Don’t just look to the next roadblock, the bigger picture is always more important.

Our guest Matt Tague, Director of Customer Talent Advisory at Gem, talks about the uncertainty of the recruiting industry.  Everyone seems to have hit the nuclear reactor “shutoff switch”, and are making bad recession decisions out of fear. A lot of organizations seem to have turned off their recruiting pipeline which could have very bad long term consequences.

Some of these bad recession decisions are so short sighted that these companies could be getting bit in the rear by their quick calls to trim their recruiting teams. Surprisingly, recruiters are not just a resource you need when you have jobs to fill. They also play an important role in sustaining candidate networks for when you need them. Getting hiring back online after its been completely shut down is going to cause you a bigger headache than if you kept that part of your organization intact.

This HR Tech 2022 series is sponsored and made possible by our friends at Gem!

Quotes on Bad Recession Decisions by Matt Tague:

“Nuclear reactors always have an emergency switch. You hit that switch, everything turns off in an instant. And so, teams (and finance teams especially) have hit that switch right now.  How many jobs are we going to have? We don’t know.”

“TA leaders have often thought like sales professionals, closing the deal, making Reqs complete. Whether you’re an agency or internal, we need to shift how we’re thinking to be more like marketers. We need to think for scale, about driving that awareness, and about building engagement over time. That’s a radical mindset shift, and it’s going to require change in this space.”


Matt Tague
Director of Customer Talent Advisory Gem

I believe that working to retain and hire top talent is the single most important and productive pathway to the success of any organization! Partnering with companies and hiring managers to develop effective recruiting strategy and employment branding directly impacts the bottom line.


Introduction 1 (00:03):

School is in session. This is RecruitingDaily’s Sourcing School podcast. We’re recording from HR Tech in Vegas. Thanks to our friends and partners at Gem. Sharpen your pencils and get your sourcing pants on, because we have the scoop on sourcing news, recruiting tech, and all the hot topics that you need to learn about. Here’s your professor, Ryan Leary, with special guests Shally Steckerl and Mike Batman Cohen.

Ryan Leary (00:29):

Oh, yes. We are still here. It is HR tech day two. And this is a really fun interview we get to do right now. Because we’ve been treated so warmly by Gem. We’re sitting in their booth. They literally built out a little sound booth. It’s got three walls to protect from the sound, we got a really big comfy table, we’ve got an espresso machine here. I like to think it’s just for us, it’s not, but it’s fantastic. So, it’s really great to now be able to pay a little forward, and be able to talk with you.

And Matt, I’ll let you introduce yourself in just a second. But what I love about this, and this is the second interview that we’ve done with Gem, and in both, in talking I normally say, “Hey, let’s not make it pitchy.” And in both, both you and Joe were like, “Yeah, but let’s not talk about Gem. Let’s actually talk about something that’s going to help people.” And that’s how you opened, and so I’m really excited. Matt, why don’t you introduce yourself, tell people about you, tell people about Gem if they haven’t heard about it.

Matt Tague (01:28):

Awesome, yeah. I appreciate the introduction, and super excited to be here. So, quick background for me, I’ve been in the TA space for 15 plus years. Spent some time in executive search, I’ve had leadership roles in TA, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Lyft, a variety of opportunities-

Ryan Leary (01:41):

Those little guys.

Matt Tague (01:42):

Yeah, those little companies up in Seattle there. And so, I’ve seen the space. I’ve been around for a long time. In my current role at Gem, I lead what we call our strategic services team. So, we have the opportunity to work with our customers day in and day out, see what they’re facing, get a front line view of really the pulse of talents. So, we’re in a unique position to do that. And decided to share a little bit about what we’re seeing, and what we recommend people do today based off of that.

Ryan Leary (02:07):

Yeah. You guys are one of, if not the leader in this space, CRM candidate engagement tracking. So, you deal with a bunch of companies ranging from smaller tech companies to Fortune 100 companies.

Matt Tague (02:24):


Ryan Leary (02:24):

So you’ve got a pretty good perspective what’s going on as to kind of what’s going on out there, what’s actually happening, and maybe what’s being hyped up a little bit. And so, I don’t want to carry out this, because we’ve spoken about it quite a bit now. But where are things at right now? What is going on?

Matt Tague (02:42):

Yeah. That is the question, right? And I think this’ll come as no surprise to you, but I think what we’re seeing is there’s a lot of uncertainty out there. I think speaking as a practitioner has been in the space, I think folks are wondering what’s next, how to best prepare for that, and really how to make the most of this time. I think we had talked about, leading up to this session, that I think of it like a nuclear reactor. And I know most folks listening to this aren’t going to be super familiar with…

Ryan Leary (03:08):

A what?

Matt Tague (03:13):

A nuclear reactor.

Ryan Leary (03:15):


Matt Tague (03:15):

So, let me break it down. Basically when you think about it, nuclear reactors always have an emergency switch. You hit that switch, everything turns off in an instant, it’s a safety switch. And so, functionally teams and finance teams especially have hit that switch right now. And we’re all seeing that. How many jobs are we going to have? We don’t know.

Ryan Leary (03:34):


Matt Tague (03:34):

[inaudible 00:03:34] been harder to plan and forecast than it ever has been. And so what we see is, as a consequence, teams are making decisions based off of that. But a lot of them are shortsighted decisions that will hurt them when things come back online, which we all know that they will. So, that’s really what we’re seeing now, is a lot of uncertainty, a lot of reactive motions, that may not set teams up for success in the next six to 12 months or beyond when things do come back. Which we all hope and know that they will eventually.

Ryan Leary (04:02):

Yeah. You know, Matt, let’s touch on that for a second. Because I think it’s something that… I’m not a financial advisor. Talk me through about investment, but it’s also true just in general market economy. Which is to say, how do you know for a fact that the economy will in fact bounce back?

Matt Tague (04:21):

Yeah. I think the data shows it. I mean, no one knows for certain. Past performance does not predict future results. But at the same time, if you look at historically all of the things that we’ve all seen and been through, 2008, many crashes here or there, tech bubble, those all seemed cataclysmic at the time. I wouldn’t argue that what we’re seeing now is not even anywhere near most of those. And things came back. They always come back differently. They may look different and may feel different, but they do come back. And I think we’ve seen that bear out over time in history.

Ryan Leary (04:52):

Yeah. And I think that’s the exact point, and that was made to me as well. It’s like, “Hey, think of every economic downturn we have ever faced. Do you know how many of them came back, and typically came back stronger? 100% of them.” And people think and feel like, “Oh, it’s going to be forever.” But the worst one in our history as a country, The Great Depression.

Matt Tague (05:15):


Ryan Leary (05:16):

The economic turnaround from that was under four years. To get back to crazier than it was before that, four years.

Matt Tague (05:26):

Exactly. And that’s why it’s critical that teams don’t maintain a shortsighted approach of just stopping things, doing a cold shut down right now, because of that dynamic. Because that’s really going to hurt when that time does come back. Teams will not be prepared to succeed in that new time span, when things are coming back in the future.

Ryan Leary (05:47):

Yeah. So, Matt, you bring up a point. And I think I’ve heard people touch on this as a talk topic. But never actually talked through it. So, I want to take some time here and talk through this.

Matt Tague (05:59):

Let’s do it.

Ryan Leary (06:00):

Because we hear workforce planning, and workforce planning right now reminds me of that meme where there’s the dog in the house on fire and he’s like, “I’m fine. Everything’s fine.” Right?

Matt Tague (06:11):


Ryan Leary (06:12):

We don’t know. I’m facing it with my own company. I’m sure you guys are having similar conversations internally about like, “Okay, do I hire somebody? Do I not? What do I do right now?” And everybody says, “Hey, plan for the future, be mindful.” [inaudible 00:06:28] have to still take steps forward. A, what does it actually mean? Why is that actually important? And then, what does it look like? Tactically, what does that look like?

Matt Tague (06:40):

Yeah, that’s a great question. And I’m a big favor of breaking it down tactically, let’s make it actionable for folks.

Ryan Leary (06:46):


Matt Tague (06:46):

And so what I see, and what we recommend with customers specifically is, you can control what you can control. So, there’s no sense in getting worried about how much headcount you’re going to be allocated, what the timing of that is. Largely that’s outside of the scope of what TA teams can decide. They largely receive that. But there are things that they can control and influence, and that’s really where they’re going to get the greatest lift from focusing during this time.

So, just to highlight one that I would say specifically, is a lot of folks who’ve been in TA a long time know there’s a cycle of prospects to candidates, which is awareness, engagement, and action. So, a person’s got to be aware of your company to care about it at all. They need to engage with your company, and then they need to take some action. Whether that’s applying, or getting a process, ultimately getting hired or not. But that’s generally the cycle.

So, in a time where you’re working with uncertain demand, you may not always have something to action them to, an open job per se. And so, what we’re seeing is the smarter companies are investing more in awareness currently, and less on the action piece there.

Ryan Leary (07:54):

Yeah. So, you made a statement, and now we need to validate this statement. Which was, you can’t stop hiring, you can’t stand still, you can’t have the nuclear reactor come back online, because there’s a warm up period, right? Tell me about why. Why can’t… I’m a company, I’m a tech company, I’m a whatever company, automobile company, CBG company. Why not? Why can’t I take a pause and stay here and monitor the industry, and then when I see things starting to pick back up again, then start doing my hiring? That makes logical sense, right?

Matt Tague (08:33):

It can. I think I’ve seen also that not work out so well in many cases.

Ryan Leary (08:36):

Tell me more.

Matt Tague (08:36):

And this is from previous examples. Yeah. So I think, let’s paint a picture of what a cold shutdown looks like in TA. So, you see headcount get closed off, you see teams get riffed, so they get laid off. And then you have a skeleton crew that’s kind of manning the ship, so to speak, during that time. And they’re not doing outbound, so they’re relying on inbound. They’re just parsing through applications that come in. But they’re not practically generating that awareness. So, that tapers off over time. You got to invest in that. It’s a habit. And if you lose that investment, and nine months later your CFO says, “Hey, we’re hiring again, where are the sourcers? They’re not on that team. Where is the awareness? You got to build it from a lower base. That takes time.”

So, that’s that cold restart period you talk about, of anywhere from three to six months from a new demand coming in to actually being able to deliver on that. A lot of teams scramble on that dynamic. It’s a very tough time internally for teams. So, by being smart and investing now in that awareness, you can have a smoother transition to that new demand in the future. Versus that zigzag up and down that’s very jarring for teams.

Ryan Leary (09:44):

Yeah. Yeah. Yes. So, a couple things kind of came to mind on this. I was having a conversation yesterday, and they brought up this idea that most companies now are tech companies. And we talked about this, and you’re like, “Well, what about the automotive industry?” Kind of a tech company. Everybody’s trying to make the electric vehicles, autonomous driving vehicles. And it’s like, “Well, what about CVG?” Well, now you’re looking at people who are dealing with delivery, an on demand timing, just in time.

So, in text, and I want to hear what you’re seeing on this, my belief is that you only have two options as a tech company. Which is to trend upward trend down. There is no plateau. Because it’s not the market alone that you’re keeping pace with, it’s technology itself, which doesn’t stop.

Matt Tague (10:37):

100%. Yeah, I fully agree with that. And I love how you outlined that into two camps, of tech companies, and let’s say aspiring tech companies.

Ryan Leary (10:44):


Matt Tague (10:45):

They want to figure out what the tech angle is there. And I think that that dynamic applies even more to those companies. Because they’re having to reformat their employee value propositions. They’re not known as tech companies. They have to invest extra during this time to maintain, this is a good spot for engineers, where historically engineers have not thought of that company as a spot for them to go to.

Ryan Leary (11:06):


Matt Tague (11:07):

If they lose that momentum over the next year, it’s going to be that much harder to make up that ground, for the exact reasons you mentioned. So, totally agree with that.

Ryan Leary (11:14):

Yeah. And then I had thought of, in that moment, on analogy, that I was like, “This is kind of what it feels like.” Which is driving a manual transmission car. Which is to say, when you’re driving downhill, or parked downhill, you’re very rarely going to stall. You can go from park to first, even as a newer driver, downhill, because you can coast and build up speed, and you’re fine. And when you’re on a flat road, I don’t often see or almost ever see anybody stall going from second to third or third to fourth gear. It just doesn’t happen. When do companies stall out? When they’re going from a dead stop to first gear. And when is the hardest time to not stall? When you’re on an uphill.

Matt Tague (11:57):


Ryan Leary (11:57):

So now you’re facing a challenge where you’re having to work through and fight through in this uphill economic battle. And your thought then is to stop the vehicle. That’s when you’re going to stall out, right?

Matt Tague (12:12):

Exactly. Yeah. And I love that, and I think that captures it perfectly there. And I love the saying, that smooth seas don’t make strong sailors.

Ryan Leary (12:20):

Oh, yeah.

Matt Tague (12:23):

This is the time. This is the time when TA leaders need to step up. And this is when they need to have a plan to navigate. And it has to be in a much more nuanced way, like we talked about, rather than just like, “Hey, let’s stop doing these actions.” It can’t be a binary equation there, for that exact danger that you mentioned on the hill.

Ryan Leary (12:39):

Yes. Yeah. I was like, “Oh, good job. Earned my day for that.” Okay, so let’s talk brass tacks on this. So, I’ve decided Matt knows what he’s talking about, I’m totally going to listen to him on this and just trust that he’s right, and that every other time ever in history this has ever happened that it’s worked out. So, how do I do this? How do I say, “I’m not hiring. I don’t have open roles?” Because we have to hold off. How do I then focus on that awareness piece?

Matt Tague (13:14):

Yeah, absolutely. So, I think there’s a variety of products that handle this in the market. Gem, we do that especially well. There are others as well you can look at as well. But I divide the kind of activity into two areas. One is content, one is delivery. What are you talking about, and then B, how are you getting out to people? What’s the medium?

Ryan Leary (13:31):


Matt Tague (13:32):

So in the content piece, I think it involves kind of reevaluating your employee value prop during these times. So, normally you’re going to have a direct call to action of like, “Check out our jobs. Go to these jobs. Apply. Get in process.” Today we may not be able to do that. And we don’t want to lead people on with a false promise. But what we can still talk about is the long term why of this company. What’s our mission? What’s our vision? What types of people excel here? Telling those stories at scale still has a ton of value. Because people that are interested in that will begin to follow it, gravitate towards it, and they’ll want to know when it’s open. So, you’re developing that demand funnel over time.

So, I think part of it is reframing what you’re talking about, or what the expectations are, to be clear about it. And then the second piece there is how you deliver that. I think one of the things we do in Gem, and other platforms do this to an extent as well, is broad-based campaigns that are customized. So, you want to get the volume out, but it has to be-

Ryan Leary (14:31):

Wait, broad-based and customized?

Matt Tague (14:33):


Ryan Leary (14:34):

I’m honestly saying this in jest. I do this for a living. But that’s a thought, like, “What the heck are you talking about? How are you broad-based and customized?”

Matt Tague (14:41):

Yeah, great question. I think it’s, you want to be able to deliver it to a broad pool of folks that are segmented, the right talent pools, project managers, software engineers, whatever that may be. But essentially then you want to be able to make that resonate with them. So, part of that involves organizing them. And then part of that involves the granularity of using the right data fields, using the right customization pieces that make it feel like it’s tailored to them, and it’s not just a broad hot jobs type of thing, right?

Ryan Leary (15:10):


Matt Tague (15:10):

So, the messaging’s got to be on point, and it’s got to resonate with the people it’s being sent to.

Ryan Leary (15:15):

Yeah. I think people get really binary about outreach. I’ve seen, and all the training I’ve done, people are like, “Oh, well we send 1000 emails a day.” In which case, yikes. By the way, if you’re doing that, stop it. Or like, “Oh, no, we’re hyper focused. We send 10 emails a day that are crafted to touch on everything they’ve ever talked about on every social profile they’ve ever had.” And it’s like, “There’s actually a middle ground.” We’re like, “We use templates, but we’re using templates with smart modifiers, and maybe the first sentence is a custom sentence.” So, how long does it take you to look at a person’s profile, a profile on two different sites, and create a custom sentence? I don’t know, three minutes, max.

Matt Tague (15:56):

It’s a scalable process, for sure.

Ryan Leary (15:57):

Right. Exactly. And I think that that’s really, really interesting. Okay, so at the end of the day the world isn’t shutting down. We’re facing uncertainty. We are, however, going to come back from this. And so the options are, right now, go backwards or go forwards. And going forwards looks like building awareness. Going backwards looks like stagnating in fear. So what do we do? We move forward. So, Matt, I end every podcast the same way. I want you to share one thought, idea, whatever that is, with whoever is listening right now, that doesn’t have to be about anything we’ve spoken today, or it can be, that’s going to hit them in the head, the heart, the soul. Something that’s going to leave on impression when they’re done listening. What is that?

Matt Tague (16:46):

Yeah. So I think where my mind goes is, now is the opportunity. TA leaders have often thought like sales professionals, closing the deal, making it complete. Whether you’re an agency or you’re internal, we need to shift how we’re thinking to think like marketers. We need to think for scale, we need to think about driving that awareness and building that engagement over time. That’s a radical mindset shift, it’s going to require change in the space. But that’s what I’d love people to think more about. How do we think more like marketers? And then how do we use that in these times? And then how do we couple that with thinking like salespeople when we have more demand?

Ryan Leary (17:17):

Love that. Matt, thank you so much. And again, thank you for Gem’s graciousness hosting us here. Wish everyone listening the best of luck, and we’ll have another episode coming up shortly. Thanks, Matt.

Matt Tague (17:28):

Pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me on.

Speaker 5 (17:30):

Oh, man, that means it’s over.

Speaker 6 (17:35):

You’ve been listening to the Sourcing School podcast, live at HR Tech in Vegas, sponsored by our friends at Gem. For all other HR, recruiting, and sourcing news, check out

Sourcing School Podcast

Ryan Leary

Ryan Leary helps create the processes, ideas and innovation that drives RecruitingDaily. He’s our in-house expert for anything related to sourcing, tools or technology. A lead generation and brand buzz building machine, he has built superior funnel systems for some of the industries top HR Tech and Recruitment brands. He is a veteran to the online community and a partner here at RecruitingDaily.

Michael Cohen

Mike “Batman” Cohen is the Founder of Wayne Technologies, a Sourcing-on-Demand and Recruitment Training Organization. Wayne Technologies On-Demand Sourcing is a revolutionary approach that provides the most actionable data available, is based on deliverables – not time, and is based on access to more recruitment tooling than any organization worldwide.

Shally Steckerl

One of the pioneers of the sourcing discipline, Shally is the Founder and former President of The Sourcing Institute, where he has helped numerous F500 and mid-market organizations train and develop their talent sourcing capabilities for nearly 20 years. When it comes to innovative approaches to candidate search, Shally literally wrote the book. He is the author of the industry-standard textbook “The Talent Sourcing and Recruitment Handbook” as well as “The Sourcing Method: Tactics to Find Unfindable Talent.”


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