The Marketing Rules Podcast In Writing: William Tincup

We don’t have a crystal ball to predict the future but we can make some educated guesses.

The recruitment industry is no different and is a good barometer for global, regional and local economic trends.

Joining James Whitelock to discuss the future of the recruitment industry is William Tincup. William is president at, host of the recruiting daily podcast and HR tech advisor.

The Episode Transcript:



Welcome back everybody to the marketing rules podcast. Today I am joined by William Tinkup. William it is an absolute pleasure to have you on the podcast. I was on your podcast  recruiting daily a couple of months back and after that experience I made a beeline to say I have to have William on the podcast because you live and breathe HR recruitment staffing and everything in between basically. So could we take the time today to dip into your brain. Before we do though, for those who haven’t come across you; could you give us a little bit potted history and what you do to keep yourself busy these days.



William Tincup

Sure. I am a recovering marketer and owned an ad agency and loved it for 10 years. Sold it and fell in love with recruiting and HR. And best probably thought of as more of a person that kind of an outsider in a way because I didn’t come up traditionally through staffing and recruiting and HR, but I absolutely love practitioners so I spend most of my time talking to technology vendors and some services vendors and practitioners and so I spent my time talking to them about what’s going on so that I kind of have a feel for how these things fit together or how they’re supposed to fit together or how maybe they’re not supposed to fit together. My full-time job at recruiting daily is more of a figurehead travel the world to speak at conferences. That sounds fancy, it’s not really fancy. Business travel is not sexy at all. But I do a lot of podcasting mostly because I’m curious. Like I did a podcast yesterday on ethical AI in recruiting in town selection and it was fascinating, and I get the chance to talk to people about what’s going on, and aside from that I do two other things. I advise a lot of technology startups on go-to-market. Really It’s using the knowledge of what I feel is happening in a practitioners’ world and I’ve also recently joined a venture fund as a venture partner. And I work on their investment committee. So I get to see how the sausage is made on the finance side of these things which is not my world, it’s fascinating




Where do you find a time to have a personal life and in all of this because it sounds like you’re one of the busiest guys in staffing?



William Tincup

You know it’s interesting because I was just asked that question and you know the term workaholic, I’m gen x so with people of my age or generation you hear the term workaholic and there’s always a negative connotation to it and what it usually means is you work at the expense of these other things, family, hobbies. I take a lot of pride in working. Actually I get a lot of pleasure and pride in talking to people. I never supplant my love of my wife or my kids or time with them. But my kids are also  16, 18 and 12, they’re at an age where they don’t need daddy all the time. In fact, it’s actually a problem if daddy is there all the time. I’m at a really good place now where I have a little bit more time on my hands and I mix in my hobbies like collecting coins. So I’m a geek when it comes to that type of stuff and I’m about to start painting again. So I think if you look at my Linkedin profile and you say oh my gosh you’re advising 20 plus startups, that’s true. But they don’t all show up on the same day at the same time. If they all showed up on Tuesday at two o’clock yeah I’d be underwater but they don’t, they need different things at different stages and I can do a lot of that stuff late at night or on the weekends or at different points when I want to fit it in, and it’s fun. 




These startups you work with William, are these all in the HR tech space? That makes you the perfect person to talk to about the future of recruitment. Your experience, your background and you’re just your complete all of these touch points you’ve got with this put you in a great position to talk about it. Where should we start? Let’s kick off with technology and the role of technology in the future of recruitment. The things we were all talking around at the minute are obviously AI. To all the automation that we get, the word was being rammed down our throat. Where it’s edge automation or is it just scheduling. You know that’s the kind of state of play we’re at. I think we’re on the cusp of something right? And some businesses have gone a bit further. Some people haven’t even touched this. But from the business you’re talking to the businesses you work with, from your guests you have on the recruiting daily. Where is technology within a recruitment space going and where are we in 5 years? Where are we in 10 years?



William Tincup

So the struggle is real and for your audience the interesting part is the lines of demarcation of what is automated. What’s robot driven, and what’s computer driven and what’s human led and so they keep moving the goal post, and every company is going to face this challenge differently and it might even go down to every position. This is faced differently. Where what gets automated, the lower value task is the first to go, so take you and I have grown up in a world where there were full time people that all they did was schedule candidate interviews. But that was their job. I’ve known people where that was their gig that was their job. They just scheduled interviews. There’s at least 40 bots now today that can do that exact task far more efficiently and without any human interaction whatsoever. It can look at outlook, it can look into gmail, it can find the times that everyone’s available on the team. It can put a Zoom link in there and everyone gets the same invite and it’s done in seconds. So that’s a low value task. That’s an example of a low value task. So in theory what this does is free recruiters up to actually do the stuff that’s more human-centric like really creating a wonderful candidate experience. Really caring deeply about fit and not just putting people into jobs and filling positions. So the struggle is real in the sense of where do these lines stop and start? I don’t think anybody’s got it figured out. I think where you see it in 5 years is you see more of where those lines are. It’s clear, it’s more defined and these are the important inflection points for recruiters. 




So this is the point in 5 years time when the recruitment consultant is an actual consultant and he’s consultative and less transactional. I’m sure there are businesses out there that are doing that now. But my feeling, and I’m sure you can give me your thoughts on this.

There’s chunks, massive great big chunks before and after that can be run by a machine at this point. 



William Tincup

That’s right, that’s right and now to juxtapose that for the audience and juxtapose that from the candidate’s perspective and how the candidate’s expectations have changed. Because of so many different factors but we’ll just say the consumerization of technology. So you can get Amazon Prime, you can get it today, you can get it tomorrow you get at ten o’clock tonight like when do you want it? The candidates’ expectations have changed all throughout. Not just in recruiting but throughout the entire employee lifecycle, so they’re thinking in seconds, minutes and hours and in most corporate and staffing solutions situations we’re thinking in months, weeks and days. And so you have this immediate conflict with  candidates because when they submit a resume or when they submit a job app. They respond to a job advert then they expect a response, not just a response like “hey thank you for your thing.” They expect a “hey we’ve looked at your resume. We’ve already queued it, here’s what’s next.” They don’t want a robot response, they want to know what’s next and they want to know in seconds, minutes and hours. So when we come back to them and say “hey listen the team’s going to meet in seven days from now or four days from now we’re going to schedule a call.” They’re gone. Like we’ve already lost that talent.




So these are the kinds of things where you know what recruitment can learn from Netflix scenarios right? And what can Netflix learn from Amazon. But is that something we should really try and emulate? Should we be looking to move recruitment to a much more ecommerce style? Or should we pick and choose from that because we have these conversations all the time. As in what we can learn from other industries. But we’re not other industries. Can we merge the two or should we try and do what we do better?



William Tincup

I think we pull the best of things because there’s a hugely popular book here in the states years ago from the one of the founders of Zappos Tony Shea and it was about the culture of Zappos and throughout it just proliferated every HR conference that people wanted this culture of Zappos at their company. And it failed miserably at other companies because it worked at Zappos. It was built, configured, modelled and manufactured, and made mistakes, and did all that stuff inside of 1 box that made sense. Once you took it outside that box, it didn’t make sense. I think that’s the thing that we learn about other industries is there are things that we can pull that we should pull. Like the Amazon tracking, it’s now with Billy and Billy is on the road, and Billy’s stopping here. That would be pretty good for candidates to have an understanding of. Because it would really mean that we would have to get our stuff in order, our lives in order, our technology in our process and everything in order to be able to make that happen. So it actually forced us to get better and more efficient. But do we actually steal that? No, I think we use the better parts and we make sure that it’s recruiting, hiring candidate centric. And if we do that then it brings the best out of us.




So that’s the candidate’s side right? Obviously within recruitment we’ve got candidate attraction and talent attraction. But there’s a couple other audiences and it’d be interesting to get your thoughts on the kind of role of technology and the future of technology. So one, is your employer brand, from a staffing and recruiting agency perspective, bringing on your new consultants, bringing on new team members. Again, incredibly difficult and a slightly different technique, as one marketer to another you know that there’s a distinct difference. And then there’s a client perspective as well.  Engaging clients, attracting clients, and keeping clients  engaged and doing that biz deaf piece. So let’s talk about the thing that’s on everyone’s lips at the minute which is employer branding, and the future of the tech within that and how you can use that to build your team, which every agency seems to want to do at the minute.



William Tincup

So employer brand is everything in nothing simultaneously. It’s everything in the sense of it’s a crystal in which everyone looks through your brand through the experiences that they have with your brand. From the website to the job advertisement and what they read through the testimonials and the videos that they consume, through their peers and what they hear about the company. It’s everything, literally every experience with your brand. It’s not something that can be completely manipulated. Especially today in an era of transparency people are going to find out who you are. What I love about that is it’s forcing companies to not put an aspirational brand together unless they state it as such. There’s actually a couple of good examples of this where they say we’re not this, but we want to be, and we need help. That’s why we want to hire people that think that are different from us. That’s a great employer brand because they’re being authentic about their own problems and genuine and I think that’s the path forward with employer branding is, how close are you willing to drive to the line of who you actually are. Again aspirationally is not a bad word. Especially if you state it if you tell people “hey I’m not perfect. We’re not perfect. Our Ceo is jammed up right now with a sexual harassment claim. You’re going to find out about this.” I tend to tell a lot of the EB folks that I know and love, just be brutally honest, almost to the point where you’re trying to drive them away. I’m going to try and drive you away with the brutal honesty of self-reflection and critique, and you’re either going to be able to consume that and understand that and see it for what it is, or not. And if not, you filtered yourself out. Which is okay.




What does the future of that look like? Obviously the importance of the employer brand, it’s not been with us for a huge amount of time. But for me, it feels like either it’s gonna become one of these things within every business that we accept right from day one and we even get to go so far as having internal specialists in these areas. Who work with the marketeers and recruiters, etc. That’s either the future or it becomes “oh we don’t need more staff in our business anymore because the times of change, economies change. So let’s cut that and then look and use that budget somewhere else.”



William Tincup

I think you know when we grew up brand was logo, colour palette, a lot of the things that make art. Like my first jobs in advertising people were wearing berets and smoking clove cigarettes and it was a discussion of art right? You can’t find those people in marketing anymore, they’re more accustomed to dealing with excel and spreadsheets than they are art. There’s a part of me that’s sad about that. I like the art of marketing, not necessarily the science of marketing. 




That’s an interesting point right? I know from our business and we’re in recruiter marketing very much, we try to get away from the ‘colouring in’ department. That’s the kind of thing that always gets chucked our way. So it’s interesting to hear your perspective that actually,

maybe that’s the wrong perspective. Maybe we’re going about it the wrong way. Maybe we should be embracing that fact.



William Tincup

Well I think the evolution of art in this particular instance is experience. So in the sixties they had a period of art where it was all experiential. It was basically a happening. You would go to a place, and that was the art. So what we can learn from that period of art history is where we’re at with employer branding now, is that it’s experiential. What are your experiences with the brand and how do we create authentic experiences that you cherish, moments that matter? How do we do that at scale? For everyone, recruiters, the hiring manager, the client, the candidate, for everyone involved, we want them to have these experiences that, they are memorable and they’re important. I think that’s where brand meets the colour of the colouring book. That’s where that meets the science and experience. It’s bringing all those things together because you can’t leave out art because then you don’t have anything, you have blandness. That’s the worst thing you can ever have with an employer brand is a neutral response. So you want people to either fall in love with your brand and go “oh my God I have to apply to this job, they’re so compelling” or the opposite is also great, “this company is horrible and I’ll never ever work there” That’s fantastic because you’ve evoked emotion. The worst thing you could do as a branding expert is to create, “ah….meh.”




I feel that for the entirety of the podcast we could talk about this. So for listeners, myself and William have got a background in art. William is in art history, mines in painting and printmaking. We’ll get you back on and we’ll talk about art, and the art of recruitment, and art in recruitment. But let’s move on to this other point. I wanted to get your opinion on which is the future of the recruitment, and recruitment agency model. So one thing I’ve noticed, and this is more prevalent over the last couple of years, and probably slightly driven by the pandemic.  Is what was described to me as the Madonna effect. And recruitment agencies and businesses flipping the model every five years as allah Madonna basically, changing their appearance. And not necessarily just from a brand but also either adapting to new stars of recruitment. An example would be this was agencies moving into RPO and suddenly becoming RPO businesses. Now we’ve got businesses who are describing themselves as outsourcing income companies and things like that and all kinds of other iterations. Is this something you’re noticing and is this something that hasn’t been going for a long time because as my experience just tells me, it’s only coming into fruition over the last kind of 10 years or so and where do you see that going.



William Tincup

Well, the decision for a business is, is recruiting core to our business? In some businesses it isn’t, so they’ve made the decision. This could be in an hourly, or high volume, or in manual labour, or it could be in consulting. So we’re not going to put a label on industries, but it’s a business decision that says recruiting is corridor business, we have to do this and do it well. So we have to know how the machine works, we need to know everything about it so that we can make it work for ourselves. If you’ve made the decision as a business leader, board member, csuited executive, a founder and you’ve said there’s smarter people, better people that are just better at this than we are and that will ever be. There lies then the end of the relationship from staffing to executive search and everything in between of ‘you’ve made the decision, someone else is just better’, now what we’ve had  historically in the past is crazy expectations that have been layered in there. That you couldn’t hire this VP of marketing, so you went and hired a staffing firm to hire the VP of marketing and you expect them to do it in a week, of which you couldn’t do it in six months. I think the reconciliation for all people that work on the outsource side is that expectations have to be set appropriately. If we’re just trying to fill seats, okay, cool. If this is a critical position then let’s talk realistically about how long, and what quality. So that we have an honest conversation with one another. I think that’s where we’ve just taken on the business in the past because it was like, “hey we’ll take on the business and figure it out. They want us to hire a hundred people? Fantastic! Sign the contract and we’ll figure it out.” I think that model is slowly dying, the ‘we’ll just figure it out after the contract sign’, because more is being laid on the front end of that of, what do you expect? If you expect us to do this better than you do, then let’s talk about that. That means that we’re the experts, and when we’re the experts we’re going to go and work our process, our technology, we’re going to do this our way, and it will give you a slate of candidates that fit the criteria that you’ve given that we’ve all negotiated, and then you’re going to make a pick. I think part of that’s transparency and that’s kind of the era. And some of it’s we’ve just learned some things through the years, like we’ve just gotten a little bit smarter about client’s expectations. I remember when John Wilson created Wilson HCG in Tampa, I just happened to be in Tampa at the time. And he and I had lunch and he was very new at the RPO side. He said “I’m going to come at this differently”, I said do tell, he goes “I’m going to create a luxury service”, I said well tell me a little bit about that he goes “I’m going to charge people disproportionately higher, and I’m going to put a team around them that talk to them every single day and I want their hardest to fill positions. I don’t want anything mundane. I don’t want something that’s repeatable. I don’t want the hardest to fill. It’s like a Bentley. It’s custom built.” And you know what, I thought he was crazy, I literally thought he was crazy because that wasn’t the model of the time, in the US it wasn’t the model the time, it was $2500 per higher doesn’t matter who you’re hiring. Nurses, doctors, people that run a gym, like what does that matter? It’s just 2500 dollars. So to hear that, it was crazy. But he’s probably one of the most successful RPOS in the US because he chose a different path. He chose a customer service path, a luxury service, like when you buy a mercedes it’s a different buying experience than when you buy a Honda. We all know that, nothing against either brand, it’s just we know that there’s a different buying experience. Customer experience for people that go to a Ritz Carlton than go to a Hilton. That’s just, it is what it is. I think in the staffing firms, everyone that’s in staffing, so staffing all the way to executive surf and everywhere in between, have to figure out who they are and who they want to be, and how they want to interact with customers around expectations and experience.




That makes complete sense. William, it’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you today. We will include all of your details in the show notes. So if anybody wants to reach out and get in contact, if you’ve got more time to take on more advisory with startups, I’m sure there’s a few out there listening. But it’s been an absolute pleasure and I’m sure we’ll have you back on in the future. 



William Tincup

Anytime James, wonderful to talk to you. Thank you so much and thanks for the audience.


Listen to William’s episode here.

Connect with James here.

Connect with William here. 

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Support for this podcast comes from Staffing Future, and Liquid Palladium.




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