Back to Blog

Connexys: Where it All Began and What Lies Ahead With Bullhorn

by on

An interview with Connexys co-founders Gijs van Heijst and Jan van Goch. In September 2017, Bullhorn acquired Connexys, a leading provider of recruitment solutions for mainland Europe. Joining forces made perfect sense. Like Bullhorn, Connexys has always been committed to delivering innovative, sophisticated, and scalable solutions to its customers. And we’re on the same cultural page, too. We’re committed to helping our customers grow their businesses, and ensuring both our customers and employees are happy with their experience. After months of collaboration between our two teams, Connexys is now fully integrated with Bullhorn, and Gijs van Heijst (CEO) and Jan van Goch (CMO), Connexys’ co-founders, are ready to pass the baton.

Recently, I (MvD) had the chance to sit down with Gijs and Jan to hear their reflections on 20 years of entrepreneurship in the fascinating world of recruitment technology, and get their take on the bright future that lies ahead for Connexys as it becomes part of Bullhorn.

MvD: Connexys has been providing recruitment solutions in mainland Europe for nearly 17 years. How did it all start?

Gijs: “Jan and I were very good friends from our student days. After graduating in 1998, we decided to start a business together—a recruitment agency named Van Goch and Van Heijst that searched for candidates for a number of diverse clients. That venture went very well. Soon after we started it, we noticed how important it was for an agency to streamline their recruitment processes—not only to be able to offer quality candidates to clients, but also to manage candidates and build relationships with them over time. We needed a recruitment system and we weren’t the only ones.”

Jan: “But a web-based applicant tracking system (ATS) didn’t exist at that time, so we decided to develop our own recruitment system and that’s how Connexys was born. It was one of the very first web-based recruitment systems in Europe. It was a unique solution at the time. Recruiters suddenly had access to their candidate database anywhere and at any time, and people were able to apply to job vacancies quickly and easily online. Later on we built a matching tool, which allowed us to use the system to assess which candidates in our database were suitable for a particular vacancy. It was a revolutionary tool that’s now a necessity for every recruiter.”

Gijs: “The need for an ATS grew and the market for recruitment technology picked up. From that moment on, we decided to specialise in recruitment technology. We sold the Van Goch and Van Heijst recruitment firm, and in 2001 we founded the Rotterdam software company Connexys. Our recruitment system was a hit, and more and more customers came forward. Some of these agencies are still customers today!”

MvD: In your opinion, what has made Connexys so successful?

Jan: “Our people have always been the key to our success, they’ve always made the difference. With the right employees, we were able to make the right decisions and make beautiful products. We’ve always looked for unique solutions—we thought ahead and had our own vision. What drove us was how we could make a difference for our customers. We were the first company with a solution for campus recruitment, a link with Monsterboard. Our Connexys Resource Manager solution was also ahead of the curve in the corporate market given the convergence of contingent staffing, job mobility, and recruitment. Nobody was working on this at that time and now you see many large organisations setting up a resource center to take advantage of different hiring models.”

Gijs: “Our vision of the future of the recruitment industry was the reason for our success. A few years ago, for example, we knew there’d be an emergence of online recruitment platforms. So we decided to build a new solution on the Salesforce cloud platform, which offers thousands of apps you can use alongside Connexys (apps for CRM, HR, marketing, email, finance and administration, for example). With this solution, customers could link our recruitment system with numerous ‘best-of-breed’ solutions. It was future-oriented so you could determine where you wanted to go as an organisation and grow towards it. If a particular app didn’t meet your expectations, you could simply replace it with another one. This was a good decision for us. Together with Salesforce, we grew tremendously fast in recent years.”

MvD: What’s been your secret to success as business partners?

Jan: “It’s not so much a secret as a motto. We both wanted to create beautiful things and we believed in giving and sharing. We were committed to our partnerships with our customers, our employees, and our partners. After all, the most beautiful relationships arise when you trust each other fundamentally and you’re committed to finding the best solution for everyone.”

Gijs: “We’re two very different personalities. We recognise and appreciate that in each other. We’re honest and critical of each other and ourselves. From the early years, we’ve had an Advisory Council that advised us and kept us thinking strategically. Also, with our customers we’ve always been honest about what we could or couldn’t do. This wasn’t always common in the market, but we’ve always believed it was best. There were times we heard from customers who said they received false promises from competitors and that led them to ultimately choose our solution.”

MvD: What was your philosophy on hiring your own workforce? How did you build a workforce that fit your culture?

Jan: “I’ve always really valued every customer and every employee who chose Connexys. I consider it a great compliment and I get a lot of satisfaction knowing they chose us. I’m also proud to know that hundreds of thousands of people have found a job through our solutions. It’s an honour to have contributed to this.”

Gijs: “Be clear about what you need and what you can expect from each other. This applies to not only your relationships with clients and candidates, but also with your own internal staff. Recruitment has always been critically important to Connexys as an organisation. There’s an art to finding employees who fit your organisation’s culture and who bring out the best in each other. The people within our organisation really make the difference and they’ve often been the reason why customers selected our service. In the last few years, we’ve looked closely at the characteristics of our high performers and we’ve used this criteria to evaluate potential candidates more strictly, and that’s been very beneficial.”

Jan: “Looking back, I would have invested earlier in ensuring we had the right employees in place. Our level of ambition was always very high. Connexys was our baby and we always worked very much hands-on ourselves. This left little time for reflection and foresight. In reality, it was a 20-year sprint.”

Connexys How it all began
Gijs van Heijst and Jan van Goch: Where it all began

MvD: With the recent acquisition by Bullhorn, what do you think lies ahead for Connexys?

Jan: “Now is the time to take Connexys to the next level. Bullhorn is the ideal partner to do so and I have complete confidence in Bullhorn’s management team, the choices they make, and the strategy they’ve put in place. How they deal with technology and the growth they’ve achieved, I have great respect for that. What they can accomplish in a year and a half would take Connexys 5 years, at least!”

Gijs: “It’s nice to see our cultures match so well. Bullhorn has the same values we’ve always instilled in our team at Connexys: ensure that our customers are satisfied with all aspects of their experience and our products. And that’s what we call ‘CO’ work in a partnership with our employees, partners, and customers.”

Jan: “And while Gijs and I have decided it’s time for us to move on, it’s only because we’re completely confident that all of our Connexys employees and products are in very good hands. And there are so many advantages for our customers as a result of the acquisition by Bullhorn, as well. The Connexys and Bullhorn ATS will both be marketed, developed, and supported in parallel. With over 100 developers, Bullhorn has enormous capacity to develop and build innovative technology and solutions that’ll deliver an incredible customer experience. And there’s a lot of power and quality in terms of customer service to support many customers and the needs of complex recruitment organisations worldwide.”

MvD: Sounds like the future is bright for Connexys now that it’s part of the Bullhorn team. What’s next for you both? What will your future look like?

Jan: “First of all, we’ll both enjoy a sabbatical! Relax, enjoy some quality time with family and friends, and take time to reflect. We don’t have any concrete plans, but we never rule out the possibility that we might build something together again in the future. In any case, we’ll be moving in the direction of something that gives us just as much energy as Connexys did—one that values connection, trust, sharing, and growth are key.

Gijs: “We look back on more than 20 beautiful years and we’d like to thank all of our employees, customers, partners and everyone else who’s supported us through the years. Thank you for placing your trust in us and the wonderful collaboration we’ve enjoyed. Of course we’d love to stay connected. Our phone numbers remain unchanged and you can always find Jan and me on LinkedIn.”

Learn more about the robust recruitment CRM solutions customers can now choose from with Bullhorn’s integration of Connexys here:

Recruitment Solutions