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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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Convergence Emergence

(August 18, 2000) The scary truth is that many of today's Electronic Recruiting tools just don't work very well. The combination of a radical multiplication of customers and a shrinking labor pool create an environment that produces decreasing effectiveness overall. Sky high advertising budgets produce decreasing quality in the resume pools. Limited product differentiation leaves customers gasping for clarity.

Part of the problem is the overblown marketing hype. As a solid new alternative to classified advertising, Job Boards are a great thing. As the panacea for overworked recruiters, they are a dismal Band-Aid on a difficult problem.

The other part of the problem is laziness. While it would be wonderful to think that writing a (very) small check would cure all of your recruiting ills, the truth is that the game is getting more competitive every day. The tired passive ethics of traditional 20th Century Recruiting produce little in the way of interesting Return on investment.

Blaming the Job Boards is like blaming the hoe when you hit a rock. It may feel good, but the problem has to do with the suitability of the tool. Hoes have an important place in gardening, but sometimes you need a rototiller, a backhoe or a case of dynamite. Job boards, by analogy, are a special purpose tool with limited ability to produce results outside of a small range of parameters. After all, they are only useful for attracting people who are looking for work.

Unfortunately for those of us who have to live through the process, tool building happens as users become disenchanted with the results they are getting. If everything works well, there is no drive for improvement. The irritations faced by current customers will result in new features and capacities from the same (and brand new) vendors.

We're seeing a couple of new classes of providers who are starting to frame the question differently. Broad management of the talent supply requires systems that integrate potential employees, past employees and current employees into marketing campaigns that are extremely personalized. The early endeavors in this arena will feel very klugey. In the long haul, however, these integrated plays will be the way that Job Boards interface with customers. The current model, which requires that every user learn every interface, will disappear so quickly that we'll all have a good giggle about it two or three years from now.

It's particularly odd that a business so closely tied to the labor shortage seems unaware of the inefficiencies it introduces into the customers' workflow. Convergence, in its next iteration, will begin to integrate all of the data in HR Systems. Rather than the historical administrative focus, it will clearly be pointed at the acquisition, development and retention of talent. By this time next year, we'll see vibrant products that start to really tackle the broad question of Human Capital Management.

- John Sumser

Talent Supplies

(August 17, 2000) The pending election brings a level of anxiety that we'd forgotten. What if a change in administration really changes things? What if all this talk about labor shortage is really prosperity based BS? What if the return of a dark business cycle has the potential to shift the entire equation?

As much as we enjoy unrestrained worry, the cure is usually a look at the facts.

Well, there are still 61 countries (representing 45% of the planet's population) who have lower than replacement level fertility. The countries include all of Europe, Russia, Japan, China and much of North America. A solid look at their labor forces, living standards and unemployment rates suggests that they are not likely to be long term sources of workers or immigrants. These countries are at the heart of the aging of the entire planet's population.

It's much more likely that labor supplies will be imported from countries that continue to grow aggressively. Brazil, Mexico, India, Pakistan, some of Latin America, Africa and pockets of the Middle East will be responsible for most of the planet's growth over the next 50 years. The problem is that the rate of population growth is declining everywhere.

If you are taking the "Talent Officer" thing seriously, plotting sources of labor over the next 20 years is a critical component of strategy development. The US Department of the Census has been kind enough to provide a tool that delivers age and population distribution pyramids by country over time. An age pyramid shows population distributions across age and gender brackets. The "Talent Shortage" in the United States is a direct result of shifts in its age pyramid. The combination of fertility declines and increases in median age (they're related) result in shortages of key people in managerial and technical slots. A clear look at potential plant sites or outsourcing locations, using age pyramids as a reference point, will help determine the duration of an investment in a particular locale.

The shift is real and global. We are entering an unprecedented era that features increasing global labor shortages. The implications for corporate roles in foreign policy, education and wealth transfer are incredible. The shift in control of the worker-employer relationship seems inevitable and historic.

Over the next five to ten years, leaders in industry and government will have a critical opportunity to shape the outcome of this momentous shift. It transcends business cycles and probably shifts the entire definition of a business cycle. The labor shortage is extremely real (with incredible consequence across Europe where aging is faster). The links in this column should help you arrive at your own conclusions.

- John Sumser

The Dems

(August 16, 2000) Lord knows we've got our apprehensions about big government solutions. But, you can bet that this week's Democratic convention is going to shine the spotlight on places in the workforce where surpluses exist. There are, after all, serious imbalances remaining in the economy.

We watched a CNET meeting featuring the radical edge of the Democratic party (who will be as left out of this convention as the religious right was from the Republican stage show). Surprisingly, we hadn't heard about the broad based movement to grant an amnesty for undocumented workers. It sounds like a powerful idea. Here in California, the ugly jobs in the economy are all taken by undocumented workers who are less than fully effective for legal reasons.

Under an amnesty, some subset of the non-documented (illegal aliens) would be granted the right to obtain green cards (work permits). Since they are already participating in the economy, this would move towards solving the fact that there are tax incentives for illegal hiring (undocumented workers can't afford to be as visible as a tax payer). Instead of hiding from the police while staffing a retail outlet, fast food joint, restaurant, landscaping company, construction firm or transportation operation, company owners could simply arrange transportation and English classes. Amnesty would instantly open markets for Internet based hiring and screening systems, solving persistent quality problems.

The work is being done. The workers live here. Amnesty and permission to earn a living works for everyone involved.

We're for it.

- John Sumser

Success Stories (from our vault)

(August 15, 2000) On a plane from Phoenix to Boston, we had the good fortune to share a cramped exit row with two people who were flying to job interviews. Although they didn't know each other and they were after different things (one sales and one technical), there was a great deal of similarity in their stories.

Under 25, they both learned to look for work using the web as a part of their college education. They had never looked for a job any other way. They had both found their first engagements online and expected to continue finding work this way until they were "middle managers". They wanted to relocate to bigger cities (better money). Neither of them wanted or understood stock options.

With our noses so close to the industry, it's hard to remember that just six short years ago, the idea of looking for a job online was constrained to a geeky subset who used DICE, Monster, Career Mosaic or the newsgroups. These days, Margaret Riley's famous FAQ is a part of the rites of passage from college to the work world. The change has been astonishing and rapid.

What was most interesting about their stories was that they had both found the jobs they were pursuing on local Job Boards. The companies they were going to visit had been clever enough to understand that their target candidates lived in certain geographies and would be likely to look for work in the local markets. Both companies, located in Boston, were small firms with no national reputations. "It was something about the way the job was described."

We've come a long way in a short time. Although our articles are often critical of the current Online Recruiting model, it's worth remembering that the Industry's progress is nothing short of amazing. These two young job hunters represent a generation (many of whom are already in the market) who have always assumed that the online world was the way to find opportunity.

- John Sumser

Market Spheres III

(August 14, 2000) Did you notice the article on the impact of accent on job acquisition? It turns out that many Yankees think that Southerners sound dumb. (Though not covered by the study, it turns out that many Southerners prefer it that way.)

"They feel judged by their Southern accents, it's not fair, but it's a reality that in people's minds they sound not as intelligent."
Unsurprisingly, the study was conducted by a group of college researchers in Texas who conclude that accents need the same protections as ethnicity and disability.

Oh, to be young again.

We're astonished that the importance of vibrant regional ecologies of work are not understood in the way that ecologies of plants and animals are viewed. Minimizing regional bias is a way of producing a monotonous global culture with no diversity left in it. This is the same mindset that believes that the power of the internet will, through sheer force, overcome regional differences resulting in a global marketplace for talent.

Weeding through the thicket of the political correctness celebrated by some components of HR and the incredible web of less-than-common-sense proclamations of the Internet's potential is a challenging prospect for any market maker. Celebrating the fact that a customer or investor believes something is very different from making a bet on it. Building a business that makes customers very happy means engaging in small talk while not having to believe all of it.

We think that the article clearly points out some of the costs associated with building regional operations. We're certain that you can hear a 'drawl' when looking at some websites. Rather than a weakness to be corrected, we think it's a natural way to segment the market. What's exciting is the fact that interfaces, long the province of Yankees and Californians are now being built to suit local needs.

The web gives an astonishing advantage to rooted local players.

- John Sumser

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