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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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End To End

(August 25, 2000) If we were really good at generating buzzwords, we'd probably call it e2e. The search for an End To End Recruiting solution, coupled with the extraordinary claims of its discovery remind us of nothing less than prospectors' cries of "There's gold in them thar hills" from an earlier era. On a very profound level, there's no such thing as an End to End Solution.

For some reason, we can't stop thinking about a circle of elephants, about a dozen, heads facing out, rear ends touching at the center of the circle. That's as close to an e2e solution as we can imagine today. Managing the assembly, development and maintenance of a workforce simply isn't a 'one size fits all' proposition.

Sources change.

Like mining and refining any scarce resource, workforce development requires a constant surveillance function. Once a good source is identified, either the word gets out (driving price up and availability down) or the source dries up on its own. Sustained efforts to develop a supply of Human Capital requires a team of scouts; they may or may not work on the net. Once the supply points are identified, the scouts turn their work over to the settlers who build relationships within the Human Supply chain. Finally, the settlers turn their work over to processors who match individual elements of the supply chain with work requirements.

While it is possible to automate much of the administrative overhead in the Human Capital Acquisition process, we see the same problems here that other Enterprise solutions create. Good software development tends to bind the things it automates. In other words, the best recruiting systems leave a lot of room for ad hoc discovery while the best software tools tend to preclude it.

The notion that one or the other of the vendors in our industry are currently able to offer a comprehensive staffing solution to any customer is, um, balderdash. The best we've seen offer some functionality to some customers. This is the reason that RFQ processes end up with the most unlikely competitors as finalists. There really is no one answer.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Who Is an Outsider?

(August 24, 2000) The global labor shortage adds a profound wrinkle to the question "Who are the stakeholders of a corporation?" While Taylor's lament was an attempt to place responsibility for workforce development squarely on the shoulders of the management team, he assumed that less than perfect labor was in abundant supply. Drucker, a captive of the assumptions and realities of his times, also ignored labor supply as a central stakeholder in the universe of management responsibilities. As long as there have been managers, a central assumption has been "If we grow, we will be able to find the necessary workers." ZPG changes all of that.

From today on, any executive in a healthy, growing company will inherit an additional set of stakeholder responsibilities: the population of potential employees. From ad hoc team development to managing a steady state headcount, today's executive must understand the impact of each decision on the availability of the labor required to maintain the status quo, to follow through on growth plans or to tackle tough strategic and innovative projects. No longer can an executive assume that "if we need them, they will come."

The early adjustments to this new reality have been somewhat predictable: Doing more of the same old thing only faster and harder. Job Boards, which will always serve a useful but specific function, are little more than a modest upgrade to the newspaper advertising systems that preceded them. Traditional 3rd party staffing companies have invested heavily in web endeavors and automation to the desktop. Their core methods and assumptions remain unchanged and their results show it.

The real change is beginning to take place in corporate boardrooms, well outside of the province of traditional players. Recruiting departments within functional groups, once limited to engineering and IT organizations, are spreading into manufacturing, sales and marketing departments. Pure project based staffing, an invention of technical skunk works groups, is expanding in influence as the Free Agent marketplaces take shape. Again, these remarkable adaptations simply extend the old metaphors and management assumptions.

The real 21st Century management challenge will be identifying, refining, processing and guaranteeing the availability and quality of the labor supply. As a new stakeholder in corporate accountability, the universe of potential employees is distinctly different from the other stakeholder groups in some key ways:

  • Their ties to the company will always be loose at best. Much of the innovation in this arena will involve the strengthening of these loose ties.
  • As a group, Potential employees overlap all of the other stakeholder categories. It is more useful, in some ways, to think of them as an additional stakeholder dimension.
  • Their needs and concerns may well be at odds with the other stakeholder groupings. Identifying and articulating the company's value proposition to Potential Employees will directly conflict with other vested interests.

    In other words, the incorporation of Potential Employees as a sixth stakeholder group requires a dramatic rethinking of each of the existing relationships. None of the answers are immediately clear. It is clear, however, that Marketing departments are about to acquire an entirely new level of complexity. 21st Century Management will require a more intimate, value-oriented consideration of all stakeholders. The challenge includes outreach to groups of people who, until recently, were clearly considered 'outsiders'.

    - John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

    We Deliver (from our vault)

    (August 23, 2000) Not another hot deadline, not another late night, but another package shipped to production. Early last year, we let you know a little bit about our product: Seminar In A Box. Some of our discussion about the state of video technology was wrapped up in the final delivery. We thought it would be a good idea to revisit this little beauty.

    Seminar In A Box takes our Advanced Searching and Sourcing Techniques Seminar and puts it squarely on 5 CDs. Full audio, video, interactivity and a regular Recruiting Software mine. Four of the five CDs include:

    • A Full Video Presentation
    • A Full Audio Presentation
    • An Interactive, Narrated, Web-Linked, Self-Paced Seminar
    • Hot Linked Handouts
    • An MP3 Audio Version (for RIO players)
    • Printable handouts in PDF format
    The Fifth CD is a treasure trove of software and IBN Newsletters.

    We've organized the material to take a Recruiter from cradle to grave, from basic terminology to the fundamentals of online Recruiting Strategy.

    If you'd like to order a copy, call our offices at or click here for more details and a currently running special offer.

    Keep The Brand In Front Of The Customer (from our vault)

    (August 22, 2000) All the time. Make them think you are everywhere. Do whatever it takes to keep your web address in front of the customer. All of the time. Be everywhere. Be everywhere.

    Why do you suppose that the major web players are pushing the "instant messaging" issue so hard? It's not because they have a soft, mushy feeling that standards improve the value of your life. It's certainly not because they want to find something else to give away. We have a hard time believing that our family relationships are at the root of the issue. If they can't build easy to use software, why would they care about instant communications?

    It's a branding play, period, end of question. The object of the web game has become brand awareness, for the time being. With large portal strategies at the end of their useful life, the majors have moved on to bigger, better and more expensive tactics. Just this morning, Sun announced a plan to give away office software over the web? Why? To boost sales of their servers by keeping the brand name in front of users on a moment to moment basis.

    In case you missed it in the last paragraph, we'll say it again:

    The large portal strategy is at the end of its useful life.
    Predictably, the idea that the web consists of increasingly attractive places to go (the portal strategy) has fairly severe limits. Although web users like having resources in one place, there are limits to a strategy based on attraction (the build it and they will come idea from 'Wayne's World'). As a result, there is a huge shift in the way that strategists are thinking about web audience development.

    In our business, there is a decided uptick in the volume of press releases flying around. Taken from a distance, it looks like typical 'mine is bigger than yours' macho posturing. Tiny bits of news are shredded and spun to make a particular service seem bigger, better, more widely recognized.

    Some of the players in our industry are responding in interesting ways:

    • By being the first of the talent auction companies (there are now at least a dozen including a rumored entry from The Learning Company), Monster extended its branding influence well beyond the media saturation bombing campaign of the first half of the year.
    • Net Temps has established an interesting partnership with the GoNetwork that places a search engine on your desktop.
    • CareerBuilder's MegaSearch Technology (which simultaneously searches a variety of job sites) is driving the company's traffic to significant highs. Coupled with network traffic, CareerBuilder may well be the second most visited careersite.
    • HotJobs,, CareerPath, InfoWorks (the Works), CareerSite, CareerCast, WebHire and Resumix have all embarked on next generation advertising campaigns (many coupled with road show visits to major analysts including IBN)
    The fall is going to be rich and interesting. We expect to see rollouts from more auction companies, a couple of major competitive entrants from unexpected sources and lots and lots of experiments in brand awareness.

    - John Sumser

    Light Bulb Not Candle

    (August 21, 2000) Where do great ideas come from? Given the way that our industry is currently trying to move itself forward, you'd have to guess that everyone believes that innovation comes from reinventing the wheel. We see hundreds of entrepreneurial units trying to figure out how to add just one little corner to the round thing. At its worst, we see teams who claim to be able to get to round if they can add just enough corners.

    There appear to be two broad streams: profiling and text search databases. Slowly emerging is a class of analytical tool (Peoplesoft and Icarian) that act as a strategic overlay on the profiling/resume management tools. Unfortunately, profiles, analytics and resume databases are just enough to tell you how bad the problem is. We can't find anyone who is working on the next generation of the problem.

    With deeply committed technical groups working furiously in the dark air-conditioned development rooms, it's surprising that there's no intra industry collaborative forum. After all, the distinctions between 'platforms' are nearly inconsequential. Once the 'perfect' profiling, analytics, and database management tools are complete, we'll have just enough tooling to understand that we're in trouble. We ought to hurry up and get there (and, no, this doesn't mean that HRXML is a good idea).

    At its roots, the problem isn't technical. And, that's the rub. All of the current development efforts are so profoundly rooted in history that the possibility of real innovation is slim. No matter how hard you try to improve on the classified advertising model, it requires candidates who are in the market for jobs. No matter how much data you extract from benefits systems and payroll, it's still all about traditional definitions of the firewall.

    No matter how hard you try to reshape a candle, it will never become a light bulb.

    Increasingly, we see a broad market opportunity from someone who comes in from left field. Large scale, data mining, direct marketing companies are, in some ways, closer to the solution than anyone in our space. Attracting and maintaining ready pools of potential talent involves touching lots of people who are not in our current systems. It means delivering real value to that group and building their loyalty in the way that traditional (non-internet) networks are built. It means knowing each individual in the network well enough to anticipate their moves. It requires experiments that take longer than a job board transaction.

    Recruiting has become a strategic differentiator. As long as our industry only offers reactive tools, we will be guilty of dragging our customers to their extinction. What's required is intense Research and Development in areas that currently get no investment.

    - John Sumser

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