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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

It's better to
do a few things
really well than
than to do
a lot of things
If you can't
make the necessary
commitments of
time and energy
to your
scale back
your plan.
John Sumser

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Land Rush
(July 10, 1998) From here, it looks like a square dance. Turn your partner round and round. Money and talent are flowing in and around our marketplace like wannabe miners hunting for California Gold. It's about time and, it's a good thing.

  • ESpan has a new leader and is about to reinvent itself with a new name and a new look.
  • Excite bought Classifieds2000.
  • TMP continues its acquisitive process with International Recruiting Firms.
  • Hodes continues to expand its regional experiments with Yahoo!
  • Interim is bedded down with AltaVista (through Worklife).
  • Resellers are popping up on every street corner.
  • Digital Cities is quietly building a national network of Regional Players.
  • Hot Jobs sends daily jobs out through IDG.
  • CareerPath maintains a permanent presence on Infoseek.
  • CareerBuilder is assembling a distribution network.
  • Monster and OCC have wriggled in to the Netscape space.
  • WSJ has partnered directly with a recruiting firm (Korn Ferry)
Insiders call this craze the "portal" thing. Portal is the name that the Web industry has given to big sites that used to be search engines. The "portals" are trying (because the advertising money is so tempting) to become "one size fits all" destinations.

Like we often say about our kids, "it's a phase."

We're thinking about establishing a betting pool on the outcomes. While the smaller sites are panicked by the rapid changes in the last 90 days, we are betting on a high divorce rate. The idea behind the trend is solid. The prospects for long term success are very modest.

But, the industry is changing. The emergence of a class of advertising resellers and the distribution of ads through other sites changes the landscape significantly. The current moves are primitive and blunt. There is, however, a twinkling of subtlety on the horizon.

From time to time, we've mentioned the notion that the big job boards are little more than online unemployment offices (with the same karma as offline unemployment offices). Simply cornering the market on job postings and dumping them in a database was a good start. Figuring out how to deliver the material directly to the right person is the holy grail.

The move from career destination databases to portal alliances takes the career info out of the unemployment office and takes it to the next level: the bus station. It's progress of a sort. As long as the question is "How do we reach people who are looking for a job?", the linear progress is predictable. Next stop? Employment advertising as the unsung cash cow of digital newspaper clones (portals).

Meanwhile, the most interesting action is happening on the sidelines. Given that the bulk of available talent doesn't consider themselves to be in the job market, the key question is how do you reach and convert those "Diamonds in the Rough"?

Smart Dog, New Trick

(July 09, 1998) It's catchy:
Let's cut to the chase. You're here because you're looking for something. I can help you, but first, you have to give me something to go on. Now basically what I do here is play matchmaker. I know over 1,700 companies looking to give a SmartDog a good home. Of course, maybe you'd like to sniff around. Get to know the territory a little better. Be my guest. For a brief look at the world I left behind, check out this video.

Mark this turf. And come back often. New jobs are posted every day. Whenever you're ready, search the jobs, post your résumé. And put yourself on the trail to a better job, a better life.

SmartDog is a regional Recruiting endeavor sponsored by "over 1,700 companies" in the Rochester, NY area. Featuring gems like the SmartDogCam (a video of a cluttered workspace only a dog could love), SmartDog is irreverent, hip and witty. (Sitting here in the California sunshine, we guess that those are the minimum requirements for a Rochester-centric recruiting pitch).

Services include the ability to join the pack. Though the copy emphasizes community, the deliverables are the ability to submit a resume and receipt of email about jobs and Rochester.

We hear murmurs about a similar project in Minneapolis and are certain that Regional Recruiting collectives are an upcoming "thing". If they all hit the benchmark established by Smart Dog, the improve the average quality of Recruiting websites significantly.

The pitch for a Rochester lifestyle, with quaint references to old-timey characters, sets an interesting standard for the relocation component of an online pitch. Testimonials from recent immigrants really bring the idea to life.

The Cue Queue

(July 08, 1998) A branch manager of one of the larger Executive Recruiting firms took issue with our recent praise for Interim's involvement with AltaVista's Career Zone. "If you want to see an opportunity squandered", he said, "watch that one." He's one of the folks we take pretty seriously. In the past year, he's migrated 55% of his business to web based ventures. He knows.

There are two levels on which most businesses operate. Symptoms of health on the balance sheet are far removed from the trench level factors that drive hands-on recruiting. There isn't a recruiter in the business for any length of time who doesn't have a horror story about the consequences of top level monkey business.

The labor shortage is driving near term profitability through the roof. The staffing industry is having one of its best years on record as it eats through a decade of worker frustration. 1998 will close as the best year in the industry even though the signs of the impending change are everywhere. The paradox is that both profits and hours per placement are up. Next year, the increase in time per placement will exceed the increases at the bottom line.

Meanwhile, trench-level recruiters seem to be "pedalling their bicycles faster" while cussing at "them newfangled auto-mo-biles." Increased profitability, dropped right to the bottom line comes at the expense of fully making the required market changes. Rather than being causal, the web is a symptom of the change. You can imagine those bicyclists saying "I'm too tired to learn how to drive."

The last time an economy-wide transformation took place, none of the incumbents made the shift. Size not only didn't matter, it appeared to be an impediment. No Railroad company started a successful car manufacturer or an airline. Why? Organizations develop a momentum of sorts. They do what they know how to do. Radical learning isn't usually an option even when the behavior is counter-productive.

That's what our friend meant when he spoke of an opportunity about to be squandered. Time will tell whether Interim's effort are elaborate window dressing or an indication of an organization committed to internal change. Used well, the partnership with AltaVista could be a springboard for an agressive modernization process. Used typically, it's a very attractive bandaid. Like a website, you can't tell much about a business by looking at the surface.

We called Interim's various web efforts "the sexiest in the staffing industry." They are. The real question is whether the investment will pay after the looks fade. It's not likely that Interim is going to transform itself into an ad-driven web venture. So, pointedly, how is the learning from the venture going to be converted into real internal impact? That's the Billion Dollar question our friend asked.

Buried Alive

(July 07, 1998) We're doing the "vendor" research for the 1999 Electronic Recruiting Index (due out in September, 1998). We've taken our first pass through over 15,000 fee based online recruiting websites. Phew!

It's a maze of conflicting standards, hype and approach.

It's a wonder that any recruiter can attract any candidates in the current state of things. There seem to be any number of bright entrepreneurs delivering services that challenge contemporary definitions of recruiter, ad agency and HR department. In general, the state of design is improving.

It is increasingly clear that design alone means little. Size is almost as irrelevant. What appears to matter most is the ratio of the right job hunters to a given set of job ads. Makes sense, doesn't it?

Our goal in the development of the 1999 Electronic Recruiting Index is to deliver (among other things), a single source of information that compares performance and pricing of the Top 1,000 online job services. Stay tuned. We're learning a lot in the process.


(July 06, 1998) Over the weekend, we happened into a concert by a widely respected, "non-commercial" folk musician in San Jose. The audience was mostly late 20s, gay, female, college educated (nice cars), quiet and smiling. It was, above all, an audience. The samenesses were more apparent than the differences. Numbers and characteristics aside, that's a "demographic slice".

Now, where do you suppose that college educated, late 20s, gay women in San Jose make their living? Yup, they are all involved, in one form or another, in the Silicon Valley industries. How many are motivated by pure compensation? Not many. How many are focused, committed and hard workers? Most. One thing you know about this particular slice of our American pie is that they are used to standing for something. Judging from the complete absence of sloganism on the tee-shirts, their values are quiet and persistent.

Ultimately, audience reach on the web will be all about statistical demographics. You'll be able to target an audience (owned by a content provider) as a way of reaching a very particular slice. The content providers will know all about their audiences and you'll be able to choose from a menu.

It's just not quite there yet. Until we get there, demographic targeting will be an art of approximation with mixed results. When we get there, the price will be much higher. The tradeoff, if you want to experiment today, is in the quality of results. Our bet is that you will always pay market rates for the same set of results. It's just that the results stream will be cleaner.

There are very obvious moves, currently pursued by the most sophisticated online recruiters. They target their advertising to reach various online professional areas. Increasingly, we run across well targeted ads (like last week's ESpan banner in a New York Times Article). We're still waiting for the next step.

Why, we wonder, hasn't anyone wandered out into the office that needs more workers and listened to the music on the radio or looked at the art on the office walls? If the existing staff is doing a great job listening to the Grateful Dead while staring at Dilbert posters, you might think about hunting for additional players on the Dilbert site. Consider buying an ad that is delivered when one of the CD databases receives a query for "Jerry Garcia".

Recruiting Online:
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(June 15, 1998): We will be delivering seminars in 12 cities this Summer.

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July 13: Boston, MA
July 15: Irvine, CA
July 15: New York City
July 17: Seattle, WA
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July 22: Raleigh, NC
July 24: Atlanta, GA
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July 31: Chicago, IL

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  • $2,000 In Special Offers From 5 Online Recruiting Services
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    Enroll today, seats are still available. There is a discount available for early registrations. The seminars have a Retail price of $995. If your payment is received by June 15, there is a $150 discount. For Payments received by July 1, the savings is $100. We offer an additional discount of $100 to any recruiter who completes our 1998 Electronic Recruiting Survey.

    You can learn more about the seminars, register online or call us at the office (415.377.2255 or 800-358-2278) to register.

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