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The Irish Recruiters Conference, Part 2

Up until this year, a typical conversation between two recruitment consultants might have gone something like this:

Recruiter 1: “So how’s business?”
Recruiter 2: “Brilliant, just had my best month ever, how about you?”
Recruiter 1: “Fantastic, just closed the biggest deal of my career and I’m now thinking about setting up on my own”
Recruiter 2: “Really? Good for you, there’s plenty of money to be made”

Chances are, Recruiter 2 was on a final warning for poor sales performance and Recruiter 1 had just been sacked!
2009 has without a doubt been the toughest year for recruiters on record yet consultants still have a habit of BS’ing each other about how well they are doing. It used to be a case of whoever blinks first is weakest; therefore eavesdropping on a room full of recruitment agents just re-affirmed most people’s impressions that recruiters are full of hot air. So when Declan Fitzgerald, a global sourcing manager with Microsoft and founder of the Irish Recruiters Group on Linked In organised the first Irish Recruiters Conference 6 months ago, many skeptical recruiters would have been forgiven for expecting more hot air and BS. Thankfully, this wasn’t to be. The first Recruiter Conference brought together a real mix of industry professionals who were all suffering, whether they were in-house recruiters worried about keeping their jobs, agency recruiters who were struggling to make placements or service providers who had discovered an industry unwilling to part with its dwindling supply of cash. An overwhelming majority of attendees were open and frank about the problems they were having and were there because they needed help. I believe that most people walked away feeling more positive about the future having spoken with peers who were in the same boat and having seen and heard a number of speakers demonstrate what they felt the future held for the industry.

Yesterday afternoon, in the Westbury Hotel in Dublin, scores of recruiters descended upon the second Irish Recruiters Conference to hear what a panel of industry experts had to say and to share ideas once again on where the future lay. Presenting on the day were Declan Fitzgerald, host and founder of the event, himself a tech-evangelist; Bill Fischer, a jobs-board pioneer who recently founded TwitterJobSearch, Martin Cerullo from Alexander Mann Solutions, arguably the leading BPO player in the recruitment industry globally; Fergal O’Byrne, a well respected internet entrepreneur who recently joined innovative Irish owned video recruitment provider, Sonru and two senior sales guys from EMC (I have to apologise as I didn’t write down their names and they weren’t confirmed on the original event literature).

So, after my long worded intro, here is a summary of what I felt were the most relevant discussion points, topics and learnings from the day:

Declan opened the conference with a further exploration on the current and future technology trends that he believes we, as recruiters, should be aware of:
He discussed QR codes and their growing use as a marketing tool. Quick Response codes are like barcodes that you can show at the bottom of your advertisement or product allowing consumers who have a QR Reader to scan the code and view content from the advertiser. There are numerous iPhone Apps that allow you to scan a QR with two clicks, directing you to on-line content that the advertiser feels is relevant to you.

So what can I use QR codes for within the recruitment industry? As a start, I decided that my next set of business cards should have a QR code allowing people to perhaps check out my Linked In profile in two easy clicks. Perhaps companies could incorporate QR codes in print media referencing their careers site or at conference stands to allow passers by to see what they are currently hiring for? The applications are endless but will it take off? I hope so but before today I had never heard of them despite the fact that they are already out there on milk cartons and in magazines.

Next up was Qik.com, which allows you to to turn your phone into a miniature broadcasting device. Essentially it broadcasts a live feed of your iPhone camera (or equivalent) to the web and records and stores the movie file on-line for you to share later. This seems like a really cool application as it would allow you to host video interviews on the fly and involve off-site people in real time. As nearly all our interviews are done on the phone with overseas candidates, this has enormous personal appeal to me.

Next we looked again at augmented reality and the likes of Wikitude on the Google Android and iPhone. To give you an example, an application called Layar alows you to hold your iPhone in the air and see your screen populated with Tweets that are being broadcast close by. From a recruitment point of view, perhaps we will see apps that allow you to “scan” people by pointing your camera phone at them and seeing their Linked In, Facebook and MySpace profiles pop up as digital icons on the live picture? Bill Fischer later joked that augmented reality is great for dating sites or stalkers!

I had to step out of the conference to take a call for a few minutes at this point, so I may have missed something! Please do share if I have!

Declan then discuss some geo-map tools such as Job Compass that allow you to search for jobs via a Map, showing flags for vacancies in each area that allow you to preview or see the full job spec. I am a big fan of geo-searching for jobs, particularly on a mobile device where it is trickier to fill in fields and use drop downs. The Select People geo-search is long overdue but I am re-energised to get it completed now.

Apparently there are now 250 job apps on Facebook, 11 from the UK but none yet from Ireland. Apparently worky are working on one but where is it?
www.apps.ie is a good sire for finding Irish apps for the iPhone
Declan recommends Twecipe!

Wrapping up his presentation, Declan looked again at his predictions for the future, re-iterating that the cloud CV will come to the fore (ex. www.visualcv.com).
I tend to agree; the days of drawing up a CV in word and emailing it to 10 different agencies are fast dying. Candidates will need to be savvier about how they maintain their on-line professional presence and promote this to internet recruiters worldwide.

Declan recommends (Robert Scoble) as a great person to follow on-line.

Talent Hubs & Crowd Sourcing: Paddytech is a great niche site set up by an Irish owned IT recruitment company who later migrated their user base to a Ning site. They discuss IT topics and post their jobs to a captive audience of IT professionals.

Nomee aggregator is a relatively new desktop aggregator that allows you to manage up to 100 social media sites from one location.
icloud is perhaps the world’s first Operating System in a browser. When will someone bring out a fully fledged Recruitment OS?

Wrapping up, Declan pointed out that Microsoft’s Employee Referral Program is still one of their key sources for new hires.
I looked through our own Select People placement stats for the last year and over half of the candidates that we have placed came from referrals! These were either candidates we headhunted who recommended someone else or people who came from our Facebook referral scheme.

Next up was William Fischer of Work Digital Ltd in the UK to talk about TwitterJobSearch.
All in all, Bill’s presentation was great; I really enjoyed his style which immediately endeared you to him. Half the time you were left wondering if he had done any preparation and the rest of the time you expected him to give up and walk out of the room. You didn’t fool us Bill, it was a well-practiced and pitch perfect performance, highly enjoyable!
Twitterjobsearch uses a sophisticated and ever-evolving algorithm to scrape Twitter and aggregate all posts that refer to jobs. The site also allows employers to post job specs on their site directly or by providing an RSS feed.
They also have a new iPhone app pending, should be available any day soon.
Apparently Objective C is the best programming language to use for the iPhone but there are very few developers around who have those skills.
Most people use webview applications, i.e. apps that are really just links to html code on the web.
Android has its own language but it is easier to figure it out for multi-language programmers. Nonetheless developers often encounter problems trying to code for the Android.
TJS’s algorithm doesn’t search for hash-tags such as #jobs because spammers are increasingly using hash-tags, negating their usefulness.
Bill’s recommendation on tweeting jobs is to include job title, location and a link to the job spec.
TJS store tweets forever but only show tweets that are 30 days old and younger.
Bill showed us the map view which shows jobs tweets posted all over the world, all of which are no more than 72 hours old.
Bill’s research shows that candidates looks at a max of 45 vacancies on a job board and then move on, no matter how many more relevant results there are.
With TJS, you can choose to pay to be at the top of the queue (managed accounts)
In response to a question from the audience, Bill pointed out that you can see anyone who has publicly applied for a job posted on the site, which allows you to search amongst people based on what they want to do next rather than what they have done in the past.

The next presenter was Martin Cerullo from Alexander Mann Solutions
Martin gave us an overview of AMS’s BPO offering and went through some examples of what they are doing for them.
An interesting offering that AMS have facilitates client brand consistency through having an in-house ad agency and allowing clients access to modify part of the ads on-line.
I know lots of my clients who appreciate this as I have had to design their ads and modify them before arranging for their publication, something that an ad agency would charge you a fortune for!
Martin highlighted the importance of mixing news feeds and job feeds on Twitter accounts to make them worth following.
He also spoke about Behavioural Targeting: which is essentially targeting the IP addresses of target clients/ companies when implementing your web advertising strategy.
Another fair point was the importance of branding your Twitter account, a basic but essential tip that we should all listen to.
Martin offered an example of a client of his who created a targeted LinkedIn Group to have a pool of people to search from. This is a great idea, one that we implemented last year with the launch of the Cayman Business Network on Linked In which is now the largest Cayman specific group on the site.
Continuing the discussion on marketing channels, Martin discussed the concept of clients having YouTube channels which are more to create noise and viral space rather than to directly source candidates. This illustration has inspired us to launch some video guides to the countries that we recruit in to.
Martin echoed Declan’s comments earlier about QR codes and noted their use in retail recruitment, at graduate fairs and at career stands etc.
AMS’s clients use ATS that aggregates sourcing tools such as Sourcepoint, Talentdrive etc
Martin demonstrated Standard Chartered Bank’s new career site that AMS designed that builds content based on user specific criteria.
On the candidates side, Martin highlighted Joboso, a UK site focused on candidates that allows you to upload your CV and push out to job boards.

All in all, a solid, professional presentation that gave this viewer a good insight into how smart multinational organisations are approaching their recruitment strategy.
Although Martin is a self-confessed advertising guy rather than a recruitment expert, his business expertise and insight is highly applicable.

Taking a break from presentations, we then broke into Groups of five to discuss the topic: “Job Boards Vs Social Networks: Where are you placing your bets and how will both evolve?” In my group, I had the pleasure of speaking with Noel from Google (in-house recruiter), Deirdre from totaljobs (job-board), Ruadrhi from MyNewCV (service provider to candidates) and Fergal from Sonru (service provider to employers/ agencies). It was an ideal mix of people, all coming from different backgrounds and perspectives.

Some of the issues and observations raised by the group included:
Monster have always been stubborn and complacent and have refused to change with the times re: layout etc.
The Job Boards need to innovate to make money, introducing services such as psychometric testing etc.
The time to change was probably 12 months ago but most are only changing now.
Within social networks you have more of a say in what you are doing, they are, by definition, “social” rather than static.
Job Boards need to become more interactive and engaging and need to look to best practices from the social media world.
A lot of the jobs boards don’t have good job specs, which makes it harder to entice the candidates; it is easier to match jobs with people on a social network, also the candidates feel as if they have been headhunted, which flatters them.
Social networks are for attracting passive candidates, there will always be a need for jobs boards to find active job seekers
When posting a job to a job-board, most employers describe the jobs in the same way whereas with social networks you can tailor your description for the specific audience that you are targeting.
google have teams focused on each separate social media source within emea, dont really use jobs boards
Large corporates can more easily afford to abandon the jobs boards as they have a well recognised brand that people will go to whereas smaller companies often need a marketplace where prospective hires can find them.
Candidates find it frustrating and often a waste of their time dealing with agencies on boards as they rarely hear back from them. Social media forces an employer to interact and engage with applicants, often in a very public forum. This self-correcting aspect of social media forces recruiters to be better at getting back to people.
Is the future in specialist niche boards and are super boards dead? Perhaps in the long run employers will return to the super boards (Monster, Irishjobs etc) if the market returns to buoyancy and there is a shortage of candidates.
Should job sites have a client response index or allow users to rate the agency or employer by satisfaction, similar to ebay?
All agreed that there will always be a place for job-boards but that they need to evolve to stay alive.

Our penultimate presenter was Fergal O’Byrne from Sonru, who I had just had the pleasure of speaking with as a member of the break-out group that I was part of.
Fergal is a newcomer to the recruitment industry and entertained us with his insights as he took us through his crash course journey in recruitment over the last few months, since joining the company which was set up by Ed Hendrick, a good friend of Select People, early this year.
Sonru is a great business idea that has global appeal. In fact, for an overseas recruiter such as Select People, it’s ideal. Essentially it allows hiring managers and recruiters to send an interview request to a candidate and then review their interview on-line, at a time convenient to them. A friend of mine has developed a similar voice solution for the education/ learning sector (www.learnosity.com) that has taken that sector by storm. I hope to see similar success for Fergal and Ed.
As a side note, Ed spoke about job-a-matic, a web-site that allows you to create free job boards, worth looking into.
He said that he believes that people are reducing their social network channels and personally just uses Facebook and Linked In.

The final presentation was from EMC, an impressive company globally and major employer in the Cork area.
Unfortunately this presentation really did not deliver for me and I felt it was a real waste of time for the many attendees who had spent good money to be at this conference. No offence to the guys presenting, they were enthusiastic and detailed, it’s just that I feel the audience all know what an ATS is and have tried and are probably using a variety of applications similar to Salesforce.com. I felt like I was being presented to as a potential Salesforce.com customer who has never seen an ATS before, rather than a professional in the recruitment industry who is there to share ideas and hear about important innovations.
The question and answer session was the most productive part of this session and there seemed to be plenty of enthusiasm from the audience, so maybe I am in the minority. I’d welcome thoughts from other participants on this.

Following a short Q&A session with the panel, we concluded the event.
All in all, I felt that it was a productive half day that inspired me with plenty of new ideas, one of which was to finally start this blog.
I look forward to the next event and will excuse what I felt was a mis-step on the selection of one of the presenters.
Thank you to Declan for putting it together, all of the presenters for giving of their time and also to my fellow “break-out” group members, Noel, Deirdre, Ruadhri and Fergal.

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