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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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Materials written
by John Sumser
© TwoColorHat.
All Rights Reserved.

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    (November 25, 1998) What an odd world. In Recruiting, a "passive" candidate is someone who is doing well in their job and is not thinking about leaving. The very way we describe our scarcest resources denigrates them. Like a disease, job hunting is either active or passive (in remission). The only way that passivity becomes a desirable trait is when it describes the fact that a person is not looking for a job.

    It's Recruiting double talk. It is used to cover a multitude of sins.

    In a recent Computerworld article (called "Those Flipping Recruiters"), the "ethics" and general tactics of "site-flipping" are discussed at length:

    The reaction of IT recruiters to the "flipping" technique ranges from outrage to acceptance. "I don't think that's the way to do business," says Carol McLysaght, a personnel counselor who hires IT professionals for Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., the Chicago-based chewing gum manufacturer. "That's like stealing a company's information. It's kind of like saying if I leave my wallet on the photocopying machine at the library, someone else can say it's theirs and use it. I just know that if she were stealing my qualified people that I worked hard to recruit and retain, I'd have a hard time with it."
    While we certainly appreciate the "moral outrage", we wonder if Ms McLysaght's CEO would buy the notion that the company should go out of business because of her unwillingness to aggressively pursue passive candidates. We somehow doubt it. The idea that recruiting so-called "passive candidates" is stealing sounds like a deep rationalization for poor performance on a critical strategic task.

    Meanwhile, the web is beginning to evolve towards evermore interesting business models. Blurring the distinction between communications, networking and recruiting, Branchout has jumped into the market with a boost from CareerMosaic. The service, similar in execution to a number of recent web entrants, allows users to build personal networks based on hobby, neighborhood, personal interest, education, company experience and so on. Recruiters can gain access to the various networks through a series of programs.

    There is something extremely attractive about being able to get in touch with old school chums or a distant mentor by simply registering with a service. The Branchout registration process, designed to facilitate connections, extracts relationship information from new members. With a goal of 500K members by the end of 1999, the service simultaneously provides value to network members and a potential gold mine for recruiters.

    The problem with most profiling systems (Futurestep, for example) is that the systems provide no meaningful reason for a profile to be updated. Branchout has the potential to build resume-like profiles based on the value that members receive from other members.

    It's a really good idea and is likely to be adopted as the front end of a number of recruiting endeavors. After all, why wouldn't Wrigley want to keep in touch with all of its alumni. We wonder if Ms McLysaght would maintain her objections if she were to recruit an alumni, from her own network, who happened to work across town at a competitor?

    Old, dysfunctional attitudes die hard. Companies who insist on a pristine view of recruiting do their investors an extreme dis-service. In times of a labor shortage, limiting your recruiting efforts to those who happen to be looking when you need the help only leads to missed company objectives and unfilled requisitions.

    For those looking for more interesting alternatives, proactive solutions (like Branchout) are the wave of the future. Constant access to a labor supply, driven by a constant stream of value to the candidate (passive or not) is where we are headed. Site flipping is a narrow window of opportunity. But, it points soundly at future techniques.

    For a detailed description of site-flipping, download our January 1998 Print Newsletter (Requires Acrobat).

    - John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.


    (November 24, 1998) Yesterday, we described the amazing story of Restrac who seem to be making extremely effective strides in their transition to an all web business model. CareerCity, the job board product from Adams Media faced (and faces) similar issues.

    Like the Restrac case, CareerCity's parent company is a cyclical business, dependent on high unemployment rates for revenue. Wander into the career section of any bookstore and you will find that the Adams Media titles dominate the shelf space. With titles like "Knock'em Dead Resumes" and "Boston Job Bank", Adams has dominated the job hunter market for many years. The products were smash hits in a time when the question was "where are the jobs?" or "how do I stand out?"

    The site itself is an increasingly well designed offering that claims over 2.5 Million page views per month, and has some unusual offerings for job hunters. By far, the most notable offering is a database of 27,000 employers with web links, addresses and phone numbers. The site also includes vast offerings of reference material for job hunters. You would expect no less, given the parent company.

    When an industry undergoes a profound shift, as ours has, the most reliable predictor of failure is success in the old mode. Adapting to business realities which have shifted 180 degrees is no small chore. The things that made you a success yesterday are the things that are most suspect today.

    It is not easy to learn to suspiciously view the things that make you successful. But, a sea change requires radical rethinking. Your customers become your suppliers and your suppliers become your customers. Old revenue streams dry up and new ones dominate the landscape. Instincts, honed in years of abundance turn into liabilities in times of scarcity.

    This is the very challenge faced by CareerCity. A website is not separate from its parent company. Rather, the investments of time, energy, money and equity that make up a web endeavor are precisely a reflection of the parent's priorities and agenda. Learning to value new kinds of customers for new kinds of services takes time.

    It's rarely the case that these exercises are budgeted well. It's incredibly difficult to make financial decisions that assume that you have no idea about what you're doing in a market that you dominate. But, that's exactly what the new competitors do.

    CareerCity has done an admirable job of wrestling with these issues. The site is stuffed with material that the company used to sell but now gives away online. The sales team is moving up the learning curve with notable successes. They keep pace with industry changes (including Junglee services).

    A quick look at their home page tells you something right away, however. The top left hand corner (prize real estate) contains ads for Adams Media books. Unlike all of the competing players in the big job board niche, CareerCity views job hunters as customers for hard goods. (It's not that others don't want to do this, it's just that the right formula isn't yet apparent.) This puts the service in the position of competing with its paying customers. While it's not an inherently awful dynamic, it is one that requires finesse and delicacy.

    All in all, CareerCity represents an amazing accomplishment and a solid commentary on the changes in our business. Can you imagine a company that specializes in job hunting advice learning how to give its core product away? That change, equivalent to a staffing firm learning to give away its recruiting services, is a steep learning curve. CareerCity is doing an admirable job with the task.

    - John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.


    (November 23, 1998) Frankly, we would have never bet a penny on Restrac's chances for survival. The company, which has historically served the resume processing niche, appeared to be locked into a dysfunctional world-view. Processing huge piles of resumes is not a sound business model in times of extreme labor shortage. It's a no-brainer to bet against a current market leader, the incentives for rapid change are usually all wrong.

    In this case, however we were all wrong (it happens, albeit occasionally). Restrac has managed to re-envision their business right into the heart of the web Recruiting game. They have cleverly taken their deep technical roots and recompiled them into a very impressive Internet proposition. Rather than wallowing in a rapidly changing market, they are beginning to set the benchmark. They are currently positioned to move well beyond the limits of their Fortune 500 niche and into the HR Departments of mid-sized companies. Last week's acquisition of Junglee's Recruitment Advertising distribution arm simply cements their arrival as a central player.

    The turnaround is pretty amazing.

    Restrac is accomplishing its transformation by doing something that we applaud and admire. They are actually, literally and effectively rethinking their business. They have changed the way that they see themselves.

    In the company's early history, they were positioned as an enterprise solution provider in HR. They solved the "great big piles of resumes" problem. Their rethinking process led to an astonishingly simple reframing of the question...the "resume" problem is cyclical...sometimes their customers have too many, sometimes too few. With that simple definition in mind, Restrac is redefining its stream of services to meet the changing needs of its customers.

    If we were a Restrac customer, we'd be excited. Few technical vendors (particularly these days) are able to see beyond their product offerings to understand real customer needs. Restrac represents a real bright spot of "customer-centricity" in a sea of suppliers consumed with their own technology. It's not only good for Restrac and its customers, it's a sign of impending maturity in our industry.

    - John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

    New: Customized Onsite Consulting

    (November 09, 1998) Over the past four years we have had a large number of requests for Onsite Consulting. We are continually looking for new and improved ways to help with your Recruiting needs. We are now offering personal one-on-one Consulting in "Advanced Searching Techniques".

    We've recently added Nicky Gordon to our staff. Nicky is a seasoned recruiting research professional and an acclaimed trainer. She will be delivering these customized training programs in which:

    • We will explain how to make a clean move to web recruiting as the principal source of your income.
    • You will receive the tools needed to search the Internet effectively including A CD with over 30 Software Tools to get you started.
    • You get the full benefit of our "Advanced Searching And Sourcing Seminar" without having to leave the office.
    • You gain the knowledge needed to use Spiders and Robots, advanced Search Engine Techniques, Candidate Pool Access and the development of Just-In-Time Sourcing techniques. We'll teach you the skills and tools used by visionary recruiters.
    • You will get a detailed course of action; we will walk you through the steps involved in going from Job Order to Placement.
    • All Examples are done Online specifically tailored for your operation.
    Book your On-site consulting today. The fee for each One-Day Onsite Consulting is $2,500 plus Expenses. We are offering a discount to previous Seminar Attendees, our way of saying Thank You for your continued business. We would like to help set the techniques you've learned into action. Please contact us for more information.

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