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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


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(June 17, 1999) Today's Recruiting models are driven by the search for targets of opportunity. Lack of prior planning keeps Recruiters operating in an extremely reactive mode. The early successes of web based Recruiting were due, in part, to the fact that temporary shifts in visibility made some kinds of Recruiting easier for a moment. The combination of early victories and a predisposition towards quick solutions conspire to keep an effective long term approach out of reach.

After the American Civil War, sharecropping was common in the war ravaged Southern economy. Landlords provided land, seed, and credit. Sharecroppers, initially former slaves, contributed labor and received a share of the crop's value, minus their debt to the landlord. The system's abuses included emphasis on single cash crops, high interest charges, and cropper irresponsibility. The system further eroded the South's chances for a rapid recovery by ruining the land and delaying the investment required for long term infrastructure development.

Like today's predominant Recruiting model, sharecropping focused on quick turn opportunities and near term cash. The system provided disincentives for long term planning, maintenance of assets and stable supply management. The result, in a very short time, was an acceleration of the decline begun by the war. The South's recovery took much, much longer than it should have.

While aggressive direct marketing will always have a role in the Recruiting marketplace, the demographics demand a much more substantial approach. Recruiting is more than the picking of low hanging fruit. It's more than simply filling the immediate opening. Responsible Recruiting involves both filling the immediate need and ensuring the long term supply.

It's very early in the next generation of Recruiting. Harvesting techniques, driven by the Internet, are changing. Giddy with the results, the early entrants appear to be overlooking the next problem. After the new land has been aggressively farmed, how do you ensure the viability of the next crop? We think the farming metaphor, with its obvious extensions into crop rotation, stock management, land preparation and maintenance, tilling, allowing a field to lie fallow and survival in times of drought bear some reflection.

While the correlation isn't perfect, it is clear that today's Internet Recruiting models resemble sharecropping. The consequences of sharecropping (short term gain an=t the expense of long term success) are worth considering carefully.

- John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Fertilize First, Farm Later

(June 16, 1999) The economics of the web are somehow counterintuitive. In spite of the dramatic hoopla associated with a few high visibility net stocks, the fundamental rule is that you have to invest before you take your payoff.

This really isn't a new idea. As long as there have been salespeople, at least a few members of our species have understood that relationships are built on trust and loyalty. You give before you get. You give what they want before you get what you want.

In a different time, this was known as "having manners".

In the digital world, sales and marketing are a deeply personal responsibility. While it is socially acceptable to denigrate the efforts of marketing and sales people, in many ways they hold the keys to functioning communications processes. The biggest development problem, we think, is not technical. It involves teaching people the things that make great sales people great.

The ancient adage goes "it is better to give than to receive". The updated version is "What goes around comes around". These are not empty platitudes, they are directions for operating a web recruiting business.

Recruiting, throughout its history has been a reactive profession rooted in seizing immediate opportunities. While those tactics were effective in an era of overabundant employees, they are dysfunctional in today's environment. While we expect to see ever more frenzied "sharecropping" in the near term, the Recruiters who survive the early years of the shortage will be prudent operators who invest heavily in their networks.

- John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.


(June 15, 1999) We always leave our long conversations with Net Temps energized about the future of our industry. Net temps, as you probably know, focuses their service on the temporary and contract sector. Relatively alone in the market (there are a few copycat competitors), the company has bootstrapped itself into a widely recognized member of the 10 most trafficked employment websites. While we are increasingly unable to clearly distinguish between third arty firms and their customers (or temporary workers and permanent workers, for that matter), we appreciate the driving focus that is the core of the Net Temps business model.

In their next product release (which completes the webification of their service, they are introducing a feature that will soon become a standard on any competitive website (in or out of the contract sector). Web Doctor, the new feature, will analyze a job posting and make improvement suggestions. It turns out that a certain range of mistake is predictable and fixable. The development of this service is another way in which Net Temps continues to communicate its concern for customer success.

Ultimately, some service will emerge (it ought to be a part of any operation that claims to facilitate distribution of job ads) that goes beyond the peculiarities of one service or another. We're tempted to expect that the targeted posting operations (IIRC, Webhire, CareerCast, Best Internet Recruiter and so on) will all follow suit and help their customers optimize their postings for the various places the data flows.

We've come to expect that Net Temps will set the pace in certain areas offering technical solutions to operational problems. It's a nice move.

- John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Dull Cutting Edge

(June 14, 1999) Always a sucker for a gimmick, we were privately thrilled to get a little Swiss Army Knife from a TMP booth we passed by at a trade show. It was one of those neat little tools with scissors, a toothpick, a knife and a nail file, all in a tiny package. we planned a special home for it in the IBN cool stuff archives.

It was reassuring. With all of the spending that TMP is doing on the candidate side, we were glad to see that they were extending some advertising value to their clients. For a moment, the company went up in our estimation. Like most, we have an unconscious desire to rank highly the companies that treat us better. Then, the proverbial rubber met the road.

At the midpoint of the road trip from hell, we've been in 7 cities, 8 client offices, two trade shows, one corporate yacht, 9 airplanes, 6 hotels, 20 restaurants, 15 taxis, three rental cars, one desert, and the phone in between. It means that the briefcases, suitcases, laptops, cameras and other assorted gear are a mess. Work on the airplanes is essential. (The forgoing litany is a public excuse for our current email delinquencies).

Anyhow, on a recent flight we had to open one of those miserable bubble wrap plastic thingies. You know the ones. The encase any retail product from a CD Walkman to batteries. You have to cut them open with, what else, scissors or a knife. This one contained batteries.

Gleefully, we scrounged through the trade show accumulations to find our TMP knife (pity the poor flier in the middle seat as we reorganized the accumulated debris). On finding the TMP knife, we pried open the scissors and began cutting. They broke on the first attempt.

We'll let them know about the quality problem, we thought. If we got bad scissors, someone else might have. They should know.

Undeterred (and desperate for the batteries), we pried open the knife. After a minute of sawing with no effect, it became clear that the battery package wasn't going to get opened. So, we occupied ourselves with a closer look at the knife.

It wasn't Swiss after all....A cheap Chinese copy. Closer investigation showed that the blades were so dull and the construction so shoddy that the tool was useless for its intended purpose.

Hmmmm, we thought, now there's a good subliminal marketing message for the largest Internet Recruiting player...."Our cutting edge is dull".

- John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

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