Free Ice Cream Today. That was the subject line of the first email I received when I joined SmartSearch on May 1, 2001. It came from Karla Pugleise, a co-worker I had yet to meet, who I subsequently learned handled scanning hard copy resumes into the SmartSearch applicant tracking system. Those were the days, eh? At that time, SmartSearch still supported Client/Server systems, and web-based recruiting applications were in its infancy. SmartSearch was one of the first Application Service Providers (ASP) on the market, and hosted applications were risky business.

In 2001, I was familiar with the recruitment industry. I was working with a start-up ATS, a newly developed ASP solution, making its debut at the first ERE Expo in San Diego. SmartSearch was a fellow exhibitor and competitor. I learned about several ATS at the Expo, and one called iSearch was the conference talk – this system had abruptly gone under because they ran out of money.

iSearch was a no-show at the Expo. One of the largest providers of resume scanning and applicant tracking systems at the time, serving major corporate employers, iSearch just shut down without warning. Phone calls and emails went unanswered, employees were fired, and customers went crazy trying to get their data back. iSearch’s empty booth was a silent display of the ATS market’s volatility.

Shortly after the ERE conference, my employer decided to stop taking on new business and take its software development model back to the drawing board. Like the iSearch employees, I was suddenly out of a job.

This same volatility I experienced in 2001 persists to this day. How many recruitment applications have come and gone since then? How many have survived the mergers and acquisitions, name changes, or need yet another round of venture capital funding to pay the overhead required to remain competitive and keep up with technology?

In the wake of the iSearch debacle and my previous employer’s missteps, I remained enamored of ATS solutions. I was excited about the emerging web-based applications, and its potential for the recruitment industry.

I updated my resume and set a higher standard for my next employer. I had five criteria:

  1. The product had to be rock solid. Reliable, with bullet-proof security and triple redundant backups.
  2. The software had to have an agile development model to stay ahead of the technology curve.
  3. The company had to be well established, privately held and profitable.
  4. The company had to have low turnover on its customer roster to show a proven track record of service. I wanted references.
  5. Low employee turnover was also important. I wanted to work with experienced experts, and for an organization that cared about its people.


SmartSearch met all the above requirements in spades. In fact, ATS buyers would do well to measure prospective software providers using this same yardstick.

By the fall of 2001, I knew I made the right choice when the job market collapsed with the World Trade Center towers on September 11. SmartSearch weathered the recession that followed with no layoffs, our customers stuck with us through the tough times, and we came out stronger for it.

Today’s market remains volatile, always changing. Same as it ever was.

As we celebrate our 30th anniversary at SmartSearch, I’ve been reflecting on all the ups and downs. Karla’s email is still in my Outlook all this time as a reminder of why I made a smart career choice. From the tumultuous and fateful year that I first joined the company, SmartSearch is still here.

I feel proud so many of my colleagues are still here from day one, and that so many of our clients are also still on our customer roster. If you’re one of them and reading this post: THANK YOU.

I’ve learned so much from you, and value you as people and business partners. Throughout my career in the ever-changing recruitment landscape, one thing remains a constant, your partnership is what matters most because True Partnerships Matter.

I invite you to view the 30th Year video on our YouTube Channel. Leave a comment including the year you joined SmartSearch as a Client, and I’ll send you a $5 Baskin Robbins gift card. 

Celebrate with me and get your free ice cream today.