Being on the Cutting Edge Can Be Rewarding

13 08 2009

This is the first of a series of three articles discussing Microsoft’s approach to building pipelines and talent communities.  The articles are entitled:

  1. Being on the Cutting Edge Can Be Rewarding
  2. Being on the Cutting Edge Can Be Challenging
  3. Being on the Cutting Edge Can Be Painful

One year ago, I began a discussion of our work at Microsoft by suggesting that “Building a 21st century talent community requires using the right mix of recruiting art and science. “  I felt “we needed to dip back into the prehistoric art of developing relationship with prospects.”   I noted that while a “21st century recruiting technology” optimized a “technology touch” it is the “human touch” that is so valued by the potential prospect pool. I concluded “the challenge with ‘human touch’ is that it doesn’t fit well into our transaction based recruiting model.

guanxiAs we end the second year of this talent community pilot program, the tension between the “technology touch” and the “human touch” has become increasingly evident.  In fact, I believe the third year of this pilot rollout should be coined “The Year of Guanxi.” ([guan-shee] the basic dynamic in personalized networks of influence in Chinese society. As I reflect on our work for past year, it is evident that we have reached our goal of creating a platform that exhibits a very thorough approach to “technology touch” by creating a job distribution network that reaches deeply into active and passive talent pools.

Venues|Platforms for Evangelism

From the beginning, we have shared the work on this talent community pilot effort with the recruiting industry as a method of inviting feedback and fostering sharing of best practices with similar projects that are ongoing in the recruiting industry.  It has been quite a year of evangelizing our work.  We have enjoyed positive feedback from our initial presentation at Sourcecon 2008 to Human Capital Institute webinars to CareerXroads and Corporate Sourcing Leadership Council; SMA Event, HR Executive Forum, and other related venues.

Another purpose of these articles is a preview of our presentation for the Fall 2009 ERE Event, where our talent community pilot will be discussed in the broader context of Web 2.0 Beyond the Social Recruiting Hype: Microsoft’s Approach to Building Talent Pipelines and Communities.


The accolades for our pilot have been very re-enforcing and flattering.  ERE acknowledged our work with a “Most Strategic Use of Technology Award ” and industry thought leaders like Dr. John Sullivan called our work “pioneering.”

Microsoft Goals

Internally, at Microsoft, two of our corporate staffing goals are sourcing|recruiting the best candidates in the world and enhancing the candidate experience at Microsoft.   While external acknowledgement is very complementary, how we perform alongside Microsoft goals and commitments are all that matters.  In this talent community pilot, we see an opportunity to fulfill those goals.

Web 2.0 Recruitment Marketing Platform

At a high level we are creating a Web 2.0 Recruitment Marketing platform for our jobs that will be distributed to search engines, social networking sites, blogs and other relevant sites.  In this manner, we will reach deep into talent pools with a “technology touch.”  We will enhance the candidate experience by direct outreaches to micro-segments of our target audience and by establishing talent communities that will enhance the “human touch.”  It is at the intersection of art and science that success is realized.

The “technology touch” of the Web 2.0 Recruitment Marketing sits on the Jobs2Web platform.  Not only do we employ their unique dynamic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) technology, but we take advantage of total power of this platform to connect jobs and social networking sites as well as a CRM-orchestrated targeted outreach.  We not only reach the active job seeker, but we capture passive seekers who visit the site and sign up for our email alerts, RSS feeds or any of our talent communities which allows us to maintain contact and cultivate ambient relationships with these prospects until they are ready to go deep with an employment conversation with Microsoft.

And best of all, we can measure every aspect all the moving parts using Jobs2Web Recruiting Dashboard which gives us visibility to all activity and exact sources of all candidates that come to our talent community (without asking the prospects) which helps us to know what sources are providing the best quality and quantity of candidates in the highly fragmented Web 2.0 World.

How We Measure Success

For the active (and a percentage of passive) prospects, success is measured by our jobs “being seen” or “being found” in the keyword search results.  The chief reason to “optimize” our jobs is because job seekers primarily use search engines to look for a job (as opposed to job boards).  The highlight outlined below illustrates the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) of our jobs on Google (which enjoys 70% of the market for job searches).  As the graph demonstrates-97% of our targeted recruiting keywords (i.e. Seattle Developer Jobs, Washington .Net Jobs, Washington Tech Jobs, etc.) show up in the first page of Google search results.

To reach our ultimate goal of sourcing|recruiting the best talent in the world, we must use this “technology touch” to reach into talent pools that can be described as causal, passive or non-looking job seekers.  When you think about active vs. the more passive job seeker, we have to remember that only a small percentage of the job market is actively searching for a new job at any point in time.  The graph below illustrates this point.  This graph was created using 2006 Bureau of Labor Statistics (the last official year), so we could conclude that the active job seeker market must be greater today given the high unemployment rate.  So let’s say it is 20% today.  Even at that level, that means that 80% of the available talent is not actively looking for work.

If we view the Job Search Cycle from a slightly different angle, we are able to see a more discreet method of classifying active vs. passive job seeking. The Recruiting Roundtable suggests we add the filter of” difficultly to source” as we move from left (easiest to source) to right (the most difficult to source) on the graph below.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Recruiting Roundtable

The degree of difficulty to source adds a deeper dimension to our thinking.  So rather than just active or passive, we think about “gettables” and the “ungettables.”  Most recruiters have antidotes about convincing a person not seeking a job to take a look at their opportunities.  So I think that it makes sense that we can convince someone to look at a job.  In fact the Recruiting Roundtable recently published a study that 83% (I have no idea why it is not 100%) of active job seekers would consider other jobs, while 42% of passive job seekers will consider other jobs.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Recruiting Roundtable

It is difficult to project how many people will respond to “technology touch” vs. the “human touch.”  Research tells us that even passive prospects engage in active prospect behavior.  To that extent, we are able to connect with the “gettables” that may be casually or passively looking, the reach of technology touch will be far greater than just optimizing our jobs for the active job seeker.  The “gettables” that can be reached by our SEO activities are highlighted in red below.  The overall reach of our technology touch is depicted in green.  How we reach the prospects in the green shaded area will be discussed next month.

To achieve the Microsoft goal of sourcing|recruiting the best candidates in the world, we must reach deep into targeted talent pools.  Using the technology touch of our Recruitment Marketing platform, we are able to reach out to a greater targeted audience.  The first step in how we measure success is with search engine optimization of our jobs that will be viewed by gettable talent.  At the same time, we need to remember our second goal of enhancing the prospect|candidate experience.  Next month, we will look at our second step, which examines how our Recruitment Marketing Platform connects social media as well as targets micro-segments of the target talent audience.

About the author:

smith-marvinHaving been in the recruiting world for over two decades, Marvin Smith currently works for Microsoft. He provides the Microsoft Entertainment & Devices Division staffing team with mission critical talent by identifying and cultivating relationships with target talent community. His talent community development strategies include competitive intelligence, e-sourcing/recruiting,online recruiting, social networking, and talent database acquisition.


Sourcing: Group Training Best Practices

12 08 2009

image by via Creative CommonsWhat is the most effective way to train people in the art and science of sourcing?

One of the most common forms of group training in the sourcing community is the webinar. Some are free, others cost money. Some are internal corporate trainings, and others are delivered by 3rd party trainers. Although web based training is relatively easy to deliver and it offers the ability to train large numbers of people across multiple locations – the question must be asked – how effective is it as a training method?

The ultimate measure of any training method’s effectiveness is the extent to which trainees can reliably and properly execute the techniques, tactics, and strategies that they were exposed to during the training.  The reality is that most people do not absorb and retain information effectively by watching and listening to a trainer – this applies to web-based training as well as live classroom training.

Research in occupational training shows that people retain about:

  • 10% of what they read
  • 20% of what they hear
  • 30% of what they see
  • 50% of what they hear and use
  • 70% of that they say
  • 90% of what they say and do

That means that any training that only involves reading, listening, and watching has about a 30% retention rate. Would you say that’s a good return on investment?

I’ve delivered many web-based trainings myself out of simple necessity – it isn’t always practical or even possible to perform live training for large groups of people who are geographically dispersed – and I’ve been amazed at how little people actually retain from 1 to 2 hour web-based training sessions. No matter how knowledgeable the trainer is, the simple fact of the matter is that people retain only about 30% of what they see and hear.

Retention might improve somewhat (research would suggest 50%) if people would leave a training session and immediately go try everything they were just exposed to, but in my experience most people don’t. Even if they did, without the benefit of an on-site expert/trainer to observe what they’re doing and provide the appropriate guidance, most people aren’t able to self-evaluate, particularly with newly gained skills.

The Missing Link

What’s missing from most training – web-based or live – is having the trainees actually use what they’ve been exposed to during training and while they’re doing so, explain what they’re doing and why. This is where the magic happens – the trainer/mentor can actually verify the trainee’s level of understanding by observing and evaluating the techniques, strategies, and thought process they apply when faced with a practical (“real world”) challenge. Only when a trainee can solve multiple challenges by properly applying the techniques they’ve been taught and they are able to explain WHY they used the technique/approach they did can the trainer have confidence that there has been true knowledge transfer.

The What vs. the How and Why

Most sourcing and recruiting training that I have been exposed to focuses heavily, if not exclusively, on the “what.” The “what” is domain knowledge – such as “here are a bunch of Twitter search apps,” “this is LinkedIn’s search interface,” and “here are Google’s search operators.” While this can be very good information, it’s not very different than reading an instruction manual, and instruction manuals don’t typically produce experts.

The “how” goes beyond simply how to use with something such as LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google to search for people  (e.g., syntax, fields, etc) and into exactly how to find the right people using such tools. This is process knowledge and can be quite valuable.

The “why” is perhaps the most critical aspect of training and knowledge transfer. Being able to go through the motions and copy what a trainer has shown you isn’t real learning in my opinion. If you are able to explain precisely WHY you’re using a particular site, syntax, or search strategy, then as a trainer I can truly assess whether or not you really understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

If you recall the occupational research statistics, people tend to retain approximately 50% of what they hear and use, 70% of what they say, and 90% of what they say and do. What’s missing from most sourcing training is incorporating hands-on use of the training by the trainees into the training program/session, along with having them explain what they’re doing and precisely why. That’s exactly how a training session can go from 30% retention of material to 90% retention.

It’s no secret that the vast majority of people learn by doing, so for maximum knowledge transfer, it’s critical for training programs to allow for attendees to use and apply what they’ve been exposed to in the training. This enables the trainer to assess each attendee’s level of understanding and provide appropriate guidance to those who do not fully understand the training and techniques. While it may not be practical to incorporate this level of two-way interaction in some web-based training scenarios – especially with very large groups – it’s not impossible.

In Conclusion

For consumers of sourcing training, demand more of the how and the why, and whenever possible, choose training programs that allow you to use the techniques you’re being trained in under the guidance and evaluation of the trainer.  For sourcing trainers, be sure to incorporate some form of assessment into your training programs whenever practical.

Expecting to master sourcing techniques and strategies from web-based or live training that doesn’t involve interactive assessment and evaluation of your understanding of the content is like expecting to master golf by watching a golf video or by taking golf lessons where the instructor doesn’t let you actually swing the club in their presence and offer guidance and advice.

Expect more from your training!

About the author:

Cathey, Glenn photoGlen Cathey is the author of, a blog about sharing best practices for leveraging the Internet, job boards, resume databases, and social networks for sourcing and recruiting. With over 12 years of experience in the recruiting and staffing industry, he currently serves as the V.P. of Recruitment for a large staffing firm and trains hundreds of recruiters every year in the art and science of leveraging technology for talent identification and acquisition.

Connect with Glen:

Research is Research, No Matter What

10 08 2009

Just about a year ago, if you said to me recruitment research is very similar to business research, I would probably think you are from Mars.  Don’t get me wrong, not that I was against recruiting or anything like that, I just hadn’t been exposed to that side of the world yet.  Being an Information Professional for over 17 years, I have been taught and trained to always looking for authoritative, creditable sources when it comes to business and competitive intelligence.

I started my career with McKinsey & Company where valuable information is critical to client’s success; I spoke to associations sharing industry insights, I searched high & low on commercial databases (Lexis, Factiva, EBSCO to name a few) for valid facts, and I networked with internal consultants to seek their expertise.  After that I went to work for a major bank here in Canada, again supporting research for Investment Banking and Enterprise-wide initiatives.

Reputable resources are never fully accessible on the net for free, so imagine my shock when I first heard the term “Internet Research”.  Well, that was then.  My current job started last September, and I got in because of the competitive intelligence aspect of it but fell in love because of the interactions I had with candidates.  Applying the skills and knowledge I gained over the years to sourcing, I quickly realized research is research, no matter what.

Since I am a trained Information Professional who works best with visualization, I have drafted a simple diagram here to exhibit in business and recruiting worlds, the ultimate information we are looking for are as follows:

In one of Amybeth Hale’s posts, ” What Sourcing Is Not Responsible For“, she pointed out that once the Sourcer/Researcher has delivered what the Recruiter has asked for in basic qualifications, their work is complete.  I couldn’t agree more even applying in the business/intelligence research; once we researchers exercised our curiosity practice and did it in a MutuallyExclusiveCollectiveExhaustive way, it’s really up to the management to decide whether, and how, to use the information, because behind every good business decision is an information professional.

In business, investigation is a ‘must’ process during CI information gathering, and when I was looking into recruitment research not too long ago, Geoff Webb, a highly regarded Sourcing Master here in Canada, said to me, “Good Researchers/Sourcers are investigators, but not necessarily recruiters”. It was a valid point. The only difference is that in recruiting, we deal strictly with people, and as we all know people are complicated and, quite often, unpredictable.  This is what makes it more challenging and interesting.

So, Research is Research, No Matter What.  I’ve said it and I am glad I did.  This is just my two cents of being a newbie Recruiting Researcher and an experienced Business Researcher.

About the author:
Chi, Sara photoSara Chi is a Research & Information Specialist who enjoys hunting ans   wers and connecting dots for business/competitive intelligence research. She spent over 15 years working in this field and has recently expanded her horizoninto recruiting. She currently works as a Recruiting Researcher for CriticalKnowledge.

Connect with Sara: