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Its Complicated–Living In Confluence (Part 2)


Part 2: A Paradigm Shift As Companies Respond to Social


As our story of Living in Confluence continues, we will look at how companies and organizations responded to the rise of social in talent acquisition. The first article, the disruption of the status quo by the social phenomenon created significant complications when it comes to attracting and engaging talent.  What really happened with the rise of social is the balance of power had shifted from organizations to the individuals who were participating in online social activities.

 The migration from Web 1.0 (static web content) to Web 2.0 (conversation enabled platforms) was immediately felt by marketing.  Corporate marketing woke up one morning to find out they were no longer in control of their brand.  The respective brands were controlled by their customers as they voiced opinions about the brand online.  It seemed that customers when they asked a question actually expected a response.  Many top brands were met with widespread negative publicity when they failed to address the concerns of their customers.  Opinions, both good and bad, spread virally and virtually as customers self-segmented and self-identified themselves with affinity groups around products or brands or professions.

This introduction of Web 2.0 with its expectation of conversation really complicated things in three areas of talent acquisition.

  1. The growth and proliferation of social changed the paradigm for organizations
  2. The visibility and identification of target talent was greatly increased in the social sphere
  3. The failure to adapt to the new paradigm resulted in “social disasters.”

The growth of online affinity and self-segmentation has continued on the leading social networking sites.  FaceBook and LinkedIn are imagining membership in the billions.  Twitter has enjoyed amazing growth as everyone has turned into a blogger; as long as the message is short.  YouTube has quietly become the third largest search engine and has become one of the more captivating social recruiting channels.  Google+ arrived on the scene with its focus on circles, hangouts and cool methods of communication.  Newcomer Pinterest has taken the social world by storm and offers another way to communicate with each other by sharing images that are important to our lives.

For sourcing and recruiting, the challenge of talent identification has been simplified; given that most professionals can now be found on the web.  Simultaneously, the task of talent engagement has become more challenging as each of the social platforms has a unique social protocol that is expected to be honored.  And like our colleagues in marketing, we are no longer in control of our brand.  Further, effective recruiting in the “Web 2.0 world,” will require companies to have a conversation with the job prospects.  The potential is there for job prospects to create the same viral and virtual feedback as they think of themselves as customers of our employment brands.

Most of the social media books describe real and potential “social disasters” that can occur when your customers, fans or the general public is ignored.   Perhaps the most interesting was the story of “Dell Hell” pinned by writer Jeff Jarvis.  The short version is that Dell customer service, marketing, or any other group was not available to when Jarvis from complained about his experience with their product.  He wrote a blog titled, “Dell Lies.  Dell Sucks.”  Jarvis’s post resonated with the general public and created a firestorm of criticism.  Since the blog was written in 2005, Dell has become one of leaders in using Web 2.0 for customer and public interaction.  In fact, Dell is now using its fans to make suggestions for product innovation.  This innovation has carried over into talent acquisition with Dell keeping social front and center in their strategy.

Last summer, after a presentation at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, I asked thought leader Charlene Li what her greatest surprise was since writing Groundswell.  As you may recall, Groundswell, was a breakthrough analysis of social media adoption and predictions on its adoption by business and industry.  In that context, Charlene answered that she was surprised by the lack of acceptance of Web 2.0 by many enterprises as well as their failure to embrace a real social strategy.

The disruptive nature of social has required organizations to accept the fact that how we are perceived rests in the minds of our customers, fans and the general public.  In the old days (Web 1.0), we could control and greatly influence our brand; today we can only provide our perspective and participate in the conversation.  To the extent that organizations have accepted this new paradigm and adapted to it is part of the reason that we are living in confluence.

So, why do organizations need to adapt to this new paradigm?  One area of danger for talent acquisition, is what I believe to be a ticking social time bomb that exists when these customers of our employment brand experience the applicant tracking technology that are used by most larger organizations.  While, these applicant tracking systems provide gains in efficiency and metric ability, the major complaint by applicants that their resumes seem to be going into a “black hole,” is becoming more common.  The human touch seems to be lacking in “human resources.”  Web 2.0 recruiting requires more of a human engagement to meet the expectations of job prospects.

Next time, in Part 3 of Its Complicated, we will explore how talent acquisition is attempting to put the human touch back into our process while taking advantage of visibility to our target audiences on the social web.

Its Complicated—Living In Confluence


Part 1: The Rise of Social In Talent Acquisition

Each time I see “it’s complicated,” I know that there is a story to be heard.   But before the story, let me put this blog post in context.  Previously, I proclaimed  in Happy 2013—Here We Go Again that the confluence of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 was one of the three overarching challenges facing talent acquisition in 2013.  This is the backstory of my observation and its a little complicated.

The story of talent acquisition in the 21st Century is complex, complicated and compelling.  We are in a period of confluence where Web 1.0 (old school) and Web 2.0 (new school) tactics are simultaneously used successfully.  Instead of Web 1.0 giving way to Web 2.0 and converging, certain aspects of Web 1.0 continues to work successfully.  Frankly, until recently, I believed that our socially oriented society would make the more static old school approaches obsolete.  That just has not been the case.  What seems more likely is that both approaches will coexist until they merge into Web 3.0.  So, what is taking so long?  Before we explore this confluence more extensively, let’s review talent acquisition how we arrived at where we are in 2013.

The recruiting world began to change in 2005; at least it changed in terms of job seeker behavior online behavior.  A quiet migration occurred from job seekers using job boards to find a job; to using key word searches to find a job.  The first people to notice the shift were the job boards themselves; and to combat the decline in applicant traffic, they began to advertise their client’s jobs on search engines.

The job boards used the relatively new approaches of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to ensure that their jobs were listed or ranked higher in search engine results.  The job boards learned how to make their keywords and links match the method by which Google, Yahoo, & Bing determined how to list the content for key word searches.  Not only did the job boards make up for the declining traffic of job seekers going to their sites, they now were actually increasing visitors to the job boards with using SEO.  The job board clients unknowingly established job boards as the middle man in their SEO efforts.

Around this time, metasearch engines began to appear on the scene and aggregated web content.  Some aggregators (Indeed, Simply Hired, JuJu, et al) focused vertically on the “jobs category” to distribute job postings throughout an increasingly larger network.  As these vertical aggregators became better known, the role of job boards as the middleman was more transparent.  Some early adopters began to work directly with the aggregators and take the job boards out of the middle position.  Today, it is well understood that job related key word searches on Google create as much activity on in one month, as the traffic is directed to Monster.com in one year.

Recruitment marketing platforms, such as Jobs2Web and TalentBrew came on the scene and allow organizations to manage their Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts.  These platforms provide companies with the ability to self-manage and metric all the moving parts of a company’s online strategy

At the same time the job search behavior changed, so did the number of people that people that active on the web.  A very interesting social change had occurred; the web that began as individual activity as people surfing the web was changing to a very social place.  People were flocking to the web and engaging in very social type of activities.  This desire for conversations caused enormous growth in FaceBook, YouTube, and Twitter.  Even established platforms liked LinkedIn took steps to become more social by adding more robust groups features to meet this demand caused by this Web 2.0 (a desire for online conversations) phenomenon.

The world of talent acquisition was becoming increasingly complicated.  The changing landscape of technologies coupled with the changing consumer behaviors required a corresponding paradigm shift by organizations in order to function in this new social world.  We will explore this next time in Part 2 of It’s Complicated.

What Moneyball Sourcing Teaches Us About Social Recruiting

The Moneyball Sourcing model provides a new lens to look at sources of current and future talent. The Moneyball Sourcing Model follows 3 steps:

1. Challenge conventional wisdom
2. Understand the science of winning
3. Adapt or die

When we look at the various social platforms, companies are predominately using LinkedIn and Twitter. Conventional wisdom suggests that Facebook is for personal web activities, while LinkedIn and Twitter fall more in the business or professional categories. Let’s put that conventional wisdom to the Moneyball test. LinkedIn is the leader in social recruiting with surveys proclaiming that anywhere from 61% to 86% use that platform.

The science of winning in the Moneyball Sourcing model suggests that we need to examine our beliefs with a data driven approach. And when we look at Facebook as a source for recruiting from a numbers perspective, we see an interesting result.

The numbers are just mind blowing. And the minute you quote a number, it is obsolete. For example, the graph below projects 95 million users on Google+; what is profound is that there were 50 million users when first wrote this blog post (I am not certain whether that is a comment about my speed of writing or Google+). In terms of sheer numbers, Facebook has the largest number of users. The estimates are that by the summer of 2012, Facebook will have grown to over 1 billion users—up from its current level of 850 million.

The conventional wisdom that says Facebook is just for personal and not business use suggests that most users do not have job or skill information in their profiles. The data is telling us that profiles were modified in order to take advantage of networking on Facebook.

When to big 3 of social platforms are considered, Facebook at 44% was clearly the most favored network for job search activity.

One more data point is very interesting. Conventional wisdom suggests that Facebook would not be an efficient source because there is a lack of information about the target audience. In other words, we would see too many unqualified candidates. What blew me away were the results of this major Jobs2Web study. The most efficient source of candidates was Facebook. Facebook was not only 3X better than LinkedIn, it beat all other sources of hire.

So if so many people are using Facebook for job seeking, why are recruiters investing so heavily in LinkedIn and LinkedIn Recruiter? Changing perceptions is very challenging and takes some courage. The final step in the Moneyball Sourcing Model is “adapt or die.” This is the hardest step–believing the data and then acting on that information. Clearly the business case for piloting sourcing initiatives on Facebook is made with the data. The challenge is that we just convinced folks that LinkedIn is a better platform that Monster, CareerBuilder or Dice. Now we have to tell them that was so 27 seconds ago.

We must have the courage to follow the data; even when it is counterintuitive. Recently, I was discussing the data in this post with some recruiting friends. In spite of the empirical evidence, each person believed that Facebook would not work well for recruiting, that it was reserved for personal activities. I know what a Moneyball Sourcer would do–what about you–do you believe the conventional wisdom or do you believe the data?

What If It Mattered How We Treat Candidates

Economic challenges are allowing organizations to dodge bullets when it comes to the candidate experience.  But times are changing.  As key talent becomes more difficult to recruit, then brand and reputation matter.  And the candidate experience becomes a more significant influence on those key indicators.


In the BtoB (business to business) world, it seems that buyers make up their minds prior to meeting a vendor.  Recent data suggests that between 70-75% of decision making is completed prior to contacting a vendor or solutions provider.   If that is true, I wonder what happens in the BtoC (business to consumer) world.  In other words, how many job seekers have made their choices prior to speaking to a recruiter from your organization?  Further, I wonder how many prospects say “no” to your recruiter based on faulty information that was discovered on the internet. 


One thing I have noticed is that organizations have a false sense of security around how candidates perceive their brand.  Most organizations are surveying the candidate experience from the chosen few that actually go through the interview process.  Naturally, those responses are going to great; they have just received a white glove service.  I wonder what would happen if we surveyed all candidates that applied for a job–even the ones that we reject. 


Thought leader David Earle of Staffing.org makes this point when he writes; “corporate recruiting is the only B to C endeavor on the planet that invites 100 people to a party, then makes 95 of them stand out in the rain.” 


The sea change that the social revolution taught us is that the brand is no longer in charge; the customer was is truly in charge.  The shift occurred because brands had lost credibility and in the new social environment that embraces transparency.  Naturally, this was a shocking reality to brands that were accustomed to controlling the message to their customers and this new requirement for visibility was challenging.  When the talent that we are pursuing demands to be treated like a customer and be granted transparency into the recruiting process, how will that be received?


What would happen if we treated candidate like a customer?  Ironically, in many cases, candidates are actually customers of our goods and services.  One wonders how the “job customer” treatment influences the “product customer;” that would certainly be an interesting research project.


Study after study tells us that candidates are dissatisfied with the way they are treated as a job applicant.  The complaints range from lack of feedback and impersonal communication to overly challenging application processes.  These are the type of complaints that would cause the business side of things to lose customers.  So far as we know, it hasn’t cost us job customers.  So far as we know…yet.


 I believe the treatment of candidates will become a top concern in talent acquisition.   Our current approach is a ticking time bomb.  There is every reason to believe that customer expectations on the product or business side are going to spill over to the job side of things.  One day we are going to see feedback from a job candidate that publicly voices displeasure with the way they were treated by an organization during the job recruitment process.  And, other candidates that that have shared a similar experience, add their voices.  The end result is going to an uproar that dramatically impacts an organization.  An uproar that cannot be ignored and will damage brands and reputation; we saw this with Dell (“Dell Hell”), Verizon and other consumer brands.  If we act now, this situation is preventable—we just need to treat candidates like it matters.

The New Poster Boy for Post ‘N Pray

Conventional wisdom says that we have lost faith in post and praying. But I believe we are going to have a revival. And it is all because that posting and praying has a new spokesperson.

What is a Talent Community?

Talent community is a word that means different things to different people. In a recent addition of TChat radio , I was amazed at the diversity of opinion from the panelists. Co-host of TChat and recruiting thought leader, Kevin W. Grossman, posed this question to his audience–What Do Talent Communities Mean to You? I took a crack at defining talent communities based on my experience; and was troubled that my definition was not complete. As I thought more about it over the holidays, I discovered that a simple definition is somewhat illusive.

The Twitter length definition is: A talent community is a segmented audience of targeted talent that maps to current & future hiring needs contained in the workforce plan.

If we expand beyond 140 characters, there is a more encompassing conversation about talent communities. Perhaps you have noticed that a favorite topic of conversation in the recruiting community is pipelining potential talent for current and future openings with an organization. It seems to be the Holy Grail—to have a pre-qualified pool of talent that is available when your organization has on opening for that type of talent. The skeptics suggest this is a “pipe dream;” the optimists are convinced that the current social revolution will offer unique opportunities in talent pipelines—particularly with online talent communities.

At its core, recruiting is about identifying the target audiences that make up the talent segments that map to the workforce plan and recruiting goals. The social revolution introduced the idea of “social recruiting;” Social Recruiting entails developing and implementing the social media and brand strategies required to engage, cultivate and nurture a long-term relationship with the target talent. And this social recruiting relies on technology; which ironically can be used to put a human touch back into recruiting.

A community is about shared values and a conscious choice to live in that location. A citizen of a community contributes to it in terms of communication (conversation), collaboration and the common good. A talent community has those ingredients as its cornerstone; developing, implementing and building online talent communities for targeted talent shares common interests and values to create and grow relationships.

A talent community is a segmented audience of targeted talent that can meet the current and future hiring needs and maps to an organization’s workforce plan. What takes some mind bending is that an online community concurrently resides on multiple platforms. For example a community of talent sourcers can live on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, your ATS, your CRM and your recruitment marketing platform (i.e. Jobs2Web) simultaneously. And to compound the virtual challenge, most of these platforms have their own rules of engagement and avenues for communication and feedback.

Relationships are built with a talent community primarily through content. While recruiting has a vested interest in marketing jobs to the target audience, research indicates that profession or affinity focused content is more effective. In other words, it is better for your organization to be seen as sharing an affinity for the community as opposed to just giving them a job feed. In addition to relevant content and conversation, organizations have hosted live events at conferences or created online webinars that a community would find beneficial.

Organizations that are successful in building online talent communities serve their target talent audiences and are great citizens of their community. And on an iterative and ongoing basis, this community is engaged, nurtured, informed, listened to and cultivated in order that your organization will be top of mind when that timing is right for a community member to consider a job change.

There you have it; my take on talent communities. It is a definition that has been the product of five years of experimenting, piloting and discovery; in other words, it is more than a text book definition. That said, it is still a working definition; there is still much to learn. And fortunately, there is a community of recruiting leaders and practitioners that are pioneers in community building. This community is comprised of talent hunters that have adapted to challenges of recruiting in the 21st century with groundbreaking solutions. If you would like to be part of the conversation on talent community building, please join us.

Energized Incompetence

Prerequisites are important before launching into many endeavors; essentially it involves have a certain level of knowledge or expertise before engaging in an activity. The second prerequisite for building a talent community is mapping the passionate affinity group to its counterparts outside your organization. If an external community or an unassembled group of people outside of your organization are not having conversations about the affinity you want to advance, do not attempt to build a talent community. Similar to the passion (No Passion, No Community) for the cause that is part of the makeup of internal champions, the external audience needs to have an energy and motivation for discussion. Building a talent community that resides outside your organization may require a deeper trust building with your target audience to identify champions and partners than internal partnerships. Be careful that you do not get caught up in Energized Incompetence.

Now that you are armed with internal champions, a common mistake is to overlook the amount of nurturing, trust building: and art that is required to engage the external community. To me, it is like experiencing energized incompetence—you know the feeling that you have 1-2 days after attempting to use the techniques that you learned in a seminar or training. The methods and process that seemed so easy and unforgettable during the demonstration process turned out to require more skills than one gains from observation. It takes me back to the early days of the Internet late in the 20th Century.

I vividly remember the first AIRS (Advanced Internet Recruiting Strategies) training I attended; I was simply blown away by the potential of implementing their techniques. It was in the late 1990’s and was billed as tap into the secrets of the deep web. For me, it offered an opportunity to actually use the computer that was sitting on my desk.

I was introduced to the X-Ray Search—imagine the powerful feeling of finally being able to see what information was contained on a company’s web site. The CIA or FBI had nothing on us. Then there was the Flip Search—if you went to a search engine (www.hotbot.com or www.altavista.com) and put some key words, the results would show people that were linked to a company’s web site. We learned about finding lists, resumes, and how to search web communities like GeoCities and AOL (America Online). The AIRS trainer was engaging and skillfully moved through the presentation. She made it look easy. She made the audience feel we understood the mysteries of the deep recesses World Wide Web. I could not wait to get back to the office and try these techniques.

The next day, I raced to Egghead Software and purchased Spry’s Internet in a Box. I booted up my PC; installed the software and dialed up the Internet. I pulled out my notes from the training and decided warm up on a Flip Search. Nothing happen; at least I did not have the type of results our AIRS trainer had demonstrated to her audience, just the day before. Then, I attempted to X-Ray search; the skill that I most wanted to use. I put in the “site: “command in the browser and observed the results; nothing like the success that our trainer enjoyed. As you can imagine, I was very frustrated; I had been exposed to potentially game changing techniques and they just would not work for me. I had all the excitement for this new technology and none of the skills required to obtain the desired results—energized incompetence.

[Note: The AIRS example is meant to be an example of my energized incompetence and is no means a reflection of AIRS training. By the way, AIRS listened to their audience and made changes in the method of training–hopefully all AIRS grads and energized and competent.]

The easiest way to find potential community is to “listen” to the web conversations and determine who might be discussing your organization or the affinity group that you desire to engage. A variety of useful and free tools can assist you in your mission. I normally start with Google Alerts; Google’s Blog Finder and use iGoogle as a mash up for the different streams of information. You can add Monitter to observe the Twittersphere and Facepinch to monitor Facebook and you should have a great start on two of the most popular social platforms. LinkedIn Communities can be searched on the handy groups search feature or by using the “site:linkedin.com groups” on Google.

Identifying external affinity groups that can become champions is the second prerequisite for building a talent community. As in the case of internal communities, only about 1% of your community will be writers and creators; another 9% will edit and comment; while the remaining 90% will just join and listen. Without engaging these brand ambassadors, all or your great energy and aspirations will fall into the heap of incompetence. Now that you have identified your community members, how do collaborate effectively together? The third prerequisite for building a talent community is creating Good Citizens.

Interested in Talent Communities? I am part of a LinkedIn community built around Talent Community Development that is co-managed this group by some of the leading thinkers and early adopters of talent communities; Susan Burns (@TalentSynch), Britney Calkins (@bcalkins), Gail Houston (@ghouston), Kristin Kalscheur (@kkalscheur), Michele Porfilio (@mporfilio), Marvin Smith (@talentcommunity), Sherie Valderrama (@Svalderrama) and Stacy Van Meter (@sjvconsult). If you would like to join in the conversation about talent community development, I invite you to connect with us at Talent Community Development and

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