Storytelling About Gem with Steven Bartel

Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 143. This week we have storytelling about Gem with Steven Bartel. During this episode, Steven and I talk about how practitioners make the business case or the use case for purchasing Gem.

Steven is the co-founder and CEO at Gem and an expert in all things recruiting, sourcing and CRM. He began his career as an early engineer at Dropbox, where he quickly started leading multiple engineering teams and spent most of his time in recruiting. While in this position, he realized that recruiting teams did not have a one-stop source to track and manage the majority of work that goes into recruiting, which happens before a candidate even applies. This was the driving point to found Gem four years ago.

Gem is an all-in-one recruiting platform that integrates with LinkedIn, email and your applicant tracking system. It enables recruiting teams to find, engage and nurture the most valuable talent. Steve’s passion to build TA solutions that simplify workflows, automate tasks and deliver the data required to optimize outreach, learn your pipeline, and support relationships with candidates really comes through during the podcast.

Here are a few things we cover today: How does Gem fit into the recruiting and sourcing process? What kind of engagement trends show in terms of passive talent while using the platform? How can we use Gem to determine whether or not we’re pursuing the right talent?

There’s more, of course! Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think.

Thanks, William

Show length: 30 minutes

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Steve Bartel
Co-Founder & CEO Gem

Steve serves as the co-founder and CEO of Gem ( Gem builds a Talent CRM and Sourcing Automation platform that integrates with LinkedIn, Gmail/Outlook, and the Applicant Tracking System.

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Music:  00:02

Welcome to RecruitingDaily’s Use Case Podcast, a show dedicated to the storytelling that happens or should happen when practitioners purchase technology. Each episode is designed to inspire new ways and ideas to make your business better, as we speak with the brightest minds and recruitment, and HR tech. That’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup

William:  00:26

Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you are listening to The Use Case Podcast. Today, we have Steve on from Gem and we’re talking about the business case, and the use case for why his customers buy Gem. Steve, do use a favor, and introduce both yourself and Gem.

Steven:  00:46

Hey folks. Great to be here. Thanks for having me, William. I’m Steve, the Co-founder and CEO of Gem. And at Gem, we’re building a sourcing automation and talent CRM platform.

William:  01:01

So, one of the things I want to start off with is the compliment that I get most often about Gem from practitioners is that it’s really, really easy to use. Like it’s intuitive. And so, I wanted to kind of start off with just understanding, because that’s a compliment I get. They have no reason to tell you, they tell me this stuff, but they know it’s not… And I just wanted to kind of like when you were building, when you all started out and you started to build the product, it looks easy, it looks like my 15 year old could get in and go, “Okay. Yeah, go through a couple of tutorials and get off to the races.” Was all that purposeful? Was that a happy accident? Did you just get here over time? Like tell us a little bit about your journey?

Steven:  01:50

No, a hundred percent. And from the very beginning, I attribute a lot of that to our culture of being customer-focused. Actually, from the very beginning, before we even started Gem, we went and talked to 50 potential customers about their pain points, their needs, especially when it related to passive talent and managing their top of the funnel and recruiting. And so before we even wrote a single line of code, we went and talked to customers, because we wanted to make sure that the pain point that we had felt as practitioners ourselves from Dropbox and from Facebook was widespread across the industry.

Steven:  02:34

And actually based on those 50 customer conversations, we had our first few users lined up and we thought to ourselves, “Huh. I bet we could build a product in two weeks that our very first user could use.” And that’s what we did. And then ever since then, we worked hand in hand with our customers to build the very best product in the market. And I think that’s why you probably hear some of this feedback from customers around Gem being really easy to use. It’s, it’s all driven by them and their feedback.

William:  03:06

It’s like one of the best compliments you can receive when you run a software company, is that, people feel like it’s not even software, it’s something that they use to help them facilitate something and their life that makes their life better. It kind of transcends that. So let’s talk about kind of the things that you… We’ll start with workflow. So because you all have been practitioners, you kind of understand this probably on a deeper level, but where does Gem, where do your customer use Gem in their workflow? Where have you seen it kind of best utilized? So that folks understand kind of where it fits in kind of, from sourcing the onboarding? Where it fits in all of their process.

Steven:  03:54

Great question. And maybe there’s a really high level framing in terms of where Gem sits. When you zoom out, there’s been this big shift in how companies hire the right talent. I think what folks have realized is that, you just can’t hire enough of the right people by sitting around and waiting for them to apply, right? So, and I think organizations, they’re competing harder than ever for the right talent. So recruiting is starting to look a lot more like sales and marketing, where companies are taking a more proactive approach, and engaging with passive talent rather than waiting for them to apply. So when we think about Gem, we think about our field of play. It’s all about passive talent, and going out there and finding and engaging with talent where they are in the market.

Steven:  04:41

And usually, that talent isn’t looking, right? In the same exact way as sales and marketing teams engage with prospective customers rather than waiting for them to apply. So, that’s where Gem sits. When you look at the HR tech landscape, there’s this really big gap. So on the one hand, we’ve got LinkedIn, which is a great place to find every single person in the world, right? It’s a great place to find passive talent that could be a good fit. On the other hand, if you look at the HR tech landscape, companies have solutions like Workday, which helps manage and track the folks they’ve hired. The problem is there isn’t a great way to capture and track everyone a company wants to hire. So to manage our recruiting, most of us have what’s called an applicant tracking system. But as that name suggests, applicants tracking system software was designed for that old way of recruiting, where you wait for candidates to apply.

Steven:  05:38

And while it does a really great job of tracking the interview process, applicant tracking systems don’t help companies track all the work that happens before somebody comes on site, before they apply. And that’s where the real challenge is for a lot of organizations these days. I mean, if you think about it, just to get one great candidate to an onsite interview, recruiting teams are sending hundreds of cold recruiting emails, they’re going on campus, they’re nurturing referrals, they’re hosting recruiting events, they’re spending on ads, they’re running branded email campaigns. Hundreds of billions of dollars being spent engaging with passive talent, with no central system to manage and track all that work. So in a nutshell, that’s what we’re trying to build with Gem and that’s where we sit in the ecosystem.

William:  06:25

So with your customers and again, not naming names and all that other stuff, but some of the kind of the best things that you’ve seen in terms of engaging passive talent. So once you identify, which is half the battle, or part of the battle, let’s just say, then you want to do something with that. And I’m sure you’ve seen an array of different programs and things that people have tried. How do you kind of see engagement when you look at passive talent?

Steven:  06:54

There are so many different things that companies are doing to engage with passive talent, right? All the way from hosting events, to branded email campaigns, to sending emails, text messages, even for certain types of talent. One of the most common ways we see though, is if you find somebody that you think could be a good fit, engaging with them over multiple touch points, sometimes over multiple channels, right? So for the cold sourcing use case, what we see a lot of our customers doing is, setting up three or four emails to go out over the course of a month or two, and they can even have different touchpoint across different channels.

Steven:  07:40

So maybe stages one, two, and three are email touchpoints, stage four is, maybe a LinkedIn email, stage five could be a text message. So this omni-channel approach of engaging with passive talent is really effective. And then the other thing that we’re seeing more and more organizations do is actually reach out from multiple different folks from the company, right? So maybe the first and second reach out come from the recruiter, the third reach out comes from the hiring manager and maybe the fourth reach out comes from a director or VP in the org that they would report into. So this omnichannel, multichannel, multiple persona engagement is super, super powerful and feels really high touch to candidates out there in the market.

William:  08:30

Well, and you said it at the beginning, it’s looking at sales and marketing. What can we learn from sales and marketing? This is just great consumer and B2B marketing, drip campaigns. And you’re thinking of drip campaigns, not just from email, but looking at drip campaigns on an omnichannel basis, I love that. How do your customers think about qualifying or gauging interest in terms of passive candidates? Like, it’s one thing to find, Sally or Jim, it’s another thing to think, “Okay, is Sally or Jim, are they qualified and is this something we need to pursue?” And then how do they gauge interest backwards? Once they’ve done the Omni channel, how do they then know that they’re being successful at engaging the right talent?

Steven:  09:25

That’s a great question. So from our perspective, we actually think that’s largely one of the arts of recruiting is, being able to identify who’s a great fit. And that comes down to a bunch of things, right? It’s specific to the organization, it’s specific to the department, all the way down to the specific role, or maybe even the GO the office were hiring for, right? It ties back to a company’s values and their culture. So we really leave that up to the recruiter, or sourcer because I think that’s one of the arts of recruiting that’s hard to replicate with technology.

Steven:  10:06

Where Gem comes in is, we help with all the engagement and the outreach. And we also help you understand is the way we’re reaching out to this talent effective? To your point earlier. We even actually have some intelligence built in, where we can automatically understand if the response that we’re getting from a candidate was interested, not interested, or maybe follow up later. And we’ll tag that in the systems that we can easily filter and sort on those folks, but also get deep analytics into which messages are resonating with which talent pools and which GOs for what types of roles, right?

William:  10:45

And because you obviously, over time with machine learning and AI, you’ll be able to then even like, [inaudible 00:10:53], if you’ve ever been into it, it’ll tell you when to send a tweet. Like when you’re going to get the most engagement at one o’clock on a Wednesday, one of those types of things. So you can kind of see it going in that direction, that at one point you’re going to be sitting on so much data that it will be able to predict, not just when, and potentially where. Do you all currently, or do you [inaudible 00:11:18] libraries of kind of best practices of different things, so that your customers necessarily have to start from scratch? They can kind of look at, okay, this is a first outreach, or this is a technical position or healthcare position, it’s hourly, whatever. And here are the different kind of ways that this is working now, and here are some of the things to pick from at least to start a draft. And then like, do you see it either now? Or do you see that in your future?

Steven:  11:51

Yes. And we’re doing a lot of that now. So at this point we have over 800 customers leveraging Gem, and there’s some of the most innovative companies out there spanning all sorts of industries and GOs, many of them large enterprises using Gem globally. So, the data set we’re sitting on top of is incredible. They’re with millions and millions of people. And one thing we love to do is publish a data driven report every single year with those best practices. Because that way, everybody has this really strong, starting point, this foundation that they can lean on when it comes to data driven insights for how to craft the very best outreach, right? And that ranges from what time of day to send those messages, as you were saying, right? Some really fun insights from those reports. It actually depends on the role. So sales reps are more likely to respond on Sunday afternoon, believe it or not. And my theory on this is-

William:  13:01

After their 18 rounds of golf. Got it.

Steven:  13:03

Yeah. So after their day of golf, but as they’re prepping for their week. A lot of the sales reps on our team, they’re getting out of their week, right? So they’re checking their email Sunday afternoon to Sunday evening, right? But that’s not necessarily the best time of day to hit up engineers. Recruiters actually pretty interestingly, really great time to engage with recruiters is lunchtime during the week. For whatever reason, a lot of us in the recruiting industry, we’re checking our personal email during our lunch break. But yeah, the ways you can leverage data here is fascinating, it’s so cool.

William:  13:44

So, if not now, do you see, because passive talent, we’ve been talking about it from an external perspective. And you you all worked at really, really big, important and companies, some of this can be applied to your own talent. Your, what we would say, employees and internal mobility or employee referrals. Have your customers, you got 800 of them, have they already started to kind of ask you about like, being able to think about passive talent internally, and externally? Obviously you got externally covered pretty well, but have they asked you that about internal talent?

Steven:  14:25

Oh yeah, all the time. So we’re getting asked for, “Hey, can we leverage Gem to nurture passive referrals?” As you mentioned, referrals being a really interesting use case. We actually just launched this new primitive within Gem over the past two months called Gem Forms. So what it allows folks to do is set up a custom form that either an employee could fill out potentially to submit a referral or even a candidate, right? We have some customers embedding these forms on their career sites to collect passive interest. But we’re starting to see now that we have this pretty useful print in the product, company is using it for all sorts of things, right? To collect passive interest on the career side from folks that are hitting there, but maybe aren’t ready to apply for a job, to referrals, to some folks now starting to use that for internal mobility. And this is so cool because it kind of tips us off as to, “Well, these are the use cases with a double down on and build dedicated workflows and modules around to take that to the next level.”

William:  15:39

We also have to keep the talent, right? So, I mean, that’s yet another thing. It’s like, “Hey, providing an another opportunity internally is just as important is finding someone externally.” In fact, the cost of recruiting goes down and morale goes up and all these other types of things that are really interesting, but I love that your customers are already kind of pushing or nibbling around the edges of this, this is fantastic. Finish your thought. I because I interrupted you.

Steven:  16:12

No, no, of course. And I think internal mobility is such an important use case here. Right? Another one maybe that I would mention, right? In the same way that our employees, we could consider them to be passive talent, that we could then place somewhere else in the organization. One thing we’re getting asked for all the time from our candidates, our customers is, could we recycle all the candidates? So everybody who’s applied, right? So I think in the, not too distant future, in the same way that you can get passive talent from LinkedIn or really anywhere out there, we’ll be able to sink in the entire applicant tracking system back into Gem, so that we can recycle anyone who’s ever applied. And then you take that one step further building in deep integrations into the HRAS to recycle every current employee right back into the talent pool. That’s taking it to the next level. So, absolutely.

William:  17:15

Have you all, and again, customers are going to push you in all these things, I don’t love that your customer driven. Have they asked you about alumni? And thought about that group of talent that have left hopefully on good terms? But they’ve worked for you. I mean, they’re out there. Is there, a mechanism or do you think there’s a play there to think of Gem as interacting with that talent?

Steven:  17:45

Oh yeah, definitely. I was catching up with the VP of talent at one of the largest spin serve companies in the world. Can’t necessarily name the company, but they were talking to me about this exact use case. And they were talking about it both in terms of alumni, former employees, but also former interns, right? They have thousands and thousands of interns, every class, and just simply wanted a better way to manage and track those relationships. And when they were considering folks for full time, like it was a no brainer. It’s like, why aren’t we starting with all the people that had previously interned. And could we be the doing a better job of systematically and programmatically keeping in touch with those folks?

William:  18:34

Yeah. Again, it’s talent and this talent’s already kind of been through some form of onboarding. They already kind of know who you are. I mean, it makes sense from the boomerang and internship experience. Four questions, one, we’ll just start with one of them. What do you see this in terms of both the tech, what is it connected to? Like what’s on the front end of it and what is it connected to kind of on the other side?

Steven:  19:03

From a technical standpoint, and this is one of the reasons I think why, to your point, folks just love Gem and it’s so easy to use, it’s because it’s so integrated into all of the different systems that recruiters and sourcers, and talent leaders are using. So on the one hand we integrate with so many top of funnel sources of data, whether that’s LinkedIn or Indeed, or Stack Overflow, or GitHub or Dribble, you name it, we even integrate with some of the other sourcing platforms out there. Platforms like SeekOut for example, which a lot of folks are looking to as an alternative to LinkedIn these days, right?

Steven:  19:45

And all of that makes it really, really easy to get somebody that you identify out there in the market, into Gem as your system of record, so that you can then manage and track that relationship, but also engage with them through really high touch, automated drip campaigns, to your point earlier. And then as you continue to look at other types of nurture and things at the top of the funnel, Gem also integrates with a lot of the leading events platforms. So we integrate with SplashThat we integrate with Eventbrite. And that’s really cool, because then all of your passive talent that’s attending events, every single RSVP, every single attendance and all of those relationships also get synced back into one central place.

Steven:  20:33

And by the way, this is kind of just scratching the surface on the top of the funnel. As you go down the stack, of course, we integrate with every major applicant tracking system out there. Because when you’re thinking about passive talent, it’s really important to be able to do a quick rules and engagement check against, are they already in the ATS? When did they apply? Have they interviewed recently? So we can know whether they’re fair game to engage with and reach out to. And then if they are a good fit, if they engage with us and we want to convert them to becoming a candidate, making that a one click push, so that you don’t ever have to do any manual data entry there.

William:  21:11

And it just puts them on a cadence, puts them on a pathway and a cadence is already built and it’s customizable. Like people can go in and then to that position, like you said, for software engineers, they might want to do something different than sales talent. So, a technical sales talent. When you were a practitioner or no, I’ll ask it this way, favorite buying questions. So you had a battery of questions that you would ask vendors and take them through their paces. Okay. Fair. And some of those might be some of the things that you loved hearing from as well. But like when you’ve been in the room and you’ve heard certain questions, what do you love hearing from a prospect that just gives you like, “You know what? They get it, we’re not pushing a boulder up hill and they just need a more refined way of doing it.” Like, what do you like hearing?

Steven:  22:08

Yeah. To me, I love hearing that a company is already investing in outbound recruiting and engaging with passive talent. If a company, if an organization is doing that, Gem is always a slam dunk. The other thing that really perks up my ears is if an organization values diversity. Because when you think about it, that just adds another layer of complexity to the challenges, right? Where what a lot of organizations have started to realize is that their applicant pool, their referrals, these traditional sources of candidates, aren’t inherently diverse, right?

Steven:  22:54

It’s a lot, you have no control over who’s applying to your organization and your referrals, well, they look a lot more like you, right? And when you dig into it, the top of the funnel and recruiting, nurturing, passive talent, it’s actually one of the few areas where you can make investments into who you’re engaging with to get them into the funnel and essentially run affirmative action programs, and build a diverse pipeline of candidates. Right? So anyone who values diversity, that also is a really strong indicator. And then the other thing that I always love to see is organizations that are becoming data driven when it comes to their recruiting, because that’s a big area where Gem helps.

William:  23:43

Right. It’s interesting because the folks outside of global heads of TA, but the people, the more tactical, the employer branding, recruitment marketing, and recruiting operations, they all love Gem, because it allows them to do the things that they would’ve always want to do or want to do, but want to do in a more refined way, I love that. So two questions. One is, is for you when, if no one’s seen and they haven’t seen Gem, the first time they see it, what do you think they fall in love with? And then the second question is kind of your favorite or more recent, most recent customer story that you just love? And no names, of course, but just something that you just love in a way that customers use Gem?

Steven:  24:32

Absolutely. I think the thing that folks fall in love with out of the gate is just the ease of use. Yeah. That’s got to be it. We’ve really redesigned this platform from the ground up to be specifically designed for individual recruiters and sourcers, right? Because we feel that if we can build a product that folks love to use, if we can drive the kind of adoption that talent leaders and talent operations specialist want to see, like the rest is easy, right? The other value props for talent leadership, for talent operations, we can build that on top of this foundation, right? And I think where a lot of other systems go wrong is, if you only focus on the value for leadership, which is how a lot of traditional HR tech is sold, right? Then all of that is built on the presumption that the individual recruiters and sourcers are going to be using the system.

William:  25:38

Right. It also weighs what keeps CHROs and global heads of talent up at night after they fall in love with something, the immediate thing is, “Will my people use it? Will my team use it?”

Steven:  25:47

Exactly right.

William:  25:49

And it’s terrifying for folks that want to buy, but they don’t want to buy something that people don’t use.

Steven:  25:57

Exactly. And that’s where Gem is just always going to be a slam dunk in terms of driving end user engagement and adoption. And that’s probably the biggest way that we’re different from most of what’s out. And the number one piece of advice I’d give to any buyer of HR tech these days is to go talk to some customers. And don’t just talk to the reference customers we give you.

William:  26:20

Right, right.

Steven:  26:22

Go talk to any of our 800 customers. Chances are you have someone from your network that you know, and trust that loves Gem that’s going to say great things.

William:  26:32

Oh, I see that pop up all the time in Facebook and LinkedIn in the groups. It’s like, “Hey, who’s using Gem.” And then, people will then pile on and it’s a love fest, so it’s great. Favorite customer story, let’s end on kind of just something that you just like, “Wow.” Maybe an unintended way or something that one of your customers is just done in you’re like, “That’s really impressive.”

Steven:  27:02

Yeah. So one of my favorite customer stories, recent example. So we’ve done a pretty big investment into analytics and into helping organizations make their recruiting more data driven, right? One of the things we do there is we integrate really deeply with the applicant tracking system. We can take all of the touch points that are happening at the top of the funnel, and then marry that to how far does everybody get in the recruiting funnel, using information from the ATFs, so we can track the full funnel. All the way from send, to reply, to convert it into process, to phone screen, to onsite, to operate, to accept. So the first full funnel visibility that’s ever been brought to market, and then what we can do on top of that is break that funnel out by anything you want, right? Whether that’s by geo or department or by individual recruiter, or even hiring manager and by things like diversity. So you can understand the gender and race ethnicity mix up of your pipeline.

William:  28:08

Love that.

Steven:  28:08

So one really incredible customer story I heard recently, I was, I was talking to the VP of talent at a large public company in the online productivity space. And they were telling me how they were using Gem’s pipeline analytics to debug diversity in their funnel. And what they were finding is one, an underrepresented group was passing through the phone screen to onsite stage at a much lower rate for this specific department.

Steven:  28:37

And when they dug in, they were actually getting really qualified candidates. But when they went and talked to them and they looked at the rejection reasons, they didn’t quite know what to expect out of this interview, it was something that they weren’t used to. And what they did is they added a prep call for anyone from a non-traditional background to level the playing field. And I thought that was so cool. And within a quarter, they had the pass through rates back up to equal for everyone. And that was just warmed my heart, it was so cool to see that because so many organizations care about diversity, they value it, they’re trying to move the needle, but it’s really hard to improve what you can’t measure.

William:  29:20

That’s right. They have the intentionality and they want to put the actions, programs, budget, at all of that stuff together. But if, again, if you don’t have visibility insight or line of sight, then it makes it more difficult. Brother, you just dropped the mic, walk off stage. Steve, I can’t even imagine how busy you are and I won’t even try, but I absolutely appreciate you carving out some time for us and our audience.

Steven:  29:49

Likewise. It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.

William:  29:52

Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening to The Use Case Podcast. Until next time

Music:  29:55

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William Tincup

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.


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