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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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Weblog Job Boards
(September 15, 2000) The web decentralizes, flattens and redistributes. It doesn't make consolidated, spectrum wide brands. It rewards small and punishes big. It roots out arrogance. It keeps changing. It wants users to create. It doesn't create users.

We're huge Dave Winer fans. We've been reading and circulating his "Scripting News/ DaveNet" for six years now. (Take a look at some reader profiles). Dave is always running ahead of the curve. If you want to see where the web is headed, it's useful to follow his tracks. As ornery as you need to be to operate a personality centric business, Dave is often right and even more often, close. We're hardly alone on following his exploits over time.

It all began with a note we sent him regarding our mother's ability to use a computer and truckstops on the internet.

Dave runs a company called Userland. Userland publishes a piece of software called Manilla that is a tool for developing websites that contain content. To validate the flexibility of his tools and visions, Dave launched a "weblogs for free" website last year.

So, what's a Weblog. Think of them as a new kind of journalism, a constantly updated website with pointers around the web, audiences of little groups, idiosyncratic authors, limited editing. Remember ENorimicom? Their parent company, 37 Signals, runs a weblog. A weblog is the prototypical way to communicate with tightly defined audiences. If you are looking for the fabled "online community", your survey had better include Weblogs.

One of the most interesting (and widely read) weblogs is developed by the folks at Online Complete with its own JobBoard, the OJ Weblog reaches out to a very specific set of readers with very specific interests. We believe that these are the sorts of platforms that will drive the next rounds of mico-niche job board development.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.


(September 14, 2000) We'll give them "best name of 2000" and "most engaging TV ads for Gen Y audiences". Further blurring the distinction between staffing agencies and job boards, Thingamajob is a product of Teksystems which is an offshoot of AeroTek which is one of the Allegis Group family of staffing companies. Confused yet?

Allegis Group companies provide highly trained professionals in the technical and administrative fields. We provide professionals ranging from high-level consultants to supporting contract employees, and work with a consistently growing list of clients across the United States, Canada, and Europe.

The Allegis Group philosophy is built around hiring the best, brightest, and most motivated individuals available in the market today. Our team is made up of overachievers with ability and commitment, enthusiasm, and the drive to give their best to their coworkers and clients. It's this unique synergy and special attitude toward exceeding our clients' expectations that's made us the nation's fastest growing provider of technical services.
As a young consumer watching the flow of ads across the MTV screen, it's impossible to discriminate between the services that are job boards and offerings like Thingamajob. The distinction, often talked about in boardrooms and strategy sessions, is simply not apparent to a user. The only question that seems to matter is "does the traffic that visits the site find the opportunities it needs?" If Thingamajob can capitalize on that intersection, there is a possible winner here.

At the root, matching traffic and opportunity is the essence of the contemporary job board. The same dynamic increasingly applies to the members of the aging staffing industry. Publishing, which used to mean newspapers and trade magazines, is now the province of each and every company in the industry. Market segmentation by client and candidate is central to effective execution.

Pricing, as Thingamajob demonstrates, is another thing entirely. We listen, all day long, to the breathy proclamations of job board entrepreneurs. "Companies hate paying large fees that we can deliver for $75", they say. We're more likely to bet that you get $75 worth of value for $75. Over the long haul, if Thingamajob can figure out the traffic/opportunity question, it's liable to be a precedent setter for the industry.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Counter Intuitive

(September 13, 2000) Recently, we've been mulling over a Master's Degree thesis from a brilliant Naval Officer. Retention in the Navy, it turns out, is inversely proportional to Grade Point Average (among other things). In other words, the best and brightest leave at the fastest rate.

The Navy, in its assignment policies, awards the best available jobs to those with the highest GPA. On the surface, this looks like a sound policy that would give the best opportunities to those with the best capacity to absorb them. However, it means that challenge and learning curve are delivered to the group with the highest tendency to leave!

From here, it looks like a policy that accelerates the attrition rate.

In fact, the approach creates a troublesome gap. Officers who are most likely to stay in the system are not given the broadest, most challenging assignments. The enduring life force of the system, long term career officers, are given lower quality assignments from the beginning. They are permanently penalized for less than stellar academic achievement even though they are the foundation of the service.

Meanwhile, the assignment policy tends to increase the value of the best and brightest pool to potential non-military employers. The Navy's research shows that an officer is likely to leave once the cost of leaving can be recouped in a year or two. By giving high quality assignments to the group most likely to leave, the Navy seems to be encouraging their departures.

We wonder if this same problem isn't occurring around the economy. It seems intuitive to suggest that challenge and high quality assignments be directed towards those most likely to execute them well. We are not aware of any program that gives promotions, raises and flexibility based on the "likelihood of retention". Rather, we see lots of knee jerk emphasis on trying to figure out how to retain those most likely to leave.

We giggle at the thought of a recruiter telling a potential employee "You don't qualify, your grades were too high", or a boss saying "we're giving the promotion to the woman with a 'C' average".

Of late, we've been interacting with several companies that help companies "model their workforce". Based on internal diagnostics, the "best" employee is identified and training is developed to get the rest of the workforce up to the level of that employee. Can you imagine how those conversations might go if the 'consultant' suggested that the best employee was the one most likely to stay? Our bet is that these companies train attrition into the workforce.

Like many things, the composition of an enduring labor pool is a balancing act. Availability, likelihood of attrition, skills and a variety of other factors make an overall great workplace. We find this extremely counterintuitive example to be instructive. Sometimes what seems like exactly the right thing to do is the very thing that creates the problem.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.


(September 12, 2000) It's coming. Peer to Peer (P2P) recruiting, a job board for everyone, is starting to poke its head over the horizon. We've been talking about the likely fact that the web will grow to include billions of job boards for a long time. It's coming!

Over the weekend, we wandered the concourse of a local amphitheater while the teenagers enjoyed a concert. Swirls of people gathered and came apart while overpaying for a hot dog and a coke. It seemed like the crowd segmented into the folks at the concert and the folks on the concourse. Dads, Moms and other older folk sat and watched the people while the kids screamed and danced.

We staked out a position near a video screen to watch, sip and save our worn eardrums. It turned out that our bird's nest was a traditional gathering place for the professional musicians in the crowd. We eavesdropped, with rapt attention, to the conversations about forming a band, adding a drummer, figuring out the next trend, balancing the road with a construction trade, new equipment, drug hazards, building an audience and surviving the career. We'd stumbled into a peer to peer recruiting environment.

The professional musicians were there to polish their craft, find a new gig, reacquaint themselves with old friends and generally stay current. In a business that relies on free agency at its roots, keeping visible is central to the long term viability of a career. Similar scenes take place at a local music store. In some cities, the game is supported by a local weekly newspaper.

In the early days of the web, the buzzword was something called "disintermediation". Disintermediation is the elimination of the middleman or broker. While the early high flying dreamers overestimated the ability with which the web could disintermediate, we're certain that the current state of affairs is best seen as a strong reaction to the idea. The notion the the web will resolve to a few central players is, well, silly.

The roots of the employment marketplace are millions of adjacent networks of people who share interests and livelihoods. They cluster around a barbecue or a swimming pool. They share carpools and buses. They bump into each other at the local Starbucks or grocery store. They talk. They follow. They move. They create. Their jobs are a part of a richer tapestry.

Ultimately, the P2P networks will grow from these cluster. It just takes the right technology. The Napster (or Gnutella) of recruiting easily fits into their current habits and doesn't ask anyone to "go" somewhere or "do" something. P2P recruiting will be an overlay.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Lower Common Denominator

(September 11, 2000) We keep harping on Sumser's Law: For every doubling of Internet population, the experience level of the average user is halved. This is no small phenomenon. As we watch new users join the Online Recruiting frenzy, we see some troubling things.

Recently, we watched a focus group of new Recruiters tackle a series of online job boards. (Focus groups are all the rage in front end design these days even though they don't seem to add all that much to the process.) There were about a dozen Recruiters who had been brought together to test various aspects of a new Recruiting interface. The company tried to balance the group by providing 6 Recruiters of varying ages who had no web experience with another 6 who had varying degrees of web experience. The results were comical.

One of the options in the new interface asked Recruiters to hold down the "CTRL" key while clicking a mouse. Two of the dozen (one in the "experienced" group) held down the C, T, R, and L keys (instead of the "control" key). Besides the silly hand contortions (try to hold all 4 and click your mouse), a more serious point emerged.

As we get more sophisticated in our web usage, we tend to take a lot of the little things for granted. Many new users have not climbed the learning curve along with us. The other side of Sumser's law is "As the median experience of a new user declines, your relative level of experience grows exponentially." It is critical that you learn to account for the fact that each day you gain additional experience that increasingly distances you from the average user.

- John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

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