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.


Job Search Strategy: Being in Transition in the Digital Age

15 04 2009

If you are looking for a job (unemployed|underemployed), you are facing a two-headed monster– challenging economic circumstances and navigating a digital landscape with all the Web 2.0 terms and language.  My goal is this article is to demystify the digital landscape and provide some perspective on finding your next gig.

The digital age is a place we have never been before.  Elaine Orler, describes the uniqueness of the digital age in terms of this is the first time in human history that the older citizens learn from the young (although each generation of teens think they teach adults, now they really do).  The young (digital natives) are born with a mouse (the Microsoft kind) in one hand and a rattle in the other.  The older (digital immigrants) listen and learn about how to use computers and how to navigate the digital age.  I found that there is a third category for recruiting dinosaurs (digital boatperson). 

So why is a digital boatperson writing about job search strategy in a digital age? Well for two reasons—my editor suggested the topic and secondly, I spend the greater part of the 21st century looking for work. 

As an advocate for talent and social networking communities, I noticed that many of the aspects of a digital age community began when the world was analog (aka last century).  Part of the baggage that I carry is the realization that professional associations have been an active part of most professions for several decades.  In this digital age, the networks are virtual, broader, and use a different language—but at their center, it is still about people being loyal to a profession. 

My aspiration to transition my career from third party recruiting to corporate recruiting required me to become a “serial contract recruiter” in order to gain the necessary experience to join “a Microsoft.”   Three principles sustained me during this time.

1.     Always be looking

The nature of our work in recruiting and sourcing with an ebb and flow in demand teaches us to be sensitive to the transitory aspects of the recruiting profession.  I learned to always be on the lookout for the next role. 

2.     Be Findable

The pundits have told us that we must build our personal brand.  In boomer terms, I think of it of being available.

If search engines are the preferred method of finding resumes and information on new employees, then we must make ourselves findable by people looking for recruiters and sourcers.  The Web 2.0 term is for being found is search engine optimization (SEO). 

The goal for a job seeking recruiter|sourcer is make certain your profile is optimized so that you show up in the first page of an Internet keyword search.  To find out if you are findable, try reverse engineering your name.  That is, go to a leading search engine (Google, Live or Yahoo) and enter your name and push enter.  Experiment with this—try putting your recruiting specialty and your city and press enter. 

In my reverse engineering test, my name can up on the first page (above the fold) on the Big 3 (GoogleLive & Yahoo). Not only that, you will find me on LinkedIn,JobsterDiigoRecruiting Blogs (Ning Group), and even the Source Newsletter.  If I enter talent community development and Seattle, I can be found on the first page.  So, I am fairly well optimized.

How do you optimize your name?  Luckily, it is built into LinkedIn, Jobster and most places that you can create a public profile.  On LinkedIn, when you are filling out a profile, you will notice a large field called “interests.”  These are very important to fill out strategically because LinkedIn optimizes these links and are a great way to make certain you can be found.  The same is true on Jobster (although you are limited to 5 keywords); Diigo, Recruiting Blogs, et al.  Just fill out a lot of profiles and you will become findable.

3.     Community is imperative

Community is about a two-way street.  I joined organizations and became an active member in giving back to those communities.  I networked with consultants and thought leaders in order to share my goals and provide any possible assistance to them. 

Be an active part of the recruiting communities.  Be loyal to your profession.  Be available to serve and increase your community visibility.  I did not find any of my jobs via a job board or an advertisement.  Other than being recruited (by a headhunter) to a startup, each of my jobs was found by networking and referrals.

Finding My Next Gig

I am not certain how to coach a person on how to find a job, but I am willing to share how I would go about finding a recruiting opportunity in Seattle, WA.  This hypothetical job search might illustrate some tactics|strategies that might be applicable in your situation. 

Social Networking Sites

I would use 5 primary social networking sites in my job search.  They are Jobster,LinkedIn, FaceBook, Recruiting Blogs, & Twitter. 

  • LinkedIn: I use LinkedIn as one of the methods of marketing my qualifications and experience.  If I were in a job search mode, I would clean up my profile, solicit more references from my colleagues, and make certain the “interests” section was reflecting the types of key words that firms would put into a search engine when they were looking for a recruiter or a sourcer(remember the reverse engineering above).  I would set up search agents onLinkedIn that would monitor openings that I would be interested in reviewing.
  • Jobster:  I use Jobster as a method of marketing my credentials to search engines (Google, Live & Yahoo).  Jobster (now uses search engine optimization to help move your information up to the top of search engine pages.  It is a great way to stay findable.
  • Facebook:  Facebook’s remarkable growth (now 175M+ users) makes it a ‘must-use’ virtual location to be findable.  More and more companies are using Facebook’s search features to find potential employees.  In addition, it is a great place to network with employees of companies that are of interest to you.
  • Recruiting Blogs: I am a big fan of recruiting communities as a method of finding my next gig.  In addition to providing a unique site for recruiting & sourcing job seekers, RecruitingBlogs offers an open door to the leading recruiters who might be able to provide assistance. 
  • Twitter: I use Twitter as a listening device to keep tabs on what is going on in the recruiting industry.  I follow interesting people and thought leaders in recruiting and sourcing.  I would periodically announce my availability and interest in another opportunity.

Yahoo Groups

  • The Ruthie List:  the Ruthie List is a 12-year-old community of 7,000 members that is comprised of recruiters and HR pros.  This group is Atlanta based, but may have some national spill over into other regions.  In addition, positions that could be served remotely could be of interest.
  • WARecruit:  this is a Yahoo group that serves the State of Washington.  It is comprised of recruiters and HR professionals.  It is a very active community of 2400+ members that discuss recruiting & HR issues.  Frequently job searches are part of the conversation.

Automate Your Search with Job Agents

On the Big 3 Search Engines (Google, Live & Yahoo) I would set up “alerts” that would run a search string of the desired job and location on a daily basis.  In addition another class of search engines—vertical search engines (Indeed,SimplyHired, JuJu et al) aggregate jobs from multiple sources and allow you to set up “job alerts.” 


  • ERE:  A leading industry association, ERE has a great section for recruiting jobs and if you become a member (free signup), access is provided to many of thought leaders in recruiting and sourcing.  The site also allows for “alerts” that will let you know if a job is posted that might be of interest.
  • NWRA (NorthWest Recruiter Association):  an industry group that serves the recruiting and sourcing community.  This group has social networking events and an active presence on Facebook and LinkedIn to engage the recruiting community in conversations.
  • SMA Seattle (Staffing Management Association of Seattle):  SMA is an industry group that serves the recruiting community.  As a part of SHRM(Society of Human Resources Management) its mission is to provide nationalconference quality, practitioner focused programs and networking opportunities.
  • HR Roundtable:  An industry group compromised of High Technology HR professionals.  A very strong networking group.

Experts|Third Parties|Centers of Influence

Consultants:  People that are thought leaders, or in the “know.”  Recruiting industry thought leaders that are in a “trusted advisor” relationship with their clients is a great source of referrals to non-advertised positions.  Many positions are filled behind the scenes. 

Recruiters:  I seek out the recruiters that place recruiters or at least might know what is going on.  For me it would be Chris EnglinJohn Vlastelica, Paul Freed and perhaps a staffing firm or two that might offer an interim gig.

Job Boards

The evidence suggests that job boards have taken a secondary position to search engines as the favored method of seeking jobs.  That said, I still would put my resume on Dice, Monster, CareerBuilder & Dice.  I still receive email invitations from a long forgotten resume (and seemingly undiscoverable by me) placed on CareerBuilder 4 years ago.  If nothing else, it proves that some recruiters seeking to find recruiters still use the job boards to find talent.  In addition, I would set up search agents that would advise me of any jobs in my area of interest.

Other resources

The multi-talented Jim Stroud has prepared some very interesting video curriculum and many job search techniques for the 21st century job seeker.  If I were in a job search mode, I would spend a couple of hours getting some great as well as very practical direction from this “searchologist.”

The language of a job search is very simple.  My favorite phrase in recruiting is “I need your help.”  That coupled with “thank you” has stood the test of time in a job search.  It is still appropriate in this digital age.  I believe that whether we are employed or unemployed, there is a sense of ‘we are all in this together’.  That sense of community seems to permeate the fabric of society. 

In this day and time, “I need your help” will cause people to give you their time and offer assistance.  “Thank you” is the currency of community.  I wish you success and happy job hunting.

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.

SourceCon Thoughts – Marvin Smith

12 11 2008


Sourcecon 2008 was a perfect example of “refrigerator art.”  I think of a refrigerator as a canvas that contains the art that is important in our lives.  Another aspect of refrigerator art is that it generally is more personal.  For example, my grandson’s photo and the display of his latest pictures reflect the blossoming talent of a 4-year old; the older grandchildren in action shots of a goalie making a game saving goal or smiling in their annual school picture.  Reminders of things that are important such as telephone numbers for Chinese food and our favorite pizza delivery; emergency telephone numbers and reminders of upcoming events.  Refrigerator art juxtaposed to Picasso or one of the masters whose work touches our soul, but normally, as I gaze on refrigerator art, a smile crosses my face and tugs at my heartstrings. 

When I think back at SourceCon 2008, a smile crosses my face.  While we had our Picasso in Gerry Crispin, the refrigerator artists filled their canvases with personal perspectives and insights that framed creative ways to identify, target and pipeline talent as well as, several other mediums.  The artists that I observed were skilled and a couple might just turn into “masters” someday. 

As I reflect on SourceCon 2008, I marvel at the style of the refrigerator art.  The event was set up for community.  Sometimes, I was sharing and teaching.  Other times, I was a student, lost in the insights of my colleague/teacher.  SourceCon above all else is a forum for learning and discussion and community.  There seemed to be a lack of egos; a lack of competitiveness; and genuine respect for our fellow artists and an overwhelming willingness to share our secrets and discoveries.

What was important is that we shared our canvases with each other—even if the painting was completed.  There did not seem to be any barriers to transparency and full disclosure.  Perhaps it is because the technological changes are rushing at us so quickly that individually we do not have the bandwidth to get our heads around and vet the potential of web 2.0 tools, social communities, and beyond.  Perhaps it is because there is a feeling of “we are all in this together” since the total number of sourcers in the world may only be “around 1000” artists (Doug Berg).  Or, perhaps sourcers understand that our art is more than knowing the same foundational brushstrokes—our artistry is demonstrated with the brush touches the canvas and the finished product is truly a reflection of our gifts, abilities, and individual creativity.  Whatever the reason, I hope that the spirit of SourceCon lives on.

SourceCon is not the only gallery showing the artists’ works.  In the last few days, the ERE Fall Expo occurred.  I noticed Gerry Crispin and the Web 2.0 panel, as well as Michael Marlatt, hung canvases at that event.  Our art does not just belong to SourceCon, has its place in the bigger picture of human capital and talent acquisition.  Keeping our perspective about the context of how we fit into the recruiting world is important, but I look forward to an event where we can come together as a community of sourcing artists and spend a few days discussing our craft and our art.  A few days where we learn from each other.

Hats off, props & a big shout out to Leslie O’Connor and the rest of the folks who helped out for creating this venue.  Who knows what surprises await us in SourceCon 2009 (the Global Sourcing Conference)?  My hope is that we have some time for refrigerator art.