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It is better
to not be on
the web than
to be on and
not know why

John Sumser

is more
it seems.
John Gall

It's better to
do a few things
really well than
than to do
a lot of things
If you can't
make the necessary
commitments of
time and energy
to your
scale back
your plan.
John Sumser

© 2013 interbiznet.
All Rights Reserved.

Materials written
by John Sumser
© TwoColorHat.
All Rights Reserved.

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(From the Vault)
(March 24, 2000) Let's compare two piles of people. Group A contains all of the Americans (including illegal immigrants) between the ages of 21 and 24. Group B contains all of the people between 25 and 27 (again, including illegal immigrants). There are almost exactly half as many people in Group A compared to Group B. Group B is in the workforce, for the most part. Group A is entering.

Half as many people in Group A means that entry level (and college) recruiting, which has been tough for years now, is getting extremely competitive. It means that the same recruiting budget that produced ten new employees last year will produce five this year. It means that the people in Group B (which is smaller than the crop of 28 to 31 year olds) who aren't in fast track opportunities are still doing entry level jobs that can't be filled. It means that qualifications are going out the window.

It means that the minimum requirement for many jobs is a measurable pulse.

Meanwhile, we seem to be buried in schemes from companies who are trying to get candidates to fill out complex forms that measure cultural fit with increasing precision. Sometimes we wonder if there isn't waaaaay too much money floating around. Cultural fit ceases to be an issue when pulse is the minimum job requirement.

Take a look at JobTrak's current evaluation of Job Openings for college graduates. From our perspective, it's 17% more openings for 50% fewer people:

                                        JOBTRAK.COM INDEX
           Job Listings Posted at University Career Centers Nationwide
                     Coverage Period January - December 1999

    Job Category                        Average    % of total    # of jobs
                                        starting  jobs posted      posted
                                        salary    for college     compared
                                                    grads by     to December,
                                                    category         1998

    Accounting & Finance                $33,965      13.0%          +4.7%
    Business & Management               $35,199      11.6%          -4.4%
    Clerical & Secretarial              $26,641       7.5%         +11.5%
    Communications/Media                $28,905       6.0%         +27.4%
    Computers & Information Science     $43,062      12.7%          +6.6%
    *Education                          $37,021       9.7%        +120.7%
    Engineering                         $42,281       8.9%          +2.8%
    Public Affairs & Social Services    $29,381       4.6%         +55.5%
    Sales & Marketing                   $34,161      13.8%         +12.3%
    Other                               $30,932      12.1%         +31.9%

    Total                                             100%
    Increase/Decrease                                                +17%
    Average                             $34,433

The labor shortage is generational and real.

- John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Cruel to be Kind

(March 23, 2000)
What is in a name? We have considered this topic in the past with a view towards websites with "career" or "job" as part of their moniker. With companies matching that criteria running into the thousands, it is no wonder that the eyes roll into the back of the head after browsing just a handful of such sites. With such an absence of brand recognition, its amazing that so many of these companies are able to stay in business. Sites with memorable, yet decidedly non-"career/job" names are moving to the forefront of public perception ( leading that pack), with new arrivals (such as FlipDog) hoping to follow suit. What is Careerxxxxx and Jobzzzzz to do?

They could change their names.

Remember those parents in the late 60's and early 70's who were rejecting the status quo by blessing their children with unique names? Moon Unit, Sunshine, Ubiquitous Perpetuity God. Names that stood out from the pedestrian titles administered to their classmates (if they went to school). Names that can still be remembered with a tinge of empathy thirty years later. Subsequent decades, along with many of the original recipients, were not kind to this form of expression. However, the Internet is proving to be fertile ground for a new wave of creative christenings.

Career Central has changed its name to Cruel World. We applaud this bold move. We also question it.

With three years of experience, Career Central was an established company focused solidly on the MBA niche market, with a sideline in the IT field. Cruel World continues this emphasis. And here lies the rub. As a name, Cruel World is better suited to a recruiting site geared towards jaded Gen-X professionals or college grads just breaking into the job world. Conjuring an image that is both hip and sarcastic, it could provide a refreshing break from the monotonous similarity present in all too many job sites. The name is memorable and witty. How a "cruel world" is applicable to those with MBAs leaves us scratching our heads. Everything is relative, we suppose.

Career Central/Cruel World has the right idea in separating themselves from the "career" crowd. We think that continuing to stay focused on their area of expertise makes obvious, sound business sense. We wish them luck in their new incarnation. Time will tell if the new title will attract the desired clientele after the initial thrill wears off.

If it doesn't, they can always change their name.

- Ingmars Lindbergs

This article introduces a new occasional voice to the Electronic Recruiting News. Ingmars Lindbergs (aka Ing) is the editor behind the daily output at interbiznet. Following a deep immersion in the 2000 Electronic Recruiting Index, Ing is making a broad impact on our thinking and processes. We're certain that you'll find his contributions timely and provocative.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Rosetta Stone
(From the Vault)

(March 22, 2000) We love visionaries whose passion extends to fixing all that's wrong with the national employment marketplace. They rarely make any money but the intensity is astonishing. We enjoy the thought of conquering World Hunger, Global Warming, Arms Proliferation and the End of Treachery.

And then we go back to selling.

Being an entrepreneur has almost nothing to do with having a vision. (Clinically, visions are treatable with moderate doses of Lithium.) For the most part, being an entrepreneur involves identifying a customer and fixing their problem at a price that the market will bear. Doing it well results in the opportunity to do it again, nothing more or less. Doing it often creates the chance to make a profit from "scale" (the current buzzword for volume). "Scale" creates its own set of opportunities.

Sales and service are at the root of entrepreneurial success, not vision. Great visions usually require extended hospital stays. Successful sales and service can result in the ownership of a large boat and an island retreat. Although the two end states share some similarity, the medical attendants are somewhat more optional in the latter case.

So, how do you tell an entrepreneur from a visionary?

It's pretty easy, really. When the sales pitch is "Do it my way, you'll love the results", you're dealing with a visionary. When the sales pitch is "What is your problem and how can I solve it?", you are dealing with an entrepreneur. When the question is "Why can't we all just get along?", it's a visionary. When it sounds like "How may I serve you?", it's an entrepreneur.

Always pick the vendor who is out to serve you. Stay away from the dreamers who want your money in order to end world hunger (or some equally universal objective). They are always scheming to design a "Rosetta Stone".

If you remember your history, the Rosetta Stone was

the key that unlocked the mysteries of Egyptian hieroglyphics. Napoleon's troops discovered it in 1799 near the seaside town of Rosetta in lower Egypt, and it eventually made its way into the British Museum in London where it resides today. It is a slab of black basalt dating from 196 BC. inscribed by the ancient Egyptians with a royal decree praising their king Ptolemy V. The inscription is written on the stone three times, once in hieroglyphic, once in demotic, and once in Greek. Thomas Young, a British physicist, and Jean Francois Champollion, a French Egyptologist, collaborated to decipher the hieroglyphic and demotic texts by comparing them with the known Greek text. From this meager starting point a generation of Egyptologists eventually managed to read most everything that remains of the Egyptians' ancient writings.

From The Rosetta Stone

During this century, a great deal of effort was invested in the creation of Esperanto, a universal language that would unlock global communications problems. After a century of work, have you ever met a person who speaks Esperanto? Have you ever seen a job order listing Esperanto as a Requirement? Hardly likely.

While the Rosetta Stone solved a long-standing, complex and finite riddle, Esperanto is a complex answer in search of a real riddle. All of the attempts to streamline the national job market we've encountered claim to be Rosetta Stones but are really Esperantos. The difference? A Rosetta Stone solves today's problem. Esperanto claims to solve tomorrow's (if everyone would just engage in "common sense").

How can you tell one from another? The entrepreneur will bring a Rosetta Stone, already finished, in the toolkit. The visionary will bring a plan for Esperanto and ask you to invest.

- John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Gotta Get Smarter (From the Vault)

(March 21, 2000) The need to know more about the underlying technology of the net just went up. After last month's confusing reports on so called 'denial of service attacks', it looks like we'll need to dig deeper to understand the issues. If you recall, there was a lot of fuss about 'hackers' using 'zombie' computers to shut down big sites.

It's an easy trick. We're betting that the vandals behind the outages are not 'hackers'. They are probably not even high end rebellious geeks. Most likely? Plain old vandals.

Shutting down a website by overloading the server with data is no more complex than hitting the enter key lots of times while a website is loading. That's all a denial of service attack boils down to. Using a bunch of computers with a automated form of the 'enter' key, you can overload any server. You can overload any highway by placing too many cars on it. The parallel is real and it's as easy to figure out.

So why all of the fuss and what do you do?

First of all, watch the responses. The opportunists will emerge quickly. Certainly the emphasis will be on preserving the stability of commerce, not struggling to come to grips with the price of individual freedom. Our new world is a bit scary and still a bit primitive. Every time there is a hint of risk, the paranoid (particularly those with products for paranoids) come rushing out of the woodwork to lead the parade. This time is no different.

We have teenage children. That means that we are subject to vandalism at a higher rate than at other times in our lives. Halloween brings a cascade of shaving cream and toilet paper. A few high school football games brought similar results. The first week of summer has been a trial for a couple of years now.

We haven't hired security guards. We have made a few of the little creeps clean up after themselves. We don't leave much that can be broken in the front yard.

So, here's the clue. Spend for site security in proportion to your risk. What would it cost to be out of business for a day? Half of that is a good investment in security. Talk to your insurance agent about financial coverage.

Oh, the real security issues have yet to emerge. We bet they focus on the handling and reselling of personal data, not web site management.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Icarian (From the Vault)

(March 20, 2000) Occasionally, we get to meet a real visionary. Recently we had the pleasure of getting to know Doug Merrit, CEO of Icarian. Taglined "turning managers into recruiters", the company produces the next generation of workforce optimization tools.

Doug, a lanky well-spoken graduate of the Oracle sales team, Anderson consulting and Patrol Software, is a unique combination of smooth salesman and industry pioneer. After a steady diet of technologists turned entrepreneurs, he's a refreshing change. The idea behind the Icarian product line is that HR, Recruiting and workforce optimization can be executed using the tools of inventory management.

It wasn't all that long ago that you would get thrown out of an HR conference if you dared to suggest that Human Capital should be managed just like any other form of Capital asset. The touchy-feely '80s left us with the moniker "Human Resources" and little in the way of solving the implied problem. Somehow, people as inventory is an overly manipulative concept in the current market. It's a shame that the remarkable tools used around the rest of the organization have gone unnoticed in HR because of this semantics question.

Icarian aims to solve the problem. Merrit is the kind of guy you'd bet on. While research intensive, the technology isn't rocket science anymore.

So, we said, in our usually provocative way, "There's no such thing as the Internet, Doug". Quick on the uptake he replied, "I think you mean that domain expertise makes vertical markets so different from each other that they don't really overlap." Good answer.

Then we tried to stump him with our normal question about highly ambitious HR systems..."How do you figure out that someone can fit into the job without any of the top level skills required by the stupid requisition?" Doug told us about the inventory screening processes and "analystics" that are at the core of a fully deployed suite of Icarian tools. We were tremendously impressed.

The nutshell? If you have a complex workforce optimization task and are scrambling for answers that could be proactive, talk to Icarian. They are asking the right questions.

- John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

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© 2013 interbiznet.
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Materials written
by John Sumser
© TwoColorHat.
All Rights Reserved.

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