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SmartRecruiters CEO Jerome Ternynck on hiring success in the post-pandemic era

The need for efficiency, and effective talent acquisition technologies, has never been greater.

Yessi Bello-Perez


SmartRecruiters CEO

Unleash Your Hiring Here’s what SmartRecruiters CEO and founder Jerome Ternynck thinks about hiring in 2021.

“Invest in hiring success right now.” 

That’s the advice for HR professionals from Jerome Ternynck, the CEO and founder of SmartRecruiters, an enterprise-grade talent acquisition suite. 

Ternynck admits this advice is “self-serving” but he is quick to point out that HR and talent acquisition professionals are entering a “very difficult labor market”. 

A recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that the developed world is in the early stages of its post-pandemic recovery — and even though the OECD unemployment rate is falling (6.6% in May 2021, compared to 6.7% in April), there are still 43.5 million people unemployed.

Another study found that 95% of US employees were considering quitting their jobs – with 33% of those surveyed saying their decision was due to burnout.

The need for efficiency, and effective talent acquisition technologies, has never been greater.

‘Don’t ignore the complexity of recruiting and invest in hiring success. If you are able to actually attract and hire the right talent for every job internally and externally, then that part of the job gets taken care of and you can focus on the other parts of HR that are more important: the development, strategy, culture, etc,” Ternynck adds.

COVID-19 thrust HR into the spotlight. Human resources professionals have played a crucial role in keeping employees safe and businesses running.

Now, with the learnings of the pandemic behind them, HR leaders will need to ensure they devise strategies that align with employee and C-suite expectations.

And with the talent market heating up, the competition is likely to be fierce — and that’s why investing in a well-rounded HR tech stack, that’s truly people-centric, will be key for long-term success.

SmartRecruiters: Hiring with technology

Founded in 2010, SmartRecruiters is funded to the tune of $115 million. The company, headquartered in San Francisco, California, is backed by investors including Insight Partners and Salesforce Ventures. 

“I started SmartRecruiters when I realized the first generation of applicant tracking systems didn’t make hiring any easier, not for the companies, nor the candidates,” says the CEO, explaining he jumped at the chance to start from scratch and really think about how technology could actually do to help companies achieve hiring success.

Indeed, Ternynck is not a newcomer to the recruitment space. Back in 2000, Ternynck founded MrTed, an online recruitment platform, which sold to Stepstone Solutions (now Lumesse) in 2010. 

Prior to that, Ternynck, a serial entrepreneur, founded Talents Technology, credited with being one of the largest staffing services companies operating in the technology and pharmaceutical sectors in the Czech Republic and Poland. Ternynck also set up Accord Group ECE, another recruitment company, in the early 1990s. 

Today, SmartRecruiters claims to serve 1000 enterprise customers including Bosh, Domino’s Pizza, ServiceNow, LinkedIn, Twitter, Red Bull, and Sketchers. 

Ternynck firmly believes recruiting isn’t an administrative workflow. “It actually is a sales and marketing-like or value-add function where companies compete for the best talent,” he notes. 

This trend, Ternynck adds, has been accelerated by the pandemic. 

“I think we are entering a decade of deep transformation in the talent market. Candidates’ expectations have changed […] so the complexity of hiring has just exploded.” 

Indeed, candidates are more empowered: they’re thinking about how and where they’d like to work, HR departments are grappling to ensure the future of work is flexible and inclusive, while also trying to attract, hire, and retain the best talent. 

“A company turns financial capital into human capital to create an outcome. Everyone does that, but that link from financial capital to human capital is hiring — and if that link is broken, you get stuck.

“At the moment, that link is broken in many organizations and that is why recruiting is top of mind for CEOs. They very clearly realise that the ability to hire great talent is not there,” adds Ternynck. 

Recruitment bias

One of the biggest challenges for recruiters in the modern age is bias.

Technology, of course, has the potential to transform recruitment processes and drive efficiencies but it can also contribute to the human bias problem.

“A year ago we hired a chief diversity officer and we published a plan to become an anti-discrimination, anti-racist force in the recruiting market,” says Ternynck.

“We’ve been heavily involved in helping customers navigate, you know, what does diversity hiring look like,” he adds.

SmartRecruiters has produced a diversity tool kit that essentially provides a checklist of things recruiters need to do to achieve varying degrees of maturity.

In general terms, Ternynck says the recipe is quite simple: recruiters need to invest more in diversity sourcing and produce neutral job descriptions, target sourcing, sourcing target sourcing targets, having clear measures, and just over-index on that to ensure that you have no bias, from screening to hiring. All of this, he concludes, starts with a diverse hiring team.

Jerome Hiring Ternynck is the author of “Success: How Visionary CEOs Compete for the Best Talent.

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