Smart Leadership Series: The Future of Recruiting Technology
Bill Inman, Executive Vice President of SmartSearch, interviews LJ Morris, President and one of the original founders of Smart Search. LJ has been a major innovator in the ATS applicant tracking system market, having helped build the system from scratch over 30 years ago.
This webinar is the premier of our new talk series on Smart Leadership, where we will be inviting leaders in the industry to share their experiences and insights. Watch the conversation here or read more for the synopsis.
Can you tell us about your background and how you got where you are?
I've been with the company for 25 years. I started in July 1997 at the corporate IT site with a programming background. I've always had a passion for business. When I started with SmartSearch 25 years ago, the question that the former CEO asked me at the time was, "why would you want to work here?" It was a small company struggling, but I saw so much potential and was eager to join the team, and it's been a real privilege to be part of this journey for 25 years.
We've held our own through several recessions and an onslaught of competitors coming and going, and we're still here going strong. I think what's kept us alive this whole time is we're passionate about partnering with our clients. Many of our clients view us as more partners than vendors, resulting in long relationships. Our first client is still with us after 35 years, a statement no other ATS can attest to. They went from one office to hundreds and hundreds of offices worldwide.
How to run a company where people love where they work and get attached to it?
The employees and the team members here are just as important as the clients. I rely on them every day and want them to know they can depend on me. So it's mutual respect we have for each other, and it's the same with the former owners. Everyone likes to say this is a family, and one of the great things about working with SmartSearch is they have your back, no matter what life throws at you, which is valuable. I have been with the company for 25 years; Debbie Sims has been with the company for 24 years, and Jess Jebrail has been over 20 years. I believe Sylvia Dahlby is also past her 20th anniversary. So we have a long list of employees who've been here a long time in the market. To have tech people who stick around is a statement of the company culture.
Can you tell us about the kinds of companies that SmartSearch services today and the solutions it provides to them?
We're unique in the industry because we are flexible enough, even with the current versions, where we can support corporate HR and staffing firms. We have a vast spectrum of clients: healthcare, hospital groups, large oil drilling companies down in Texas, and companies that manage nuclear power sites.
On the staffing side, we have substantial international staffing companies, small startups, and everything in between. SmartSearch is truly a platform where you can start small, and it's affordable and gives you all the features of the big guys without having to migrate to a different system. You could quickly grow your company to a million-dollar company, and SmartSearch will be able to handle the volume and complexities of your needs, tailor your workflows, and adjust as you grow. And I think that's one of the things that makes us unique and keeps the job fun.
When I was going into staffing and HR, it did not seem very exciting, but it's a very competitive and exciting market. And, you know, that's one of the things that keeps me going every day.
The target market in this industry has a high level of urgency. How do you deal with it?
The system has to be up, fast, and ready. And when you go into a global market, it must be ready 24/7. We don't have the luxury of saying; we're going to be down for nine hours from 10 pm local time to 6 am because there are operations across the seas, where that's their workday. But it's one that we've managed to meet. Historically, if you were to take our uptime, I don't think anyone could beat us in that area, and that is a testament to a lot of hard work.
Across all these different types of companies, what are some common challenges they experience?
Compliance is a big one, and it's a challenge. Most of our companies are very good at remaining compliant. It's just how much effort, time, and money they must spend to stay compliant. So one of the things that technology can help with is to keep those costs down. A big part of what we do is not only to help them remain compliant but help them remain compliant efficiently and reduce the person-hours needed.
The other thing is the talent shortage, where, right now, we need people. So it would help if you had a reliable tool to find the best candidates quickly. The attention span of the modern applicant has gone down. They will lose interest when they hit your career site and encounter issues. So, the technology that presents the best user experience is critical.
When the economy shifts to a recession, many people apply for work. You want the best hiring decision because, as everyone knows, it's very costly if you make a hiring mistake: Artificial Intelligence is bias-free, can auto-rank applicants, and can do the legwork.
For companies looking to get a recruiting system, what are the most important things you need to consider?
Look at the company's track record and its ability to adapt. It's critical to find a system that is going to grow with you. We have had clients who've changed their business model entirely and used SmartSearch to transition from staffing to non-staffing and vice versa. My best advice is to make sure you pick a company that can grow with you and is tenacious and agile enough to adapt as you need.
What have you seen that's changed with recruiting technology over a period of time?
The mindset of what technology is in our life has just completely changed. If you look at the metaverse or web 3.0, it's all about immersion technology. I think there's been just a fundamental change in people's perception of technology; it's no longer what tools you are going to use but rather what is going to be the best system in my life.
The trick to all of this is using the technology without losing that connection. So part of what we tried to do with SmartSearch, is to get all the technology so, in the end, the human can make the decision they need to make. We try to insert the human factor instead of removing it because we think that's so critical for success. And that one of our passions is to do all of this with the human touch.