HRExaminer Radio

HRExaminer Radio is a weekly show devoted to Recruiting and Recruiting Technology airing live on Friday’s at 11AM Pacific

HRExaminer Radio

Guest: Phil Hendrickson, Chief Talent Strategist, Qwalify
Episode: 124
Air Date: October 23, 2015


Phil started his career in executive search in the 90’s and then worked in talent acquisition at Sapient, Fannie Mae, Starbucks and Apple. He now works at Qwalify to help companies build brand-based recruiting strategies that help find, engage and recruit the talent that drives their business. His goal is to create a better candidate experience while connecting people with opportunity on a large scale. Phil is driven to challenge the status quo in HR technology and has enabled new platforms, mobile solutions and talent channels for his teams. He enjoys building programs and initiatives that transform how companies approach the talent marketplace. He has built global recruiting teams, centralized sourcing teams and created programs that target veterans and people with disabilities. Phil a member of the LinkedIn 100, an international group of professionals that steer LinkedIn’s product development and improve its functionality. He’s a founding member of the Advisory Council for GettingHired, a career portal for people with disabilities. Phil has been on the board of the Northwest Recruiting Association (NWRA) since 2011. Recruiting is about changing someone’s life for the better and it never gets old.

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Begin transcript

John Sumser:                        Good morning and welcome to HR Examiner Radio. I’m your host, John Sumser, and we’re coming to you live from beautiful downtown Occidental, California. Occidental is a notch in the mountains that overlook the Pacific, just north of San Francisco a couple of hours.

Today, we’re going to be spending time with Phil Hendrickson, who is the Chief Talent Strategist at Qwalify. Phil is one of these guys who have been around the industry for a long time, in a variety of kinds of roles and is now working in the vendor community to try to deliver quality solutions to practitioners.

Good morning, Phil, how are you?

Phil Hendrickson:                    Good morning. Happy to be on the show. Just coming off a wonderful week at HR Tech in Las Vegas. It’s been a whirlwind. Happy to be talking with you and your audience.

John Sumser:                        Is that the first time you went to HR Tech?

Phil Hendrickson:                    No. I have lost count, but every year I go. It feels a little bit like deja vu, but there’s always some peeks around the corner for what’s coming next. I was excited by the people that I met and some of the technology that I had a chance to see. Probably 90% of it looked a lot like it did last year. Maybe with a few more millions of dollars in peoples’ booth. I have to say, companies were looking a little more flush this year than last and when I was there last year, they were looking more flush than the year before. There’s a little bit more money in our industry, which I think is good.

John Sumser:                        I think it’s good, too. I wonder if it will survive the economic downturn. I’m optimistic about the industry and then a little pessimistic about the next 18 months because it’s been a long run in the economy.

What did you see that caught your attention?

Phil Hendrickson:                    I saw some small, innovative technologies. I’ll give a little plug to my friends at Lever because I haven’t known about them for that long. I was actually given a tip about them by someone up here at a start-up who was looking at new ATS platforms. I have to say, I like their collaborative approach and I like when people are actually investing in creating an applicant tracking system. Let’s face it, it’s a platform that most of us in the industry love to hate. When people go into that, eyes wide open, and want to make a difference and change that world for the better for candidates and for customers and for companies that want to reach people, I’m all for it. I’m always happy to see how innovative the folks are at Smart Recruiters, as well, in the same space. Between you and I, the ATS world is one that is open for innovation and I’m glad to see folks like Lever and Smart Recruiters entering it and making it mobile-friendly and collaborative.

John Sumser:                        We had a little snippet of conversation before the show, talking about teenagers head … or non-teenagers headed into the process of becoming teenagers. And you said to me, “Oh, please don’t tell me.” I wonder if the ATS market isn’t just like that. If you are a legacy ATS provider, meaning you’ve been in the business 6 to 10 to 20 years, I wonder if you know too much to be helpful to somebody who’s just starting. So that some of the problem with the ATS business is that in order to get big, you have to get smart. When you’re smart and you understand all of the hoops and peaks and valleys in the recruiting process, you tend to give advice that people don’t want to hear when they’re just getting started. Because the growth part of the market is always people who are just getting started. It’s never the replacement market. I was just wondering if maybe the problem with reputation of the ATS’s is they know too much about how recruiting actually works. What do you think?

Phil Hendrickson:                    You may be right. Yes, you may be right. The older, mature ATS platforms are much more than these start-ups can imagine. They’re multi-language, they are usually part of larger enterprise systems that are chosen by Chief Technology Officers that are more concerned with their core functionality. It is a platform that has great maturity and had lived for a long time. You’re right, you can imagine inherent file relationship.

John Sumser:                        You don’t get big by being crappy. That’s the paradox in the generalized perception of ATS’s is it’s impossible to get big by being crappy in enterprise software. You have to deliver value and so there’s some weirdness in the deep, abiding perception that ATS’s are not useful. But they’re omnipresent in some ways, so I’ve always been a little puzzled by that.

I didn’t get a chance to ask you to introduce yourself. Would you mind introducing yourself to the audience?

Phil Hendrickson:                    Absolutely. As you said, I’ve been in the industry for quite awhile. I started in [ExecSearch 00:07:26] and ended up moving my career in-house to help corporate recruiting departments be better at their craft and I’ve now entered, first time in my life in recruiting, the vendor side where I have a chance to talk with many companies about their recruiting strategies and it’s delightful. I ended up in this industry by accident. Somebody was not guarding the door, John. I snuck in the back door, I think. Before I was in recruiting, I was a furniture mover in Los Angeles and I was working in TV and music videos as a grip. The last music venue was MC Hammer and helping to produce his videos. If that dates me, perfect. But that’s how I got here. It wasn’t a linear path, it was a roundabout way.

John Sumser:                        I don’t know anybody who gets here on a straight line. Nobody wakes up in the third grade and says, “That’s what I want to do.” At least nobody I’ve ever run into wakes up to do that.

What are you doing these days? What’s the job?

Phil Hendrickson:                    My job is talking with leaders at different size companies about what their recruiting challenges are. Sometimes what we do here at Talent Dojo can help them, sometimes I can help them just because of my experience. There’s any number of challenges that people are facing, whether it’s high-volume retail recruiting … At Starbucks, we had 8,000 US locations with a core 16,000 open positions at any time. I have a lot of experience in helping companies manage sourcing strategies by geo-location, by role, by you-name-it. I just like talking to folks like you and occasionally there’s an opportunity for us to work together, but there’s always an opportunity to share stories and to learn from one another. That’s what I do everyday. I’m on the phone, I’m doing WebEx’s, I’m trying to understand people’s pain points, who they want to higher, those kinds of things. It’s what I love to do.

John Sumser:                        What is Talent Dojo?

Phil Hendrickson:                    Talent Dojo is a top-of-the-funnel engagement platform. We allow companies to connect with their talent before they apply to positions. There’s a whole universe of people out there that many times are following your company, are what we call brand advocates. Are aware of opportunities at your company, they picture themselves one day working with you, but they are pleasantly employed somewhere else and they don’t necessarily have an inclination to apply … Or maybe they have and you’ve just never noticed them. There’s a lot of people out there who go unnoticed in our industry and that’s a shame. Because you and I are in the people business and we allow companies to shine a light on those people who want to introduce themselves and be seen. I hope that helps.

John Sumser:                        Let me ask you … That helps a little bit. Let’s talk … As you describe that, it sounded to me like people who are early in their careers. I’ve been watching here recently some later, bigger career moves and I wanted to see how you think about that. I know a ton of people, as you do, who couldn’t afford for it to ever be known that they were looking for a job. Because that would get them fired, kill their business, whatever. There are really good reasons to not ever be known to be looking for a job. I wonder if you guys have some interesting strategy about how to reach sort of senior-level people who are ready for a transition, interested in a transition, but couldn’t possibly make the first move.

Phil Hendrickson:                    Sure.

John Sumser:                        These are people that you’d want to have come work for you and these are people that you’d want to have pre-existing relationships with so that succession planning could include these people who are off the map, but it’s a very, very delicate thing because you don’t want to lose your livelihood in order to move into the next thing. How do you think about recruiting that kind of person?

Phil Hendrickson:                    That’s a fantastic challenge. And one that I’ve had some experience in, coming out of [ExecSearch 00:13:38]. And two, what we do is not about jobs. Inviting someone like you are referring to into a question and answer scenario is not anything where they will feel as though they are updating their resume, they’re surreptitiously giving their resume to a recruiter for an opportunity. They are merely doing what you and I are doing now. They are having a conversation. You’re asking me a question and I’m answering it. That is at the core of what we do and through that engagement, we get a chance to learn about one another. You are correct in that-

John Sumser:                        Does that happen online?

Phil Hendrickson:                    It sure does and it happens in the privacy behind the firewall of our platform, so it’s not happening on Twitter, it’s not happening on Facebook, it’s not happening on the public-facing career website of our clients. It can happen within layers of privacy. You can decide how you want this conversation to be heard. Imagine that we were all of a sudden, you and I, you hit a button and the conversation that you and I are having now was no longer able to be heard by your radio audience. Or, it could be heard by your radio audience, but no one else unless they’re tuned into your radio show. There’s different layers of privacy in the platform, but it’s never happening on social media. You can invite people from your social platform, but it’s a conversation that can be private and it’s not about jobs. It’s about what we care about. It’s about what your candidates care about, what your company cares about. It’s very specific. We don’t push out jobs here. You’re not saying, “I’m interested in your marketing positions.” Nothing like that at all. Does that help?

John Sumser:                        That helps a little bit, but let me just go the next layer because you were talking about privacy. Now I’m imagining one of these people, they’re generally busy, they often have somebody else who paws through their email to get things done, and that somebody else who paws through their email to get things done is generally part of the network in the company. I’m going to go another layer and say it’s a lot of work to have two phones or two computers or two accounts for everything so that they probably, in order to get things done, don’t separate work and home email and don’t separate work and home browsing unless they’re in some sort of large, regulated company. Figuring out how to give them privacy is actually quite an extraordinary thing. Right? When I require a text-only approach, that then evolves into something that somehow bypasses the gatekeeper because the greatest risk, generally, is the gatekeeper. And the communications pass by the gatekeeper. Is this part of your thinking or am I talking about a level of recruiting that is too boutique-y to use something Qwalify?

Phil Hendrickson:                    You’re not. We didn’t have this kind of boutique search in mind when we began this enterprise. But, because we are never about jobs, because we are not asking people to send a resume to a client, we solved this challenge. If you’re hiring three or four people a year or if you’re hiring three or four hundred or three or four thousand people a year, the same approach can work. You don’t need to feel as though you are now applying for a job when you introduce yourself. You don’t feel guilty when you go to Quora and answer a question, because you know or you upvote someone’s answer to a question that you’re passionate about or you also share that point of view. In the same way, a company can connect with professionals and learn from them. You never have to hire these people. These people, if you hire them, that’s great. That’s fabulous. You’re not going to hire them from our system. We’re not an ATS. We sit above that. You can make those decisions about hiring people outside of our system. Our system just gives you insights into the people you hopefully will hire and if you don’t hire, you will learn from them. They will give you value and you will make them feel like they’ve contributed.

Yes, obviously we didn’t enter the world of boutique search firms, but that’s where I began my career working at a very small boutique search firm in Massachusetts. It’s a wonderful industry to be able to touch people, find them, and help them connect to their next great career. I think it’s exciting to be part of an enterprise that is dedicated to doing that at scale or one at a time.

John Sumser:                        Who do you think your competitors are and how are you different?

Phil Hendrickson:                    Interesting. I don’t … You and I have talked about this. There has been many entering the engagement space. I’ve used many of them myself and, in the end, they have not succeeded. Today, I don’t know of many who are doing what we do well. When people ask me who our competitors are, it’s usually the RPO industry. Because the RPO industry does many things with many kinds of technology and solves problems, large and small, for their clients. But no one that I know is a single, software play that’s doing what we do. We’re quite unique in our industry, at least from what I know. Most in our industry are on the transaction side. They are about recs, jobs, email alerts. They are focused on talking about the transaction in our business and not about the people.

John Sumser:                        How would you differentiate this from … There are a fair number of companies of various shapes and forms that describe themselves as talent community developers, let’s say. How do you differentiate yourself from that? Because it’s a similar idea although it generally tends to be heavy on the automation and not so heavy on the, “I’m interested in you.”

Phil Hendrickson:                    I would say we differentiate ourselves in a number of ways, but one of them is that we measure. That we provide insights, metrics, and analytics to companies that are interested in their reach, their brand reach, how they are connected to people. Today, you could be a platform and providing services to a company and what you can give them or tell them is about conversion, about click-through rates, about how many people viewed you and touched your job. We give insights into what people are saying about your company and we do that in a very unique way. One of our key differentiators is the fact that we are able to measure engagement and others can’t.

John Sumser:                        That’s interesting. Tell me a little bit more about that. That’s a monstrous claim. That’s really interesting and really different and begs to be investigated. Tell me some more about that.

Phil Hendrickson:                    Think of … We all look at a Klout-score for our own activity and our own impact on social. We, in a way, provide companies with a Klout-score on what people are thinking about their brand, saying, demonstrating about their knowledge of a company. Because our platform opens up a communication between people who are following and interested in a company, we’re able to measure what people are engaging with a company. Let’s say you have multiple threads of conversations, some of them are about technology, some of them are about marketing or sales. We’re auto-segmenting people based on the subjects that they decide to contribute to. Completely independent of what their title says they are or what their background is, they may enter a conversation because they are an expert in that or they have a point of view on it. Because of their contributions in that discussion, we’re measuring their aptitude and we can tell you that someone has a knowledge about this industry or that industry on the back end.

Our platform is built on a segmentation matrix that allows kind of an O*Net backbone, so to speak, so as people are working in our platform, we give those insights to a company that will allow them to see their profile and also their areas of expertise, measured over time. When you look at our metrics, you’re able to see things that you can’t find on LinkedIn or in any social platform and you certainly can’t find them in the old generation of talent communities. Let’s face it, when I was working with old talent community platforms, you could see that it was big or getting bigger, but at the end of the day, our recruiters could not find any value in hundreds of thousands of people that entered the community. Other than maybe their names or their contact information. That is not useful information. We seek to give information that is useful to companies through their engagement in our platform. If we are not offering value, then we are not succeeding.

John Sumser:                        We have zipped through our allotted time. It’s been great to spend it with you. Is there anything that you want the people listening to the show to take away?

Phil Hendrickson:                    Yes. I would say, and I say this and you know I say it a lot, I think people should feel open to doing things differently in our industry. I am delighted when people are up for the challenge of taking on new approaches to recruiting. You and I talk about a lot that much in our industry stays the same, but there are bright, shining stars here and there and I think that we shouldn’t be afraid to challenge ourselves to think differently about the candidate experience and about connecting with talent. I say be bold, be brave, take risks.

John Sumser:                        Please take a moment and reintroduce yourself and tell the audience how they can get a hold of you.

Phil Hendrickson:                    I’m Phil Hendrickson. You can reach me on Twitter at IslandDad. You can find me on LinkedIn and if you’re interested in hearing a little bit more about what I’m doing, you can also find me at Ask for a demo and I’m happy to talk with anyone who has an interest. That’s it.

John Sumser:                        Okay. Thanks so much. We’ve been talking with Phil Hendrickson. Thanks for being here, Phil. He’s the Chief Talent Strategist at Qwalify or Talent Dojo. You’ve been listening to HR Examiner Radio. This is John Sumser and I hope you have a great rest of your day. Thanks for tuning in and thanks again, Phil.

Phil Hendrickson:                    Cheers. Thank you.

End transcript

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