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JobBoardGeek: A site that isn’t a job board, with jobs that can’t be found on job boards!

ExecThreadIn this episode of JobBoardGeek, we talk to Joe Meyer, the founder of ExecThread. As the name implies, this service exposes members to executive-level jobs – but these jobs aren’t widely advertised, but instead come from executive search firms. Jeff Dickey-Chasins of JobBoardDoctor and Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter discover how these ‘hidden’ jobs are sourced, and how the revenue model for ExecThread works. Jeff and Steven also talk about how companies like Appcast, CareerBuilder, and even your own site can benefit from an active and targeted PR program. Take a listen!

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0:00:01.1 Jeff Dickey-Chasins: Hello everyone, and welcome to JobBoardGeek, it’s the podcast about the business of connecting candidates and employers. I’m Jeff Dickey-Chasins, I’m the Job Board Doctor, I’m your host, and I’m here with the irrepressible Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter, he’s the co-host. Hey Steven, how are you doing?


0:00:18.2 Steven Rothberg: Well Jeff, I’m feeling a little bit sad.


0:00:22.1 JD: Oh yeah, how come?


0:00:24.1 SR: Well, you have a daughter that moved away… Went away to college, living on her own solo, I have three kids, same sort of thing has happened. Last week, you went off on your own and you did a solo show but, now here we are again. And I kinda feel like that empty nester parent whose kid has come back to live with them and they…




0:00:45.9 SR: As much as they love that kid, and Jeff, I do love you, I’m just not sure if I want you back at home.


0:00:52.3 JD: Well, you know what? I’m not gonna make my bed so, maybe that will make you feel better.




0:00:57.3 JD: I’ll throw some food on the floor. Anyway, so, today folks, we have Joe Meyer from ExecThread but, first of all, I wanted to chat a little bit about something that I saw, Appcast put out a press release last week, and it was about this new information hub that they have, and it’s all focused on recruiting data insights, things that business leaders and recruiting leaders would want to know about the market. It’s something that other job boards have done as well but I think that’s fine, good for Appcast but, really what it made me think about is the role of press releases with job boards. And, I think it’s a powerful tool, and it’s a tool that typically is not used as much and as effectively as it could be. And I think sort of the classic example of a company that really took advantage of press releases is CareerBuilder. There was a period in the late 2000s where I literally felt like they were sending out a press release every other day because they did a massive amount of research into their database, and they would publish serious stuff like, “This is what the economic trends are like in Milwaukee versus Chicago.” And then, they would publish stuff like, “99% of the people on the West Coast want to take their dog to work,” and “99% of the people on the East Coast don’t.” Dumb stuff.


0:02:17.4 JD: The thing that was effective and that I sort of pushed with my clients is that the thing CareerBuilder did is they got picked up in all sorts of places that they couldn’t necessarily get to otherwise. They certainly had money; they could advertise wherever they wanted, but press releases get pulled into blogs, they get pulled in as mentions on social media, they get put into the middle of newspaper articles, and, you just get exposed to a different kind of audience. So, I don’t know, it seems like you guys do quite a bit of press work, don’t you, Steven?


0:02:46.8 SR: Yeah, we don’t do it like CareerBuilder did, it… And I’m not saying that it’s a bad idea, it’s aspirational, what they were doing, it takes a lot of thought and steadfastness, staff, which means money. But I agree with you, boy, they used to… I think the papers would call it like the CareerBuilder index on this, and the CareerBuilder index on that. And they became synonymous with labor trends, and became a real trustworthy brand. We tried doing that years ago, it actually worked really well, but we just didn’t have the staff to kind of ramp up for that maybe once a month, once a quarter, ramp down.


0:03:31.3 SR: It’s probably something that we should look at doing again, we’re bigger than we were then, we used to give a… Basically, we had awards that we would give out to different schools where we had some data analysis done to see which schools were adding the most value in which majors, so not just the school where chemical engineers had the highest salaries, because if the students coming into that school were at the top of their high school classes, top SATs, then it only stands to reason that they’re gonna graduate with the jobs that pay the most. So we were looking at schools that took people I, say with middle-in grades and SATs, but when they graduated, they would have top salaries. That, I think added a lot of value, and at the end of the day, that’s what CareerBuilder did so well, is they added a lot of value to the ecosystem. It wasn’t about them, it was about the ecosystem. Now, when I see CareerBuilder PR releases, it’s about, “Hey, we added Pokemon for jobs to our site, so you should come use us.” Who cares?


0:04:32.4 JD: Yeah, that’s the worst kind of press releases, “Oh, we’ve just reached this new milestone and we hired so and so as the head of our sales department.” Indeed is an example of a current job board that’s been very aggressive about their press releases. They actually have an economist on board at this point, and that person’s entire job as far as I can tell is to produce content and get on CNN and places like that. And so, good for them. They make a lot of money, they can afford it. But anyway, I think, for anyone that’s out there that’s working on what I call a mid-tier job board or higher, which would be say five to $25 million, if you’re working a job board like that and you don’t have a PR program, you should really take a hard look at it and think about doing it, ’cause I think it will probably help you differentiate and grow in ways that you wouldn’t imagine otherwise so… I wanna welcome to JobBoardGeek Podcast Joe Meyer of ExecThread. Hey Joe, how are you doing?


0:05:28.6 Joe Meyer: Doing well today, Jeff, thanks for having me.


0:05:30.5 JD: Yeah. Well, listen Joe, I asked you to be on here because I think you have a really really interesting site, and there’s a number of things about the way you do your business that are quite different from traditional job boards. But first, before we get into the specifics of that, why don’t you tell us a little bit about how you got into the recruiting business and what spurred you to create ExecThread?


0:05:55.8 JM: So I founded ExecThread going on six years ago. I was at Apple at the time by way of an acquisition that acquired my last company that I was the CEO of. And, as you can imagine I was getting approached by a good number of executive recruiters at the time. Two things frustrated me about that, most executives kinda view it favorably that they’re getting approached by executive recruiters, they kinda view it as a validation of their career success. I’m more of a contrarian and I see more… I try to find issues and with those issues, opportunities as a true entrepreneur. And I’ve been a founder, co-founder entrepreneur my whole life. So two things, one is, I was getting approached for jobs that were great jobs, but weren’t the right fit for me. So they didn’t know who I was, what I was looking for, and none of them wanted to get on a call with me to figure that out because they don’t work for the candidate, they work for the client. And they don’t have enough time in the day to get on the call with candidates regardless of how qualified that candidate might be, it’s a we’ll find you, you don’t find us mindsets.


0:07:03.9 JM: So I found it frustrating that I wasn’t getting approached for the jobs that I would potentially be interested in, and then that led to my second frustration and hence the second issue, which is no ability to tap into that hidden job market. And what I mean by the hidden job market is… You mentioned job boards, that is not the hidden job market, that is the antithesis of the hidden job market. Those are publicly available, publicly accessible, publicly promoted jobs, but at the executive level, VP, EVP, SVPs, C-suite, board roles, head of roles, a vast majority of those roles are not publicly posted, are not posted on job boards, especially if they are being worked on by retained executive search firms. And my frustration there was that I knew there were jobs out there for which I was qualified and then in which I very well be interested, being worked on by the executive search firms, but I had zero ability to figure out where they were, who was working on them, what companies were hiring for them because they’re all “confidential searches.”


0:08:00.9 JM: And I just thought, having built my career in digital and mobile and the whole internet era where Walters gardens industries come down, the Walters gardens come down. I thought to myself, it’s kind of ridiculous that these jobs are hidden from candidates, they should be made more transparent. Candidates, especially if they’re qualified, should have more access to them, and recruiters that don’t know a damn thing about me shouldn’t decide unilaterally whether I see a job opportunity or not. So I decided to solve that problem. I thought to myself, if a guy like me who doesn’t need a job and is getting approached for jobs is finding this frustrating and is irritated by this problem, I bet there’s a lot of other executives out there who are far more irritated by it. And that pent-up frustrations likely signals pent-up demand, and pent-up demand likely signals business opportunity.


0:08:50.0 JD: So my question as a follow-up is, okay, so you’re talking about these jobs that you can’t find on job boards that aren’t publicly available. So how did you solve that problem of getting those jobs?


0:09:01.9 JM: So I had a theory and that theory proved it true through some Beta testing early on, which is, I thought to myself, peers of mine are likely getting… Profesional peers of mine I should tell you, are likely getting approached by executive recruiters just like I am. If they’re anything like me, they’re probably turning down nine out of 10 or 99 out of 100 opportunities that they’re getting approached for. Would they be willing to share knowledge of those opportunities with a curated, vetted community of peers in return for the value proposition of getting access and knowledge of the opportunities that other members of the community are getting approached for? So it’s a pay it forward mentality, a crowdsourced mentality where, you know what, I’ll tell you about this job searches I’ve been approached for, if you in turn, let me know about the opportunities you’re being approached for.


0:09:50.9 JM: And if you think about it, if you have a really small peer group of… I don’t know, let’s just say two or three peers, you share opportunities with them. ‘Cause it’s a small trusted group of people. I decided to take that example and ignite it and create a platform around it, and within the first month of incubating it in a non-productized way, we had over 100 jobs shared, all of which were confidential, retained searches being worked on by top search firms. And those jobs started getting shared and initial members of the community started getting interviews for those jobs that they weren’t initially approached for, but found out about through the information sharing network, that is ExecThread, and that’s when I thought to myself, “You know what, probably an opportunity here.”


0:10:34.2 SR: Couple of things that really jumped out to me when I was going through your website was… One is, unlike a lot of these sites, clearly youre international. I see jobs there from Australia, and the UK, and the US, and allover the world.


0:10:49.6 JM: Jakarta.


0:10:52.3 SR: Yeah, I mean places that I wanna go, places that I don’t wanna go. And that’s okay too, right? So I wanna understand that because there’s a huge difference between looking for somebody in, like you said Jakarta, versus in Queens, New York. Another thing is, talk with us if you could about the revenue model, it looks to me like the candidates pay a fee for that and run ethically sites or services that charge the candidate can be really great, but I think you must have had to overcome some of the bad karma associated with some of the other executive sites where they charge the candidates for postings that they said were exclusive, but we’re anything but.


0:11:41.4 JM: So a couple of things. You touched on a couple of things there. First off, I’ll start with that, there are likely more similarities between Queens, New York and Jakarta than there are differences, so I’ll start with that.




0:11:53.9 JM: But I’ve never been to Jakarta, I’ve been to Queens, though. Two is… And again, you touched on a couple of things there. So I’ll start with the revenue model. The original revenue model that we had conceived, and I’ll preface this by saying that we’re a tech start-up, we’re a platform, we’re a software company, we’re SaaS, we’re not an executive search firm, never wanna be, never professed to be, never desired to be. There’s plenty of executive search firms out there, I don’t think the world needs another executive search firm, that said, we did think that the community that we were building, which is now up to almost 250,000 members, growing by over a thousand a day. We did think that that curated-vetted high caliber professional community of executives about whom we know a lot of information. They’re all registered users of ours, they are all signing in, self-declaring who they are, clicking around, telling us a lot about themselves by virtue of where they’re navigating on our site, what jobs they’re reading about redeeming information for applying to in what areas of the country, what functions, what levels, what size and stage of companies. We have proprietary profiles on every single one of our members, which is valuable information in terms of if you wanna leverage that for good to help put the right job in front of them.


0:13:07.8 JM: So we did think there was an opportunity to be alternative executive search firms and to monetize in that way, I.e, if you don’t wanna pay Korn Ferry $150,000 and work with them six months to do a search, why don’t you pay us a fraction of that, and we will find you high quality, high caliber, highly targeted candidates who are members of the ExecThread that work much quicker and more efficiently than that? We did try that early on, and it didn’t go as planned, as oftentimes when you start a company, your original thesis around monetization doesn’t work as well as you think. And the two main reasons were, one, not necessarily in order of priority, our network wasn’t large enough at the time, it was around 25,000 not 250,000. Two is… But that really wasn’t the reason. We would fail today if we went out with the network of 250,000, and it’s because there are certain things you can’t change in this world. And when you’re looking to fill an important role, VP through C-Suite, and you’ve decided to hire an executive search firm, you want the hand-holding that that executive search firm provides, you want that heavy, high-touch professional services model and you wanna outsource it and you want to pay someone to solve that problem and you can’t get it wrong.


0:14:21.1 JM: So there’s a reason people hire Goldman Sachs, there’s a reason people hire Korn Ferry. And I couldn’t fight that. I tried fighting that, and trying to convince them that a more automated, more efficient, and more data-driven, and more intelligent sourcing and talent acquisition strategy was… And a more cost-effective one, but it was like banging my head against the wall. So like any good founder, when you’re starting to go sideways and you don’t know if you’re gonna make payroll three months from now, you start looking at other alternatives. And for us, we had a point system early on, and still to this day, to incentivize our members to give. They get awarded ExecThread points when they refer new members to us, they get ExecThread points awarded to them when they send jobs to us. And with those points, they used to be able to redeem them to find out the hidden information about the jobs other members were contributing, name of the hiring company, name of the hiring manager, name of the recruiting firm, name of the recruiters. And more and more and more ExecThread members kept on emailing us saying, “Hey, I love what you’re doing, I love the access you’re providing us. I don’t have the time to earn these points, just let me pay for them, just let me pay for the access.” And believe me, early on, I knew the stigma against B2C monetization models in the HR space even though I’m not from the recruiting space originally.


0:15:39.5 JM: I never wanted to charge the member and candidate, but our members kept on asking us to charge them ’cause they want fast, efficient access, time is money. So I got to a point where I’m like, “You know what? Let’s charge for the points and experiment here.” And a lot of members started buying the points, and then I was like, “Huh, that’s pretty interesting.” We’re proving out that demand that they’re willing to open up their wallets to pay for this access. And we’re providing quality services, and it’s value-added so I have no problem charging for it, but it wasn’t recurring sustainable revenue, it was highly transactional. Plus when they were buying points 25, 30, 50 points at a time and needed to make judgement calls of whether they should spend five points to redeem this job or five points to redeem that job, they weren’t spending the points quick enough. So it wasn’t… They were putting too much thought into, “Oh, I wonder if this job’s worth five points or 10 points?” And then we started getting requests for, “Hey, I don’t want just points, I want full access, I want access to everything.” So that’s when we turned it into a freemium subscription model.


0:16:40.0 JM: So there’s a lot that you can get from our site and our platform for free, and if you want full access, full transparency, and so all the jobs, all the hiring company names, all the recruiter names, all the recruiter profiles, all the recruiter contact information, hiring manager information, hiring manager contact information, you pay you a nominal monthly fee for that, 30 bucks a month, it’s a couple of Starbucks, it’s two Starbucks, I think. And if that’s not worth getting access to jobs that are hundreds of thousands of dollars for compensation, then that’s your prerogative, you can make that choice. You don’t have to pay when. We’re not forcing anyone.


0:17:11.4 JD: So Joe, I just have to jump in here, and Steven will laugh when I say this, but I don’t think you’re charging enough. I think you should raise your prices.


0:17:18.8 JM: Yeah, we’re going to raise our prices here shortly. We’re not gonna chuck them up too much. We’re gonna create a premium subscription plan and a basic subscription plan, that’s on product road map right now for the next few months, and that Premium Plan will be much more, but it will have a suite of benefits that basic subscription plan doesn’t. I’m one of those executives that use the platforms that charge candidates negatively. I’m a candidate myself, I’m a professional myself, I’m not a recruiter, and I said to myself, “What would I, as a candidate, as an executive… ” and I consider myself a pretty good one, “what would I pay for?” I’d pay for access, I’d pay for knowledge of where those hidden confidential jobs are, and as long as those jobs are real jobs being worked on by real retained search firms and they’re active searches and I can’t get access to them otherwise, that’s worth something, and I have no problem charging for that ’cause it’s providing true value, it’s truly differentiated.


0:18:17.5 JM: And the other thing I’ve done since day one of starting this company is I put myself, my name, my image, front and center with the community. I write a newsletter to them three times a week, oftentimes publish that content on LinkedIn. It’s all written first person in my name, it comes from my email address. Any ExecThread member can email me directly, any ExecThread member can see my profile and my credibility. I’ve sold my last two companies to Apple and AOL. I’m not hiding behind anything. I’m out there front and center, providing a really high caliber service, and if hiring companies don’t want an alternative to search firms and candidates wanna pay for my service, then great, that’s where the revenue model is.




0:18:56.9 JM: I’m not gonna overthink it.


0:18:58.3 JD: Well, Joe, I have one last question before we wrap up. And this is really just my own curiosity, but I assumed that when you started this, you were primarily a North American focus, but you said obviously, and then internet and it’s just all over. So where are you seeing the fastest growth outside of North America at this point?


0:19:18.8 JM: So we incubated the service with job opportunities in Chicago, London and LA, three markets where I had never lived or worked, and I wanted to see if we could acquire a small critical mass of early adopters in those smaller markets where I didn’t have strong networks. I’ve lived and work in New York, in San Francisco and DC. And so, that’s where the initial traction started because we’re a marketplace business, in our case, demands allow supply, so when we bring jobs within a market or within a city to the platform, inevitably demand follows. So, we’re seeing definitely the greatest growth in international, mainly because we were so North American focused earlier on. The big jobs are, or I should say were in the big cities, pre-COVID, 90% of our jobs were in the big major metropolitan markets, we’re starting to see more and more jobs in the… For lack of better terminology, the tier two, tier three, second tier markets, smaller markets. Strong growth in Europe, strong growth in Asia, continued growth in North America.


0:20:23.3 JM: Not many people know this, but when they think of executive search, and again, we’re not an executive search firm, never professed to be, we give you access to their searches, they think of Korn Ferry, Russell Reynolds or Heidrick & Struggles, the big names. But I saw a stat early on when I was starting this company that said that there was over 150,000 executive search firms in the world, and I said, “Is that possible?” And I thought it probably is possible, because there’s no barriers to entry. You just start. An executive search firm, I can put up a shingle tomorrow and call myself Joe Meyer executive search firm. There’s no barriers at all. We’re sourcing currently from over 30000 executive search firms, and we’re only five years old, and we’re only starting to go international.


0:21:05.1 JM: So there definitely are over 150,000 search firms out there, if not many more than that, and the reality is, is that they are all working on really interesting searches, ’cause they’re started by professionals who used to be in that function in that field, in that industry, and they know and have relationships, they know people and have relationships in those sectors, and that’s what gets them their business. So you don’t have to be looking at a search run by Heidrick & Struggles for it to be a great job, it could be run by a boutique search firm and still be an equally great job, and we’re sourcing from the long tail of executive search firms as well as big ones.


0:21:39.3 JD: You bring up a good point actually, it’s kind of funny, I’ve been asked before by clients if I could find them someone to run their job board, which cracks me up because you talk about a niche of, a niche of, a niche. Would be to be an executive recruiter that focuses on job board people. So…


0:21:57.8 JM: Yeah, you could be an executive search firm.


0:21:58.2 JD: It’s not gonna be me.




0:22:01.1 JD: Well, Joe, listen, it’s been great to have you on the show, it’s been wonderful to learn about ExecThread, and if someone does wanna get in touch with you and talk more about the company or get on your board, how did they do that?


0:22:13.8 JM: Just simply send me an email, or go to and click join, it’s free to join, you get a ton of benefits for free charge for joining and getting an initial tier of good benefits, and then you can decide for yourself if it’s worth a whopping $30 a month.


0:22:32.8 JD: Yeah. Well, thanks, and perhaps you’ll see an influx of people that say they run job boards for a living, so…




0:22:38.2 JM: There you go. There you go.


0:22:41.6 JD: Yeah. Well, Steven, if people wanna get in touch with you, how do they do that?


0:22:44.1 SR: Yeah, they should just email me, it’s kind of a similar syntax as what Joe has at And if I may, lesson learned, from what Joe is sharing is in the words of John Mellencamp, “I fight authority but authority always wins.”




0:23:04.3 JM: John Cougar Mellencamp, by the way.


0:23:07.0 JD: Yeah, yeah, never forget the Cougar part of it. That’s right, yeah. Well, listen, that’s it for today’s episode of JobBoardGeek. Be sure to subscribe to us to via Apple, Spotify or whatever floats your boat. This is Jeff Dickey-Chasins, I am the Job Board doctor, and you’ve been listening to the only podcast that focuses on the business of connecting candidates and employers. That’s all for this week, see you next time around. Thanks.\

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