Friday, May 26, 2006

Invisibility Cloaks to Flying Cars

Looks like innovation is leaping forward again. Check this story out on ZDNet about how a group of researchers and scientists have taken a big leap forward towards creating invisible materials or cloaks that can make objects "invisible."

This has nothing to do with recruiting, business, or HR in the traditional sense. But whenever an innovation comes out that has the potential to change the dynamics of everyday life (or even industries), I have to give it some love.

You might be asking yourself, "what's next? Flying cars?"

Apparently, yes.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Recruiting: The Google Way

Here's an interesting post about how Google is beginning to recruit college grads. According to this report, Google is beginning to keep tabs on IP addresses of users in order to differentiate those who are coming from a college.

Apparently for a while, Google has been placing Google Scholar as one of their search tabs if they detect that you are coming from a college. Now, they're being more direct by placing a link directly on their front page in order to attract college recruits.

Here are some other articles about Google's recruiting ways:

John Sullivan's Case Study
Allan Hoffman's Article

In case you're wondering, no...I'm not on the Google bandwagon. ;) Although, in some cases, Google is making it harder NOT to be.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Bad Bosses

This is almost funny and saddening at the same time. I came across a site completely devoted to dealing with bad bosses.

It's a typical gripe that you hear or have experienced yourself: "I work for an idiot." (Hopefully I don't have anyone saying that about me ;)

The site features a "helpful resources" section that boasts, among other things, articles like "Why Jerks Get Ahead in the Workplace," and "10 Tips for Surviving a Bad Boss."

I could go into a long description of how having bad managers is another quick path to irrelevance, but something tells me this site might give you a good idea why. I'll expand on this topic after things die down for me here.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Quickest Path to Irrelevance: Empowerment

Out of the many things an organization can do on a consistent basis to become irrelevant, I think one of the biggest is this: not empowering your own employees to do what is necessary.

What do I mean by this?

Let's take the example I used in an earlier posting. Throughout the whole experience, the one thought that kept leaping up in my mind was that this large retailer didn't empower its own employees to do anything necessary to make customers happy. The same thing kept coming out of each employee's mouth: "It's store policy, sir. We can't do anything about it."

...Can't do anything?

In essence, what the organization is saying to each employee is that it doesn't care about happy customers who offer repeat business. Rather, it values saving a few bucks here and there at the expense of its brand.

Many of you have heard that legendary story about Nordstrom and the man who returned a tire. Here's another great example of how far this company goes in order to please its customers.

Tell me one thing: if an organization went to these lengths to make you happy, would you not become a fanatical evangelist for them? Would you not find every excuse to shop at their stores instead of a competitor's?

I wonder how this problem of empowerment might play out in recruiting or HR?

What about when a recruiter, after sharing their passion about the company to a candidate, goes on to find out after an initial interview (or two) that the company has decided to close the position indefinitely? What about when an employee asks the HR department to rectify a situation in the workplace, and HR really can't do anything because they don't have "power" to discipline a high level VP?

In each of these cases, people are left feeling helpless and at a loss for an explanation for the candidate or employee involved. And in each case, people walk away...respecting the organization and its brand a little less.

What's worse, those affected by this lack of empowerment will never become evangelists for your organization.

...And when you don't have people willing to evangelize for your organization, you eventually become irrelevant.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Quickest Path to Irrelevance: Compromise

What happens to products, services, or ideas when people compromise on them?

Irrelevance happens.

In continuing my series on how organizations make themselves irrelevant in the world, I've come to agree with this thought: that compromise on an idea, product, or service often times leads to mediocre things.

You might be raising your eyebrow now. Compromise leading to mediocrity? Blasphemy! Indeed, our whole modern culture is built around this notion of "tolerance." It's politically correct. It's less abrasive. It's less stubborn. It's more forward thinking.

I say it's backwards thinking...when it comes to certain things. For instance, when you have a WOW idea. Or when you have a vision of what could be, and you want to turn it into what will be.

Unfortunately, organizations sometimes prevent these WOW things from happening. I take that back...not sometimes...MOST times. Why? You get together with people. Ideas are thrown around. People have different agendas. Before you know it, the original vision or idea takes a backseat to what becomes a conglomeration of thoughts from everyone in the room. Then of course someone (aka the leadership team) has to approve the idea/product/service. More deliberation ensues. More crap gets added on to satisfy "them."

And then...what was a WOW idea becomes a compromised "huh?" idea. It's a "huh?" idea because after the dust settles from all the meetings and deliberations, the eventual customer for that idea looks at it and doesn't understand how it addresses a need in their life.

This happens in a lot of departments, projects, or BUs in organizations. And recruiting and HR departments are no exception to this. How many times have recruiting departments compromised on an ATS system in order to satisfy every single "stakeholder?" And how many times has that lead to a system...which originally was intended to make recruiters MORE efficient...that leaves everyone wondering who in the world picked this thing to begin with.

Even worse, what about when organizations compromise on talent? How many times has an organization looked over a talented candidate because HR says they're not within the "Sr. Associate payband?"

Day in and day out, I see how a lot of people make compromises. And slowly...their projects, BUs, or departments begin becoming irrelevant. Maybe that's why executives hate HR (recruiting included...let's admit it, they still lump all of us together with that term): It's made so many compromises over time that it's become irrelevant to an organization's strategic roadmap.

Maybe I'm way off here. So don't take my word for it. Just check out what others think.

Maybe you'll see that just doesn't make sense to compromise. Not when irrelevance is on the line.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Did you know...?

No, no...I'm not stopping my series on "The Quickest Path to Irrelevance." But as you all know (and I use the word "all" very generously here...hey, it's my blog), whenever I come across some interesting things, I have to share it.

Today's interesting thing is dedicated to those who like to follow news about search engines. Seth Finkelstein posted on his blog the other day a Top 10 list for things you may not know about Google (actually, this blog entry was not written by Seth, but rather by a guy named Philipp Lenssen). While some of you search engine geeks may already know a lot of these things, there's still probably one or two on the list that you never knew until now. And if you don't know anything about Google or search engines...well, this list will definitely shed some light on some useless facts. ;)

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Quickest Path to Irrelevance: A Case Study

I recently went through a bad customer service experience (technically, I'm actually still going through it), and it got me so riled up that I was compelled to blog about it as thoughts shot in and out of my head. In fact, I'm going to be doing a new series titled "The Quickest Path to Irrelevance"-- it's a series devoted to things that organizations do on a daily basis that takes them one step closer to...well, irrelevance.

Specifically, this whole experience got me thinking about the recruiting process...because when you boil it down, good customer service IS good recruiting.

For all intensive purposes, let's just say I recently purchased something from a well-known retail outlet (a $2 billion publicly traded firm with over 7,000 employees based in Italy). When I tried to return the item I purchased (because it didn't fit the intended recipient that I sent it to), the course of events that followed truly stunned me. And it is a case study of how NOT to treat customers.

The aforementioned retailer has a very strict return policy. Of course, the sales associates who happened to assist me on that day neglected to mention this fact even after I told them my situation (I was trying to purchase a gift for someone out-of-state). Long story short, when I tried to return the item after having it sent back to me, I was told I would be unable to because of the 14 day return policy.

So I told them to give me store credit. They said no; they didn't do that. I asked if I could get my money back. Again, they said no. So I asked them what I could do. They told me I could exchange it for something else in the store. Given the fact that I didn't want anything they had to offer at the moment, I asked what happens if I didn't want to exchange it.

They said I would have 30 days from the original purchase date to find something I want.

What really irked me was that during this whole process, I wasn't treated as a valued customer who's purchased clothes from this retailer in the past. I was simply given a scripted, robotic answer to all my questions.

And I wondered: at what point do you sacrifice customer service for the sake of efficiency and "store policies?"

I think this same question can be posed for recruiting processes. Think about it: candidates who go through an organization's recruiting process are essentially no different than customers. They experience your firm from the inside out. They are exposed to "representatives" of your firm (hiring managers, associates, etc.). After all is said and done, they're left with an impression after the whole experience.

The question is: do they leave with a good experience? Or a bad experience?

I've seen too many organizations who don't treat candidates like "valued customers." They shuffle people in and out of the recruiting process like they're billable resources. No deep thought is given to the experience. How does your front lobby look like as candidates walk up? Do you make them wait for half an hour before they see anyone? Is it apparent that your hiring managers don't prepare adequately for interview days?

All of these things (and dozens more) make an indelible impression on candidates. Just like customers when they walk through a store and experience its customer service for the first time.

The major retailer in this case still has a chance to redeem themselves even after all that I've been through. Unfortunately, when it comes to the recruiting'll take a whole lot more than a refund (or free gift certificates) to win back people once you've left a bad taste in their mouths when it comes to their career.

What kind of customer service does your recruiting process have?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Interviewing a Web Developer

Seeing as how Web 2.0 is in full effect, I'm guessing many recruiters out there have been furiously interviewing candidates with various web skills (has anyone seen the ludicrous fees some of these web people are commanding? ...but I digress...).

Danny Palmer sent this link to me (thanks Danny), and I thought it was a useful tool for anyone having to interview web developers on a consistent basis.

The cool thing about this site is that not only does it provide good questions for a recruiter, but also hiring managers or others involved in the interviewing process.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Getting an International Perspective

If you ever find yourself needing to get some fresh of the best ways to do this is to look beyond our borders. Why? In a lot of cases, our US-centered thought sometimes causes us to view things through a specific lens.

In my dealings with foreigners (and being Asian American myself), I've realized that people outside our country sometimes have drastically different ways to approach problems or make observations.

With all this said, I came across this one site that keeps track of blogs across the globe. Specifically, it focuses on "bridge bloggers," or people who are talking about their country or region to a global audience.

It's a pretty cool site (which was launched by the Harvard Law School interestingly enough) with good potential. At the least, it'll give us all a fresh perspective...and sometimes, that's all we need.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Generation Y: Coming of Age

I love when you think about an idea and someone comes along and adds an "!" to the end of it.

Here's a little snippet about someone who feels the same way I do when it comes to Generation Y...that Baby Boomers need to prepare to hand over increasing amounts of responsibility in organizations, whether they like it or not.

Maybe I'll get more "!" for other ideas as time moves along... ;)

The Art of Thin Slicing

Well...this might be a tad bit confusing, but here's the explanation: I sat down to write a blog entry last Friday, and never got around to finishing it. Until now.

So if you're curious about the Art of Thin Slicing, just scroll down.

Or, just click here. (you lazy person)

Monday, May 08, 2006

Facebook: Selling Out?

An interesting bit of news just came across my lap(top). It seems that Facebook, the popular most popular social networking site among college students, is going to open up its membership to corporate America.

While I'm happy that my company is among the initial list of 1,000 companies that membership will be available to, I wonder if this is the best thing to happen for this site's membership.

I'll be curious to see if attendance drops off once college kids realize corporations are using this site for various purposes (the most obvious in my mind is to assist on the recruiting front). You have to admit, when corporate America becomes involved in stuff like this, the "cool" factor goes down. A lot.

It's not surprising that Facebook made this move, however. Anytime venture capital firms get involved with funding, you know something like this is on the agenda list.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Art of Thin-Slicing

One of the books that I'm currently reading is Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. I'm not done with it yet, but so far it's been interesting...especially when one thinks of how it affects one's profession.

For me, I've obviously thought about how snap judgements affect the talent acquisition (aka recruiting) realm. And it got me to thinking...I wonder how many recruiters out there are successful at "thin-slicing" candidates (read the synopsis of Blink in the link above if you have no idea what "thin-slicing" is).

If you take what's said in the book to be generally true, it means that in the first moments of interacting with a candidate a recruiter makes their decision on whether this person is going through to the next round or not. The kicker, as Gladwell explains, is that this decision is most often times done subconsciously in the brain.

As a result, if you don't understand how to correctly thin-slice your subconscious, you might end up making some costly decisions along the passing on a candidate because you make the assumption that based on their clothing, they wouldn't be able to be an all-star consultant in your firm.

Reading through this book, I realize that when it comes to recruiting, these snap judgements are one of the most costly decisions a professional can make for an organization. You make the right decision,'ve selected an all-star that will add millions to the bottom line. If you screw up...well, either you hire a person who ends up leaving after a short while (and not really contributing that much) or get a person who costs you millions because he/she is an ineffective manager who drives away all your good talent.

One of my rants has (and still is) always been that not enough organizations have sat down and defined what talent is. As a result, when they clamor for talented people, the recruiters who go out and look for this "talent" have no idea what exactly they are looking for. They might have a general understanding. But is that enough to successfully thin-slice? What makes an all-star an all-star at their organization? Has anyone bothered to define this? If not, how do you know what to look for when people walk in to interview with your organization?

My sense is that an overwhelming majority of recruiters are relying on their past experience to help them make their snap judgements. There's nothing really wrong with this approach, especially if the recruiter has been at the organization long enough. The only problem lies in the fact that sometimes organizations decide to create new positions. Or hire new recruiters. Or re-align divisions. When it comes to issues like this, my question is: can we still rely on the gut instincts of recruiters when the rules of the game change (read: the recruiter has never had any experience with this type of profile/organization before)?

While most in the recruiting profession will defend their judgements, I don't think organizations would be comforted with the fact that the only thing lying between them and irrelevance is "gut instinct." With the War for Talent in full force, organizations are going to want to quantify more and more of the recruiting (and not just recruiting...but HR in general) process. The most logical step (to me, at least) in this whole progression is going to be quantifying how talent looks like in an organization.

So then the question becomes: is there any way to create an interview process that helps recruiters successfully thin-slice their thoughts on candidates? Perhaps designing such a process would minimize the margin for error during the recruiting process.

Or should the question be even more basic than that: how many recruiters even know how to thin-slice their thoughts? If the answer is "not many," perhaps we have a much more fundamental issue on our hands here. It's an issue that I'll have to think about another time though...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Humble Day for Microsoft

Wow. Never thought I'd see this day so soon after Google's meteoric rise to tech fame.

Seems like Microsoft is coming to grips that its MSN search engine will never be able to reach Google or even Yahoo's market share of the search engine industry. As a result, it appears that top management at Microsoft have been mulling over buying a stake in...get this...Yahoo!

This is just the latest round in the war over the Internet. What was the last bit of big news to emerge in the battle between Google and Microsoft? When Microsoft attempted to strike a partnership with Time Warner's AOL unit before Google shut them out of the talks by purchasing a 5% stake in the former Internet titan. It's David vs. Goliath again...with an ironic twist.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Future of Recruiting...Vindication!

In an earlier post, I had a theory: recruiting organizations may find themselves shifting more and more to where modern sports organizations are today.

Much like how scouts are tracking athletes at early ages (in some cases, reports have indicated that they've gone to middle school games), my assertion was that organizations in the business world would find themselves keeping track of talent much earlier than they're historically used to.

Having said that, I now have an example of how this trend is playing out!!

Today, as I opened my issue of BusinessWeek, I came upon an article about Merrill Lynch's recruiting strategy. Since I can't provide a link to this article (you have to be a subscriber), I'll offer a brief snippet from the article:

The Draft Picks Get Younger
Merrill Lynch is identifying the best recruits as early as freshman year

Last fall an intense competition swept a half-dozen U.S. college campuses. Four-person teams of undergraduate business majors battled to generate the biggest returns -- using "fantasy funds," not real money. It was all part of a "portfolio challenge" game designed by Merrill Lynch Inc. (MER ) to help identify young talent for analyst jobs. Winners pocketed $9,000 in cash prizes and other giveaways. More important, the finalists nabbed a coveted place at the top of Merrill's callback list.

Such games might seem unusual to anyone who graduated from college more than a few years ago. But in the increasingly competitive war for fresh talent, a small group of companies including Merrill, PricewaterhouseCoopers, L'Oréal, and others is changing the rules. A growing economy and the need to ramp up hiring quickly and cheaply have spurred recruiters to bypass MBA programs and hire the bulk of their new people straight out of college.

t's an increasingly common strategy. In 2004-05, according to BusinessWeek's survey of corporate recruiters, 28% of new entry-level hires were former interns, up from 26% the year before, and one out of four reported that at least half of all new hires came from the intern pool. What sets Merrill apart is its willingness to hire younger interns, including freshmen. Says Elton Ndoma-Ogar, head of diversity campus recruiting: "We're trying to build relationships earlier and turn these young people into professionals." - By Bremen Leak, with Lindsey Gerdes in New York

What's even more wild about this article? It also mentions another theory of mine: that organizations will have to increasingly rely on younger talent to help lead them into the future as the Baby Boom generation gets closer to retirement.

Call me crazy, but I think Merrill Lynch is onto something BIG. At the least, they're trying innovative solutions in order to stay relevant. What's your organization doing?

Technical Difficulties

Apparently I am experiencing technical difficulties on this blog site. Be patient with me as I work through this issue. In other words, I'm quite annoyed that this issue is not resolved already!!!!!

I suppose this is my reward for not posting for a few days... :P

P.S. Among my loyal fan base of single digits, if any of you are technically adept enough to explain my problem away, feel free to drop me a comment and we can connect.