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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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Fire Your Recruiters
(November 17, 2000) The web is a very interesting pile of cross-referenced data. A hyperlink connects one pile of data to another. One way of thinking about all of the data on the web is to consider the relationships between linked data.

The major search engines (AltaVista, Google, HotBot, Lycos etc.) all have a mechanism for searching and understanding the way that information is cross linked. The patterns involve a large dose of common sense but are fairly interesting in the details. To try this process, visit the Altavista search engine and enter the following:


The search results will show you many of the 7,000 links around the web that point to our company website. This simple procedure is at the root of the "Advanced Internet Recruiting" training programs offered by companies around the net. It is often called "site flipping".

In the links to a company website, one can find links to competitors and the resumes of past employees.

Another widely promoted technique, sometimes called "x-raying a website" utilizes commercial spiders to map the directory and file structure of a website. This often makes personnel directories and phone lists easy to spot. A useful tool for this function is Flash Site which will log and categorize all elements of a large corporate website.

While the underlying concepts may be new to novice web users, these are really straightforward applications of the technology that makes the web what it is. On an important level, understanding how to use these tools is essential for a complete understanding of what is possible in web commerce. That said, rather than "Advanced Techniques", these tools and concepts are really simple introductions to the power of the new medium.

By aggressively suggesting that modest web competence is somehow "advanced", a number of companies have made a solid living teaching the basics to novices. The marketing spin makes learning fundamentals all the more sexy.

Unfortunately, as the number of recruiters who have been trained in these principles mushrooms (we estimate that 25,000 have received formal training while an additional 25,000 have received in house training) the effectiveness of the techniques declines rapidly. With 50,000 trained researchers scavenging the web for resumes on free databases and looking at the details of corporate websites, the ability to find that "just right candidate" is deteriorating quickly.

Like all internet tools, these techniques decline in effectiveness in direct proportion to the number of users.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Network Confidentiality

(November 16, 2000) The Recruiting marketplace is an extremely fragmented universe in which social status, language, manners, regional difference, educational level, ethnic background, gender and other politically difficult factors determine the boundaries. In each of the segments (and we imagine 75,000 segments in the US, 200,000 segments globally), some things are features. Those same features are flaws in other segments.

This shouldn't really be news to anyone but the small group of technologists who, blinded by the possibility of "owning the market", simply can't see the importance of those differences. These are folks who would try to fund the Greek-Italian job board because the geographical space is adjacent. They tend to imagine Recruiting functionality as a "one size fits all" proposition. They'd giggle at our belief that it would take a team of anthropologists to figure out the personalization issues in a single dominant player. We're of the opinion that the issues involved in domestic American regionalization haven't even been touched.

That brings us to today's bugaboo: confidentiality. There is no question that a subset of job changers require confidentiality. When the CEO of a Fortune 1000 company starts to think about changing jobs, it has broad implications for the company stock price. If a number of her subordinates start to look around, the same stock price issues begin to work. This group needs confidentiality at a level not currently being provided.

At the same time, the last thing that a real "Free Agent" wants in the process is anonymity. The "Free Agent" business is built around "the brand name You" (as our friends at Fast Company put it). With personal reputation on the line, a respected "Free Agent" does not want to be confused with anyone else. A service that supports her needs will provide the opposite of confidentiality.

In some cases, a job board (or job board in a box) company will discuss confidentiality when they really mean "limited protection from large quantities of unsolicited email". While this is probably a good thing, we often find those same companies talking about the value they obtain by having access to all of the people who have applied to all of the jobs from all of the customers in their system. This is when it gets scary.

Network confidentiality means that candidates who apply to the jobs you post are "your" candidates. Far too many of the vendors in the space assume (as a fundamental component of their business model) that when a candidate applies to the job you post, they have the right to consider that candidate theirs. When you see a company counting the number of resumes in their database as a "feature", what it means is that they have data on people who have applied for other jobs. They are selling access to candidates who have (more likely than not) applied to your competitors. They are selling the same thing to your competition.

We're not saying that this is inherently a bad thing, just mislabeled in the current marketing language.

Network confidentiality should be available as a value added upsell from any major vendor in the space. In other words, you should be able to pay for the ability to have candidates who only apply to your job segregated from the rest of the database. At some level of the game, your fees should not be used to build the companies business at your expense. We're betting that this kind of feature will start to be available shortly.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.


(November 15, 2000) With the exception of CareerCast and FlipDog, the names of most of the practitioners of "Do Nothing Recruiting" (DNR) would draw blank stares from the customers, competitors and analysts in the Electronic Recruiting Industry. DNR companies operate from one essential principle: companies post their jobs in the Employment Sections of their websites. A DNR firm uses 'spiders' to collect job openings, "wraps" them and moves the "wrapped data" to a destination. All a Recruiter need do is post a job to the company website and the DNR company handles the rest.

Invented by Junglee during the first several years of online Recruiting, the technique is very labor intensive. When Junglee was acquired by, it sold its recruiting services to Webhire, the Internet based descendant of Restrac. While the move propelled Webhire to the forefront of the Electronic Recruiting Industry at the time, the technical integration process was very difficult.

This merger allowed the other entrants to have a clear competitor to play against. Since the Junglee Customer base had little real overlap with Restrac's original customers, the problems ranged from technical and pricing to Customer Satisfaction. Ultimately, other companies have been able to perfect the idea.

In 2000, a new Job Board, FlipDog, emerged with hundreds of thousands of job listing and no observable business model. Based on DNR technology, FlipDog is an exercise in technical brilliance with an extremely limited sales horizon. The company has managed to use the fact that it collects job postings from all over the world as a method for building macro-economic statistics based on that data.

Ezeenet, another DNR vendor, "wraps" some of the jobs posted to major websites (Monster, HotJobs, Headhunter). Using a huge team of Indian programmers and data gatherers, the company continues to seek the traction that its low price point suggests it should have.

Meanwhile, CareerCast, a California company, has taken the process to new heights. By focusing clearly on customer satisfaction and database integration, the team at CareerCast has taken clear leadership in this sector. Many of the major newspapers in the United States (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, Boston Globe) use CareerCast's services to deliver quality offerings to distinguish themselves.

Even CareerCast has some difficulty with business models. Although the company has been consistently profitable, DNR methods represent a very new way of thinking. Trying to teach them to a typical classified advertising salesperson represents a challenge. Teaching that person to sell these services to an HR buyer may be more than any professional should be required to undertake.

We look for increasing automation in DNR services and see a fit between them and the emerging Recruiting Gateways.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Applicant Trucking

(November 14, 2000) The history of the Applicant Tracking Industry is littered with an odd kind of failure. There are so few cases of the software actually being used that it is very rare to discover a user sophisticated enough to judge whether or not a particular system works. For the most part, applicant tracking tools have been used to develop statistics for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rather than actual hiring workflow.

Led by an incredible market push from Icarian, companies began to understand that Recruiting is fundamentally an inventory problem. Workforce Analytics, a term used by Icarian's charismatic leader, Doug Merritt, is a system of measurements for reviewing workforce optimization, labor deployment, skills penetration and out year employment requirements. Although Icarian itself has floundered somewhat, the important trend is the introduction of longer term, lifecycle thinking into the disciplines of Recruiting.

In earlier days, Recruiting was practiced as a reactive art. The employment requisition, itself a highly politicized instrument, is issued following the agreed upon determination that a need for a new or replacement employee exists. Given typical organizational functioning, the "req" was traditionally released between 6 days and 6 months after the requirement became clear. As a result, a professional recruiter was on the receiving end of the organizations slowness to respond to market conditions. This created an environment that was failure prone and layered with "ass covering".

In Icarian's approach, managing current and future requirements simultaneously allows the organization to spot its own hiring, attrition and retention trends while maximizing the output of each individual in the company. Training and assignment rotation get folded into the Recruiting process. Icarian's contribution has been to expand the language of Recruiting.

In the immediate future, all Recruiting Operations will be required (by market forces) to view their efforts on a five-year horizon line. The operational question has become: What are your employment requirements over the next five years?. In order to guarantee the availability of an adequate (and adequately trained) workforce, Recruiting Organizations will increasingly build broad talent pools that can be drawn from over time.

In more physical settings, the American inventory system has undergone radical changes over the past 20 years. From balance sheets that were drowning in excessive inventory, industry has tamed the beast with Just-In-Time practices that require tight communication between departments within a firm and their vendors. Built using Enterprise Software systems from Peoplesoft, SAP, Oracle, Lawson, Baan and others, these 21st Century inventory practices have streamlined capital structures while making firms more productive and able to adapt to changing market conditions. The central component of inventory practice is a firm's capacity to adequately describe production requirements over both long and very short terms.

As HR Departments (or their successors) move towards more fully grappling with the Labor Shortage, they discover that some of the answers can be found in these approaches. Knowing which human assets are required when and where allows the cultivation of value based relationships. It also fosters a climate of feasibility in the HR Departments that take a longer view.

During 2001, the language of HR Departments will evolve to include Human Capital Management, Human Inventory Management and Minus 30 Recruiting (the idea that a candidate can be in an orientation program in advance of the physical requirement). The realities may catch up with the language in 2002 or 2003. The Peoplesoft Recruiting Village is a significant step in the right direction.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Minus 30

(November 13, 2000) We've been talking to several recruiting teams with huge problems. Imagine having 10,000 requisitions to fill knowing in advance that the best you can deliver is 50% of the target. This is the daily environment for many Recruiters in large high-tech companies who are trying to attract the ever scarce IT talent.

It's a slog, to put it mildly. Simply maintaining morale, in the face of such overwhelming odds, is an enormous accomplishment. From the trench level, it certainly must seem like the harder you work, the faster the pile grows.

From the perspective of these high volume shops, it seems like the current spate of offerings in all aspects of Recruitment advertising are bandaids on an arterial wound. We've begun to conclude that a part of the problem lies in its definition.

Everywhere we look, we see solutions that propose to reduce the recruiting cycle towards zero. Every system we review (except, possibly, Icarian) is reactive and administrative which means that the best possible performance is to thin the timeline to a week or so. Given the marketplace pace, this means that huge numbers of potential employees will continue to fall through the net.

Our conclusion? The objectives are wrong. Like a Just In Time Inventory system, the design of Recruiting solutions should focus on an objective of having candidates available 30 days in advance of the requirement, not a week to 60 days afterwards.

This notion, which we're fondly calling "Minus 30", demands a fundamental rethinking of the problem. In order to discover candidates in advance of requirements, the first move is an understanding of the evolution of hiring requirements within the organization. At the same time, data mining techniques need to be used to uncover indications of the likelihood of a shift.

For instance, at the entry level, the first indication of pending availability is college selection or the declaration of a major. Interestingly, much of this behavior is observable since many universities organize student web pages by department.

Alternatively, the death of a parent, the purchase of a home or car, the acquisition of a new computer, the birth of child, a 40th birthday, rapidly increasing real estate values in a particular zip code, sales of certain books by zip code (available from Amazon!) and other major and minor life events are all indications of pending availability and the statistical likelihood that candidates will emerge in a particular region.

The tools required to produce candidates in advance of formal availability also include the mining of existing resume databases. We recently heard the story of a highly successful staffing operation who improved their inventory production in a significant way by assigning all recruiters the task of scoring historical resumes. Once the database was complete (and it took a while to evaluate all 200,000), the company was able to predict the availability of candidates who had applied three or four years ago.

The combination of advance planning and availability surveillance, both made possible by currently available online data, should produce systems that drive the recruiting cycle time below zero days. While more difficult to achieve in small organizations, the repetitive nature of big company recruiting problems makes the task extremely similar to good inventory and distribution management. Once "Minus 30" is achieved, figuring out who bears the inventory carrying costs will be the next frontier.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

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

(The Internet Business Network), PO Box 2474, Mill Valley, CA 94941
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