Rolebot CEO & founder Shane Bernstein is a veteran of the recruiting industry. After cutting his teeth at TekSystems, he launched his first company, Q, a digital and IT focused recruitment agency with a diversity focus. He built on that success and the needs he saw in the industry to develop RoleBot in 2018. Rolebot is designed to deliver higher volumes of qualified candidates through it's use of AI technologies that model off of company-supplied "ideal candidate" profiles.
As industry analyst William Tincup puts it:
"Rolebot is your top of the funnel bionic arm for bandwidth"
The platform allows companies to skip the tireless research and courting so they can begin the recruitment process at the initial interview stage, and guarantees a talent pipeline that is at least 33% diversity (they tend to hit at least 50% - which is impressive considering many of their clients are in the technology sector, which is often viewed as challenging when it comes to diversity).
Shane’s approach to recruitment is to eliminate the foundational friction that exists from all angles - including ROI. "Working in the recruitment industry for 17 years, I saw the barriers to hiring were the resume and the job description - neither are helpful. As my own recruiting business grew, I also saw that hiring more recruiters didn't scale financially. Instead, we turned to technology and honed in on evidence-based data, and we saw that we could scale and disrupt an otherwise antiquated industry. Rolebot is the product of that deep domain expertise and the newly available AI models."
"There’s simply no point in carrying on with futile recruitment processes that don’t deliver value to businesses or candidates. While the recruitment process in itself has by and large remained the same, variables such as talent pool behaviors and expectations, length of time spent working for the same company, work environment, and publicly accessible data are constantly changing."
Leaders always have interesting stories, paths to how they got where they are today. What’s your story?
As most recruitment professionals can probably attest to, I got my start in this industry by accident, it was my 3rd career path, after shorter stints in the hospitality and entertainment industries. It’s not a subject that you grow up dreaming about and there’s no degree you can earn in talent acquisition, at least not yet. I got started in the technology & digital staffing space over 16 years ago, was interested in getting into sales and was recruited to work for the largest IT staffing company in the world in my first formal sales role, and once I learned the craft and felt confident I could start a business that brought value, I left to start my own staffing agency with a unique nuance, focusing only on passive talent.
What’s the story behind Rolebot? How did this whole thing kick-off?
For tech and digital hiring, passive candidates represented the top caliber talent pool that companies wanted to hire, they wanted candidates that were already working and highly sought after. We became really good at passive, during my time at the agency, in fact, that’s all we knew. Over time, felt that what we do on a smaller scale can be executed across all organizations and is feasible at a much larger scale, leveraging new technologies and big data sets that did not exist in abundance prior, at a fraction of what traditional recruitment efforts cost today. In 2018, after building out an MVP in the year prior and testing it amongst some of my customers in the staffing space, we launched Rolebot. Our aim: to normalize hiring passive talent across any organization. Today we work with in-house corporate TA teams and staffing agencies in removing the tedious aspect of the hiring process at top of funnel, empowering recruitment teams to focus on building relationships with the right talent and beginning their recruitment process at the 1st conversation.
What needs are you answering in the market?
At a high level, Rolebot is delivering passive talent at scale, at a tenth of the cost. In hiring today, there are 3 main avenues - job boards (post & pray, access to less than 25% of the skilled workforce), staffing agencies (very expensive, not a long-term sustainable solution), or Do-it-yourself, and most teams and/or individuals lack the bandwidth to be effective in passive/outbound recruitment efforts at scale. There was no solution on the market that gave companies a bionic arm to move mountains within their budgets and their bandwidth.
Rolebot is solving for bandwidth. 75 percent of the skilled workforce never apply for jobs. So companies are stuck with less than 25 percent of the talent pool which is dwindling by the year, even more realistically by the month.
We are servicing talent that traditionally doesn't get captured unless you pursue them or they’re referred to you. We help bring that 75 percent + of the talent pool to the table.
Let’s talk product: what tools and solutions do you offer your clients? Anything new that you’re excited about?
Yes, we have honed in on the 2 biggest friction points in hiring - the resume and the job description. We no longer need to leverage either.
Our solution delivers a look-alike passive talent pool based on current team members you wish to clone, who are ready to discuss new opportunities, and schedules the interview.
As a customer, point to your ideal candidate, then sit back and wait for interviews to populate on your calendar.
Sticking with that, are there any surprises along the way? I’m thinking, “we made something we thought was small/ immaterial, and it was a huge surprise success.”
We started as more of a do-it-yourself model and evolved the product offering to a turnkey model. The self-service model is what we started as, and then realized recruiters (our users) weren't recruiting, nor were they engaging. What they really wanted was - results. We learned a lot in measuring user behavior, and evolved into a turnkey solution which made all the difference.
Conversely: what has failed along the way? We all stumble, care to share a story about lessons learned?
We embrace failure because failure helps us move the needle. It’s part of the process and it’s necessary. Without failure, Rolebot wouldn’t be where we are today.
We started as a self-service offering and weren’t receiving the traction we anticipated. We didn’t experience traction and growth until we became a turnkey offering. Which took almost 2 years to figure out, all said and done.
Failure is not looked upon as a failure in our organization. If you don't go for it, you don't succeed, nor do you fail. Fail fast, learn fast.
Could you talk a bit about objections - when you lose a deal, are there any reasons that seem to stand out? IE, budget, competitors, integrations, etc? How do you surmount those?
We get a lot of pushback on the fact that we’re also engaging the talent pool directly—not just sourcing it. Many recruitment teams are fearful of letting a 3rd party or entity other than themselves engage the talent pool. It’s a trial and education process to encourage them to try it out. Once a customer tries it out, it’s hard for them to go back to the old way. At the end of the day, as long as it’s done in a professional manner, it’s the results that matter. Rolebot conversion rates are much better than what most companies or recruiters can produce on their own. The response rate we’re accomplishing at scale is much higher than what companies and/or staffing agencies are experiencing to date. The average company in the US sees under 10%, most of the time under 5%, staffing firms typically see 10-20%, sometimes more, but it’s not consistent. Rolebot is delivering 30% - 50% response on average. We're delivering a much higher conversion rate at scale for passive talent than anyone out there. How do we do it? We call it the perfect storm of success and failure.
How big is the team now, and how are you structured?
We have 50 employees now. Our team is comprised of sales, customer success (more talent pool focused), marketing, finance, product and engineering.
We’re in this crazy new world. Change is assumed, but structure is less certain. How are you, as a business leader, helping your team manage through it all?
We’re a pretty progressive business. We’re outside-the-box thinkers and keep tabs on trends. This helps us stay ahead of the game—even in the face of uncertainty and a changing world.
Do you see changes coming to the industry, and how service providers will address it, as we continue this business evolution we’re all in right now?
The pandemic was certainly a tipping point in the recruitment industry. It removed location as a major friction point, which was one of the biggest aspects of recruitment prior to the pandemic. Location from a relocation standpoint, from a compensation standpoint, from a caliber of talent standpoint and from a cost standpoint has added a very interesting and intriguing aspect to the marketplace.
Traditional tools are not doing what they used to do from a value standpoint, primarily because there are a lot more roles than there are people now. We're still leveraging processes that aren’t even pre-pandemic, we're talking post-classifieds. For a good 15 to 20 years we've been in a stalemate and haven’t really evolved as an industry. Many businesses are working as if they don't have computers or the internet.
One of the biggest factors now is that the talent pool has changed. The majority of the workforce today are millennials or younger. Their thought processes, mentalities and the way they view relationships are different. They don't apply to jobs and they put a lot more of their lives online. The challenge is, the industry must adapt and align to the new workforce demographic. If we don't change, we don't grow, we don’t hire and we don't succeed.
Okay: you’re 14. Suddenly, the “grown up” Shane is in the mirror, and wants to give you some advice. What is it? Do you still build this company, this career?
Never give up and dare to be different. Don't be afraid to go against the grain. Just because it’s always been done that way, doesn’t mean it’s the best way.