Cloud Recruiting Part III

August 27, 2009

In the last two posts, I have spent some time worrying about how we should view and understand the concept of cloud recruiting. There is essentially a gestalt switch in play here. Are recruiters making use of a cloud in the sense of deploying social networking technologies, or are they providing candidates access to a cloud by deploying social networking technologies? The worry is that recruiters will get caught up in the hype surrounding these technologies and think of them only as a fix/panacea for managing client communications.

My contention is that the “power of free” factor will get lost in the shuffle and that recruiters will lose site of the fact they still have a service to provide to candidates: value added content & productive networking. You have to have something to offer in order for the power of free to work. Of course, social networking technology is both the means to providing it, and it is part of what is being offered. In other words, we offer candidates access to a cloud of resources by way of the very same technologies that make up the cloud.

Getting weird and a bit confusing? Yes. I suppose the better way to think about this is to stick with Google as an analogy. Google doesn’t offer individuals access to the Internet, but offers them an excellent way to figure out which part of the Internet they really want access to (and of course they do this for free). They use the Internet, in part at least, to perform this function.  So in much the same way, if we take the cloud to be a collection of (professional) networking resources, one that is connected through social networking technologies, then our job is to provide candidates with a way to figure out which part of that cloud they really want access to. Furthermore, we will do this by applying the very same technologies that make up that cloud.

Again, I use Google as an analogy, but one that is, on a functional level, not very far removed from what we should be doing with social networking technologies. Just like the Internet, from the point of view of the average Internet user, the web of professional networks is a massive and confusing one. It would be very helpful to have some guidance in searching for the right connections and opportunities. While no recruiter could ever provide the level of access to the cloud that Google provides to the Internet, the basic idea is the same. It is a service oriented approach, and one that can potentially lead to far better word of mouth advertising among candidates. 

In the next post I will get into more detail as to how this can work. Specifically, I will take a look at some mobile applications that can help to provide better access to the cloud of professional networking.

Chuck

Cloud Recruiting (Part II)

August 26, 2009

Before I look at some of the recruiting practices that have sprouted up around the buzz phrase “cloud recruiting”, I would like to summarize where I am with the analysis so far.

In the last post I talked about Google’s philosophy of “the power of free” and how it was the original basis for the cloud recruiting idea. Google provides a very useful and free service, and does so for what is quite possibly the largest conceivable class of Internet users:  those looking for information on the Internet. The ‘power’ is essentially the age old draw of getting something good for free. Assuming the idea behind cloud recruiting is in part to make use of the same phenomenon in a way that mirrors Google’s application of it, then it would seem to follow that the recruiter’s job is to provide a free and “on demand” service (value added content for job seekers) to the largest possible class of qualified candidates (primarily passive candidates).

As I discussed in the previous post, Weddle points out two of the benefits of cloud recruiting. It distinguishes active from passive candidates and solves the traditional problem that creating productive relationships with candidates can be a resource consuming process. It shifts the focus from transactional activities to maintaining relationships.

With these points in mind, let’s take a look at Michael Marlatt’s view of cloud recruiting (see www.cloudrecruiting.net). He advocates the adoption of a collection of mobile and social networking technologies, to the point where recruiters develop a strategy for employing as many as they can productively integrate. Recruiters who make use of these technologies are, according to Marlatt, S.M.A.R.T. recruiters: they are Synchronized, Mobile, Appropriately equipped, RSS enabled and Tuned in.  Without going into too much detail, as the idea should be pretty straightforward, S.M.A.R.T. recruiters make productive use of current technology, plain and simple.

I think Marlatt is quite right to advocate the use of Web 2.0, social networking, and mobile technologies. Anyone who doesn’t greatly increases their chances of just getting left in the dust. That much is obvious. However, my concern here is more a matter of preserving the original sense of the term cloud and its accompanying philosophy of the power of free. As I pointed out in the last post, there are two ways to envision how the cloud (any cloud for that matter) comes into play when we think of cloud recruiting. In Michael’s case, the assumption seems to be that the collection of technologies he discusses is the cloud, and that recruiters are to be ‘smart’ and put it to use by making it easier to develop and maintain relationships.

While I take what Marlatt is recommending to be useful and a practical necessity, it is not cloud recruiting in the sense of harnessing the power of free by providing an on demand service. It puts technology to work for recruiters on only a superficial level, instead of integrating the power of technology with the benefits of identifying and making use of basic aspects of human nature. Passive candidates want information that fits their needs, they most certainly aren’t going to pay for it, and they want it yesterday.

So enough blathering on. What is it that I am recommending on a practical level? Use social networking technologies to make it easier for passive job candidates to get what they want. Make it easier for them to gain access to information about job opportunities that appeal to them. And when contact is made, use the technology to maintain and develop those relationships.

I can put a bunch of job postings on a number of different sites, adopt a solid SEO strategy, and even optimize it by tracking which candidates came in from which source. But that is SO Web 1.0 😉 Better would be to offer ‘direct’ access to the human being who knows a lot about the job in question (more than a web page or job description), and someone who offers access and advice on other opportunities. Furthermore, I can do so in whatever way is most convenient for the candidate: Twitter, LinkedIn, phone, texting, or even ‘old fashioned’ email.

The bottom line is that, in order to make use of the power of free, a recruiter will have to, in some way, provide the cloud.   

Chuck

To the best of my knowledge, the phrase “cloud recruiting” was coined by Peter Weddle in February of ’08 (see http://employerblog.recruitingnevada.com/2008/02/28/cloud-recruiting/). The idea is based on Google’s philosophy of “the power of free”, which is the notion that free content is a powerful way to enhance online experiences. In the case of recruiting the idea is to offer free, value added content to passive job seekers, and that this in turn is helps to cultivate relationships with a better class of candidates. Weddle sums it up this way:

Cloud recruiting involves shifting our attention from the transactional activities on which we have traditionally relied to fill requisitions to a new focus on relationships. As with cloud computing, the locus of this activity is online as that enables us to leverage the time and reach advantages of the Internet and efficiently tap “the power of free.” The approach has two important characteristics:

  • It recognizes the real differences between passive and active candidates.
    and
  • It overcomes the practical limitations we face when recruiting in the real world.

 (again, see http://employerblog.recruitingnevada.com/2008/02/28/cloud-recruiting/)

Regarding the first point, the idea is to establish a many (candidates) to one (recruiter) relationship that takes advantage of the utility of the Internet, and does so in a way to offers free access to information and tools that passive job seekers will find useful. The second point refers to the fact that cultivating relationships in more traditional ways can be very resource consuming, and that providing this kind of content can be an effective way of dealing with that obstacle.

So my first question here may seem a bit tongue-in-cheek, but what exactly is the cloud? If we take a very generic (but therefore more applicable) sense of the term “cloud” into consideration, we assume that it refers to a collection of resources that provide a service or resource of some kind. In computing, the term has been applied to a number of different technologies, such as platform as a service (and other XaaS’s) as well as business applications. The metaphor is based on the Internet as a cloud, which leaves the phrase “cloud recruiting” with a significant element of ambiguity: is the pool of candidates (and how we access/build relationships with them) the cloud, or is the pool of free resources offered by hypothetical sites the cloud (like the kind recommended by Weddle)?

If we stick with Google’s “power of free” philosophy, it would seem that the correct way to look at it is the latter of the two. If enough recruiters adopt this approach (or maybe one agency with the proper resources), then candidates have a cloud from which to draw resources for their career goals. But if we reverse the point of view, we might be tempted to think that the cloud is the pool of potential candidates. I think that the first is the stronger reading and closer to the spirit of Google’s philosophy, and more importantly, it is a better war to harness the power of its approach.

In my next post, I will take a look at how some recruiters have adopted the view that the cloud is something that they make use of, instead of the candidates. And as you might suspect, I think that this is the wrong way to think about “cloud recruiting”.

-Chuck

Cloud Recruiting

August 24, 2009

Cloud computing… Cloud recruiting… Cloud this… Cloud that…

When used as a verb, cloud can be a synonym for confuse or obfuscate. Of course in the case of cloud recruiting, cloud is meant as a modifier noun, but at least you can get a sense of where I might be headed with this… I am somewhat skeptical at this point, but in the  interest of advancing an informed opinion, I will be doing a little research and kibitzing bits and pieces on cloud recruiting. Most of the information that I have come across so far seems to suggest that cloud recruiting is a matter of a) making use of a number of different social networking technologies and b) doing so in such a way that one derives some sort of supervening and beneficial effect.

So in the following posts I will take a look at what those technologies are and from where the benefit is really supposed to come.

Mmmmm Monday morning…

Cheers,

Chuck

And the winner is…

August 21, 2009

OK, I obviously have no winner as of yet on this one. But one solution presents itself, along with a separate set of problems. Part of the objective in teching out candidates, as I mentioned in previous posts, is to be fair. We don’t want to ask unfair questions and thereby disqualify and/or turn off qualified candidates.

That said, one solution would be to determine their most recent job responsibilities in order to get a sense of what they should know, and then determine (on the fly…) fair and non-leading questions.  The problem is that this information is:

  • not always available (whether because the candidate is not able , allowed or willing to divulge it)
  • may require technical knowledge beyond that possessed by the recruiter
  • might constitute job responsibilities too far removed from the position in question, such that the only fair questions are not pertinent to the job for which the candidate is being screened

So what we are left with at this point is a kind of fluid solution:

  • Determine what you can about current or most recent job responsibilities
  • Of those, determine which are of enough relevance to warrant basing upon them non-leading questions
  • For those responsibilities (in the position for which the candidate is being interviewed) not covered by the first two steps, the standard approach of formulating technically aware and non-leading questions will have to do

This approach at least eliminates (or greatly reduces) the chance of asking unfair technical questions of the candidate. It also fits squarely within the larger strategy of providing more precise technical accounts of the both the job descriptions (to the candidates) and the candidates’ technical abilities (to the clients).

And your question is?

August 20, 2009

I guess the real question here is where do you draw the line. If you get too technical you run the risk of being unfair to the candidate, not to mention weeding out individuals who might be very well qualified. Just because they do not know one particular step or aspect of the deployment of a particular technology doesn’t mean that they are not more than capable of performing the rest of the responsibilities and a quick learner.  Furthermore, the technique of asking super detailed questions is sometimes employed by in house recruiters as a way of disqualifying candidates from outside vendors.

On the other hand, you risk submitting candidates who are not qualified, if you do not drill down far enough into their skill set. You also risk presenting the position in such a way that he or she may lose interest.

So what’s fair and what is over kill?

Chuck

Let’s pick a particular tech, Cacti. Cacti is a performance monitoring app commonly used in FOSS (free and open source software) environments. In order for it to be set up and configured properly, it usually needs an existing SNMP agent (to gather the stats) as well as a database (MySQL) to store the information.

So to start with I might include in the job description something to the effect of “experience with/knowledge of the implementation of Cacti and its associated services”. Do I go into more detail here? Can I without an inappropriate level of knowledge about the client’s infrastructure? What about a trigger comment in the requirements section fo the job description? Suppose I throw in something fairly specific and technical like: experience with Fedora EPEL repository for the deployment of packages on RHEL. Cacti takes a little bit more work to get up and running on RHEL as opposed to Ubuntu LTS, and in some cases it might be necessary to add files to an existing configuration. My guess is that a good Linux admin would actually call you out on this by saying something to the effect that such steps are only necessary in certain cases, so on and so forth. But that is exactly the kind of trigger effect we are going for, right?

Another question to ask is what kinds of questions are really fair and/or not leading (for the phone screen). If this candidate has a reasonable level of knowledge about using and configuring Cacti, he or she should know that that it uses MySQL on the back end.

But, as in most cases, an admin probably started work when most of the performance monitoring and optimization practices were already in place. So it might not be fair to ask if Cacti was originally installed using dbconfig-common, or by some other means. Then again, is it reasonable to assume that a competent Linux admin would know how to get everything back up and running, or at least make himself aware of the options?

I guess the most thorough strategy would be to keep teching until you get to the end of the candidate’s knowledge, but then again that is not always a practical option given the insane amount of knowledge and prep that would require.

More on this later…