Chris Hyams
Chris Hyams, CEO of Indeed. Image Credit: Bloomberg

California: Chris Hyams wants to land you a job. Hyams runs the job site Indeed, which lists 30 million positions - from long-haul truckers to CFOs - in more than 60 countries. Over the past decade, Indeed, owned by Japan’s Recruit Holdings, has evolved from a listing of open positions to an online hub where jobseekers and recruiters size each other up, and even conduct interviews.

These days, the hiring industry is facing a double whammy of layoffs, which hit the ranks of corporate recruiters especially hard, and the emergence of generative AI, which threatens to move beyond simple resume-scanning to writing job descriptions or even negotiating salaries. In response, Hyams is analyzing how AI can supplement those roles, not replace them. The CEO visited Bloomberg’s New York office recently to discuss his own company’s return to the office, how he handled Indeed’s first-ever layoff and his plan to create “cyborg” recruiters that play to the strengths of both humans and AI.

When we last spoke in February, you said the job market had slowed but was still strong. What would you say now?

There are some signs of weakness in recent job opening reports, but the overall picture continues to show a robust labor market. Except for marketing and software development: Those are the first two sectors where demand is lower than it was pre-pandemic. From December through July, marketing job postings on Indeed are down 10 per cent. And copywriter job postings have been even more impacted, down 35 per cent, in part due to ChatGPT.

Jobs are also down inside Indeed. You eliminated 15 per cent of your staff, or 2,200 people, in March. Looking back on that, what if anything, would you do differently?

When things got busy for us, we just kept hiring more and more people. We had never had a layoff before in the company. But we didn’t just cut across the board - we cut almost nothing from our AI team or the security team. We made bigger cuts in [recruitment]. I regret having that kind of impact on people’s lives.

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Since the emergence of ChatGPT in November last year and other generative AI-based technologies that can help jobseekers write CVs, job descriptions and even negotiate salaries, many jobs in the recruitment industry are under threat.

How did you manage the cuts from a diversity perspective?

We explicitly did not do last in, first out. We looked at a set of criteria and said, for each of these criteria, what would the demographic impact be? We’ve done a really good job of increasing the diversity at all ranks over the last five years. If we did last in first out, it would’ve undone all of that.

Many companies are asking people to come back to the office more often, which some workers perceive as a stealth layoff. What are you doing at Indeed?

We believe that there is no single experience - in office every day, or fully remote - that works best for everyone. About one-third of our employees are client-facing sales teams and they are coming in Tuesdays and Wednesdays. And here’s the interesting thing: The teams who have to come in Tuesdays and Wednesdays are coming in about 2.05 days a week. The rest of the company, who do not have to come into the office at all, are coming in three, three and a half days a week. That’s kind of weird.

How do your return-to-office rates vary by city?

No one is going to the office in San Francisco; average occupancy there is 12 per cent. But we have about 40 per cent occupancy in Austin.

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Indeed let go of 15 percent of the company's staff or around 2,200 people in March this year but the job cuts did not have any impact on the company's AI team.

How is that shaping your real-estate needs?

We’ve closed 12 offices and consolidated floors on another eight. In the Bay Area, people aren’t coming in anyway, so they can now not come in to fewer offices. In Austin, we’re going down to two offices from four.

How are you using AI to improve the business of finding jobs?

We have transferred about 50 of our own recruitment people to a product we call Indeed Hire, which is a full-service agency that helps other companies hire. We’re using AI to make this role more efficient. What are the aspects of recruiting that are repetitive, that are annoying? I think of it as the cyborg model - machines and humans working together. We’re not trying to replace you with robots. I want to build the Iron Man suit for recruiters.

You do know what happened to Tony Stark in the last Avengers movie?

He saved everyone, didn’t he? He died so we could live. And the suit lives on.