The Horseless Carriage of Recruiting: The Internet

There is the ancient story they teach of the Tower of Babble, a massive undertaking of biblical man, a gigantic and ornate tower to celebrate the self-proclaimed glory of man. It was to symbolize the creativity, intelligence, industry, and creativity of the human race. The builders were so busy planning and self-congratulating, that they failed to honor and recognize the “Almighty” as the possible benefactor who bestowed these “gifts” unto man. Therefore, the offended “Almighty” summoned the forces of nature and destroyed the tower, scattering its ungrateful architects across the world, who thereafter were unable to speak in the same “tongue” and therefore never again to conspire against the “Almighty.” Hence the creation of the expression “babbling” or “Babbling like an idiot.” Which reminds me, you ever been to a website planning meeting? If you want to build your 21st Century Internet/Intranet-based staffing and hiring process, you are going to need three things very badly:

  • Consensus
  • Consensus
  • Consensus

That means you need to meet with all the people within your organization who have either administrative or creative control over your corporate website. Do not laugh if you are an employee of a small company. It only takes two people to create gridlock. (Or only one, if he or she has multiple personalities!) Whether you are a billion-dollar multinational, or small agency just starting out, you had better have a meeting of “all hands” before you start contemplating changing your website. That means you had better determine who should be at this meeting, and DO NOT FAIL to invite them to this first meeting. (“Trouble with your website? Too bad, I was not in on the initial planning, could have prevented this issue! But, too late now. Tsk, Tsk”) However, here is a list that I recommend. It may be that in your company, one person wears a couple of these hats, or several people share one hat. Remember my simple rule of sales etiquette, “When dealing with people you may need something from, and they do not necessarily have to give it to you, make them happy!” In other words, when in doubt, INVITE! IT — This one may seem superfluous, but when your webmaster has finished building your new site and has moved onto bigger and better (shinier and newer) projects, who do you think will be the person you call when your system crashes? More to the point, unless your company only uses IBM electric typewriters, you probably need to recruit IT professionals, so why not get their input at the “get-go.” Webmaster — Or should I say “Almighty”? However, the Web is his or hers. Your ideas may cause issues with future plans, new tools purchases, or might be more advanced than your webmaster can support (by the way, they will not admit that fact. They will mention “fragile technology” or “untested tools.”) But everything has somebody in charge of it, and that person will have a lot of input into your plans. The good news is, they cannot stop you if you do this right. But they can be a drag on the process. The goal is to get it done, not engage in territorial wrestling matches, and work with the webmaster. The webmaster has real skills and insights, use them. Believe me, if you are truly developing a project based on bleeding edge technology, tools and advances in application theory that might get your site mentioned in “PC World” and “Wired”, they will get on-board. If you build it, they will come. Web Content Editor — Everybody has standards. Even if you do not, the absence of standards is a statement in it’s own right. In your organization, somebody has the job of evaluating and determining correct content. For many this is a way of establishing consistency and encouraging “branding” of your company and it’s message. Less concerned with the use of new technology, and more focused on the way you communicate. The use of the correct shade of “Corporate Blue” in the logo, or the absence or presence of moving banners in a “banner less” site. Think of the Web Content Editor as the “V” chip in your television, a good idea developed by caring and concerned people that often causes more problems than it solves. Alternatively, they could be a significant contributor in helping you make the development process move quickly through the quagmire of corporate standards. Recruiting Staff — I know, “It’s about time!” But we knew we had a seat at the table. It is, after all, our “tower.” But get ALL of your staff in on the process. Everybody has a tale to tell, an opinion to offer, a “what if” idea they have been trying to bring up for months. When the dust settles and your new website is up and running, you want everybody to have a sense of ownership. All too often we “decide” that there is something wrong with the Web and therefore can place the blame for all our problems recruiting on this “built in” excuse. It is tougher to find the flaws in something you built. Human Resources Representatives — If you want to actually recruit and hire on the Web and not just gather resumes, there are HR issues that will have to be brought online. Whether we need approval to incorporate more salary and benefit information, automating the application process, on-line legal disclaimers (i.e. EEO/AA Policy, Background Check Declaration, Post Hire Drug Tests). Protecting the company’s legal standing is their specialty and if you are gong “out there,” you better bring HR along. To automate a process, you need to understand the intent and the mechanics of the process. Sales and Marketing — They are already spending a fortune on media and Web advertising. Why not capitalize on that investment and “brand” your recruiting message in accordance with the sales and marketing “pitch”? Your recruiting efforts can be seen by them, if you present the concept correctly, as another form of lead generation. Certainly improved staffing will also mean positions get filled faster and better, thereby increasing revenue and hence, increasing everyone’s bonus. But you will have access to more resources and have access to people who make a living sending a strong and attractive message outside the company to prospects and leads. Sounds like recruiting to me! <*SPONSORMESSAGE*> Now that the guest are all lined up, announce the first meeting as a “Brainstorm Session.” Make a general statement of your intent to build a real online recruiting and hiring system. You are going to get rid of the “Horseless Carriage” and bolt the engine onto a real aerodynamically streamlined “Year 2000” recruiting and hiring process. Now you “Brainstorm.” The problem is, few of us do a good job brainstorming. Here is an example: “Anybody have any GOOD ideas for a change?” “Yeah, why don’t we have an…..” “Did it already, stunk, next!” “Well, we could call…..” “Bad idea, he’s an idiot, nice try slick. Next!” “I do not seem to have any ideas.” “Imagine my shock! Jeez people, how come every time I need ideas you people clam up?” To really get people on board in a brainstorm session you need to first map out your goal. Get someone in front of the room by the White Board and just start writing down the ideas as fast as they come. Make no comments, and allow no comments, on quality or feasibility. Your first goal is to allow people to freely speak their minds without fear of rebuke and caustic comments. You will be amazed what kind of creative energy starts to flow with that simple ground rule, 30 minutes of pure “what if” and no discussion on technical issues, policy issues, legal issues, past practice issues and so on. Just plain old fashion ideas flowing from people who now feel:

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  1. You care what they think.
  2. You may incorporate what they think.
  3. You are not belittling them for what they think.

The next step is to start working through all these ideas to focus on what appears to be “doable” based on the following concepts:

  1. Never forget: you are creating a recruiting and hiring on-line system. Nothing should be eliminated that contributes to that goal, or added that does not facilitate the process. (Exception, see previous rule on Sales Etiquette in this article.)
  2. Time and money are the “millstones” to true creative freedom. That being said, all good ideas have a point where the cost of doing them and the time required to get them done, make doing them dubious and counter productive.
  3. Not everything old is useless, not everything new is innovative. Seek a good reason to keep or add something to the project.
  4. The team will need deadlines and checkpoints. Make them realistic.
  5. Assign the right task to the right person(s). I usually like to create two person teams. For each sub-project. Mix them up whenever possible. To investigate new tools that may be needed to develop your new site, have a Web master and a Marketing Communications person. Balance the quest for technical perfection, with practical daily application.
  6. Make sure the key points of what you are building have complimentary ideas, not counter-ideas. If you want to make you site faster for candidates to use, do not have a 90 page PowerPoint presentation they have to download to get started. No matter how “cool” the graphics seem to be when done downloading 97 minutes later.
  7. Make sure your website looks like the people you are trying to recruit. In one meeting, a person cautioned that some candidates may lack the tools to access our online recruiting site and make full use of all its features. As all our openings were Web development based, I do not care if we lose candidates who cannot figure out my site or do not have “Bleeding Edge” technical knowledge! On the other hand, if you are looking for non-technical people, do not overload your site either.

The follow-up meetings will determine costs, timelines, steps and phases of development, milestones, and those resources or “permissions” required based on the size and scope of your project. This first meetings primary goal was accomplished if you feel you have assembled the right talent, developed new ideas, and now have a sense of not only what you want your new Web to look like, but how you want to integrate the Web and your Staffing process into a seamless blending of human input and automated steps. But more importantly, you need to have altered your hiring process. New graphics, faster loading “Flash” based technology, revolving banners, and new hyperlinks are merely window dressing. You need to think past the process of paper and develop an interview process and hiring procedure that incorporates all the speed and potential depth of the Web. Remember, that many on your team will assume that merely adding a new background color constitutes change. The bean counters in your organization will be reluctant to spend money if they assume you are just doing upgrades of your existing Web. Good recruiters are good sales persons. Great recruiters are great sales persons. You are going to have to sell a forward thinking concept to get more than permission to merely put a new coat of paint on the “Horseless Carriage” you call your Web recruiting process. When the Tower of Babble failed, two of the architects got together and discovered that they did not speak the same language and could no longer communicate. The irony is that many of us trying to build better websites find that we speak the same language, and still cannot communicate with our fellow architects. Have a great day recruiting!

Ken Gaffey (kengaffey@comcast.net) is currently an employee of CPS Personal Services (www.cps.ca.gov) and has been involved in the Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration project since its inception. Prior to this National Security project Ken was an independent human resources and staffing consultant with an extensive career of diversified human resources and staffing experience in the high-tech, financial services, manufacturing, and pharmaceutical industries. His past clients include Hewlett Packard, First Data Corporation, Fidelity Investments, Fleet Bank, Rational Software, Ericsson, Astra Pharmaceutical, G&D Engineering, and other national and international industry leaders. In addition to contributing articles and book reviews to publications like ERE, Monster.com, AIRS, HR Today, and the International Recruiters Newsletter, Ken is a speaker at national and international conferences, training seminars, and other staffing industry events. Ken is a Boston native and has lived in the greater Boston area most of his life. Ken attended the University of South Carolina and was an officer in the United States Marine Corps.

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