Subscribe on Apple Podcasts 

Ep 477: Innovation In Hourly Hiring


Hourly hiring remains challenging for many employers, and despite the worsening economic outlook, it will likely remain a huge challenge for several years to come.

So what innovations are we seeing in how employers approach hourly hiring and in the technology they are using? What does good look like now, and how will automation define the future?

My guest this week is Sean Behr, CEO of Fountain. Over the last few years, Fountain has helped companies hire over 13 million hourly paid workers in more than 75 countries, meaning Sean has a lot of insight to share.

In the interview, we discuss:

• The current talent marketing in hourly hiring

• The challenges of the last few years

• Fundamental changes in the workforce that will see hourly hiring continue to be challenging for years to come.

• What makes employers successful in this market

• The vital importance of speed in hiring

• Recruiting automation

• Using technology to provide a quality candidate, hiring manager, and recruiter experience at scale

• Really human hiring

• Personalization

• Quality versus quantity

• Why hourly hiring is the most innovative place to be in talent acquisition

Listen to this podcast in Apple Podcasts


Fountain (0s):
Support for this podcast is provided by Fountain. As the market leader in high volume hiring, Fountain helps its customers find qualified candidates and move them from application to onboarding quicker, reducing time to higher from weeks to days, or even hours. Fountain’s all in one platform, not only simplifies the screening, interviewing, and hiring experience, it also ensures applicants remain engaged and that companies have pipelines full of ready to work hourly talent. Hundreds of customers use Fountain Solutions to hire over 3 million workers annually in more than 75 countries.

Fountain (46s):
Ready to find the best hourly candidates for your needs? Visit to learn more and get in touch.

Matt Alder (1m 15s):
Hi there. This is Matt Alder. Welcome to Episode 477 of the Recruiting Future podcast. Hourly hiring remains challenging for many employers, and despite the worsening economic outlook, it will likely remain a huge challenge for several years to come. What innovations are we seeing in how employers approach hourly hiring and in the technology they’re using? What does good look like now and how will automation define the future? My guest this week is Sean Behr, CEO of Fountain. Over the last few years, Fountain has helped companies hire over 13 million hourly paid workers in more than 75 countries, meaning Sean has a lot of insight to share.

Matt Alder (2m 7s):
Hi Sean, and welcome to the podcast.

Sean Behr (2m 9s):
Matt, it’s great to be here.

Matt Alder (2m 10s):
An absolute pleasure to have you on this show. Please, could you introduce yourself and tell everyone what you do?

Sean Behr (2m 16s):
Sure. I’m Sean Behr. I’m based here in the States in lovely California. I’m the CEO of Fountain, and we’re in the high volume, Hourly Recruiting space, or blue collar Recruiting space if you happen to be a listener around the world. We’re in the software business of helping large organizations hire the right people to power their business.

Matt Alder (2m 39s):
Tell us just a little bit more about how you do that before we get into more depth around the industry.

Sean Behr (2m 44s):
Yeah. I think if you really step back at a big, big picture, if you go back over the last 10 years, I think people would say hiring specialized knowledge worker talent is really, really difficult. I think we’ve heard lots and lots of podcasts, we’ve heard lots and lots of articles about people who need to hire software engineers and how difficult it is to hire the right software engineers. Very little has been talked about over the last 10 years about hiring, people who are on the front lines of work, people who are in your warehouses, people are in stores. That part of recruiting has been an area that has really lagged in innovation, lagged in technology, lagged in investment.

Sean Behr (3m 27s):
Fountain’s put all of its effort around helping these organizations, one, find the right people. I think if you talk to talent acquisition leaders, many of them will tell you if they’re recruiting in the front lines, they used to get more applications. They don’t get as many now. Well, with Fountain, you get all the applications you need and critically, you get the right kind of applications, whether it be people with a specific background, a specific license, a specific experience, the right kind of availability, right? Finding the right people, getting them interested in working for you and your company, and then really critically, how do you turn those applications into people who show up for the first day for their first shift, right?

Sean Behr (4m 11s):
We’ve got a great technology suite that turns those applications, those initial interest, “I might wanna work for you” to somebody who’s gonna show up ready to rock on day one. That’s our focus. That’s how we do it. This year, millions of people around the world in 77 countries will be hired using Fountain software.

Matt Alder (4m 34s):
Talk us through the market at the moment, because there was a massive focus on how difficult it was to fill these types of roles during the pandemic and as we came out of the peak of the pandemic. Obviously, the economic situation is changing around the world at the moment. How is that affecting the hourly hiring market?

Sean Behr (4m 54s):
Yeah, it’s been a great segue. I think large organizations that are hiring these hourly workers would say a couple things. They would say it’s never been harder except in the last two years. The last three years have been particularly challenging for hiring these frontline workers. Almost impossible to be honest, especially during the depth of the covid lockdowns around the world. Hiring these roles was, I mean, just the most challenging thing for most companies that rely on frontline workers around the world. It’s eased a little bit in 2022, however, it’s still far above the normal difficulty level of the last 10 years.

Sean Behr (5m 41s):
I guess that’s the good news, right, for your listeners. It’s better than it was in 2020 and 2021. Let me temper it with a little bit of hardy pessimism maybe a little bit for all of us, unfortunately, which is I think the next year isn’t going to get dramatically easier. In fact, it may get a little harder, but it’s probably just gonna remain really difficult over the next, call it year or two to fill these roles. There’s some fundamental changes that have happened that unfortunately, I think there may be some people who are very optimistic who may be saying, “Oh, once Covid’s over, I’m gonna be able to fill all my hourly roles with ease.

Sean Behr (6m 29s):
I hate to be the bear of bad news there, but I think it’s gonna remain a really, really difficult challenging market. If you just look at the raw data here in the States, there’s just millions of more openings right now that companies looking to hire someone than there are active job seekers. The fundamental math is that there are just millions more openings than people. Some people are winning in this market and some are losing. That’s the big trend is I think it was really difficult in 2020, 2021. It’s still really difficult, way harder than historical norms.

Sean Behr (7m 10s):
Unfortunately, I don’t see that changing going forward in 2023, ’24, ’25.

Matt Alder (7m 15s):
That certainly tallies up with a lot of the conversations I’ve been having on the podcast with people who are still finding it incredibly difficult to find talent in those areas.

Sean Behr (7m 25s):
Matt, I think the thing I’d say, not to leave our listeners with the pessimism, but if you step back in a big macro picture, it’s probably good news for all of us. The reality is the hourly worker has more options. They have more opportunities than they did five and 10 years ago. While that might make our specific hiring a specific role or if your customers work in the logistics space, filling a specific shift at a warehouse shift or filling a specific role on a specific team might make it more difficult right now in this micro picture.

Sean Behr (8m 11s):
But big picture, I think for all of us, it’s good news that lots of workers in the world, and especially here in the states, have more options. That’s gonna raise everyone. While it might make it difficult in the short run, I think it’s a good thing in the long run.

Matt Alder (8m 29s):
No, absolutely. I was gonna say something similar. It’s so good to have a focus on hourly paid workers and how to attract them by getting them the best deal, but also really refining the way that recruiting works in this area. I suppose that leads onto my next question. There’s lots of companies competing for people. What are the critical factors that are making companies successful in this market?

Sean Behr (8m 53s):
I think there’s a lot, right? If you think about the things that you can do, there’s things you can do and things you can’t do, right? Obviously, money is certainly one way to solve this problem. If you pay a dramatically higher wage than everybody else in the market, you will probably find yourself filling jobs easier than your competitors. Unfortunately, for most of us, there’s the raw economics of our business. Unfortunately, maybe we would even love to pay all our hourly workers 40% more than they’re making today. Then very quickly, the finance team will tell you, “Well, that will not work for our business and so you can’t do that.”

Sean Behr (9m 42s):
Now, you’re looking for innovative ways without just raising wages and going into a war of of pay more, pay more, pay more. How do you do that? One way is work on your employer brand, right? Making sure that people are clear about what’s great about working for you. That’s been an area where people were like, “Ah, don’t worry about that.” Now I think people are saying, “No, we wanna make sure that people are clear what’s great about working here versus working somewhere else.” If we’re all paying roughly the same amount of money, how do I differentiate from an employer brand perspective? Second thing are there things you can do from a benefits perspective that maybe don’t cost you any more incremental dollars, but give your employees a better benefits package, especially in the frontline worker.

Sean Behr (10m 32s):
The third, and probably the most critical one that I would talk about is speed. I think it’s an undervalued skill in the hourly work world. Fast is the best coin in the realm. The reason is that in a competitive labor market where a worker has options of going to 6, 7, 8, 9 companies that are all paying roughly the same amount of money, I don’t wanna say the person who gets their first wins, but I will say that the person that gets their first with the right kind of message, with the right kind of brand, with the right kind of offer takes the poll position.

Sean Behr (11m 14s):
If you can be somebody who very quickly can figure out, “Okay, this person applied. I really think they’d be great for my team. My choices are to reach out to them on Friday morning or Monday morning.” Assume that if you wait till Monday, someone else is gonna reach out to them on Friday and then on Monday it might be too late. They may already be down the path with another company. Engaging quickly with the right applicants very quickly. Speed is your friend, right? Working on your employer branding to emphasize what’s best about you, and then if you can add non-monetary perks, benefits, other ideas, all those things are things you should be testing and working on.

Matt Alder (12m 1s):
To pick up on the speed aspect of that, because I know that many companies have had to look very hard at their recruitment process in order to make things faster and to get those offers out quicker. Obviously, one of the ways that companies are doing that is looking at automating their processes. How are employers automating their hourly hiring processes at the moment? What kind of things are you seeing?

Sean Behr (12m 30s):
Look, in a shameless plug, obviously for Fountain, we are an automation machine if you wanna call us that behind the scenes. If you’re hiring knowledge workers and you’re hiring a relatively small number of knowledge workers, automation is not that valuable. Automating something where you’re hiring five people, yeah, okay, if you wanna automate it, automate it, but you’re not a really big deal there. If you’re hiring thousands of people, relying on manual processing for five, maybe fine, relying on manual processing for thousands is just gonna drag you down.

Sean Behr (13m 11s):
How do you do things like making sure that you’re following up with every single applicant, even the ones you’re not gonna hire? How do you do that? Well, one way to do it is you could just hire some people who are gonna manually follow up with every applicant. You could trust your store managers or your regional managers to follow up with every person that’s applying. That might work. That usually breaks down. What you really want is a system, a technology tool that says “Everyone who applies, they’re definitely gonna get some automated engagement from us. A welcome text. They’re gonna hear from us. They’re gonna get a note that asks them to complete the next step in the application.”

Sean Behr (13m 54s):
Again, something a human being can do, and frankly, lots of your listeners who are on the knowledge worker recruiting side, that’s what they do. Recruiters have been doing that for 30 years. Following up with the best candidates, sending polite rejection messages to the people who are not perfect. You just can’t scale that when you’re hiring 10,000 warehouse workers. Using tools and being really smart about ensuring you’re following up, ensuring you’re pinging them at the right time, getting them to the next step in the application, those are all things where automation makes a big difference. Obviously, at Fountain, that’s one of the reasons why our customers generally are staffing all the roles they need.

Sean Behr (14m 36s):
They use our software to automate that process.

Matt Alder (14m 39s):
Well, one of the interesting things about automation was really in the years leading up to the pandemic, when we were talking about recruiting automation for the first time, there was a real school of thought that this was impersonal, terrible, and was gonna radically make the candidate experience worse. Then we went through the pandemic and there were lots of adoption of technology very, very quickly. The way that people thought about things changed. It’s almost like that’s turned on its head in terms of how automation can improve the candidate experience. How are you seeing it improving the candidate experience, the hiring manager experience, the the recruiter experience?

Matt Alder (15m 20s):
Is that a big part of the equation?

Sean Behr (15m 23s):
Yeah. I think it’s great. This balance between automation and human is a really interesting balance, right? I think one of the things we think about here at Fountain is this really human hiring. How do you maintain the really human aspect of getting that job, getting that next opportunity, right? That’s in our mission. It’s helping people get to that next opportunity while also balancing the fact that you’ve gotta send, for many of our customers, they’ve got thousands and thousands of people applying every day. It’s just not feasible to be really human every step of the way with 10,000 applications a week unless you have an unlimited budget for recruiters, which, if you do, that’s great news.

Sean Behr (16m 8s):
You pulled the trifecta with your finance team but most of us don’t have that, right? Most of us are dealing with limited staff. What we encourage our teams to do and and our customers to do is you wanna maintain that automation machine while layering in the human element, right? I’ll give you a cogent example here, right? If you only hire people who are over a certain age, maybe because of rules and regulations and policies, you only hire people who are over 18 or over 17 or over 21, you could deploy humanity there. You could say like, “Look, we’re gonna have a human being try to figure out how old everyone is,”

Sean Behr (16m 56s):
or you could automate that process, right? Then you take a second part, which is you could do a quick interview with somebody, 15 minute interview. You could use automation there. You could let the person do a video interview with some pre-formatted questions and that you could automate that entire interview process, right? You could have a human being interview that person live for 15 minutes. What we would say is you wanna deploy the automation when it’s applicable and deploy the human when it’s applicable. In that example, figuring out if somebody’s over 18 or not, and then taking the appropriate action, which is either politely rejecting them because they don’t meet the age requirement or moving them forward in the process, that’s probably something automation and technology can accomplish.

Sean Behr (17m 45s):
However, maybe the place to deploy your humans is in the 15 minute interview screens, right? What I think we would say is have your recruiting team double down on the areas that really require the human and have the technology remove it. That way, your recruiters don’t have to worry about the age thing. That’s no longer on their to-do list. Instead, they can put all their energy on, “Is this the right person? Is this the person with the right kind of experience? Is this person gonna be a fit with our culture and our team and our ethos?” That’s kind of how I think most companies are starting to think about “I don’t wanna get rid of my recruiter., I wanna deploy them where they’re actually gonna make the biggest difference.”

Matt Alder (18m 34s):
I suppose it reflects back on what you said a minute or two ago about recruiters recruiting small amounts of knowledge workers and giving this highly personal, high touch service candidate experience if you will. To me, the logical next step from automation and getting that balance between software and humans is to offer that type of personalized approach at scale. Is that something that you are seeing? Is that somewhere where we’re heading?

Sean Behr (19m 6s):
Yes. Yeah, I think it’s a great point, right? Doing little things that personalize the experience for the candidate go a long way even if it’s automated. Having it be personalized, having it be on brand for the company can be a big difference maker, right? One of the things obviously, we send lots of text messages in Whatsapp and all kinds of things to applicants as they’re applying for jobs. It comes with pre-formatted text that Fountain gives you we always encourage our customers to do is to use the technology to make it their own and personalize it for the applicant, right?

Sean Behr (19m 54s):
Instead of saying, “Thanks for applying for the job, Matt,” or “Thanks for applying for the job. We’re excited to see you,” can you say, “Matt, we’re really excited for you to take the next step to becoming a blank,” which is maybe what we refer to as our employees. All of the sudden, you’ve changed that message, you’ve made it personal, and you’ve reinforced your employer brand. All you did was change a sentence. Very, very easy, but a big difference to the employer. One of the things we always joke about is the thanks for applying screen, which is the screen most hourly workers get after they apply for a job.

Sean Behr (20m 37s):
It’s this generic screen on their computer or their phone that says, “Thank you for your application. We’ll be reviewing it and we’ll let you know.” There’s no bigger letdown nor non-personalized way to let that worker know how you feel about them. What I joke with customers is you wanna make sure they apply to another job at another company, show them that screen at the end. That screen says go apply somewhere else because you probably need another application. Whereas if it said, “Matt, we’re super excited for your application.

Sean Behr (21m 19s):
Typically we review this, but you’re gonna start to get text messages from us in the next hour, please be on alert. We really want you to work here and become a blank,” whatever the name of your company is. That tells me “Don’t go away. We’re gonna be coming back to you really quickly.” Just same ending screen, just a way different situation.

Matt Alder (21m 46s):
In terms of the things that sit behind this and help people shape their strategy, particularly when hiring is so tough, what’s the role of data and analytics?

Sean Behr (21m 55s):
Yeah, data is critical. Again, going back to our example of the small volume knowledge workers, you don’t really need to do a ton of data analysis if you’re hiring a marketing manager. You certainly wouldn’t build a report that tells the CEO, “We posted our job to this number of job boards. We got this number of marketing managers applying. Of those 111, 64 were qualified. We combed through those and we found 10 that we did a deep dive on their resume.

Sean Behr (22m 37s):
We interviewed six. We counted with two finalists, we hired them the whole process took three weeks.” I think most CEOs would say, “Okay, great. You hired a marketing manager. That’s excellent.” If you take it towards volume recruiting, hourly recruiting, way different story. Right? Now, you’re talking about, “Well, last week we got 12,000 applications. This week we got 8,000. If we don’t hire 125 people this week, next week we will need to double up on some overtime in the warehouses, in the following states, in the US.

Sean Behr (23m 18s):
That overtime cost is gonna be roughly $600,000.” All of the sudden, everyone in the finance team and everyone in the CEO in the office and all that is saying, “Okay, wait a second. Why did we only get 4,000 less applications? What happened? What did we do? Why didn’t we convert? How do we make sure this doesn’t happen again? From now on, I wanna see detailed reporting every week on how many applications, how many engagements, how many people are starting, because that overtime bill is a real number, right? That’s a real cost to our profit, right? It could be the difference between us making Wall Street happy or disappointing Wall Street and our investors.”

Sean Behr (24m 4s):
Looking at these things around data is really, really critical. Which job boards drive the best applicants for you? Not the most, the best. You may find that the biggest job boards do a pretty good job of giving you lots of people, but maybe there’s a small job board somewhere where you’re doing very little with them, but the people they send you turn out to be people who become really key team members in your warehouse or in your retail store, in your restaurant. If you can figure that out using data, you can say, “Well, wait a second.

Sean Behr (24m 45s):
I’m gonna figure out how to do more with this small job board because the ROI on those people is amazing.” Those are examples of how data and analytics are just fundamentally more valuable in the hourly work world of recruiting than they are in the knowledge worker world of recruiting, and why I think smart companies are starting to think about recruiting is not just one team, right? It’s not one function. It’s actually specialized functions. There are people who are amazing at executive recruiting, there are people who are amazing at hiring knowledge workers, and there are people who are amazing at the field frontline worker, hourly worker recruiting, but they’re very different skill sets.

Sean Behr (25m 29s):
You might be very good as an executive recruiter because it’s a lot of relationship, tiny amounts of high touch research, and you might be terrible at sort of the volume based analytical skills necessary to succeed in today’s world of field acquisition.

Matt Alder (25m 48s):
As a final question we talked at the beginning about what the market’s gonna be like for the next two or two or three years. I’m interested though to hear your vision for the future. I suppose, in some ways, it’s a summary of everything that we’ve been talking about, but what’s your vision of what hourly hiring will look like in two or three years time?

Sean Behr (26m 13s):
Yeah, I think hourly hiring will probably be, and I’ve said this a few times recently, if you have a desire to be a CHRO or a VP of talent Acquisition, over the next couple of years, the best place to put yourself in a position to be one of those senior level HR leaders at a company is to succeed in the world of hourly hiring. It’s not to take anything away from the world of knowledge hiring. Nothing at all, but I believe that the best leaders will be formed from this world of frontline worker, hourly hiring world. I think where we’re gonna see it go is to be very, very specialized.

Sean Behr (26m 58s):
I think we’re gonna see specific tools, specific software products, even specific conferences. I can imagine a conference specifically on volume recruiting versus just a general HR conference because the skills, the data, the analysis, the tools, and the technologies that are required for doing volume recruiting, it’s just not like it was. It’s definitely very different than the world of knowledge worker hiring. I think it’s gonna be a challenging market for sure. I think it may be even a little more challenging. I think if the macroeconomic picture continues to remain murky and I think we all hope that it abates and that we head back towards greener pastures in the economy, but if it doesn’t, it’s gonna be continue to be challenging in the hourly work or world.

Sean Behr (27m 54s):
The reality is that during recessionary periods, many places like supermarkets, fast casual restaurants, and all kinds of places that are a little bit less expensive, see huge growth because people choose to buy some groceries versus go to a fancy restaurant, or they choose to buy a bottle of wine versus going to a wine bar. Those kinds of things are gonna be the choices that consumers are gonna make if we remain in a murky economic picture. I think it’s gonna be a challenging place to recruit over the next couple of years, but I think using technology, you can put yourself in the driver’s seat.

Sean Behr (28m 36s):
I think it’s gonna be a great place to cut your teeth and become a real leader inside some of these organizations. Ultimately, I think the world of being an hourly worker will get better and better as we innovate and we compete. The best companies will get all the people they need, especially if they can deploy the right kinds of technology. That’s the big picture 2023, ’24, ’25 crystal ball. You and I’ll have to talk a couple times over though to see how I’m doing.

Matt Alder (29m 8s):
Sean, thank you so much for talking to me.

Sean Behr (29m 10s):
Absolutely, Matt. Great to be with you.

Matt Alder (29m 11s):
My thanks to Sean. You can subscribe to this podcast in Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or via your podcasting app of choice. Please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for Recruiting Future. You can search all the past episodes at On that site, you can also subscribe to the mailing list to get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.

Related Posts

Recent Podcasts

Round Up November 2022
December 6, 2022
Ep 481: Workstyle
December 2, 2022
Ep 480: Are Job Boards Evolving?
December 1, 2022

Podcast Categories

instagram default popup image round
Follow Me
502k 100k 3 month ago
We are using cookies to give you the best experience. You can find out more about which cookies we are using or switch them off in privacy settings.
AcceptPrivacy Settings


  • Privacy Policy

Privacy Policy

By using this website, you agree to our use of cookies. We use cookies to provide you with a great experience and to help our website run effectively.

Please refer to our privacy policy for more details: