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HomeNewsHRTech Interview with Rob Symons, Chief Sales Officer, SmartRecruiters.

HRTech Interview with Rob Symons, Chief Sales Officer, SmartRecruiters.


Rob Symons is an accomplished leader and a driving force behind SmartRecruiters’ success as the Chief Sales Officer. With a passion for revolutionizing the way we attract, hire, and retain top talent, Rob is dedicated to transforming the recruiting landscape. With over 22 years of experience in the human capital management industry, Rob is a true evangelist for cloud software solutions. His deep understanding of the recruiting marketplace has allowed him to make significant contributions throughout his career. Before joining, Rob played a pivotal role in scaling a prominent HCM software business. As a key member of their senior leadership team, he helped grow the company from a small team of 11 employees to an impressive workforce of over 700. This experience equipped him with invaluable insights into building and managing successful organizations. In 2016, Rob joined as the first sales and marketing hire in Europe, taking on the responsibility of the UK and northern European markets. Demonstrating his exceptional skills and leadership, he successfully established the company’s presence in the region. Currently, Rob oversees the EMEA leadership team and is focused on expanding the customer base in the region. His strategic vision and expertise in forming partnerships have played a significant role in driving the company’s growth and success.
More about Rob Symons:

SmartRecruiters is dedicated to reshaping the future of talent acquisition. Through innovative products and services, we empower businesses of all sizes to attract, select, and hire the best talent. SmartRecruiters’ next-generation platform serves as the hiring operating system for 4,000 customers like Bosch, LinkedIn, Skechers, and Visa. Companies with business-critical hiring needs turn to SmartRecruiters for best-of-breed functionality, world-class support, and a robust ecosystem of third-party applications and service providers, visit

Hi Rob, it’s great to have you on the interview. We would love to hear about your journey and milestones achieved through the years?

Great to be involved! I have spent close to 30 years now in the Talent Acquisition space. I actually began my career in marketing for cable TV but was lured into tech recruitment by the prospect of fast career growth and earning potential. I worked as a recruiter/headhunter for 6 years but became quite disillusioned with the field. So, I took my transferable skills in sales, recruiting, and technology, and convinced a local ATS vendor to hire me in the very early days of recruitment technology back in 2002. The rest as they say is history.

My experience as a recruiter helped me empathise with ATS buyers. I could shape solutions to deliver real results, securing large enterprise deals with leading brands. After learning my trade there, I spent 9 years at high growth ATS and talent management vendor. I joined early on as employee #11 when we had under 20 people. We grew to nearly 700 employees and achieved market leadership in the ATS space in EMEA. I progressed from individual contributor to successfully winning several high-profile customers like BBC, Virgin Atlantic and Royal Mail. I then became the UK sales leader, UK MD, and finally took on a global leadership role.

In 2013 at age 40 when I became a father, my career pivoted again. I took an individual contributor role with a global HCM provider, focusing on large-scale global HCM deployments. I wanted to challenge myself and see if I could find the same success at a huge 70,000 person company.

After a rewarding couple years there, I was headhunted by our former CEO to join SmartRecruiters in 2016. I was excited to join a market disruptor and refocus myelf back on talent acquisition, the most dynamic segment of the HR tech space in my view. Since joining SmartRecruiters, we’ve scaled EMEA operations to near 50% of overall revenue. It’s been a pleasure to build a high-performing team and steer the business from new entrant to market leader.

With over 21 years of experience in the HCM cloud industry, how does the experience help in strategic decision-making?

I have been fortunate to work for some very high growth and successful businesses over the years. In addition, I have worked for market entrants and global blue-chip organisations which has provided a balanced perspective on both entrepreneurial spirit and the processes and discipline to operate at scale.

Moving from a practitioner to a solution provider also gave me a unique perspective on the buyer which I use to educate our business on engagement and to go-to-market strategies. My 21 years competing with other vendors enables me to ensure we keep differentiating in this mature, fragmented market.

Having spent pretty much my entire career in this sector, I have sustained this with a constant appetite to achieve new goals and to continually learn. The key lessons I have learnt are:
1. Focus on the customer and great results will come. Help them buy and ensure a strong solution fit focused on their desired outcomes. One size does not fit all.
2. Truly understand each customer’s unique business needs. Then help them achieve fantastic results. This builds our reputation and reference base, fueling business growth.
3. Provide strategic input on the competitive landscape, buyer problems, solution fit, personas and buying processes.
4. Having been through two significant scale ups and operating across the complex environment of EMEA, I can use this experience to input on the strategy to scale successfully knowing the local market nuances.

How does SmartRecruiters tailor its services to meet the unique hiring needs of companies like Bosch, LinkedIn, Skechers, and Visa?

Hiring the right people is crucial for any business, but it can be tricky when your company is growing quickly. In today’s world, businesses require a recruitment solution that can keep up with the pace and a scalable platform that adapts to the changing demands of the business. That’s where SmartRecruiters comes in.

Our platform is designed to handle high-volume hiring, addressing challenges such as seasonal surges, attrition replacement, or opening new locations. We work with many companies in industries such as retail and hospitality where they need to recruit thousands of seasonal workers every year. For example, in 2022, we helped Frasers Group, a British conglomerate of major retail brands, recruit 10,000 seasonal hires during Christmas within a ten-day window. Automation tools integrated into our platform accelerated the entire hiring cycle, from shortlist, interview and through to offer all within ten days.

We also make standard recruiting tasks simpler, like keeping track of multiple open roles. The platform connects businesses with their talent pool in real time, standardising the hiring process and automating tasks to keep the hiring team on track. This feature is especially valuable for companies juggling many open roles and hiring large volumes rapidly. That way your hiring team can focus on the human side of recruiting, not administrative hassles.

And this is just the beginning. We’re constantly improving the platform and finding new ways to incorporate the latest technology. The goal is to complement recruiters with technology such as AI, not replace the human element. We want to provide the innovative tools companies require as their needs change and evolve over time.

Can you elaborate on how SmartRecruiters’ next-generation platform functions as a “hiring operating system” for its 4,000 customers?

The SmartRecruiters Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is all about freeing up the talent acquisition team, improving the candidate recruitment experience, and ensuring that businesses hire the best match for them. We move past the clunky old applicant tracking systems and provide a smooth, consumer-grade experience paired with enterprise-level tech.

The solution casts a wide net across various recruitment advertising sources and automatically funnels candidates from the career site. Our AI tools, like hiring match scores and shortlisting tools, automatically filter the most promising applicants so that businesses get the best matches from a diverse talent pool.

We also standardise processes to make hiring more efficient. The ATS automates basic tasks and ensures synchronisation among the team members. It enables quick screening of thousands of resumes, allowing recruiters to process multiple candidates at the same time. This automation not only saves time but also enhances the candidate experience during the hiring process, leading to fewer candidate dropouts.

The ATS platform provides swift engagement with potential employees through rapid communication tools, candidate management, and CRM systems. The system can also be scaled across dozens of countries and multiple languages. This scalability and engagement with candidates contributes to a positive brand image and helps in winning the battle for global talent.

We recognise the importance of internal talent mobility, and so the platform allows businesses to provide employees with visibility into career growth opportunities within the company. And lastly, SmartRecruiters experts help customise solutions, like integrations for right-to-work checks, to address unique needs.

I am sure in your career you must have clinched game-changing accounts. What strategies did you implement to break into these accounts?

Throughout my career, I’ve challenged myself to engage and win complex accounts whether that be the BBC, HSBC or Robert Bosch Group. I need set goals to stretch and develop my abilities and keep the high level of motivation needed to deliver a consistent high level of performance. My strategy is to deeply understand each prospect’s business, as well as they know it themselves. I conduct an in-depth account analysis on:

  • Business drivers
  • HR strategy
  • Talent acquisition needs and maturity
  • Technology landscape – their current solutions, cloud maturity, middleware experience, and TA ecosystem
  • Most importantly, how they like to deploy technology within their business


Finally, it’s about the relationship. Being an ex-headhunter has helped me over the years map an account, to uncover who the decision makers are and to understand what motivates each of them. All of this is used to create targeted engagement strategies for diverse stakeholders, aligning with their goals and providing compelling solutions for the outcomes they need.

There’s no magic formula – people buy from people. However, I’m genuinely interested in helping prospects succeed and only work with accounts where I know I can add value. This final part is potentially the most compelling and buyers can sense this.

What aspects of SmartRecruiters’ mission resonate with you the most, and how do you embody this mission in your work?

Recruiting is interesting as it’s a two-sided marketplace – the candidates who are seeking careers and the companies seeking talent to drive their business forward. Our mission is to ensure that we support both sides of the equation, delivering a compelling experience to both.

Everyone can relate to the pain of job hunting or hiring at some point and our focus on experience feels quite personal and differentiates us in the market. We also go further than other organisations by having developed a methodology around ‘Hiring Success’ in combination with a number of CSR initiatives. This ensures we highlight often overlooked or underserved members of the global talent pool.

One such initiative is ReverseRecruiting where our colleagues and likeminded customers engage with and advise job seekers who have faced challenges in finding stable, long-term employment. Among them are immigrants, veterans, formerly incarcerated individuals, parents and caregivers returning to work, as well as senior citizens. Helping people secure new jobs and organisations fill unfilled roles feels very meaningful.