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

John Sumser

Reality
is more
complex
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John Gall






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Hero 8: Gary Alpert, Intelligence Gatherer

(May 12, 2000) Gary Alpert and his team occupy the fourth floor of the Van Husen Building on Mission Street in San Francisco. As one of the two providers of "inside skinny", the company (Wet Feet Press) has been able to market and deploy a more complex form of Internet Recruitment advertising.

Rather than the typical job ad, Wet Feet offers a standard format for telling a company's story. The product (they call it the Q & A) gives a Recruiting customer a way to communicate more broadly with interested potential candidates. The approach is similar to techies.com who develop a multimedia package and then drive traffic to it.

Key to the Wet Feet's success is its market position. As a provider of "unbiased" company research, a certain range of Job Hunters (those who research key companies in advance of the interview) look to the firm for an increasingly sophisticated package of information. In a nutshell, this means that Wet Feet's candidate acquisition costs are lower even though their product is higher cost.

Like Vault.com, Alpert's team is exploiting a key dimension of the web. By being able to aggregate an audience of sophisticated research oriented job hunters, the companies can provide a stream of information that is profoundly alternative. Both companies face an interesting challenge. Many of their potential customers have traditional concepts of public relations and marketing. Negative information, in the old model, is something to be quashed, not purchased.

Operating under the rubrics "an educated customer is a good customer" and "retention is rooted in good employment decisions", Wet Feet is breaking conceptual ground. While it is hard for many customers to accept that the game has changed, their sales growth depends (to a degree) on their ability to explain it as a good thing.

It is.

In an older time, a company's marketing message to potential recruits was monolithic and positive. In our era of labor shortages, fuller disclosure works for everyone in the transaction. It is better for a candidate to know that high pay comes with requirements for strict conformity, long hours and lots of travel in advance of the decision to join.

A coming dimension in Electronic Recruiting will be a variety of approaches to "cultural fit". The idea is that certain types of people do better in certain types of companies. This logical notion has been studied in depth at the major Universities. Several working, validated models are available waiting for deployment. More effective and focused than the early 80s versions (like the Meyers-Briggs), these tools have been demonstrated as retention enhancers. Alpert and his team are leading the charge to use this more sophisticated form of Recruiting.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.


Hero 7: Tony Lee, The Newspaper Man


(May 11, 2000) It's a long way from promoting college concerts to the hallowed halls of Dow Jones Publishing in Princeton, NJ. There are similarities, however. We recently encountered Tony Lee, the Editor in Chief/General Manager of careers.wsj.com on a leg of a seminar tour with Peter Weddle (a well known columnist for Tony's various career properties).

The biggest difference seemed to be that the concert business (which Tony ran during his college days) had tour jackets to give away. Otherwise, Tony seemed in his element juggling media, client and partnership meetings while making his critical appearance on stage. In fact, it looked like Tony had simply expanded his role from coordination and promotion to include performance.

These days, rather than knowing the performers, Tony has developed a penchant for discovering folk talent as he gets around to small clubs from Philadelphia to the Hudson. Somehow, the concert business was a platform for becoming the most connected person in the Recruiting Industry. Thank goodness there is no formal career track in our world.

Tony's Rolodex is crammed with interesting players because he's been a central figure in our industry for 20 years. In that time, he has had a string of hits that include the (now defunct) National Business Employment Weekly (a Dow Jones collection of career advice and job ads that lived profitably for about 15 years) and his current project (careers.wsj.com) In his current incarnation, he has managed to stay ahead of or invent most of the major trends in the past five years.

When you think about newspaper entrants in the market, there is careers.wsj.com and then there is everyone else. Standing head and shoulders above the competition, Tony's business is simultaneously focused and profitable. Having a clear objective is central to enduring online success. Careers.wsj.com is singularly and successfully focused on the executive marketplace.

In order to fully serve job hunting executives and customers alike, Tony has pulled together an amazing array of services and content. The basket includes CareerCast's distribution services, the precedent setting Futurestep partnership data from Kennedy Information, the Wall Street Journal's immense career content library, and, various interesting alliances with advertisers. Seamless integration and a heavy focus on customer satisfaction are the essential tools that bind the enterprise.

So, how do you grow a concert promoter into an Electronic Recruiting Industry Hero?

It must be said that Dow Jones has discovered a management method that encourages and rewards real entrepreneurial activity. The formula allows managers to reinvest their profits in their business units. Looking across the broad range of offerings from DowJones, the impact of the policy is amazing. Where other companies aim for entrepreneurial management, Dow Jones hits the mark routinely.

The Recipe? Take an entrepreneur, let him teach himself the business, give lots of room for learning and don't over manage. Success, in this case, comes from the right combination of fertile ground and the right person. Tony has seized the opportunity and built an enduring franchise.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.


Hero 6: The Recruiters


(May 10, 2000) It's all demographics and timing. While the NASDAQ flounders, the relentless pace of change in our industry continues to accelerate. The ups and downs of the stock market and the fortunes of individual business owners are only tangentially related to the success or failure of Recruiters who are having to relearn their professions.

In the 1980s, HR Departments preached the rhetoric of continual learning in organizations. Today's professional Recruiter is buried in a highly charged innovative environment while facing the most severe shortage of supply in history. Rather than permanent solutions, the best our industry can generate (in the face of dwindling supply) are tools that delay the inevitable.

The current unemployment figures (3.9% across the board, under 2% for white collar knowledge workers) leave an important story untold. The only reason that the unemployment figures are as high as they are is that the workforce has been expanding. Workforce participation is at an all-time high. That means that the people who are in play are decreasingly experienced. From a "quality" perspective, this year's 3.9% requires significantly more training and indoctrination than last year's 5%.

Although Wall Street isn't currently calibrating company performance based on management of the labor supply, it's now just a question of time. The dynamics that bring abundance to the American (And European) economies have an ugly downside for Recruiters: It simply takes more time and energy to solve today's problems.

While Recruiters are learning to navigate this new turf, the services that hope to help them are exploding in quantity. We know of a number of professionals who receive as many as 20 unsolicited sales calls a day. Each vendor offers a unique spin on interface, qualifications, pricing, business model, performance and so on. In order to take advantage of a fractional percentage of the solutions available, Recruiting shops are having to develop vendor management teams and vetting processes.

Today's Recruiter lives in an increasingly complicated world that features declining results, increasing prices and deep learning curves. Meanwhile, their collective sense of what works and what doesn't is growing faster than the industry's ability to deliver. In some ways, you can't imagine a tougher job.

So, today, we take a moment to recognize the importance of the industry's customers. Their circumstances require courage and persistence, the hallmarks of heroism.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.


Hero 5: Kevin Strange / Gregg Booth, The Team


(May 09, 2000) Boston, with all of its sophistication, is a maze of little tiny communities that seem isolated from each other. The mill-town culture is hidden behind windy roads that seem to take the longest distance between two points. Somehow, the American Revolution comes to life behind each unexpected turn in a street. Aware of its immigrant roots, the area seems to celebrate adaptive small business ethics and radical notions of independence.

It's no accident that a disproportionate number of key institutions in our industry are located in a tiny little patch of the Boston area. Webhire, Monster and Net-Temps, to name three, all build on the history of the area and its astonishing technical infrastructure. Built in the post-downsizing ruins of Boston's 1980s era high tech economy, each of these companies is uniquely Bostonian (although in different ways).

Willed into existence through a combination of market savviness and technical insight, Net-Temps is, by far, the most entrepreneurial of the three. Founded in a deeply collaborative partnership between the Principles, the company has consistently pioneered a number of the standard business forms in our industry. From careful, disk based marketing to the development of clear metrics for candidate acquisition to the disciplined distribution of job postings, the company has consistently defined the new frontiers Electronic Recruiting playing field over the years.

At the core of the business is an enduring partnership between Kevin Strange (the technical genius) and Greg Booth (the marketing genius). As the result of bootstrapping their company into the game, they share an understanding of business fundamentals and, more importantly, each other.

Kevin, never happier than when confronted by a technical challenge, is best imagined in a room cluttered with pizza boxes working late into the night. Gregg, a sales guy from the high-tech, deep dark secrets world, is a passionate and intense advocate with sharp and discriminating judgment. Like street-fighting brothers from the tough parts of Boston, they cover each other while growing the business.

Last summer, we had the good fortune to join the team on a cruise on their new corporate yacht. Even at the edges of the coastal waterways, they were plugged into their team, managing the details of the business. There's something about building a business with a partner that can't be explained to an outsider, you simply feel it in their presence.

The core reason for Net-Temps' enduring success is that the Team is constantly adapting to changing market conditions in order to solve their customers' problems. The result is sustained growth and ever-increasing levels of customer satisfaction. What more could you expect from pioneering heroes?

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.


Hero 4: Kevin Johansen, The Poet


(May 08, 2000) Imagine a six foot seven inch tall basketball player ruggedized for hiking in the Rockies. Add a dose of whimsy, a gallon of charisma and a Minnesotan's gift for dreaming on cold winter's nights. Stir in a distaste for traditional corporate practice and add a dose of volunteer activism. Bake in a preheated oven a little longer than you'd expect to account for the thinness of the Denver air. Voila! You have one Kevin Johansen.

As the founder and CEO of 4Work.com, Kevin has had his fingers in our industry since the early web days. There was a brief moment (between 1994 and 1996) when the original Internet Recruiting giants (Dice, Monster, Heart, OCC and CareerMosaic) all wrestled with the emergence of the world wide web. At that time, it was services like 4Work that pointed the way to the future. Kevin, ever visionary, made a huge splash in those days.

Not one to take the path of least resistance, Kevin has tirelessly placed profitability and growth lower on the priority totem pole than social impact. Along the way, his shop has moved the United Way into the Recruiting fray, advocated educational reform, set new business model designs and identified key new internet voices. Given the idiosyncratic emphasis on non-traditional business paths, we are often amazed at the resilience of the core business at 4Work.

Take a look at "The Longing", an essay promoted by 4Work:

A managed environment requires behavior from us that we accept as inevitable although, of course, it is really mandatory only because it is mandated.

It requires this by stressing the virtue of "professionalism." To a large degree, that translates as being voiceless. Professionals not only act according to a canon of ethics but also dress like other professionals (one eccentricity per person is permitted a garish tie, perhaps, or a funky necklace), decorate their cubicles with nothing more disturbing than a Dilbert (formerly Far Side) cartoon, sit up straight at committee meetings, don't "undermine the authority" (i.e., be smarter than) their superiors, make idle chatter only about a narrow range of "safe" topics, don't curse, don't mention God, never let on whether they're going to shit or pee, make absolutely no reference to being sexual (exceptions made for male executives after the new secretary has left the room) and successfully "manage" their home life so that it never intrudes unexpectedly into their business life.

Most of us don't mind doing this. Like Sartre's waiter, we actually sort of enjoy it. It's like playing grownup. Having extremist political banners hung in cubicles or having to listen to someone talk about his spiritual commitments or sex life would simply be distracting. Disturbing, actually.

And yet ... we feel resentment.

Our longing for the Web is rooted in the deep resentment we feel towards being managed.

However much we long for the Web is how much we hate our job.

Which of the other Job Boards could get away with pointing towards radical views of the tyranny of work? Although we're tempted to simplify the essay's thrust as slightly over-romanticized dreaming of small business ownership, we still smile as Kevin and his team refuse to play by everyone else's rules. On the whole, we think it is a brilliant way to distinguish a job board for creative, independent thinkers.

On other fronts, Kevin founded and manages 4LaborsofLove, the net's largest volunteer initiative.

These days, Kevin is focused on performance based pricing for job postings. He says

we used to sell job postings, this week we began selling by the match access to our inventory of job seekers. An employer sizes the number of email generated by skills and geography as they build the job posting. Each match costs them $0.25. Right now, our average order for talent organized by skill and major metro generates a couple of hundred matches.
We think it's another smart innovation from one of the key sources of new ideas in the industry. We call Kevin "The Poet" because he is on the search for new romantic ideas. Watch him. He'll produce some of the most interesting innovations in the history of the Electronic Recruiting Industry.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.



© 2013 interbiznet.
All Rights Reserved.

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

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    Stocks We Watch
    Public Companies in
    Electronic Recruiting

    AOL
    CareerBldr
    CBS
    Central Newspapers
    CMGI
    Dow Jones
    Excite
    E-cruiter
    General Electric
    Headhunter.net
    Helmstar

    IDG
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    New York Times
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    PeopleSoft
    Restrac (Web Hire)
    SAP
    Student Advantage
    TMP
    Top Jobs On The Net
    Tribune
    US Search Co
    VerticalNet
    Washington Post
    Yahoo
    ZDNet


    Pending IPOs

    - None


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    ACSYS
    Adecco
    AHL Services
    Alternative Resources
    American Consolidated
    Analysts Int'l
    Barrett
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    Career Horizons
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    Co-Counsel
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    Manpower
    National Technical
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    Norrell
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    Outsource Int'l
    PGA
    Registry
    Remedy
    Right Management
    Robert Half
    Romac
    Solomon-Page
    SOS Staffing
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    Syntel
    TechniSource
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    Watsco
    Western Staff
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