Zappos to Misergonists: Get Off the Bus!

June 18, 2008

Zappos was in the news for paying people to leave.  The twist is that they aren’t failing. 

Normally, a company that has to downsize offers incentives for employees to leave. The best take the plan, because they don’t want to work for a loser. The company ends up with the people who can’t get hired elsewhere.  AKA: the Dregs. The tailspin accelerates.  No one can figure out why the company is filled with no-ops because anyone with the business sense to see the problem bailed at the first chance.

But Zappos is growing like a weed and they’re paying $1500 for people to take a hike. (Up from $1000 because too few people were going for the cash.)  It works because a good job is worth a lot more than $1500.  If you’re happy, you’ll stay put.  And if you’re unhappy, they want you gone. 

There’s nothing worse than an unhappy coworker hating their job all day, and raining on everyone else’s parade.  So good for Zappos for making the world a better place for unhappy and happy people alike. 


Good News for Good Looking People!

June 16, 2008

The ERE is reporting on the new thing: “Speed Recruiting.” It’s a lot like speed dating, but for hiring people.  (Here’s the link.)   I’m unimpressed.  Do we really need to make recruiting more superficial? 

Speed dating works because there are only two questions: Do I want to snuggle her? and Does she want to snuggle me?  (Sorry about the language, but it’s a family oriented blog.) One of those questions answers itself if you’re single and she’s hot.  The other one gets answered when she checks a box next to your name.   Is that how we should screen employees? 

The problem with speed dating for candidates is that speed dating works because you already know what you’re looking for.  In speed dating, people get eliminated for being the wrong religion, or too fat, or too old, or not rich enough.  In some recruiting environments, the same filters get applied. But that’s not the typical HR strategy. 

When you’re growing a company, who you hire matters.  Snap judgements can be disasterous. A hiring manager with tunnel vision won’t ever be challenged on his assumptions about what it takes to do the job.  With the ever increasing diversity of the workforce, speed recruiting allows someone to churn through great candidates while looking for a needle in a haystack.  It’s a huge waste time and money even before the lawsuit gets filed.

The other problem is that the kind of person who gets picked a lot in speed dating will also do well in speed recruiting.  Shouldn’t recruiters be pushing for better than that? 

If I were hiring, I’d rather sit down with 5 truly well qualified people than the 25 walk-ons who are willing to be treated like cattle. 

If I were job hunting, I’d want to know that the hiring manager actually read my resume before I sat down.  But if I can’t get that, I hope they at least have a swim-suit competition.  Because then when I get the offer, I’ll feel even better about all the sit-ups I do. 

Don’t Search for Employment

June 12, 2008

Here’s an example of where keyword search fails.  At, I typed in the word “Employment.”  The number one result is an article about Australian employment, so I add a “-Australia.” I rerun the search and the number one result is now about India.  I’m not in India or Australia and Google knows that.  But they can’t do anything about it.   Everyone in the whole world gets the same results.

Besides, if I want articles about employment in the United States, why not search for “United States Employment?”  OK. 

The results come back with almost nothing about employment, and a fairly random scattering of topics. (Actual results are below.)

What’s going on?  I’m not sure, but I suspect this: The word employment shows up in thousands of articles, so it can’t be used to rank results. Same goes for “United States.”  Google doesn’t know what to do.  So it uses an algorithm to determine which stories are the most popular.  My search terms are essentially ignored at this point and the algorithm takes over. I end up with popular articles that include my too-common words.

This is an example of where conceptual search would blow away keyword search. Imagine if Google knew concepts related to employment, like unemployment, jobs, economic growth, layoffs, etc. Then, it could score an article based on how much the content includes employment related concepts.  It might still have issues, but I’d bet an article about how to wash tomatoes wouldn’t be in the top 5. 

Trovix is really great at finding jobs for people because we understand concepts related to employment.  So we can show you what you’re looking for. 

Anyways, here were my top 5 results for “United States Employment.”

1.  US Still Leads the world in Science and Technology. (RAND study about R+D spending in the US.)

2. A 21st-Century Profile: Art for Art’s Sake.  (NY Times article about how many artists there are in the US.)

3. Lawmakers ponder next step for E-Verify.  (Bureaucrats in Washington DC try to keep illegal immigrants out of the workforce.)

4. Produce Safety And Security International Ohio Facilities Will Be Operational To Provide Certifed (sic) Food Safe Tomatoes And All Fresh Produce Items (Press release from a company that is washing their tomatoes before selling them.)

5.  Legislature acts to opt AZ out of RealID.  (Another state says no to a federal ID card.)

Are Video Resumes for Real?

June 9, 2008

It seems like there’s always some company or another promoting video resumes as a way to “get noticed by employers.”  The one I saw today was, which allows you to attach a voicemail type greeting to your resume.

OK, it’s not exactly video, but the idea is the same.  To me, that idea is “take a document that most recruiters will allocate 15 seconds to, and turn it into something that takes a minimum of 120 seconds to understand.”  The problem with this approach is the 105 seconds of content you’re creating which is going to get deleted.  Making yourself more of a burden to a recruiter isn’t going to impress anyone.

When I was a lad, the idea was that the resume gets you the screening call, and the screening call gets you the interview, and the interview gets you the job.  (Or the second round of interviews.)  I think that’s still true. Recruiters don’t have time to look at videos.  Seriously, just look at how much time they spend writing the job description. 

If you’re looking for a job, you’re better off investing time in making sure your resume matches what they’re looking for.  If you have the experience they want, make it obvious on your resume. And if you don’t, give it up. You could spend an hour on just the right voicemail greeting, but that won’t slow anyone’s finger down as they reach for the delete key.  If anything, it will give them an excuse to delete all the faster. 

Is Scott McClellan employable?

May 30, 2008

The big discussion here, from folks of all political stripes, is if Scott McClellan can get a job. One of my friends said, “Sure. He can always get a job in marketing somewhere.”  Ouch, says the marketing guy.  On the one hand, he’s got a ton of baggage. Die-hard Republicans aren’t going to be big Scotty fans.  Would you want him in your tradeshow booth?  That cuts your market share by at least the 32% of people who are Bush fans.  And I don’t know if Democrats are going to like him either. He seems, well, a little bit like a weasel. 

On the other hand, he’s a star!  He’s been on TV. He’s hugged the president. He’s a successful author.  Who wouldn’t want to bask in the reflected glow of his fame?  I’ll bet he’s got great stories to tell in the break room. You could use him in recruiting: “And if you accept now, you can sit in the cube next to Scott McClellan!” 

Regardless, I’m sure that if he loads his resume into, he’ll find the best jobs for him.  Whether or not they’ll hire him?  That probably depends on factors not taken in account in the job description. 

Semantic Search and the Semantic Web

May 29, 2008

When I want to see what’s up in the search world, sometimes I google news “semantic search” to see if anything interesting has happened. 

Something that I’ve noticed is that people seem to be be confusing Semantic Search with the Semantic Web. (Example 1, Example 2)  Or maybe I’m confused.  From what I understand, the Semantic Web is a particular idea, first launched years ago, that involves metatags, RDFs, data exchange layers etc.  The idea would be to formalize the content of the internet to make it more useful, and to help people filter out what they aren’t interested in.  I’m on the sceptical side of that one.  So is Cory Doctorow. 

But Semantic Search is totally different.  Semantic search the way Trovix does it doesn’t require anything of the web page or document in order to be added to a semantic framework. We do all the heavy lifting of tagging the concepts into a tree, and building the indexes so they can be searched from a conceptual and contextual perspective.  That means you can say “show me the resume of a mid level bean counter” and we can do it, even if the accountant in question calls himself experienced. 

The problem with confusing the two is that the Semantic Web is a super long ways off if you listen to the proponents. And if you listen to the sceptics, you’d write the idea off all together.  But semantic search is already able to provide huge value in verticals. The employment space is a massive vertical market. $55 billion is spent by corporations on hiring in the US each year.  We’re not waiting for the semantic web to make search better for people. 

Microsoft Investing Big in Search, or Are They?

May 23, 2008

PC World and Ad Age both had articles about Bill Gates’ description of Microsoft and the battle for search.  No surprise that Microsoft is gunning big for Google, and I’d love to know what technologies they think are going to define the next generation of search.  (Besides the word “semantic,” of course.) 

Sadly, no such coverage. While confirming that Gates talked about “new search technologies and future ideas,” both articles swooned over the cash back business model that Microsoft came up with.  Wasn’t that a business model before the .com crash? There were (now dead) companies giving away computers, equity and cash as rewards for traffic. So, good for Microsoft for showing up with a 10 year old idea.  I’m sure it will work out fine for them.

But here’s my real question: What are they doing about search?  People talk about ad serving platforms and keyword management tools as “search,” but they aren’t.  What Microsoft is doing is a business model.  Not a search technology.  The way these articles spin it, Microsoft isn’t even competing on search technology. 

Gates is definitely on the bandwagon that the current approach will be replaced by more intelligence, and semantic approaches.  But does he think that they can out develop Google in this regard? Or is the Microsoft strategy to throw money at the problem? 



Robert Reich gives career advice

May 22, 2008

The New York Times ran fun interview with Robert Reich (Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Labor for those too young to remember. . .). It was a few weeks ago but I just caught it. I was sad to read Bob say:

But don’t get an M.B.A.! We have too many M.B.A.’s as it is, and they’re killing the economy!

Here’s my counter attack:  What’s wrong with an MBA?  I think Washington DC bureaucrats are probably just as bad if not worse.  What’s been worse for the economy: The companies that make up the Fortune 500 (40% run by MBAs) or the cap on H-1B Visas for engineers and researchers?

I mean, it’s just a quibble, but Reich had a department with 18,000 employees and a budget of $60,000,000,000.  Reich’s department got $1.60 per day for each person working in the US.  And yet he complains that he is underfunded and that business people are ruining the economy. Good grief! Physician, heal thyself. 

Are Social Networks for Recruiting a Myth?

May 19, 2008

I watched a Recruiting 2.0 webcast last week.  The message was same old, same old: social networks are great for recruiting/you need to get on it.  There were great tips like “get a facebook page” and “you can throw a sheep at someone to communicate with them in the manner they’re used to.”


The rubber hit the road when the presenter did a survey of how many recruiters had used a social network to hire someone.  (And to clarify in advance, she defined LinkedIn to NOT be a social network, because it’s primary use is for business and career stuff.) 

Out 121 of which were answering the question, 3 had made hires from MySpace or Facebook.  Other networks like Twitter and Ning got blanked.  It’s been more than a year since I first heard the song and dance about social networks for recruiting. Yet the success rate is below 3%. And this for a crowd that loves the newest thing, and an audience that tunes into webcasts on web 2.0 recruiting. If anything, 3% overstates the usefulness of social networks for recruiting.

Here’s my read:  the emperor has no clothes. Recruiting off of Facebook is a joke.  If Facebook recruiting was working, it would be working by now.  Besides, I checked, and neither mine nor any of my friends profiles contain useful information for a recruiter. 

Unless you’re looking for parents of cute kids.  Then I’m your candidate.

Annika Sorenstam retires

May 13, 2008

Annika Sorenstam has retired after 72 LPGA tournament wins.  Apparently she wants to “devote more time to her growing business.” Is it way too ironic that she’s retiring from golf to get a job? 

At least she has a job to go to.  Although I suspect what it will end up being is some chain thing being run by business folks with her name all over it. Kind of like how Paris Hilton has a fragrance, a line of hair extensions, a signature footwear line, and is an author as well as a singer.  And let’s not forget her film credits. 

Just for fun I went to to see what kind of opportunities their might be for Annika.  Calloway Golf has a “Director of Golf” opening.  Somehow, I think she’s got bigger things in mind.