Storytelling about Candidately with Jan Alexander Jedlinski
Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 104. This week we have storytelling about Candidately with Jan Alexander Jedlinski. During this episode, Jan and I talk about how practitioners make the business case or the use case for purchasing Candidately.
Jan is an expert in all things tech and staffing. His passion for creating a consistent and efficient way to submit candidates to clients really comes through during the podcast.
Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think.
Show length: 28 minutes
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Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you’re listening to the Use Case Podcast. Today, we have a friend of mine and the firm’s on Jan. And his company, Gustav, is a company that I’ve been tracking and obviously love. He’s got a new product out. It’s a sash product out, and we’re going to be talking specifically about it today, and it’s called Candidately. And I’m excited because it’s new, it’s something, it’s customer-centric, built from customers’ advice and wisdom. And we’re going to learn the whole story, and can’t wait to get started. So Jan, do us a favor, introduce yourself and Candidately.
Thank you so much, William. It’s great to be here. My name is Jan. I am the CEO and co-founder of Gustav, but also of our new product Candidately. As you can hear, maybe from my accent, I’m not originally from the U.S. I started the company a couple of years back in Austria with my co-founders, but we moved to the U.S. in 2017 when we joined Y Combinator, which is a famous startup accelerator, on for a couple of investments in Airbnb and Stripe. So we were lucky to be there. And yeah, over the last couple of years, we have been in the staffing and recruiting tech space, working on a couple of products. And our newest product is Candidately, which we call the digital storefront for staffing and recruiting companies. So you can think of it as a sort of Shopify for the staffing industry. Yeah, we have a lot of interesting things coming up for that product. I’m excited to talk about it today.
So let’s get into how did you make the decision because Gustav’s going on great traction. You’re doing really, really fantastic on that side. And you decide to create a product in Candidately. How was the vision? How’d that come to being, the origin story, et cetera?
Sure, absolutely. So we’ve been in the space for a while and we actually started as a staffing and recruiting company ourselves. And we’ve always seen a huge opportunity in the market for better and more modern technology. And we were always trying to figure out where is our right path to get there. And actually, early this year, we have organized the World Staffing Summit, which was a large online conference. We also participated as a speaker. And shortly before that, we had hundreds of conversations with our customers which are staffing and recruiting firms in the U.S. And we always heard the same thing, right? If you look at the markets, you have, let’s say, if we imagine the market on the left-hand side, you would have the MSPs and VMSs and enterprises working high volume business. On the right-hand side, you have a high-end executive search. And very much in the middle, a big part of the market are staffing and recruiting firms that basically work with their customers only for email. So unless they have an applicant tracking system where the customer requires them to submit candidates to, it’s pretty much manual.
So we heard from a lot of customers that this has to change because if you look at the market and if you look at what’s coming up with the Upworks and the Fiverrs and a lot of the online marketplaces that are coming up that are going to compete with the traditional staffing model, we see that the 25,000 existing and traditional staffing companies have to do something about it. So we said, “Okay, look, we have already the boost of technology, it’s working, but how can we actually spin out a product that will be very crucial for the next couple of years for staffing companies?” And I think for the next five to 10 years, this will be a massive game-changer. And how can we help them compete with the Upworks and Fiverrs and online staffing platforms and 200 traditional staffing company into essentially a digital business? So that’s how the idea and the goal for Candidately came across, mostly from conversations with people from the market.
Well, that’s where all great products come from is a… it isn’t an engineer in a room somewhere with a wipe-off board. Usually, it’s based on people’s feedback. Maybe your advice on things that are challenging to them and things that need to be innovated, et cetera. So a couple things, when folks demo and look at Candidately for the first time, what do they notice? What pulls out at them as something that, this is something I can’t do without?
So the interesting thing is that I don’t know the majority… and there is not a lot of I would say competitors out there for us yet. Obviously, there is applicant tracking systems which are not our competitors. We integrate with the applicant tracking system and the tech stack of the staffing firm. But if a staffing and recruiting company, and it’s typically the account manager or recruiter that would use the product, looks at it, the first thing that they would see is how beautiful the branding and the presentation of their candidates suddenly looks like when they compare it to their existing workflow. If you look at the workflow of an account manager in a staffing company today, they would typically, if they get a requirement from a customer, the recruiter would find a couple of candidates. They would put that into an email, attach it, write a small recruiter write-up and send it over to the customer. Then the customer, a couple of days later, will respond with, “Hey, I saw you sent me a couple of candidates, where are they now?” And there is back and forth on email. And usually, it takes time.
So with Candidately, you essentially drag and drop a resume. We make a beautiful digital profile out of that candidate. You send that link to the customer. The customer can always access that link. It’s branded in your company colors and your logo and has a nice chat where the customer can instantly give you feedback. So the aha moment and the wow moment is in this actually very small piece of this transaction, which is just this candidate presentation part. But it’s done, over the last couple of years, super poorly. Actually forever, it’s always done on email. So in this particular piece, there is always this wow moment of, “Oh. Yeah, actually this could be done better.”
And I always compare it a little bit with the real estate market also. If you’re a real estate broker, and if you don’t have your apartments and houses on your website, most likely people will not request a catalog or a callback. If you look at 10,000 staffing agency websites, pretty much the status quo is a request for to get a call, right? So there is no way for a buyer to actually see who is currently available in terms of candidates from that firm, who can we get in touch to, and there is no nice sales process that is in place. And I think that’s the piece that, with Candidately, we are trying to solve.
Have you had more conversations of late around the diversity and inclusion?
We did. So there was with, obviously with how candidate presentation is done. It’s a big piece with anonymizing candidate data, how does the candidate profile look like? And obviously, there’s mixed opinions about that all over the world, as we were working with customers in Europe and in the U.S. But I feel like the trend is really going towards having a really anonymized profile. Obviously, no picture, nothing that identifies the candidate. We need just the skillsets. And that would I think drive how that will be done in the future.
Yeah. It seems like, again, it’s a great leveling, right? So the more we get people to focus on skills instead of pedigree or any of the other things that might have loaded biases in them, what school you attended to, or whatever. You’re focused on the skills and again, getting people to focus on the skills. And then that then helps them build a shortlist of people that they interview and take through a process. I love that. I think I see the great utility in that. I also see great utility in working in other applications and being a part of other workflow. And staffing firm’s different than corporates. They have different systems that they use. So you obviously, you play a lot on the staffing side, the RPO side with Gustav. A lot of staffing firms use like Bullhorn as their kind of an ATS, CRM, kind of front office, back-office management. What other systems does Candidately need to kind of be integrated with or share data with, et cetera?
Sure. So we obviously started integrations with the ATSs, so we are a Bullhorn marketplace partner, fully integrated with the Bullhorn ecosystems, or Bullhorn customers can out of the box start using Candidately. But we obviously, we need to be integrated with all the other ATSs in the markets. We’ll have to have integrations with calendar tools, so scheduling, anything around how you can quickly schedule interview times, and have that connected to our system. There’s conversations around integrating the product to sort of direct sourcing candidate databases to have our Candidately product sit on top as a way to have the interface to the customer to access that candidates pretty quickly. And then we obviously had conversations with how can this be integrated with the corporate talent acquisition, ATS ecosystem, right? So obviously if you look at the market, you see the VMSs, right? How can this potentially be integrated into the VMS? But that’s a little further out, but I see there’s definitely applications there that we can use them.
How I see it as a whole is I think the traditional staffing and recruiting company in the next 5 to 10 years, or even less, will look much, much different than they look today. It will be a lot of automations, a lot of technology. It would be much, much better brands than staffing companies would have today. And it will sort of create this digital sort of staffing firm where the recruiter will still be in the middle, sort of as a talent curator, but the entire tech ecosystem will evolve much, much more rapidly. So I think there will be even more applications coming up that maybe we don’t even foresee, but we will definitely have to have the open APIs to be integrated with the majority of the tools out there.
One of the things that we’ll be doing is, for example, having a Zapier integration. So out of the box, we will be able to be integrated with 1,500 other tools with just the click of a button. And so that’s something that we emphasize a lot to make sure that the product is as user-friendly and as out of the box to use for everybody who wants to use it.
I love that. So you mentioned briefly that there’s not a lot of competitors right now for Candidately. How do you position, and more importantly, how does your prospects, your customers, position Candidately?
So how we position it, and I have tons of use cases for the product in the future, but today, I position it as candidate presentation. So basically, meaning Candidately sits on top of your ATS. If you have a couple of candidates that you want to share and present to your customers, instead of attaching them to an email, you pull them into Candidately. We create a file. You share a link like you would share your Candidately link, right, for scheduling and a meeting. And you have instant insights on the interactions with your customers. So today, we position it as candidate presentation. There is a couple of other tools out there. Obviously, applicant tracking systems have what they call client portals. So this is something that could be compared to that, right? When you have an ATS that gives the agency or the recruiter the possibility to give their customers a passcode-protected or sign up to their ATS, sort of separate client portal. Most of those client portals are super clunky. I never heard a good story about any of them.
And typically, companies don’t want to use it because you have to have a login for the customer. And no customer really wants to remember the login for your staffing company’s ATS. And that’s why we have built the entire system without the need for a signup or login to the customer. But there is a couple other products out there, and I don’t know, I’m looking at things for example like 3D IQ, which is a… it was just a product in the Bullhorn marketplace. They’ve successfully been around for the last couple of years, doing exactly the candidate presentation piece. And I think there’s much, much more needed in the market for that. So I’m looking at that product right now.
And there’s a few others, but yeah, typically would now, if you look at the buyer persona, we would go out and say, “Hey, how do you present your candidates today? Is it via email? Cool, here’s a better way to do that.” And then from there, we will develop other things like candidate marketing, so the same interface in Candidately, you can use to build talent pipelines. So not only present to the free candidates, but you could have your 50 candidates that are coming off assignments next month, already have it on your list. Embed that list on your website. Take that list into the email signature of your account manager, and actively promote and upsell candidates that you know are available in the market for Candidately. And obviously the next iteration, and this is sort of organically going into that direction, is enabling the staffing component need to really run an online staffing business, including payments from customers, including the entire transaction, time-tracking, and so on. So basically building on top of that and developing a suite of tools on top of the simple candidate presentation use case that we have today.
Well, first of all, if you don’t go no further, just that alone has innovated and created something special because it’s just the easier way.
Yeah, right? Do you know, or do you see in the near future, more of a collaboration where people can leave notes and… because you’re passing something over to your client and internally you’d be higher passing something over to a hiring manager. Here’s five candidates. And then what would be interesting is they’re evaluating all five of those candidates. If they could communicate what they saw, what they liked, what maybe flags that are there, et cetera. Do you foresee it as going down the path of being more of a collaboration tool?
Absolutely. And we actually already have parts of that. So we have a live chat integrated on each candidate profile that you share. So basically the customer can already message you like they would message you on a LinkedIn message, like a live chat on each candidate. You have live interaction, so you could give on… your customer, on each candidate profile that you present, can give you a thumbs up, thumbs down, quick feedback. Right? So this is sort of this quick feedback option. And we are actually currently working on enabling interaction on the client side, so the client could add other team members to the same profile. So they could leave notes on their side about the candidates. They can collaborate. And we actually see this live today. And this again is a feature that stemmed out of immediate customer requests. And that’s actually exciting to see. People started using it and now we already have, hey, could you build collaboration for our customers? Because they are five hiring managers, would love to collaborate on one particular candidate to leave internal feedback before they send feedback to the staffing firm about the candidate.
So I totally foresee the collaboration piece being a strong driver and also making the whole product more sticky in the future.
Yeah. Yeah. And again, the more they add to it, the more they’re interacting with it. And the more they’re interacting with each other around the candidates, the more they’re learning too. They’re learning what they like. The system’s learning candidates that are more appropriate, less appropriate, et cetera. And again, all based on skills and preferences. Let’s do some buy-side stuff real quick. Gustav’s been around for a few years now. So you’ve had several prospects, you’ve got several customers, all that type of stuff. What are buying questions, we’re going to get to Candidately, what are buying questions that you just love to hear, and the opposite is also true? What are buying questions that maybe might be red flags that you’re like, “Okay, they don’t either get it, or I’m not doing a good job communicating it, or they don’t want it?” So on both sides of that, when you’re talking to prospects, the clues where you know, “Yeah. They get it. They understand.” And then the others. What are those keywords and phrases and things like that?
Yeah. So funnily, for the Candidately product, that’s a much, much easier sell than for the other products that we have, to be very honest. It’s pretty straightforward, so I think the questions when I say, and I try to phrase it always in this one sentence pitch, that’s why I say the digital storefront for the staffing firm. There’s this, okay, but what exactly is it, right? Maybe with the digital storefront piece, it sounds nice but it doesn’t entirely give you what exactly does the product do. When I, in just one sentence to the buyer, say, “Hey, look, are you presenting candidates via email? Yeah. Hey, here’s a better way to do that.” They immediately get it. It’s for clients’ submissions. That’s typically the word that’s that is crucial.
And obviously, the number one thing that is asked in each call is, does it integrate with my ATS? I think that’s the number one question that you would hear from the buyer side, and obviously pricing. So I think the price point for this product is crucial, and those sort of free things, right? So it’s a typically ATS, price points. And typically when I would say client submissions and candidate presentation, the branding aspect. Usually, within a few minutes, the buyer persona on a demo would get it and would understand it. And typically what I see where people would say, “Oh, I don’t need this” is based on their business. So let’s say, for example, a staffing company and works 95% of their business is high volume MSP, VMS business. So obviously they would not need an external candidate presentation product when they only submit candidates into a field class or a beeline. Then this will be obviously from the very first step a no-go for them.
Then I had conversations where firms were a little skeptical if their customers would actually use it because obviously, it’s a new thing. So it’s like a staffing firm would share a new link. It’s a new process. Are their clients even going to want to adopt this, right? We’ve seen 99% of the time from the list of links that have been shared today, everybody was really happy with it, including end-clients giving feedback for the chat to the staffing firm about the tool. But we also have firms that say, “You know what? Our business is only with, I don’t know, so old school end clients. We don’t even want to start this conversation.” Right? So that was a no-go.
And then obviously on the, I would say executive search sites, if you look at roles that are 250,000, $300,000 annual salary upwards, it’s a lot of personal touch, a lot of personal conversation. So it would be less, I would say likely to have such a digital product included. But anybody else who is in staffing and recruiting, both direct hire and temporary staffing, or even RPO, they’re in the market working with direct retail clients, then this is a pretty easy conversation, I would say.
I love it. You mentioned pricing, but I wanted to get back to that. What’s your pricing philosophy for Candidately?
So we want to make it as easy as possible for people to start using it, including things that may be in the past with client portals or companies may be building similar solutions, custom for firms are now reachable at a very low price. So our pricing today is a user-based pricing. It’s $49 per user. And a user would be an account manager or a recruiter internally with the staffing firm. And that includes an integration. That includes custom branding. That includes having the lists that you share hosted on your subdomain, out of the box, including the branding. That’s something that you can set up internally for yourself and your settings, so you don’t have to talk to us about that. And yeah, that’s pretty much the pricing today. Obviously, if you are a buyer that wants to have 50 or 100 seats, there’s room for negotiation with us at this point as we are still early on with that product. But for the future, this will remain the pricing philosophy, easy, per user-based pricing.
So dumb question, but candidates themselves don’t really have a role with Candidately, right?
That’s true, yeah.
Because this is data that you’re getting from other sources, but you’re rendering it and putting a presentation layer and then a collaboration layer, communication layer on top of it. But candidates themselves don’t necessarily need to interact with it.
Not yet, I would say so. I already had conversations, and that’s interesting that you mentioned this, with the firms that say, “Hey, we…” Because at this point, the staffing firm would upload the candidate’s resume. We make, as I said, a nice digital presentation layer. So there is no interaction. There is no login for a candidate into Candidately, but staffing firms, however, said, “Hey, how about if, for example, the end client says, ‘Hey, let’s schedule an interview with this candidate,’ why not at this moment loop in the candidate so there is no free parties involved in trying to schedule a 9:00 AM meeting on a Wednesday, but otherwise the customer can immediately chat with the clients?”
So at this point, there are already conversations how we can actually loop in the candidate at some point. Obviously, the candidate would be still the data of the staffing firms. So we, as Candidately, are not building any candidate marketplace or anything like that, but we try to actually make it easier for the firms to interact and collaborate with each other. So we’ll see where that conversation will go, and I think pretty soon, we might have some candidate interaction in Candidately as well.
That’d be cool. It’d be just cool to see what they think of the presentation layer themselves. You might be able to get some great feedback there as well because you’re going to be getting it from hiring managers. You’re going to be getting it from recruiters, sourcers. You’re going to be getting it from all those folks. It might be interesting to see what feedback looks like from the candidates themselves. So obviously, Candidately is deeply integrated into Gustav. So, anybody that’s a Gustav customer, this is a, I would assume a very easy spin up for them as well.
Absolutely. So we have a couple of customers that are using it from the same interface, but we are offering Candidately as a completely separate product as well. So if for Gustav, as Gustav is a VMS product specifically designed for staffing and recruiting companies, not every staffing and recruiting company needs a VMS or has the use case for that particular product. And obviously, the buyer or user persona would also be slightly different. You would be able to use the product also sort of completely standalone. So if you would look at the Candidately websites, and if you log in from the Candidately website, you would not see any of the Gustav product. Although the technology on the backend and pieces of the product that we have reused are the same. Yeah.
So two things left. The use case for this is pretty simple. It’s giving a better rendering of the slate of candidates, I’ll use my language, the slate of candidates. Here’s the slate of candidates I want to pass over. And it’s putting a better presentation layer on top of that, and obviously, communications and collaborations comes along with that. But basically, here’s the presentation of the five people, you random number, but five people that I want to put in front of you. And then letting that person then make the judgment of who they want to move forward in the process. That’s essentially the use case. Yeah?
It’s essentially the use case. Yeah. Correct.
Okay. Success for the rest of the year beyond, what does that look like? If we were to just blink, and we will blink, and it’ll be January of 2022, what does success looks like for you?
So look, we have this philosophy from being at Y Combinator to build a product that people love. And we truly believe that we would rather have 10 customers that truly love the product than 10,000 that heard about it. So at this phase right now, we’re really focusing on the core group of customers to get to know the little kinks out of the product, making sure that it works perfectly for them before we essentially start to push the marketing aspects and grow it. But realistically, I see a lot of growth for us over the last couple of months. We are at this point now where the first batch of customers really loves the product already, and they are using it heavily. So we’re moving from that phase to the next phase of getting the next couple of customers in and working closely with them. But my goal would be to have hundreds of customers until the end of the year that are really loving and using the product every day. This would be a success on my end.
Awesome. Well, let’s leave it there. Jan, I appreciate it. I know it’s late in the day for you. Thank you so much for coming on the-
Thank you, William.
… Use Case Podcast, and thanks for your time.
Appreciate it. Thank you so much.
Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening to the Use Case Podcast. Until next time.
William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.