Revolutionizing the Hiring Process: An Interview with CJ Tufano, Founder and CEO of Cherrypicker

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Check out our latest interview with CJ Tufano, Founder and CEO at Cherrypicker

Can you tell us about your career path to becoming an entrepreneur?

As a kid, I was always obsessed with entrepreneurship, selling Pepsi and Lemonade on the corner of my childhood home, going door to door selling popcorn, selling inanimate objects from a computer game on Ebay; sales was in in my blood from the start. I loved solving problems, obsessing of creating solutions leverage my mathematical ability. I graduated college with an accounting degree from Hofstra University during the 2009 economic crash and needed to find the most secure job I can get at the time which was at a public accounting firm that I had previously interned at. I absolutely hated it, the stress of busy season got to me between working late, eating terrible and lack of exercise had me feeling I need to find a way out fast. I quit my first job without having one (not recommended), and after some convincing from my parents, I gave accounting one more shot this time in a private environment doing corporate accounting for a large media company. The universe made it very clear that accounting was not in the cards for me as I was let go from this position after 3 years after they sold the division I was working on forcing me to reevaluate my career path.

I had a ton of friends in the recruiting industry and they convinced me to take the shot at it. I ended up joining one of the largest recruiting firms in NYC as an accounting/finance recruiter since I had a ton of contacts in my network that I figured I could place. Luckily for me, I was being mentored by one of the best accounting/finance recruiters in NYC at the time, Craig Connors. Looking back, he was very tough on me but he also taught me the most valuable skills I have today. I witnessed a level of work ethic that I never knew was possible. On my one month anniversary at the firm, I placed my first 3 candidates in the same day and billed $40K! From that day on, I became obsessed with staffing, worked every day to improve my craft and optimize the recruiting process. I created spreadsheets, automations, organization hacks to scale my efforts. I was addicted to the feeling of making a placement while also helping people find a new career. It gave me purpose. It was also my first taste of holding myself accountable and felt that this was the closest thing to owning my own business without taking much of the risk.

However, I felt bored at some point. I needed to do more, I didn’t quite hit my ceiling and always wanted to have my OWN business. I witnessed a legacy staffing business that lacked innovation, tons of hiring bias, a manual hiring process and lack of transparency in the industry. After a family trip to Italy, I had an epiphany when I was at the top of a mountain in Capri, witnessing all the boats and yachts in the Mediterranean. They all had to start somewhere. When I got home, I began to only do things for myself that would get me closer to my dream of entrepreneurship. That’s when I began to build Cherrypicker.

There were several life changing events that helped me accomplish my goal. My parents engrained in me from an early age to save and invest my money so I can buy a house one day. One day I did buy that house and lived on my own for 5 years. It was lonely, boring and gave me a ton of time to think and brainstorm ways to achieve my goal. I need to save another $80K to build my app so I had created an algorithm that helped me win $200K on Fanduel playing daily fantasy sports in NBA, MLB and NFL. I needed every little bit of that money as I realized quickly that $80K to build the app was only the tip of the iceberg. It will always cost 3x whatever you think something is going to cost when building technology! I decided to sell my house and invest the proceeds in building Cherrypicker! I left my full time career of 10 years in the staffing business to start my own independent technology enabled recruiting firm and consulting practice.

What inspired you to start your current company, and what problem does it solve?

I was so frustrated as a job seeker when I was looking for accounting jobs. I read thousands of irrelevant job descriptions, sent out hundreds of resumes and I couldn’t find a trust worthy recruiter to work with, so I decided to become one. When I got into recruiting, I recognized so many gaps in the hiring process and problems including, hiring bias, inability to mass market candidates to a large client base, lack of technology and innovation and a very disjointed staffing industry. I felt I was leaving so much money on the table that could of been made with all these amazing candidates I represented.

Cherrypicker was built out of necessity to mass market the candidates I represented to the client companies I worked with and it kept evolving over the years to become a hiring marketplace/job seeker app/recruiter tool to unite the entire ecosystem under one roof while removing hiring bias from the process.

We wanted to level the playing field for candidates, provide them with relevant opportunities without having to search job boards, create transparency in the job market and arm them with actionable intelligence such as salary insights, while also empowering recruiters to monetize their idle candidate databases. The goal was to decrease time to hire, create more opportunity for recruiters and candidates while reducing hiring costs for companies.

How did you identify your ideal customer profile? What steps did you take to validate your product or service with them?

During my 10+ years in the staffing business I witnessed the problems that candidates, hiring managers and recruiters faced. I dove deeper by doing a Venture Validator program which surveyed 50 recruiters and hiring managers to discover what was missing in their hiring process so we can fill in the gap to carve out our niche. I also joined several recruiter facebook groups (shout out to DSP’s HERC group!) to give back to the community to share my findings. I conducted several zoom based focus groups with recruiters and hiring managers to truly understand all the pain points. I gained so much valuable knowledge to pivot the company and gained confidence by performing demos to some of the largest companies in the world. 70+ of them signed up for our initial beta!

These days, there’s a lot of talk about company culture.  What type of culture are you building?

We are currently fully remote and promote flexibility, individuality and freedom. We encourage all team members to make suggestions to improve the platform, its an open door, open floor policy. Respect others on how you want to be treated. Talk it out we are one family. Work life balance and mentorship building a team that is better than you in the areas you lack are the most important things to achieve maximum productivity.

Can you walk us through your company’s growth trajectory and success to date?

Since leaving my full time career in staffing in March 2022, we did $175K in revenue from staffing operations and plan to launch our core tool in Q2 2023. We will be licensing tool to 10-20 staffing firms or merging with a large staffing organization to scale our platform’s candidate base and company client base.

Most founders we chat with are looking for a junior, associate, or fullstack software engineer and some talented tech sales folks.  Are you actively hiring?  Who are your ideal candidates?

We are fully staffed on the development side at the moment but we would be open to Account Executives/BDRs to help sign up more companies to the hiring marketplace and maintain the relationships.

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