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Recruit Smart: David Smooke tells you how

David Smooke has a rare gift for words and math. With a dual degree in economics and creative nonfiction (there is perhaps some irony in that choice), David’s verbal skills and business sense guide the media and consumer relations development for SmartRecruiters, a full-service recruiting platform offering both free recruiting management software and pay-as-you-go services, including job advertisements, database searches, background checks and recruiting agency relationship management.

Landing in San Francisco after a cross-country drive in search of a city to call home, David joined the SmartRecruiters team in its third month of operation in early 2011. Hired as the first marketing employee, and now the director of social media, David witnessed the startup’s growth from 6 employees to today’s 38. Throughout, David’s focus has been growing the company’s social media and industry presence.

Some other interesting facts about David: he “doesn’t believe in cars” and walks just about everywhere; he loves Russian literature–his favorite work is Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground; he is writing a family memoir called Life’s a Funny Dog, featuring his late grandfather’s World War II letters; and his favorite San Francisco restaurant is Sam’s Burgers on Broadway and Grant–he recommends the cheeseburger. David spoke to me from the San Francisco office of SmartRecruiters:

Why economics and creative nonfiction?

It’s just what I was good at. I’m good at logic and completing a story. My real strength is storytelling, but math is also a strength.  And economics...a lot of it is telling a story. For example, Alan Greenspan used to wake up in the morning, look at what are basically giant spreadsheets and trends, and then put words to them to tell a story for the American people.



What inspired SmartRecruiters?

Jerome Ternynck founded SmartRecruiters in late 2010. Jerome had started recruiting businesses in Europe (Talents Technology and Accord Group), and he built very custom-made recruiting software systems (MrTed), before anticipating how the cloud would shift recruiting software’s monetization from software subscription to recruiting services. The recruiting software industry is a one billion dollar industry, but the recruiting services industry is an estimated four hundred billion dollar industry.  Jerome realized that the future of the industry was to make great software free, integrate with the best recruiting service providers, and organize the whole recruiting process through the cloud.

What services does SmartRecruiters offer, and who are the typical clients?

It starts with the job opening–we list the opening on all major free sites, your own website, and Facebook. We use industry data to advise you on what targeted ads will bring you the quality candidate you are seeking. Then it moves toward services like database services, assessment services, and background checks. Our customers include companies as small as 2 people–mom & pop companies, scaling startups– and then we have clients like Education First, with 34,000 people all over the world, running all their hiring through SmartRecruiters. More broadly, we’ve found a lot of traction in a range of industries, including tech, healthcare, media, construction and retail.



What has been your strategy for developing SmartRecruiters’ social media and marketing?

My focus has been on producing remarkable content, sharing remarkable content, and connecting and engaging customers over social networks. The first step was moving towards publishing something every single day–that was a pretty big step to get us in the conversation with the industry influencers, the brand ambassadors, and most importantly, our potential customers. I had to figure out what I could do to get our message in front of the right people without having money to spend. It was a crash course in marketing without resources –what is called inbound marketing. 

What advice do you have for other startups who are marketing with limited budgets and resources?

Blog. Write for your customers and your industry every day. Whenever I talk to other people who are trying to market, the biggest thing I tell them is that it is not all about your product. Your product is there and it makes a difference, but you want to be the hub of information for your industry as a whole. For someone in my industry, you would want to be talking about everything that is going on with recruiting, human resources, organizational structure, and building companies. If I have a piece of advice that can help someone in HR, but it’s not technically about hiring, I still want to share.

Also, go beyond your product to focus on the social impact. What difference does this make in people’s lives? How does your product change what’s going on in the world? For SmartRecruiters, we make hiring more efficient, and that actually makes a more efficient labor market, which impacts employment, and we document progress in our blogging and social media efforts. Do great things, and document along the way. The act of documenting brings people to follow you.

And be prepared for long hours, disappointment, and unexpected rewards. In the beginning, there will be trouble with finding your message and your market, and you’ll be trying out message after message, again and again, in different places. You’ll think something will work and then it doesn’t, and you’ll have to decide, do I persist with this or do I need new words? It’s very valuable to work with someone more experienced to help you through this.



 Any other advice for entrepreneurs?

You have to be mentally prepared to face setbacks, so that you don’t get stuck or frustrated or become too inflexible. Take on a philosophy that expects some things to fail. The difference between working with a startup and working at a more solidified company is the experience of putting a lot of work toward something that ultimately fails–it is more of a daily experience with a startup than it is with a “career job.” Your philosophy has to account for failure.  

How is the startup community in San Francisco?

There is something about the city that inspires people to start companies. People are very driven, innovative, and a little bit crazy here. This has been very helpful for SmartRecruiters’ development, and I look forward to continuing to be a part of the San Francisco startup community.

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