Thad Price, the CEO of Talroo, shares with us labor market insights and how the last year has caused a shift in candidate priorities with work flexibility being at the top of the list. He dives in deeper on how Talroo leverages data on candidate behavior to power a billion job searches each month to help companies attract the right audience at the right time.
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Max: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the Recruitment Hackers Podcast. I'm your host, Max Armbruster, and today on the show I'm delighted to welcome Thad Price, CEO of Talroo.
Talroo is one of the leading platforms for programmatic advertising, and please, Thad, correct me afterwards if I'm mischaracterizing what Talroo does. But the point of this conversation is to go over some of the trends in how advertising is being spent in the recruitment space, particularly within the North American market, and how that's affecting the work of recruiters listening to this podcast. Thad, welcome to the show.
Thad: Max, great to be here. Thank you for your time and happy holidays.
Max: Thank you. Happy holidays. For those who are not familiar with Talroo, could you start with that? Tell us a little bit about how the business came to be, its evolution, and its current state.
Thad: Yeah, absolutely. So, a little bit about our brand. As we think about the Talroo brand itself, it really is the intersection of recruiters and talent in helping companies find the right hires and the right talent to drive a business. When we think about the evolution of the industry over the last few years, we've seen a lot of similarities to traditional marketing, and where marketing, where ad tech and marketing have moved. And you know our thought processes is about the audiences that you're attracting to your job. It's about attracting the right talent to your jobs. So, really if you think about how we provide a lot of value to our recruiters and employers who leverage Talroo, it's about finding the right audiences wherever they are. Right time, right place, right candidates, and how we can leverage data to ensure that we're actually doing that. We were incubated in Silicon Valley a number of years ago, over ten years ago, and we moved to Austin, and we call Austin home for a little over 8 years. So, we moved in the first wave of folks moving from California to Austin, Texas, a great town for us.
Max: Elon followed you a few years later.
Thad: That's right. That's right. But it really has been a great opportunity for us, specifically because Austin is such a great town for entrepreneurship. And if you think about what makes a great town, and there are two things that I constantly hear in research. The first is the idea of creativity and the second is entrepreneurship. And I think we're seeing that in Austin. It's been terrific for us to attract the right talent and to take our business to the next level.
Max: All these universities which are producing tens of thousands of graduates in the engineering space but also in business functions. I work a lot in the call center space, and I know that these student towns are a wonderful place to locate a call center as well. So, you don't have to be a Python and LP developer to find a job in these areas. They just attract a lot of productive capital
Thad: Yeah, great point. When you think about UT here in Austin, a lot of students don't wanna leave. They call it home. They've moved from other areas in Texas, and Austin is just a terrific town. They get a lot of entrepreneurships, a lot of opportunity, and it's been great to just experience growth over the last 8 years.
Max: So, I admit, Thad, that I'm not very fluent on the topic of programmatic and I described Talroo as a platform that does that. Am I on the right track? For those like me who need an education, could you go over what programmatic does?
Thad: Absolutely. So, there's been a movement in job advertising, probably the last 5 years, where there's this idea of more efficiency in job advertising investment. From what we can tell, the total addressable market on job advertising is anywhere between 10 and 12 billion dollars worldwide. And so, there's a lot of inefficient investment that typically is in this [unintelligible]. So, the idea of programmatic is to be more efficient and to attract the right audiences so you can drive hires. The Talroo kind of definition of programmatic is this idea of profile-driven programmatic, which is beyond the ideas of the site in which you advertise, but based on the audiences and the people that you're attracting to jobs. So, I think that's a big differentiator when you think of the idea of programmatic in the job advertising world. Again, today, it's more about job distribution and how can I get on a lot of different sites. The key with profile-driven programmatic is this idea of reaching the right audiences at time of search, and how can we ensure we're reaching the right audiences to drive hires. And that feedback loop is what's so important. So, in traditional… I'll give you a little information about how this works in consumer advertising. So, if you take a large advertising marketplace like Google, for example. Google has data on what people are searching, and based on data on what people are searching, they're able to allow consumer advertising companies to attract consumers based on audiences and based on buying behavior. So, an example is, I'm in the market for buying a car. I'm in the market for buying a Ford truck. How can Ford advertise to people based on their data searching for folks looking for a truck? So, it's about the audience and about attracting the audiences that will show this behavior. And so, that's the consumer advertising world in a very basic terms.
And I think about it in job advertising. So, in this idea of Ford Motor company who's looking to attract people looking to buy a truck. 20 years ago, it would be that you would need to be on cars.com because people on cars.com were looking to buy a car or a truck. And so, people would advertise on cars.com with the hopes of attracting people who are looking to buy a car or a truck. And so, that's what's been happening in the job search industry for the past 20 or 30 years where people advertise on many different job sites, and the idea is well, if someone is on a job site, then they're looking for a job. The next stage of this is how do you then leverage that data to go beyond a single destination and leverage data to ensure that you're reaching the right audiences at the time in which that audience is looking for a job.
So, that's what we do here in Talroo, we power over a billion searches per month and we allow companies to attract audiences and match companies to audiences based on job advertising and job ads and based on profile, specifically. So, early on in our company history, we were a job site. Our technology powers one of the top job sites in the US, and that's Jobs2Careers. And so, we opened up our technology a number of years ago, so we could go beyond a single job search and really think about how we can access audiences outside of a single job site, which of course at that time is Jobs2Careers. Jobs2Careers is still a terrific destination, it's one of the top places that people look for jobs online in the US. So, the extension of that was how do we open up our technology to access additional audiences and provide scale for high volume hiring needs for employers looking for essential workers.
Max: I remember, this is from many years ago, but I remember that the number one place where people go to look for jobs is Google. They go and type in a job title and then hope something pops up. Obviously, in the last couple of years, that search is a lot better than it was before because now Google is scraping all of this content. Do you access these insights to redistribute ads to the people who are looking for these job titles? How does that work?
Thad: Great question. So, when we opened up our technology we power a lot of different sites. We power job alerts. We power notifications. We power a lot of different opportunities where people look to find jobs. And so, from Google's perspective early on when we were investing in our domain Jobs2Careers in that particular career site, job site. One of the things we did was we thought of, “Okay, how can we connect to Google and how we can ensure that we can make essentially searching through marketing more efficient for employers and for, of course, more efficient for jobseekers?” And so, early on a lot of the investment and a lot of the R&D went to, okay, how can we leverage Google from a search engine marketing perspective. So, absolutely, that's when [unintelligible] from a Google, for job's perspective, that's kind of its own marketplace and it has its own characteristics.
Max: That's the free traffic and then there's the paid traffic.
Thad: Exactly. And one of the things that we're very good at is we're very good in investing in search engine marketing to ensure that we're driving top of funnel candidates for employers.
Max: So, it's free inbound separate from Google Jobs. So, there's resources with Google. Google Jobs, inbound, and then maybe paid advertising.
Thad: That's right, that's right. And early on we're very good at paid advertising on Google because the thought process is we should be more effective at connecting our employers, connecting our job sites that we may be working with jobseekers. So, if we can connect with search engine marketing, we can be more effective at that. So that was kind of the idea of Job2Careers early on in our history before moving to Talroo, where Talroo is more of an advertising platform. So, when you access the Talroo ad platform, you have access to essentially profile-driven programmatic job advertising events which you can create, and of course our Insights product which essentially what you can do is you can look at the labor supply in a certain area in a certain location and, of course, a certain category.
Max: To create searches that will then pull out data from different places, including maybe LinkedIn and places like that?
Thad: Good question. Almost. From an Insights' perspective, it's only our data. So, it's data in which we're powering, and we have access to from a job search perspective. So, it isn't third-party data that may be coming from places like LinkedIn. But the good news is, with all of that data, we can help companies be more effective at recruitment marketing by helping them learn the top competitors in their location, the top titles that may be driving clicks, and job views. All of this is important in ensuring that we're creating more of our recruitment advertising practice, if you will, recruitment marketing practice for businesses.
Max: And those insights can then be used in LinkedIn or other places.
Thad: Exactly, exactly.
Max: So, we've been through a rocky ride the last two years with maybe a third of recruiters losing their job in 2020 and then everybody being worked to the bone in 2021. If you listen to what's going on in social media, it's a bit of a story of extremes, but I do believe it to a certain degree. I have seen it on my side of business, some loud swings. What's been your experience from the advertising standpoints.? Who are the big winners in terms of employers? Who are the employers who performed really well during this period? You can categorize them by industry or perhaps by best practice. Who are the ones who won the talent award last year?
Thad: Good question. I think that as an industry, there's been a huge shift. It's been transformational in so many different ways. Like you, a lot of our customers advertisers hit the pause button as the country was shut down. Pause button. You don't need to recruit. Now as the country was opening, it was, “I need a staff.” Demands up. “I need a staff, I need a staff.” It's been an interesting dynamic in the last probably 8-9 months as more companies are looking to hire and to ensure that they're meeting consumer demands. Winners and losers, I would say that there are couple things that I observed.
The first is that for years, we've been talking about this idea of the baby boomers' impact in the US to the labor market. From what we can tell, everything shows that in the first quarter of, and this is a Pew report. In the first quarter of 2021, almost 3 million baby boomers retired more than the first quarter of 2020. That's a lot of folks, not because participating in the labor market, and there have been further studies on this as well. What we can basically say is, if we think about the Great Recession that we experienced a number of years ago, roughly 2000 and 2009. There was a sense of lack of financial security because of a lot of pressure on 401Ks given the turmoil in the markets.
We didn't really experience that in the last year or so, and so there's this idea of feeling this financial, I guess, relief of, “Hey, my 401K is still plentiful.” Also, we've had housing prices, which in many cases from a family perspective, a lot of wealth is tied up in home prices. And so, I think there's a sense of security, and that was the word I was looking for earlier, there's a sense of security that a lot of families are seeing and so they retired. And so, now we have this situation where folks are retiring and let's not also, you know, we can't discount the sense of health and time. We were saying earlier before we jumped into the conversation that time is so important, it's the one thing in life we can never get back. So, I think people are actually looking at this and making that decision. So, that was the first shift that I think is kind of where we are in this tight labor market today.
The second is the idea of flexibility. You know, winners, we talk about winners. I think a lot of the winners, a lot of the, what we refer to as the gig marketplace, have been winners. And the idea of InstaCard and DoorDash and other providers in which you can work when you wanna work and have that ability to turn on the ability to deliver or to drive. And we've been seeing this for years as an industry, talking about this idea of flexibility being so important to the labor market, but I think that the pandemic accelerated all of this. And you've been seeing moves, even companies like Target, buying and investing in companies like Shipt, where you could turn on this idea of labor when you need it. We saw this with, a number of years ago, IKEA purchasing TaskRabbit. And so, my feeling is that companies are having to leverage these marketplaces more than ever because they need to adapt to what jobseekers really want and you're gonna see this transformation continue to unfold, I believe.
Max: There's this one trend of capturing the marketplace and putting your foot inside these closed ecosystems where everybody is logging into to get an hourly gig or to speak to like-minded people in their profession. I get that that's popular and attractive, but I also feel like these closed ecosystems, they never last. Eventually, they die a quiet death, or they become very specialized and never hear from them. But what always last is an influx of new talents, coming into the marketplace, and sometimes that talent spends its time on Instagram and two years later they spend time on Snapchat and two years later they're spending time on TikTok. Those are the places to be if you wanna attract 20, 25-year-olds, which as you're getting rid of the boomers, maybe you should hire a bunch of those guys. So, do you think that social media has, you know these big platforms, they deliver on their potential for employers in 2021 or still underutilized?
Thad: I think they're probably still underutilized. I think it's changing, but at the end of the day I think it's about what a company is advertising, and how they're treating their employees, honestly, and pay. When we surveyed users, jobseekers before, we found a couple things that are important. The first is pay, of course, how much they're making, how much an individual is making, and the second is flexibility, and the third usually benefits. And the flexibility piece is huge which is one of the reasons why I think these marketplaces are providing a lot of value to workers because they create flexibility. Now, what I think happens is as employers look at this and say, well, how do I provide flexibility within my ecosystem and within my company, then I think that there's a big question mark of making that choice. Am I using a marketplace to find work or am I working for Target, and I have flexibility as an example, or UPS or FedEx or others? So, I do think there's this huge shift that's happening and it's all about what jobseekers really want and you have to ensure that you're aligned with what jobseekers want because there’s more opportunity than ever in the labor market.
Max: And now is different than last year, right, because last year was about everybody wants security and so, the gig took a hit in a way because the companies refocused their attention and their resources on full-time permanent staff.
Thad: Yeah, absolutely.
Max: Now is the freedom years.
Thad: The other piece of this is kind of the no-contact experience as well that's essentially happening with some of the marketplaces. Now, I'm not saying that there's no contact, but if you think of someone that is delivering for one of the marketplaces, for an example, there's definitely less contact delivering for marketplaces on your doorstep than a cashier in a grocery store. And I think that's another piece of this as well, we have to think about rational behavior. And a lot of these is taking a step back and looking at your company and putting yourself in the jobseekers’ shoes and saying, what is rational behavior? And I think if we do that as an industry, we can see a lot of insights into, you know, as people make this choice, this calculated choice, what's really happening.
Max: Yeah, it's always a good wake-up call to apply for a few jobs yourself and kind of walk in the shoes of the candidates, for sure. Well, thanks for these great market insights and reminding us that this year is very different than last, and we need to move faster and adapt in order to remain attractive. One question that I love to ask everybody who comes on the show is to talk about recruitment and people that you've hired yourself. Everybody makes hiring mistakes once in a while because of various cognitive biases or bad luck or God knows what. I'd like you to walk us through one of those painful experiences, if you can remember a wrongful hire you've made, some time in your past, it can be a buried memory. But share with me and our audience, what was the mistake that you've made?
Thad: Great question. So, I would say that when you're thinking about hiring, the number one key is culture alignment, and when I say culture alignment, you know we spend a lot of time as leaders ensuring that we have the right culture, and we have the right way in which we lead the company in so many different directions. Really, it's the alignment piece that's really important, in one direction. And when I've made a bad hiring decisions in the past, it's usually been because from a cultural perspective. We weren't aligned, whatever that may be. And one of things that we did as a team to ensure culture alignment is we basically created a list of situational experiences that all of us have had, and we went through this situational experience and had our team just talk through how would you handle this situation. And these aren't recruiting experiences, these are actual life experiences.
Max: I get that, I get that. Somebody on the show recently said, you found a wallet in the shopping mall, what do you do with it? That kind of stuff. That was for security guards.
Thad: One of the ones that we have is, and this actually happened to me, I was at a dinner. I just moved to Austin, probably about 7 years ago. I was out at dinner, and I walked into the restaurant and there was a sign that said, please lock up your valuables, right. And I didn't pay any attention to it because it's a sign on a restaurant that says, please lock up your valuables. So, I had a great dinner, get back to the car, and that my car and my window is smashed, and my laptop bag is stolen in the back of the, it was in my back seat. It wasn't in my trunk, but it was in the back seat. So, one of things that happened to me was I said, “Well this was my stupid mistake because I should've hid my laptop bag.” And so, that's an example of one of this experiences that we talk to our candidates about and say, you know, what do you think about this situation? What's the impact to the restaurant, what's the impact to you, what's the impact to the person that smashed the window? And it's a great conversation to ensure to, you know, not that there's a right answer, but it's a great conversation to ensure how people [overlap]
Max: There must be a right answer but maybe you don't wanna share on the show.
Thad: All right, my right answer is, I shouldn't have left the laptop bag in the back seat. I'm taking responsibility for it. So, responsibility is important. Those are the types of experiences that we've used to ensure that we're aligned culturally with our team. And we look at all these things to gather and develop what needs to be a part of Talroo and what's important and ensure we're moving the ball forward.
Max: Great example, thank you. No matter how great your technology becomes in Talroo, and how advanced our technology with conversational AI gets. They will never replace a good interview question like this with situational discussion about how would you react if this happens. So, the job of recruiters is safe for as long as we live.
Thad: I always say to our team, you can't take the human out of human resources, and I think that's a great line to think about.
Max: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Great. That will be your closing statement, Thad. Thanks for coming to the show.
Thad: Thank you very much, Max. Thanks for having me. Take care.
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