CareerXroads®Update - January 2011

By Gerry Crispin, SPHR and Mark Mehler

Since 1996 our Update has been published 10-12 times each year and aims to share commentary, observations, perspectives and data we come across during our staffing adventures. We hope you continue to enjoy it and pass it on to friends. All are invited to register for the Update for free. Coupled with our Bellwether, a provocative monthly look at trends we share with CareerXroads Colloquium members, we are always willing to challenge the accepted wisdom or poke a little fun at the staffing industry and ourselves in the process.
We invite you to keep in touch and join us during the year at the various conferences where we speak or simply attend.

Your Brand and Your Firm's Brand Are Subject To Similar Standards

We recently read a memorable Harvard Business Review blog written by Dorie Clark last November, How to Reinvent Your Personal Brand. The blog has acquired more than 60 comments. Many of them are excellent additions to the conversation.

We think that Dorie's "5 steps" are as relevant to your firm's attempt to create a transparent and authentic message for job seekers as they are for personal branding:

  • What's Your Destination? First, you need to develop a detailed understanding of where you want to go, and the knowledge and skills necessary to get there.
  • Leverage Your Points of Difference. What makes you different? That's what people will remember, and you can use it to your advantage.
  • Develop a Narrative. You need to develop a coherent narrative arc that explains to people - in a nice, simple way so they can't miss it - exactly how your past fits into the present. (It's our opinion that all our experiences actually have a common thread).
  • Reintroduce Yourself. That means a concerted effort to phone or email everyone on your list - individually - to let them know about your new direction and, where appropriate, ask for their help, advice, or business. (In other words, leverage the power of your network whether online or in person!)
  • Prove Your Worth. That's where blogs, podcasts, video casts, and other forms of social media come in. It's critical to let potential customers see what you're about and test drive your approach before they make a large commitment. (We've said it before, use the power of social media and Web 2.0 to establish your brand, because that is the FIRST place people will go nowadays to "see who you are")

Two Kinds of Recruiters in the World. One Sells. So Does the Other - Just Differently

A blog entitled, What If Tom Hanks had Starred in Field of Dreams?, by Jason Pankow on Workforce Management's Fistful of Talent told the story about a candidate who pulled herself out of the middle of a recruiting process because "she didn't feel they were recruiting her." Jason went on to illustrate his learning from the story - that there are two kinds of candidates, "those who are sourced and those who apply." It was a good story and a good post but, as stories go we didn't see it the same way.

We read the same story and thought it was about two types of recruiters. One recruiter believes in his product and that everyone would benefit from it and, therefore sells the way Jason described. The other recruiter also believes in her product but recognizes it isn't for everyone - even if they are the most qualified - and helps the selected candidate make the best career decision in the context of where they are and where they want to go with their work and their life.

One recruiter overcomes objections, the other explores them fully.

One recruiter seldom loses the sale and if he does, he simply moves on knowing it's the candidate's loss. The other recruiter loses more sales but knows she has added a long-term connection, a potential referral and a future prospect.

The recruiter who values the sale because he/she has determined it is the right thing for the candidate will make more sales in the short term (and probably more money long term) but will always have to invest the same effort over and over to convince quality candidates that now is the time - even if the candidate is clearly uncertain. It's a paternal approach that will never measure success by what happens downstream to the new employee i.e. 3 months, 6 months or even 5 years. Success is in making the sale - after all it is on that which he is measured and rewarded.

The recruiter whose hires result from insisting on informed choice will lose more top candidates, frustrate more hiring managers and fill fewer positions but, will eventually discover two overwhelming advantages:

  • 1. Over years the best quality candidates will surface with less effort and the recruiter will see their profession as recruiting (as opposed to sales).
  • 2. The return on the hires they do make could be (though often isn't) measured in the hires' long-term performance and retention (as opposed to butts-in-the-seat). And that return will be significantly higher than the recruiter who views his job as sales (not to mention the difference she makes in the lives of the people she has touched.)

Too often we work for employers who value the immediate sale based on whether the best candidate can perform rather than whether the best candidate will choose to perform. To us the story Jason wrote illustrates the difference between those who view their profession as sales and their job description as recruiting versus those who view their profession as recruiting - and just one of their skills as sales.

Recruiters Rethink Online Playbook: Shifting Sources of Hiring

In this recent article looking for new angles to describe social media's impact, the Wall Street Journal has apparently just uncovered what the Staffing industry has known for years: that investment in recruitment sources is moving out of traditional job boards and into more 'direct sourcing' tools such as Facebook, Linkedin and the like.

The question is whether we are talking seismic replacement or simply the natural evolution that has been underway for two decades. We believe the author is accurate about the underlying reasons for why sources of hire are shifting to incorporate social media by quoting an SAIC staffing leader as saying, "It's almost a throwback to the old, dial-for-dollars method of recruiting. We need to reach candidates earlier, before they're being pursued by competitors."

However, the article is too certain in tolling the bell on the demise of job boards. It fails to offer any balanced comments to its substitution premise. Smaller firms, for example, typically lack the resources or the brand recognition to build and manage relationship pipelines (or to even support dedicated internal sourcing activities). The Corporate Executive Board was noted in the article as saying that "24% of (large) companies (they surveyed) plan to decrease their usage of third-party employment websites and job boards this year" and that "80% plan to increase their use of job board alternative methods."

The article fails to describe the scale of job board, or for that matter social media hiring to the recruiting function. Neither $ invested nor % source of hire is ever mentioned. Lots of smoke- not much fire.

The Corporate Executive Board figures do match up with our Source of Hire whitepapers from last year and the year before showing that the shift to Web 2.0 tools is not a recent trend at all but a continuing change that has been in play for some time. Their figures don't take into account the changes in job sites that are becoming more social and social networking sites that are adding more job services.

This year, we've asked more questions on this topic and hope to have a little more detail in how firms really are rethinking their playbook by the end of February. If you haven't yet completed our 2011 Source of Hire survey (it is designed only for larger firms), please consider doing so. We'll be wrapping it up in the next week.

DirectEmployers Association Launches .jobs Universe

The DirectEmployers Association launched .jobs Universe this past month. Clicking on and watching the ".jobs value proposition" offers a good look at the DE members view but, in our opinion, misses what is of value to the most important stakeholder, the job seeker.

We think this solid ERE article by John Zappe does a good job describing the events that got .jobs to this point but more analysis and a deeper conversation is needed. We believe our comments at the end of the article (shown below) will determine the initiative's success:

(We're) not surprised there is little comment here John and also not surprised that the underlying value prop for .jobs continues to go un-noticed. Far be it for (us) to rehash 5 years of discussion. Given today's realities:

  • 1. (We) applaud Direct Employers for persisting with their strategy (which we happen to think might actually work).
  • 2. In executing on their strategy (we) also applaud them for finding a simple means to distribute jobs to the .jobs domain in a way that is transparent to the employers who choose to have it done for them.
  • 3. (We) think the major value prop (why the job seeker should care) has not been part of the message to date and employers haven't been informed either. That is a gap DE has to work on. Nothing changes until the message to job seekers (which we've previously written about ad nauseum) is articulated, sent and, received.
  • 4. Finally, the test of success is still a ways down the road. It will come when a job seeker goes to a search engine, types in "I want to apply for high-speed packaging engineering jobs in New York" and, the first page of results includes:
    - a link to or a job on
    - a link to
    - a link to
    - a link to
    - a link to
    - a link to - - -you get the idea
    - AND, in the margin on the results page they (the jobseeker) sees a paid ad with a brand message that resonates around WHY job leads on the .jobs domain are different.

If #4 never happens all the angst will be for naught. No one will be talking about .jobs five years from now. If #4 does happen, it will be too late. The game will have changed and the chips will certainly fall where they may.

Personally, (while DE doesn't have any incentive, given the level of discourse to do this), it's still (our) opinion that a consortium of stakeholders interested in participating in the evolution of .jobs as intended - more as partners and equals to DE than as competitors (perhaps with DE having some veto protection) would change the outcome or at least speed it up. Seems to (us) a positive spin of industry players supporting a shared vision would serve to prove the concept faster and benefit everyone.

McKinsey Reports Web 2.0 Technologies are Returning Significant Benefits

According to McKinsey's latest report, The Rise of the Networked Enterprise, more than 50% of the 3,000+ executives in responding firms reported increased usage of more than a dozen Web 2.0 technologies in their businesses (and of these respondents reported employee usages ranging from 50% to 70 %.)

More importantly, as usage increases, measurable benefits to internal, customer and partner stakeholders (access to information, reduced costs and increased income) are also rising.

As firms moved from early phases in their adoption to fully integrated day-to-day web 2.0, enterprise changes like lower level decision making, increased collaboration across organizational silos, and work performed by a mix of internal and external stakeholders became very evident. The report suggests to us that resistance to Web 2.0 is crumbling and perhaps reports like these, shared internally, will hasten the inevitable - or help you find a place that already gets it.

Establishing Candidate Standards in Assessment

Dr. Charles Handler (Rockethire) offers a refreshing point of view (at least for most of the PhDs we come across) about all those prescreening questions, personality exams and selection tests. He even takes it a step or two beyond our point of view (and we thought we were on the edge.)

In his recent ERE article, A Pre-Employment Assessment Candidate Bill of Rights, Charles raised the point that we too often focus on how we use the data we collect and suggested the much more important question is "what about the actual people whom companies are asking to take the assessment?"

His answer includes the following eight candidate "rights":

  • Candidates have the right to a proper introduction to the assessment and why they are being asked to take it.
  • Candidates have the right to an assessment experience that is of a reasonable length.
  • Candidates have the right to know where the assessment fits within the overall hiring process, and what they can expect next.
  • Candidates have the right to a good user experience.
  • Candidates have the right to technical support, no matter when they are applying.
  • Candidates have the right to assessment content that appears job related.
  • Candidates have the right to an enjoyable assessment experience.
  • Candidates have the right to know what to expect in terms of feedback from the assessment.

We think this article is a classic addition to the conversation around the candidate experience (even though we can't quite see 'enjoyment' as a right.). We also view the last point, knowing what to expect in terms of feedback, as not going far enough. In point of fact, we think for conversation purposes, it is better to describe Charles' proposals as professional base-line standards or practices adopted by best in class firms.

"Finally, Job Candidates Catch a Break!"

For years, our advice to job seekers (and we bet yours too) has included suggestions about how to stay in touch with all those folks you are networking with who have agreed to support you in your job hunt. Keeping daily journals, tagging names in Outlook or on Linkedin, periodic status emails, etc.

As Bill Kutik's excellent HR Executive review notes - new service Startwire gives job seekers the means to help manage a job network and much more

Equally as important, Startwire is evidence of what we see as an expanding new class of Apps For Candidates - free or low cost mashups of online tools to improve a job seeker's ability to find relevant data, engage employees as referrals and organize support for their candidacy.

Slowly, active AND passive job seekers are recognizing the importance of managing and exploring career options. We predict specialized Web 2.0 capabilities for job seekers will explode in 2011.

We would like to know about the tools you think are empowering job seekers and balancing the employment equation and we promise to find an appropriate way to list these soon in an online directory.

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The Staffing Strategy Connection
By Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler
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