Storytelling about SeekOut with Anoop Gupta
Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 79. This week we have storytelling about Seekout with Anoop Gupta. During this episode, Anoop and I talk about how practitioners make the business case or the use case for purchasing Seekout.
Anoop is an expert in talent acquisition. His passion to provide customers a competitive edge in recruiting hard-to-find and diverse talent really comes through during the podcast.
Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think.
Show length: 42 minutes
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Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you are listening to the Use Case Podcast. Today we have Anoop on from Seekout. And I can’t wait to talk with him about the business case or the use case that practitioners make for Seekout because he’s got a wonderful company. And they do a lot of great things in our community, for both recruiters and sourcers, and hiring managers. So we’re gonna have a really fun conversation and learn all about Seekout. So Anoop, would you do me and the audience a favor and introduce yourself and introduce Seekout.
Hi William, delighted to be on this podcast. So I’m Anoop, I’m co founder and CEO of Seekout. We are a three-year-old company in the talent space. My background, I’m a geek and an entrepreneur.
I came to this country in 1980, I got my PhD in computer science at Carnegie Mellon. I was a professor at Stanford for 11 years. I started my first company there in the streaming media business that got sold to Microsoft, and then 18 years at Microsoft, including the fun part of reporting directly to Bill Gates for a couple of years as his tech advisor running the Skype and exchange businesses, if you’re using email, running global technology, policy, education, telepresence. So lots of fun things. And at some point decided, you know, there was a second startup, we have to do. And here we are.
When I, you know, think about our vision and mission for Seekout. The starting point is our belief that people are the most important asset for any company. They build the products, they make the products, they sell the products, they market the products. They also happen to be the most important asset. Sorry, most expensive asset for any company. So it becomes really critical that how do we how we find people, how we hire people, how do we retain people, develop people become hugely important.
And we believe the more holistic profiles that you can build for people, resumes are not the most representative profiles, they’ll help you get ahead. Today, we focus primarily on external talent acquisition, and over the year, we will broaden but our mission is simple, you know, we want to provide our customers a competitive edge in recruiting hard to find and diverse talent.
It’s, it’s, it’s, for me, it’s, as I explain Seekout to folks, this is an application that’s not just going to help you find talent, but also the right talent. And, and that’s that those things aren’t easy, finding talent, not easy and finding the right talent, qualified talent. And as, as we’ve learned over the last couple years, finding more diverse and inclusive talent. Some of the things that that you’ve seen just recently with Seekout, and the way that your customers are using Seekout now, maybe as opposed to, you know, when you first started, what are some of those trends? What do you what are some of the things that you’re seeing, and the ways that your, your customers are kind of using the application?
As you mentioned, diversity has become a really important, you know, endeavor for talent teams, you know, right from the C suite, all of the CEOs siling, as you know, signing their diversity pledge. So, and it’s coming down to, you know, the talent leaders to say, How do I recruit? And of course, inclusion and belonging are important too. So we help our talent leaders to translate the great intentions into real action and results. So the way I talk about it is, you know, the first thing if you’re a talent leader You’re trying to say how do you set targets? So if you’re setting targets, you need to understand, you know, what does, let’s say data scientists look like diversity amongst data scientists in your company. What does it look like at PR companies? What does it look like in the location or the region where you are, are internationally.
So this competitive data and the talent analytics that is built into Seekout is very helpful for that. The second area that I talked about is, how do you write diversity-friendly job descriptions? And I asked them, How do you do it today? How do you go to the hiring manager and have the discussion and they put 20 must-have requirements that really decimate the talent pool that you might have. And through the analytics, we find that data-driven conversations go a lot further. When you can show them you know, you add the skill, and this is how it is reducing the talent pool, you add this other skill, so and what is rarely necessary. And I love this quote from Jim Barksdale, who was the CEO of Netscape, the first internet browser and server company.
And what he says is, if you’re coming to me with data, let’s have a conversation and discussion. If you’re coming, you know, if you’re talking about opinions, then let’s go with mine. Okay, and the notion is there’s a power, you know, gap between the hiring manager and the recruiter, you can have much more productive conversations when you go with. So that is a second, you know, use case within diversity where we really help recruiters, and these are questions you should be asking, how can you do that?
The third thing is, you know, actually the sourcing strategy. If you are looking for Black data scientists, what are the companies I should be digging into? What are the locations I should be? Should I be asking for a relocation budget? Are you comfortable with remote work? So we can really help people find that. Another thing we do is something that we call blind hiring mode and Seekout, where you can actually choose as an organization where you can in this blind hiring mode, hide the image, the name, any social networks, education. So there’s a variety of things that can be hidden. So people are looking at candidates and providing feedback, based on their skills and experience, and not based on factors, you know, that can be a distractor, to it. So that becomes a really powerful element of what we let people do.
And then finally, actually, you know, get you the emails and the contact information, and messaging templates, where you can engage. So this whole angle of diversity and what can be done, there is a very, very powerful use case that companies are finding attractive, further, they are trying to now get Seekout for all of their recruiters and sourcers rather than just a subset, because diversity is everybody’s business and mission that they need to participate in.
Yes, I’ve seen that trend in LinkedIn, that a lot of it used to be parsed out as you were a technical recruiter, you were this type of sourcer. And a lot of it is now coming together as diversity and inclusion as a part of sourcing, as opposed to being split off I and I like that trend.
So one of the questions I have is, you know, what would you change about how people seek out talent, like, if you could wave a wand, you know, sort of more or less, like, if we could kind of unwind some of the biases because you talked about resumes, which I think is and job descriptions, both of which are, you know, have historically been, you know, just just tethered to bias. So, so what would you change in the way that people go about finding that talent?
So, one is, you know, the more, so part of the vision is called talent 360. So we say how do you build the most holistic profiles on people. So especially for engineering and technical talent related to you know, the digital revolution that is happening? We go to, you know, GitHub and we actually look at the raised they have contributed, have they participated in discussion, or papers or patterns for defense or, you know, companies, when they’re looking for security clearance.
We look at all of the jobs that are, you know, that were open in the last five years and see if security clearance was required and who’s sitting. So we bring together a lot of information together so that you can find the right people. And the most specific ways for the talent. An approach I like is, you know, what? Lou Adler calls hiring for success. And so there are two methods. One is the spray and pray method, right means go get a thousand people, send them a message, not get specific.
My personal this thing is how do we select the right people? How do we make sure that there is a growth opportunity, you know, the role that you have, why the company and the values are going to resonate, and then reach out in this much more targeted way. And I think that leads to much better candidate experience. And that leads to much higher success for the long term
I love that. So let’s dig into who uses Seekout. And the question I have is kind of wrapped in something I’ve seen in sourcing operations. So, you know, a couple years ago, when there was lots of conversation in sourcing and recruiting around AI, machine learning, and NLP, and you kind of had a little bit of fear that you could kind of feel from the practitioner community that that their jobs were going to be taken or automated, etc.
But it also kind of created, you know, an opportunity in terms of sourcing operations being in more of an operational role and using data, as you’ve already talked about, what are you seeing, in particular, what are you seeing in terms of sourcing operations? And then the second part of that is the who’s using Seekout? On a daily basis? What persona?
Yeah, no? Sure. So two question. One is in terms of sourcing operations, you know, efficiency is important workflow is really important. So how you integrate, you know, with the applicant tracking systems, and the workflow becomes very important, how do you know what other recruiters are doing?
Can you find talent that is already there in the applicant tracking systems, so a lot of those parts become very important. And the, you know, efficiency and efficacy are people using as to who is using Seekout. It is rarely all recruiters and sourcers. And some TA leaders, you know, who are starting to who are active users of Seekout, we have many, many companies now that have enterprise licenses. But really, every recruiter and sourcer has access to Seekout. We also have many smaller startups where hiring is a big deal, where, you know, their license means hiring managers and recruiters all have access to Seekout.
So you’ve taken a lot of software to market. And so you’ve, you’ve seen this play out a couple different ways, and a couple different times. The unintended use of Seekout. So you go to market with an idea. And then all of a sudden, a customer says, I like that, and then I’m gonna use it this way, in a positive way, not not in a negative way, but an unintended and all of a sudden, you’re now your development team, and your product team is like, oh, wait a minute. If they’re using it that way, maybe some of our other customers will use it that way, what are what are some of those stories for you?
So we have actually stuck quite a bit to saying the talent professionals are our audience and we have focused to that what we have seen from some of the customers, they say, Hey, you know, can we use it for business development and sales because you know, you can say Hey, who are if you’re selling to directors of talent, you know, hey, you can very easily search for those people get their contact information, phone numbers, but to me, the go to market for different scenarios, who are the people who are buying, how are you selling?
Who are the influencers, all becomes very different and we have decided to very deliberately keep our focus on the talent professionals and make sure we are spending every, you know, cycle of our time and energy, making it the best, best solution for that.
I love that. So, so and then you know, when you, when you, when you get that call that says hey, can we use it for our sales team and do business development, etc. It sounds good because it opens up this brand new market like, oh my God, we can go after this other market, but also those things, they, they have separate sales cycles, separate personas. It splits the marketing budget. It also can possibly split the product in, in, in terms of feature set going forward. So let’s let me ask you a question about buying questions.
So buying questions I want to ask it in two ways. One is, what are your favorite buying questions? Like what do you when people ask you, you know, when you talk to them, and they ask you questions, and your, your face just lights up? Like I love that question. And then the opposite is also true.
What are the questions that, you know, that just kind of drive you into the wall? Questions that you wish that, you know, that we could just stop asking?
So, um, I think what lights me up actually, is when, you know, in any market, there’s a lot of noise out there, everybody’s claiming that they do everything. And we believe a lot of our differentiation is the quality of the results, and the quality of profiles and the quality of contact information, just the quality of experience and speed of experience and success you can get.
So, you know, I was talking to heads of TA of two very large companies today, who are, you know, amazing companies in our environment. And what lights me up is, they say, Oh, you know, diversity is important to us, what can we do, we are looking for, you know, mechanical engineers, or people who work with drones, or you know, that this is a large manufacturing related company, I said, let’s go into the product. Let’s look at that.
And we start exploring, and we can see from the analytics, where these people are, where we can make an adjustment. What does diversity look like for them? What does diversity look like in peers where they can do it. So I find that people when they are curious, and they want to understand rally, how they can get to the target, their eyes light up, and my eyes locked up, okay? To do that, so, and whether you look at a diversity or some other context, we can just go in or I was talking to another, you know, people in the industry of semiconductor and they do you know, the most advanced chips for AI and things like that.
And we could go into our expert database and find them people with patterns, or people who are doing AI algorithms for hardware and writing the code for that. So whether we go in deep talent, or we are looking for SaaS sales people, or how we are doing discovery, discovery inside the applicant tracking system, and how we can use the analytics and the combination of being the smart, you know, savvy, talent advisor recruiter on how we can work, you know, how we help their people become.
I love those questions, and taking people through them and how we can empower their talent organizations to get more done.
And questions that, and I’ll give you one of my I advise practitioners not to talk about price until the very end. So just don’t bring up money. Yeah, there will be money, there is a contract on all that other stuff. But just save it and get it? Is this the right application? does it solve the problem? Is it integrated into your workflow and all that other stuff, like solve for all of the algebra, solve for all of those, all of those things, and then get the price?
So I have a general disdain for pricing questions, you know, very early on in the price in the process. Is there anything is there any types of questions that kind of, you’d rather that either not be asked or you just it’s benign, or it’s something that you should cover later on.
So I’ll get to the pricing part. So the questions that are you know, not so attractive is competition questions? Yeah. How do you compare to x, y or z?
Right, right? That’s a really good point.
Right. And what is, you know, my baby is the prettiest.
And the smartest.
And the smartest. So, you know, are the other ways, you don’t want to call your baby ugly, right? Or another baby. So it is about, I kind of say, you know, going compared to yourself, or bringing it and people show it to you. So when it comes very detailed, you know, they do a matching, you do a matching, what’s slightly different and what can you do? Of course, I answer them.
But those are questions that make you a little bit uncomfortable, right? Just because it’s not due to human tendency to go and say negative things about a tribe, or I don’t want to be the one saying it, I stay very high level and say, please go and take a look, here are our strengths. Here are the reasons why, you know, this amazing set of customers are making a bet on Seekout.
That’s right. I love that, not only the positive part of that, is, you know what, there’s no need to talk about, there’s, there’s such a big market. Money enough around for everybody. There’s no need to talk badly about another vendor.
And at the same time, you know, I think test driving it or just looking at it yourself, you, you’ll either see the different similarities or differences or not. But, but, uh, I think putting vendors into that position is, is it’s a kind of a no win. No win position. So yeah.
So and then in pricing I am with you. Uh, you know, you, you know, show people, you know, how it can really create value for them. Sometimes they do have a budget issue, and they want to have a sense of pricing. So I’m very happy to discuss, right, you know, the high-level pricing, but I’m with you getting into details of pricing.
The first thing is, does this excite you or resolve some amazing problems for you? Uh, you know, those key initiatives that you’re pursuing, and, you know, then pricing and all the rest of the things because if you do an enterprise license, it’s very different than if you’re getting a single license. And they just a lot of variables that are there.
Well, and again, you know, you’re going to get to pricing, it’s inevitable, it’s like buying a car. At one point you’re going to talk to finance. That’s, that’s inevitable. Like you will do it, you just don’t have to do it, you know, as the first bit. I gotta ask you about integrations and workflow.
So, so obviously, you know, people can play Seekout and use Seekout in a lot of different ways. But what are you seeing from your customers in terms of workflow, where they like, and love Seekout in their workflow. But also where you’re currently where you’re integrated into their, I guess ATSs and other systems.
So we integrate already with most of the major ATS and CRMs, you know Workday, and Taleos and SAP and SmartRecruiter and Lever and Greenhouse and Avature. So you can do so we call about one way integration and Beamery. So CRM systems smashfly, the other kind of integration is, you know, what we call bi directional integration where we can take the candidates that are in your CRM or ATS, bring a portion of their profile or the fact that they exist in the ATS into our system.
And so the profile they get is the latest profile and not the three year old profile that might have been there in the ATS that is there. We enhance it, where the all of the additional information we might have from security clearance to you know, their contributions to code bases, papers, patents, everything else. Then we let you search using you know, all the AI matching or Boolean or whatever else and give you analytics around that. So it becomes very smooth when we go deeply integrate in this way with the ATS. You can also see if another recruiter has been talking to that candidate.
So you know, it’s immediately visible to you when you’re searching for people so it solves for that workflow side of it. So that’s the, you know, key ways we rarely simplify their workflow. And then we can help them you know, of course, get that data into whatever system of record, if I may call it that, you know, they want to take data into.
I think that refresh, it’s not talked about enough in terms of keeping that data current. You and I both have lived long enough that people use their ATS in a way that they cast for new. So the the ATS just becomes a repository there go, cast new, they’ll throw it in the ATS. They’ll take people through a workflow, those that they that, you know, that for whatever reason, don’t make the cut or don’t make the list.
They just, they’re just there in the ATS and nothing’s done with them. It’s like an asset that’s just waiting to be leveraged. Yes. So I love, I love what y’all are doing in terms of keeping that data current, most up to date, and then again that’s contact information. That’s all these all the other things that are important. So I love that.
And I think that’s actually something that more, you know, to get the most out of your ATS. You know, you’re spending a lot of money on these on your ATS to get the maximum value of your ATS. Maximize that data and make sure that it’s fresh.
Yeah, that so the way I stated, William, is a little bit even broader. So one is your data is fresh and enhanced, you know, because we gather more information that is there in the resumes.
Second is we make it searchable in ways and show you analytics, so I can go and I was doing this. So say, you know, find me mechanical engineers that work on this, you know, additive all of the digital printing, you know, stuff that’s going on, and I can with a single click, then say, you know, find me women, find me Black people.
Or do where they are now, you know, you can go and see all the fresh college hires that applied that you rejected. You can go and look through yours and say, what companies are they at? What are they doing? Did we make a good decision? Or a bad decision? Can we get them back? So all of that is possible that now Seekout at this point, and today.
I love that. You’ve mentioned analytics three times. So I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you a little bit about what you’re seeing currently, and how people are using Seekout analytics, and how you want to push that, you know, over the next year or so where you want to take analytics for your customers.
So basically, what we say is when you do a search traditionally, and you look at LinkedIn profiles, or you know whatever profiles one by one. You are looking at individual trees and saying this tree good bad. It helps to get a bird’s eye view of the whole talent pool. Okay, and one of the things in our system is, there is a lot of knobs that are there on how you specified you know, do you say I need data scientists, or just senior data scientists or with 10 years of experience already, TensorFlow is a skill, you can specify the talent pool any way you want. Okay, and get that bird’s eye view.
This works for diversity, this works for you know, how you target, how you have conversations with hiring managers, this whole notion of becoming a talent advisor, rather than an order taker is a big component of using the data and or analytics are very attractive. So if you see, you know, top 10 cities, you can click on city number three, and it’s as if you had gone and build the query and select the location to be that.
So we have a very interactive version of the analytics. where we are headed is one is to give you much more prescriptive or forward looking insights. You know, so many of our audience are not experts in data science, and may have difficulty interpreting the data that they’re seeing. So we want to offer intelligent interpretations of the data that can be a guide to them that can take to their leaders or to the hiring managers is becoming very important. Another thing we want to do is much more around comparative analytics.
So you know, it’s like, then you go and are trying to buy a TV and you say, you know, can you compare this model, this is not this battle. So you know, being able to show you those comparison ideas again, so that you can build your strategies. So the goal is to just make it easier for them to share the analytics easier to interpret and get the insights because it’s not about data, it’s about the insights, right?
How is it going to change what you’re going to do next. And we want to be talent professionals, best friend in leveraging that data.
So I want to be assumptive and say that the concept of remote has changed sourcing. But what I want to get your opinion on is pre COVID, or pre pandemic, everything, a lot of things were were location based, not everything, but but a lot of things we’re looking at, if you want a job in Philadelphia, you sort for people in Philadelphia.
What have you seen through through the pandemic? And what do you what do you believe is kind of the future of how the concept of remote and sourcing kind of are interlaced, or how they criss cross each other.
So, you know, one of the things we have discovered, all of us I really mean is that people can be productive while being remote. And therefore there is a lot more openness to, you know, find candidates remotely, I see quite a lot of extremes, where they’re saying, you know, okay, I will find talent in a low cost country, or, you know, versus, er, the other says, Hey, if I need diversity, and you know, Seattle is not so diverse. Can I go to Austin? And can I go to Houston? Or can I go to Washington, DC, and get more diverse talent.
So that is becoming, or the tired is just to find the best talent? You know, if I can’t find the machine learning engineer in San Francisco, because competition is too high? Can I find them in Idaho? Okay, we might be there or Indiana. So all of these trends are very much there. I think they are great 10 trends. At a philosophical level, you know, I also think people need to be careful things work together.
Well, if everybody’s remote, and things work well. And everybody is kind of, you know, mostly co-located. Then you have split teams, where half are remote and half are, you know, three quarters are concentrated in a location and a quarter is remote.
I think it takes a lot of thoughtfulness and how you execute, so that the remote people are not feeling as lower class citizens, and they try to participate just the thing. And I think that’s a learning we will go through in the year.
Yeah. And I love the way that you phrase that it’s thoughtfulness. Because you’ve got to be thoughtful in the way that you approach that for the employees. And allow that, hey, listen to you know, you, we want to make sure you have a great experience. Yes.
Three, three quick questions. One is how do you handle or how do you how do you guide your your folks to handle the ROI question. You know, when you get asked, it’s inevitable, and HR and in TA, that at one point, someone’s going to ask you about ROI. Just it just is what it is. How do you how do you normally kind of go about trying to create math around this? Or again, I don’t want to be assumptive what’s what’s your take on ROI?
I think ROI is important, but it’s also overrated and misused. All of the people who say, you know, I make your recruiting 10x faster, give me a break, please.
I love it when people say fuzzy math, and it’s like, there’s actually a there actually is things called fuzzy math.
You know, people who say, Oh, we reduce it by 83%. If you’re, you know, the Professor, ex-professor, like myself and a geek and it just say. There’s precision, there’s accuracy, there’s a lot of different things, you know, if you know up to 83% my god.
So the way I talk about it is, you know, getting the right person in the company rarely matters. Oh, okay, having the right people and we say we are good at certain things we are not so if you’re Burger King and you’re looking for cooks, you know, we are not the right tool for you, right?
For the right talent, the way we will help you find it. And we make give them references, we give them case studies, we have them talk to other customers. And I think that makes a bigger difference. We help them do pilots, and they can run it themselves and see the value.
So as an earlier stage startup, now, we are not super early stage, but you know, we are still maturing, quantitative case studies to have statistically valid quantitative studies is hard. Right?
Yeah. Right. And and again, I think though, the approach that you’re taking is is spot on. It’s, it’s, hey, talk to her. First of all, you’ve separated out and said, I think early in the podcast, you said, you know, we want to help people find that hard to find talent. You know, we want to be the secret weapon, their secret sauce to be able to find this talent. And again, if it’s no, no offense to Burger King or cooks. Yeah, if it’s Burger King and cooks, that’s just not. That’s there’s there’s something else that might help them.
Yes. So we’re building custom tools to help them yeah.
And again, you’re not trying to be all things to all people, which again, I like that approach. This second question is about the demo. And because I’ve seen your show software, I’ve, I’ve witnessed the magic of watching you demo software and show people software.
What’s the aha moment? Like? What’s that when you, when you have somebody on the other side, and you show them something, and you just see their eyes light up? Or you, you can just tell they’re excited? What is that generally for y’all?
So, you know, often I asked them, What is important to that, you know, give me a role. So instead of my taking it, and then they’ll say this is a practice thing, or something like that, right? I asked them for, what is some key roles they are searching for.
And you know, I’m not an expert in their slice, of course, and I showed them how I can use the combination of just some simple keywords to looking at the analytics, incrementally refining, and then getting to people and then they say, oh, I’ve talked to that person.
So they get very excited, and they see us in such a rapid and, you know, easy way, get to some other people talent there now, and some and many, many, many, of course, that they don’t know, but they know are good. And we can do it across many categories. And we can do this for diverse talent, and we can do it for tech talent. And we can do it for salespeople. So that’s always fun, and exciting.
I like that. I actually prefer prefer, you’re one of only a few CEOs that do this. I can name them. But you know, if we were just we won’t go there. But but you actually asked them and I’ve seen you do this, like what’s your open position? Like, just tell me what, what’s what’s your hardest to find?
Now you need to, you know, a data scientist that, you know, worked at DARPA, that, you know, has a degree from Stanford, okay, all right, well, you know, okay, let’s, let’s figure that out, you actually go into the system into Seekout, right in front of them, and go, here’s how I would do. And I love that I think it’s both good for me, it’s good to show the product that way.
And it’s not kind of a staged, kind of a demo type of thing that you know, you’re just going from one thing to another, I like it, that it’s personal. But I also like it because it shows that you’re skilled, you know, your passion, your passion is about finding talent. And so you’re learning as these people are giving you these wrecks you’re learning as well. So you’ve done a ton of searches just just just in doing and just showing people software.
Last thing on the way out Anoop, is the rest of 2021 for Seekout. What do you know, we got what eight months or so left in the year. It’s flying by. What?
It’s much better than 2020 in uh, in some ways what’s what’s success for you and for the rest of the year?
So there are you know, two dimensions or three dimensions if I may say you know, as a business, we are trying to get to many, many more customers and we are trying to triple this year. In size. So getting, I feel what we have that it is useful and value-creating lots of customers we’ve trying to get to that.
The second is always Customer Success making sure that the people we have are happy, are getting value, and how we can support them.
And then the third element in is product and how we are enhancing the product to support many more scenarios, whether they might be automatically scoring inbound talent because people outside you’re suddenly seeing a lot of more applications coming in or referrals.
And the biggest kind of thing is, today you will look to us for external talent acquisition. Okay. Where we want to go is talent 360 being the best, you know, way to locate internal and external talent and to develop and retain and grow talent. So you will see as as covering both sides of it for internal and external talent.
I love that. I love that because there’s not only not just a play there but there’s a play on the other side of that is outplacement. Is helping people then get placed with their next greatest adventure. So so I love that. I could talk to you, you know all day. Of course.
But you know you’ve got like a company to run and and a couple other priorities on your plate. So Anoop, I appreciate you carving out time, and being on the Use Case Podcast.
Thank you so much, William. I really enjoyed the conversation.