Recruitment in Australia: Will History Repeat Itself?

The recent acquisition of Peoplebank by Recruit Holdings brought a few memories from the days I joined the recruitment industry in 1999.

You see, around that time, Andrew Banks – being the consummate recruiter he still is – disarrayed me from my cushy job at IBM and fuelled my interest and – dare I say foresight – about the impact of the internet on the staffing and talent management verticals.

It was kinda my doing too. I remember reading in the Fin Review circa 1998 about how this company called TMP Worldwide, from which I had never heard of before, was romancing Morgan & Banks. After reading that article, I found myself writing to Andrew and Geoff sketching a business strategy plan, which in hindsight was effectively my job application for what would be my first gig at M&B.

In ’99 as part of a whole stream of acquisitions around the world, M&B joined the TMPW family of which was the crown jewel. Even though the TMPW agencies never stopped from offering recruitment services, the implicit strategy was to ‘feed the monster’ and ensure that it became the largest provider of online recruitment products (resume search, ATS).

If memory serves me right, Monster launched in Australia in late ’99, supported by a large CV bounty exacted from the acquired agencies. All the TMPW businesses in Sydney went to live happily together at Angel Place around that time.

The conviviality did not last for long. If you are too young to know or too old to care to remember, Monster closed shop in Australia after a fairly aggressive and long marketing campaign. A few reporting periods later, the recruitment agencies were spun out of TMP eventually creating the Hudson Federation.

Don’t get me wrong: Monster’s platform was pretty good at the time. But the market killed its potential via three different ways:

– Seek was already strong and very much on the up and up
– The internal TMPW offering conflicts (e.g. tell me again why do I want to liaise with an agency if Monster has all the candidates I need?),
– The fact that no agency wanted to buy Monster because of its close relationship with M&B and the other acquired agencies

I think the last reason above was the critical factor to bring about Monster’s demise the first time around. As you know, Monster co-owns CareerOne, which is already a longer-lasting, better-traction exercise in Oz compared to the first attempt.

Bring the clock forward to 2015. Recruit Holdings, owner of Indeed has Peoplebank on the portfolio and on the way to acquiring Chandler Mcleod. The press release expectedly guarantees independence and autonomy for the group’s companies moving forward, etc.

There seems to be little downside for Recruit Holdings at first sight. Peoplebank and CMG are two professionally run businesses, with significant market and brand share, poised to capitalise on a market upturn.

However I see a few risks, especially for Indeed, based on what I saw happening with Monster. True, the market has changed, matured even. Nevertheless, let me outline how I think things can get difficult:

So far, I am only hearing good vibes from Indeed; Their intent to dominate the market is palpable; from the marketing, through to their hiring, to the ever-improving search engine and dedication to SEO.
The risk for them is that now that Peoplebank and CMG are part of the Recruit stable, it will become harder for them to acquire/keep customers like Hays, Page, Hudson or Talent International. At least for now, agencies are the customers that matter.

In all likelihood, agencies will look for direct replacement products (e.g. other search engines like Adzuna) or other sourcing tools like LinkedIn, CareerOne or Seek. For the latter, this would continue to solidify their market leadership position.
If history repeats itself, Peoplebank and CMG may also come across hurdles:

– Indeed clouding their own value proposition to customers
– PB and CMG being “cordially invited” to use Indeed as their preferred source of candidates.
– Technology being deployed “on” them in order to generate ‘synergies’ with Indeed and across the group
– Seek, LinkedIn or other important sources of candidates changing their “commercial attitude” given these companies’ connection with Indeed.

Again, I agree the market has changed. Recruit might be culturally and strategically a totally different organisation compared to TMPW in the noughties and it may run a very different ship. Similarly, Peoplebank and CMD have the potential to be serious innovators in terms of redefining talent services with a strong services, supply-chain philosophy IF they are left to do their thing.

Last Friday’s announcement made this year so much more interesting for the recruitment industry. Can’t wait to seeing things unfold.

Hope you all had an amazing start of the year.

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Recruitment off the back of a truck

This sign is usually parked near the intersection of River and Shirley roads in Crows Nest; during peak traffic hours, the area is a nightmare to drive through, if you can drive through. I live half a mile down from where this ad is.

I am not sure when you last time paid attention to a You-Haul advertisement pushing a jobs website, let alone remembering to check it out once you got home. Seriously, I am just glad to get out of the bumper-to-bumper nightmare without getting too stuck.

Pretty dumb to spend money on this, huh?

Well, the ad is parked in a spot that is pretty much equidistant to The Royal North Shore and Mater Hospitals; surruounding them there is an entire ecosystem of labs, surgeries, private practices, physio centers, you name it.

My neighbour is a nurse. At the small primary school my kids go to, there are at least 1/2 dozen midwives who live in the area. They surely drive around River Rd all-the-time.

I’ve a had look at the advertised website. It is a bit of a substandard online experience, compared to best/better practice. It does what it needs to do as a jobs site, however.

Question is: What would you say is the candidate response due to the ad by the side of the road? I am not expecting huge flows of CV’s, but possibly high relevance levels and material volumes of applicants, given their geo hyper-targeting.

I will aim to get in touch with the agency guys and see if I can complete the picture. Just remember: you can have a niche campaign on wheels if you want to, outside Uni’s (graduates), coming out of Pyrmont (digital, IT), etc.

Have a good evening.

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Second Degree Land

InMapsWith Google, I found like I never had before
With Blogger, I published like I never had before;
With LinkedIn, I networked like I had never before;
With Twitter I discovered like I never had before;
With Facebook I played like I never had before;
I am not sure what I am doing on G+ yet…

I posted more or less the same lines to G+ a few weeks back; fact is I am not using it regularly and there is no immediate or apparent reason to go to it in a hurry.

But this is not about Plus; it’s about me reaching 1000 connections on LinkedIn which, as you well know, has no intrinsic value. It is also about a couple of articles on the rise of LinkedIn and its impact on human/real connections:

– Rick Bookstaber’s “Ultimately LinkedIn Will Make Your ‘Weak Links’ Less Valuable”
“The continuing devaluation of LinkedIn connections” by Ross Dawson

These pieces are not comparable straight away in as much as they are not addressing the same issue. Bookstaber’s post centers around network theory and how weak links need to remain ‘weak’ in order for societies to flourish and develop (whilst LinkedIn might be doing totally the opposite).

Ross’ article is about the bastardisation of the LinkedIn connection as more “strangers” approach you to link-in simply because -as per the system’s features- this is the only way to get in contact with a member. As a contrast, he references Facebook, where strangers can message you and you can “sus-out” people without a prior connection commitment.

The point of convergence for the articles was reaching the 1K connections mark, which prompted me to reflect on what happened to my way of doing business since joining LinkedIn. Some insights and personal experiences follow:

– I think I have done well in not connecting with every man and his dog just for the sake of increasing reach. Weak first degree connections that have no opportunity to strengthen are very much like those conference attendees whose business cards we hoard but whose face or pitch you cannot recall. You cannot help them and they cannot help you.

– Strong first degree connections off the system as well as those nourished in it after the initial contact have been extremely positive for repeat business. LinkedIn has proven to be an effective CRM; then again I don’t have thousands of clients or lots of staff that demand highly coordinated relationship processes.

– Almost every new customer I signed up is (or was at the time) a second degree connection linked to a strong first degree connection. At the same time, there is a huge chunk of second degree connections which are, to-date, strangers; however, more often than not, I have enough information to work out what their business needs and priorities might be. So, you know where my marketing efforts go.

– Third degree connections is uncharted territory; every now and then, I see little archipelagos (members who I know or can connect off the system) but they are rare. LinkedIn Signal might change that, but I am not a heavy user yet.

– Throughout the five 1/2 years of going with the biz, my marketing expenditure has been negligible. You might say I could be more/really successful if I had spent money. I think that if I had decided to have marketed more, I would have done more of the same (e.g. blogging more, increased participation on Groups, more presentations, videos, etc.) which is a resource with a cost but still imply no material disbursements of dollars.

– My cold calls on LinkedIn – inMails, connection requests via Groups – have had about a 30% success rate at the most. Success here is understood as having the chance at strengthening a relationship, so that 30% is looking not too hot, is it. I don’t believe the conduit was the culprit; rather, it was my inability to sell the connection request well enough.

About 10 years ago, a recruitment ‘big-wig’ told me something along the lines of “Jorge, you will never be able to accumulate the amount of business cards I have on my Rolodex”.

I am not exactly sure how he did business, but one thing LinkedIn has enabled me to do is to check thousands of ever-changing Rolodexes of people that I am not even directly related to. My future clients, employers, colleagues, employees are – more likely than not – living right now in second degree land.

Come on, be social :)

Why Facebook will not destroy LinkedIn

Just read the article ‘Why Facebook will destroy LinkedIn’ on ERE .

This is argued on the basis of four core reasons:

– Larger volumes of people on Facebook
– Similar demographic groups
– Recruitment tools showing up on Facebook already
– Better ‘social marketing’ at Facebook

I think the article should have been better titled ‘Why Facebook can be used as another platform to recruit’. Less attention-grabbing for sure, but perhaps more balanced.

This piece, IMHO, assumes that LinkedIn will sit on its hands and let all the wealth of profiles, companies and relationships information logged over the years go to waste. I don’t see it happening

Along these lines, the ‘Facebook is huge’ argument echoes the pitch of job boards sales reps of yesteryear selling eyeballs and traffic. Organisations never needed Unique Browsers; they always needed placeable candidates that allowed agencies to earn a fee, or corporations fill a role. Bits of functionality like LinkedIn Skills which enables self-skills-coding has the looks of a powerful offering to do things like ‘get me 15 developers with android games experience in Sydney’

Similarly, demographic similarities have to be complemented with intention of presence – I go to LinkedIn to generate leads, connect with professionals, and hopefully grown my personal brand. I go to facebook to chat to my sister in Peru, look at pictures of friends and fam, mostly.

I joined Branchout early in their life and was trying to use BeKnown. Kindly, and – this might go for Australia only – we’re at very very early and immature stages of seeing candidate attraction and retention happening on FB. I am not saying it will never happen; rather I am arguing that the social links – which can nurture professional links (e.g. I want to work at Adidas ‘cause I love the brand, and my cousing tells me training for salespeople is great) – are at this stage a huge haystack to look for needles.

I am looking forward to seeing a network, environment, app, etc. giving LinkedIn a run for its money; this will be very beneficial for the market as it will accelerate the pace of offerings. I just don’t see LinkedIn destroyed anytime soon.

Have a good rest of the week.

Come on, be social :)

What if your soul mate wants to come to your apartment?

It’s encouraging to be approached by an increasing number of recruitment firms and corporate recruitment teams asking for guidance on how to improve/ramp-up their presence on professional and online social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook.

With the risk of stopping them in their tracks, I normally include in this conversation a question or two about their own websites; I enquire if they measure their traffic, if they know how their sites renders on a smartphone and how regularly they update content, jobs, etc.

Sometimes I can feel in the voice of these potential customers a level of disappointment, so as to say “no, no; don’t get off topic, I don’t want to talk about my site; focus on the question about networks”

Like I said, it’s encouraging. It reflects that recruiters are aware that they need to go where job seekers and clients live, research, find.

Maybe it was the lack of caffeine today, but all I could come up with trying to explain why I ask those seemingly off-putting questions about their own website, was the following social dating scenario:

Imagine an online network is a funky, fashionable bar: nice music, lots of great-looking people mingling, checking each other out.

You are there too with shiny new clothes and accessories (company page, personal profile), already with a few acquaintances know you from previous meet-ups (connections), checking people out and being checked out.

Suddenly across the room, you see someone that really grabs your attention with their presence and persona (awesome profile – 100% complete, premium membership, open networker, looking for a career change). Fantastic!

At that moment, you come onto this person’s focus too; you’re the right complement: great connections, work for an awesome agency, and you’re hiring for this great company.

It’s a match. It’s late however: the bar will close eventually, but you and your soul mate don’t want to leave, both of you want to know more of each other. You want to talk all night.

So you pop the question: “Do you want to come to my apartment?”

At that moment (hopefully before you mutter the words) you may have thought: In which condition will this person find my abode? When did I last vacuum? Is there more than stale milk in the fridge?

You know where I am going.

If you effectively engage potential candidates or customers on a professional/social network, and they are keen enough to accept your invitation to your apartment (your company website); What they find there? Will this more intimate environment help you grow closer to this person, or will he/she be putt-off because your place is not as shiny as you appeared on the bar?

I say it again, more than happy to assist people to dress up and look fab in preparation to go to this huge online bar; just let me ask you in which condition you left your apartment.

Happy Oz Day everyone!!

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Recruitment and Virtual Goods

I was pretty sure I had not bought any virtual goods; I’d rather give a real bunch to the missus instead of getting her a one-dimensional rose on Facebook. Heck I might lose my face if I show with my byte-based present.

I caught a bit of the first day of @leweb a couple of days ago. During the time I watched it was all about games, mobile, social and payments. I won’t be surprised if that’s how it went for the rest of the sessions.

Fact is, I might be the only old-f@art not buying virtual goods. Billions of dollars have exchanged hands, and many companies have become hugely profitable off the back of these ethereal goods. And they all seem to get even stronger sale/expansion outlooks.

Thing is, I think there is a more comprehensive of virtual goods when I said I had not bought any yet.

If you think of software as a virtual good – whether it is a spreadsheet, a smartphone game, or an iTunes track – I guess this means we’re in this virtual commerce exchange for a long time now. The distinctive feature of these goods is that they have intellectual inputs that ‘impact’ the purchaser or recipient. The problem with my earlier definition was that I did not see intellectual inputs on electronic cows (which are totally different to electric sheep, but I digress).

Hopefully, you have agreed with this revised definition of virtual goods and with the fact that you and I have been supporting this economy for yonks. Let me put something else on top of that:

Physical goods – computers, jeans, coffee – have virtual goods in their make up that appeases or satisfy us emotionally, over and above the fact that the computer is fast, that those jeans hold your butt beautifully, or that the coffee is going to wake you up.

I put to you that those virtual goods are encapsulated in what we call ‘brand’. The implicit assumption is that, perhaps over time, you can find the physical features of branded (and great) goods in other white label products. Manufacturing technology, design progress and Japan seem to indicate this is rather plausible.

That was a bit of a long road to assert that the virtual elements of your product/service have the potential to be the source of customer engagement with them.

Where are our virtual goods in recruitment? How do agencies and hiring organisations build in virtual goods that make clients and job seekers react emotionally in their favour?

I guess as an industry we don’t invest sufficiently in these virtual goods. It might be worthwhile considering investing in them as these could be a tangible part of what you call your differentiators.

What will it take for you to consider investment in your virtual goods? Money? Better understanding?

If you leave an insightful comment I will send you recommendation to be an honorary member of Pet Society.

Have a good weekend

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Young or Older, we need you Bolder

I am always a bit sceptical about news of studies regarding perceptions and attitudes about the mature workforce like the one that got published recently.

Don’t get me wrong; if the findings indicate a true change of practice regarding older workers, that’s great.

I mean it’s in everyone’s best interest, right? Sooner or later – if we’re lucky – we’re moving up the age bracket whilst staying functional.

Whether we’re bosses or employees, we’re always selling our professionalism, experience and potential. Fact remains, the perception of our effectiveness as salespeople is impacted by how wrinkled we look.

How do we change these perceptions? How do we become grey hair impervious?

All of us have a to-do. Owners, managers and workers young and old need to nremain ‘responsible’.

1. employees, ensure you’re not mis-cast. There will be a temptation to take on a job that may not be a strength to you, but your potential employer is going to say ‘come on mate, you’re experienced, you can do this job’. if you know that is not the case, don’t accept it. It will come back to haunt you.

2. employers, just because some people have been on the workforce for thirty years, it guarantees you nothin’. There are people who are shit workers in their 20’s and they don’t learn, skill up or gain insights, and in their 50’s they remain shit workers. Leave the affirmative action stuff, don’t hire off the back of the wise-older worker preconception, and interview and test as if you want the job done the best possible way.

3. employees stay hungry. No-one wants lazy fat cats in their teams, however young or old. Show that you want the job, that you want to do well, that you want to become a linchpin of the organisation (here goes Seth Godin again). Stamina changes should not impact on your attitude.

4. employers, situational leadership won’t go astray across all your teams.There are certainly different motivators per staff member; don’t manage generational groups. Manage individuals.


12-10-2010 Update: Good stats and thoughts from Ross Clennett

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Seth’s done it again

With “Linchpin”, Seth Godin has hit the mark as far as conveying a message that resonates with employers, employees, the self-employed, the entrepreneur: work is art in as much as it is a process filled with generosity provided by individuals that create, connect, produce; and ultimately has an effect on others.

Perhaps the book’s punch comes from the fact that the metaphors and actual advice avoid the usual career advice gaff and aims to engage the reader at the emotional level that is required to be an effective worker, as opposed to a ‘steady job holder’.

This post – the first in more than a few months – is direct result of his pep-write: I’ve been too busy to “ship” (deliver, produce, think, give). I had great excuses: I am dedicating a lot of time to other projects including Digital Reach, and I had ruined the original template of this blog (it still is as you can see), so I did not want too many visitors.

I am getting out there again: selling, writing, consulting, pushing the things I stand for; which as you know it’s double-shit scary. Double because you can fail, which makes you feel you want to go hide under a rock and never come out; or you succeed, which means you have to get tense again and deliver so that your client is happy to pay the bill you sent them and then want to come back for some more.

Obviously if you dislike Godin, this will likely not be the book to make you a convert. It’s more of the same, perhaps sharper than ever, less sympathetic and with a desire to shake the ‘factory worker’ mindset and bring out the unruly genius in all of us.

If you get to it, let me know what were your impressions.

Have a great rest of the week

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Job ads slump in Oz: rants

Belated happy new ’09. Nice to be back

A bit of a rant and/or speculations re. the news on job ads

a) The 50% + decline in newspaper ads includes the economic slow down factor and the migration to online factor which, if you have seen the Seek investor presentations, is BIG

b) The almost 30% decline in online ads includes the slow down factor, the ‘less-reposting’ factor and to a still small extent, to a ‘migration off classifieds’ factor.

c) If you take a) and b), then the corollary is that the decline in the actual job openings is less dramatic that the ad statistics.

d) There will be more applicants per job ad, but possibly less applications overall (due to lesser volumes of ads). But if you accepted a) and b) then it will not be 50 or even 30% harder to get a job, ceteris paribus

John Sumser wrote about how the media loves the bad news. I encourage everyone not to make our own gloom.

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making referral systems work

Anecdotal evidence indicates that referrals are a great source of placed/place-able candidates. “Great” is obviously highly subjective, it could refer to a number of variables and scales.

I will forget for a moment that I have not seen systemic/comprehensive empirical of the ‘greatness’ of referrals. Assuming this is a channel worth nurturing and developing, I believe that what enables the message (job opportunity) to disseminate through the channel is a minimum of two Trust relationships:

– 1 between the referrer and referee (colleague, relative)
– 1 between the potential employer or agency (whomever offers the job) and referrer (current employer, family business)

I am not even saying that this trust is well placed, I am only stating it needs to exist so that the message (job opportunity) goes somewhere. Eventually, a third trust relationship – between employer/agency and referee – may develop, even though the candidate is not offered the job.

From this it follows that the core issue with online referral systems like 2vouch and others is the fact that there is no trust relationship between the job poster and the referrer, so there is no comfort in disseminating the message. I would argue that the info on the job posting is not comprehensive enough to compel a referrer to recommend it to a contact.

The accompanying risks are well known: spamming, low quality, lack of ‘greatness’. What follows then is that if I were to run one of these referrals sites, I would dedicate 90% of all my budget to develop at trust relationship between the job poster and the referrer, sneezer, etc.

Do you agree? What else would you do to make an online referral platform actually work, other than the usual (great service, fluid site, blah)?

Have a great week


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