters. 

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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, I'd like to welcome Jared Hummel, who is president at Parqa Digital Marketing Agency in Minneapolis, and Parqa is an agency that's focused on recruitment marketing for the staffing and recruiting firms.  So we'll get a chance to ask Jared about this world and how it's evolving and how it's adapting to new technologies.  Jared, welcome to the show.


      JARED: Hey thanks, Max.  Appreciate you having me.


      MAX: My pleasure.  And would you mind giving us a quick overview, how you ended up in the ungrateful cutthroat world of recruitment?


      JARED:  Death in recruiting, right.  Yeah, I got lost along the way.  We have a sister company in Versique Searching and Consulting which is a recruiting agency in the Minnesota, Twin Cities market, and I applied for a job with one of their recruiters, of which she then asked me if I wanted to be the CFO oversee, which I thought would be a good idea.  Learned a little bit there for a few months and then got asked to run Parqa, which is the sister company of the digital marketing agency that was kind of floundering around at the time I came around and we saw a pretty good market opportunity.  And so the last three to three and a half years I've been focused on growing that with our client base in North America.


      MAX: And so you could say that you came into this recruiting world a little bit later in your career right.  It was not like coming out of school or anything like that, which is where most of the industry comes from is, this is a great way to make money at the start of a career if you're good on the phone.  But I've noticed others have come into the industry later in their career and their experience is quite different.  It's more like, wow, this is how you do things here.


      JARED: Yeah, well, like you said I have come from outside the industry I guess ignorance is bliss sometimes right.  And so, I think for being probably early to mid-career versus straight out of college I'm still naive enough to steam my opinion to the owners, right out of the gate and tell what I think from a different industry perspective.  But to your point, like I've got to be on the other side of it.  I've even worked in manufacturing and then in the home service business.  We would have the big companies calling on us all the time, trying to push labor into us and so now seeing it, not only from our sister company Versique from the industry as a whole in Parqa, to be having clients throughout North America from IT to hospitals to finance and like seeing kind of the whole picture has been a pretty interesting experience.


      MAX: The questions that you come into your customers at Parqa when you enter a new working relationship.  What are some of the probing questions that you may ask to validate if some company needs your help, so we can situate your range of services?


      JARED: Yeah, so, Parqa itself is a full-service digital marketing agency so we can solve any critical pain point in the marketing arena for staffing and recruiting firms.  As we were talking before Max, especially in the United States, I can't speak, necessarily worldwide but recruiting firms are generally, five to ten years behind from a marketing perspective and so as we go into them, even if they have a CMO or a couple of marketers, technology is moving so fast in today's world that it's really hard to have an internal marketing team unless you're a very large company that specializes in SEO, pain management automation, martech stats, website development, job board integrations programmatic advertising.  And so that's one of the ways that we enter in with new clients is either they have a CMO that presents a good strategy but doesn't have the labor to necessarily execute at a high level, or vice versa they might have one or two entry-level marketers, but they're just kind of flailing with organic social media or something that is not driving results.  And they would come to us to put something more holistic together to try to drive an ROI.


      MAX: You were giving me earlier a range of clients in terms of revenue, but I'd like to, for listeners who haven't run an agency wouldn't know what those revenue numbers represent.  Could you frame that in headcounts, what's your typical staffing firm customer size?


      JARED: Yeah, so, we're constantly trying to push the envelope so we're constantly trying to provide new services that are for bigger and bigger firms but, kind of our wheelhouse at this very second is probably a headcount of 50 to like five to 10,000 so, in US dollars that would be 20, million to close to a billion.  So, our agency at this point, maybe necessarily hasn't worked with the top five to 10 global staffing firms but some of our bigger clients are multinational corporations.


      MAX: You said, some of them were 1000s of headcount so I would assume that at that stage that they would have a dedicated digital team, but I would assume wrong, it sounds like they still come for help.  They're a little bit late for the dance.


      JARED: Yeah, yeah. The thing I learned coming from outside the agency is staffing or recruiting is kind of the consummate sales profession and so probably, I don't know what the number is, but probably 80-90% of staffing firms are run by a leadership team of sales executives and so what I've learned coming from outside the industry is that the solution to every staffing firm owners problem is hiring five or 10 more recruiters or sales representatives to solve a revenue growth problem and that is something we're trying to fix.  Because I can promise you that there are more efficient ways to go about it and ultimately, that's why we're talking today.  We're trying to make you do things to make it a more automated and efficient process for organizations.


      MAX: Well, you're trying to find some similarities between our businesses, but in fact what I'm hearing is that I resemble perhaps more closely the typical profile of a staffing firm company because I come from sales and I've often made the mistake of let's just hire more headcount, in my case more sales guys, but if it's staffing or more recruiters to push revenue up.  And, of course, you get a short-term lift but long term, you're not creating differentiation.  So, the investments that people have to make in databases and websites, and SEO.  These are things that take a while to yield results.  These are long-term investments.  Can you give us an idea of how patient a staffing firm would need to be before seeing some returns?


      JARED: Yeah, well, as you said, I guess, to me, it's almost a no-brainer because if you look at a fully loaded compensation for a recruiter and say you have to hire 10.  I mean you're talking, close to a million dollars.  And then you have to deal with turnover, you have to deal with them not meeting their quota, all of that stuff and from a marketing perspective you can see results fairly quickly.  I mean, with the way the world works today whether that's programmatic job board advertising, whether that's Facebook integrations to their job feeds, marketing automation as a whole is making a recruiters process more efficient so that they can do more business with less headcount.  And so a million dollars would get you a long way as even as a $500 million company.  We could employ our whole set of services for a good couple of years and strive for some pretty good results for replacing that headcount.


      MAX: I 100% agree.  I've seen that with our more successful customers that they change their spending, and sometimes they don't even have to increase their advertising spend that much they just have to spend a little bit wiser in high volume recruitment, there's social media is very cost-effective, provided you can qualify the incoming traffic, automatically.  You don't have to have an army of recruiters to qualify all the incoming traffic.  So that's, in my world like Facebook, Instagram is one, very performing.  What are some of the channels, digital or otherwise that you see are trending well in your market?


      JARED: Yeah, definitely the Facebook, Instagram world is a big play, especially in the industrial staffing world, and as we partner with clients that aren't necessarily in massive metropolitan areas that might have been kind of the Midwest manufacturing environments.  I think the Facebook's of the world are advantageous as you get into some of the more, like, finance, IT, engineering.  Obviously, a lot of that spend shifts to LinkedIn.  But, the new craze, which I'm not an expert on so I won't go into detail but like TikTok obviously is the new thing going on in America anyways at this point and they're working to launch kind of their team TikTok resumes, I think it's called a Tik-Tok jobs.  And I think we talked about this a little before but I mean you're starting to see the digitalization, as a whole of the staffing recruiting industry with more of the candidate user experience when it comes to like the e-verification of staffing.  You're starting to see private equity money flow into companies like that are just, I don't know if you call it, marketing, but it is like.  It's using technology to create a better candidate experience so that they want to use your platform right.  So, that would be another one.  At the end of the day, Google is still Google right.  I mean, when you're in a pinch, generally in the United States, you go to Google and type in jobs near me or head under near me or recruiter near me.  And so, there's always still, at least for the foreseeable future, a substantial investment into paid advertising, and just search engine optimization on the Google platform.


      MAX: When traveling was more popular I used to do a lot of conferences, TA and staffing firm conferences in North America, and I was always amazed by the volume of job board and marketplace vendors, and it was usually Google representative in the room, which now looks like a wolf in a hens house.  Everybody was polite but a little bit worried.  Do you think that in a market where there's so much consolidation around the platforms that we just mentioned, LinkedIn and Google and maybe Facebook and Tik Tok, the days of programmatic are numbered because, well, if there are only three or four big channels where you advertise, you don't need an algorithm to help you place your ads?


      JARED: Yeah, no I think that's a valid question.  I think you're starting to see more sophisticated technologies coming out from the Googles and the Facebook's or just, suppliers or vendors, building things to make those experiences that much better but yeah I definitely can't argue with you like we do have a lot of clients that are still using programmatic but the efficiency of that is definitely a question, moving forward with the big players.


      MAX: Right there is an existential threat but then we didn't even mention Indeed and Zip and those guys, so if you started to add those up, you could see why a recruiter's head would explode having to manage these four or five different budgets on top of their daily work.


      JARED: Yeah, and just know, what Parqa is good at more than that we're like an expert at Indeed or expert at Monster whatever it is, like, providing a strategic solution for our clients that is numerically justified right like, I think a lot of times you get a recruiting manager that says, like, their CFO gives them a $20,000 budget or whatever the number is $200,000 budget and says like, well, we have to have an Indeed contract, we have to have a LinkedIn contract and all of a sudden like they're not even doing like they're just paying those people money to you know to be a partner with them but they're not actually coming up with a strategic solution is quantifiably driving business results for them, well we should be a part of Indeed, well, a LinkedIn sales rep came to us and said we have to pay X dollars for the company LinkedIn recruiter seeds.  And there's just no like thought process, it's just like they go from supplier to supplier saying like yes here's my 100 grand, here's my 200 grand.  And that's what Parqa tries to bring all that together to say, like let's look at your buyer persona, your ideal clients, your ideal candidates like where are they living what are they doing, how do we get to them in a way that's efficient like, the database like you have an accounting and finance firm that has been around for 15 years, how many of those candidates that you talked to 10 years ago are now managing directors in their role and now they're hiring managers and that could be more clients, it could be, getting candidates out.  There are just so many ways to be efficient at it, and not to go all the way back to where we started, but the answer always is like, hire more recruiters, make more outbound calls, do more intakes and it's not about the future right.


      MAX: No, no.  The future sounds like it would be, start by measuring everything that you do, find out what your cost per hire per channel is, and then move your money there, and then get good at one or two channels, better than your competitors.


      JARED: Well that's, yeah, like we talked about early on we started, I guess you'd call them like Mom-and-Pop shops but, more of that like 10 to 30 million reigns and I guess at that point you don't necessarily expect crazy sophistication, but what's really been surprising to me is, as we move into the 500 million-plus accounts is, they are really not any better at marketing attribution.  It's really a freed for all, they don't know where their money is going, they buy tools and pay for the tools but quit using the tools.  And so that's one of the things Parqa is really not mastered quite yet, but that's one of our big focuses heading into 2022 is, I want to create a full attribution product, essentially, a dashboard that is customizable but scalable, that we can go into these staffing firms and just quantifiably, say what you just said it's like you're spraying money everywhere, why don't we just hone in on two things that are working really well for you and then make your internal process more efficient.  Because at the end of the day, if a recruiter can have 100 people out versus 50, they're commissioned salespeople and that's a pretty easy sell the internal recruiters just like if I can make your job this much easier.  So you're focused on value-added items, and you can make $100,000 more while we do that for you, would you be interested in hearing more.  I think any rifle recruiter would probably raise their hand, with some interest.


      MAX: Yeah, I would listen to you, and if I was a business owner of a staffing firm, amid small or mid-size.  I would find it helpful, that even if you get to companies with a few 1000 headcounts, there's not a methodology about channel marketing and there's not that higher level of expertise, and that there they still fall into these old patterns of hiring their way out of revenue plateaus and I would, of course, go back to the basics, which is every year, your market is different.  The way your candidates behave changes, it's very dynamic.  And so what worked two or three years ago may not work anymore.  I don't know if the cycle is right but it feels to me like two-three years would be like a good time to like reboot and rethink.  Do you think that's about right?  Is that the frequency in which your contracts are being re-evaluated?


      JARED: Yeah, I mean I would probably say two to three years, a couple of years ago, was probably accurate.  I would say that post-COVID at least, and again in the United States, I can't speak worldwide but, I mean there's definitely been a shock in the system and, I mean there's more technology, more options, more things changing more rapidly than any time before in staffing history.  So that might have been redefined to like six to eight months or something at this point.


      MAX: Yeah, it's been a bit traumatic, it has been quick.  What are some of the tools or technologies that you've seen pick up over the last year that you think were trending well that have high impact, high ROI for your customers?


      JARED: Yeah, I would say, sometimes I feel silly saying this because I feel like we're not on the cutting edge but for staffing and recruiting we are.  It's really like home-based marketing and marketing automation.  I don't know if you're familiar with Bullhorn, they are one of the largest ATS providers like they just purchased Herefish, it's probably a year ago now.  And Herefish is someone we worked with prior to Bullhorn and acquiring them.  I don't know what Bullhorn's revenue is off the top of my head but when you're a company that large, and Herefish like a low seven person startup is like your golden ticket like you know that something's changing in the industry, senses another product.  I believe there Google-backed.  They are not a Google company but again as a candidate enablement software to automate the candidate experience.  The job board integration thing is something that we do, I wouldn't say it's revolutionary technology per se but building custom job board integrations to make sure that all, you know, we talked about the many job boards that exist today, making sure that they're able to scrape and do all that, from a technology perspective.  And then, I know it's not necessarily technology but you know database management is one of the things that we're really trying to work with our customers on because as these martech tools come into play, you run into a stone wall pretty quickly when the database is a disaster.  And so, really trying to educate the market on database, cleanliness, and operational best practices.


      MAX: No, just this week, SAP SuccessFactors, which is more TA than staffing, they made a small acquisition which they almost never buy small tech companies they wait for them to be big but they just bought a company called SwoopTalent specialized in improving the databases.  You were mentioning Bullhorn acquiring Herefish, which is a company, I think Herefish specializes in re-engaging and helping you get more out of your database.  So those are big trends, clearly.  I know this isn't cutting edge either, but what about messaging and SMS and texting, is that still got some growth ahead, or is that getting old, is that established. 


      JARED: I think it's a little bit dependent on what vertical your firm is in or the TA company that you'd be working with.  Honestly, our value-added and if you're talking before the consulting world and like the high volume staffing world, I would say that text message is still very prevalent.  I think that's how we're finding a lot of people prefer to communicate over email.  I guess I can only speak for myself, but I get 1000 emails a day to my personal email, but I only get 50 text messages.  So, when it is a value-added service, I think, text messaging still plays a pretty important role. Yeah.


      MAX: Yeah, depends on your industry, but yeah, it's performing well.  Okay, well, one question I always ask my guests, is to walk us back to a day when you made a hiring mistake.  And so that our listeners can draw some lessons from the pain that you experienced back then.  And you don't have to name individuals but it would help the exercise if you had one person in mind, and you could walk us through why you made that mistake.


      JARED: There's one that's just like glaring in my head and I wish like I still to this day, of course, I made the mistake.  


      MAX: Let's talk through it, please lay down and open up.  I am your therapist.  We're gonna walk through it. 


      JARED: That's great. So yeah, it was a few years ago and I believe this person just applied through like a LinkedIn ad.  So our agency as a whole, probably 70% of our employees are referral base, and that ultimate automatically gives you like a little sense of security, so this one did come through LinkedIn.  Not that we have like a crazy big process because we're not huge but generally like I interview people first, because if they're not a culture fit that I don't even care what their skill set is.  Then they meet with the hiring manager to really assess the skill set and what's needed.  And then the third is we kind of bring them into meeting a couple of the other directors or a couple of the other teammates so that they get a feel of the overall culture.  This person actually ended up meeting with our CEO, I don't remember why exactly but usually our CEO's interviews are about seven minutes long, and he is on to the next thing.  He talked to this person for almost an hour and a half.  And so my interview from a cultural perspective is like this guy's there this person is great, he's gonna be a good fit.  And then we brought in the subject matter expert who has worked at large agencies throughout the Twin Cities, she thought this person was a great fit.  The team met him, they thought he was a great fit.  Then I watched our owner talk to him for an hour and a half and I'm like, there's no way in hell I can't hire this guy I've never seen Tony talk to someone so long it's his entire life.  And so we hired the person, within about two weeks, we realize that he knew literally nothing about digital marketing whatsoever.  He had held a job at a large fortune 500 company in a role that we were hiring for six years, or according to his resume, for six years, and didn't even know the basics so, you know, fundamental digital marketing.  It was probably about three weeks in when we knew like this was a train wreck and like we had to take care of it.  And this person actually came to me and said, Hey, like I'm getting recruited by another agency, and I have like, literally sprinted into a closed office and was like, Dude, you got to take this role like this is a perfect role for you to like, don't feel bad about it, no pain on our side I think this is the right decision for you. 


      MAX: What a gift.  You don't get gifts like that too often.


      JARED: I think actually I met this person in a parking lot, that very weekend, to like exchange stuff to make sure that he didn't like remain wanting to stay with us.  I was like, let's get the key and had everything taken care of.  It comes up in meetings, probably on a monthly if not quarterly, or weekly basis of like what the heck happened here.


      MAX: Will you change your recruitment process?  What have you learned from that experience?  I mean what I'm hearing is, there's no way to be 100% sure until day one, maybe, but perhaps as well, even if somebody sounds really good on paper, still ask them how they do things, how do you run this campaign, how did you accomplish those things and don't skip that step.  It sounds so obvious, but would you think that that might have been skipped?


      JARED: Might have been a misunderstanding.  No, I think that having been an industry-agnostic my whole career, like I have placed a lot of value on culture, and a lot of value on like my gut feeling which we all know, will fail you from time to time.  And so I think, as we continue to scale like you said, having each director in our organization really put together like a "test", to really quantify and measure aptitude, because, when you're in startup board and when you're growing rapidly, it's easy to take shortcuts.  And, yeah, we'll I learned from that one.


      MAX: Our listeners, we'll learn from your pain so thanks for sharing and opening up.  Where can they connect with you, Jared?  What's the best way to connect with you or with Parqa, if we have a staffing firm or recruiting firm listening, who is looking for marketing help.


      JARED: Yeah, so it's, I mean simply  For the listeners out there, Jared Hummel, on LinkedIn is definitely an easy way to track me down.  But yeah, I think, you find me on a podcast, doing videos with supplier partners.  Our industry is still pretty large on like the trade shows and the state associations and whatnot.  So it's kind of exciting, I was in Chicago last weekend, I think we have Denver coming up in September and Florida in November.  So I'm kind of getting jammed up to go out and see people and shake hands and have some fun so.


      MAX: Awesome.  Great, well thanks for coming on and maybe see you on the road somewhere, if I'm allowed to travel again.


      JARED: Yeah.  It's been a pleasure.  Thank you for having me on Max.  Obviously, you have a pretty crazy awesome background and are doing some pretty cool things with TalkPush.  So yeah, when we make that move from staffing to talent acquisition, maybe we'll find some synergies together.


      MAX: That's good.

      MAX: That was Jared Hummel from parka digital marketing agency, reminding us that recruiting should never get stale. And yes, traditionally staffing firms will hire people who are salespeople, who are hyperactive and they would want to focus on what they're good at, which is hitting the phone. But. I'm really effective recruiting marketing can carry so much more impact than a busy day on the phone. Every recruiting marketing strategy needs to be revisited on a regular basis, perhaps every couple of years. And you can do that internally, of course, but you can also reach out to agencies to come and help you through the process. Hope you enjoyed this interview and that she'll be back for more.


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