Tech start-up of the week: Social Talent

14 Jun 2014

(Top from left) Nicola McCarthy, Reza Kavanagh, Susan Hickson, Johnny Campbell (CEO), Walter Wynn, Siofra Pratt, Holly Fawcett and (bottom from left) Vincent O'Donoghue (co-founder), Stephen Nesbitt, Wendy Murphy, George Bryan

Our tech start-up of the week is online learning platform Social Talent, which trains recruiters how to better use online technology to find and hire future workers.

Social Talent trains recruiters how to find the best candidates for their job vacancies using online sourcing techniques.

“We teach them how to find, attract and engage with these candidates on social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, Github, Twitter, Pinterest and loads more through a certification programme we’ve developed called the Black Belt in Internet Recruitment, turning ordinary recruiters into Sourcing Ninjas,” explained Social Talent’s Reza Kavanagh.

Future Human

“We deliver this through a personalised online learning platform using video-based training and online exercises. 

Kavanagh kinds of online searches the Sourcing Ninjas conduct are case-sensitive, deep searches that will encompass about 100 different terms.

“Typically, when you search for a ‘sales manager’ on LinkedIn, it’ll only present people who have ‘sales manager’ specifically written on their profile, but then you’re missing out on the thousands of people who have ‘Sales/Marketing Manager’ because it’s technically a different term.

“We help recruiters leverage long Boolean strings to find up to 10 times more potential candidates online, engage with them effectively and sell them the job opportunity.”

The market

Social Talent’s primary market sector is the staffing and recruitment sector, but of course every business needs to hire the best people to succeed, so really we have permeated every market sector there is, from training the CEO to the HR manager, all to hire great people.

“Our customers are both recruitment agencies and the internal recruitment teams within organisations, but we’ve always looked outside of Ireland for customers.

“From the outset, we’ve operated on an export-scale to the UK and mainland Europe. We have customers now in 43 countries, from China to the US. The opportunity is endless!”

The founders

Social Talent’s founder Jonathan Campbell and Vincent O’Donoghue, met while working as ex-pats in the Caribbean.

Campbell was working as a recruiter for Baurad, while O’Donoghue was working in sales for Digicel.

When they came back to Ireland in 2008 to set up their own recruitment agency Select People, suddenly the bottom fell out of the jobs market and they had to come up with a better way to source candidates for really niche financial roles they were recruiting for.

“They developed best practice sourcing techniques for recruiting really tough-to-find people, and in December 2010 Social Talent was born,” Kavanagh explained.

The technology

Social Talent online learning management system presents personalised video training modules and exercises to recruiters.

“We’re developing an add-on Chrome Plugin for our training that will make it more real-time,” explained Kavanagh’s colleague Holly Fawcett.

“As a recruiter conducts a search for potential candidates on LinkedIn for example, the plugin will analyse the search made and present you with a quick video to watch where it’ll teach you how to make a better search. 

“Delivering training to a large-scale organisation with offices in say 20 countries at a consistent level is far too difficult to do on an in-person level.

“That’s why our online training solution fits with these kinds of customers perfectly, as well as small organisations who perhaps don’t have the budget or time to take days out of the office for training.

“Recruiters can do their training in their own time when they have a spare 20 minutes. Overall, our training is about 16 hours long, and is updated all the time as social media changes or new technologies come on-stream.”

Boolean sourcing

Ultimately Social Talent’s goal is to completely change the way recruitment is approached and achieved, and for every recruiter to be a Sourcing Ninja.

“Already our Black Belt in Internet Recruitment is becoming industry standard, as knowledge of Boolean Sourcing is essential in today’s recruitment market,” Kavanagh said.

“We started off small, delivering our training programme in person to 15 recruiters at a time. We bootstrapped our entire way from beginning to where we are now, never taking on investment. Once we developed our training in an online format, the potential to scale was obvious.”

Social Talent’s first major customer was Oracle Corporation, deploying training to 350 of their recruiters worldwide.

“From there, we have trained over 7,000 recruiters in 43 countries. Our customer list includes all of the Big 4, Apple, Microsoft, Dropbox, EMC, Accenture, Twitter, BSkyB, CERN, IBM, Philips, Hertz. Only about 10pc of our customers are based in Ireland.”

Fawcett explained that the company embarked on a content marketing strategy from the get-go from humble beginnings in an office in Leixlip in 2011.

“Our blog and webinars are one of the most-read in the recruitment industry. Acquiring customers has been a purely inbound activity, we’ve never once cold-called a customer!”

Born out of the recession

Kavanagh said that the company was constantly learning, adjusting and pivoting slightly at least once a year.

“Our central ideal has always been around making recruitment better, and we’re moving with technology to ensure that we deliver relevant practice. 

“It’s great to see Irish start-ups putting themselves out there and forgetting about where we were only a few years ago.

“Social Talent were born out of the recession, finding a niche in the need to adapt or die. Since we’re such a small island, we’ve always had to look out to grow, and because so many Irish people have worked abroad at some point in their lives, we’re exposed to global ideas. “As a country, we have a culture of building our own businesses and have done for decades. Now that start-ups are coming together as a community to support, promote and grow, it’s a breeding ground for success. We definitely need to see more of this!”

Kavanagh added that agencies and networks available to start-ups – from the County Enterprise Boards, Enterprise Ireland and Start-up Hubs – are all vital.

“Introduce yourself to companies you admire and ask their CEO out for a coffee to bend their ear. You’ll be surprised how many are willing to listen, help you mould your idea, and give you advice or an introduction to those who can help or potential customers.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years