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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


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Harsh Mistress

(August 18, 2003) -  The federal government is a unique hiring environment, to say the least. With every step of the process tightly regulated and long enough forms to satisfy the dourest bureaucrat, its a hiring process surrounded by entitlements. The net result is a bloated meritocracy.

Savvy players know how to 'game' the hiring and promotion system. Each set of position responsibilities is detailed to the point that a worker can hold up a document and say, "It's not my job!". The requirements are so clear that promotion and movement within the government boils down to collecting the right chits.

One of these days, taxpayers are going to take a close look at government benefits and ask why in the world our federal servants are doing better than the rest of us. 25 Years in nets a full life of retirement benefits. Any pension plan funding problems are a taxpayer burden.

We don't mean to totally denigrate the government workplace. We're simply pointing out that it is operated in ways that have little or nothing to do with the rest of the economy. As a market, it contains well over 1/3 of the domestic workforce (when you include all of the state and local agencies). The hiring process is pretty much standardized throughout with the Feds leading the way.

It is an absolutely perfect environment for the installation of automated hiring systems. Each element of an application is weighted and ranked. All applications contain the same data. Resumes are only used as adjacent collateral, the application is the heart of the process. Outcomes of hiring decisions are relatively public and transparent. The variations in the process are minor between agencies.

In the government, diversity and accessibility are the law, not well-mouthed ideals.

With its recent acquisition of Quick-hire, Monster is underlining its intentions to move in and set up shop in the Government market. Never heard of Quick-hire? You're hardly alone. The little company has been exclusively working the government market (note the "plain text version of their website" standard accessibility stuff is a requirement in government work) for a couple of years. They have had some interesting successes.

We swapped emails with their CEO recently. He claimed an astonishing 55% market penetration. Having some notion of the size and complexity of the marketplace, our eyes rolled at the level of spin. Hype aside, being able to penetrate the various offices of the Department of Interior (like the wildly popular Office of Surface Mining) is no mean feat. But, the government market has approximately one gazillion little agencies, counties, school boards, fiefdoms, jails and dog-catchers. It's 35 Million employees, after all.

That's not to say that the move is anything but spot on for Monster. By this point in their evolution, they probably have a little department in charge of reducing arrogance. A system that has a track record of relatively simple installations in the complex and quirky government domain is a real gem.

As we've been alluding over the months, Monster has a tremendous opportunity to redefine and enlarge our industry through its work with the government. If they can somehow manage to avoid the contagious government-think and sequester the required government-speak, they should be able to build a tremendous competitive advantage by working the customer and migrating those insights to the commercial market. This is the exact opposite of the tack taken by preceding market plays which took commercial tools and tried to governmentalize them (most failed with the notable exception of Resumix).

The government is precisely the kind of environment that can support value pricing by employee type. With the upcoming retirement crush, the government needs real competitive tools in the labor marketplace. From teachers to federal managers, the competition will be stiff and the need very real.

A word of caution is in order. The big trick to making government contracts work is managing the accounting systems correctly. The government has deeper questions about price and payment than any commercial entity. Keeping the cash flows permanently separate is critical. Most new aggressive players end up with audit troubles in the first several years.

With strong management (not personalities, systems), Monster should be able to use its emerging government position as a springboard. It's a situation that bears close watching.

John Sumser


If a talented candidate dropped by your office, would you make her wait forever in the lobby, staring aimlessly at your company logo?

Would you demand her name, e-mail address, date of birth, current job and zip code before offering even the most basic information about your company? Would you force her to fill out complex applications just to find out if you're even hiring?

Of course not. You'd never do these things. No HR pro would--in real life.

But online, where nearly all potential hires begin their experience with your firm, many of us do all this and more. Maybe that's why 50 percent of all online job seekers describe the experience as unpleasant or frustrating.

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