Behind the Front Lines at SHRM, Las Vegas: Day Two

NOTE: This is the second in a series of articles from Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler, who are covering SHRM’s Annual Conference and Exposition this week in Las Vegas for the Electronic Recruiting Exchange. Between dirigibles flying overhead and car giveaways, the employment “Dot-Coms” and technology recruiting solution companies were the most visible force in the Exposition segment of the SHRM conference here in Las Vegas. There was an overwhelming number of new ideas?some bright, some dim?and it wasn’t easy to spot the winners. If we thought we knew of every applicant tracking and resume management system, we were sorely mistaken. Several new ones were introduced (amid rumors of layoffs in others), and we were surprised to find that even (formerly has a plain vanilla web-based service to “give away” to its clients who use it’s “wrapping” service. (Yeah, give away…but an explanation will have to wait.) Lots of new sites are trying to break into the cacophony of job and resume boards. Best of luck. One had a huge (read “expensive”) booth which must have been built before the company was even created (they launched last week). Another site,, connected to yet another ad agency, offers as its value proposition that jobs will only be posted for 7 days?thereby guaranteeing “freshness.” Do you wonder if they’ll renew the posting? I did. Time will tell. A side discussion with the head of the World Organization of Webmasters at the JobOptions booth (they are part of the JobOptions network) was interesting because the organization, which claims 11,000 members, has acquired significant federal funding for training and development activities in support of its niche. One new service that caught our eye was Their approach is not what I originally thought?a means to invite referrals from any visitor. Instead, they’ve thought through a targeted approach to engaging selected professionals (read “top performing employees”) to contact a predetermined number of people (read “the two or three best folks in your network”) in return for a bonus. The price is right: 20% of the bonus, if a hire is made. Definitely worth a closer look. The conference speakers were too numerous to mention, but two in particular stand out: The first of these we heard early Monday morning. In his speech, Arthur Nathan, VP of Bellagio (the Casino), described his approach to hiring and retention. I would challenge anyone to match the efficiencies and quality of thinking that went into Artie’s design. Imagine hiring 9500 people in a few weeks with no paper, and, when measuring the satisfaction of the job seeker, receiving scores that were off the chart for both high-tech and high-touch in each step of the process. (In fact, how many folks even consider using measures of candidate satisfaction as a part of their hiring system evaluation?) Imagine that you came in to fill out an application for a non-exempt position and an attendant in the parking lot opened your car door. You were greeted and thanked for coming. You reach the front door and you were greeted by name as the door was held open for you to enter. You are escorted to an assigned computer whose keyboard is marked and, when you press the first key the screen welcomes you by name and offers you multiple language options. You are able to fill out the form without error. Imagine automating the process so that you can do this 35,000 times (without error) in the space of a few weeks. There was a lot more as well. The second speaker of interest was Libby Sartain, VP of People for Southwest Airlines, who described her company’s process for developing their newest “brand” (Symbol of Freedom) and how her staff extended the brand into 8 Freedoms at Southwest (read: eight reasons for working here). Her closing line was the most important?”when all is said and done, you better walk the talk.” Mark and I had a long day. We presented toward the end of it?one of 20 concurrent sessions. We thought our room was a little big until 1000 people showed up. Lots of people are looking for answers. There are still more questions that need to be asked. Looking forward to tomorrow…

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Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler are co-authors of CareerXroads and are internationally recognized as educators, consultants and practitioners. Learn more at


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