Wednesday, August 27, 2003
Monday, August 25, 2003
I ran into Mason Wong on Ryze last week. Mason is the staffing manager for Advent Software. I asked him if he thought Ryze-like social software would find its way into the features of staffing solutions from companies like Hire.com. He wrote:
While the fundamental mission and functionality of Ryze is to expand an individual's network while employing a relatively narrow set of criteria in identifying new contacts, the fundamental mission of Hire and the functionality of its applications are to bring efficiencies to processes involving high volumes of people and heavy criteria sets in sourcing and selection. I, too, have wondered if the similarities between Ryze and Hire can ever be enough to bridge the differences so the two worlds could connect.
I could envision a highly progressive and online savvy recruiter, with a lot more available time than any actively working recruiters that I know, trying to maintain an online community of potential job candidates using a Ryze-like guest book style site as a supplement to a more traditional email newsletter subscription list, but this really is limited to the sourcing side of recruitment, which is only one part of the full recruitment process supported by Hire-like systems.
I must admit, I have mostly doubts about the value in linking up Ryze-like social services with Hire-like systems, especially because it has been my experience that to effectively use Ryze and to effectively use Hire applications, it takes a lot of time and focus for each. Without a clearly viable profit driven model behind such an effort, I don't expect many recruiters, much less hiring managers, diving into some sort of synergy between the two.
I agree with Mason's observations but I have a few other conclusions.
Imagine that, upon signing up at your career site, job seekers got a Ryze-like page. Even better, you get a weblog and news aggregator too. You can not only look for work, but easily subscribe to job listings as RSS feeds, mingle with other data mining software engineers, post about your new explorations in technology and work.
In other words, what happens if you make it easy for job seekers to build social capital?
A few guesses...
- Better Navigation. Social network features (like Technorati, blogrolls, ) make it easy locate clusters of related professionals. Job seekers are effectively answering in advance the question "Well, if you aren't available, do you know someone who is?"
- Pre-branding. The knowledge reflected in the blogs, wikis, and discussion forums becomes a way for your employees to become aware of potential candidates.
- Fresher Content. Bloggers tend to post frequently, hundreds of times more often than they update HR profiles or resumes. Contact information is up to date.
- Transparency and Conversation. It may take getting used to, but you'll start to get useful and frank feedback about the job seeking experience, the company's products, etc. Engagement that's ongoing, perhaps throughout a career.
- Career site as destination. To the degree your organization niches, your career site may be a magnet for people in related industry or occupational categories. Hang out with the other financial engineering leaders.
About your reservations, you're right for now. The positioning of the smart folks at Hire.com, and every other ATS/HCM solution, has been to automate HR bureaucracy. Their systems can save time, effort, and money in the day-to-day life of a recruiter.
This won't be enough. Skilled labor shortages will become more pronounced in the next 9-18 months. Recruiter workflow optimization, once executed, is yielding diminishing returns.
So where do you put your next staffing dollar? The inputs to the process: job seekers.
The world of manufacturing went through the same deep shift, widening from an internal focus to an external focus. From managing internal logistics to reaching outside the corporate boundary to the external supply chain. None of the new skills and practices, like MRP or quality circles, were abandoned. Attention widened to include a network of suppliers. And new practices emerged to better harmonize the internal and external.
When raw material is talent, the processes are more difficult than manufacturing lives with. The products are widely differentiated (people don't have SKUs). What they can do and where they fit changes day to day. The goods can't be moved when and where needed via UPS. And, unlike a can of soup, these goods have opinions and desires of their own.
So ATS and HCM vendors can expect pressure to serve this new focus. Employers like you will demand features that create value for candidates. Increasing a job seeker's social capital is just one type of value, one that Ryze supports.
So I see a future for Ryze's in HR.
- As extensions to the career relationship.
- As new tools for data mining.
- As personal branding tools.
- As a retention tool, binding workers to your intranet and extranet social networks.
After all, schmoozespace isn't so far from recruiting, is it?
I grew up on Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, especially The Pirates of Penzance. One of the funniest songs in the bunch is the When the Foeman Bares His Steel (MIDI File). Trying to encourage some rather frightened local constables to chase pirates, Mabel sings:
The police protest:
Go, ye heroes, go to glory,
Though you die in combat gory,
Ye shall live in song and story.
Go to immortality!Go to death, and go to slaughter;
Die, and every Cornish daughter
With her tears your grave shall water. Go, ye heroes, go and die!
Though to us it's evident,
These attentions are well meant,
Such expressions don't appear
Calculated men to cheer
Who are going to meet their fate
In a highly nervous state.
Edith and the girls, not listening, continue:
Go and do your best endeavour,
And before all links we sever,
We will say farewell for-ever.
Go to glory and the grave!
Go to glory and the grave!
For your foes are fierce and ruthless,
False, unmerciful, and truthless;
Young and tender, old and toothless,
All in vain their mercy crave.
Not exactly King Henry's rousing Saint Crispin's Day Speech.
Is your career site:
Consistent with the goals of its visitors?
Helping you listen and converse with them?
Producing the attitudes, expectations, and behavior you need?
Monday, August 11, 2003
Yesterday's Electronic Recruiting News was about Community. There are at least three or four decent books on the subject. I'm reading one now, Drew Banks' and Kim Daus' Customer.Community: Unleashing the Power of Your Customer Base (on Amazon). The underlying principle: there's value in having your customers talk with each other.
It's also true for your talent pool. As you read this, where you see the word "customer", substitute "potential employee".
First, the business case.
- Deeper customer loyalty
- Additional revenue streams
- Harnessing the collective voice of your customers
- Broader market reach through customer advocacy
- Focused product input
- Partnership development
- Peer-to-peer customer service
- Lower operational costs
- Easy start-up, low risk to terminate
Then the customer case. Customer communities can touch people at each rung on Maslows Hierarchy of human needs.
- Community performs a necessary and useful function for members.
- Members can identify each other and build relationships.
- Members have reputation based on their activity and the expressed opinions of others.
- The facilitators and members of the community assign management duties to each other, allowing the community to grow. Members agree that their behavior can be regulated according to shared or stated values.
- Members must be able to interact with each other, to share information and ideas.
- Community members can segment themselves according to specific interests or tasks. Members can relate to each other in small numbers.
- A synergistic environment helps members achieve their purpose.
- The community knows why it exists and who is outside and inside.
- Members must be able to build trust over time with other members and the community facilitators. Members know with whom they are dealing and that it is safe to do so.
- The community recognizes an exchange of value, from knowledge and ideas to goods and services. Members can easily indicate their preferences and opinions.
- The community has a recognizable character and members are aware of what other community members are doing.
- The community remembers what has happened and reacts and changes in response.
It takes work. But this soft stuff keeps communities healthy.
They have a few chapters on growing your community. And a few more on nuts and bolts implementation advice.
My favorite chapter: cashing in on your community. Explicit. Quantifiable.
But here's the thing (thanks for staying with me on this), their Ten Questions Before You Start:
- Is your customer base currently connected? How? What are your customers saying?
- Does your service or product or even your company image have inherent bonding possibilities? [that's bonding, not branding]
- Are you currently organized around the optimal customer experience?
- Which department is best suited to "own" your customer-community strategy, development, and implementation?
- At what level of commitment do you want to start?
- Would a customer-community orientation affect any other programs?
- What other key players do you need to line up?
- What is your first step?
- How will you communicate your customer-community plans?
- How will you determine success?
If Monster can do it (they're one of the case studies), so can you. Candidate communities can:
- change your cost structure,
- shorten cycle times, and
- improve talent pool quality,
- in good times and bad.
I'd love your comments on this.
Tuesday, August 05, 2003
I've been following two things very closely for many years: content syndication and labor markets. Last week RSSJobs was announced, bringing the two together. Here's my interview with Steve Rose who built RSSJobs.
What inspired or provoked you to create RSSJobs?
It was a combination of things. First was the frustration with my own job hunt. Like many IT professionals, I was unemployed for 6 months. When I did finally find a job, it was for half my previous pay, and in a environment I never would have considered otherwise. Even after starting that job, I was still job hunting. Every morning I was greeted with emails from Monster, and Dice, and several others with the results of my saved search agents. They were pretty useless. Monster only allowed 5 agents, and the emails only had up to 5 jobs per agent. I had to go to Monster's web site to see all the results. Then there was Dice. It gave me up to 50 jobs for each agent every day. Most of them were the same as the previous day's results! They were supposed to be just the new ones. I was spending all my morning time before work weeding through these, and I rarely had time to check any other sites that I didn't get emails from. Sites that didn't get updated every day went un-checked for weeks or months. Who knows how many potential jobs I missed out on because I didn't have time to check all the sites I wanted to check for updates.
Second was exposure to RSS. I started reading all my web based news using NetNewsWire earlier this year, and was amazed at how much easier it was to keep up. So I stared playing with the RSS format, creating some feeds for my own personal use, and I thought this would be useful for checking a local University's job board. I wrote a quick java servlet to parse the new job listing and return the results as RSS. It was so cool! Not long after that, I added Dice and Monster to the mix.
At this point, it was all just for my own use. About 2 weeks later, I went on a job interview, and when asked what kind of personal projects I had, I mentioned this and described the benefits of RSS. One of the developers interviewing me knew about RSS, and thought it was very good idea. He said I should market it. So I came up with a simple business plan, adapted my servlets to a subscription-based model, and built a web site around it.
How would you describe what RSSJobs does?
RSSJobs is simply a search agent for other job boards. It takes search parameters from the user, searches the job boards they want, and returns the results to them in RSS.
Who is it for?
Ideally, RSSJobs is for anyone looking for a job on the internet. It is well suited to individuals who have jobs, but want to keep their eyes open to other positions, and don't have the time to do an exhaustive search every day.
That being said, the average person out there doesn't know about RSS yet, and has a hard time understanding the benefits. It's a paradigm shift for most people, making adoption of RSS more difficult. Web browsers are comfortable, and people don't want to give them up, despite their limitations.
So at this point, I don't expect most job hunters out there to "get" the benefits of using RSSJobs, so I am not targeting them just yet. Right now I am focusing on those who are already using RSS. As RSS use becomes more widespread, the target audience will expand.
When did it go live?
The official live date was August 1, 2003. The site has been up for a few weeks, but only myself and a few friends knew about it.
What's your day job? What's your technical background?
I am a Software Engineer. As a Software Engineer, I have done a little bit of everything. My strongest language is Java, but I also work in C/C++, as well as various 4GL type languages. I've done application, database, web, and multimedia development, sometimes all on the same project.
What programming tools did you use to construct RSSJobs? What platform are you running the apps on?
It was developed using Java 1.4.1, and currently hosted on Mac OS X Server 10.2.
What version(s) of RSS do you produce?
What do you think of the Echo project? Will you be supporting the new syndication formats?
I don't know much about the Echo project, but I plan to closely follow the market for RSS content. If other formats gain popularity, I will consider supporting them as well.
Most of the job boards bar "reverse engineering" and other screen scraping, concerned over theft of data by rivals and disintermediation. How does your design work around or through these concerns?
I have considered this, and I don't expect there to be an issue. The site clearly states that the user is searching other job sites. The job listings from the various boards are accessed on demand, and nothing is cached by RSSJobs. There is no attempt to mask the origin of the content. If the user wants more information about the job, they are sent to the job board, where they can apply for the job if they like. Users should still register and upload their resumes to the job boards being searched for maximum efficiency.
I liken what RSSJobs does to a personal assistant or agent who does the research requested by a client, and presents the results. For example, say my friend doesn't have internet access, but wants to use Monster.com in his job search. He asks me to search for jobs for him. Is there anything wrong with me typing in his keywords, downloading the results, and putting a summary of the listings in an Excel spreadsheet on a floppy disk for my friend to look through? It seems perfectly reasonable to me. RSSJobs does essentially the same thing.
Many employers use HR information systems that output job listings in an HR-XML format for bulk uploading to Monster and most of the big job boards. What kind of information is lost between employer and candidate?
I have no idea.
What's on your wishlist for news reader features?
I would like to see an RSS Reader that could manage the items from an RSS feed as individual items. A user could archive specific items for viewing later after it is no longer included in the feed. Adding locally-stored comments to an item would be a nice feature too.
Is there anything employers could do to make your job easier when searching jobs.Acme.com?
Yes, when they post jobs, keep the content simple. No embedded HTML tags, or other things that RSSJobs has to filter to keep the XML valid.
Where do you think the other bottlenecks are in getting work to workers?
I think the biggest problem is getting the word out about available jobs. There are so many different ways jobs get announced, between Job Boards, classifieds, and company web sites, it is hard to keep track of them all. RSSJobs is trying to help with that.
Where do you see RSSJobs going?
For now, RSSJobs is just a part-time endeavor. If it helps people out, and provides enough revenue to cover the hosting costs, I will be happy. It will expand slowly, adding new features and more search sites on an ongoing basis. Ideally, I'd like to grow it large enough to become a full time job, and maybe even provide a few jobs as well. But this is not going to be another .com flame-out, trying to become too big too fast. I've been part of that already. If the demand for RSSjobs is there, it will grow to meet that demand. If not, no-one is going to loose money over it.
What kind of feedback have you been getting from new users? What have you been learning from the RSSJobs experience?
Surprisingly, I have received very little direct feedback about it. What I have received has been positive, even excited, with a few requests for features I have already considered for the future. But the loudest statement has also been the quietest one. People are using the site! The site is still in its early stages, and I don't want more volume than I can handle, so I haven't done much to promote it yet. The little bit I have done has drawn more traffic than I could have expected, and people are actually using the site as it was intended. that says everything.
What have I learned? I'm not sure I have learned anything yet. It is all happening so fast, and things have gone remarkably well, almost too well. It's when things go wrong, particularly very wrong, when you learn the most. I'm sure that will come. Hopefully sooner rather than later.