Advice for Employers and Recruiters

Does marketing automation eliminate recruiter cold calls?

Shelby Konkel AvatarShelby Konkel
January 27, 2023

Welcome back to 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. 

The High Volume Hiring Podcast

In this week’s episode, host Steven Rothberg, College Recruiter’s Founder and Chief Visionary Officer, talks to Adam Gordon, founder of the first recruitment automation solution, Candidate.ID.  After selling the company to iCIMS, he became the Vice President of Marketing Automation Technology. Adam is also known for being a cohost of Recruiting Brainfood.

Listen to the full episode here:

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Steven (00:14):

Welcome to the High Volume Hiring podcast. I’m Steven Rothberg, the founder of Job Search, site College recruiter. We believe that every student in 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 Adam Gordon, who has been in recruitment for 23 years. He founded candidate ID and sold that business to iSims in March of last year. He then became its Vice President of Marketing Automation Technology. Adam, welcome to the show.

Adam (00:54):

Thank you very much, Steven. It’s great to be talking to you today.

Steven (00:57):

Absolutely. You and I have had the, the, the pleasure of being on a few webcasts and stuff like that, and so I was really excited when, when you were able to be a part of this. So, for the, for the listeners who don’t know Adam Gordon or the, the little bit that I introduced tell us a little bit about, about yourself. Your, your background, where you’ve come from, where you live, that kind of stuff.

Adam (01:20):

So, I started in recruitment in 1999. I started in, in an agency recruiting accountants on behalf of international employers in Scotland. And the reason I got into it was really simple. My, my calling was based on the fact that a friend of mine who was a year older, he’d been in recruitment for a year, and by that point he was already driving a Mercedes and <laugh>. That was very, very appealing to me. So that’s what, what brought me into this industry. But anyway, after about two years, I realized that I wasn’t that interested in interviewing the candidates, and I wasn’t that inter interested in sort of, you know, the administrative elements of coordinating things. But what I really loved was all of the talent attraction work. I loved turning up at like people’s leaving dues and handing out my business cards to all of their colleagues.


I loved cold contacting potential candidates. I loved advertising. I, I, I really enjoyed putting a three sentence advert into the back of the Glasgow Herald on a, it would appear on a Friday morning, and I’d get into work at eight o’clock in the morning crossing my fingers that the phone was already ringing <laugh>, and sometimes it was. And, and I thought, right, well, everybody’s interested today. What was the advert that I did today? Right. I put those keywords in it. Last week wasn’t quite so successful. What did I miss out? Why was the advert not quite as good? So after three years in the agency world, I, I moved into a recruitment marketing agency where I was working on employer branding for large, large companies like Morgan Stanley which I had a real privilege to work on helping them open contact centers in Scotland.


And I learned a lot about recruitment, marketing, about advertising. And I then spent three years at pwc in HR consulting before going back into the agency world as as marketing director for a, a very interesting business, which operated the largest one day every day contact center assessment. So every single day we had about 150 people came into the office and did some assessments, and about two and a half hours later, they’d leave the office and as they left, they’d be handed a slip and the slip would say, congratulations, you’re starting tomorrow with direct line. Congratulations. You’re starting tomorrow with quick fit. Not quite congratulations yet. You gotta work on these things. Come back tomorrow for training or for people who just didn’t have any suitable skills at all. It would be, sorry not for you. We recommend doing something different.


And my job as marketing director involved, looking at the whole experience for the, the candidates and, you know, what would get them referring their friends and what would get them telling people they’d had a great experience and wanting to come back time and time again. So that’s where I started getting real experience in the volume area. But after a couple of years of working in that, it was a very entrepreneurial business. And the c e o was an old friend of mine, and I learned quite a lot about building businesses from him. And so in 2009, I decided it was time for me to take the plunge myself. And so I built a talent sourcing business called Social Media Search. It wa you know, it was a good time because what we were offering was disruptive. We, I’d learned, I’d learned how to use, re use LinkedIn really well.


I’d learned how to s mine the internet for information. And most employers hadn’t, you know, there wasn’t many talent acquisition people at that time. You know, most, most recruitment was getting done by HR teams who were doing it off the side of their desk while, you know, doing other things as well. And, you know, I think that we were just ahead of the game. And so we built up this business. There was about 25 people in it. We became part of Norman Broadband, which is a London listed exec search firm. I was there for four years as, as a divisional managing director. And then during that period, we had the idea for candidate id. And in order to seed candidate id, I decided to undertake a management buyout. We bought social media search back and started to build a, a unique recruitment technology product in, in candidate id. And the one thing that’s been identical between building social media search and then building candidate ID was nobody else was doing it. And so they were both unique. And the thing that really drives me is being first to market, bringing things into the market, which is making recruitment better, either for candidates or for recruiters or for hiring managers, or ideally for all three. And, you know, I’m really driven by making, making talent acquisition better. And that’s my sort of why I remain in this industry and I really love it.

Steven (06:20):

Oh, that’s awesome. And you know, when you, when you were going through some of the early work h history, it really struck me that a lot of the recruitment marketing work that you were doing 15, 20 years ago to people who are new to our industry, it might be kind of like, well, so what? There’s a lot of people who do that, and they’re right. There are a lot of people who do that now. But not 20 years ago, recruitment marketing was really rare 20 years ago. I mean, you had people who were doing that work, but very few people whose entire job was recruitment marketing, or even, like you said, like talent acquisition. It was far more normal to have like an HR manager, an HR director who, you know, 20 hours a week they were working on, you know, payroll and benefits and then, you know, another couple hours a week breaking up fights in the lunchroom and then another couple of hours a week posting ads in newspapers. It, it just, it wasn’t the focus for, for very many people.

Adam (07:27):

This is, this is Right. And one, one thing I think I mean I I, I’m, I’m always reticent to see this, especially on an American podcast, but the truth is

Steven (07:39):


Adam (07:40):

Recruitment marketing and employer branding is a more mature discipline in the UK than it is in the usa Uhhuh <affirmative>.

Steven (07:47):


Adam (07:47):

Yeah, you know, I, I feel like every time I say that, it’s controversial, but people don’t tend to disagree with me. There are some agencies in the usa which are, you know, have got illustrious histories, which are as long as, as the history of the agencies that are in in the uk. And I’m thinking about shika recruitment marketing, for example. And you know, that’s a, that’s a third generation business now. And so it goes back a long time. But that’s very, that was very rare in the US and, you know, for servicing big metro metropolitan markets like say New York. Absolutely. That’s been something that has been a, you know, a a long established long established in the US but much more niche in the US because the difference between the UK and the US is the UK is considerably more populated than even the big states like California and New York and Texas. The, the,

Steven (08:47):

Yeah, the density, the density of population.

Adam (08:50):

Exactly. There’s 70 million people in a state that’s like, I don’t know about the size of California or something like that, or maybe even smaller, I can’t remember the land mass, but you know, 70 million people in a very small area. And as a result, you’ve actually gotta work a lot harder to try and get your company to the, into the minds of the people that you might want to hire. Cuz there’s so much competition. If you’re in the Netherlands, it’s even more intensified. That’s 17 million people in a land space half the size of Scotland. I mean, it’s really intensified there, whereas in the us because it’s so much more spread out you know, employers tend to be a bit more famous in the local area. So in most medium sized cities, there’s a handful of employers, which are, everybody knows them, everybody in the city knows them. And in the UK it’s just the co the competition’s too much, too much for that. So that’s, I think why the concept of recruitment marketing and employer branding took off. It might have taken off at the same time, but it probably took off on a more widespread basis in the uk and that’s why I, I agree with you 20 years ago is, is, is a long time ago to have been specializing in that area.

Steven (10:02):

We’ll be back right after this break.


Welcome Back to the high volume hiring podcast.


There are definitely things that are more advanced in, in the US than elsewhere in the world. Programmatic advertising for example, I think would be a really good example of that, where it has, it has really caught on in, in the uk, but there’s no doubt that it was much further ahead in, in, in the US for a while. But I’ve heard the same things about employment branding that, that it was much more mature, much more developed in, in the UK than it was in the US And, and some of the recruitment marketing agencies, like the Shakers, the raid agencies, et cetera, have looked wisely to the UK rather than trying to reinvent that wheel, what’s already been working, Hey, they’ve been doing this for 40 years maybe we should just look at what they’ve been doing. Right. and start there rather than trying to figure it out ourselves.

Adam (11:06):

I was just gonna say, it wasn’t unusual for a mention that we did employer branding from Morgan Stanley. I mean, this is an American company, but it wasn’t unusual for their, for their HR teams in the US to contact us and say, Hey, could you just tell us a bit more about like, why we decided on doing your advertising in this way and why have you, you know, because they, they just weren’t necessarily doing the same things and they, they were looking to learn, but certainly a lot of American businesses were our customers for

Steven (11:34):

Sure. Yeah, yeah. And, and yeah, some small nuances and campaigns. What, what color is the ad? Where, where is the call to action positioned? What is the call to action? What are the words that are used and can make huge differences. It’s not just about running an ad and you get applicants or not. It’s, you have to test, test, test. And it’s, it sounds like, you know, you certainly, you certainly did that when running ads in the Glasgow newspaper that that last week’s didn’t work that well, this week’s did. What, what are the differences? So it might simply have been the week, well, you ran one during the ho holiday week and another one not. But it might simply have been one had the phone number at the end of the ad and the other one had the phone number in the middle of the ad. I mean, just little nuances like that can make a big difference. So you’ve obviously got a really strong recruitment, marketing background. No surprise then about the founding of candidate id, the success of candidate id the, the exit a little less than a year ago to, to our friends at iSims. For the listeners who don’t know much about candidate id maybe you can explain sort of what it is and, and what recruitment marketing automation is, because I think those things, those two things very much go together. Yeah,

Adam (12:49):

Absolutely. So I wanna, I wanna refer, I guess to the sort of mainstream definition of marketing automation because in our industry, people are using it in a way which is a bit broader than really the kind of pedigree way of using it. We took our inspiration from mainstream marketing automation products like Pardot, Marketo, Eloqua and

Steven (13:14):

Hub HubSpot.

Adam (13:16):

Hubspot’s not really a thoroughbred. Hubspot is a C R M website product, a bit of marketing automation. It’s kind of a bit of all of these things. The, the thoroughbred, the thoroughbreds that we really took the most inspiration from woulda been Pardot and Marketo. And the, the, the, what they do is they allow marketers to distribute campaigns multi-channel. And the difference between marketing automation and say a CRM is that a marketing automation product will track all of the clicks from the email right through to landing pages on social media and then onto the company’s website as well. It will track those clicks and link them to a named individual. If you’re trying to do the same thing with a crm, you’ll get to know who opened the email and you’ll get to know if they cl if they clicked a link on the email.


Beyond that, you’re not gonna be able to know that Adam clicked on these different things while Steven clicked on these different things. All you get is a, a counter of numbers, the number of people who did it beyond the email, you don’t get anything else until the person applied. And when the person applies, then you get to see where did they come from bef at the point that they applied. But you don’t get to see what they did around the landing pages. You don’t get to see what they did around the crm, around the, sorry, the social media. You don’t get to see what, what other pages though those individuals clicked and what videos they watched and you know, what job descriptions they looked at. You get to see the numbers of people, but you don’t get to see exactly who, so that’s one of the, one of the key things that marketing automation does.


The second thing it does is it scores all of those clicks so that, I mean, one person can make 10 clicks and they’re on 10 points. Another person can make 10 clicks and they’re on 50 points because the, the value of the clicks that they’re making suggests that they’re deeper into their journey. So if I’m clicking 10 links, which are all surface level content about a company’s mission, it’s products and things like that, then that doesn’t suggest I’m ready for a conversation. But if I’m starting to click on things like job descriptions and, you know, a day in the life of and things like that, then I’m clearly deeper into my journey and I’m starting to look at, I’m starting to try and picture myself in that organization. Would I like to work here? So, you know, there, there are, we think about it as top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, bottom of the funnel content, and at top of the funnel content, like here’s skills for software engineers that’s gonna generate maybe one point, but bottom of the funnel content, like the software engineer job description, that’s gonna generate maybe 10 points.


It’s a much, much higher, more meaningful interaction. So that’s the 2, 2, 2 of the main things that, that is unique about marketing automation.

Steven (16:42):

Yeah, that’s a great explanation and it really resonates with me. We use Pardot. And for the, for the listeners who, who aren’t familiar with it it is a, it’s a company that Salesforce acquired, boy, I don’t know, probably about eight years ago. Something like that,

Adam (16:57):


Steven (16:58):

Ah, okay. So I wasn’t all that far off. Yeah,

Adam (17:00):

It’s pretty

Steven (17:00):

Good nine ago. Yeah. not, not, not not bad for covid date memories when we all have had, have had trouble remembering, what was that, two weeks ago, or two years ago, can’t remember. But the, what, how we use it at, at college recruiter on the customer side is very similar to how you’re describing it. We have all of our employer contacts, potential customers, existing customers, previous customers in Salesforce, and we have a score and a grade for every single contact. The the grade is how interested are we in them, how likely is it that we think they’re gonna become a big customer? That’s based on things like the size of the organization geographically, you know, if it’s a US company versus a company in India, things like that. The job title of the individual and then like you’re talking about the score, the way we describe it is that it, that’s how interested they are in us.


So yeah, if, if, if the employer clicks just to go to our homepage, that’s great. That’s interesting. They’re, they’re interested in us and we might add 10 to their score, and then that score just kind of accumulates over time. On the other hand, if they click to our pricing page, that that’s another level of interest and much higher if they do something like purchase from us online or attend a user conference that we’re hosting that they, you know, they’re registering for something that’s a whole other level. So then we might add 200 points and then that triggers for our sales team. If the grade is high and the score is high, that triggers a lead for our sales team. So on the recruitment side, if the candidate has a high grade and has a high score, it can trigger a lead for the recruiter and say, you know, hey Cindy, Fred over here who’s a software engineer and who has received a series of eight of our emails right now, we’re really, we continue to be interested in him, but he is now really interested in us. So if you had picked up the phone and called him two days ago, he may not have had enough interest, but he just clicked on a link to, to look at a job posting. And so if you pick up the phone right now and call him, there’s a really good chance that you’re gonna get him to move or to actually complete that application. It makes life so much more efficient and effective for the recruiter.

Adam (19:33):

The, the parallel that you’ve just drawn there between recruitment and like how your company uses Pardot to serve up hot sales leads to your, your sales team is exactly the conversation that my co-founder at candidate id Scott McCrae and I had in a cafe in summer 2015 where he was telling me all about Mar I was telling him about my, my challenges with how do we track l engagement, and I knew that that was something we needed in recruitment. And he was talking to me all about marketing automation and we just got out, he just drew some stuff out about mainstream sales and marketing. I drew out the same thing, but about talent attraction and we just like showed each other and it was almost a direct overlap. So we went, yeah, there’s something here. We really need to build something. And you know, it’s if you were to, if you were not using Pardot, then Salesforce on its own might be able to tell you how many people were clicking on different things, but it’s not gonna allocate those points to named individuals.


And that might sound like something like a niche piece of information, but it’s really not, it changes the game for salespeople in the same way that it changes the game for recruiters. They don’t want to go and find a hundred people on LinkedIn and try and contact a hundred people. They’re much better off starting with a list of 100 people who they can filter by an engagement score, like a real-time engagement score. And when they’ve got that, what we’ve found is that they can reduce their time to shortlist by 50%. So we’ve got good data around the effectiveness of this type of approach.

Steven (21:13):

Yeah, I, I heard one person in fairness to them, I won’t name them, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re, if they’re a customer of candidate, its <laugh>. But the way that they described it is, is contacting not just the, putting the right opportunity in front of the right candidate, which traditionally is what talent acquisition strives to do, but also at the right time that people, people go from being somewhat passive to somewhat active in their job search, depending upon things like, was their boss a jerk to them today or not? So, you know, you get into work on a Monday and you might be super happy and at four o’clock in the afternoon your boss is just an absolute jerk. And so you’ve gone from, I have no interest in looking for a job to honey, I can’t spend another day there.


And if, then, then, and then if you start to search and click and go to the employer’s site and look at a job posting and that triggers for the recruiter some kind of a notification email, a task, whatever. Hey, this person that we’ve been sending content to for the last two years, now they’re interested. So that’s awesome. So before we bef run at a time wanted to ask you about the use of marketing automation in the space that college recruiter is in, which is the early careers, but also how that really overlaps with the high volume hiring spaces. So you know, obviously feel free to mention by name like some of some of the clients of candidate ID or just describe them generically, but the ones who are doing a lot of high volume, how, how are they using candidate id for, for their marketing automation? Well,

Adam (22:57):

There are several major organizations using it in the early career space. And there are lots in high volume areas in, in industries like construction and healthcare for example. And one of the, one of the, one of the biggest benefits of being able to track and score exactly what each individual is doing is that that means you can set up marketing workflows which adapt for the individual with every click that they make. So using other technologies, you’ve gotta do a batch and blast approach and you can be intelligent about it and you can set out journeys and you can use personas and you can try and work out what’s logically most likely to work. And you can then track how many people are clicking the different links and you can then work out, you know, what was effective and what wasn’t. And you can adapt and iterate with a marketing automation system, you can set up multiple branches of those campaigns so that Adam and Steven both get an email, Steven clicks, they both open the email, Stephen clicks on a link, which is about skills for people in our industry and then clicks on to watch a video about skills for people in our industry but does nothing else.


So the next, automatically the next step for Stephen is two weeks later he gets another email because we know he opens emails cuz he did it two weeks ago and it’s about p skills for people in our industry and it’s more of the same sort of stuff that he was interested in last time. It’ll give him the opportunity to click on other types of things, but if he keeps just looking at skills for people in our industry, that’s what he’ll keep getting. Adam clicks on Skills for people in our industry watches the same video that Steven did, but then goes onto the career site, starts looking at Job does a job search does not yet apply. What Adam gets next is one day later a message from a recruiter to say, Hey, should we talk about opportunities at our company and find out how you fit in?


And I’m like, well actually that’s a real, you know, good timing cuz I was looking at opportunities at your company. Am I gonna see this as a fluke? I’m gonna, I’m gonna see this as, you know, the stars aligning or am I gonna know there’s some automation and tracking happening in there? Whichever way it is, the timing’s probably quite good. So this is just an example with two people, but you can set this up, you can have a million people in your talent pipelines all getting a million different experiences based on the workflows that you’ve created. Now what we know is if the experience appears more personalized, the people are more likely to keep clicking. And you know, when you’ve got a volume of people, first of all, your recruiters are not gonna start talent sourcing in the healthcare and construction and contact center areas.


They’re, they’re going to have to rely on inward in inbound contact. So if you can set out better journeys and better experiences, there’s going to be more appropriate inbound contact in the early career space. I I I’m gonna, it’s not necess early careers and like age is not entirely synonymous, but it, it, it, it normally is, it’s people who are typically late, late teens, early twenties, they’re probably entering the workforce And you know, as we know in 2023, an 18 year old in 2023 is very, very demanding about the type of experience that they expect because they’re used to TikTok and they’re used to Instagram and they’re used to technologies that are serving them totally personalized things. So, you know, they’re a, their interest in wading through content to find the right thing is zero. And so the more personalized the experience for people who are certainly 35 and under, you know, I mean, I’m, I’m a lot, I’m, I’m a bit more, this is really what I’m about to say might be a bit of a stereotype, but the older somebody is the less demanding they are about the experiences they’re getting.


And I know that’s the generalization, but the truth is, the younger somebody is, they want, they want things instantly. And so if you’re giving them a better experience because it’s automated then and it’s more personalized as a result, then just they’re gonna keep clicking. More of them are gonna keep clicking and they’re gonna develop a better relationship with your organization as a result.

Steven (27:36):

Yeah, a a absolutely. And you know, for the, for the listeners who aren’t familiar with with marketing automation, they’re probably thinking, wow, this sounds like a ton of work and there is more work upfront, no doubt in setting out those journeys and it’s just sort of like a continual revision. But then the amount of time that you save by not contacting people who they write, you know, it’s the right job, it’s the right candidate, but there’s no way that they’re gonna be moving to you at this point in time, maybe six months from now, maybe six years from now, but the time that you save in contacting people who say it’s not the right time is just ridiculous. So Adam, before we leave off listeners who wanna get more information about about Adam Gordon, about candidate id about iSims, where, where would you send them?

Adam (28:32):

So best place to go is for me personally, I’m on LinkedIn. I’m quite easy to find, if you just look up Adam Gordon iSims and Candidate ID is now known as iSims Marketing Automation. So you’ll get more information by going onto and then clicking on the products tab and it’ll bring you down to my marketing automation. You’ll get more there. There are lots of, if you, if you go on onto YouTube, there’s lots and lots of historical videos and things like that On my, on my Twitter as well, I’m an Adam underscore w underscore Gordon. There’s lots and lots of things like videos and high to guides and stuff like that. Although candidate ideas no longer a brand Google it and there will be historic loads of historical reference points that are all pro, probably, probably completely valid just as much as they were when they were created two years ago or three years ago.

Steven (29:31):

Oh yeah. And I’m, I’m sure the very smart people in the iSims marketing department have figured out a way of, of getting people from the candidate ID pages over to over to the, the new pages that, that they have. So it’s been great. Well, this has been a real pleasure. Thank you very much. And the next time that we’re in person the Pint is on me. Yeah,

Adam (29:50):

Absolutely. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you and thanks very much for

Steven (29:54):

Having me. Cheers.


Thanks for joining us today on the High Volume Hiring podcast. I’m your host Steven Rothberg of job search Site college recruiter. Each year we help more than 12 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 at The High Volume Hiring podcast is 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 want to learn more about how best to hire at scale. Cheers.

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