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Interview City
(September 29, 1996): We're packing up the office for a week of reflection courtesy of our clients at Kiahuna Beachside. This week's edition of the Electronic Recruiting News is devoted to an interview with Kevin Johansen, CEO and President of 4Work.com. An entreprenurial spirit, the 6'7" Johansen is the essence of a Minnesotan...simultaneously frank and heady.

There are two words we use with great trepidation: community and visionary. We find that they both distract rather than add to conversations about the net, recruiting and the variious implications of both. Yet, Johansen somehow makes us comfortable with our concerns. We interviewed him, by email, over the past week.

ERN: I'm fascinated by your focus on community as a part of recruiting. Why is community so important?

Johansen: It comes down to what you believe. I believe that the need for community and the drive to create it is part of what it is to be human. I believe that you can't address the needs of an individual or an organization without impacting the larger community they exist within. As for recruiting as it relates to community, I think of recruiting as the means in which a community ensures diversity in its gene pool. Good recruiting is a function essential to a community's health. With the pace of change as it is, it may be the single most important function a community performs. It most certainly is for business, and healthy businesses are an essential component of a healthy community. Businesses are the source of a community's ability to change, innovate and adapt. Our Website is being developed as a tool for individuals, businesses and communities to use to improve these abilities. To be truly effective, we have to do it for the whole community. We're all connected.

ERN: That word, community.... Could you explain a little more?

Johansen: I like 'virtual' communities, and I belong to several. Unfortunately, they don't have the dimension that off-line communities have. However, as they tend to be very transaction oriented, in certain respects they can exceed the functionality of real communities. My friend, Dick Sclove, has been doing some of the more interesting work on the value of virtual communities. I prefer traditional communities though, and have designed 4work.com to support them, because they require things of us that 'virtual' communities do not; things like patience, tolerance and understanding. Communities evolve, grow and mature under the pressure of circumstances that require these virtues. These virtues are required for us to grow and mature as individuals, also.

ERN: Given a rapidly changing economy, what can a recruiter do to strengthen community?

Johansen: Cultures evolve through their risk takers, and recruiters definitely qualify as that. Their investment is rarely in the status quo. They thrive on change. A problem that many risk takers experience, however, is because they see their investment as different than that of the majority, they may not feel connected. This perception is not the reality. The reality is that they have unique and highly defined skill sets that allow them to perform a function essential to the well being of a community. If history is about the right person being in the right place at the right time, recruiting is about getting them there. The skills of an effective recruiter; patience, persistence, negotiating, networking, etc., have broad scale applications within the larger community. What can a recruiter do to strengthen community? They can lead.

ERN: Your Company works very heavily with the educational and not-for-profit sectors. While it's admirable, where's the payoff?

Johansen: To understand how we can justify our efforts in these sectors, you have to understand the operational model that we work within. 4work.com functions like an inventory management system. Individuals create themselves as `inventory' on our shelves when they build a Keyword personal profile. Employers place an 'order' to be processed when they post an opportunity and index it by Keyword. Our 'order processor', is you will, is BTAB ('Better Than A Bookmark'), the intelligent agent that we developed to match the personal profiles with the opportunities. It's simple to use, but it's a lot more complicated than it looks. We designed BTAB to facilitate rapid responses to job postings by qualified applicants, which it does well. What also occurs in this process is that the demographics of our users organize themselves around the Keywords. Within this design model, advertisers can sponsor Keyword pages and present their products or services to a more highly defined demographic than perhaps any other Website on the 'Net. As 4work.com matures, advertising revenue will be a multiple of job posting revenue. This allows us a lot of latitude as to how we encourage people to visit the Website. Going back to your first question, it comes down to what you believe. There's a lot of ways to spend money marketing on the Web. We're spending it on schools and not-for-profits.

ERN: Okay, that makes sense. With your emphasis so squarely placed on "real" community, what's the role of technology in recruiting? Why should the Internet be a component in a recruiter's strategy?

Johansen: Businesses become more efficient through the application of new technologies. Through this process, barriers to entry fall and the larger economic landscape becomes more complex. If you're looking for a better talent or opportunity, and you don't have an up to date map of this landscape, you will not get to where you want to go. This map is very large, very complex and it changes daily. To effectively read it, you need to use the technology. To do well, you traverse it with someone who knows their way; a recruiter. Continuing the analogy, 4work.com is organizing the map topologically.

ERN: So, technology facilitates the movement between jobs. That sounds like a dynamic that destroys community. Are you sure that these technical improvements don't `strip mine' communities of talent?

Johansen: Note that technology both pushes and pulls people between jobs. To date, it's still pushing quite a bit more than it's pulling. The Department of Labor, for example, estimates that 60% of all layoffs are caused by the integration of new technologies. The larger problem today is not `strip mining', but figuring out how to help communities deal with the individuals effected by these technology driven `job shifts'. They're the ones that pick up the pieces when the wheels come off. Closing the distance between talent and opportunity is one of their highest priorities. This is where 4work.com excels. The `inventory management system' that the Federal Government and the Federal Reserve currently manage keeps about 5% of the population as `inventory', or more appropriately, unemployed. In human terms, this translates into 8,000,000 people. Seen through the lens of an information based economy, it is sorely inadequate. 4work.com offers a better way in which manage this inventory.

ERN: Tell me about your favorite examples of Companies who are close to your ideal.

Johansen: Even my own hasn't yet met my ideal. Then again, it's a moving target. In criticism of 4work.com, I can say that we are still too much under the influence of caffeine, adrenaline and testosterone. We differ from most Internet based businesses in interesting ways, however. The toys in the office are used mostly by real kids. Organizationally, we seem to spend a lot of time online at Yahooligans! It's Company policy that kids are always welcome, which can sometimes make staff meetings more entertaining than they need to be. We've also better than half the staff working out of their homes. We have created no latchkey children. We pay each other what we can and it has been sufficient. And we try to insure that everybody has access to equity and a vested interest in our success. These are my ideals. Anybody else out there that knows of someone trying to do business along these general guidelines, please contact me at kwj@4work.com.

ERN: Thanks, Kevin.

Recruiters' Internet
Survival Guide

(AUGUST 01, 1996): It's here and we're proud. Staffing Industry Resources has published the Recruiter's Internet Survival Guide by our editor, John Sumser.
Order your copy today.

See a detailed index of our past issues

  • Week Ending October 6, 1996
    • Kevin Johansen Interview
      • Community and Recruiting
        • Starting A Web Business
        • Web As Recruiting Tool
        • Recruiters as Leaders
        • The Future
  • Week Ending September 29 1996
    • Resources for Researchers
    • Netshare
    • Design: Doomed to Tombstones?
    • Job Bank USA
    • Regionalizing
    • Austin Knight
  • 2 Weeks Ending September 22 1996 Including:
    • Job Lynx
    • Career City Launches
    • Better Not To Bother
    • Scratch The Niche
    • Role Of Marketing
    • Salary Surveys
  • 2 Weeks Ending September 07 1996 Including:
    • Thought Experiment
    • Staying Abreast of Technology
    • Another Personal Agent
    • The Customer Is Everything
    • Net Demographics
    • Much, Much More
  • Week Ending August 24 1996 Including:
    • Andrew Barbour Interview
    • Electronic Labour Exchange
    • Global Translation Alliance
    • Career Companion from ESpan
    • Career Magazine Redesign
    • Duh...With A Capital D
  • Week Ending August 17 1996 Including:
    • New Net Growth Stats
    • Browser Search
    • Gimmicks
    • Copy Editors
    • Changes At Online Career Center
    • Net-Temps and Yahoo
  • Week Ending August 10 1996 Including:
    • Know Thy Competition
    • Life as a Road Warrior
    • TV as a Cross Promotion Tool
    • Monster Board Snags All-Star
    • Recruiter's Web Survival Guide
    • New Look
  • Two Weeks Ending August 03 1996 Including:
    • Eudora 3.0
    • Net News Daily
    • RON and ESpan
    • Manpower
    • New Sites
    • 8 Corners of ECommerce
    • Free Email
    • Much Much More
  • July 20 1996 Including:
    • HR Mailing Lists
    • Net-Temps Gets It
    • Career Builder.com
    • Web Grrrrls
    • Adams Job Bank
    • Site Marketing
  • July 13 1996 Including:
    • Franchising
    • Jobsite
    • NTSA
    • More Government Resources
    • Staffing Industry Report
    • Recruiter's Survival Guide
  • July 06 1996 Including:
    • Informant
    • Knowing Your Audience
    • Microsoft Viruses and Tools
    • Other Ways To Skin a Cat
    • New And Changed Listings
    • Standardizing Job Listings with Tags
  • June 22 1996 Including:
    • What Makes a Perfect Recruiting Site
    • Picking Alliance Partners
    • Background Check Resources
    • Career Path
    • Advertising Law
    • Usability Design
  • June 15 1996 Including:
    • Options For Recruiters
    • The Spiders Are Coming
    • More About Spiders
    • Quantifying Claims For Databases
    • Austin Knight's Recruiting Resources
    • Technology Evolution
  • June 08 1996 Including:
    • Privacy and Recruiting
    • To Fish, Go Where the Fish Are
    • Equity Compensation
    • WesTech Career Expo
    • Internet Link Exchange
    • HR News Outlets
  • June 01 1996 Including:
    • Extreme Resume Drop
    • WebWeek: Electronic Recruiting
    • Espan: Technical Engine
    • The FTC is Coming
    • Bulk Resume Submittal
    • New Sites (lots)
  • May 25 1996 Including:
    • Will The Web Eat Your Job
    • Salary Surveys
    • The Value of Market Research
    • Seeing It From All Sides
    • Give It Away To Keep It
    • Getting Started
  • May 18 1996 Including:
    • Television Stations Enter the Recruiting Marketplace
    • Do You Know Who Your Competition Is
    • The Dangers of Mediocrity
    • Net-Temps
    • HotWired: Dream Jobs
    • A Nearly Perfect Recruiting Site From Australia
  • May 11 1996
    • Tropical Jim's Web Re-Makers
    • Wall Street Journal
    • Roverbot
    • Tripod Work Attitudes Survey
    • Job Hunter's Tools List
    • Entertainment Recruiting Network
    • 79 New Sites
  • May 04 1996
    • ExecuNet
    • The Regional Re-Careerment Center
    • Lame Registration Statement Award
    • Adia Sets The Standard for Recruiting Firms
    • Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
    • Position Analysis Resources
    • 1,000,000 Job Postings Milestone

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