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Cultural Fit Counts When Choosing a Job and A Company

Podcast Interview With Art Papas, Founder and CEO of Bullhorn and the new career site theFIT

Art Papas, Founder and CEO of Bullhorn and  theFITArt Papas

"Because life is short and the workday is long, theFIT is on a mission to make your office a place you want to work."

A favorite Hollywood story line is the "fish out of water." Films like Miss Congeniality, where Sandra Bullock plays an FBI agent who is assigned to infiltrate a beauty pageant make for great entertainment and lots of laughter. However, you do not want to be a "fish out of water" where you work: You won't be laughing.

On the very top of your list when researching companies you would like to work for, and when considering a job offer: Cultural fit. I've heard about the importance of cultural fit from many CEOs whom I've interviewed, including Tony Hsieth, CEO of Zappos, and our guest today, the founder and CEO of theFIT, and Bullhorn, Art Papas. Both shared stories with me of early in their careers, joining large, well-known companies where they were "fish out of water," and miserable.

theFIT is a career site that is trying to address the most important issue in hiring: culture fit. Developed by small team within the recruiting software company, Bullhorn, Inc.,  theFIT helps its members get inside the heads of current or prospective co-workers by asking pointed questions that reveal the real DNA of a workplace.

When someone doesn't fit at work, it's painful for everyone. But it happens all the time because job descriptions and resumes reveal nothing about how someone will fit with a company's culture.

theFIT is working to fill this gap by gathering authentic information from employees about key aspects of company culture.

If you love your job and hate the idea of a misfit joining your team, chime in about what your company is really like and help attract people who fit.

If you're contemplating changing jobs, theFIT will help you find companies that match your personal style, values and career goals. Then, unlock your social connections to help get your foot in the door.

Follow theFIT.com on Twitter @FitIsEverything

Read the founder's blog entry at http://blog.thefit.com/

Art Papas TotalPicture Radio Interview Transcript

Today's podcast is brought to you by Jobs in Pods, the only podcast where real employers, leading recruiters and staffing agencies talk about their jobs and tell you how to get them. Visit jobsinpods.com to learn more.

theFIT is a career site the addresses one of the most important issues in hiring culture fit developed by the recruiting software company Bullhorn Ink, theFIT helps its members get inside the heads of current or prospective co-workers by asking pointed questions that reveal the true DNA of a workplace.

Joining us for an online strategy channel podcast is the founder and CEO of theFIT Art Papas. Oh yeah, Art is also the founder and CEO of Bullhorn, which is used by over 5000 firms and 45,000 recruiters to source candidates.

Art, welcome.

Art: Thanks for having me.

Peter: Give us the back story. Why theFIT? It seems to me you're rather busy with your day job at Bullhorn.

Art: Yeah I didn't have enough to do. theFIT is something that I've been thinking about for a long, long time and ever since my second job out of college I've been thinking about culture fit and been passionate about it really since 1998 when I took a job at a financial services giant. Leaving a technology start up to join this big, big company with tens of thousands of employees. During the interview process, I didn't really detect this but the first day on the job, I remember vividly the thought in my head was I don't fit in here at all. Remember making a joke during the first meeting I attended and nobody laughed, everybody just sort of looked at me and I thought well maybe I made a bad joke, maybe it was a dud. The second meeting I tried again and I realized people don't joke around at this company. I thought to myself what the hell am I going to do because that's like the only way I can connect with people is through humor, that's one of my big things.

A few days had passed and I still hadn't gotten a computer and here I am a software architect without a computer, and I went to my boss and I said so what's going on, when do I get a PC? And he said, "Well we've ordered it from IT, it will come when it comes, why don't you go and sit and read at your desk." And I said, "I don't have anything to read." He said, "read a book." I thought to myself...

Peter: That's the good onboarding experience right there!

Art: Yeah, yeah. Here I am sitting and reading novels at this company. I thought to myself, you know what I think some people may love it here and clearly, there were people that really love the company and felt that it was a great place to work. For me, it was like something out of like a French existential novel. I quit.

The irony is that they asked me for 2 week notice and I said I've only been here two weeks. I doubled my tenure in my job, but ever since then, I've thought to myself a lot about the fit and culture and how important it is. As we built up Bullhorn to 200 employees, I've had a chance to experiment a lot with culture fit. Hiring people, understanding our own culture, understanding as the company evolves what is the culture and then seeing people who fit and how they perform and people who don't and what that translates to. It always ends in tears when somebody doesn't fit the culture for both the employer, but really it's even more painful for the employees.

My story at the financial services giant ended in disappointment and tears. I had to go find a job without a job and everybody wanted to know what's wrong with you, why don't you have a job anymore. It was tough. It's really, really hard and so ever since then, I've said there's got to be a way for people to gauge culture and engage how they fit without having to actually go through my experience.

After years of kind of hoping somebody would fill the void in the employment space we finally said.... there are couple of companies chasing the... trying to give people insight into culture but I didn't feel they were doing a justice sort of like giving a job seekers an exit interview template - tell me about your experience at the company. Well, job seekers are obviously looking to move on so it sorts of like asking people who didn't fit the culture what's the culture like - the answer is well it's not from me and it's not for anybody.

We decided to go after the problem ourselves with theFIT and it's been sort of a labor that last 9 to 10 months, we just launched and it's been hugely exciting.

Peter: What really differentiates TheFIT from sites like Glassdoor.com or the kind of insider information you can find on Vault.com?

Art: I think those two sites are both doing pretty well, and I think they serve a need, but I think the approach is very similar to Yelp.com or OpenTable, or any of these restaurant review sites. I think that for employment it's not like dining at a restaurant. I go to a restaurant and I have a meal and Open Table prompts me to leave a review. I'm inclined to take two seconds to leave a review of the restaurant. You'll see favorable reviews, you'll see mixed reviews and you'll see negative reviews, sort of all side by side.

But at employment, it sounds like I have a job every weekend and I can actually provide data on a semi-periodic basis. If I'm happily employed I might work at a company for five years and really have no reason to ever visit the Vault or Glassdoor or any of these sites. The critical problem is the only people you're really interviewing are the people who are active job seekers, which I think it's broken. It's not really going to give a fair or accurate depiction of what life at the company is really like if the only people you're asking are people leaving.

When we designed theFIT, we said all right let's not target the job seeker as the primary audience for this site; let's the target the currently happily employed employee and what's the value proposition to them. Well, the value prop would be you probably want to know what your co-workers are thinking or maybe just want to know about your co-workers because you spend 8 hours a day but it's hard to get to know them, maybe you're an introvert and you'd like to find out about co-workers without having to go to the water cooler and strike up a conversation. When we talk to people and talk to working professionals, this was kind of an interesting thing. They said, yeah I would love to know what my co-workers think about all sorts of things about pay, about simple things like what do they like to eat, what are their interests, what type of music do they like.

We kind of found a vein around the happily employed worker and helping them to get to know their employees. And then from that, we can product some pretty rich data for job seekers when they are considering a change.

Peter: I guess that's really one of the biggest challenges you face with this is to your point you don't want the bifurcated people, the people who either really love the company or really hate the company; you want those passive candidates who go to work every day and the company is finding the motivation for them to participate and get involved in something like this, I guess is the biggest challenge. Right?

Art: Yeah, we did an alpha sort of initial version of the product in July of 2011. When we first launched it, we found there was no interest from the happily employed. Job seekers loved it. They said this is great, I can cruise other companies. But people who are happily employed said yeah I filled out a questionnaire.

It wasn't until we started asking really sort of interesting and scintillating questions that we found that the engagement went up. That took us a long time to stumble into that, a lot of testing, a lot of experimentation, a lot of user interaction and watching working professionals engage with the site.

Once we started asking questions like are your co-workers attractive; all of a sudden people got really... I want to know the answer to that, because what do other people think. I think they are, but am I the only one? Some of it is sort of time wasting, like would you rather meet Ben Franklin or Ice-T - stupid stuff like that, but some of it's actually insightful and engaging, like how did you feel about your bonus last year. But not giving people a way to slam the company, making sure that the answers are always respectful, was sort of a key for us.

When you ask how did you feel about your bonus, you don't give them a place to say my bonus was horrible and my boss is a jerk; you simply give them a place to say, no comment or what bonus, which I think for a lot of people they need guardrails to protect them from themselves

I had spent enough time looking at online reviews on the internet to know that people. It's one thing to say that you hate a restaurant or hotel - I'll never go back there... the food was horrible, or they had bed bugs... the place is a dump. That's fine. You can choose to go to another hotel. But If you give an employee enough for him to hang himself and they do, they could get fired. A lot of times employee don't realize that they're giving themselves a way by what they say in the sort of open textbox of tell me what you think. My boss, Joe, sat me down and told me I was a jerk the other day. It's like, okay now I know who you are.

By giving people multiple choice answers, giving people only choices of respectful answers - look, if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. It says a lot. I think we've helped people give a fair and honest assessment of what the place is like without getting them in trouble.

Peter: I think one of the most interesting questions you asked is has your boss ever stolen one of your ideas? That's pretty revealing right there and as we all know, people work for their bosses they don't necessarily work for their companies, especially if it's a big company. Right?

Art: That's right. The interesting thing about that is it's really, really common. We didn't expect this. We thought most people would say oh no never, but it turns out bosses steal ideas 50 percent of the time. Now of that, 30 percent of the time bosses are taking their employee's ideas but they're not doing it on purpose. So it's accidental but it happens... half of the people on the theFIT, and we've now got 40,000 answers to that question. It's pretty amazing.

Peter: That is.

Art: Yeah it's pretty amazing that half of the people we survey are getting their ideas stolen by their bosses. So, I guess bosses need to watch it.

Peter: theFIT is really tightly integrated with LinkedIn is that correct?

Art: Yeah LinkedIn and Facebook. It's interesting, some people say I would never connect my LinkedIn to a site like this. And then other people say, I would never connect my Facebook. It's been interesting and so we've given people a choice.

Peter: What choice do they normally make - LinkedIn or Facebook?

Art: Right now it's about 2:1 LinkedIn to Facebook. Most people feel more comfortable opening up their LinkedIn network and their LinkedIn profile than their Facebook. Most people are pretty protective of their Facebook in the working world, once you get below around 25, 24 years old, people are much more open to it and they actually choose Facebook every time. It's an interesting dynamic.

Peter: Yeah that is. Can you just sort of walk us through the signup process. I'm listening to this interview, this sounds really intriguing, so I go on to theFIT.com. What do I need to become part of this network?

Art: What we ask is that you can connect with either your Facebook account or your LinkedIn account. The reason we do that is because we want to make sure that whoever is signing up is actually a real person. We want to avoid people - we don't want people from like HR to go on with fake email addresses and take the poll. We want to put that barrier in to prevent people from abusing the site.

Once you do that, we're obviously very, very careful about privacy. We're not going to spam your friends, we're not going to put posts on your Facebook wall or on your LinkedIn status. Obviously we have to be very respectful to people's privacy, so we're really only requiring that social authentication just to prove that you're a real person and you actually work at the company but once you do that we know your name, we know your title, and we have a picture of you, which is helpful. And then you put in where you work. You tie yourself to your company and your company may already be on theFIT or you could be first employee to sign up. And then we start asking a series of question.

Signup is pretty quick. It's two steps. Once we know where you work, we start asking you questions like: How's your commute? Is your boss a man or a woman? Is your boss smart?

We start asking you some interesting questions that are engaging. We also try and get you to invite in your co-workers so that you can get a picture of what do your co-worker's think, do they agree with you, do they disagree? Do you fit in where you work today? If your answers dramatically differ from your co-workers, maybe there's a problem or maybe you're special.

Peter: The interesting things I saw when I was on your site is If I typed in a company name I would see if there are other people who are part of my network who worked for that company and along with the rating. From that standpoint, I think it's pretty robust. Of course the challenge you have at this point is to really scale this thing to get thousands and thousands and thousands of people on here answering these questions so you can really have a data set that represents an organization, instead of 4-5 people. Right?

Art: Exactly. Our goal is to get to somewhere around 20% of every company on the planet. If the company has got 100 employees, we want at least 20 on there. What we found is most people when they sign up, they invite at least one other co-worker on average. Some people invite 10 and some people invite none, but the average is we're getting one co-worker for every sign up, so we believe actually that we should be able to reach our goal. If a company has a significant number of employees, we should be able to cover maybe 20%. Now, if a company has 10 employees, getting 2 would be success in our mind. That doesn't necessarily give you a total picture of the company, you'd really want to get everybody but at least for midsize companies and for bigger companies like Fortune 500, we should really be able to get your representative view.

Peter: TheFIT is also location specific you've launched in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Fort Worth, a bunch of cities. Will this ever make it to places like Peoria? I hear there is a pretty big Caterpillar plant there.

Art: Peoria, yes and Poughkeepsie. That's definitely the plan. We want to make sure that we get - we want to use this local hubs to really build up the network to start. We believe that doing it on a sort of locale base to start is good because we're going to learn about... let's say that Google employs people in both Boston and San Francisco, there's going to be differences between those two offices. Working for Google is one thing but working for Google in the Bay Area may be very different than working in Boston. We're testing that and we're going to see and also too, I think people think about things regionally.

Telling people that here are the best places to work for earning potential on a national basis, well that's great if you want to work for a huge company but what about here in Boston, or what about in Peoria. People want to know what about the companies in my area. I think all politics is local and employment is local too; so we're really kind of focused on making sure we get the locale right.

Peter: In looking at the data that you're starting to get in, Art, has anything really surprised you?

Art: Yes, a few things have really surprised us. A lot of companies are much more family friendly than you would expect. A lot of small companies are very family-friendly and big ones too. That was a surprise for us. We thought we were going to get some divergent data there, we didn't.

Another thing is there are few companies that really stand out for female leadership, which has been very, very interesting and that I think that it's a big issue. Right? There's really no place for a woman to go and say who are the best employers for female leadership. If I want to have a shot at getting at the top of the ladder, where should I work. We're seeing some really interesting dynamics there, we're seeing some really interesting answers about glass ceilings and what percentage of these companies have true female leadership at the top.

I think what isn't surprising is that companies with female CEOs do really, really well. In companies without female CEOs, you're looking at some pretty dismal figures. It's interesting.

The other interesting correlation is around earning potential. A lot of the companies that you would think of as like these great companies, like even Google, the pay isn't that great. Bonuses aren't huge. That was surprising. So pay isn't everything. It's actually pretty low on the scale. Bosses are really important people. Work-life balance is really important. Pay, not so much. That's been intriguing.

Peter: Yeah and certainly all of the surveys I've ever seen, the pay really is not the top thing. People are really looking for organizations that will help them develop their personal skills and give them training and give them educational opportunities and the ability to move around into different roles. Right?

Art: Exactly.

Peter: This whole thing around women leadership, the only organization that I know that really focuses on this is Catalyst. To your point earlier, most of the companies they profile are really large companies. So if you're looking and your cultural fit is more to a small or a midsize company, it's really hard to find data around diversity and women-led companies.

Art: Yeah, that's right. Catalyst is a great company. They do a great job with surveying employees at the request of the management. I think the problem with that is there's a natural selection bias. If you get an email from HR that says please take our employee survey; you really have some scathing feedback. If you're smart, you're going to avoid taking the survey. So you get this natural selection bias.

Some of the questions we ask are a little bit risqué, they're a little bit irreverent, and the reason we do that is we want people to know that this isn't HR's survey. This is not your CEO asking you the question. This is like a friend at a bar over drinks saying "Hey I'm thinking of working there." Do you work on the weekends? Does your boss ever ask you to change your vacation plans? These are questions that people would ask a friend. These are not questions HR would ask. HR would not ask do you find your co-workers attractive?

Peter: No, they would stay a million miles away from that.

Art: But we can.

Peter: I think you're right, I think that's smart. Again what you're trying to do is really engage people in a survey conversation online and make it a little bit fun and irreverent.

Art: I think there's a little chance that we're going to get sponsorship from big companies looking for us to survey all their employees, but what we're thinking is that we have a better chance of getting all the employees of the company to actually engage and go on the site and have fun with that.

Let's say the average employee survey touches 60 percent of the employee base; we think we have a chance in some companies to get 80, 90, and 100 percent.

Peter: How are you going to get an ROI on and developing theFIT, how you're going to make money with this?

Art: We think ultimately the opportunity to monetize is around two things. One, giving companies who really care insight into where they need to work and improve their culture. And two, I think the other area is around employment and job opportunities, trying to help people connect with employers. If an employer comes to us and say I'd really love to be able to promote my openings on my Fit profile because we have a great profile; I think that's an opportunity for us.

Today everything is free, but eventually we want to get employers to sponsor and pay. Today Bullhorn has enough going on that we don't have to worry about trying to extract every dollar out of everything we do. Really right now it's about building a great community and building a great user experience.

Peter: Art, thank you very much for taking time to speak with us on TotalPicture Radio. Is there anything I haven't asked you that you would like to share with the audience?

Art: I think we covered the waterfront. If people have feedback, we would love to hear it. A lot of people give us feedback on Twitter, you can give feedback right on theFIT.com, but would be very open and would love to hear from anybody. Please connect with us and I'm always looking for folks and feedbacks.

Art Papas is the founder and CEO of theFIT.com and Bullhorn.com. You'll find this interview in the online strategy channel of TotalPicture Radio that's totalpicture.com. Thanks for listening.

About Bullhorn

Bullhorn® creates software and services that improve the way employees and employers come together. For over ten years our innovations have powered the recruiting and staffing operations of fast-growing start-ups up through the world's largest employment brands. But don't take our carefully crafted, boiler-plated word for it. See what employees are saying on theFIT at http://www.thefit.com/company?company=Bullhorn

Bullhorn® web-based software and services improve the way employees and employers come together. For over ten years our innovations have powered the recruiting and staffing operations of fast-growing start-ups up through the world's largest employment brands.

Headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts with offices in London, United Kingdom and Sydney, Australia, Bullhorn's recruiting ATS/CRM and social recruiting products handle over 150,000 monthly job orders and placements for more than 5,000 clients and 45,000 users across 35 countries. Privately owned, Bullhorn is principally backed by Highland Capital Partners and General Catalyst Partners.

Peter Clayton

About Peter Clayton

Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.


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