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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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Why We Don't Get Out Much
(December 15, 2000)

Here's a gem from the recent HR Technology Expo, held this fall:

Tuesday 11:00 - 12:30 PM
World Championship of Electronic Recruiting
Electronic recruiting is the most confused, crowded and contentious segment of HR technology today. With so many choices (and new ones appearing every week), how can you possibly choose? One way is to see back-to-back demos of Electronic Recruiting products doing the exact same thing at the same time. The CEOs from four leading vendors -- BrassRing Systems, ijob, Personic and Webhire -- will do just that, following a scripted scenario at this first ever Electronic Recruiting Vendor Shootout. Come watch, listen, learn and vote for your favorites.

In other words, the conference, which always catered to the Applicant Tracking Industry, has taken to doublespeak. With the single possible exception of Webhire, the degree to which any of these vendors are "Electronic Recruiting Vendors" is the degree to which their Marketing people say so. Although the variables are certainly different in each case, suggesting that these are "leading vendors" in Electronic Recruiting is like nailing antlers on the dog and calling it a Reindeer. It may be seasonal and topical but it's a distortion. Mostly, it hurts and humiliates the dogs.

These are applicant tracking companies that are trying to transform themselves. The marketing folks have a bag full of great ideas. The products track applicants. They are administrative tools.

We don't mean to slight any of these vendors. It's clear. from our perspective, that they are trying valiantly to make a shift. In some cases (Brass Ring and ijobs), they are better positioned than others. It remains the case that these operations process resumes as the lion's share of their service. That's not Recruiting. It doesn't manufacture candidates.

What irks us is the the claim that this particular event somehow cleared the air.

The problem with most conferences is that they don't pay their speakers. Why do you suppose someone would volunteer to have antlers nailed to their head? The motives are obvious.

The great thing (though bosses often don't think so) about the trade shows is that they get you out of the office. You just ought to be careful about believing everything you hear. Next time, if you're really going to get educated, call the conference sponsors and ask them how they are compensating the speakers.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.


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    Table of Contents
    Volume I
        1. Executive Summary
        2. Introduction
        3. The Premise: Human Capital Management Changes Everything
        4. The Human Capital Management Industry
        5. 21st Century Ad Agency
        6. Recruiter's Survey Results
        7. Valuation Models
        8. Employment Branding
        9. Forecasts and Predictions
      10. The Chief Talent Officer
      11. Stock Market Performance
      12. The Alliance Development Machine

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(December 14, 2000) When you look at it, it's really rather odd that HR functions are so separate from the rest of the business. It's due, we think, to all of that damn paperwork. W2s, W4s, 1099s, work histories, filed resumes, compensation reports, raise authorizations, hiring requisitions. Yuck. Who wants to monkey with all of that stuff.

The disconnect, which saves miserable record keepers like us from a life in Purgatory, serves to insulate line managers from a daily sense of the cost of doing business. It's one of the fundamental ironies of any managers existence; with the scut work comes control. We have a deep and abiding respect for the valiant people who keep those records in order and just wish there was a way to make the data more real to the line. After all, investing in Human Capital involves spending money. We'd like line managers to feel responsible for every penny they spend.

In the worlds where free agents are the backbone of the business, this is less true. Many publishing firms, for example, use huge networks of specialized providers who need to be tracked, managed and paid on a routine basis. In the world of subcontract employees, the distinction between scut-work and survival is not as simple as it is in the refined world of HR.

We got turned on to Outerforce by near accident as we button up the 2001 Electronic Recruiting Index. The company builds specialized management environments for the publishing industry. It's not unusual for a web publisher to have large numbers of correspondents, editors, proofreaders and other talent working on a piecework basis. Outerforce integrates publishing workflow, performance appraisal and payment systems into a single tool that allows an editor to keep his eye on the bottom line while making the deadline.

The tool allows very conscious decision making about which human asset to use and whether or not continued investment is merited. We can easily imagine a Free Agent Relationship Management (FARM, that's good!) System that tickles the editor to do the things that keep a distributed team robust and committed. In project intense environments, where many contribute to a single output, the idea of coupling real cost control, payment systems and workflow management (down to the editing task!) is coming.

That's what life is like in some project based worlds.

The idea raises a whole slew of questions about the conventional wisdom surrounding retention. Most managers will politely grumble, "The ones who stay are never the ones we want to keep. Retention programs, with their typically paternal emphasis on guilt and loyalty appear to lose sight of the performance and commitment dimensions. After all, wouldn't you rather have, in at least some cases, a passionately committed player for a short while instead of a loyal player for a long while?

The best investment programs come a nickel at a time on a routine basis. So it is with effective Human Capital Investment initiatives. They are not a one shot deal, they are an ongoing process with clear, measurable objectives. We're jealous that the kind of control afforded publishers by Outerforce isn't available elsewhere as of yet. An integrated performance management system that combines workflow, FARMS and candidate acquisition is the starting point for the next generation of system.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Vidjo On Da Man

(December 13, 2000) Major kudos to the marketing team at Brass Ring. Over the weekend, their pilot introduction of streaming video to physical job fairs made the business slot on CNN Headline News. After the dimming of the dot com bulb, technology stories about the Electronic Recruiting Industry are particularly hard to place. Deb Besemer's newly formed marketing guerillas are making their way quickly.

Often understood to mean the "search for the nearly impossible", a BrassRing (for those who don't know or remember) was a gimmick to keep people riding Carousels. Rings were hung off to the side of the carousel and the object was for everyone to stretch out as far as they could and grab one. A very few were shiny Brass and entitled the grabber to a free ride.

The outspoken Ms. Besemer has her work cut out for her. The company is an extension of Kaplan's well known entrepreneurial streak. It combines a powerful Applicant Tracking System (with embedded data quality control), the largest assemblage of Job Fairs (nearly one a day) a number of exchanges (very customized resume databases) and a handful of web properties (which is why Alexa ranks Brass Ring so high). You could say, "It's a carousel of companies that help employers and employees reach their highest ambitions." A charitable alliance with the Brass Ring Foundation would go a long way towards cementing the notion that this is a company committed to making dreams real.

Unfortunately, a browse through the various web properties will give you the sense that it's a carnival featuring independent carnies rather than a single ride with different animals headed in the same direction. This is Deb's legacy from her predecessors and the reason for a central marketing team. Although they face a significant challenge, (you might say that they are chasing the Brass Ring), the team is fresh from the task of growing the old Hiresystems 400% in 2000. Led by Tom Kramer (the Jimmy Stewart of Web Marketing), the team is familiar with cancerous growth rates and coming from left field.

As for the video pilot product itself, it revolutionizes the Job Fair business by definition. Since BrassRing owns the market, more or less, a streaming video addition will certainly change things. Video works! Being able to engage a potential candidate on line with body language, presentation skills and appearance available should make it possible to extend the Job fair experience to remote locations. All of the Recruiters don't have to go to all of the Job Fairs (pity the Santa Clara Marriott). With streaming video in place, remote interviews will become an organic part of the job fair. In the long run, streaming video applies Total Cost of Ownership thinking to the job fair product line.

We wonder if there isn't another shoe to drop. Our Sony Digital cameras will create a one minute movie that can be transported on a hard drive. If video works so well, then the Brass Ring move is the next logical step in the ultimate demise of the Job Fair. We're sure that lots of houses will be getting web cams this Christmas and that DSL based video will move into its own over the next year or so. That means that the Job Fair might actually become virtual in the near term.

Offerings like (MOR), a logical new horse on the carousel, are already laying the groundwork for the next generation. Doing the unthinkable, MOR positions itself as a for fee agent. MOR is breaking through the market resistance and discovering that there is a viable business as the advertising company for candidates. It's easy to imagine a web based instruction system that helps people look good in video positioned as an alternative to video ambushes at the job fair. The MOR product assumes that candidates have video!

With a complementary behind the firewall product line ( (the parent company), the folks at MOR are interestingly able to bridge the firewall gap. The same career management tools that someone might use within a company have the additional benefit of being portable. MOR clearly views the market as a Human Capital Management arena in which long term relationships are everything. Their ASP model is a perfect up sell for the Job Board in a Box Vendors.

If we hear one more person say that the market is ripe for consolidation, we'll scream. Brass Ring appears to be ready to break out into the major leagues; MOR appears to be inventing new markets and that's just today's news.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Raging Mouse

(December 12, 2000) We'll give it high marks for rethinking interface design. If you're looking for work while you're still on the clock, no one would guess that's what you're doing. It's targeted. No one without the latest browser and a fair amount of bandwidth will like it.

It's memorable.

Move over Cruel World, meet the Raging Mouse.

(By the way, Cruel World has merged with (or, depending on your rumor source, been taken out of its misery by) Spencer Stuart. Compare the two websites and you'll see that this is a case of a kindly older couple adopting a troubled adolescent with pink hair and lots of piercings. It's a very good thing, really, allowing Spencer Stuart to stay competitive while providing a deeper context for Cruel World's perspective.) At any rate, Cruel World brought the famous elevator riding, briefcase toting prickly groundhog thus opening the door for Raging Mouse.

The site opens with a scene of raining letters in which a cryptic message is eerily displayed:.

Unfortunately no one can tell you what this site is
You have to see it for yourself

A mouse who looks like he was designed by an Anime team, trying to go commercial, offers the first intelligence test. Once the media piece is finished, the mouse (his name must be Skip) has a red orb in his left hand, a blue orb in his right. Somehow, you figure out that you're supposed to click on one of them. Obviously, the red would mean "no" and the blue would mean, well, something else. However, clicking on the blue orb entitles you to watch the raining letters again (a pleasure twice a chore after three). Clicking the red orb takes you to a cartoonish scene with a big piece of Swiss cheese. Mice pop out of the holes in somewhat random order.

You have to figure out what to click (any of the moving mice will do, the ringing phone, headset and perfectly wonderful static mice yield no satisfaction). Once properly clicked, the cheese wheel spins away to become the navigation aids on the right side of the screen. The options are:

  • Story That We're Sticking to (lame attempt at verbal humor)
  • Get Me A Job (great search interface)
  • Find Me A Gal/Guy (no, really, it says that! This screen allows you to send email to the mousetrap!)
  • Send Us The Goods (submit resume)
  • Time Wasters (Guess where we went the interests of pure research)
  • Fuel Tank (where you post jobs)
We love the search interface. While FlipDog wins the high data traffic design hands down, the Raging Mouse design is deliciously fun. Slider Bars, area codes, self correcting same screen notes. For an interface, this is a winner.

But most importantly, we love the time wasters. Cheezearoids, Whack-a-CEO and mischief mouse are neat enough to be viral. (In Whack-a-CEO, you get to clobber some of your favorite rich guys).

By giving away these games, the company behind Raging Mouse (an old favorite Sausalito based tech-recruiter who used to be, creates a reason for people to visit the site and figure out the occasionally cryptic design.

All in all, we think it's a breath of fresh air in a room that needs ventilation. By leaps and bounds, Raging Mouse is the most interesting design concept we've seen. It looks like they've figured out how to be proud of being a parody of themselves.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

No Easy Answers

(December 11, 2000) There are several, hard to reconcile, approaches to the integration of the Internet into a Recruiting practice.

The Web, as it grows and matures, offers an expanding series of tools that allow a Recruiter to exploit "marginal" opportunities. The high profile success stories are always about these opportunities. Unfortunately, the successes are short lived. The "marginal" opportunities depend on "being there first". They work better for very early adopters than they do for the later. Examples include job posting, advanced search techniques, broadcast email and so on. Each "marginal" approach involves an innovative use of technology to solve an old problem. As such, these techniques get high and quick visibility.

Then, there is the application of the Internet to Internal Synergy problems. Every office, no matter how large or small, has communication problems that can be readily addressed by opening the company's information flow. Usually implemented as an Intranet, the objective is to solve another age-old's predictable that the right candidate ends up on the wrong desk. In theory, an effectively designed Intranet helps harness these misplaced resources.

Neither approach solves the longer term problem...building a reliable supply of potential candidates. This is the real Electronic Recruiting question. In order to build relationships with enough potential candidates to ensure (say) 5 years of recruiting success, an operation needs to invest in the candidates themselves. Long term relationships must be built.

While it's certainly true that the network can be facilitated using the net and its growth can be accelerated with online advertising and searching, the real value lies in customer relationships and network management.

Companies that focus on the use of advertising and search tactics will be able to solve old-style sourcing problems. At least they'll be able to do this until everyone else catches on to the techniques (several search tactics training companies are now offering retention programs for companies who have been "raided" with the techniques they teach in other classes). You might remember that early automobiles clearly resembled the horse drawn carriages that they replaced. None of the carriage makers turned auto manufacturers survived. A different assembly technique and radically different design won that market war.

The future of Recruiting belongs to companies willing to manage their part of the labor supply. You can't get there by learning the bits and pieces. It takes an integrated view of the problem before the attempt to solve it.

- John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

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

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