Most of the conversation around generative AI in 2023 has focused on its potential and future long-term strategic impact. However, many talent acquisition teams have been doing some hands-on experimentation with the tools to see what is achievable right now.
My guests this week are Bryan Peereboom, Head of Recruitment at Wortell, and Friso Visser, Lead Recruitment Marketeer at Wortell. Wortell has been using generative AI to create recruitment marketing content this year that makes them stand out in the market. In our conversation, Bryan and Frisso discuss their experiences using the tools and their plans for an AI-first future.
In the interview, we discuss:
• Standing out in a crowded market
• Using Generative AI to develop content assets
• Midjourney, Chat GPT, Dalle3, Runway and Opus
• Staying up to date with rapidly advancing tech
• Engaging hard-to-find audiences
• Is AI saving time and resources?
• Analysing data faster
• Automating processes while improving the candidate experience
• What is the future of talent acquisition?
Matt Alder: Support for this podcast comes from Appcast. You may have heard of Appcast. They’ve been the global leader in programmatic job advertising for the last 10 years. But now, they’re so much more. Following their acquisition of Bayard’s, they now offer a whole suite of recruitment marketing solutions, still driven by their industry leading tech, data-driven approach and world class team of experts. Need to fill a funnel of qualified applicants? Head to appcast.io to learn more. That’s appcast.io.
[Recruiting Future theme]
There’s been more of scientific discovery, more of technical advancement and material progress in your lifetime and mine than in all the ages of history.
Matt Alder: Hi there, this is Matt Alder. Welcome to Episode 582 of the Recruiting Future podcast. Most of the conversation around generative AI in 2023 has focused on its potential and future long-term strategic impact. However, many talent acquisition teams have been doing some hands-on experimentation with the tools to see what’s achievable right now. My guests this week are Bryan Peereboom, head of recruitment at Wortell and Friso Visser, lead recruitment marketer at Wortell. Wortell have been using generative AI to create recruitment marketing content this year that makes them stand out in the market. In our conversation, Bryan and Friso discuss their experiences using the tools and their plans for an AI first future.
Matt Alder: Hi Bryan, hi Friso, welcome to the podcast. It’s an absolute pleasure to have you both on this show. Could you just introduce yourselves and tell us what you do?
Bryan Peereboom: Hi Matt. Absolutely. My name is Bryan Peereboom, we’re from the Netherlands. We work at a company called Wortell. I’m the head of recruitment and I’m together here with my colleague.
Friso Visser: Yes, hello, my name is Friso Visser. I’m the lead recruitment marketeer for Wortell. Yeah, and Wortell is an IT company based in the Netherlands that employs IT professionals that work in a Microsoft technology.
Matt Alder: And tell us about the kind of challenges that you have in terms of talent at the moment.
Bryan Peereboom: So, if you look at our most pressing challenges in this sector, which is the IT sector is about differentiating our employer brand in a saturated market with organizations like tech giants such as Microsoft and Google, which are also heavily investing into their employer branding, it is our task to develop a unique and compelling proposition to stand out. And this is particularly challenging in the Netherlands, where the IT professional market is extremely competitive. And even recent statistics show that the scarcity in our sectors is three times higher than any other sector. So that is really creating a lot of tension on the labor market and people are really competing for the best professionals out there.
Matt Alder: Now, I know that you’ve been using a lot of AI in your talent acquisition endeavors this year. Tell us how it’s been helping you.
Bryan Peereboom: Well, AI is quite a game changer for us this year because it takes a lot of hours and effort to really make sure that you set up an appealing employer brand. And AI is really something that helps us with the efficiency, how we can put our hours to use. We can do a lot more in less time than before and also things that in the past weren’t able to do ourselves.
Matt Alder: And talk us through, how are you using it exactly? What are the practicalities for using AI in recruitment marketing and employee branding? I know it’s something that people have been experimenting with and people have been looking at, but I know you guys have really got into it. So, talk us through how it actually works for you.
Friso Visser: Well, to start, we really set some goals which we want to accomplish to make sure that we know what we’re doing because there are so many tools that you can use, so many things that you can look into that we released first. Before we dived in, we wanted to know, okay, what are things we want to do? And for us, that was really on the content end, both visual and text based. So, in the beginning we started trying things with tools like Midjourney where you can generate images, of course, ChatGPT we started with quite early as well, I think. Bryan, you started around November last year? I started maybe around December. So were quite at the beginning of the birth of ChatGPT and we just started trying things out and making images that actually add to our employer brand.
And I think one of the coolest things that we have done is we started with a new recruitment marketing campaign this year and that is the creation of our own comic book. And we created all the concepts for all the superheroes, the villains, the places and everything just in Midjourney. So, we did not need any bureau like an agency to develop it for us and we were just able to do it ourselves maybe in a timespan of around two to three weeks we had everything that we wanted to create and we could send it to a comic artist to really get it developed.
Matt Alder: So much. I want to ask you about all of that, but just to stick with the comic for a second, what were you using it for exactly? What was the purpose of it?
Friso Visser: Well, the character creation from the names until the imaging, we really developed images in the early days of Midjourney to make sure that we can show a comic artist what we want to see. So instead of either drawing it ourselves, where we can’t draw, or just telling it, we were able to actually show what we wanted to see.
Matt Alder: How did you distribute it? What was the purpose of it with the sort of potential talent and candidates you were talking to?
Bryan Peereboom: Yeah. So, if you look at our labor market, we are really keen on approaching all the IT specialists within a sector, and we wanted to create something that is out of the ordinary. Like most tech companies are always playing it rather safe than– rather than sticking out from the crowd. And this is a way for us to experiment with AI, both be standing out from the crowd in order to procure a place within a very competitive market.
Matt Alder: Absolutely. Absolutely, so you mentioned Midjourney there. What other tools have you found sort of useful over the last 12 months of playing around with AI?
Friso Visser: I think we used, of course, for everybody, a lot of ChatGPT, but I don’t think that’s too new to anyone. Of course, DALL-E 3, when we started it was called DALL-E 2, so DALL-E 3 just came out a few months ago. I think it was October. Midjourney of course, we use Kapwing, which is a video editing tool which can remove silences, can make audio sound clean. Even while you’re recording something next to a highway with one press on the button, you can just remove all the background sounds. Tools like Opus, where we can make snippets of our videos, which scans the speaker body language as well, and it looks for certain hooks. What are the best moments to really capture your audience attention, but also tools to bring imaging alive.
So, to create videos from images that we make in Midjourney, for example, tools like Runway, almost every tool has, like, a free trial. And I think that’s quite amazing that you can just start experimenting. And if you find out that this is the tool that you want to use, you can, of course, purchase a license to make sure it’s better. But there are so many things you can do.
Matt Alder: How do you kind of stay up to date and sort of learn about these tools? Because you mentioned there, we’ve already gone from DALL-E 2 to DALL-E 3. I mean, it’s been a year, hasn’t it? It feels like about 20 years in terms [laughs] of how tech used to evolve. What kind of resources do you use to keep up to date and how do you kind of block off the time to do that?
Bryan Peereboom: It’s a labor of love, which is done mostly in our spare time. So, yeah, I think that as recruitment, whether you’re a lead recruitment marketeer or a recruitment marketeer, whether you’re a corporate recruiter or maybe a recruiter for an agency your days are filled. And I think experimenting with AI needs to be something that will take flight in the near future, whether you would like it or not. And I think that in terms of capabilities towards AI, we will see a lot of growth in the upcoming year and so for us to have a bit of an edge maybe, is something we are really keen on achieving within Wortell itself. So we are a company of techies and we love being innovative and this is something we breathe throughout the company. And so also for recruitment, we want to expand our possibilities on differentiating our recruitment strategy.
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Matt Alder: Just to kind of talk more broadly about your recruitment marketing and your employer brand strategy. Obviously using AI, doing things like the comic, there’s some great tactics and all that sort of stuff. How does this strategy work? How do you sort of look at recruitment marketing as a way of engaging this sort of very hard to find, very difficult to engage audience?
Bryan Peereboom: Oh, great question. I think it’s a tough question because you have to look at it from different perspectives. You can look at from the perspective of recruiters. You can look at it from the perspective of the applicant. You can look at it from the perspective of your company. I think that if you combine those three things, you can get a recruitment strategy which is adequate enough or robust enough to service every level within your organization, whether it’s the applicant, whether it’s your own recruiter, or whether it’s the organization itself, because it has its KPIs on growth. So, I think if you look at the day-to-day operations, you need to have confidence in the people you have working. I think it starts with that. And that Friso, for instance, is very keen on developing himself towards more on the AI part of recruitment marketing. So, okay, give him space to do recruitment marketing. But I also have [unintelligible 00:14:21] in my team and [unintelligible 00:14:21] is more on candidate relationship management. So, okay, how do you empower people to do what they love and still be able to create technological advancement?
Matt Alder: What have you found to differentiate yourselves in your employer brand? So, what’s your kind of message to the talent that’s out there about how you’re different from your competitors?
Friso Visser: I would say our communication is built on three different pillars, which is innovation, which stands for our technology part, community. IT professionals really love going to communities to work together and get better with other people as well and learn things. And our third part is, well, we call it nerdy. It’s a bit of creativity. I think all our IT personnel, they call themselves nerds while being proud. So that’s really something that we wanted to get into as well. Now, it was the comic book. Before that, we did recruitment marketing with our own 8-bit video games, which we made up like old games like Wolfenstein or Super Mario, you name it and we gave it like a Wortell twist.
And I think all these things that the combination of it, like the community feeling as do with community management, the nostalgia, the nerdy part that we do with the videos, and of course, that we show other IT professionals what kind of knowledge there is at Wortell. Those three pillars are going through all of a communication and that is the way how we want to differentiate us from other IT companies. And like Bryan said before, most of the companies, they stay within the lines. And we really try to find that to be just on the edge. The gray area, which maybe not all companies want to get into because they have different style guides that they have to really stay in between. And we try to always find something that really speaks to the candidates. And even like a comic book, it’s not really something that is in our style guide, but it is something that is appealing to the candidates. So that’s why we thought, why not just try it out?
Matt Alder: And I suppose that kind of leads nice into my next question, because I was going to ask about the results that you’ve been getting from some of this innovation, but also the kind of resources that you saved. You mentioned that you didn’t have to go to an agency to work up the comic and all that kind of stuff. How has this kind of contributed to your success this year in terms of results from your recruiting, but also resources saved?
Bryan Peereboom: Oh, yeah. Great question, Matt. I think that AI is still quite early to say, okay, what are the biggest differences you’ve made in savings, cost savings? I do think that if you heard Friso the fact that we have created a complete marketing campaign based on AI, we have saved costs on hiring a creative agency. So, there you can make a significant reduction in costs if you would want to. Traditional methods often require substantial investment in human resources and that’s what AI takes away, designers, copywriters, other kind of specialists, and generative AI minimizes the need for those human intervention and thereby lowering the costs. I do think that the biggest thing it brought for us was time saving in order to create a new marketing campaign or creating a new post. Often you are wondering by yourself, like, “Okay, how can I create a swift picture of something that’s happening right now?” And I want to support that towards my post or I want to have it assist me in an initial candidate assessment, those things. And even though you have limited data, you can use it to analyze data faster, which is also another thing that’s rather time consuming. We’re still working on that because not everything is working just as great as you would suspect it would do, but it’s very promising and so forth everything that we do has just one sole purpose and that is enhancing a candidate experience.
Matt Alder: And again, that leads nicely onto my next question, which is, you’ve very much been in experimental mode this year. You’ve obviously produced some interesting work. As you say, you’ve been doing a lot in your spare time. What plans have you got for sort of 2024? Are you going to do more of this? How’s it going to kind of affect the way that you work?
Bryan Peereboom: Yeah. Before Friso can talk his heart off, I think that one of the things we’ve said is that we want an AI first strategy within recruitment. So, we are really keen on moving forward and more so looking into the possibilities on how can we create more automation with AI within our processes. We do want to keep the candidate experience as good as we’ve always brought it towards our candidates. So, we don’t want to diminish that, but we do want to automate everything, or at least as much as possible with AI as much as we can. Do you have any additions to that, Friso?
Friso Visser: I was curious if I could add one more thing to the results and the time saving part from the last question. I don’t know if that’s– recently we’ve also developed something within Wortell that’s Ryan and I have been working on quite a lot and that is our own custom Wortell GPT. And what that does is that it automatically builds vacancies for our hiring managers. So instead of a recruiter needing to find some time with the hiring manager to make sure that the vacancy intake is done and that the vacancy adds to whatever they want to see in the vacancy, they can now just ask the GPT like, “Oh, I want for this team, I want this like an Azure engineer or whatever,” and it just completely fills out our complete form for the vacancy.
It shows certain tasks in the calendar that Azure engineer would do what it is necessary to have years of experience, which tooling’s they have to use, but also how their work will be divided. It comes with a growth possibility, like where can you grow into later, like an Azure architect from an Azure engineer and all these types of things that normally we need to invest quite a lot of time in to get the role completely right. Like 90%, of course, it still needs some human way of reviewing, but 90% is already done. It saves so much time for hiring managers for the recruiter as well. So, we can also focus more on connecting with the candidates. And that is where of course the candidate first approach as well comes back.
Matt Alder: Amazing stuff. And as a final question, if we kind of look out into the future beyond next year, what does this all mean for talent acquisition? Because we’ve seen how quickly it’s evolving. You’re doing some really interesting experimentation with AI across lots of different areas of recruitment marketing recruiting talent acquisition. Where are we going? What do you think the future is going to look like? What’s talent acquisition going to look like in two- or three-years’ time?
Bryan Peereboom: I simply couldn’t answer that. I think it’s going to be the same with Internet. I think the impact is going to be enormous. I really wouldn’t dare to say anything because I’ll definitely be proven wrong. But if you look at the things Adobe is creating right now with Project Stardust, I think it’s already out of this world and that’s after one year of using AI.
Matt Alder: Yeah. For people who are not familiar with that, tell us a little bit about what that is.
Bryan Peereboom: So, project Stardust is from Adobe, which is an object-oriented editor, which allows you to edit photographs and videos in a very easy manner. I think that’s the best way to explain it. So instead of working with layers, it’ll enable you to use the AI so it knows what you’re trying to do with the photograph. You can just tell it what it needs to do. So, yeah, I do think that after one year of this, rather let’s put it mildly and say rather simple AI, because you need to be able to prompt properly to get the right results, I think those are the things which are going to be made easier through time so in the next two to three years, so you need less words to get the right outcome, and you’ll see more GPTs on very specific elements in order to help organizations thrive more and saving time. But I think Friso has some very nice examples of things that are coming. So, I would like to give Friso the word.
Friso Visser: I think we have to look at AI shaping talent acquisition in two different ways. First, of course, from the recruitment side, how will it enhance our capability of finding the right candidates, expressing our employer brand, but also from the applicant side, because it’s already possible for applicants to must apply and really just see which kind of applicant tracking system a company is using and changing their resume to score higher in your applicant tracking system, like all these types of things are already there as well. So maybe even complete ATS that rank your candidates can just be broken by mass applicants. So, I really think that on one hand AI makes sure that people can do a lot of things quicker and more efficient and maybe even better quality.
Always needs the human reviewer and the human approach, because everything that you can use as a company, 9 out of 10 times it takes a company longer to adapt to technology than an individual. So maybe if you start now with AI or maybe you start in two years, your applicants will already be there. So, I think that’s really important to think of as well. Yeah. And we’re just, of course, at the brink of AI. We’re now the Gartner has divided AI into two parts, the Everyday AI, which just makes your work more efficient and better quality. But game-changing AI is coming, and game-changing AI is, how do we say it? it will completely replace your core capabilities as a company. And it might even come with different, entirely different products, entirely different services. There can be AI first recruitment agencies where maybe not even a real recruiter is working anymore. So, there will be a lot of different stuff, I think, in the coming years.
Matt Alder: We live in interesting times. Bryan, Friso, thank you very much for joining me.
Bryan Peereboom: Thank you so much.
Matt Alder: My thanks to Bryan and Friso. You can subscribe to this podcast on 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 @recruitingfuture. You can search all the past episodes at recruitingfuture.com. On that site, you can also subscribe to our monthly newsletter, Recruiting Future Feast, and get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show. Thanks very much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.