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Get Out Of The Way
(April 4, 1997): The email said, "Feel free to evaluate our new website. We staff some of the largest construction and oil and gas projects in the world."
After a very long wait for the graphics to download (they were huge), we were presented with a glob of text...brown on a dark blue background, large bold font, impossible to read. We had to click down a full screen to find the "buttons" which of course led off with the infamous "President's Message". From the looks of the proud web designer's page, the company had invested the cost of the hardware required to start a full scale web employment service.
The single most scarce commodity on the web is the attention of the "user". It is fleeting, fickle, impatient and very easily lost. Solid web design grabs the user by the collar and never lets go. At the root of solid web design is a surprising quantity of common sense. It's just that the wrong questions get asked most of the time.
It was clear that this company's designer asked "What do you want to say to a user?" In good traditional company form, the answer to the question was "We want to tell the user about the company, how big it is, where the offices are, how smart our boss is, how we work and what jobs are currently open." At that point, the designer probably said, "Well don't forget to have an email link for feedback and a section that makes it easy to send you a resume." The result of asking the wrong initial questions is visible in the design...a full screen with 10 large buttons, most of which are uninteresting to the potential candidate.
The right initial question would have been "What are the five things all of our visitors will want to know?". Sometimes the answer is subtle, sometimes it stares you in the face. At least one thing is very clear. The odds that a first time visitor will want to know about your company's president are infinitesimally small. Throughout their relationship with you they may never get to the point that they're interested in this piece of trivia. Even if they become interested in the president, it's unlikely that blather about vision will ever be what they want to know.
Get out of the way. Get the company out of the way. Give your users what they want, not what you want to give them. If you do it well, they'll begin a relationship with you and discover your company. Do it poorly and they'll never make that critical second click.
(April 3, 1997): We spent a few moments with the hyper-enthusiastic people from JobDirect. The company is mounting an assault on the entry level resume pool with 3 Recreational Vehicles, plastic coffee mugs, pens and little multicolored cards. The RVs, now on the road for slightly more than 30 days, have scooped more than 10,000 resumes from the steps of student union buildings across the country.
Armed with free laptops from Hitachi, the visit to a college amounts to setting up a data entry table in the middle of a courtyard. Students, passing by between classes, are offered the chance to submit their resumes. Coupled with an extensive cadre of on-campus marketers (free interns looking for credit in a Marketing class), JobDirect presents a slick veneer.
We met them in rather odd circumstances. Telegraph Road in Berkeley is like a visit to another culture. It reminds us of one of those badly executed futuristic prison planets in a late night sci-fi flick on cable. The panhandlers have multicolored hair and protruding body piercings. The smell of freshly smoked pot fogs the air over the street vendors' tables.
In the midst of this circus was the JobDirect RV, haphazardly angled into a parallel parking slot on a busy street. Inside the vehicle were freshly scrubbed team members wearing army-green polo shirts with the company's logo. The contrast was stunning.
The team members held fast to a well oiled PR script as they described the goals, progress and ambitions of the company. By the end of the conversation, we couldn't tell if the smoke was thicker on the street or in the RV.
Intensity, consistency and a smooth line of hype are powerful tools in a marketing thrust. But, the inability to gracefully deviate from the script makes your product suspect in the eyes of an analyst or interviewer. The web delivers heavy penalties for offering a veneer of hype with no substance beneath it.
Our "back of the envelope" calculations make it seem like the company is paying about $3 for each resume they collect. Unfortunately, they're from the category we'll describe as "college students with nothing better to do than fill out a resume on a pretty day". It puts JobDirect in an interesting position. As they said in our conversation, "Maybe we're a jobs company, maybe we're a brand awareness developer." In the long haul, they'll have to focus their objectives and figure out what business they're in
A Glimpse Of The Future
(April 2, 1997): Pay candidates to read your job listings. Sound farfetched? Read on.
Whether or not you've thought about it, traditional advertising is a crap-shoot. Most current web recruiting techniques depend on the dynamics of traditional advertising. You pay X dollars to reach Y candidates hoping that a fractional percentage of the readers will respond to your ad.
In theory, the Web can cut through the wasted communication to put your advertising message directly in front of just the right readers. Until now, it's been mostly promise (though we've often imagined being compensated for wading through the ads that come our way).
Yesterday, we had an unexpected pleasure while visiting the home of a new service from Intellipost. Called BonusMail, this new service promises rewards for reading marketing offers based on a demographic profile. With easy to acquire prizes after reading about 50 pieces of email, the intriguing material and sign up incentives had us hurrying to fill out the questionnaire.
In the process, we thought about the struggle with sign-up rates that most "structured resume" services have (Intellimatch comes quickly to mind). With little in the way of incentive for candidates, the otherwise brilliant idea of resume standardization grinds to a halt. If a BonusMail style program were installed, giving candidates an incentive for reading and responding to employment ads, the sign up rates would grow rapidly.
But, the mind set of most recruiters, advertisers and HR professionals is rooted in the days of labor abundance. The hard reality of the current demographic dip is just beginning to sink in.
In other areas of scarcity (sports talent, for instance), recruiting is a process that includes highly visible incentives for candidates. As labor and management shortages become widely understood, we can easily imagine an entirely different playing field in which recruiters go to the candidates with offers of compensation for simply considering an offer. It's not that farfetched.
As a closing aside, we've begun to notice a trend in non-employment personal agents. One of the first or second questions asked by the agent questionnaire is: "How long do you want to receive this kind of email?". We bet that the online employment industry will follow suit quickly. It sure is difficult to get off the lists manually whether the email is useful or not.
The Entry Level
(April 1, 1997): According to this week's Web Week, the battle for the hearts and minds of college students is heating up. With money flooding the college-Web marketplace (from huge players like ATT and Visa), smaller sites (including our favorites Tripod and Main Quad) are ducking for cover. Having pioneered the marketplace and exhausted initial funding, the sites are being forced to specialize to survive.
The article says:
A report by the Global Internet Project of the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), a trade group in Arlington, Va., said the Internet created 1.1 million jobs worldwide in 1996. The statistics were developed by extrapolating from this year's growth in technology companies' market capitalization and employment. No attempt was made to quantify job creation in prior years.
The study, "The Emergence of a Networked World," indicated that of the 1.1 million jobs created overall, 760,000 Internet-related jobs were created at U.S. companies last year. The Global Internet Project, led by Netscape chairman James Clark, represents 16 member companies, including MCI, Oracle, AT&T, IBM, Sun Microsystems, BBN Planet, and Visa International. The study didn't include jobs created within companies using Net technology, such as those involving intranets.
(March 31, 1997): Stock Prices in the traditional staffing industry are falling. The pressure has been consistent for nearly a quarter , after a number of years of steady growth. Fueled by massive social and corporate transitions in the early parts of this decade, many staffing firms have been "cherry picking" for a long time. While corporate growth was being driven by expansion and acquisition, the market has been changing. All of those big zeros in the checkbook had a tendency to make the little "ones and zeros" over here on the Net look insignificant.
At it's roots, staffing (in Human Resource Departments, Search Firms, College Placement Offices and Classified Advertising) is about managing demographics and industrial transitions. While re-engineering and outsourcing created a temporary windfall, the trends obscured major shifts in the underlying fundamentals of the marketplace. We are in the early stages of labor shortages that will last another 15 years at the entry level and 20 or more in the management ranks. The growth of the raw level of technical proficiency required for the simplest retail jobs is out-pacing our ability to provide training. Wage pressure in the entrepreneurial management and Information Technology arenas is slowly heating up, disguised by increasing levels of temporary placement. If there weren't an Internet, you'd need one to wade through the changes facing the industry.
We use the term "the industry" frequently in our newsletters. Our definition of the "Electronic Recruiting Industry" includes absolutely everything in the equation between hiring managers and candidates. In an era when
traditional industry definitions simply fail to describe the real marketplace dynamics. Staffing has already entered a new competitive era and the Internet is simply a symptom of a much larger trend. We've shifted from an era of abundant, even excess, Human Resources to an era of shortage that will last a generation. At the same time, the "cost of entry" has dropped significantly, due in part to the ease with which staffing can be accomplished on the net.
Integrating the net into the recruiting process has shifted from a novelty to a survival question. Although it must appear to have happened over night, the demographic factors and industrial changes have been widely described for the past 15 years. We think things are about to really heat up.
Advanced Internet Recruiting Seminars
(March 28, 1997): We're going to be delivering Seminars around the country in April and May. The schedule is:
1997 Electronic Recruiting Index
(February 23, 1997): The 1997 Electronic Recruiting Index is a combination industry analysis, directory and hands-on guide for Navigating the transition into maturity as an Internet Recruiter. It includes:
The past 16 months of the Electronic Recruiting News
The past 16 months of the Electronic Recruiting News
Besides our industry analyses and newsletters, we help recruiters integrate this new technology into their operations. We've added a detailed description of IBN to the website. We'd love to help you.
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