Advice for Employers and Recruiters

What corporate employers can learn from staffing companies with Jon Beck of Ursus and host Steven Rothberg, College Recruiter’s Founder and Chief Visionary Officer

Shelby Konkel AvatarShelby Konkel
September 22, 2022


Welcome back to another episode of the High Volume Hiring Podcast, the podcast that features news tips, case studies, and interviews with the world’s leading experts about the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to high-volume hiring. In this week’s episode, host Steven Rothberg, Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of College Recruiter interviews Jon Beck, the Founder and CEO of Ursus, Inc., and host of the Hiring University podcast. Ursus is a technical and creative staffing provider based in the San Francisco Bay area.

High Volume Hiring Podcast

Steven and Jon discuss some of the experiences they’ve had over the years while running fully remote companies. Both Ursus and College Recruiter chose to be fully remote years before Covid, so both know the importance of building a strong leadership team. With new expectations that tech and creative departments will be working closely together, hiring well-qualified managers has become challenging. Steven and Jon know this process quite well, and offer some of their own teachable moments.

Finally, Jon offers three pieces of advice to large organizations that are hiring at scale.

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TRANSCRIPT

Speaker 1 (00:11):

Welcome to the High Volume Hiring podcast. I’m Steven Rothberg, the founder of College Recruiter job search site at college recruiter. We believe that every student and recent grad deserves a great career. This podcast features news tips, case studies and interviews with the world’s leading experts about the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to high volume hiring. Thanks for joining us. Today’s guest is John Beck, the host of the hiring university podcast and founder and CEO of IA, a technical and creative staffing provider located in the San Francisco bay area. John, welcome to the show.

Speaker 2 (00:49):

Hi Steven. Thanks for having me.

Speaker 1 (00:51):

So before we kind of get into the meat of the conversation, tell the listeners a little bit about yourself and what you’ve been up to.

Speaker 2 (00:57):

Sure. So as you noted, I’m the founder and CEO of CHES. We are in year seven of our journey as I like to refer to it. And you, you mentioned that we’re based in the bay area and that’s true. That’s where I sit. However, our company is remote and has been before. It was cool. Five years ago we made a decision to take the company remote. And so we have employees scattered across the United States. And it’s a model that’s worked really well for us and we’ve gotten pretty good at it. And you, you also mentioned, we focus on technical and creative staffing, which is a true statement. However, we also are trying to promote the concept of the digital transformation movement, particularly within staffing. And what I mean by that is, is really the, the movement or, or the, the, what we’re seeing in the market, where the tech and creative leadership, the CMOs office and the CIO or CTO are working more closely than ever before. And that has an impact on jobs job descriptions and actually trying to find this talent that thinks that way, as opposed to a more siloed approach where they’re just on the marketing side or just on the technical side.

Speaker 1 (02:05):

Well, and I love the, that you used the word siloed. That was exactly the word that came to my mind. So I guess, I guess my apologies to you because apparently we think alike. But I, you know, we’re both old enough to remember those days where like the CTOs very often sat in a different facility or even if they were in the same facility, they were really separate from the business and that’s right. It was, it was like this, you know, oh, don’t go into that room. That’s where the computers are, stay away.

Speaker 2 (02:33):

That’s right. If you think about that perspective, the CIO or CTO now is expected to deliver a consumer Amazonian like experience for their users, whether they’re internal or external. And conversely, the CMOs office now has a tech stack, a Markcom stack that is dozens of applications. And so you can’t just be one or the other, you have to really live with both worlds and there’s that, there’s that symbiosis. They need each other now. And as they think about building teams, that that conversation is happening more and more often in what we’re seeing.

Speaker 1 (03:09):

Yeah. And, and I think I would, well, totally agree with that. I would expand that to include other departments too, right. HR subset of that in most organizations, talent acquisition, they have their tech stack too. They have their issues with how to market and the organizations that are heavily siloed. And, and I worked in one E eons ago, I worked for a fortune 500. That was very siloed and it’s in today’s world. It’s, it’s dysfunctional. It, it just takes forever to get anything done. You have to go up to the CEO to get help from tech or HR or marketing or whatever it might be. And business doesn’t move at the speed of molasses business moves at the speed of light that’s

Speaker 2 (03:55):

Right. And, and, and if light can go faster, it’s going even faster. Right. that’s not

Speaker 1 (03:59):

Slow well, that’s, that’s a conversation for the Einstein podcast and I’ve

Speaker 2 (04:06):

Reached my limit right there.

Speaker 1 (04:07):

yeah, I was gonna say there, there might be one person on today’s show who might be qualified to be on that podcast. And it ain’t the one who’s talking right now, but so question for you. So, you know, I think pretty much by definition, almost almost all staffing companies hire at scale is, is they’re typically hiring dozens, hundreds, sometimes even thousands in any given time, would you agree with that?

Speaker 2 (04:32):

I would. And, and, and that makes us unique in terms of how we think about the market versus an internal or corporate recruiter, but I’ll, I think it feels like there’s a follow on question coming in here.

Speaker 1 (04:41):

Well, gosh, yeah, maybe. Yeah. so the, the follow, the follow on question it’s, it’s, you know, for the listeners, John cannot actually see the script the prompts that, that I have, but I do feel like he’s sort of looking through my eyeballs it’s like that. Gosh, what was it? Bean John Milkovich movie. Yes. From like 20 years ago. It’s I, I kind of feel like we having that experience right now. So follow on question. When you look at how staffing companies like IUs recruit and then how fortune 1000 companies, government agencies, and other let’s call them traditional employers recruit, what differences do you see? I

Speaker 2 (05:29):

Think that there’s pros and cons, I’ll start with that. In terms of, of what we’re seeing and how we’re looking at the market. On the pro side, we have the advantage of a broader view of what’s happening out in the world. We deal with hundreds of clients, we see patterns across those clients in terms of the types of jobs that they’re looking for, the challenge that they’re having to, to find talent, to fill those roles you know, the macro market conditions across the very bots, broad spectrum the, the con, and maybe con’s not the right way to say it. The, the challenge for us is that we don’t necessarily know and never will know an organization, as well as they’ll know themselves all the ins and out, and, and the uniqueness of their culture and, and the way that they operate socially.

we try and we have a lot of conversations around that, and that’s a big part of our, of our representation of, of those companies, but we’ll never know them as well as they know themselves. So when you look at who’s gonna be most effective to find that talent you know, the, I always am a big advocate of doing both. I think it’s limiting to say we’re only gonna have internal recruiting and not use agencies or vice versa. The market is so competitive right now that if you know, not using all of your available resources or options, I believe is a mistake. And, and we, we appreciate and acknowledge that we, we know that our, our clients have internal resources and sometimes we’ll get a job that they’ll be working on themselves. And it’s up to us to decide whether we’re gonna put forth the resources or prioritize to, to try to fill that role or think that they can do it better internally. So that’s from the, from the selling to the, to the marketplace, as a recruiter, the, the differences are the same as well, too. If you’re internal corporate you’re going to intimately know your business, but you may be doing the same thing or working on the same job over and over again, versus agency where you have an opportunity to, to, to represent and work on a lot of different things. And so there’s no right or wrong there, they’re just different.

Speaker 1 (07:32):

Yeah. And, and I, I was struck by your answer, how similar it is in the world that I’m in, which is job boards. So you, as a job board operator, you definitely get to see similarities and differences between clients sometimes in different industries, sometimes in different geographic markets, different types of occupational fields. And other times, really the same. You have two fast food companies hiring for the same kind of role and the same Metro area. And one is meeting with a lot of success. And the other one they’re just like beating their head against a brick wall. And then we do have that opportunity to take a more macro view and to see, okay, why is one succeeding in one is failing? Is it the brand? Is it the salary? Is it, you know, one has a CEO with a Sterling reputation and the other one is, you know, should be locked up someplace.

It, it, there, there are differences between those organizations. And then I would imagine you and your team can, would then do what we would do is that, that is you would share those with the client. You know, you’re not gonna say, Hey, we also work with X, Y, Z corporation, and here are their corporate secrets, but there are plenty of opportunities as a staffing company. I would think to say, you know, we have have a lot of different clients and we have clients that have recruiting needs very similar to yours. And we’ve learned that X, Y, and Z really succeed with this kind of role. And so you’re able to knowledge share with, with your clients. And sometimes they’re gonna be receptive to that. And, and sometimes they’re just not sometimes for very good reasons, like you say, they know their business better than you could ever hope to.

Speaker 2 (09:18):

And you mentioned a couple of the big reasons why one company may have success and the other doesn’t, there’s a myriad of smaller, but yet very important reasons why there could be success or not success too job description, right? Everyone’s looking at the same job boards, right? What are you doing to entice and really spice up entice and, and spice that’s that just rolls off the tongue as people are scrolling through job options you know, that, that is a big, big deal that a lot of people overlook, they take the same job description that somebody created probably years ago and has been replicated dozens of times. And, and just throw it up there for the world to see that’s a missed opportunity hiring process. Are you re do you really have a well defined, crisp, efficient process that you can articulate to the candidate to say, we’re starting our journey. Here are the steps that you should expect to the point where we are going to offer you or not. All those little steps are so critically important that I’m just astounded at how many really well established companies miss them or don’t spend the time to really refine them as part of their process. So that makes as much a difference as everything too.

Speaker 1 (10:42):

Yeah. We all have our teachable moments. I guess you could say we once were hiring a, a leader to, you know head up one of our departments and we put this poor soul through eight separate interviews and lo and behold lost him. That was a teachable moment. Now when we’re interviewing, it’s no more than two. And I mean, if we, if we don’t know by two interviews that this person is right or wrong, then you know, we have no business hiring that person. So the job description thing, I, I also agree with. I see, I see over and over and over again, job descriptions, which they accurately communicate what the job is and what kind of person the organization is looking for, but they give the candidate really no reason to apply. It’s like, okay, I see that I’m qualified.

That’s right. Sometimes I see what it pays, but a lot of times, not even that, why would I apply to this job rather than the similar job by a similar organization across the street where they’re painting a picture of the team I’m gonna work with what it’s gonna be like to work there. They’re probably even telling me what I’m gonna be paid for my labor. I mean, gosh, what a, what a concept that I should be paid for the work I do and the, you can call it transparency. But and I think there is some of that, right, but some of it is just, it it’s, it’s laziness at times with, with job ad writing. And if this process is gonna take months to hire the right person, can you not invest an hour in, in communicating? What is really like to work there?

Speaker 2 (12:32):

If, if that, if an hour I’ll, I’ll give you a, a perfect example and you could apply this to any job. We do a lot of work in the technology space. We’ll see job descriptions that will come over and say, software engineer and title is the first place to make an impression. So there are dozens, if not hundreds of programming languages out there software engineer for what what, which programming language are you looking to hire for? That’s the start. And then as you go through the description, what are the actual specific things that you’re asking this person to do? Talk about the project, talk about the team, talk about the uniqueness of the organization. And, and, and you can, you can set tone or convey tone in a job description, the way that you write it, is it bone dry, boring, you know, very factual, or does it have some color to it?

that is unique in highlighting the way that the company thinks. And you know, there’s just so many opportunities to leave a market impression in a hypercompetitive job market. I mean, people talk about, you know, the hiring or the interviewing process and getting people to the table, you know, the job, the job board piece is the start of it. There’s, you know, there are more job what’s the, you know, this better than I do in terms of the number of job openings versus applicants. That’s your, that’s your window, that’s your front door saying, come in and take a look. So it’s, it’s just, it’s, it’s amazing that people don’t don’t do more of that. And we counsel our clients all the time less and internally, cuz sometimes it’s human nature. We get lazy too. Steven we’re we’ll have somebody just input it and we’ll say what, you know, you just took something that somebody else gave you and, and assume that that’s what it is, challenge it and look at it and, and and, and, and, and, and edit it as appropriate.

Speaker 1 (14:13):

Well, I’m, I I’m sure. You’re not saying that you or your team have ever made any mistakes at any time. Cuz that’s, that’s just a, that, that rabbit crazy talk. we, we, the reality is we all, we all make mistakes every day and there’s nothing wrong with it, right? It’s just make, make a mistake, learn from it, be better the next time. And so, you know, some of the stuff that you and I are sharing here, it’s, it’s from lessons hard learned. We’ve, we’ve made a lot of these mistakes ourselves question for you. So if let’s say that tomorrow you were hired to lead talent acquisition by a large organization that is hiring at scale, what would be the first three things that you would wanna make sure that they’re doing?

Speaker 2 (14:59):

I think we’ve, I think we’ve touched on a few of them. The first one though, was process to really take a look at the process and that can mean the, the, the steps number of interviews. Is there a tracking system in place? Again, it it’s amazing, very mature household name companies have no applicant tracking system no way to track the candidates that are coming inbound and going through the process and, and, you know, providing you know, information if they reapply and, and, and, you know, just, you have to have a process in place. Especially if you’re dealing with a lot of stakeholders that are making decisions based on budget, you know involved in the hiring process. We can’t assume that everybody sits in the same office these days and can, you know, can convey or share information around the water cooler.

so, so process would be number one. The second one is really, you know, identifying and mapping what the company’s mission and culture is to that process. Every time you have an opportunity to touch a candidate, are you conveying and selling? Cuz it let’s be honest. This is a sales opportunity who the company is, what they do and how they do it to, to the applicant and, and making that really embedded and part of your DNA for your entire talent and acquisition team. So those are the first two, the third one, I, I, I I’d probably have to sit back and assess after I’d done the first two to see what else needed to, to, to happen. But I guess actually I do know it is, is, is really impressing upon. And this is constant. It’s not a one time event, but impressing upon your stakeholders, who are the hiring managers, what your process is and how you’re presenting the company and challenging them when they come forward and say, I have a job rack for you to fill that they ha are prepared to meet the criteria that you’ve set for the team yourself.

don’t just send me a list of bullets, you know let’s if you, if you can’t write a job description or don’t know how we’ll help you do it and, and understand the process and be prepared to participate in it, because that’s another thing, if you don’t have buy in from your stakeholders, you can have the best process in the world and, you know, marry your gym, isn’t available for the interview and isn’t making that a priority because they just don’t think it is and a week goes by and what happens the candidate moves on and takes another job. So that’s constant as well too. And it’s a hard job. You know, people underestimate, you know, HR and talent, as you know, they’re just, you know, shuffling resumes around it is, it is a, it is a sales job first and foremost, and a big operations job as well, too. So I have a lot of respect for our internal clients.

Speaker 1 (17:33):

Oh yeah. And, and absolutely, and in, in this kind of a labor market, whether you, you call it a labor shortage or a mismatch or whatever, this is, this is unlike anything that most hiring managers, talent, acquisition, people, HR have, have ever, ever experienced, you know, traditional, traditional labor market. And I think I’m probably preaching to the choir here. You know, you, you post a job and within days or a couple weeks you get, you know, 50 applications and 10 of them are probably really good and you have your pick and if it takes you two weeks or four weeks or eight weeks to get back to the person with a, with an offer, you’re fine because the reality is they didn’t get another offer. But now with so many rules, you know, especially some of the stuff that you’re dealing with, they’re, you know, they, they just put out to the market.

It’s like, Hey, you know, I’m looking for, I’m a full stack developer and I’m looking for this kind of work. And they, the phone rings and they’ve got three different offers there. So the, the, that that time to hire, which of course is broken down into a lot of different steps is just so much tighter than, than it used to be. We, when we are hiring people now, you know, if we can’t go from the point where they apply, until the point where we’re extending an offer in a week, then we know there’s a really good chance that we’re gonna lose that person. And, and the reality is we don’t, we shouldn’t need more than a week if, if the, if the hiring manager and the recruiter are really engaged with that opportunity, it really shouldn’t take a long time. Sometimes background checks, security, clearances, stuff like that.

Like one of our clients is a big federal government agency, and everybody has to go through the extensive FBI check. Well, you know, that’s kind of outta your hands, but, but those candidates know that they expect that. But you’re still gonna lose some because if it, it literally takes them a year and a half to go from the point of application to higher, and they just know that that’s just part of the struggle they have, and they’re going to end up losing people because most people can’t wait a year and a half to, to, to take a new job. So so last question and that is listers who want more information about you, what you do, whatever where would you like them to contact you?

Speaker 2 (19:57):

Sure. So the best way to get in touch with me is on LinkedIn. I’m, I’m fairly active as is the company and it’s it’s John. No, H J O N Beck at SIS U are S U. And for those that are curious, SIS is Latin for bear. I’m a Cal Berkeley grad go golden bears go bears.

Speaker 1 (20:19):

Ah, so

Speaker 2 (20:20):

That is where the name comes from and SISs is fairly unique. So there are not that many S is out there and it should be pretty easy to find me. And then you can find if you’re interested in a job opportunity I encourage you to visit us@sisinc.com. So we post our jobs update jobs, literally hourly. So I encourage you to go there and, and take a look

Speaker 1 (20:38):

Awesome, especially, and especially for people who are looking for that remote opportunity, if they’re gonna be working with SIS or remote or in person, if they’re gonna be looking to work for, for one of your clients. Well, thank you very much for joining us today on the high volume hiring podcast, it’s a co-production of evergreen podcasts and college recruiter. Please subscribe for free on your favorite app, review it. Five stars are always nice and recommend it to a couple of people. You know, who might wanna learn more about how best to hire dozens or even hundreds of people, a special thanks to our producer and engineer, Ian Douglas, I’m your host, Steven Rothberg of job search site college recruiter. Each year, we help more than 7 million candidates find great new jobs. Our customers are primarily fortune 1000 companies, government agencies, and other employers who hire at scale and advertise their jobs with us. You can reach me@stephencollegerecruiter.com. Cheers.

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