Happy Birthday to my friend John Sumser. Another year older and another year wiser. John is a rare breed, from the old school of cynical recruiter and technology guy, but with an eye on the new school to see what might be working or the next big thing. He is the chief of on-line resource HRExaminer. I say on-line resource because it is a bit more than a blog, with some great reference material and highly respected contributors discussing the world of HR and recruiting, and setting the new agenda. John describes me as creative chaos. The best word I can use to describe him is as a curmudgeon. This is the best description of a curmudgeon that I could find on-line:

 A curmudgeon’s reputation for malevolence is undeserved. They’re neither warped nor evil at heart. They don’t hate mankind, just mankind’s absurdities. They’re just as sensitive and soft-hearted as the next guy, but they hide their vulnerability beneath a crust of misanthropy. They ease the pain by turning hurt into humor.  . . . . .   They attack maudlinism because it devalues genuine sentiment.   . . . . .   Nature, having failed to equip them with a serviceable denial mechanism, has endowed them with astute perception and sly wit. 
      Curmudgeons are mockers and debunkers whose bitterness is a symptom rather than a disease. They can’t compromise their standards and can’t manage the suspension of disbelief necessary for feigned cheerfulness. Their awareness is a curse. 
      Perhaps curmudgeons have gotten a bad rap in the same way that the messenger is blamed for the message: They have the temerity to comment on the human condition without apology. They not only refuse to applaud mediocrity, they howl it down with morose glee. Their versions of the truth unsettle us, and we hold it against them, even though they soften it with humor.


If you know John well, you might find this a great description. He is certainly one to debunk mediocrity, particularly when it has been wrapped up in hype, so common of the latest shiny new things.  Each time I have met with John we have mostly disagreed. He is the perfect foil in an unconference environment. We have spoken influence, technology and where the future of recruiting might take us, and mostly we have exchanged views on the finer points. My favorite track of all time was in London and San Francisco entitled “Influence or effluence.” We disagreed, I learnt a lot, and the game of human tennis motivated me to want more of the conversation. Sumser knows the market, and the market knows Sumser, but he is relentless in the pursuit of knowledge and conversation with the right people. A discussion with John is infectious, and you will never leave one without having advanced your opinions and knowledge, because Sumser will test you and stretch your thinking. If you have an idea or an opinion he is a great sounding board.

John is perhaps best known in recent times for producing the “top influencers” list in recruiting, human capital and HR. I’m convinced that when John hits the publish button, he does so with a big smile on his face. The lists are based on an algorithm measured using Socialears from HRMarketeer. This is how SocialEars describe their product:

SocialEars provides a new approach to search and marketing analytics based on deep, comprehensive analyses of  billions of tweets, blogs, Facebook and LinkedIn posts gathered from millions of unique websites, to identify the thousands of thought leaders driving trends, influencing opinion and doing business in your specific area of interest.

SocialEars’s cloud-based platform analyzes these influential conversations to index, analyze and rank content, putting a who’s-who ‘A-list’ of social voices at your fingertips. With instant access to conversations from moments ago or years ago, SocialEars enables you to discover, quantify, engage and make decisions using the most current, trending and powerful information online.

I’ve featured on a few of these lists over the last few years. I know John is smiling when he publishes the lists because he knows that it is going to create discussion, debate and disagreement, and that is what Sumser is all about. He is having conversations with all kinds of people in the industry at all levels, because it is by having conversations that John can shape his own thinking which balances old school HR and recruiting, with the latest developments.

I first came across Sumser at Recruitfest in Toronto. When I decided to launch #Tru soon after, he was the first one on the phone to offer words of advice based on his experience. He was one of the first people in the industry to break away from the traditional conference model with his series of Recruiter Roundtables across the States. Sumser is always one of the first to reach out when anyone asks for help, and is always generous with his time and advice. He always finishes our regular calls with the question “now what can I do to help you?”. Sumser likes to help.

When not editing HRExaminer, Sumser is the Principal Analyst for HRXAnalysts, founded in 2010, providing research to HR technology companies to understand brand perception. He is also the CEO and founder of Two Colour Hat Inc, an HR vendor marketing firm he founded in 2006.

Prior to this Sumser was a director of Salary.Com, serving the business from their start up in 1999, through to the sale of the business in 2010. From 19994 to 2007, John was CEO of Interbiznet, providing media content reviewing software and the recruitment industry, and 5 years as an advisor to BrassRing. Before stepping in to the consultancy world, Sumser served in a range of Executive posts during a 15 year tenure with Westinghouse.

Sumser is a regular track leader and participant at #tru events. It will be great to lock horns again at #Trulondon on 22′nd and 23′rd of October. Thanks john for your wise words, conversation and advice. It is going to be great seeing you and Heather again in London. If you get the chance to take part in a conversation with Sumser, don’t miss out.