In the newest episode of The Staffing Show, Corey Grissom, Head of Business Development at Opus Match, joins David to talk about how AI has reshaped the way staffing agencies approach their work. He talks about the services Opus Match provides, such as AI matchmaking for candidates and agencies, that allow for a tailored and more efficient experience for all parties. Corey goes on to explore some of the fears that agencies have around AI implementation and drives home his belief that a human-to-human connection will continue to be irreplaceable in the staffing and recruiting realm.
David Folwell: Hello everyone. Thank you for joining us for another episode of The Staffing Show. I’m super excited today to be joined by Corey Grissom, who’s the Head of Business Development at Opus Match. Corey, thank you so much for being on the show today. Super excited to have you here.
Corey Grissom: Thanks for having me on, Dave. Super excited.
Folwell: Yeah, that’s great. So to start things off, could you give us a little bit of background on who you are and how you got involved in staffing?
Grissom: Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, like I said, my name is Corey Grissom. My original background kind of post-school was always in the entertainment space, so had a lot of experience in event production, event management, as well as event deployment. Right around the time that I was kind of going through those motions, I got into technology sales. I was an early employee over at Postmates, a disruptor in the on-demand food and delivery space. During my time at Postmates, I actually got the opportunity to start working for a startup out of San Francisco called Wonolo. We were one of the first light industrial staffing platforms geared towards having the kind of Uber-like model, if you will. So didn’t know I was getting into staffing when I first started working at Wonolo. Like I said, it had a lot of really cool buzzwords, like I said, like the Uber for staffing. And then once I really got into working on it, I realized that it was really shaping the future of work and how people were finding jobs and have just been head over heels, just obsessed with the on-demand economy since then.
Folwell: That’s great. And could you dig in a little bit on what is Opus Match? What is it that you guys do and how are you helping staffing agencies?
Grissom: Yeah, absolutely. So Opus Match, we provide AI matchmaking for candidates and agencies that allow you to match open jobs to candidates based on not only their resume, but also their behavior on your overall environment. What are they doing on your website? What are they checking out on your mobile app? And then we have a recommendation engine that suggests jobs to them based on their behavior. Almost like a Netflix-like feed, but showing them jobs as opposed to just going in and doing your traditional search results on a job board.
Folwell: And so it sounds like you’re doing matching for the recruiter. So you’re saying, “Hey,” to the recruiter, “This is who you should be going after.” But you’re also doing that for the candidate and saying, “Here are the jobs that align with you.” Is that….?
Grissom: No, exactly. Exactly. And it’s interesting, it kind of goes back to our founding story. So myself, our two co-founders, Michael Wynn and Billy Pham, we were all early employees at Wonolo. Michael built out the product team both in San Francisco and Vietnam. Billy did the same on the engineering side and built up a lot of the backend at Wonolo. Right around our Series A, we were fortunate enough to get investment from American Mobile Nursing, so AMN Healthcare, and they really wanted to see what the impacts of the on-demand economy and healthcare were going to be. So we were fortunate enough to work directly with AMN to do a lot of experiments and deploy a talent platform for their PRN division, so Nurse Finders. We were able to help them reduce their physical footprint from 24 brick-and-mortar locations down to two regional hubs, while also helping them go from two- to three-hour fill rates for PRN down to two or three minutes.
So the real “aha” moment that we had at Wonolo working with Nurse Finders was it wasn’t about having the best app, it wasn’t about having the best platform, it was having the most data and being able to make a quick, informed decision using that data that really differentiated people that were cranking out cold dials versus people that were using AI and machine learning. So we went to the board at that time and said, “Hey, we see this amazing opportunity in helping healthcare agencies.” We were very much focused on light industrials, so wasn’t a good fit for Wonolo, so Michael and Billy took the idea and the concept of using your data to make personalized decisions at scale and kind of went out and started creating our initial MVP back in February of 2020. We all know what happened a month later in the overall scheme of things.
Folwell: Good time to go about it.
Grissom: Right time, right place, right? But like I said, that’s where we really see ourselves as a data company because we’re allowing agencies that already have a robust set of data. When we started working with AMN, we realized that they had all this ATS data, they had this data from their VMSs. Now, it’s kind of a perfect incubator, if you will. They own everything, so they had their own VMSs…the Medefis… But when we were able to bring in all of this job data and also realize that even though Dave Folwell’s resume can say that he’s looking for jobs in Denver, if he’s sitting in LA searching for jobs in LA, why am I not suggesting him jobs in LA and why am I not telling my recruiters, “Hey, what Dave’s telling us on his resume may not actually be what Dave wants.”
So we not only show it to the candidate, but we’re also sending it back to the recruiter so that they can use the scores to manage what their day looks like and manage quality dials to the candidates that they should be reaching out to.
Folwell: And so it sounds like you’re doing more than… when I hear a lot of AI matching or lead scoring in general, it’s like keyword matching and how close to these words on the resume match with this job, but you’re digging deeper on the behavioral side of that. So you’re connecting to the web activity and actually seeing browsing history of like, “Hey, they’re looking for jobs here,” and then able to tie that back. How is that presented to the recruiter?
Grissom: Yeah, absolutely. So you just nailed it, David. So the way that we work it and the way that we differentiate ourselves from some of the traditional matching providers out there is we’re not just doing a skills-to-skills match where we’re parsing the resume, looking at keywords, matching keywords across a grid sort of thing. We’re really looking at the first-party behavioral data from the website, and we’re associating that anonymous behavior back into a session. So did you give us a phone number? Did you give us an email? And then we can start to associate what you’re doing. But we have developed a new product that we call the candidate data platform that allows you to aggregate a lot of your data from various sources to one place to allow your marketing team as well as your recruitment team to make a lot of data-driven decisions. So we’ve actually created a concept where I as a recruiter can see my pipeline as it’s visualized in my ATS and know exactly where a candidate is in my pipeline and how engaged they are.
So, we lead score them based on, “Have they interacted with your website? Have they responded to HubSpot or a SenSpot?” And then allow the recruiter to manage their pipeline based on the engagement scores, and then they can see an omnichannel view of what the candidate’s actually done and engaged with.
Folwell: That’s amazing. And I know you talked about the two- to three-hour fill rate dropping to two to three minutes, which is insane. Do you have other data on conversion rate improvements or the effectiveness? Like, recruiter productivity feels like it’d be a key component of this.
Grissom: No, no. And you just nailed it, David. We’ve seen different impacts for different types of recruitment and different types of staffing. So in the concept of a per diem or a shift-style labor, you’re right, two-to-three minute returns, but then when we start to look at travel and we look at long-term assignments, we’re literally eliminating days off of the overall fill rate and fill times so that candidates are getting to work faster, and then recruiters are managing a lot more candidates on their books. So I believe in the most recent QBRs that we did as a company, we’re seeing right now that our recommendation engine is being accepted, the jobs being recommended are being accepted about 74% of the time right now, where it’s actually being validated by the candidate saying “apply,” that’s the job that they want to see. So it’s grown over time where when we initially deployed it, we were hitting around 30%. But like I said, the recommendation engine, as it learns more about a candidate over time and what it is they’re really looking for, the more effective it’s really getting.
Folwell: That’s really amazing. And what’s the learning curve for software like this? How long does it take the agency to get up to speed, the recruiters to get up to speed?
Grissom: Yeah, no. So it’s really quick to get it up to speed, especially with the way that we’re starting to visualize it with our new product, the candidate data platform. One of the largest parts of this process is you’re only as strong as your own data, so we work a lot directly with agencies to help them bring in, standardize the candidate data that they want to bring into the platform that’s going to impact their match. It’s about the heaviest part of the lift. When it comes to the actual implementation or change order with a recruiter, it’s super hands-on, really straightforward. We got a lot of feedback from all types of different agencies, from IT to healthcare to light industrial, that a lot of recruiters can’t match the way that they did pre-pandemic.
They learned some bad behaviors whenever there was a lot of spike in demand and stuff where they kind of became more order takers. Where with the candidate data platform, it allows them a little bit more guidance and insights on where they should spend their time and spend their day. So they’re not blasting cold dials, they’re not blasting cold emails to someone that hasn’t replied to anything from an agency in months or years. They’re actually targeting someone that’s a lot more apt to actually go to work based on the engagement scores that we can provide. So they’re getting a lot more meaningful dials, they’re getting a lot more production, so it’s allowing recruitment managers to know that their team is focused on the right candidates in the right part of the pipeline, and they’re not just kind of spinning their wheels looking for that one candidate that’s going to luckily catch fire on the other end of the dial.
Folwell: Yeah, that makes sense. And also, what I’ve heard anecdotally from a handful of healthcare staffing firms is, the recruiters that learned how to recruit during the pandemic are struggling today because there’s a lot of things….
Grissom: Absolutely. We’re not seeing the $200/hour bill rates anymore flooding the system. I don’t want to call it easy by any means because it was a very overwhelming time. But the concept of being an advocate for your agency, really selling the benefits of traveling or staffing with a particular agency versus the other, that differentiating wasn’t really happening. Where now, it’s the agencies that are really good with brands and really good with creating community that have been able to continue to ride on these things while others have invested in technology to scale and replicate some of their better performer’s activities, if you will.
Folwell: Absolutely. If you could dig in a little bit on what the future looks like for Opus, what are some things that you’re excited about with where you guys are going?
Grissom: So I think the future is super bright right now. As you know, and other people in the space that work with us, we’ve been primarily focused on healthcare staffing since the pandemic. Like I said, we were fortunate enough that when we kicked off, we had some great advisors in the space that put us in the right direction. We’re starting to look at, “What does matching for IT look like? What does matching for light industrial and other spaces look like?” So super exciting to roll out our suggested jobs and hot jobs across all verticals by the end of the year. And then we’re also, like I said, about to launch our candidate data platform that’s going to allow marketing professionals, recruiters, as well as recruitment managers to really drive a lot of value out of the data that may not necessarily be in the ATS to allow them to, like I said, use the data to essentially get candidates on their jobs much faster and much more cost-effectively.
Folwell: That’s great. And so right now, today, you’re mostly healthcare, but do you have a vertical you’re going to next or are you going across all immediately?
Grissom: Yeah, so like I said, we very much are solution-based sellers. We like to really identify a problem that we can introduce a solution towards versus trying to just find the right niche. I think everything that’s going on in the tech space through 2020 and 2023, IT staffing is another one that’s in a very interesting place post-pandemic. They didn’t necessarily rehire their floors back in 2020 the way that they did pre- the pandemic, and now all this demand is out there. And we’re seeing qualified talent on the market in droves we’ve never seen. They’re not necessarily prepared because they’re not staffed up the way that they used to be, so we see some really interesting opportunities to use machine learning and automation to help them benefit from economies of scale versus having to hire a hundred more recruiters, if you have a hundred recruiters, to increase revenue, right?
Folwell: Yeah, I think efficiency is the name of the game right now, especially in a market like we’re in.
Folwell: So a little bit on a tangent from where we are today, but do you believe AI is going to be in a spot to replace recruiting activities or recruiters or what’s your take on…I feel like I have this conversation with a lot of people and everybody has strong opinions about it, but what’s your take?
Grissom: So it’s funny you asked me that because by resume, it would look like I’m on the recruiter-less model system. I personally don’t believe that the “recruiter-less model” exists. I think just recruiters are doing different roles than they did pre-pandemic and that the role of a recruiter is never going to go away. I think that they’re going to be looked at more like supply, activation, operation specialists.
Folwell: Relationship manager.
Grissom: Relationship manager, almost like a talent agent versus this experience where it feels like more of a transactional sales part. Because things like collecting documents from a candidate and stuff, the computer can do that, but giving a first-time traveler the peace of mind to jump off the ledge and do this for the first time, it’s going to take somebody that they can trust that they can learn from to allow for that type of growth. So I think there’s always going to be a place for those sort of candidates. There’s going to be candidates that are not going to use technology. There’s still going to need to be a place for them. So I don’t think that AI is going to replace recruiters. I think that the agencies that have embraced it and created change orders so that their recruiters know it’s here to optimize their job, they’re into it.
If I can tell a recruiter, “Hey, you’re going to do eight to 12 more placements this year than you did last year because this technology is going to give you more time back and better insights to close more deals,” not one of them is going to say, “No.” But if you implement it and just say, “Hey, this technology is here to automate some things that you used to do,” You’re not going to get the buy-in with it, right? So those agencies that understand the change order and that have invested into optimizing it, they’re going to continue to see their wins, they’re going to continue to see their floor want to use technology and want to bring on more and more candidates to use the technology on the candidate side as well. So I think it’s here to stay. I don’t think it’s here to replace anything. But I do also think that it’s about to be a world of the haves and the have nots, right?
Folwell: 100%. When I look at people that are using AI or not, and it’s like saying, “I’m not going to use the internet or Google.” It’s like, “Wait a second, there’s an advantage here.” It may not be for everything, it’s not going to replace everything, but there’s a lot of opportunities with that. Are you using AI or ChatGPT, Bard, or anything in your day-to-day?
Grissom: Yep. Using a lot of Bard and ChatGPT for simple email follow-ups, drafting. I’m a big fan of Lavender.
Grissom: It helps you with writing emails, their calendar sync is great as well. And then also using some AI that’s really helping me on LinkedIn prospecting right now as well. So I think there’s a new one that kind of pops up every day, so it’s kind of where people are using it to help different supply gaps. So like I said, I think we’re at this time of this great movement amongst entrepreneurs that are going out there and creating solves, too. So there’ll probably be some consolidation of all these smaller technologies soon, but it’s awesome to see just the efficiencies that people can unlock with just the simplest feature or the simplest action.
Folwell: I absolutely love that. We’re going to zoom out here for a little bit. I know we’ve been deep on AI. What are some of the major trends that you are seeing? I know you talked to a lot of staffing agency executives in general. What are some of the trends you’re hearing? Challenges?
Grissom: So I think a lot of the trends and a lot of the challenges that we’re seeing right now is that the market is definitely retracting from a job standpoint. A lot of jobs available from the MSPs, not nearly as much as they were back in ’22 and in ’21. They’re keeping a lot of those jobs and filling them with their candidates versus pushing those out to their supply partners. So I think a lot of agencies out there are trying to figure out, “How do I do less with more? How do I become more effective with my spend from a marketing perspective and a supply perspective as the demand, the jobs, aren’t coming in as much.” So I think we’re seeing a lot of people that are making one or two decisions right now. Are they going to cut back on sales, marketing, or technology like a lot of leaders have in these sort of financial crises?
Or you see the second trend where people have learned from the innovators previously and they’re starting to invest in technology to become more effective for sales, marketing and operations so that once they get to the other side of whatever this current trend is, they’ll be in a spot to really launch themselves into the new version of themselves, right?
Folwell: Yeah, it’s actually interesting to see that the two different camps, one is like, “Cut all spend, people and tech, all as much as possible,” And then, I mean, we’re obviously partial on this one, for both of us if we’re on it, but I also see the other angle of it where there’s companies that are like, “You know what? This is an opportunity to train the team, get the tech in place while we don’t have as much demand so that when we are another six months from now, a year from now, when we go back to compete, we’re competing at a different level and we’re doing it in a more efficient way,” which is cool to see that. And you see the companies that are moving in that direction tend to be the ones that are on those fastest-growing lists on SIA as well, which is interesting.
Grissom: I was just about to call that out, that it’s really exciting when you speak to a group and you can tell that they’re in that second camp. They’ve got a good strategy, they’ve got a good plan, they want to be aggressive, they’ve hired the right leadership. I’ve seen lots of really great case studies come out from Staffing Referrals as well as Staffing Engine where they’re working with some of these agencies that are ready to take a bet on themselves and take a bet on the tech. And you’re seeing the results, right? You’re seeing guys like Uniti Med go from hardly being on the map to really boosting what they’re doing. You’re seeing a GQR 4x their plans using AI with Staffing Engine, right? So it’s these little features, these little bitty things that you think about as, “Oh, it’s not a massive fix.” This can be tens of thousands, if not millions of dollars, for an agency as they scale, right? So to give them that effectiveness and for people that see it and understand it, it’s crazy to see how excited and sometimes how aggressive they are to implement this kind of technology.
Folwell: Yeah. Absolutely. And I think same for Opus, right? We see hearing the stories on the success side and where you guys are doing, how much you’re helping, it’s really incredible. So with that, we’re just going to jump to the speed questions I’ve got for you. And normally, I’ve kind of got my traditional questions here, but I think we just call out one thing is that since you and I initially talked: You’ve just had a kid. Tell us a little bit about your kid. What’s dad life like?
Grissom: First kid.
Grissom: Yeah. Thank you, thank you. Big shout out to my wife. She did everything. She’s awesome. Six weeks into it right now, I’ve changed a lot of diapers, lost a lot of sleep, but it’s one of the most rewarding things ever. I think outside of building in a startup, really having your hands on a lot of things, this is like that same sort of project. It’s awesome to see your investment in your partner, that you guys have both built this incredible thing, like this incredible…not to refer to my daughter as a project, right?
Folwell: A startup. A little startup, yeah.
Grissom: My new weekend project, and it’s like I’m super excited to watch things develop. I want her to stay super small, but also want her to grow up and have lots of fun, exciting moments at the same time. So super, super excited about that big change in life.
Folwell: Congrats again and super excited for you on that front. We’ll jump back over on the business side. I just wanted to make sure we called that out because that’s a big life moment for you. What advice do you wish you were given before entering the staffing industry?
Grissom: I think a big thing that I now have a really great understanding as I’ve learned more about the on-demand economy and how it overlaps with staffing is worker compliance. As you know, gig economy guy, early Postmates guy, all of our drivers, 1099 contractors. During my time at Wonolo, we were a 1099 marketplace. Fast forward four or five years in the future, a lot of the legal climate around 1099 is a lot different than it was a few years ago as well as the gig economy. I’ve learned a lot from traditional staffing agencies around compliance and how they manage benefits, time off and pieces like that, things that we didn’t necessarily consider when we were managing a 1099 marketplace. That’s a lot different when you’re managing a W-2 marketplace.
See that kind of intersection over the last couple years has been incredible because you’ve seen policy start to embrace a lot of gig economy, but then you’ve also seen a lot of the bad habits of the gig economy be kind of cut out by policy. So it’s been this nice conversion post-pandemic of the two, but I think there’s a lot of way to go for the gig economy platforms, agencies, as well as lawmakers to all come to the same level plane on what is compliant and what’s not because I think in the future, everyone’s either driving towards this platform feel or they’re driving towards a marketplace feel, but what does that actually mean? What is your obligations as the employer of record or the agent….
Folwell: Picture the marketplace set.
Grissom: Exactly. So it’s an interesting thing that I think gets defined as we grow, but looking back on it and how we built and how we grew in the past, I would’ve loved to have known a lot more about that knowing that you dropped 1099 around a traditional staffing person and it makes them feel a certain kind of way, right?
Folwell: That’s good advice. Good thought. In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit as most improved your life?
Grissom: As crazy as this is – I’m going to do this for Dichter as well – I’m going to quote Jim Harbaugh on this. And as I said, I kind of really actually do take this into a lot of things that I go about, but Harbaugh talks about attacking life with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. Like really just kind of going after it, right? So I think in life, that’s the opportunity, right? You’ve got to attack everything with an unchecked enthusiasm. I think sometimes it even comes off kind of abrasive to people. Like, “Oh man, that guy’s really fired up.” But you can really only control what you can control, so if you can focus your enthusiasm on the 50% of things that you can and be as diligent, as effective and as impactful as you can be in those things, that’s where I think a lot of success is made.
A lot of people get distracted on that 50% that they can’t control, spend a lot of time trying to strategize around it when a lot of the people that end up being successful are the people that have the tenacity to either push through or to just have a positive outlook. So I think when you have a positive outlook, you can battle through hustle culture. I know hustle culture’s kind of gotten a bad name in the last few years. I’m personally a massive hustle junkie, so it’s something that I have to manage as well, especially with the new daughter. But that’s what I would say. Just attack every day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. And it’ll take you and drive you in the direction that you ultimately want to be and land with the type of people that you want to be around.
Folwell: I absolutely love that, and second that one as well. And last on the personal question I’ve got is, how has a failure or apparent failure set you up for later success?
Grissom: Man. I think failure, especially in sales, is everything, right?
Grissom: So 80% of my day, technically, is failure, right? Reaching out. I think the important thing about failure that I’ve learned from being a kid all the way through being an adult is understanding and recognizing what failure looks like just the same as you recognize success, right? It’s very easy to be a good winner. It’s very hard to be a good loser. It’s very hard to learn from your loss so you don’t repeat it again, right? If we’re thinking about sports, it’s about having a short memory as a pitcher. You may throw the ball and they, boom, jack it right out of the park. You got to throw the next pitch, right? You’ve got to learn, “Hey, did I place it in the wrong place? Was my delivery wrong? Was the pricing wrong?” But you have to learn from that or you’re just going to keep failing. It’s the people that also recognize what a loss looks like or they’re a really bad loser, they don’t want it to do it again, that learn from failure and push themselves into a much better place.
So I always welcome failures or adversity as really a way to just recheck yourself, re-identify where you’re at, learn from it, and just add it to your toolboxes, like, another added thing that’s made you better on your path.
Folwell: Great advice there. I second that one as well. And then last part I have for you is, any closing thoughts or comments for our audience?
Grissom: Yeah. No closing thoughts here, just not to sound super salesy, but like I said, check us out, opusmatch.ai on the internet. Our team will be out at a couple of the different trade shows over the next few months, so if your team or your leadership team is looking to learn more about AI matchmaking and the benefits of using data for your agency, we’ll be in Dallas at SIA, we’ll be in Charlotte for Staffing World, we’ll be in Vegas, come find us in Vegas, and yeah.
Folwell: Corey, thank you so much for coming on. Really enjoyed the conversation and for all of you that are listening, check out Opus Match, it’s a great AI matching tool. Really appreciate your insights and your thoughts and having your time today, so thanks so much.
Grissom: Awesome. Thanks for having us all on, Dave.
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