Exciting news! Jerome Ternynck, a seasoned entrepreneur with over 30 years of experience in talent acquisition and human resources, will be joining Robin Capital as an advisor to support founders. With a unique journey that started from the military and took him across different geographies, including Europe and the US, Jerome has always been driven by the opportunity to make hiring easier and help people find jobs they love.
Jerome is best known for founding SmartRecruiters, a Talent Acquisition Suite that has helped over 1,000 enterprises, including LinkedIn, Visa, and Bosch, attract and hire top talent. He has also built multiple companies in the same space, each with its own set of patterns, failures, and learnings.
Jerome's passion for solving problems and creating a better world for job seekers is contagious, and we're thrilled to have him on board as an advisor to help founders navigate the TA landscape, set the right foundation, and scale their businesses. Join us in welcoming Jerome to the Robin Capital family!
Jerome, tell me about yourself.
If I had to do that in one word, it would say I am an entrepreneur. That’s probably what defines me most accurately.
You have a unique journey from the military; you left France early for the Czech Republic, San Francisco. You have always been in Human Resources / Talent Acquisition. From a retro perspective, what was coincidence versus intention? Would you have done things differently? Do you see a pattern? What is the recurrent theme that ran a continuous thread through - what did you hold on to?
The pattern is opportunity. This is less about luck, coincidence, or even intention. Once you start digging into a topic, in my case recruiting, then you uncover more and more opportunities and one thing naturally leads to the next.
In the Talent Acquisition space, you are a veteran with +30 years of experience building companies. The world has changed over time; what impacted this area the most regarding technology, geography, and behavior?
I am actually surprised how little recruiting has changed in the last two decades despite the whole world going online. One would think the internet would make it incredibly easy to connect people to jobs,but actually, the opposite is true. The internet has made recruiting noisier rather than more effective. As a result, it’s still harder to find a job in your neighborhood than it is to book an apartment in Buenos Aires for the weekend.
You left Europe to build something even more significant in the US, but I know you love Europe. Do you feel as a founder - wanting to create something meaningful and significant - one must go to the US, or is Europe catching up?
Europe is an incredible breeding ground for innovation but the market size just speaks in favor of the US, especially in Enterprise software. That’s why I moved to San Francisco to start SmartRecruiters even though we kept 100% of R&D in Europe.
Could you tell me about your journey with SmartRecruiters? At first, a different model, several years of RnD, later going into enterprise sales - what was the vision ten years ago, and what is the vision and mission today?
SmartRecruiters exists because we fundamentally believe that hiring should be easy. We have been working hard since day one to help businesses get access to the talent they need and to help people find jobs they love. Along the journey, our strategy evolved as it should but we remained laser focused on the core vision. Today, over 1,000 enterprises, including LinkedIn, Visa, and Bosch, rely on SmartRecruiters to attract, select, and hire amazing talent on demand.
You have built multiple companies in the same space - what are the patterns, failures, and learnings - how were SmartRecruiters different from Mr. Ted?
Being a repeat entrepreneur in the same space definitely helps with pattern recognition. You make mostly different mistakes. In my case, MrTed was a first-generation Applicant Tracking System (like Taleo, iCIMS, etc.), designed—as the name suggests—to track applicants, rather than to make hiring easier. With SmartRecruiters, we started from a blank sheet of paper and designed a Talent Acquisition Suite that truly drives hiring success.
I know you love your customers and you care. You care about the product and the customer success; you made CEO Sales until your last day. You built a customer advisory board, a category, methodology, and fundamentals; you wrote a book. What drives you? What kind of passion does a founder need to have? How does your DNA relate to this job, and how do you feel one should find his/her place in this world best?
Founders are generally obsessed with the problem they’re trying to solve. In my case, that’s helping people find jobs. I don’t like the way recruiting works today and I want to change it. That’s what drives me.
Likewise, I do know you love connecting people to jobs at scale. You have always dreamed of creating a platform that provides matching, is automated, and is scalable; your earlier pitches were about eradicating unemployment. Where are we today as a society and in the TA landscape? Where do you see innovation? What does prevent, and what are the obstacles?
Technology has made applying for jobs a lot easier than before. But this has had a counter effect that companies got flooded with resumes, and in turn, started to build automated rejection processes. The solution in recruiting is quality, not quantity. Nobody wants to apply to 100 jobs and nobody wants to read 100 resumes. I am confident that AI and machine learning will evolve to a point where relevant recommendations can be made automatically.
Where does someone find a job best? Where and how does an employer find the right hire? What steps, hands-on, hires, tasks, and tools should be in place?
Finding a job or hiring an employee is a process. It requires a proper methodology, a solid process, and most of all a focus on quality over quantity.
Do you feel sales in HR/TA space for a B2B SaaS company is particularly hard? Less budget from the CEO to the buyer, and less pressure than sales or marketing. Status quo as your biggest enemy. In need of so many champions, stakeholders, and long sales cycles. How could we work best around this - set the foundation right at the start?
When budgets are tight, the mundane purchase goes away and buyers focus on essential technology that solves a strategic problem. Sales and marketing professionals need to position their product accordingly, avoid “happy ears” syndrome, and run tight sales processes that truly create value for the prospect.
When is the right time to professionalize your business? Implementing an account name model? Adding a GTM operations team? Which tasks have the most significant impact? Creating pipe, converting, optimizing win and close rates - talking about efficiency and attainment. Where can you move the needle?
The journey to find product market fit and then scale starts on Day 1. As a founder, it’s easy to get excited by positive customer feedback and lose sight of the bigger picture. If you compare this to a restaurant, the question is not “Can I cook a meal that makes people happy?”, the real question is “What’s the recipe for my Big Mac that will allow me to open 10,000 restaurants across the country?”
What does the best Onboarding and BootCamp look like? How would you like to bring new team members up to scale?
Getting new team members up to speed is challenging especially in a hyper-growth remote environment. I like to focus on two key components 1) purpose and values. Ensure new hires know WHY they are here and HOW they’re supposed to behave within the team. 2) Connections. Connect new hires with peers and mentors internally as quickly as possible. Programs like peer programming, peer selling, shadow projects, etc. are particularly effective.
We often talked about making the year more predictable, hiring the right CFO to help on forecast, plan, forecast and much more. In general how do you make your organization a well oiled machined - how and when - what is essential?
A subscription-based business is by default predictable, especially for Enterprises, and the key metrics are pretty straight-forward. I like to focus on Net Retention (Are customers renewing and buying more?), sales efficiency (How much does $1 of S&M bring?) and gross margin (what it costs to deliver the service).
Every ever sales leader is getting asked when to bring in what kind of talent. A raw diamond versus someone doing the same thing for over ten years. As Bruce Lee "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times." How do you feel about this?
The key to scaling a sales org is not to attract more exceptional sellers but rather to make the product exceptionally easy to sell such that anybody can do it.
Mission and Vision. How is it essential for success? How to do OKR, right?
Mission and Vision are critical. People need to understand their purpose within the company and what we’re collectively trying to achieve. Otherwise, how can you expect them to make the right decisions on a daily basis?
We created an executive team, a leadership team, a management team, a president club, we cried on our offsite giving kudos and blessings - how do you feel about building a organization and what does matter and when?
Organization, as in having the right people in charge of the right topics, is actually the number one job for the CEO. It’s the one thing you work on all the time, where change is the only constant, and complacency is the enemy. Do you want to achieve great things? Then you must remove poor performers, hire great replacements, and put them to work.
You told me about "becoming an athlete" while some would go to the olympics we would build this company and it is not a job it is our full time desiration, life, everything. How do you become an athlete? What are the neceressery steps on the way and how to do it right?
As a company grows and scales, the CEO’s job changes fast, probably every six months. I found that recognizing this and taking time to develop my own skills, getting coached, spending time with peers,ll of that was truly necessary to be able to keep growing.
I let you jump out of a plane. Your co-founder woke up in Newfoundland and Labrador. What are these crazy stories on the way you would like to share here?
Ah yes, that Slush skydiving pitch competition was quite fun! Stories come with the job I suppose when you are trying to make the world a better place. For me, I’d say the day at SmartRecruiters when we passed 50 million candidates using the platform. I thought “50 million! That’s like a country!” That felt really crazy.
Whats next for you? You have achieved everything one potentially desires. Is it a white board to you? You are the one telling me "you better of searching for something while in the game then being on the sideline" - what do you advise anyone on how settling for a new challenge in life?
I love technology and I hate the status quo, so I suppose I’ll just keep pushing.