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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


The Electronic Recruiting News is a Free Daily Newsletter For Recruiters, HR Managers, Advertising Agencies and Clasified Advertising Operations

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Hero 3: Tom Murray, The Cowboy

(May 05, 2000) With all of the whining going on, you'd be tempted to think that CareerPath (the dying attempt by the newspapers to create a unified entity that preserved their near monopoly in Recruitment advertising) was the first operation to run into problems with Monster's Terms of Service. In plain english, those terms prohibit:
Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained herein, using or attempting to use any engine, software, tool, agent or other device or mechanism (including without limitation browsers, spiders, robots, avatars or intelligent agents) to navigate or search this Web Site other than the search engine and search agents available from the Company on this Web Site and other than generally available third party web browsers (e.g., Netscape Navigator, Microsoft Explorer).
In other words, part of a service contract with Monster includes the requirement that a human being use the service. They are well within their rights to assert the privilege. The battle, if you wish to be extreme, is about who owns the customer interface. It's about whether or not a recruiter can be compelled to endure advertising and interface time over and above the cost of admission. The principle is the same as showing ads in the cinema or trailers on a video.

Tom Murray, CEO and Founder of ProRecruiter, has been dealing with these issues for years now. Unlike the publicity-mongering whines from the newspaper sector (which look like an embarrassing admission of defeat), Murray has been tirelessly working to improve the productivity of trench-level Recruiters in big shops. His premise is simple and well worth your consideration. Tom believes that:

Recruiters should recruit. Anything that slows them down is a problem to be solved.

So, when he commercialized broad spidering techniques for recruiters (he really was the first), the goal was to eliminate the redundant learning curves that plagued managers of large recruiting workplaces. Tom has been in and out of the offices of so many times on this issue that they are considering installing a private entrance for him.

Rather than self-aggrandizement, Murray is continually working to improve the core productivity of his clients. And, after all, productivity is a central component of the solution to the labor crisis that you'd expect Monster to understand, given its position in the Recruiting Industry. Where the newspaper industry represents many small clients (similar to Monster's customer base), Murray is an advocate for the large customer (a fractional piece of Monster and CareerPath's client universe).

Over the years, he has pioneered a number of useful tools and concepts that help the big client. The idea of a web based internal referral program emerged from Tom's brain trust. The counter intuitive notion that the best way to do internet recruiting is by keeping recruiters away from job boards is another example of Tom's common sense approach.

Midwesterner at heart, Tom often resembles the typical contemporary Phoenix Cowboy, riding the highways in his decked out high end pick-em-up truck. Apparently low profile and non-threatening, he uses Columbo-ish tactics in conversation in order to better understand a customer's needs and desires. By selling into real customer problems unearthed through patient listening, Tom builds loyalty for his prototype projects.

We've often teased Tom about having the ugliest website on the Internet. Though extreme, our characterization showcases his consistent emphasis on producing results rather than glitz.

Like all of our heroes so far, Tom avoids the limelight in order to better serve his customers. He's built a highly adaptive company that is seriously moving the automation of Recruiting towards higher productivity. When we refer to him as the cowboy, we're not referring to the recklessness often associated with the word. Rather, Tom Murray represents the best of the John Wayne style: building without ever losing sight of protecting. Tom would never understand or sanction the public whining we talked about at the beginning of this article. That's why he's very likely to be a real part of the solution.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Hero 2: Don Ramer, The Deal Guy

(May 04, 2000) Early on in the history of Electronic Recruiting, an AOL based system with regional representatives dominated the visible landscape. The scheme included compensation for regional listings and traffic for each of the regional players. Pyramidish in its revenue distribution process (and subject to later termination and lots of legal action), the company produced a surprising number of key figures. Some saw the company as a distributed way to retype the various HelpWanted ads from around the country.

At that time, the industry luminaries included Lloyd Linn at Dice, Bill Warren at OCC, Jeff Taylor at Monster, Bruce Skillings at Career Mosaic, and an opinionated fellow named Sumser who thought he saw an industry taking shape. Early out of the post-pyramid chute was a company called JobCenter which, in those pre-market days, was in the business of developing the sorts of software deliverables you can purchase today from, BrassRingSystems, WebHire, Boxwood, and a host of others (no pun intended). They developed repeatable job boards! It was 1995.

One of the early participants in the helpwanted endeavor was an unassuming fellow from Minneapolis (by way of San Diego). Don Ramer, now the CEO and Founder of RecruitUSA, cut his teeth in the Electronic Recruiting Industry with real skin in the game. An Oracle programmer/trainer by day, he built a regional helpwanted business in the off hours. When the AOL scheme evaporated, Don had paid his dues and was ready to start a real entrant of his own.

Bootstrapped into existence by Don and Sally Niemand (his long term partner in crime), RecruitUSA is nearly eight years old (if you count the early meanderings in the helpwanted business). It has remained profitable throughout its existence. Rooted in Don's Oracle skills, market savviness and deal making capacities and coupled with Sally's gift for managing long term relationships, the company is (we believe) the prototype of a 21st Century advertising agency.

More than anyone in the industry since Bernard Hodes launched his Recruitment Advertising Agency in the 1970's, Don Ramer understands and works the middle ground. In its current configuration, RecruitUSA is a cross-posting, unified billing service that allows its customers to target and deliver postings to a broad range of media platforms. In other words, Ramer is delivering a system that has the potential to really harness the broad, niche distribution, precision targeting marketplace.

As is the case with each of our heroes, integrity is central to Don's approach. A soft-spoken visionary, Don builds instant trust in circumstances that challenge the best negotiators. As a result, RecruitUSA has a series of distribution partnerships that are the envy of everyone else who aspires to the own the customer relationship. He is a trust builder who is able to craft win-win solutions where none are apparent.

When Paddy Faustino, the marketing director, joined in 1998, RecruitUSA's development began its current acceleration. With cash infusions from BrassRing, the company is now building out its vision and headed in directions that are certain to surprise the closest observer. The key to the company's vitality is Ramer's ability to remain passionate and detail oriented while keeping the big picture in clear view. Maintaining that discipline over an 8 year period is a remarkable testament to his leadership capacity.

Combining technical excellence and alliance development in a profitably growing business is the holy grail of our industry. Many competitors are spending themselves into oblivion while Ramer and his (now quite large) team stick to the fundamentals with a Minnesotan's frugality. Although the breadth and integration of his achievements are remarkable, we see him as the prototype of the industry deal maker. With a huge alliance framework, Ramer proves, over and over, that mutual respect and collaboration are central to long term prosperity.

Keep your eyes on Ramer. He'll be doing the deals that shape the users' experience of our industry.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Hero 1: Rick Miller, The Architect

(May 03, 2000) Visiting CareerCast for the first time, one is presented with the tag line "Scaling The Web". Silly as we are, we immediately wonder what disease caused those scales in the first place. Oh, we know that "scaling" isn't really a skin condition. It means "building tools that work for a variety of customer sizes". But, we can be overly literal on a moment's notice.

Kidding aside, with a minimum of external funding (the money that makes you make the wrong decisions), Rick Miller has piloted CareerCast to the absolute center of the the Electronic Recruiting Infrastructure game. The company focuses on data acquisition and distribution and works in the background while other, bigger brands gather credit and customers. Rick's persistent demand for simplicity at all junctures has garnered CareerCast a strong position in the ultimate structure of our marketplace.

It's extremely important to understand that Rick, a modest family man, combines years of real-world recruiting experience with actual hands on technical development. It's the combination of dirt-under-the-fingernails experience, technical wherewithal and negotiating skills (from Recruiting) that make him such an extraordinarily influential player. CareerCast, more than any other vendor we know of, is able to clearly assess the risks and success likelihood involved in any given project. Never promising more than they can deliver is a hallmark of the projects in which CareerCast is involved. Years before the Johnny-come-latelies began selling their various corporate Recruiting site packages, Rick and his company built, delivered and managed the Northrop-Grumman Employment site, among others. CareerCast's expertise in the development of web Recruiting platforms for large (Fortune 50) customers is no small thing. It's often the case that these large companies, with their hundreds of divisions and operating companies, have gross duplication and overlap in their online endeavors. The CareerCast Technology aggregates, sorts, sifts and standardizes the various subelements into a unified whole without making additional requirements on the internal system (i.e., you don't have to buy some additional internal applicant tracking system or enterprise software in order to bring real value to the corporate site).

Rick and his rapidly growing team focus clearly on the real needs of internal customers while delivering "appropriate technology", not complicated overkill.

Interestingly, the problem faced by large companies trying to integrate their internal Recruiting endeavors is roughly the same as the problem faced by newspapers that want to give their customers the ability to have their jobs placed directly from their websites. This market, pioneered in a large way by Junglee, has been polished and mastered by the CareerCast Team. It's no accident that their technology powers the largest newspaper based Web Recruitment Advertising business ( As the company has patiently grown (and remained profitable), the customers have begun to line up. CareerCast now has major penetration in the newspaper industry.

Rick himself is an interesting and engaging fellow who has been playing golf since he was six (imagine our embarrassment as we hack up the divots behind his graceful play). His technical depth includes personally maintaining his growing fleet of classic BMW 700 series cars (he'd never buy one new). As workaholic as any entrepreneur in the space, he still manages to keep his children at the center of his life. Often called on for deep technical advice, Rick serves as the unofficial advisor to a large number of key players in the industry. The common-sense advice he gives in those settings shows up in his company's products.

Over time, we imagine that Rick will be understood as a central architect of the ultimate Online Recruiting industry. Keep your eyes on him.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Who's Winning?

(May 02, 2000) Remember "Those Magnificent Young Men In Their Flying Machines"? (They go upity up up, they go downdy down down). At the time that the Wright brothers flew their plane in Kitty Hawk (December 16, 1903), there were 450 airplane companies. Many people invested, knowing that man would eventually fly. Some of the companies featured inventors who flapped big wings while riding bicycles. Others had deeper engineering. None of the companies survived the first decade of the 20th Century. None of them.

Investors with good timing made money.

The press and pundits all made a good living describing the exploits of the inventors. It was always more interesting to describe the latest kook who drove his bike-based-flying contraption over the cliff than to look closely at the painstaking development that was going on beneath the surface. Very few people looked beyond the horse race to try and see the real progress that the companies were making. Between 1900 and 1910, a few of the engineers behind the flight revolution were making and inventing ideas that we still use today.

The Electronic Recruiting Marketplace of 2000 is very similar to those early days. Certainly, everyone in our audience can imagine who the equivalent of the Wright Brothers is. (Hint: we're looking for a ride in their blimp.) Many of the other widely recognized names are Wright Brothers-like in their emphasis on achieving flight as the measure of current success. The stock market, of course, is heavily rewarding these folks (even after the recent NASDAQ tumbles.)

Meanwhile, the real heroes, tirelessly building the recruiting mechanisms of the future, are less visible to the public. Often, they eschew the limelight in favor of the next deal (if they are building enduring networks), the evolution of the next piece of code (if they are building enduring technical infrastructure) or the discovery of the next improvement in candidate production (if they are building real recruiting services).

Much of what is really happening in the industry is more like knowledge Research and Development than it is like pure commercial activity. If you are looking to build a long term business strategy in the space (either for Recruiting purposes or for marketplace execution) it is incredibly important to continually try to understand the developments in these small R & D laboratories.

Over the next few days, we'll take a closer look at some of our heroes in the industry.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Who's Arrogant?

(May 01, 2000) Time and again, we encounter vendors who swear that their lack of market traction is due to the fact that they are so far ahead of their customers. "It is HR, after all", they'll chide with the confidence of an insider. You know those people.

We often agree that HR is a difficult market space. It is clear that much of the managerial revolutions of the 1980s and 1990s passed HR by like a small town on the road that preceded the interstate. When we ask industry professionals about Crosby, Deming and Juran, they swear they bought their albums in the 70s. 50 years after management was revolutionized in other parts of the company, HR is still managed in the old fashioned, command and control style that is outmoded everywhere else.

Throughout the software industry, management techniques that are unintelligible in other settings are the status quo. Many years into the labor shortage, often five years of 30% empty desks, the IT world has adopted profoundly different approaches to HR questions. While the HR function is still present in many IT shops, it is relegated to the status of regulator rather than active participant.

Whose fault is it?

It's probably the fault of the same person who forgot to tell the carriage makers that the car was coming. In other words, this sort of imbalance in market perception is a normal state of affairs during times of great change. As we wander around the industry, we see little evidence on the individual level that the market is populated by idiots on either side of the equation. Granted, HR wandered down a feel-good track during the baby boom. But the disequilibrium appears to be rooted in three pieces:

  1. Technology tends to move faster than the organizations ability to absorb it
  2. HR is usually a weak political entity for a number of important reasons
  3. The labor shortage has taken everyone by surprise
What's most interesting is that the customers in HR seem to be light years ahead of the vendors in a number of key areas, most notably their understanding of the impact of the labor shortage.

In the final analysis, the idea that market traction is a problem with customer intelligence is a marketing failure. As we make the rounds of the trade shows, we'll be looking for vendors who have overcome this victim mentality.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

© 2013 interbiznet.
All Rights Reserved.

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

Mill Valley, CA 94941
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