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: Kelly Robinson, CEO, Broadbean
Episode: 138
Air Date: February 9, 2016


Kelly Robinson first showcased his entrepreneurial spirit as a co-founder of a technical staffing firm in the United Kingdom. He then went on to launch Broadbean (2001) the vision being to post the worlds online job adverts and cultivated this idea, with a fantastic team into a global business.Kelly grew Broadbean by fostering a working environment characteristic of many young technology companies: one that allowed his people to thrive. In 2009, he brought Broadbean to the United States and recreated the type of environment which had proven to be successful for him in the UK. He hand-selected the first of his crew in the US office upon their ability to work collaboratively while taking ownership in wearing many hats. He believed that the culture he fostered would need to parallel the spirit of the existing Broadbean brand in order to produce great results. A few years later, Broadbean Technology has created a strong global presence with offices in the US, Europe and Australia with no intention of slowing down. Although its organizational culture has evolved with its growth, the company remains true to the core fundamentals of its inception: “Keep it light and fun while getting the job done!”Kelly loves Tottenham, F1, Wing Chun, Soccer Coaching and Snowboarding so if you cold call him, which you probably will if you are reading this, you could do worse than engage him on one of these subjects.He dislikes Arsenal and people who start a cold call with “how are you” especially when you have never spoken to him!Kelly is also the winner of the London & South East lifetime achievement award for commitment to the recruitment industry.



Audio MP3





Begin transcript


John Sumser: Good morning and welcome to HRExaminer Radio. I’m your host, John Sumser and we’re coming to you today live from beautiful, sunny downtown Occidental, California. Home of innovation in the great state of California. We’re coming to you for a special episode of the show where we’re going to talk with Kelly Robinson, who’s the CEO at Broadbean, and a regular guest here on the show. How you doing?


Kelly Robinson: I’m very well thank you, John. Yourself?


John Sumser: All right, good to hear your voice. You’ve been traveling all over the place, haven’t you?


Kelly Robinson: Ah, goes with the territory, but I’m now back in southern California and it’s going to be 88 degrees today, so I’m living the dream, so to speak.


John Sumser: You know what, I really love the fact that you have taken so well to Orange County, after all of those years as a Britisher, you’re turning into a sun tanned American almost over night. It’s a wonderful thing to see.


Kelly Robinson: John, I couldn’t start the show without saying I adopted the Denver Broncos when I moved here 7 years ago, as I’ve probably told you before, so this week is particularly special for me.


John Sumser: You know, you’re going to have to shed the accent and get a cowboy hat, that’s all there is to it.


Kelly Robinson: I own a truck, does that help?


John Sumser: You’ve got a truck. Forget everything else, having the truck is the whole thing.


Kelly Robinson: Right.


John Sumser: So, Broadbean is this extraordinary success story that you’ve engineered. You’re right at the cutting edge of everything that’s happening in recruiting. You’re reinventing analytics, you are simplifying search so that the goal of a single click sourcing function is in sight. It must be an amazing view there, what are you seeing these days?


Kelly Robinson: Ironically we’re still seeing a lot of the same questions and challenges that we’ve seen for a period of time. You’re right, we’re in a really interesting place, because as an organization, we really start from, here is a job or requirement I need to find somebody, and end with, this is the person that we want to put into some form of process.


So our focus has been, or the DNA of Broadbean, has always been about making people more efficient, saving a recruiters time.


If you think about the challenges that we see, the two main ones, and they’re polar opposites. We see these all the time, is one, we’re finding it really difficult to find people. I think the unemployment is still fairly flat, about 4.9%, but there are companies that are really struggling to find people.


On the flip side of that, we’re getting other companies in different industries that say hey, we’re getting so many applications, we need some help … The challenge for us is being able to talk to and work through that, that volume of applications in a timely manner.


Couple of different challenges there.


John Sumser: That’s interesting. So you’re seeing both sides of the game. You’re seeing people who are getting too many, and people who are getting too few. What makes it so that one company gets too many and another gets too few?


Kelly Robinson: I think it’s the type of job really, John. It’s the type of job and it’s the type of company. We’re not a niche or a niche player, we deal with lots of corporate and staff and organizations. We probably see a complete spectrum of challenges. More so than most actually, and I think they’re two issues that raise their head fairly frequently. There’s probably four or five other things that we’re seeing regularly, or companies are talking to us about on a frequent basis.


I think speed’s a big thing now a days. I think the way the market’s moved, all the ways business operates, is so much faster now a days than it was even two years ago. I was talking to somebody a couple of days ago that actually said to me, like I’ve grown up with Gmail. You think, there is a generation of people that actually are so used to doing stuff inside a web and have grown up with this thing called Gmail constantly being around. For the likes of you and I, it’s something that we adopted much later on in life.


I think the market’s really changed, I think things are done a lot quicker. One of the areas that we hear about is that some management groups have yet to respond to that change. So recruitment will do their job, they will find people, they will present the right candidate, and they can be this bottleneck of sitting on that candidate for a period of time. In today’s marketplace, that an be a killer. In today’s marketplace, what’s the adage? Time kills all deals. I think in today’s marketplace if somebody’s going to sit on that resume for a couple of weeks, thinking it’s perfectly acceptable to do that, you’re going to lose out on the best people. That’s an educational piece as well. Companies are talking to us with that, and that’s becoming … When you look at our analytics product, things like where are the bottleneck in our process, is becoming really visibly evident. We’re starting to show that and help companies with that.


Now, do you want the big one?



John Sumser: Yeah, big one.


Kelly Robinson: This is the big one for me, and there’s a couple of others. The big one for me is as this market has, as it’s got harder to find people when unemployment rates dropped, naturally more people enter into the recruitment work space. There’s this influx of new recruiters, never done the job before. I’m not going to say every company is this way, but I often feel that they’re a somewhat neglected career, in terms of they’re not given the training. They’re often given the tools, but not given the training.


So when you bring in an influx of new people, it’s going to have an effect on the process in the organization, if you don’t invest in those people. For me, we see so many companies now that are adding new people to the recruitment scene, with little or no background, and just expecting them to go out and do a professional job straight away. I think that’s a shame, I think we can do better. I think companies can do better than that.


John Sumser: If you were going to tell somebody where to get some training or how to think about getting better as a recruiter, what do you think people do?


Kelly Robinson: I think first of all, the difference between agency and corporate. I think it’s hard to say one shoe fits all because it depends on the persons background, it depends on what they do, where they’ve come from in the industry.


I think some form of training course, there used to be many, I’m sure there still is, that’s going to give them the basic building blocks of what a recruitment cycle looks like. How do I source people? How do I then qualify those people against the job? What assessments are available to me? What’s the best way to present this to the line manager or to the management team? How can I work with that management team to ensure I’m getting swift feedback? How can I convey that feedback to the candidate and make that process go?


One of the things I would teach them is as a recruiter please engage with a candidate. If they don’t get the job, tell them. We like to be givers of good news. As a person, and I’m sure you’ve done it, but applying for a job, it can really suck. It sucks even more if the person that initially put you forward, or the person that brought you into the company doesn’t even give you a call to tell you why you didn’t get the job. One of the biggest complaints we hear is, “Why don’t people tell us? Give us some feedback. Tell me what I can do better. Tell me why I didn’t get the job.” We don’t all like bad news, but I’d rather know where I stand.


John Sumser: Yeah, you know, it’s even worse than you describe. If you’re out looking for a job and you put it on the line, and have gone through the horrible process of interviews and applications and working in systems that don’t talk to each other. And then you don’t get anything back from the system. You don’t know when to give up. So you’re kind of stuck there, and the waiting is the hardest part, and it doesn’t end if somebody doesn’t tell you.


I wonder if there’s a way for automation to help with that? Is there something that you can put in an applicant tracking system that passes an electric current through the butt of the recruiter.


Kelly Robinson: Send them nagging text messages until they call the candidate and tell them what their output is. I’m sure there is.


You know something that’s very dear to my heart; we believe that a lot of the early stages of finding and engaging with candidates can be done electronically. If you think about, when I’m looking for a person for a job that will often start with starting to look around the internet and search for people, look on job boards, et cetera, different profile sites. Pick out some people I think are relevant, maybe put them into some sort of list, and then reach out and communicate with them. We’re firm believers that will eventually collapse into more of an electronic automated way of achieving that.


And I as a job seeker, I’m perfectly happy to get a generated email that says: we’re seeing you for this job, these are the reasons why we think you’d be good for it, and can you just click a link, or press this button, or let us know if you’d like to talk to somebody. I’m happy to have a conversation if there’s something worthwhile having a conversation. I don’t want recruiters calling me with jobs that are just not relevant. Which anybody who has looked for a job has experienced that. Lets automate that bit. Now the outcome of that is, we free up recruiters to have more time to give that feedback. I’m a great believer if you’re recruiting for a company your number one focus is to be speaking to candidates and explaining to them “this is why you should quit your job and come work for our organization.” Not to be reading resumes or CV’s, and pinging out emails to see if that person is interested in working for you. I think we can do a better job of that.


John Sumser: Okay. Are you following all this stuff about recruitment employment branding, is what they’re calling it today? Are you following that? What do you think about building an employment brand?


Kelly Robinson: We’ve been following it for years. I’m a great believer in branding full stop, but it’s got to be a true reflection of your organization. Does it necessarily fill jobs? I think it depends on who you are as a company. I think there are certain organizations, you look at my kids and that they were gonna work for Electronic Arts because they played Call of Duty, and they’re massively attracted to those types of company. I think it can work for some. I think a true reflection of who you are. I would say a bigger process would be fixing the actual apply path. Making it easier to apply for a job, or making it more of a satisfying experience. Because at the moment it’s horrible.


John Sumser: Yes it is. So it’s a combination of the sizzle and getting the automation right that really makes for a good hiring process?


Kelly Robinson: Yeah, challenge people. Go and apply for a job at your company. If your a senior executive, look at what it looks like to actually ask to come and work for your organization. With the exception of a few, and there are some people that do a phenomenal job, but with the exception of a few, for most people that is really not a very nice experience. I think as an industry we could do much better, much, much better. Especially with technology nowadays.


John Sumser: I think you’re right. You’re painting this picture of a very busy world where people have too many of some things too few of other things, and they’re running around trying to get it all done because the economy is moving fast. When everything is important like that, what is the first thing to pay attention to, to make sure you get your recruiting right?


Kelly Robinson: For me, if I was walking into a company tomorrow to improve or to do something with their recruitment system, obviously you’ve got to take a view of what’s in place at the moment, but for me it starts with the people. Which is strange actually because I’m a technology guy. We build technology for a living. But that for me is probably third on my list. Number one is: Who are the team? What are the people? Where are the bottlenecks? Where do we need to improve that team? Where do we need to train them? Does this company actually take the function of recruitment and the function of finding talent seriously? We’ve all seen companies where it’s not taken as seriously as it should and they suffer as a result of it. Assuming we’ve got buy-in form the organization, they believe finding talent is an important thing and it’s not just lip-service, then I would want to look at the team. I would want to talk to the team and I would want to figure out how we can help them be better at their job.


Second part for me is process. What is the process we use for employing people? Within that, I would make people go out and apply for a job. What does it actually look like and feel like to go and work for this company? For me the final thing would be the kind of toolset and kind of technology that sits behind that helps those recruiters be more efficient. So that’s what I would do.


John Sumser: Got it. As I’ve listened to you today, you are increasingly focused on the importance of doing recruiting well. Frankly, in all of the talk that I hear about recruiting, and I’ve listened to a lot of stuff over the years, I don’t ever hear anybody talk about doing recruiting well. Do you think that’s unique to you and Broadbean? Are there other spots out there where people are interesting recruiting excellence?


Kelly Robinson: No I don’t think it’s unique to us. But I do think there’s a big investment in, I’m a believer in, I think technology can do a lot of things, but I’m not sitting here saying we should go and disrupt an industry; we should get rid of people. I think we need to free them up to actually to be more, to do what they used to do which is be the ambassador for a company. Answer the questions:  “Kelly you should quit your job and come work for us for these reasons,” and, “Kelly unfortunately you didn’t get the job for x, y, z reasons.” That’s what we need to give them the time to do, and technology should support giving them back that time.


There comes a point, I don’t know if you’re like me, if I can buy something on one of the leading online portals and I don’t have to go to the store to buy it, I will do so. There comes a point in any process where I’m happy to have a conversation with somebody, but I don’t want to do it in the beginning anymore and I think that’s most people’s buying patterns.


I think we can probably use technology for the engagement part. For the early stage of sourcing, for the early stage of handling people who have applied for a job. Then we introduce the person back in. That person needs to have the right skills and ability to do the job.


Can I get on my soapbox for one thing?


John Sumser: Sure.


Kelly Robinson: I often hear things like, “When our recruiters won’t write a good email, or can’t write a good job advert and say ‘can you automate that?'” I’m a believer you can train that. If somebody’s in this job they need to be able to describe the job both in writing and verbally. They need to be able to communicate with somebody via email to talk about the job. All this concept of it should always be driven by templates. To me, there is a time and place for that. If you’re repeating things, for sure. But a little bit more of the personal touch, to me, that’s doing the job well.


John Sumser: I tend to agree with you. I think that standardization makes for bad fits in the job, and it makes for recruiting processes that are dull and aggravating to the people who are trying to get hired and get through the recruiting process.


Kelly Robinson: Absolutely.


John Sumser: You and I spent some time recently looking at 40 new-ish companies coming around the business with new ideas about how to do recruitment marketing. If you are a recruiter or recruiting leader you’re getting bombarded with opportunities to do something different.


Is there one thing that everybody should be paying attention to as they try to wade through all the varying approaches to how to do stuff?


Kelly Robinson: I think you need to stay focused, or keep it simple the way recruiters fill jobs. To me there’s still only five ways you can fill a job. There’s a job posting. There’s some form of search. There’s social media, which again is arguably a job posting in a different guise. There’s asking for referral, then there’s using an agency. There’s nuances within that, but there’s those five things. Keep focused on that first of all. Does the system, or does the tool or the thing you’re looking to implement does it solve or improve one of those five things? If it does it’s probably worth looking at.


I think John, when we looked at that 40 list, we came to the similar conclusion that there’s a lot of people that are reinventing existing processes. Those 5 things I’ve just spoken about have been around forever. That’s how recruitment’s been done pre-internet. Do they bring an efficiency to that marketplace? I think sometimes you can overload recruiters with technology. Take some of that money and make the person that’s delivering the service, better equipped to deliver that service. Give them the skills to use those tools; rather than just assuming that buying five or six different new tool sets is going to make a huge difference.


John Sumser: We’ve come to sort of a breaking point in this conversation. Is there something that I should have asked you that you’re interested in talking about?


Kelly Robinson: There’s always things you should have asked me John, I’m interested in talking about.


One of the things which is really close to Broadbean and CareerBuilder’s heart, as you know we’re part of the same organization, is this solving of the skills gap.


I’m assuming we haven’t got much time to talk about that now. I think more attention needs to be focused on that. Is it right for every single person in this country to go to college? Would four years of software coding experience and giving people the skills to actually do a job be a more appropriate path for some people; rather than landing them with several hundred thousands dollars of college debt and little or no actual hard skills to offer an employer? It’s something we’ve got a bunch of initiatives on at the moment, and it’s very dear to our hearts. I think that’s an important one to mention as well. We’d like to see some changes in that space.


John Sumser: So, what are some of your ideas in that world? What changes do you think we should be making?


Kelly Robinson: We’re working on a program with some various online educational providers to bring about teaching people some skills. If you take a person and retrain them for six months and a year, with some real practical experience – I’m gonna use the word Java, just because it’s familiar and I was talking about it a moment ago – imagine if you take someone and you give them six months to a years experience of Java development. That’s a worthwhile skill that has a value in the marketplace, and that takes somebody and gets them back into work. That’s the type of initiative that we’re, and I’m not going to speak too much about them because it’s not my place, but that’s the type of initiatives that we’re behind and supporting at the moment.


John Sumser: That’s very interesting. I can’t wait to hear more about that as you get down the road with it. Are there any points you’d like somebody listening to this show to take away?


Kelly Robinson: I mean, number one, if we’re going to take recruiting seriously, and finding talent seriously, and bringing good people into our organization; if you believe that people are the core of a business, which most companies seem to and certainly make statements about. Let’s invest in those people. Let’s give them the tools. I don’t think it acceptable to take somebody that’s never done recruitment, put them into a recruitment job, give them little or no practical training or exposure to the job, and expect the service level to be what we want it to be. We need to coach these people to interview. We need to coach these people to qualify candidates. We need to coach these people to give them [inaudible 00:19:00] and that comes as part of an investment in the people. So, for me investment in people first …


The second thing for me is fix your process, or improve your process, and the third thing is to implement the toolsets to support what you want to do as a company.


For me those are three big things that I’d like as a message to get out.


John Sumser: Got it. So would you reintroduce yourself to the audience and tell them how to get ahold of you?


Kelly Robinson: Yes. My name is Kelly Robinson and I am a Denver Bronco’s fan!


John Sumser: Thanks so much Kelly. It’s been great as usual to talk to you.


We’ve been talking to Kelly Robinson who is the CEO of Broadbean, and you’ve been listening to HRExaminer Radio. Thanks very much for your time. Have a great day, and thanks so much for being here Kelly. Bye bye now.


End transcript


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