“We Help People Get Jobs”: Learnings from Indeed Interactive

Comfortably sitting in the lounge at Austin’s airport waiting for New Jersey thunderstorms to dissipate leaves me with  a few reflective minutes after two days at Indeed Interactive.

I’ve no real point of comparison between this year and any of the previous years. It was my first Indeed conference…not my first conference though. I met quite a few of the 1000+ clients, vendors and suppliers in their ecosystem. It seemed there were another 500+ employees at the event – mostly sales leadership as well as the core leadership of what must now be Recruit’s flagship firm. The audience, approaching 1800, was mostly composed of smaller employers – to be expected but, many large, well-known firms were also in attendance and included on panels or leading sessions. Global representation was not obvious but it wasn’t non-existent either. Overall the conference was extremely well organized and executed – almost to LinkedIn’s buttoned-up hyper standard but, with a more casual, relaxed Austin flair.

The expected entertainment, food and venue were as good as I could have imagined. What far exceeded my expectations was the quality of the content. Strong sessions by Aaron Krajilev at Wells Fargo on Candidate Experience and a panel on inclusion that included top EY and Yahoo leaders, moderated by one of Indeed’s leaders were, for me, a highlight of the concurrent track that was excellent throughout. Other sessions including, for example, one by Charlotte Marshall at Magellan on her EB work, were so popular the rooms overflowed.

My peak experience came early Tuesday with a keynote interview of Megan Smith. I’ve no words to describe how blown away I was with her passion to tackle the toughest challenges in our society AND execute to get it done. As one fellow attendee quipped, “She is the most impressive person I’ve never heard of.” I can’t wait for her to write her autobiography. Kudos to Indeed for finding and putting her on stage. Best use of my time at a conference in 25 years was listening to her.

This morning I was invited to  a breakfast to hear three of Indeed’s leaders respond to questions from journalists and a few ‘influencers’ (after first taking up half of the hour with a set piece moderated by their communications expert.) Didn’t dissuade the journalists from asking the right questions that have been floating around since Glassdoor became Indeed’s cousin but it was an effective means to limit too many follow-ups.

I’m such a fan of the aspiration Indeed runs with to “help people get jobs.” Their explanation of how that is done, however, always starts with what is provided to employers for branding, finding and selecting candidates. That’s not all bad. After all, Indeed has emerged among tens of thousands of job boards and resume repositories in a decades-long scrabble to the top of the hill – dislodging all prior kings, monsters and career-builders alike. The sticking point isn’t about acknowledging their current success, it’s really about whether their self-described belief that they are truly different from LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, etc. because they focus on the candidates is real enough to create the future they are selling. I would be more confident if there were evidence of that difference – maybe if candidates independently got feedback they could use to choose jobs they were more competitive for, learned how competitive they were for a given job before applying, or were able to stack rank the qualities of the hiring manager in the position they might apply for even as that manager is stack ranking them. That kind of thing.

According to Indeed’s leaders, Google isn’t viewed as an “existential threat” (at least not publicly) and Glassdoor will most likely go its own way for the next couple years. I believe the latter is true and have no expectation that Glassdoor or Indeed will attempt to do more than stay out of each other’s way in the short run. Recruit is very patient. As to the former, I vividly remember a conversation 15 years ago – when Job Boards embraced the idea of Indeed’s (and Simply-Hired’s) willingness to post ALL their jobs for free. Traffic increased for everyone. All were happy. 15 years later, Indeed is on a roll with little competition and may be pivoting to cover its bet by providing more and more inbound and outbound services, offering easily integrated assessments, low-cost third-party capabilities, and branding support.