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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
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© TwoColorHat.
All Rights Reserved.

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  • Kudzu

    (March 25, 1999) Our house on the East Coast (too many years ago) had a plant called Kudzu in the gardens. Kudzu is a vine that creeps everywhere and can't be killed off. Every Spring, we'd try to tame the Kudzu. The best we were ever able to do was trim it back. Kudzu seemed to be everywhere. Weed killers didn't work. Fire wouldn't kill it. The roots were shallow but massive. Like a hydra, when you lopped off one head, seven grew back.

    Job Boards are like Kudzu.

    There is a growing sentiment, driven more by desire than understanding, that the Electronic Recruiting Marketplace is on the verges of an imminent shakeout. The proponents of this scenario imagine that "global dominance" for a small group of entrepreneurs is possible, desirable and likely. Somehow, the fact that no one has ever amassed a market share of more than 3% or 4% in this space escapes their notice. Time and again, we are reassured that one or two "Yahoo like brands" will emerge from the 25,000 fee based job boards that litter the net.

    We think that they are forgetting that a hiring transaction is an incredibly intimate thing that relies on trust, chemistry, intuition and regional differences. We're sure that they are overlooking the incredible ease with which proprietary Internet technology is duplicated. Once an idea is enunciated, it is easy to implement.

    We know that they are forgetting the incredible turnover in Recruiting companies and departments. Customer loyalty is a reasonably fickle thing in this market. It depends on being able to deliver the right results at the right time. It depends on clear close relationships with the current customer when s/he needs it.

    At its very simplest, a Job Board can be started by four engineer, a salesperson, a traffic developer and someone to filter the phone calls. Building the simple board into a sustainable (if small) business simply requires a small book of local contacts in the HR Departments of major employers. The first Million dollars in revenue is easy.

    Given the simplicity with which these little businesses can be started, they tend to proliferate faster than a big company with a big marketing budget can identify them and deal with them. Job Boards are like Kudzu.

    This doesn't mean that some Job Boards won't be bigger than others. Far from it. But, as usual, the Spring crop of "How To Find A Job On The Internet" articles are cropping up. This year, they tend to focus on the regional boards, poo-pooing the idea that a big database is good for anyone. It's no accident. Being regional eliminates at least on click from all of the search processes. The information and the opportunities are all close to home. Very few people have the need for a massive national database. They want to work close to home.

    Unlike the advocates of consolidation (which might happen at an ownership level), we see an imminent flowering of niche by niche regional services. The best result of a consolidation attempt might be to prune back some of the big bushes so that the rest of the Kudzu can really take root.

    - John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

    What's Up?

    (March 23, 1999) If you look back at the top of this page, you'll notice a couple of little changes. Our March '99 print newsletter is now available for downloading. The print newsletter has an interesting circulation and tends to get passed around a wide variety of offices. This issue features a detailed look at one company's complex web strategy and the person behind it. It also covers some useful sites, a range of people finding tools, marketing tips, our current Top 100 Recruiting sites, and the usual tidbits.

    Along the road to publishing this edition of the print newsletter, we've undergone some changes here at IBN.

    After two solid years of bouncing around the North American continent delivering classroom seminars, a couple of simple things dawned on us. First of all, it became increasingly clear that many job boards were going to be delivering free seminars as a part of their marketing strategy. It's a natural and important evolution. Internet Recruiting tools currently require a heavy dose of education before customers can effectively use them. Secondly, it became clear to us that classrooms are not effective in delivering the sorts of advanced techniques that we've pioneered.

    As a result, we've split our training product line into two separate components. For the past couple of months, you've probably noticed the piece at the bottom of this page offering our onsite individualized training. By focusing on the specific needs of a specific company, we've been able to leave our customers glowing, effective and ready to move full tilt into the online recruiting game. We're convinced that this customized approach is a necessary part of building a solid online recruiting team. With a dozen, of these engagements under our belts, we can assure you that our customers end up extremely satisfied.

    In the print newsletter, we're announcing the second part of our training initiative. Seminar In A Box, our CD based training program, will begin shipping on June 1, 1999. The idea is simple. Rather than taking a full day out of the workplace to digest relatively foreign ideas, we're building a day long training program that can be constantly reviewed by all of the people in an office. The courseware is built around our day long Advanced Searching and Sourcing Techniques seminar and includes video, text, testing and a completion certificate.

    We are convinced that solid Electronic Recruiting can only happen in a work environment that shares a base level of competence. With a CD based training program, the workforce can be trained during slack hours. Because the material is reusable and repeatable, it's now possible to create a solid foundation of expertise within a company. We're proud of the fact that we're the first (as usual) to use the technology to reduce costs, increase benefits and further expand the capabilities of our customers.

    We're offering the course at $295 for prepublication orders (through June 1, 1999). After that point, the package will sell for $395. Given the fact that similar seminars, held in hotel classrooms away from the workplace, retail for $995 per person (and more), we're sure that you'll agree that the offering is a bargain.

    You can learn more about Seminar in a Box and get a copy of the order form by downloading the print newsletter. It's a great way to bring your entire office up the learning curve.

    - John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

    Usenet and Customer Service

    (March 22, 1999) Our email basket is filling with copies of a letter sent by DICE to its subscribers on Friday. In part, the letter says:

    Your jobs are no longer being posted to Usenet newsgroups. This is NOT a decision by - instead, the Usenet moderators have decided to cancel all job posting from the following job boards:

    - Net-Temps
    - SelectJOBS
    - Recruiters Online
    - Career Shop
    - Career Span
    - Career Exchange

    DICE, as you know, is the IT oriented job board recently purchased by Earthweb. The letter represents a fascinating approach to doing business online. In the DICE business model, when a company can no longer deliver on a central feature of its service it simply notifies its customers that the service no longer will be delivered. We typically end our relationships with that type of vendor very quickly. We generally expect refunds from companies that don't deliver what they've promised.

    Although some of the other companies are working hard to maintain their service promises (and nothing appears final in the Usenet discussion on the subject), the note from DICE falls into the "everyone else is doing it" category. While DICE is right to note that it isn't a decision on their part, they have made a policy decision to stop working the issue even though Usenet postings are a key part of their service.

    We've taken a long look at the question, its participants and the likely outcomes. There are serious problems in the world of Usenet job postings. Several key players (notably Kevin Strange of Net Temps) are working to resolve the issue.

    You might well ask yourself, "Who cares about Usenet postings anyhow?"

    At current rates, Usenet will handle more than 20 Million job postings during 1999. For all intents and purposes, it is the major channel for the distribution of job postings around the internet. This is in spite of the fact that Usenet is a volunteer run, non-profit operation designed (at least in the eyes of its volunteers) to foster a sense of community. The volunteers, with some justification, argue that conversation is impossible in an environment that contains all of those ads. From their perspective, the high volume of job postings feels like a mining company that has been set up on public land. The Usenet administrators feel exploited.

    The other side of the story? The reason that Usenet postings are so popular is that Usenet serves as an unofficial distribution channel. Many, many job boards extract job listings from Usenet in order to make their databases of jobs seem larger. If you post a job to Usenet it will end up in the databases of 50 or so job boards. Labor shortages are so extreme in some categories that broadcasting job listings to any mechanism that will run them has become the norm.

    Just take a look at the rapid growth of companies that are exclusively in the distribution business. Many recent entrants appear to be hell bent on duplicating the delivery mechanisms pioneered by Net Temps years ago. Why? Without effective mechanisms for targeted delivery of job ads, the simplest answer is to go into a carpet bombing mode.

    The real problem is the one we've been talking about for years. There are more job openings than potential employees in many categories. It's demographics, plain and simple. It's going to get worse fast. Compounded by the mistaken belief that Electronic Recruiting is somehow a cheaper approach, companies like DICE and Net Temps are forced to find low cost distribution methods. Caught between the rock of customer mindsets about pricing and the hard place of demographic shortages, the companies have to continually try to find low cost methods for wide distribution. It's the position they've staked out in the marketplace. Some of them try to keep their promises, some of them don't.

    Ultimately, a player will emerge with a sophisticated targeting strategy that derives its effectiveness with a concern for the value delivered to the potential candidate. There is nothing on the public horizon (which is not to say that the question isn't being worked on). The distribution question is not, as it is currently framed, about moving databases to databases. Rather, the question involves precision delivery at the user level. We have a long way to go and not a lot of time to do it in. While the new solutions emerge, we recommend that you put your confidence in companies who try to honor their delivery promises.

    - John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

    Customized Onsite Consulting

    (Early Winter, 1999) 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. Nicki is a seasoned recruiting research professional and an acclaimed trainer with extensive hands-on experience solving sourcing problems with the Internet. 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 prospective candidates
    • 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.

    Contacting Us
    Call, fax, write, email. We'd love to talk about your project.

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