Saturday, September 30, 2006

Ben Gockin's 15 minutes...

I'm at the Nationals game tonight with my son, watching batting practice, and here comes the Fox 5 reporter who wants to ask me about the pending departure of Hall-of-Fame Manager, Frank Robinson. I've been on TV a couple times before, but this was the first solo interview that got on the air. The Recruiting Animal must be working for Fox as they didn't get my name right, as you'll see. Pretty cool nonetheless.

Lou Holder Reports (I'm about half way into the report)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

My Old School

Late September is the peak of the college recruiting season, and today I took my annual trip back to my alma mater for their annual Career Fair. I've been to just about every Univ. of Maryland Fall Career Fair for the past decade, and you know what? Not much has changed over the years. The recently renovated Student Union has changed, but most of the same companies are there, most everyone still hands out their pens and frisbees, and the students shuffle through overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of it all.

I focused on College Recruiting exclusively in the late 90s when I was with Vitro>Tracor>Marconi>BAE Systems (same company, just three name changes in 3 1/2 years, talk about a branding nightmare!). That time gave me a deep appreciation for college recruiting as I made alot of friends, had alot of fun, and made alot of great hires. My recent employers have done much less college recruiting, and that's OK, it hasn't fit their talent acquisition needs as well. But still, when I can get back on to campus, especially one as beautiful and as filled with great memories as My Old School, I do so without hesitation.

We did well today as we met a number of students who had very relevant work experience and some even with security clearances. I'm hopeful that we will be able to hire at least a few of them. The competition is fierce once again though, and I'm not even as worried about the big government contractors that were in the room (i.e. Lockheed, Boeing, Northrop, BAE, etc.). Government agencies such as CIA, NSA as well as the various Military Commands that were represented were clearly the most popular employers there today. Universities in the DC area are unique in that respect. I don't think you would see that in most other regions in the country. The federal government is such a major part of our daily lives here in this area (many of these students' parents or close family members likely work for the government), that working for the government is an appealing choice.

The predominance of government agencies and contractors at this event leaves the international student population a bit out in the cold though unfortunately. Citizenship requirements at these organizations make it very difficult for these students to find relevant opportunities, but as frustrating as this must be, the international students that I spoke to were understanding and resilient in their search for a great internship or full-time job.

It was another fun and productive day in College Park, MD today. I get back there often for football and basketball games. It's the recruiting activities there though that really get my blood pumping. FEAR THE TURTLE!!!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The door's open, come on in!

I'm blogging today from the site of the Recruiting Open House that my employer is hosting today. We have a great conference center on our campus here in Northern Virginia, and have been hosting these events three times a year for the past three years. Because we've made these events truly 'Open', attendance has ranged from 130-230 attendees per event, and as a result have made anywhere from 12 to 24 hires per event. The hires we have yielded from these events have represented about 10% of our overall tech staff hiring efforts. Those are numbers that we are very pleased with considering the complexity of the jobs we need to fill.

I'm a big fan of these events for several reasons:

  1. They connect hiring manager and candidates face-to-face. A resume doesn't always assist in making the connection, often the person accompanying the resume makes all the difference.
  2. The participating organizations get to show off their work programs and speak with a number of potential candidates all at one time.
  3. Candidates get to see our great campus as well as some of the work we are involved with.
  4. Candidates know that they get to speak with someone, thus making this potentially a more appealing option than just submitting a resume online.
  5. These are high-profile, highly advertised events, both internally and externally, thus continuously keeping our profile and our brand in front of employees and job seekers alike.

I've been asked before, "why have a truly open event rather than an invitational-style open house?" I believe that by keeping this event "Open", we have attracted candidates who may not of otherwise decided to attend. We often hear of candidates stop by because they saw the signs on the street, or a friend-of-a-friend told them about it. There is also very little initial risk to the candidate as far as being rejected up front. With an invitational-style Open House, you are either invited or rejected, with often more who are rejected than invited. We want our hiring managers to make a holistic judgment at these events, and as a result, we have actually hired candidates from these events whose resumes didn't make the cut when they simply applied on-line. Do we 'reject' candidates initially? Sure, if someone sends a resume in advance who is clearly not qualified for the types of positions we will be interviewing for, we'll let them know in advance so that they don't waste their valuable time by attending.

What makes a successful Open House?

Planning - When we started these events three years ago, we would start our planning 6-8 weeks in advance. Today, these events practically run themselves, so we allow about 4-6 weeks of lead-time to 1) properly prepare internal & external advertising, 2) accommodate organizational requests, 3) make arrangements with facilities, security, corp comms, and catering, and 4) begin advance sourcing efforts.

Commitment - We have been told by attendees that our events are very well organized and that our staff and managers are accommodating and knowledgeable. These events are not designed for Recruiting to 'puff out it's chest'. These events are held to make hires, period. We communicate heavily with our HR/Recruiting staff and their hiring managers in advance of these events and make sure they are ready to actively participate.

Advance Sourcing - Even though these events are 'open', we do invite candidates as well, including those from our ATS, and those that we source otherwise. We can often get candidates engaged faster by inviting them to one of these events than if they were to wait to be invited in to interview for specific positions.

Internal Promotion - We heavily promote these events internally, and as a result, about half of our hires from these events are employee referrals.

Venue - If you have the facilities at your location to do an Open House onsite, by all means do it. It certainly is cheaper for one thing, but as mentioned earlier, it provides an opportunity to show candidates where they are actually going to work.

The downside? Very little. 'Managed chaos' is a good description of the event. These events to take a fair amount of resources (time, people and money) to produce, but all-in-all its worth it. Job fairs don't work well for us, Invitationals 'screen-out' more than they 'screen-in', but our Open House events have consistently provided us with the right quantity and quality of candidates.

It's an hour until the doors open up, time to gear up for another big day!

Friday, September 22, 2006

WTPF Talent ROAR Recap

A good time was had by all at yesterday's annual WTPF conference, this year aptly titled Talent ROAR (Recruitment, Orientation, Assimilation & Retention). Held at the beautiful Gannett/USA Today HQ building in McLean, VA, just under 200 attendees enjoyed a full day of networking and presentations by experts and corporate HR/Recruiting leaders alike. Here's a recap of the day:

7:15 - I arrive on a crisp, cool September morning ready to roll. Along with being a WTPF board member, I'm also on the event planning committee and am scheduled to co-present at one the breakout sessions as well. A busy day awaits as the adrenaline (and caffeine) is starting to kick in.

8:30 - The crowd has arrived and is enjoying the coffee, muffins and networking in the 'First Amendment Dining Room'. WTPF President, Kim Clark-Paktsys, kicks the day off and quickly turns the podium over to our keynote speaker, Lou Adler. I've seen Lou speak on a couple occasions before and have been impressed each time. What I like about Lou is that he lays out the business case of what's wrong with Corporate Recruiting, then challenges you with common sense. The audience is engaged throughout Lou's presentation, a great start to the day.

10:30 - The breakout sessions begin. Scott Kahle and I have the pleasure of following Lou with our presentation titled: Recruiting Technology 2.0 (the slides are available on Scott's Blog). We were a bit nervous about this at first, following up such an accomplished and esteemed speaker. But it actually worked out just fine. Lou made a number of points that we were able to relate back to. The presentation went well and we received some very kind feedback through the rest of the day.

Through the 2nd breakout session, I pop back and forth between the two presentations. I'm taking pictures throughout the event, the link to those will be found at the bottom of this post.

12:15 - Lunchtime, the Gannett/USA Today catering group puts together a nice spread (Tabuleh and Hummus Wraps, yummy!) as everyone heads back into the Dining Room for nourishment and networking.

1:30 - The 3rd breakout session begins and I spend most of my time attending the presentation by the Booz Allen immersion team of Raymond Houck and Nicola Klein. I worked with Nicola at my last employer (we actually co-taught the Structured Interviewing class there for a couple of years). Their presentation titled "Insights into a World-Class Immersion Program: Discover Booz Allen" is an excellent representation of what can be accomplished by a company that is devoted to starting their new employees off on the right foot. They have abandoned the 'death by PowerPoint' orientation method used my most companies, and have come up with a more engaging and relevant immersion program in it's place. Very impressive indeed.

I spend the 4th breakout session listening to a panel chaired by my boss, Gary Cluff, and including highly-regarded recruiting experts Kerri Koss-Morehart of Fannie Mae, Ed Newman of The Newman Group, and Hector Velez of HireStrategy. Titled "The Changing Landscape of Recruitment", the panel provided their valuable insights into what the future holds for the recruiting function. Some of the key takeaways included comments around how candidates are taking a more holistic view of the opportunities presented to them, how technology is evolving to include expand beyond the traditional ATS model to include more Talent Management and CRM capabilities, and how Outsourcing/RPO options are becoming more of an acceptable reality to organizations who are challenged by supply, demand, process and technology.

3:30 - A busy day closes with a highly engaging and fun presentation by Max Brown of 'The Carrot Culture'. Max's presentation focused on the power of employee recognition and how companies can become more successful by simply doing a better job of recognizing the accomplishments of their employees. This is the 2nd year we've had a 'Carrot Culture' speaker, and for good reason, they do a fantastic job of closing out the day on an entertaining and positive note.

5:00 - The event is over and a few of us retire to the McLean Hilton for celebratory cocktail. Pulling this off took the hard, devoted volunteer work of our planning committee, and seeing the event go as well as it did today made it all worthwhile. Now we just need to top it again next year!

Pictures from the day's events can be found HERE

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Comfort of Connecting: Part 2

Recruiting through your network can be a funny thing. Recruiting tools like LinkedIn and Jobster have made 'Point-to-Multipoint" networking easier and more efficient than ever. When you have so many people to connect with literally at your fingertips, how do you decide who to contact regarding jobs are trying to fill?
  • Do you contact only those who are likely to be directly connected with the types of candidates you are looking for?
  • Do you blast out your message to those in your network who you know personally and think will be open to helping you?
  • Do you blast out your message to everyone in your network, whether you think they may be directly connected, or whether you personally know everyone in your network or not?

These tools make it as easy to build an immediate network of people you know personally as it is to add people into your network who you have never met or spoken with before in your life. This is an important point as recruiters who are using these tools have a variety of views on how to inform their network about jobs they are trying to fill. In particular, there are recruiters who look for maximum exposure, blasting out their job opportunities to their entire network. Their reasoning is that you just never know who is connected to who, and who might even be interested themselves.

I get a couple of these a week, which doesn't bother me too much. Dave Mendoza on the other hand, takes issue with this strategy. Dave argued on his blog yesterday that you should only send out jobs via LinkedIn to those who you think are directly connected to the types of candidates you are looking for. Now Dave is connected to thousands of people and probably gets flooded with these 'shotgun' blasts. Dave wants to help, but even he has limits. But again, you never know who knows who. Most of the people in my immediate network are Recruiters. If I got a LinkedIn or Jobster e-mail asking me if I knew any Petroleum Engineers, I probably couldn't help. But if you asked me if I knew any Operations Managers with a security clearance, guess what I do, and in fact I know of a great one who is available now. You just never know.

I prefer the targeted approach myself, approaching those who I think are most likely to have a direct connection to the candidates I am looking for. But recently, on a lark, I took the semi-'shotgun' approach. This summer, I had one of the toughest assignments I have faced in recent times, a high-profile position in our Executive office. After a couple months of searching and interviewing, no luck. I was desperate, so I sent out a Jobster campaign to 40 people in my immediate network, people who I have personal relationship with. I had no idea if any of these people were connected to the type of person I was looking for, but maybe they were, and it was worth taking that shot. Two days later, I see one my contacts who I sent this job to, and he said to me, "Ben, I have the perfect person for you." And you know what, he was right! She starts next Monday.

You just never know who is connected to who and who is looking when. I'll delve more into that and the comfort factor around that in my next installment in this series.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006 Goes Bionic

The new and improved is up and running today. Jason Davis continues to build this site as the center of the Recruiting Blogosphere, and with this sharp, highly-interactive format, we will all be able to collaborate better than ever. Exciting stuff!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering 9/11/01

Five years ago this morning, after a rough night's sleep, I decided that I was going to do some work from home rather than go into the office. My first-born son who was 2 months old at the time had kept us up most of the night, so fighting traffic to get to my office in Northwest DC and putting in a full day just wasn't in the cards.

I'm watching the Today Show when Matt Lauer announces that the World Trade Center was on fire. It quickly became apparent that an airplane had crashed into one of the towers. A short time later, a second plane was shown live crashing into the other tower, and it started to become clear that this was no accident, we were under attack.

My wife and I are watching all of this live, cradling our baby, in complete shock watching these events unfurl. Moments later the Pentagon is struck, and this nightmare literally hits home. DC is ordered to evacuate and chaotic, yet rather calm exodus begins. We come to find out next that the fourth highjacked airliner, apparently on target for DC, crashed in rural Pennsylvania.

I live about 15 miles northwest of DC. Mid-morning while all this is happening, I hear the unmistakable roar of fighter jets. I run outside and see F-18s and helicopter 'gunboats' flying low overhead. Devastated by watching and experiencing all of this throughout that morning, I took a break from it all and took my son for a walk. The weather was beautiful that day, a sunny, warm early Autumn afternoon, now tarnished forever by this act of insanity.

Later that day, I see one of my neighbors who worked downtown and described his experience getting home. The Metro was jam packed as you can imagine, so he along with thousands of others walked 3-4 miles up Connecticut Avenue until they could find a subway station that they could get into. When I got back to work two days later, my coworkers described their 3-4 hour trek home that day.

Thinking back, I feel fortunate that I was home that day. Not because of the nightmarish exodus from the city, but more because I was able to be there for my family in one of our country's darkest moments. Today, I feel proud that I recruit for an organization committed to working in the Public Interest, one that works closely with our federal government sponsors to objectively support the design and implementation of systems that will help keep our country safe and secure. My current employer lost someone that day on one of the planes that hit the WTC. Today at 8:46AM, we all paused for a moment of silence in remembrance of all those who lost their lives on that fateful day. I hope you have found a way to remember that fateful day in your own way.

Jim, Yvonne, Dennis and Glenn also offer their thoughts on 9/11.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Nail The Interview - The Game

The Washington Post is currently hosting a very cool game in advance of their bi-annual Mega-Jobs Employment section coming up this Sunday. Play Nail The Interview and find out not only if you can get the job, but also if you can get the highest salary. I got the job myself, but apparently could of done better on the salary negotiation. Experience a virtual phone screen and in-person interview, choose your resume as well as your wardrobe and accessories. A fun representation of the hiring process from the job seekers perspective. A big thumbs up!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sourcing Specialist Wanted!

Do you love the thrill of the hunt? Do you hear the Mission Impossible theme in your head when that new hard-to-fill job crosses your desk? Do you know anyone who shrieks with joy when you tell them that you need their help to find a left-handed, minority, female, rocket scientist with a super-high level security clearance, a PhD and 35 years experience? Do you believe that the Monster and Careerbuilder resume databases are the root of all evil? Are you creative? Are you innovative? Are you fearless? Do you live in the Washington, DC area?

You answered yes to the questions above, a great opportunity with a great organization can be found by clicking HERE