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(July 24, 1998) In a recent, widely distributed, article entitled The Y1.999K Problem: On-line Recruiting on the Precipice, Peter Wheddle amasses a series of anecdotes in support of his notion that Online Recruiting will self-destruct if standardized measurements are not created quickly. He compares the problem to the Y2K problem. It's an odd set of opinions; very breathy and superficial; very Chicken Little-esque.
What's the sin Mr. Wheddle is so upset about? Hyperbole - the exaggeration of fact for business or personal convenience. The article was crammed full of the very stuff he complains about. He variously asserts that:
On a system by system basis, the Y2K problem is easily addressed. However, the intra-system problems (companies exchanging data with vendors, customers and evaluators) are far from trivial. Potential intra-system liability is forecast in the Billions. Intelligent business decision making in a high risk environment slows many processes down. Commitment isn't the problem; decision makers are searching for cost effective solutions. This is frustrating for superficial analysts who want easy, quick solutions.
The Y2K problem is a serious threat. It's easy to imagine broad scale power outages and social disruption. Confusion about a new media is a minor inconvenience when compared to, say, elimination of Railroad service for a couple of weeks.
Wheddle insists that this problem is comparable to the lack of standardized measurement and reporting in Online Recruiting. That is a stretch.
Recruiters are deeply frustrated by *all* forms of Advertising. Why? Response rates are down across the board. Why? There is an extreme labor shortage driven by low unemployment and declining birth rates. All customers get frustrated when their dollar buys less.
The problem is simple and long term. There are fewer potential candidates. The cost of reaching them is going up. The tactics required to reach them are changing. It's not a question of commitment (as Wheddle implies). The Recruiting Marketplace is undergoing a "sea change". Trained in a "baby-boom" market with an abundance of candidates, we're up against a "baby-bust" market and its attendant shortages.
As for the central issue, the measurement of web results is controversial across the entire Internet industry. Cache speeds a user's web experience by storing files all over the web (and on a user's hard drive). It creates an auditing nightmare. Even the largest web services routinely receive audit reports with variations of 100%. The Online Recruiting Industry isn't going to be able to solve the problem until the technology catches up.
Essentially, Wheddle argues that the Online Recruiting Industry should foot the bill for solving this audit problem. Does he really think that customers are willing to pay the increased prices that such a solution would generate? Probably. After all, he thinks that business people looking for the most cost-effective way to address the Y2K problem are demonstrating a "lack of commitment".
(July 23, 1998) Can you top this? Check out the current Upside magazine. Rakesh Mathur, CEO of Junglee, appears in a dress. There's a reason that most companies are struggling with Public Relations while Junglee sets the pace. The article, a play on Katrina Garnett's widely publicized campaign for CrossWorlds.
What's a product? Some larger career sites are passing off minor links as major product lines. When asked to provide support, they pass the message along to the originating service. Can you spell value-added? Can you imagine why they might bet their future on a new name?
The more we think about Excite's acquisition of Classified's 2000 (and its rapid conversion into the Excite Career Center), the more we see a piece of the future. (It's not just job boards who play the funny game of "links equal partnership".) By owning and controlling their career material, Excite moves ahead of the crowd towards enterprise integration of recruitment advertising.
Take a look at Resume Assistant. The $159 software package automatically extracts name, address and skill information from resumes. We are beginning to be able to imagine a low cost tracking system that begins with AltaVista's Discovery, is managed by Resume Assistant and uses a contact manager for applicant tracking.
(July 22, 1998) From a professional researcher's perspective, Microsoft's integrated suite of desktop tools, on a recent IBM machine, is the only possible workplace choice. Simply being able to easily move information from one application to another (without having to reformat) makes the choice irresistible. Microsoft's attention to the needs of real office workers cements the decision.
We say this with some sadness. As diehard Macintosh-Netscape users, we enjoyed the subtle sense of rebellion and branded creativity. If Apple and Netscape had simply designed products for our usage (and made their financials), we'd still be in their camp.
Netscape has just released its midrevision version of the fabled Internet Browser (v 4.5). While the company is busy repositioning itself (and pushing anti-trust suits), it appears to be losing sight of the marketplace. At this point, even giving away their software doesn't change the fact that the market needs professional tools.
Having decided that they are in the "advertising" business (meaning that the only revenue they can generate is advertising), Netscape is experimenting with a new "naming" scheme as a part of the free release. It's a major mistake and signals the end of the company's short, brilliant run.
Here's how it works. For a fee, you can purchase keywords from Netscape. (We're sure that there are a broad range of deals possible.) So, you might own the word "jobs", for instance. When a Netscape user types that word into the browser address bar, they will be whisked to your site. It's an "alternative" to the existing domain name system. (On a Microsoft Browser, typing the same name into the same place will take you to that domain name.)
This is significantly different from the current net wide practice of triggering advertising delivery with key words. You might remember the days of purchasing trademarked domain names and then holding them hostage. Netscape appears to want to go down that same path. The difference, between then and now, is corporate credibility and liability.
As a website developer, we don't want or need special favors from the Browser companies. But, in this case, Netscape is clearly deserting the people who make sure that websites respond well to their browser. They seem to forget that their browser is only useful to the extent that people develop sites for it. We've been considering adding several nice, Microsoft-only, features to our offerings but were afraid to neglect the Netscape users in our audience. We were faced with the same choice as the Macintosh market share declined a couple of years ago.
Because the new "naming" scheme is delivered at the expense of the community that makes Netscape's success possible, we're predicting a rapid decline in market share. As Windows 98 explodes on to the scene and demonstrates the possibilities of the broad integration of a browser into a variety of applications, Netscape will fade into the rear view mirror. They'll probably to continue to blame Microsoft.
(July 21, 1998) Small is beautiful. So went the chant of the 1970's environmental movement. We think it has a different meaning in the Web Recruiting World. When new techniques are in their early phases, the return on initial investment can be astonishing. In our seminars, we teach the art of discovering new windows of opportunity and incorporating them into your ongoing operations.
Resume Spidering, the art of automating complex web-wide searches for potential candidates, is in its infancy. As routine purchasers of customized spiders and spider services, we're familiar with the breadth and scope required to make a product really shine in our industry. It isn't inherently easy.
It's one thing to extract material from known "candidate mines" and an entirely different thing to create a tool that recognizes resumes where they are found. Both sorts of tools are useful. The extractor simply automates procedures that are easy to discover (getting new resumes from existing databases). A spider that pro-actively recognizes resumes is another thing entirely. (A spider that has a point and shoot targeting capability is even better.)
Fence-Post Technology, a micro-start-up in Portland, OR is quietly compiling a solid arsenal of commercial recruiting technology. From a free plug-in tool that grabs resumes for import into standard recruiting software to sophisticated resume management and applicant tracking systems, the company offers the kinds of solutions and service that are only possible from small startups. We're most excited about SkillBot, their just-out-of-the-cradle Resume spider.
Designed to reach into hard to find industry niche specific places, the tool (which we've reviewed closely) isn't for everyone. Having a SkillBot account requires the willingness to invest in a collaborative relationship that will produce increasingly positive results over time. The owner of the company, Art Opiela-Young, makes this personalized relationship clear in the product's sales pitch:
SkillBot requires both of us to make an investment. When you become my client, I will not only allocate a portion of SkillBot's resources to work on your project. I will also invest a considerable amount of time researching and networking in the industry that you work in.We've invested a great deal of energy in understanding and facilitating the development of Art's efforts. In its current configuration, the powerful technology-personal service model can sustain 10 or 12 clients.
As Fence-Post builds its skills, it will be able to handle a larger client base, but that's liable to be 90 days down the road. For the time being, we'd recommend that you hurry up and join the initial client set. If you're looking for push-button simplicity in your online recruiting tools, this would be the wrong choice. If, however, you want to powerfully accelerate your real recruiting results, this is an irresistible opportunity. With so few near term accounts available, you might want to act quickly.
Paint By The Numbers
(July 20, 1998) Bombarded, as we are, with broadcast, bulk mail advertising, we have a hair trigger on our delete key. We almost missed this gem tucked into an advertisement for "Active" recruiting seminars:
Why advertise for unhappy job seekers in career sites, when we can take you to the productive employees behind your target company's firewalls?We appreciate the sentiment, understand the frustration that drives a company to make such claims and know that market pressures drive this sort of desperate ploy.
The most recent Federal Statutes include penalties of 10 years in prison and a $5 Million fine. We certainly hope that Recruiters who want to learn how to get behind firewalls have good lawyers. Just to be clear, getting "behind your target company's firewalls" is prosecutable and increasingly traceable.
(Please have your lawyers take a solid look at The DOJ's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section's List of Relevant Web Sites before initiating a behind the firewalls search. It has pointers to the relevant State and Federal Statutes and tracing tools and techniques.)
The company that offers this inflated promise won't really teach you how to break into industrial computers. They couldn't afford the liability problems. They sell their services to professionals who, feeling the pinch of the sea change in Recruiting, are desperate to find shortcuts.
It's like telling wannabe artists that a paint by numbers kit will make you commercially successful. Using the web as a professional research tool involves goal clarity, time management and skills that take time to develop. A paint by numbers kit won't get you there over the long haul. Instead, you'll find the same painting, reproduced in painstaking detail, in the homes of everyone who bought the kit.
(June 15, 1998): We will be delivering seminars in 12 cities this Summer.
Advanced Searching and Sourcing Techniques
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.
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July 20, 1998