The unblog dialogue

A daily post of anything relating to The Recruiting Unconference London. Random thoughts, twitter streams, chat and anything you want to post. musings, discussions and all things social recruiting.

2012/13 Part 4: Changing face of the social ATS

This is the fourth post in the review series of 2012, addressing the changing face of the ATS. It is an area that attracts a lot of attention and discussion from users. Perhaps the technology buyers in organisations should be taking notice.

I haven’t been to, or held an event this year where someone has turned around and said: “You know what, we love our ATS!”. 2012 has seen a lot of complaining around what are seen as applicant turn-off systems. To be fair to the enterprise vendors, most users get the technology they deserve rather than the technology they need, but users, encouraged by the likes of William Tincup, are getting more demanding. I’ve seen Tincup speak a few times this year about getting much more from your technology suppliers. Tincup’s main point is that you only really hold the power when you are negotiating deals, and you should use this to your advantage to ensure free upgrades, (so you are always working with the latest version), and free support and training for the life time of the contract. Too often recruiters are only using a small part of the capability of their technology because they are uninformed or unsupported. My experience this year is that you should also insist on an open API, and integration with any other technology you choose, Technology suppliers need to learn that you are the client, and that they need to play nicely. I spoke about this at #HRTechEurope, and judging by the feedback it hit a real note.

This year I think we are going to be seeing a lot of change, and hearing a lot more about the social ATS. The stand out company in this area is SmartRecruiters. When I was first introduced to Smart, I liked the product but was skeptical about the viability of the pricing model. The platform is free, looks and feels like Facebook, is fully mobile optimized  and has career site build features and plug-ins, Facebook integration, job posting etc. The revenue is generated from job posting, where commissions are charged to the job boards for jobs posted by SmartRecruiters. They now have over 30,000 users, and lead a new breed of intuitive ATS’ that is easy to use by both recruiters and job seekers. Smart has been largely targeted at smaller companies with no existing ATS, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear them announcing enterprise size users in the near future, as the platform continues to gain attention.
Using a similar model, Dutch company Vonq are launching Qandidate mid January. Qandidate has similar features, aimed at the European market. It has already been tested with existing Vonq clients, and is being built around the multilingual and legal requirements of the individual states within Europe. This will give them a bit of an advantage in this territory.
Recruitment platform and middleware provider Tribepad have also launched a social ATS, although this is priced in a more traditional way. Tribepad have enjoyed some big client wins this year including Sodexo Europe and the BBC. They have also launched in to the US during 2012, as G4S extended their use of the platform from Europe, as part of a global roll out. At #truLondon in October, Colin Minto outlined the necessary adjustments they had to make to comply with FCCP regulations. I haven’t seen another platform that is quite as comprehensive in this area, and if the Tribepad team are able to raise their visibility in the US, then more global client wins will follow. The real benefit of Tribepad is that you can wrap all of your recruiting data in one place, and the data flow in one direction. I’ve been impressed by the potential so far, and although I haven’t seen it first hand yet, I understand that they have now built social profiling in to the main platform, as well as making this available as a standalone product.

In response to customer demand, they launched a “light” version of the product for smaller users, available at a low monthly subscription with plug-in integration. What I like about the Tribepad team is that the product is in a constant state of development, almost a permanent beta, driven by user requirement and demand.If the company were in San Francisco rather than Leeds, I’m sure we would have heard a lot more about them already.  Watch this one closely.
Another new launch from the UK in recent months that is targeted around socialising and simplifying the application process is Peter Golds HirePad (No relation to TribePad). HirePad is built as the gateway between the ad (or update), and the ATS, making the job mobile, and creating a portal for a talent network. Talent networks record basic details creating segmenting interested people for updates, jobs and content that match their profiles. In most cases, this is much closer to what most hiring companies need, rather than the high maintenance, over hyped talent communities. Golds view is that the application needs to stay within the corporate ATS, but the process around expressing interest and connecting should be much easier, quicker and possible by mobile.

Gold is not looking to provide the full solution, given that most companies of size already have an ATS solution in place, but to provide easy integration, job posting and job marketing, and a complete mobile/talent network to make attraction and applying simple and effective.

I really like the integration with Google maps, that enables potential candidates to view jobs by location. I’ve seen this type of feature work very well for Pizza Hut using Jobs2Web. This is brilliant for the retail or hospitality sectors, where similar jobs are open at multiple locations close to the candidate. Jobs2Web have built a great business out of their platform, and were acquired by SuccessFactors in 2012.

I know Gold of old, and the real strength of HirePad lies in the job marketing from traditional to social job distribution, SEO, micro-sites by job etc, all  A/B tested to find the best solution.

Dutch company Maddle have had some success in Europe making individual jobs mobile through micro-sites and mobile apply at a low-cost, so the model is there. Maddle mobilise a job within 24 hours by launching a dedicated MSite, making the application process mobile, and providing the opportunity to add video and other content. It’s a brilliant, quick and cheap solution.

My reservation with the mobile half way house solution (as opposed to Maddle) is what happens when a potential candidate moves from a mobile friendly environment to a clunky, non-mobile friendly ATS. This puts a level of extra process in the application process, but is a big improvement on what is available now. In Part 5 tomorrow we will look closer at the mobile space and mobile recruiting.

The other platforms worth looking at when considering the social ATS are Irish company Zartis, and London start-up JobPage. Both offer low cost job distribution, social posting and ATS for the SME market. Zartis in particular is an evolving platform that integrates mobile, referral technology, WordPress plug-ins and other innovation. Zartis founder John Dennehy has a background in on-line gaming, and is integrating gaming thinking in to the platform. Expect to see more of these features in 2013. Dennehy is also involved in a really innovative country branding project with make IT Ireland and make IT Cork. I will be discussing these in more detail later in this review series.

It was HirePad founder Gold who first got me thinking that we should be doing away with the existing application process all together, inviting people to express interest, so that recruiters can get a look at interested people at the top of the funnel, and push only those candidates with a good fit in to the pain of applying in what is mostly a lengthy process, directing others towards a lighter touch talent network. I’m going to be very interested in seeing how this pans out over 2013, and if larger hiring companies can be persuaded to take this candidate centric approach. 2013 must see the applicant and the recruiter put at the heart of the application and candidate management process, and technology needs to reflect this.

Companies need to stop talking and start doing, which means involving recruiters in the recruitment technology buying process. All too often the real users just get given the latest purchase, and get told to get on with it. Is it any wonder that they just replace the old technology, with new technology without changing any of the processes.There is a lot of interesting technology coming in to this space to challenge the enterprise giants. The real innovation is coming from agile start-ups, and the market is calling out for change. 2013 will be the year we finally move from ATS to full recruiting platform, where tracking is only a small part of the functionality, and it is not before time. If the enterprise solutions don’t start changing usability, mobile optimization, ease (and willingness) to integrate with other technology and create easy navigation, then they are going to lose out as contracts come up for renewal. Watch this space!


Disclaimer: I have supplied paid for content to the TribePad blog this year, and Maddle and Vonq are sponsors of #TruAmsterdam.

2012/13 Part 3: Semantic matching, learning and some new technology

Happy Sunday. In Part 3 of this series I’m going to take a closer look at what has been happening with semantic matching, and how this impacts on recruiting tech, and a few more thoughts on how social learning is developing.

The social evidence based sourcing platforms I listed in part 2, have been proving their value in the tech sector. This is inevitable because the tech companies have a defined niche, defined communities, the greatest need and the expertise to develop the products. There is no logical reason however, that these technologies can not be applied to any sector for social evidence based sourcing.Expect to see this technology evolving in to other sectors during 2013.

The introduction of LinkedIn endorsements for skills, and there priority in search results is another example of where the thinking is going in this direction. John Sumser summed this up at #TruLondon when he described how the real problem was not a shortage of talent, but rather an inability to find it because of over supply. There is plenty of talent, it’s just not clearly labelled in the way it has been in the past. The only way you found someone with X skill was to hire someone with X qualification.

The problem now is that technology and business is evolving faster than academia, and people are learning skills in an informal way. Think YouTube, Stack Overflow etc. As jobs in the way we know them continue to disappear, and more people move their skills to being cottage industries, working on project rather than employment contract, so formal learning via expensive work based qualifications will disappear. The end result will be more informal learning, and a greater reliance on social recognition and endorsement. It is going to be interesting watching this unfold this year through learning programs like Udemy, which have a social feel, and are easy to edit, update and change as technology changes.

For recruiters, the soon to be launched MySocialTalent,Com is a great example of this, an interactive training platform that can be updated whenever needed. The platform is available on subscription at less than £200 a seat for a year. I know Johnny Campbells style well, and he makes what looks like complicated internet sourcing principles simple. The platform delivers training in bite sized chunks, with plenty of interactive exercises and feedback. The real benefit though is that as the search platforms and social channels change as they do on an on-going basis, the platform gets updated to keep you up to date. It is one of those products I wish I would have developed, and is built on a platform for the future.Expect more of these types of agile learning platforms to be coming to the fore this year, and reject traditional curriculum based learning, which is proving dated.

In terms of innovation, the other companies that have caught my eye are SmallImprovements, who offer an on-line continuous performance management and feedback product in a social way. It is a bit like Rypple for companies outside of the enterprise scale.(That is a compliment.), White Truffle, the intuitive matching platform with an innovative pricing structure, TalentFig, the assesment tool with a simple interface that is amazingly accurate, much better than SHL and other more expensive alternatives currently available in my opinion, and much easier to interpret.. Finnish swarm technology IntuneX that connects people within an organisation by their skills, expertise or interests, and Dutch HR data aggregator Hunite, who use mobile notifications taken from a companies vast array of HR systems to advise employees of essential actions via push notifications. (My description doesn’t really do it justice, but it is very neat.). I’m also watching what happens with Evenbases Jobsite.Com quite closely. This combines job scraping from corporate sites, with an agregator search interface for job seekers, semantic matching technology, and a pay for results pricing model where hiring companies choose to unlock details of applicants who both match and have expressed an interest in the job. My only concern with this is how companies will react to the scraping aspect, but then this has become common practice amongst the agregators.
I expect the agregators like JobRapido (also an Evenbase company by acquisition) and Indeed to continue to grow in popularity, as job seekers are looking for one on-line destination for jobs requiring no real registration, rather than having to go to multiple boards.

Semantic matching tech will also become more mainstream, as people are looking to see only opportunities they match and are interested in, rather than having to search through every opportunity based on key-words, which is time consuming and frustrating. Expect to see semantic matching and single job presenting as a feature of career sites over the coming year. Why show people jobs they are not suited for? It makes no sense for anyone, and this will solve it, preventing people from being tempted in to applying for jobs they won’t even get an interview for.
On the subject of semantic matching, I’m also expecting to hear a lot more about Monster’s SeeMore and 6sense technologies. Monster have partnered with the Department Of Work And Pensions to power the on-line presence for JobCentre+. It is going to be really interesting to see how this technology works on this scale, for the wide range of people who are claiming benefit or looking for jobs. Having looked at both SeeMore and 6Sense in depth a few times this year (as well as several conference demos), the potential applications for sourcing and matching is impressive. If I worked at Monster, I would be talking about it a lot more.

 Tomorrow in Part 4 I’m going to be posting more on ATS;’s, new launches and the innovation in this area. What do you think are the technology and products that will stand out in 2013?

Happy Sunday,


Disclaimer: Jobsite sponsor #Trulondon and Johnathan Campbell often buys me beer.

2012/13: Part One. Why Recruiting Is Local

Happy New Year from a cold and cheery Berlin. Tonight, I’m going to be joining about a million other people at the Brandenburg Gate to say “Bye” to 2012, and “Hello” to 2013. The reality of a new year is that not much changes between the last quarter of the departing year, and the first quarter of the new one. I started writing my own review from this years notes, and when my musings reached 5000 words with no sign of stopping, i thought it was worth breaking these up in to a 10 part series. This is part one, and my lessons from 2012;

The best review post of 2012 was from Neil Morrison, who reviewed the year by saying that for most people, this year was about making sure they had a job to go to in 2013, and that he did a lot of necessary stuff he didn’t really like doing in 2012. If you haven’t read it yet you should check it out. I think this post is a very realistic take on what 2012 has been for many people at work in the UK and elsewhere. We can split the working population to be a shrinking group with a traditional job in full time employment, those out of work or between jobs, and a growing collection of people who work on projects based on their skills, moving from company to company. This changes the role of recruiter from talent acquisition to project management, and I’m expecting this trend to be a dominant factor in 2013.

I was surprised to make a top 10 recruiting posts list this year, for a post I didn’t remember writing called “Return on irrelevance.” This was my take on why non-targeted chat and conversation without a real business objective were important, and how the more we tried to strategies  the more we lost sight of this. I still think we spend too much time theorizing and not enough doing. I haven’t really changed this view. The way to understand social is to be social, and the best relationships come from accidental engagement and begin with conversations, connections and introductions. Make more time this year for chance conversations without objective, and see where they lead. The more conversations I have, the more opportunities I get. There is no mystery to that!

One of my most memorable conversations this year was with Paul Maxin, the Global Resourcing Director At Unilever, about their approach to Facebook and pages. They are using BuddyMedia (now owned by SalesForce.Com), to run one corporate page, where the visitors country of origin (according to their IP address) determines what local content they see, whilst keeping in a corporate environment. This also means that local brand ambassadors can create their own content and have their own local conversations. Maxin was quick to point out that the original thinking (and experience) in this area came from their corporate marketing team. What was working for the individual brands, could equally work for the local employer brands. There was no need to reinvent the wheel.

Whilst the local focus  is quite neat, the thing that really stood out for me was that they hadn’t added a means of applying for opportunities with the company, or join a talent network. This is purely about creating an on-line place where people can connect with the company. Applications come later, and in other places. Paul opened my eyes to the benefit of looking at applicants and candidates as two different sets of people, and having technology and process to manage both. Maxin is my old head boy at school, and he is the “head man” in global recruiting in my opinion. When the purpose of your social places is to connect and converse, and the job bit is secondary, then the real social recruiting happens. There is a difference between talk to and apply for.

The stand out point from all the travel in 2012 has been the confirmation of just how local recruiting is, and how much recruiters have been seduced by the digital media mafia to focus on talent attraction rather than whole recruitment process. It seems the concentration has been on reaching and getting more and more people to apply, whilst employing technology and process to persuade more and more people not to. It’s all a bit nuts. Learn more updates from Labor Law Compliance Center.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of talking about candidate experience, and extremely underwhelmed by the number of people actually doing anything about it. Plenty of outrage, very little action. Let’s hope that the changes in 2013 are more than surface, a few forums and communities, starting with a wider adoption of Nick Prices excellent Mystery Applicant product, which is a business I hope will really take off, taking real feedback and data from source. Only by real feedback and data collection, will the applicant process ever really change.

Tomorrow I’m going to be looking closer at some of the innovation I have seen this year in recruiting technology. Hope you enjoyed part one.


Bullies and trolls

My daughter has been bullied at school. It has had quite quite a traumatic time for her, and has had a big impact on her confidence. When you are a Dad, you want to do all you can (and more) to protect your little girl. You also have to understand that sometimes you have to be hands off and try and pass on the love, support and tools in life to deal with it. In any circle, a bully is an inevitability, and as you get older you learn to build up an immunity to such behaviour and shut it out, doesn’t mean it doesn’t sometimes hurt, but you learn to roll with the punches. It made me think more and want to share my thoughts on bullying in life.
In my life and my career, I’ve had to handle my fair share of bullies I’ve been thinking hard about the ones I have met and worked with and for, and closer to home now, the ones I meet online. Probably the most common are the intellectual bullies. You know the ones, they think they are wiser and better than anyone else, and love to wade in with the barbed comment, then run off to snigger with their mates. I consider them to be no better than the playground bullies, but then I console myself with the fact that you have to be noticed to be bullied in this way, there is a reverse flattery in standing out enough to intimidate someone enough to make them want to bully you. There are trolls of course, who take pleasure in trying to cause trouble, but the best way to handle them is just to ignore them, they feed off attention, starve them of it. We all get bullied some time. It is how we handle it that defines us.
In every walk of life there are people who feel significantly inferior to feel the need to bully others, and this I think is the best tactic. To remember that you already have the upper hand, that is why you got the attention, and you can use it to your advantage. How many times do you hear great comedians learnt to be funny to repel the tough guys at school. Make people laugh and disarm them, smother them with love!
The best advice I ever had was that revenge was a life lived happy. I hope I can pass this on. To my daughter, and that anyone being bullied at work or in life can take some comfort from it. The reality of life is that 99% of people are good, and will do what they can to do a good turn for another human being. Lets remember the 99%, and not let the 1% lead to a life lived in fear of others. Life’s fun, lets just laugh at the bullies and enjoy it! Lead a happy life, and where you see bullying in work or life, call it out. The good guys (and girls) should stick together.

Now for something completely different: Jobsite.Com

I like things that are different. Companies who look at how things are done, follow user behavior and reinvent the model. The real innovation normally comes from start-ups who are agile, and have less layers of management to get “permission” from, or marketing departments not frozen by the fear of failure and perceived damage to the brand. In my experience, it is usually marketing who stifle innovation, and keeps companies rinsing and repeating the same products and process again and again. This week I saw something different, and it wasn’t from a start-up or small business.

Jobsite.Com takes the UK job board brand Jobsite to the US, except what on-line recruitment group Evenbase have come up with is not really a job board, at least not a job board as we know it. Different in virtually every respect from the tried, tested and tired model, from pricing to job listing.

I work with Evenbase from time to time, and Jobsite sponsor #truLondon. This has given me an opportunity to get a close look at their quarterly job seeker research, and products from companies like Broadbean and Jobrapido. What I’m seeing in Jobsite.Com is a combination of the expertise assembled in the Evenbase companies delivered in a new model labeled as Jobsite.Com.

What is so different about Jobsite.Com?

Firstly, it’s an aggregator with a similar user interface to Jobrapido. Jobrapido is now the second biggest vertical job search engine in the US, paving the way for the expansion of Jobsite in to the region.  One screen with two fields, What? and Where? The complicated work goes on under the hood, with no need to go from screen to screen. The jobs are scraped from direct employers career sites. Because the jobs are scraped from career sites, it is safe to assume that many of these jobs will not be advertised elsewhere.

I have been watching the matching technology that Jobsite have been developing in their lab on the south coast for the last year,now called Jobtology. This new school of matching tech does more than keyword counting, based on interpreting the meaning and context of whole documents. If you consider job specs and user profiles as two documents that match together, you get the idea of what is possible in Jobsite.Com, and the technology learns about you according to how you react to results, in order to perfect and personalize results. The more you interact, the better the result.Because jobs are scraped from sites, rather than posted by employers, I will be watching with interest to see what the % of employers are who will pay to access details, as there is no buy in process or permission needed to promote opportunities. integrates a version of’s award-winning job board technology, a scraping engine that aggregates jobs from millions of websites, an email marketing system, an e-commerce system, and Jobtology – Evenbase’s world-class semantic matching technology, all into one  offering.

The thinking behind this is to remove searching from job hunting and candidate matching (and this is the really exciting bit). Show potential applicants only the jobs they are interested in, qualified for and relevant, and show companies only the applicants who are qualified and relevant AND have expressed an interest in the job. Qualified and interested, that has to be a massive benefit to recruiters.

Jobsite.Com is an aggregator. That means that jobs come from multiple sources rather than just advertisers. Jobsite.Com has no advertising in the traditional way. The revenue model is based on giving hiring companies access to full profiles of interested applicants and pay $50 for contact details. No paid for jobs, no CV database or any of the traditional features. Think about how many profiles hiring companies are likely to want to connect with and what that will cost in comparison to the cost of job board advertising. I see this model of pricing as being the way all job boards will inevitably have to go, revenue by results rather than post and pray.

Applying for a job is quite simple, though geared to desktop rather than mobile in the first instance. All that is required is upload of a resume by attaching a file. up to 1500 words for a cover letter (and you get to see the job to the right of the cover letter as a reminder), drop downs for notice period, working status, expected salary minimum and max, name. address, city, state, zip code and contact numbers. There is the opportunity to save this data to profile, to avoid the need to input in the future. I’d like to see the addition of apply with LinkedIn to import data without the need for a resume or input of data. The new style of LinkedIn profile are great for this, and read much closer to a resume, are not presented as a .pdf (which has created problems when integrating with an ATS), with the option to add, delete or re-order the data. Apply with LinkedIn buttons are now on over 1 million websites globally, and would be a welcome addition here. If this was my product, I would be looking to go the extra step to make applications fully mobile. This would mean removing the need for a cover letter and resume upload, and that will take a shift in employer attitude as to what they want in an application to create access to employment.

Hiring companies access profiles of people who have expressed an interest in the job via the recruiter dashboard. Applicants are ranked by % match, with only those with a minimum score displayed. A “hot” candidate scores the minimum required level on the match, lives in the right area and has work status to fit the employer. What I really like about the back-end of Jobsite.Com is that you get to see all the data, score, resume, cover letter and personal data on one screen, with other qualifying candidates displayed as pin images on the right hand side of the screen for comparisons. Personal detail and identifying information like employer is omitted before paying for unlocking the detail. A big benefit I can see for applicants is that hiring companies will only pay to unlock the people they are really interested in, and the benefit to hiring companies is that they only see active candidates who have expressed an interest. No more time wasted searching dated CV databases or trying to contact candidates not in the market. All candidates are qualified, eligible to work and interested. Scores for candidates are calculated according to a semantic match with the job based on skills, background, experience, location and eligibility.

I spoke with Felix Wetzel, Evenbases Strategy Director about the launch. Wetzel is very clear that this is a beta launch to judge all user reactions, and to adjust the offering according to user behaviors and feedback. Wetzel is quoted as saying:

“Our immediate priority is to make sure the beta works, fine tune it, add in new development and move from beta to the full version of for both candidates and hirers. provides hirers already with something completely new and different and for the candidates we’ve got some equally revolutionary services in the pipeline.”

I’m excited about this offering, both for Evenbase and the job board industry as a whole. Job boards are far from dead, but they need to be evolving to stay current in this market place. Jobsite founder and Evenbase chairman Keith Potts comments:

“Our ability to update and re-invent our offering is what sets us apart. We will continue to develop and offer the latest technology to assist employers and job seekers.”

When I reviewed the launch of Evenbase, Potts was clear that the purpose of combining the brands was to be able to expand their offering globally. Jobsite.Com is a big step in this direction, and it is revolutionary in thinking. I look forward to seeing the results, and how the brave new initiatives work in the marketplace.


Disclaimer: I have worked with Evenbase on product, and Jobsite.Co.UK are regular sponsors of #truLondon.



Business Brains Tour. Guest Post By @REC

November sees the REC hitting the road for Business Brains On Tour, which brings together some top UK business talent to share their business knowledge to help you grow and develop your recruitment business.
One of the “brains” is Johnny Campbell, the CEO the Social Talent who is the recruiters social media favourite. His session will bring you up to speed on how to use social media to grow your business, attract the best candidates and use content to differentiate your business.
The REC caught up with Johnny for a quick chat to find out what we can expect from him on tour.
1. Please sum up your business philosophy in no more than 140 characters?
Be brilliant in everything you do and good things will happen. If you can’t be brilliant, do something else.
2. The economic pressures on recruitment agencies have grown in recent years – what one essential tip can you give to recruiters to help them build their business?
Companies used to rely on agencies for 80% of their hires. They are now moving towards 80% direct. If you want a share of the remaining 20%, be a specialist who is the absolute best at providing candidates in your niche. If you want to go after the 100%, you need an RPO model.
3. Recruitment has undergone huge changes in the way that it operates – what characteristics would you say are the most valuable for a successful recruitment business owner to have in the new environment?
You must be agile and focused on making yourself indispensable to your customers. Agility could mean being flexible in the pricing model that you offer, providing unusual services beyond fee based placement or just embracing the latest technologies in your operational model. What has not changed is the personal touch. This is still very much a people business. When you focus too much on the tech and the latest shiny new things, you can lose sight of the people and the relationships that are vital to the success of any recruitment business.
4. Social media has had a massive impact on the way that recruiters operate and there are a range of options on offer – what approach would you advise recruiters to take to get the most out of their social media?
Don’t use social media for the pure sake of it. Just because your competitor is on Facebook does not mean that you should be. Understand the potential value of all new tools and resources and then decide what is right for your business. To me, there are three core opportunities that recruiters can leverage from social media: 1) the enormous database of candidates that are there to be found, 2) the opportunity to market yourself and gain influence through social sites that are gradually consuming more and more internet users’ time and 3) new ways to communicate with and talk to potential candidates and clients.
5. The UK recruitment industry is continuing to grow and operate on a more global scale – what benefits are there to recruiters considering overseas markets?
With the growth of social and professional sites and the proliferation of the internet via mobile you can now hire for any job in the world using only your mobile phone. You no longer need to be in the same country, let alone the same city as the clients and candidates that you rely on, therefore the obstacles to developing business and expanding overseas have all but vanished. If you have a great business model and deliver a fantastic service, you can offer that anywhere in the world without ever leaving your local town!
6. Retaining high quality staff is key to driving business forward – what advice can you give to recruiters to make sure they hold onto to their top talent?
I met with a client recently who wanted us to deliver our Black Belt training to their staff but with one caveat; they wanted us to hold back some of our “best stuff” as they feared that if their recruiters had all of our training, they would surely leave and go elsewhere. I was discussing this with a colleague who made an excellent point; what happens if their staff don’t get the training…..and they stay! My advice is to invest in your staff, encourage self-direction, invest in a learning culture, give them something to believe in and then get out of their way and let them do their job. You don’t need free beer and fooze-ball tables to retain staff. Treat them like grown ups and say thank you once in a while and they may surprise you!
7. As an expert in your field you’re always asked for the best advice – however what would you say is the worst piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?
When we started Social Talent I had this over-riding belief that if we gave away our best advice for free, people would come and they would pay for our other services. I hosted our first live webinar in January 2011 and since then we have uploaded over 30 hours of free training material to YouTube. When I first suggested doing this I was told I was mad by everyone I knew in the agency market. They just couldn’t see the value of building an audience who trust your advice and understand that it comes with no strings attached. I was told to give a little and hold back the good stuff. I decided to ignore this and believe that our whole business has succeeded on this premise. When you help someone without asking for anything in return they will at the very least ensure to recommend you to everyone they know. At best, they will seek you out above your peers if they ever have an opportunity to repay you.
The Business Brains on Tour will be running on the 19, 20 and 21 of November in Birmingham, Manchester and London. For £100 discount on your ticket, “REC Business Brains on Tour, 19-21 November 2012″ book here, using the discount code REC1

To the LinkedIn trainers, coaches and book writers …

Sorry all for the message I am about to deliver. I know most of you. I respect some of you, but my request to you is really simple:


I’ve long-held the view that you shouldn’t really write a paper book about Social Media. Any book that is instructional, and giving guidance to job seekers (especially), networkers or recruiters should really be an e-book with updates each month to notify the subscribers what has changed, what no longer applies and what won’t work any more. If this is not the case, then your book should really be called a history book. Publishers and writers may not like this, but the pace of change in the social media channels means anything else is really not being accurate. What you published in good faith last week might well be out of date.

Training is another difficult area. I think LinkedIn are just making too many changes, and keeping us guessing as to the impact of in particular the new profile design, to know if what is being taught is correct. I’m not sure yet how much this will impact on profile optimisation, or what impact endorsements are going to have yet. They are certainly doing strange things to search results, but there has not yet been enough time to evaluate how they change things. I’m also hearing recommendations for LinkedIn applications to bling a profile that may well be removed over the next few weeks. Let’s stop for breath and see what comes out in the wash. By all means speculate in blogs and other on-line places, but be clear this is your best guess based on our knowledge, because it is just confusing at the moment.

You can, and need to, keep up with the changes as they happen via the LinkedIn blogs, but the reality is these are more like advisory notes to the features and updates rather than explanations as to how they are going to impact. Please LinkedIn, give us a bit more of a clue, you know we love you!

At the end of this post, I have attached the video announcing all the recent changes. Only 10,000 people have watched the video. A big number, but a very small number when you consider users. This is what the channel has to say about the video:

Our Product team showcases the biggest enhancements we’ve made to the LinkedIn experience in the company’s history, including the launch of the new LinkedIn profile.

In their words, the biggest changes in history. Innovating, changing and helping in the fastest time in the companies history.

The reality of any change to any social media is that it takes a while to figure out what it really means, if anything, and this is really dictated by the way in which we, the users react. We need to get the new data pumping through the system to figure it out, and notice what is happening.

I can’t remember a time when LinkedIn has changed more significantly, and at such speed, largely without prior warning. The market respects our thought leaders and trainers, please stop for breath, give it time to shake out and start advising us again over issues like keywords or not. You will have our eternal gratitude if you can figure it out, and hold off the training in instruction until we have answers to the questions.





Is This Social Media Nirvana?

Did you just become invisible?

There’s a thought that has been going around in my head for a while. It started at #truLondon from a comment I made in a track and has been gaining momentum that I want to share with you to see what you think. The concept is really simple, if no one can see your content you can’t influence them in any shape or form. It doesn’t really matter if you have 50,000 followers, friends, fans or connections, if no one is interacting with your content, you become invisible to everyone. Looking at this channel by channel. LinkedIn have been up to lots of tricks recently. Firstly they moved updates from your profile to your home page, with a Facebook type stream that promotes what is trending. Trends are determined by shares, likes and comments on your updates. The best way to trend is to post your content to LinkedIn updates first, and share the LinkedIn update on Twitter and Facebook, because every interaction to a LinkedIn link counts towards your trending score, whatever the channel.

LinkedIn have also been quietly changing profiles to a new design. There is lots of great data on the new design, but a few features seem to be disappearing. For a start, I don’t see any blog links or WordPress apps on the new profiles. I also don’t see Slideshare (though as LinkedIn own them this may stay). There are lots of cool new features that show a bit more about you, like how you are connected and the make up of your network on the new profile, but the only update that is visible is the last one.  The events section is disappearing mid November, so I’m expecting a few other things to drop out around the same time. The point of all this is that if you want to share an event with your network, then you are going to have to do it through an update. I think this is the driving force to get people posting updates, sharing and interacting. If you have new content, new posts, new events, etc., then it has to go through updates, part of the LinkedIn master plan to get us engaging in a channel that was becoming largely static. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the less active groups also getting removed. To get a new profile right now you have to ask for one, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see LinkedIn following the same path as Facebook did with timeline. Update in 3 months or else they will change it for you. Check out the new profiles and start thinking about how you are going to need to change yours.

On Facebook pages (personal and fan), you only see the updates you interact with. This is based on the Edgerank algorithm. Points awarded for comments, shares and likes in that order, that lose their value over time. Unless you subscribe to a feed (the least popular Facebook feature), you lose the updates from your stream if you don’t interact with the friend or page. This favors sponsored story’s as the most popular form of advertising on Facebook (ads are close to invisible on mobile), and also means that you need to be producing engaging content. No interaction, no visibility. I think this will be the biggest feature to drive the Facebook mobile app to enable likes and shares, as comments are only possible at the moment. Expect this change soon, now that Facebook updates are more than 60% mobile.

On twitter, what you see in your stream close to the top when you log in is sponsored posts, and those that you have interacted with in the past. Twitter shows you your closest friends first, as well as what is trending in your network. This is based on favorites, retweets, replies etc. It seems all the channels are favoring an Edgerank style ranking system.

On Goggle search, your results are greatly influenced by what you have responded to in the past by opening links, (which is why authorship on Google+ is so important). Preference is given to content that answers the search from authors you have liked before. Your social connections with the author also influences results, based on your relationship, and relationship is based on interactions. Yes, there will always be listings from people you don’t know, but people you do know and engage with will be showing higher up the rankings, because Google want to give you results that you trust, and that means people you know.

All of this points to one thing, if people are not engaging or interacting with your content, then it is going to become invisible. Forget SEO, forget huge followings, fan competitions to win an i-Pad if you like us and all that kind of thing, no interaction, no visibility. No visibility and no potential to influence, and this is only going to get more advanced in all the channels. Results are entirely dependent on interaction and engagement. Ditch your automated tweetadder followings, stop the gimmics for one off likes, become interactive and encourage interaction. Isn’t that the nirvana for social media? Engage or die!

Stop the talent community BS

It doesn’t really matter where you go on the internet, where people have a common interest they will gather. It doesn’t really matter what that interest is, in amongst the noise people will find each other. On a channel like Tumblr it might be the latest band or fad, on Facebook it might be that you went to the same school or have the same memories, on LinkedIn it could be that you work in the same field and on Twitter it could be as simple as you support the same football team. Social media is built to help people with the same interests find each other easily and hang out, because the conversations on topic usually take part in a public space. It’s a bit like standing in a shopping mall with a megaphone shouting “I love to collect stamps. I have a great collection.” Most of the people passing by will roll an eye and stroll on. Stamps have no interest, but every so often someone will come past and say “I love stamps too. Lets go somewhere and talk about it.” Then off go the stamp men with their cardigans, and their first editions and their passion for stamps, and they sit, drink coffee and exchange stamp war stories, tips and advice.

The guy with the megaphone, lets call him Jim, is talking to his new stamp buddy (lets call him Brian), and they become friends quickly because of their shared love of all things stamps. Jim phones his friend who has a rare first day cover and he comes over and joins the conversation. Jim and Brian, discover that they have a few mutual friends who also love stamps. They agree it would be a good idea if they all met over a beer next week, and brought their friends along to talk a bit more about stamps over a beer in a bar. Word gets out from friend to friend, by word of mouth and word of mouse. The stamp guys hang out.

Enjoying these informal get togethers, Jim and Brian and all the other stamp guys, and now a few stamp girls decide that it would be great if they met once a week to talk about a new super interesting stamp topic, and to show the new collectors’ items they had gathered each week. Once this started happening they soon realised that they needed to be organised, which meant someone needed to take charge, and a few others needed to take on responsibilities like booking the bar, ordering the pretzels, that kind of stuff. After a while, they agreed that it would be good to start bringing some new faces in, because they had seen every stamp each of them owned, and they had each led a meeting to talk about their specialist topic. What they needed was someone to get the word out and take control of marketing the group to new people. Time to get the megaphone out, put a few posters up and make a few announcements.

About this time, there was a stamp fair in town. People were coming from far and wide to buy, sell and swap stamps. They weren’t really connected, but they were all pretty serious about the art of stamp collecting. They had a lot of knowledge, but they liked to keep their secrets to themselves because stamp collectors are seriously competitive. New people joining in the meet ups, which became meetings, always started reserved, but learnt fairly quickly that the more they shared, the more others shared with them. The sales fairs became a great recruiting ground for the stamp group, they even took a stand to meet new people. The more time the group took to run, the more they needed to organise themselves with a committee, organisers and fees to pay for venues, marketing and the like. The group grew and grew.

When the group met each Wednesday, they started to divide in to sub-groups according to their niche interests. Some people had a special interest in first day covers, others were interested in African stamps, new releases and only stamps over 100 years old. These groups decided among themselves that it would be great if they hung out separately on a different night.They still went back to the main group once or twice a month, but mostly they liked to hang out in small groups, with the people who were more alike. The big meetings were more social for a pint and a chat, but the smaller gatherings was where the real business of talking and exchanging stamps got done. Each of these groups started to organise themselves because they needed to, appointing a group leader and an organiser to get things done.

From time to time the members fell out with each other, stamps can be a competitive and challenging hobby to have. One member would be accused of breaking the rules or aims of the group, but there were no rules to speak of, people just kind of knew what they expected of each other. As the groups grew and became more diverse, and other groups started to spring up in other towns it was clear that some structure was needed. Jim and Brian had always been the self-appointed leaders by virtue of the fact that they were the first members, but others were starting to question this. Whilst their contribution was undisputed, they were a bit dated in their views. For a start they didn’t really like the internet, and shied away from anything on-line, but members needed to communicate and trade their stamps even if they couldn’t make the meetings. The special interest groups wanted to be able to connect with other people who shared their interests wherever they might be located, and this could only happen on-line.

Recognising that they were holding back the natural progress of the group, Jim and Brian declared that they were taking a backseat, and organised a vote among the members to elect a committee with formal roles. Whilst they wanted to keep things as loose as possible for the members, they also recognised that some structure was needed, and the first job of the new council was to crowdsource the members and agree guidelines for the members to follow. No one quite knew when it happened, but the people involved had gone from being enthusiastic friends to being members of a bigger community. From that first announcement about stamps, something bigger with structure and culture evolved, a real community, and they took it on-line. The virtual membership and participation became bigger than the physical one. From an early chance meeting, a real community was born.

The point of telling this fictitious story is to illustrate how communities evolve and change over time, sparked by a shared interest and a natural human desire among people to connect and belong to groups with a shared interest, and how structure and order naturally evolves. It is the way towns grew from villages, and city’s from towns. Shared purpose, and the need for a level of order.

There has been a lot of rubbish talked about talent communities around companies. Job seeking is a solo occupation. People don’t want to do it in packs or groups. Job seeking is transactional, communities are based on relationships. Following a company is not belonging to a talent community, at best it is being a part of a talent network. Applying for a job is not belonging to anything other than your interest in the job. Like the stamp guys, real community needs to be around a shared area of interest, and the community is not owned or managed, it evolves and gains structure over time. You need to broadcast the area of interest in the early days to attract those with an interest, get them to the same place then let them decide how it evolves, and the structure it takes. It is a long term gain, not a short term return, and is unlikely to be what a real company needs.

Just my thoughts, evolve like the stamp guys from a single interest, let the members decide the structure and objective and make recruiting one of many secondary activities, and not the basis of a community.


My Culture Branding E-Book With KellyOCG

I’ve been lucky enough to get a look at some real culture brands first hand. To see the way some businesses like Rackspace in Texas, HardRock in London,The BBC in London and Barclays have been able to build a distinctive culture, and frame it for public consumption. When you work with brands like these, the challenge is not to get more people to apply for jobs with the company, but to reduce the volumes and improve the efficiency of those who actually apply. The objective is to use social places to give employees a voice to show the reality of work, and to enable potential applicants to opt out if it is not for them.

All organisations have a unique culture. Culture doesn’t have to be dynamic and fun packed, it could be steady and staid, controlling or totally open and creative. The important thing is that the face you show to the world is the reality of what lives behind your four walls. That way people can choose if they want in, or not.

I was first switched on to this concept a few years ago at #truLondon by the excellent Michael long. I’ve since been lucky enough to visit Rackspace and see it in action first hand. I was delighted to share my thoughts and experiences with Sally Hunter, the RPO lead for EMEA for Kelly. Together we have produced this short e-book to share our thoughts. I hope this provokes more thought and discussion because there is more to come!
You might want to view the e-book in full screen view or download your own copy.