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Happy 2013—Here We Go Again


Whether we like it or not, 2013 is here. As the calendar turns, it seems a perfect time for reflection, both personally and professionally.  2012 was another year of broken resolutions, unfilled potential, and missed opportunities, that were interspersed with small gains, both personally and professionally.  Yet, I remain optimistic, hopeful and eager to embrace the adventures of 2013.  Somehow I want to make 2013 different, even if the challenges of 2012 remain with their respective prospects for solutions continue.

When I think about the professional side of things and look at talent acquisition, I see three overarching challenges: 

  1. The candidate/prospect experience
  2. The lack of integration of technology solutions
  3. The confluence of Web 1.0 & Web 2.0

These challenges will be the focus of my professional energy, efforts, and conversations in 2013 (as they were in 2012).  So, here we go again?

The experience that a prospect or a candidate enjoys (or doesn’t) is one of the important and seemingly ignored by aspects of talent acquisition.  Sometimes I think the candidate/prospect experience is talent acquisition’s “fiscal cliff.”

As a talent sourcer, I am very excited about the technological innovation that is occurring, especially in the area of identifying, engaging and nurturing prospects.  Unfortunately, no one technology solution seems to work with an ATS.    Sometimes the lack of a “line of sight” from prospect interest to candidate hire is like “driving blind.”

As an early adopter and advocate of Web 2.0 in talent acquisition, I must also acknowledge that certain Web 1.0 tactics and tools still work.  This state where Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 both exists (and function well) is called confluence.  While we are waiting for the convergence of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 into what we will call Web 3.0, we must navigate this time of confluence.  Sometimes, this period of confluence is too “complicated” for simple solutions.

The adventures in talent acquisition that await us in 2013, while familiar will give us new versions to consider and fresh variations to explore and a renewed commitment to take on our overarching challenges. Perhaps that is where 2013 will be different; the same challenges, but taken on with a new perspective.

 Happy New Year!


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.

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

No Passion, No Community!

The first prerequisite for building a talent community is passion; and that wish it is a core factor on which a community is established. If there is not an affinity for your community within your organization, do not attempt to build a talent community. The lesson of the past 5 years is that most communities will fail if there is not the energy or the motivation to keep the conversation going. Building a talent community takes time, nurturing and cultivation; in a world of transactions, talent acquisition people can lose sight of prize.

What happens when there is no passion? My friend, and colleague at Microsoft, Heather Tinguely (@heathertinguely); Program Manager, Global Talent Labs) presented some groundbreaking research at a Social Recruiting Summit concerning the 200+ online staffing communities at Microsoft. Heather pronounced nearly 80% of the communities “dead.” In addition, nearly 50% of the communities had less than 100 members. Heather’s in-depth research, investigated online talent communities on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other platforms. Heather’s findings suggest that “greater engagement is better;” that community members seek the “human” element; and that a group needs to be “large enough to have a quality dialogue.” And she offered one solid piece of advice—“don’t create communities on what you need, create groups based on the interests of your target audience.”

Community thought leader Jakob Neilson suggest that only 1% of people create content and 9% of online visitors comment on content; and 90% are lurkers that read or observe, but to not contribute. It is very important to identify the passionate insiders is a key pre-community factor.

One of the best examples of passion and affinity based community creation is the We Still Serve Community at Microsoft. Fresh off being awarded a Freedom Award, Sean Kelley (@pxkelley), a very astute Staffing Director, seized the opportunity to leverage the 500+ member military affinity group and enlisted them to become evangelists for Microsoft. Sean imagined Microsoft as an employer of choice for military veterans. Sean recruited R.J. Naugle , to lead the effort and assembled a large virtual team comprised of staffing leaders, recruiters and sourcers. In addition to the communities on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter an innovative web site featured a job decoder that translated military experience into Microsoftese (or vise versa) and live chat with veterans that work at Microsoft. What makes the chat unique is the voices on Microsoft side of the conversation are veteran volunteers, recruiters. I believe that We Still Serve is a prototype of how talent communities will be built. It will be interesting to watch this community evolve under the watchful guidance of Joe Wallis (@joewallis). We Still Serve, is a great example of capturing the passion of a group of internal employees and making them ambassadors for the brand.

Identifying internal champions is the first prerequisite for building a community. If only about 1% people that are passionate enough to write about their interests, we must be very diligent in recruiting brand ambassadors. Engaging and nurturing those writers and storytellers will be critical during the first year or so of a communities’ existence. At some point, a community will reach a tipping point and have a life of its own. To live on its own, a talent community needs the right mix of internal champions and external fans. We look for passion and affinity internally; next time, I will discuss how to discover the communities and potential community members that are external to your organization with an article titled–Energized Incompetence

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 join in the conversation .

Guidelines vs. Recipe for a Talent Community Redux

Editor’s note: Every have a bad writing day? I think v1 of this post fell into that category. This is a revised and expanded version of earlier post.

How do you build a talent community? Is there a step by step method of creating and building a community? Today, I answer those questions differently.
In the past, I described the approach to building community as a recipe. With great confidence, I proclaimed there were six ingredients to the Talent Community Recipe—all you have to do is mix the right elements and your talent community is baked. My recipe for community included:

1. Strategy: Should the community be about “jobs” or should it be built around a “profession”
2. Brand: Name the community and set up mission/vision/goals
3. Engage: enlist internal champions and show expectations
4. Content Calendar: Set up content calendar and select content RSS feeds
5. Measurement of Success: Set up method of tracking activities
6. Conversation: Invite members to the community and begin conversing

I have built communities after the above steps; and I have been disappointed. I built large communities of several thousand people in which, no one was engaged in conversation. I built communities where only minimal affinity existed internally or externally. I build communities that required internal participants to learn a new platform and did not fit into the current workflow. I built communities that failed to answer the WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) question; in other words– what value will I receive in this community. These community initiatives provided me with “experience.”

What that “experience” has taught me is that while the elements and ingredients remain the same, the result can differ from community to community. Because humans are involved, and for the most part uncontrollable; there are some elements to community building that can only be experienced by trial and error. That is why I now advocate the community building process as Six Talent Community Guidelines. That is also why I advocate sharing; so that we all can benefit from both success and failure.

Guidelines, not recipe; the reason that I think about guidelines and not a specific recipe for success is that a recipe presupposes that we have certain prerequisites before beginning the project. If we thought of it in terms of following a recipe for a baking project, the perquisites could include an oven, a pan, and electricity or gas as well as someone who would be interested in eating the product. Without those prerequisites, it doesn’t make any difference if you have a recipe, the baking project will be a failure. To extend the metaphor to community, there are important aspects of a community that are important to a community’s success; they are things that should be considered before building a talent community. These prerequisites or pre-community success factors are:

• No Passion, No Community: Find a group inside of a company that is passionate or have a shared affinity
• Energized Incompetence: map the affinity group inside your organization to its counterpart community outside your organization
• Citizenship 101: Note social behaviors, norms and customs on the respective social platforms
• Big Hat, No Cattle: Determine how to bring your unique promise of value to this community

I am writing a series of articles that will discuss building communities as I share my experience of the past five years. I will explore each of the Six Talent Community Guidelines. But first, I wanted to begin with the pre-community elements or prerequisites. Today, when I think about building a new community, I want to understand the passion around the affinity group; I want to see that affinity group inside and outside the organization; I want to better under norms and behaviors on the platforms that I am considering for the community and finally, I want to understand how my brand will bring value to this community.

Next time, the importance of “passion” as a pre-community factor will be highlighted. I found out that if “No Passion; No Community.”

Interested in the subject of Talent Communities? I am part of a LinkedIn community called Talent Community Development. In addition to myself, this group is co-managed by some of the leading thinkers around talent communities; Susan Burns(@TalentSynch), Britney Calkins(@bcalkins), Gail Houston (@ghouston), Kristin Kalscheur (@kkalscheur), Michele Porfilio(@mporfilio), Sherrie Valderrama (@Svalderrama) and Stacy Van Meter (@sjvconsult). If you would like to join in the conversation about talent community development, I invite you to join Talent Community Development

I Am Still a PC

Yesterday was my last day at Microsoft. I was afforded a great opportunity to create and impact recruiting; an outcome that I did not anticipate when I joined the company five years ago. It was a humbling experience working with the best and the brightest; I was amazed by my colleagues. Amazed, not by just how smart everyone is; but by the quality of human beings they are and the values that are shared. We did some great work together that changed the face of recruiting not only at Microsoft for the recruiting industry globally.

And during that process, I became a big fan of Microsoft and its products and services. And the question has arisen; will I continue to be a fan of Microsoft?

Absolutely, I will continue to be a fan; there is a long term impact of the Microsoft Kool-Aid. For my MAC friends, I still prefer a PC. For my Google friends, I will continue to “Google It on Bing.” For my iPhone friends; I gave up my Blackberry when I joined Microsoft. And frankly, I missed my Blackberry.

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