Thursday, August 31, 2006

Another Shameless Plug For Talent ROAR

So, what are you doing three weeks from today, on Thursday, September 21? Not sitting in another boring meeting I hope. What if I told you that for only $225 ($200 for WTPF members), you could spend a day at the beautiful Gannett HQ Building in Tysons Corner, where you can listen to and interact with Recruiting/HR experts (such as Lou Adler, Max Brown, Gary Cluff, Bob Corlett, Ed Newman, Hector Valez, Burgess Levin...) and be exposed to best practices from Booz Allen, IBM, Scitor and more! Not to mention you'll have the opportunity to see a presentation on the new generation of recruiting tools by Scott Kahle and myself. Just a couple hundred bucks?!?! What a bargain!

This is an opportunity not to be missed. Join Recruiting/HR professionals from across the National Capital Area at Talent ROAR, where in addition to listening to the experts, there will be networking opportunities galore, opportunities to interact with various HR/Recruiting vendors (including YRCI, JWT, SilkRoad, Market10, ERE Media, TMP, Virtual Edge and MetLife), and of course, you will get fed well too!

Don't wait any longer, register today!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

DC Area Residents Have 2nd Longest Commute

As discussed here a couple months back, the growth this region has experienced has pushed many people and jobs out to the fringes. Combined with a lack of necessary improvements in the infrastructure, the DC Region has maintained a reputation for having one fo the worst commutes in the country. Well, according to an article in today's Post, we officially have the 2nd worst commute in the country, 33 minutes on average each way in fact. That sounds about right as that is close to my average commute as well.

The long commutes combined with increased commuting costs make this a major issue for employers and job seekers alike. It will be interesting to watch this over the next couple of years as factors such as gas prices and housing costs fluctuate, and as major road construction projects including the Mixing Bowl and Wilson Bridge are completed.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Comfort of Connecting: Part 1

I consider myself a pretty good networker today, but that hasn't always been the case. Up until a few years back, I wasn't the type of person who could 'work a room'. I didn't always feel right approaching people I didn't know with a 'Cold' introduction. Simply put, at the time, I just wasn't comfortable with it. And I didn't have to in order to be a successful Corporate Recruiter. In the late 90s, I was doing mostly college recruiting, where engaging students, faculty and staff was easy. In the early part of this decade, I was with one of the last local telecom companies that was still expanding (at the same time most of the major telecoms were tanking). The toughest challenge was sorting through the hundreds of applicants to identify the best-of-the-best.

Essentially, I didn't have to reach out, the appropriate quantity and quality of candidates were coming to me! That changed however when I took my current job. When I joined my current employer, I learned quickly that the candidates we need are typically at a high level in skill, experience and credentials, and very short in supply. In order to be successful in this hiring environment, I had to step out of my comfort zone. Relying solely on job boards and resume databases wasn't going to cut it anymore. Technology has helped, LinkedIn for one is a fabulous tool for virtualizing one's immediate network, thus giving you access to a new, vast expanded network. But for the most part, it really just took a couple successes to build up my confidence and comfort-level in reaching out to my network and 'warm leads' when trying to identify candidates.

I'm starting a series here today related to the comfort issue when it comes to networking and connecting. Successful Referral Recruiting is predicated not only on the comfort and ability of the Recruiter to reach out and recruit via their network, but almost more importantly, on the comfort level of that Recruiter's immediate and extended network in providing the quality leads and referrals necessary to be successful.

In the meantime, I would like to invite my readers here to comment about how you initially 'stepped out of your skin' to become a more effective networker. I think we all can learn from each other's experiences, especially those who are still struggling with this issue.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

"I can't recruit from my ATS!"

At a local Recruiter networking meeting recently I heard an attendee state "I can't recruit from my ATS!" I've been thinking about that statement alot lately, and the more I think about it, and the more I talk to Recruiters in other organizations, it makes me understand just how pervasive this problem is. Over the past 9 years, I have used three different ATSs, including one that was homegrown, Peopleclick, and currently, Brassring. As much as I have thought that these ATSs could be better, I know it could be much worse. I've heard time and time again horror stories from other Recruiters who share the sentiments of the Recruiter at that networking meeting. Or even worse, I've heard from those who still have no ATS at all. GASP! The thought of no technology just sends shivers down my spine!

John Sullivan's article yesterday on ERE illustrates the shortcomings and lack of new innovation related to much of the technology available today. Check out the comments too, especially Tim Nelson's, great stuff!OK, so the technology is far from ideal right now. But are you maximizing the use of the technology you have available to you today? It is my strong belief that the technology available now can enable, empower and engage Recruiters to be more efficient and effective in their jobs. You should be able to easily move candidates through a work flow and share their resumes and relevant info with hiring decision makers. You should be able to find candidates in your database through targeted searches, and use the ATS to communicate and with those candidates. You should be able to establish re-engagement strategies with prior unsuccessful candidates, create communication strategies and develop relationships that will pay off in the future. You should be able to store information on candidates so you are able to know what is happening (or has happened) with a candidate and when. You should be able to produce powerful metrics on a variety of business-critical topics with just a few clicks. Often, it is not the technology, but the end-users that are the problem. For those who have the best intentions and wish to apply technology, if the proper resources are not applied, or implementations are not well thought out, disaster will strike. Several years back, I saw Michael McNeal speak, and he had a term for just that, "Fast Bad". As much as technology can empower and enable, it can also cripple. Having an ATS, and not being able to recruit from it is "Fast Bad", and that can result from a poor system, a poor implementation, or most often, a combination of both.
Over the past couple of years, we have begun to see a new wave of recruiting technologies emerge to challenge the job boards. We have yet to see many new truly innovative ATS solutions however. Maybe the first step is to stop thinking of these as "Applicant Tracking Systems", and start to think of them more as CRM-related systems, which is the direction we really need to start heading. Instead of ATS, what if the term for this technology was redefined using the acronym that Gary Cluff (my boss, mentor and master of new acronyms) coined: RIMS (Recruitment Information Management System). IMO, "ATS" represents transactional technology, RIMS on the other hand represents a multi-functional, interactive candidate management tool.

In summary, maximizing your effectiveness with today's recruiting technology is critical to any organization's talent acquisition success. The type of innovation that Dr. Sullivan suggests is tied to our demands on the vendor community to innovate and upgrade now. The question of course is who in the vendor community will take on such a risky (and costly) challenge? Whoever does and is successful will undoubtedly spark innovation (and hopefully consolidation) across the vendor community, which is something that we should all benefit from.

Friday, August 18, 2006

How Well Do You Know Your Talent Base?

Kevin Wheeler's article on ERE this week inspired me to write a about my own views on hiring from within. Kevin is right in proposing that companies need to make more of an effort to develop their own and make internal movement easier, rather than look outside first when filling a hiring need.

Part of the problem is that companies too often take the same "post-and-pray" strategy to filling jobs internally as they do externally. Sure, in some cases, internal candidates are 'encouraged' to apply for certain jobs. But more often than not, if companies want to fill jobs internally, they take the passive approach and wait to see who is interested, rather than taking the more proactive approach of leveraging their talent in the roles and on the projects that they are best suited for and are most critical.

So in order to do this, you need to A) know what talent you have in-house, and B) have a culture where talent is 'owned' at the macro, rather than at the micro-level. I have been fortunate in my career to be at organizations that understood this and took proactive steps to leverage their talent more proactively.

Several years ago, I was with a company that had just been through a major merger, and one of the first things that the new organization wanted to do was to get a handle on was succession planning. We created management org charts across the organization and asked each part of the organization to populate the charts with the incumbents, those who could step into these roles next immediately, and those who were 2-5 years away from being ready. It was a shock to many how many 'succession holes' there were in these charts. The next step was to populate a searchable database with the internal resumes of those in management roles, those who were identified as 'successors' and those who were identified as high potentials (with minority/female hi-pots identified as well). The goal was to fill in those 'succession holes' first of all, but also to have an internal talent database to pull from when future management roles became available. Within a couple weeks of completing this project, a new senior management position opened up, and by going to this new database, we were able to identify a candidate in the organization who was ideal for the role. Had we not had this database, we could only hope that this person would of actually stepped forward to be considered, or we would have likely had to look outside

At my last employer, we took a similar talent inventory of the existing staff. The organization and the industry at large was undergoing massive change, and we knew that to support this change, we had to know what talent we had in-house and how to leverage it better. We even tied the skills and experiences of our staff to a competency model to hopefully make better matches between new opportunities and the staff we had. We found in a number of cases that we had employees who had talents, skills and experiences that could be applied across a number of different parts of the organization.

At my current employer, we do not have a formal talent inventory/database like the ones I most recently mentioned, but we don't really need one. It is part of the culture that people move around to support different projects, especially if their time isn't being 100% utilized. Employees are able to 'brand' themselves effectively enough internally that their expertize can be effectively tapped for support on relevant projects as they become available. An internal posting system also exists where short-term projects are advertised and employees who are looking to pick up extra work and/or make an additional contribution can make a match. This system was actually created and is managed by a line organization, not HR!

Yes, you should always try to look internally first, but in many organizations, that can be difficult to do and may even be discouraged. There are times when you have to look externally, especially when the company is moving into new markets and/or new product/service-lines. Most organizations (especially those that are large and segmented) however simply know what they have talent and skill-wise in-house. If they knew what they had, and could leverage that talent more effectively, they could fill jobs faster, at a lower cost and with a shorter learning-curve as a result. To accomplish this, organizations can only benefit themselves strategically when they A) invest in the development of their staff, B) have a strong grasp on what talent they currently have internally, and C) have a culture that encourages the type of internal movement that benefits the organization as a whole. BTW, Ed Newman wrote a related article on this subject on ERE in 2005 that's worth reading again.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

College Networking Resource Group Meeting - 8/9/06

The DC-Area based College Networking Resource Group (CNRG) held it's latest meeting yesterday at the Beers & Cutler office in McLean, VA. The CNRG was founded over a decade ago by Seth Feit, Gary Cluff, Al Jones, and others to share college recruiting best practices amongst top companies in the area. Much has changed in the past decade, Seth moved to Charlotte, Mark Clark took over, then he moved to Charlotte (something about the Queen City...), we went from boom times, to bust, and back to 'boom' again. Through it all, the CNRG has continued to meet three times a year and is lead today by Jim Donnelly of HPTI. I myself was a regular attendee through 2000 when I left BAE to go to Intelsat, where I did not do as much college recruiting. I first met Gary at the CNRG, and several years later, he ended up hiring me! The power of networking in action!

With my current employer, I'm doing some strategic work in college recruiting, as it has always remained a passion of mine. I made it back to my first CNRG meeting in a few years last August, and attended again yesterday. There were over 25 college recruiting professionals in attendance, representing such major local/national employers as Booz Allen, Freddie Mac, PA Consulting, Corporate Executive Board, Capital One, AOL, Kearney, HNS, CoStar, ICF, CGI, and the hosts Beers & Cutler and HPTI. These meetings have always followed a loose agenda with a very open sharing of ideas and best practices. Some highlights included:
  • Most recruiting organizations are still finding challenges in getting their managers to commit to building a bench, focus their efforts early in the season, and commit to hiring goals.
  • Hiring college students on F-1 visas is a major challenge for many.
  • Most companies are using alumni and returning interns for their on-campus recruiting efforts.
  • One company offered scholarship opportunities to entice students to return the following summer.
  • Several companies focused on providing Interns with offers before they head back for their Senior year.
  • The topic of decision dates was interesting. Employers were allowing 1-4 weeks for students to make decisions on offers. What was surprising was that some schools were now requiring a one month offer decision minimum, and others were not allowing companies to extend offers until after December 1.
  • Some companies were hosting College Days at their sites, ranging from half-day to multi-day events to include a social event/dinner and interviews.
  • One company was using Yahoo Groups to communicate with students.
  • AOL was the only company in attendance that was using blogs, MySpace and Facebook in their college recruiting efforts. I was a bit surprised that no one was even considering using these resources, nor taking advantage of other relevant technologies such as Podcasts.

Overall, not much has changed over the years. College recruiting efforts for most everyone in attendance will either remain steady, or grow. Competition is hot, maybe not as hot as the late '90s, but certainly hotter than earlier this decade. There was alot of energy in the room yesterday, alot of sharing, and alot of common issues and concerns. It's always been a great way to kick-off the college recruiting season, so everyone, on your mark, get set...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

So, what are the real answers, Ben?

"So, what are the real answers, Ben?" an anonymous commenter posted here recently. Good question. I certainly don't claim to have "the" real answers, anyone who does claim that is selling you something. There certainly alot of good ideas out there, unfortunately good ideas in our business don't always equate to implemented solutions.

At any rate, it got me thinking, what are some 'answers' to the challenges we face in talent acquisition here in the DC area? What if:
  • the best interest of the future of this region, an Outer Beltway were built, that would include the yet-to-be-built ICC, a northern Potomac River crossing (connecting Potomac, MD and Sterling, VA), the Fairfax County Pkwy, and a southern Potomac River crossing (connecting Ft. Belvoir and Indian Head)? I know that nobody wants this 'in their backyard', but these roads are badly needed to better connect those who live and work outside the Beltway, especially with the BRAC looming ahead.
  • ...the government could once-and-for-all effectively streamline the security clearance process, thus drastically reducing the current backlog and allowing thousands of newly cleared workers to enter the industry?
  • ...more employers offered their employees alternative work options, such as compressed workweeks, telecommuting, remote office space, etc.?
  • ...developers built more mid-priced new homes close into the Beltway, instead of only building luxury $700K-$1M+ single family homes and townhouses?
  • ...the government made it easier for foreign-national students who want to stay and contribute to the workforce once they graduate?
  • ...organizations didn't make it so darn hard for candidates to navigate their employment process.
  • ...organziations were more strategic in buidling pipelines of talent, not just by hiring more college students, but by reaching out to children at a younger age to educate them about careers, as well as taking a more proactive role in supporting the educational missions of our public schools.
  • ...organizations presented their career opportunities more clearly, with more realistic requirements, and were able to more effectively withhold those biases that do not have a true bearing on performance?
  • ...the workforce at large had a better understanding of how to present themselves to potential employers, whether they are active job seekers, or those who just want to be 'tapped-on-the-shoulder' regarding great opportunities?
  • ...the recruiting profession had a higher profile in organizations across the board, leveraging it's expertise to drive process and help build organizations?

Most of these ideas reasonable, but a tall order, and often well out of the control of your everyday corporate recruiter. The issues we face in talent acquisition here are complex in nature and go well beyond just matching job seekers with new jobs. Variables such as traffic and housing prices have profound effects on talent acquisition efforts. Some of those issues that the recruiting profession can have impact on will only be addressed over time as our profession matures and takes on a greater role in building organizations.

Friday, August 04, 2006

MySpace of the Unemployment World???

The Jobster media blitz continued this week, this time via an interview with Jason Goldberg on CNN Headline News. Go ahead watch it...

...Wow! Alright, is it Jobster that continues to put the MySpace reference out there, or is that something that the media has latched onto like a beartrap as a simple-minded way to describe something that they don't quite understand? Heck, most people in the HR/Recruiting community still don't quite get what Jobster is about, how can we expect the mainstream media to get it (i.e. Glenn Beck referring to Jobster as the "MySpace of the unemployment world". Yikes!).

I shake my head because I know better, but also because I continue to be concerned about the MySpace reference. Jobster is not a blog, it is not a place for people to share their exploits, their dark secrets and their personal lifestyle. From the job seeker perspective, it is a place to find jobs, get the 'inside scoop', share their 'work-related' experiences at current or past employers, and maybe get connected via their network (or connect others) to relevant job opportunities. From the employer perspective, it is a place to provide that 'inside scoop' and to reach out and connect with talent via your network or through other targeted strategies.

When I wrote for ERE earlier this summer about the need for the Jobsters of the world to reach out to job seekers to educate them about how these new tools can enhance their ability to connect with great opportunities, this is not what I had in mind. This is about social networking, but from a business perspective. This is not about MySpace and this is not about the unemployed. IMO, those references will not help attract top employers or top talent to take advantage of what these tools (Jobster in particular) have to offer.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Tales From Frustrated Job Seekers

The hot DC-area job market offers a plethora of opportunities for those with experience and skills in engineering, IT, nursing, accounting, and even recruiting, and for those who have desired intangibles such as security clearances.

But for others who have different skill sets, or not much relevant experience to speak of, a job search can still be frustrating and fraught with peril. A couple nights ago, I was at a barbecue and had the opportunity to chat with two family members (whose names have been changed for the purpose of this post) about their current job search efforts.

John has been in pre-sales for years, loves the work and is quite good at it. He's interviewed with a few companies recently, but it's the most recent interview that he felt best about. He's excited about the opportunity and feels that he's just what they are looking for, but one problem: He can't get the company's Recruiter to return his calls. I told him that I wasn't shocked by this as there are those in our profession who do not like to deliver bad news, or no news for that matter. "You mean, if a Recruiter sees my number on caller ID, they might ignore my call, even if they are able take it?" he asked incredulously. "I've seen it happen", I told him. If it's a rejection, they would rather let a thin envelope in the mail do the talking, not thinking about the consequences of their inaction. What some Recruiters don't understand is how to turn a negative into a positive, especially if you think that this may be a candidate that you will want to revisit ever again. Too many hiring organizations just don't get that candidates have memories like elephants, that relationships can continue, not end, when you reject a candidate. The bottom line is that you return phone calls and e-mails, even if you don't have anything new to offer. You do this to build relationships that will last beyond the initial transaction. John has been in sales for years, he understands that.

Jane just graduated from college with a degree in Communications and a desire to join the local media/entertainment industry. It's a tough market for entry-level candidates to break into, especially if you have been focusing your efforts on the job boards, as she told me she has. "I send out resume after resume and never hear anything back", she said wearily. After describing the "Black Hole" effect, I set out to explain to her the value of networking, especially for the types of jobs she is looking for. I'm working to set up a conversation between her and a friend of mine who's worked for a local TV station for years, she passed along her resume to a friend who works for one of the largest locally-based cable networks, I invited her to join LinkedIn... She's taking some steps in the right direction, but this will still be a tough search for her as she's competing with multitudes of recent communications and journalism graduates from schools around the country for those few, prized entry-level jobs in the industry.

Different challenges for different people at different stages of their careers. One has had a successful career, the other's career is just beginning, but both are struggling to land that next or first great job, even in one of the hottest job markets in the country.