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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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(October 1, 1999) The name is a clear play for the top of the list at Yahoo and other directories. Following the now ancient yellow pages strategy for naming a company (do whatever it takes to be the first on the list), 1-jobs.com is emerging as a minor force with a groundswell of momentum. The core company is a job fair producer who appears to be copying the playbook established by Westech.

1-jobs.com is owned and operated by 1st Communications, an Ohio based Trade Show and Events Management Company. 1st Communications has had the foresight to open an adjacent advertising agency (a step we're certain is in the future of a variety of online job services). The company seems to be coherently organized around the principle of providing as much value as possible to its customers. This stands in stark opposition to the widespread strategy of amping up the equity value of a company by focusing on the Internet component. Again, this is a trait shared by Westech.

1-jobs.com appears to be having the same impact on the parent company that VJF and Monster have had on theirs. The exploding value and utility of the web endeavor, originally conceived of as an ancillary function, is modifying the company's perception of itself.

Although the transformation is difficult to manage, it's an enviable position. By investing in the web enterprise, 1st Communications is allowing the market to drive its evolution. It's a model worth considering.

- John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Recruiter's Dream

(September 30, 1999) Hype is easy. Delivery is hard. Times are changing. Differentiation is muddled by warp speed development. Have you noticed the incredible sameness, from naming to features and claims, in the various offerings in our Industry?. Part of it is that real innovation happens slowly. Part of it is that it's incredibly easy to copy a good idea in the web era. At least, it's easy to claim to have copied a good idea. In the final analysis, all commerce, electronic or otherwise, boils down to customer service, the transaction itself and relationships. The technology is just a way to facilitate things.

Today, we got a piece of email that oozed hype without follow through. We almost trashed it because it was titled "The Answer to A Recruiter's Dream". With that much promise, we figured that there was little chance for meaningful delivery.

I know this may seem unusual, but I had to get this news to you ASAP. On October 19-20, in San Jose, at the Convention Center, approximately 30,000 technical professionals (with Engineering and IS experience) will be gathering to witness the display of the ultimate in newest electronic technology. The event is called Wescon -- one of the largest technology events in the country. Why should this interest you in Human Resources? Well, for the first time in Wescon's 48 year history, -- and because they realize the huge shortage of qualified technical professionals in the workforce today -- they've decided to let companies like yours come to the event to recruit these professionals!!

When informed of this opportunity, companies are immediately signing to participate. To name just a few, Lockheed-Martin, Computer Associates, Harris Microwave, United Defense, Motorola, and NEC Electronics. Oh, sure, they've participated in local Job Fairs, and advertised in everything from classified to the Internet, but NOTHING, NO ONE, has ever been able to assure them that they will be in the middle (literally -- every attendee must pass through hiring companies area) of thousands of prospective employees!! And to increase the attractiveness to companies such as yours, Wescon will be inviting all technical professionals in the entire Silicon Valley area to attend the recruiting event, thus joining the thousands of others coming locally and from around the country!

My company, PSI, has been honored by Wescon to produce the recruiting aspect of the event. Time and space is running out, that's why I'm sending you this e-mail. Don't miss this amazing recruiting opportunity. Call or e-mail me NOW for more information!

Mike Hall, President
1-800-390-5561 ext. 107

We don't often gush, but this seems to represent a sea change. It looks like lots of people are beginning to see the incredible value of our marketplace. In our opinion, a conference represents a better recruiting opportunity than any artificially engineered job fair. We bet that there will be a rush to use this precedent by the growing job board / applicant tracking companies. The announcement could easily be the first in an astonishing wave of unexpected partnerships.

- John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Applicant Tracking Wants To Be Free

(September 29, 1999) The term rolls off the tongues of the techno-weenies as if anyone who didn't understand the jargon was "so yesterday". Application Service Provider (or ASP if you wish to appear really in the know) is the revitalization of a reasonably old idea: software leasing. Everywhere we look ASP companies are popping up to peddle a range of business solutions (generally with some degree of Internetishness).

Here's the deal: Buy now, pay later.

ASPs lease software in a variety of ways. Some offer fixed monthly rates. Some offer variable rates based on volume (a more sensible approach). Some offer pure Internet solutions (all you need is a standard web browser). Some have just bastardized their old client-server software (you need their browser). Fairly obviously, the pure Internet solutions (which allow you to upgrade your browser when Microsoft or Netscape release a new version) are infinitely preferable. The pure Internet solutions are often called "thin client solutions" which means that you can use your own team to manage your internal configurations.

So, an ASP who offers a "thin client solution" is going to be a lower cost answer without an inherent compromise in quality. The web, in general, is a thin client solution.

The applicant tracking software marketplace (with its 70 vendors) is offering lots of hypey claims about the dawning of the age of ASPs. Some of the solutions are thin client. Most are Fat. The rest of the HR software industry is rushing in this direction. The claims are so intense and repetitive that you need a guidebook to survive the jungle of competing claims.

One thing, however, is clear.

Applicant Tracking Systems will be free to the majority of their users.

Two simple trends drive this apparently radical notion. First of all, there are now at least 10 players in the Electronic Recruiting Market who have adequate capital to purchase the entire applicant tracking industry. The tiny little niche is unlikely to draw capital in sufficient quantities to compete with the Electronic Recruiting Explosion. Secondly, anyone who uses any Electronic Job Advertising needs some form of applicant tracking and screening mechanism.

Typically, recruiting shops that use Electronic Recruiting (the others are still asleep) have two major complaints:

  • The sheer volume of resumes creates an administrative nightmare
  • The quality of those resumes is extremely low
There are two sources of the problem:
  • Job Ads (postings) are so badly written that they do not convey a useful sense of the job. Therefore, it is easier for a job hunter to simply send lots of copies of a resume.
  • Candidate quality is declining. That's really just another way of saying that we're in a permanent labor shortage.
These two simple dynamics conspire to create a permanent feature in our landscape. The flow of data into HR systems is going to be noisy, cluttered and hard to sift. While it's a perfect environment for deploying an applicant tracking product, the economics work against the tiny companies who occupy the space.

If you have to use an applicant tracking system to make sense out of the data from Job Boards, they will ultimately begin to offer them as a part of the basic package (many already offer simple tools). As that transition takes hold, the applicant tracking companies will begin to see the job boards as their customers. The deals will center around volume service delivery.

So while Applicant Tracking Systems are likely to become free (or very, very inexpensive), it's a great time to be an entrepreneurial Manager in the industry. It's a typical web paradox. While they will become free to their users, they are likely to become more profitable.

- John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.


(September 28, 1999) Don Ramer is a surprise. The CEO of RecruitUSA, he seems to be able to invest every ounce of his metabolism in the telling of a story. Over dinner last night, he told us the one about how he'd kept his company under our "radar" for the past four years. Homespun and decidedly Minnesotan in attitude, Ramer's fresh scrubbed enthusiasm was a refreshing change.

We talked, at length, about our shared passions for customer service. Ramer understands, in a disarmingly simple way, that Electronic Recruiting is about relationships. He struck us as profoundly committed to his customers' success. He seemed to understand that long lasting web enterprises mimic the radical decentralization of the medium. As we wandered through stories about helping this or that customer to make a breakthrough, it became clear that Ramer was the kind of CEO you'd find cleaning up the office on a Sunday morning.

RecruitUSA began its existence as a part of the fabled HelpWantedUSA, an early AOL enterprise that grew to have 150 reps around the country (big even by today's standards). Along the way, Ramer and his partners discovered that the posting process was the biggest near-term bugaboo. As a result, the company began working on its flagship Postmaster product. Today. the product offers job posting distribution to over 500 sites and single invoice billing for 10 of the better known "premium" sites. Ramer claims that he has kept the company low profile while he perfected the business. We like the strategy.

Low profile means a "book" of over 500 clients (suggesting $6M to $7M in annual revenue). It means lots of happy customers and a growing list of critical business alliances. It means staying out of the public eye unless it serves your customers. It means a number of great stories about the alliances that didn't work.

If you continue to have problems with the administrative end of job posting, you might give RecruitUSA a once over. From what we could tell in one conversation, the company is committed to its customers' success.

- John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Wet Feet

(September 27, 1999) Gary Alpert and his team occupy the fourth floor of the Van Husen Building on Mission Street in San Francisco. As one of the two providers of "inside skinny", the company (Wet Feet Press) has been able to market and deploy a more complex form of Internet Recruitment advertising.

Rather than the typical job ad, Wet Feet offers a standard format for telling a company's story. The product (they call it the Q & A) gives a Recruiting customer a way to communicate more broadly with interested potential candidates. The approach is similar to techies.com who develop a multimedia package and then drive traffic to it.

Key to the Wet Feet's success is its market position. As a provider of "unbiased" company research, a certain range of Job Hunters (those who research key companies in advance of the interview) look to the firm for an increasingly sophisticated package of information. In a nutshell, this means that Wet Feet's candidate acquisition costs are lower even though their product is higher cost.

Like Vault.com, Alpert's team is exploiting a key dimension of the web. By being able to aggregate an audience of sophisticated research oriented job hunters, the companies can provide a stream of information that is profoundly alternative. Both companies face an interesting challenge. Many of their potential customers have traditional concepts of public relations and marketing. Negative information, in the old model, is something to be quashed, not purchased.

Operating under the rubrics "an educated customer is a good customer" and "retention is rooted in good employment decisions", Wet Feet is breaking conceptual ground. While it is hard for many customers to accept that the game has changed, their sales growth depends (to a degree) on their ability to explain it as a good thing.

It is.

In an older time, a company's marketing message to potential recruits was monolithic and positive. In our era of labor shortages, fuller disclosure works for everyone in the transaction. It is better for a candidate to know that high pay comes with requirements for strict conformity, long hours and lots of travel in advance of the decision to join.

A coming dimension in Electronic Recruiting will be a variety of approaches to "cultural fit". The idea is that certain types of people do better in certain types of companies. This logical notion has been studied in depth at the major Universities. Several working, validated models are available waiting for deployment. More effective and focused than the early 80s versions (like the Meyers-Briggs), these tools have been demonstrated as retention enhancers. Alpert and his team are leading the charge to use this more sophisticated form of Recruiting.

- John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

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