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What Happened IV

(March 05, 2007)
Opposites played out against each other....Scraping versus distribution....structured versus adhoc data....databasing versus posting results....promotion versus attraction....anonymity versus full disclosure...gentle manners versus surveillance...

The story of our industry is a tale of tight fisted entrepreneurs who are certain that their idea is big enough to change the world. Most of them end up making a fair living in relatively small businesses. This is due in large because recruiting is not an inherently similar function across all organizations. The desire to change the entire world often successfully manifests as changing one small corner of it.

There are  irresolvable tensions that involve intractable questions. In each case, radically opposing approaches work perfectly well for different customer segments. The market is really big, really fractured and built on customers who are in business because they do things well. These organizations are all adept at market maneuvers, product evolution and customer service.

The culture of a company is made and shaped in its business model, industry, financial structure, risk tolerance and approach to human capital. Recruiting is always a reflection of these elements, rarely a cause. Really, the idea that there should or could be a single form of recruiting that dominates the landscape is best left in the business plans that suggest it.

(A very interesting question is whether or not Recruiting is really a necessary function. Could it be that, like a lot of other things, the baby boom population bulge required specialized facilitators whose utility has passed? With population stable and or declining, are Recruiters an anomaly of a period of growth? Are recruiters like secretaries, victims of the increased autonomy of workers with computers? Has automation progressed to the point that hiring managers can once again become responsible for the construction and maintenance of their team?)

From the earliest moments, the industry has been split on the question of structured versus unstructured data. Resumes contain a goldmine of information that can be used and reused for a variety of purposes. Unleashing the inherent value depends on being able to predictably access a specific bit of information from a specific resume repeatedly. There has been a grand tradition of companies (beginning with Resumix, the ATS firm and Intellimatch, Jeff Hunter's early lovechild) who posited the idea that great matching could be accomplished with structured data.

The grand tradition (which we think of as the classical argument in the industry) continues to this day exemplified by Trovix (who have an interesting approach to imputing structure) and the raft of emerging matching companies (like Itzbig or Kangarooster). Ultimately these structural forms depend on an exhaustive view of the data itself. They work very well for organizations where planning is the norm and paperwork gets executed effectively.

At the other end of the spectrum are adhoc systems. We think of this as the Romantic side of the industry. Beginning with Restrac and most job boards, these tools accept the data as it is. Excellent results from the systems often depend on sophisticated query development by users.

The difference between the two approaches manifests as a kind of customer segmentation. Classical companies (well planned, project oriented, typically technical) favor classical tools. Romantic organizations (opportunistic, marketing oriented, typically product or service centric) prefer Romantic tools.

The same sort of dynamic plays out in the distribution versus scraping arena. Some companies want to control the precise location and placement of their job postings. They tend to use Job Ad Distribution services like Arbita.or Hodes SmartPost. These tools enable you to target specific job boards and measure the performance of your advertising.

Job Scrapers (most job boards) take the postings from your company web site and integrate them into their job boards. Sometimes it's free (the job aggregators) sometimes its a billable service.

Product differentiation in the industry has been a function of the way a company aligned itself around pivotal policy questions:
  • Are we attracting candidates or promoting a job?
  • Are we using structured or unstructured data?
  • Do we allow/encourage or prohibit/discourage anonymity?
  • Are we apart of a distribution network or a standalone entity?
  • Does our revenue come from searching the database or job posting sales?
  • Do we serve large or medium sized companies?

Tomorrow, bust forward. The series so far:

John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
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