Conversations: The Rise Of Employment Branding

Talent-Acquisition-GraphReporter: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today - this is a pretty straightforward story - we're trying to describe the growth of Employment Branding as a category of recruitment. Did I say that right? Is recruitment the word?
Former TA Head: It's fine. A little awkward, but it gets the point across.  
R: A little awkward - yeah, it felt that way - but I saw it on a blog, and thought it was jargon you guys use. 
TA: It's fine.
R: Okay - the premise so far is that Employment Branding is the application of digital marketing to how we hire. It's a natural progression from a marketing agency building a company brand to the HR department creating a brand around working for the company. Does that sound about right. 
TA: I see the story thread, but employment branding has always been around. The change in the last decade has really been employment branding a line item in the budget. The story would more accurately be described as the story of recruitment marketing, which was originally simply writing job descriptions and posting them in newspapers, and has now emerged into story telling, advertising, video, and testing of candidate experience through a digital process. 
R: Okay, so - recruitment marketing was job posting, but employment branding is something else?
TA: It's grown in importance - which is why it's now in the budget separately, and has its own title and sometimes employees, and even consultants who specialize solely in improving a company's image and application process. 
R: Do you think this was a natural progression? An outgrowth of digital tool filtering down to different departments? I mean, it's not like Photoshop is a skillset that you look for in a Director of Human Resources.
TA: That's a good question. There are probably two responses. Digital is certainly in a progression, and as the tools become cheaper, more departments have access to them. Information Technology is the backbone of our systems, but we purchase our own software for the candidate process. 
R: This is the ATS, the Applicant Tracking System. 
TA: Yes, but it's all traffic to the careers website, and big data from interviews, and behavioral assessments, and a number of recruiting tools like LinkedIn and Entelo that are run by my team, not IT not marketing. We don't need a software analyst to help us on loan - we have our own IT people, although they seem as HR technology and not Information Technology. That might be a distinction without a difference, but again, it goes back to where that person falls in P&L negotiations. 
R: The cost in software drops, and it's easy to use, and because of that, you can do marketing - uh - things, that couldn't be done before.
TA: Yes, a little simplified, but yes. We can do more without a large team, the same way that software lets my daughter edit movies on her phone that are technically a higher quality than Disney was putting out in the 60's. And it's an afterthought - not even the purpose of the phone. 
R: The first response is that it's happening because it finally can happen. That's the thrust of the article, but you mentioned a second response.
TA: I don't know how popular this is, but I find it interesting that Employment Branding, and even the term I have in my title, my former title, Talent Acquisition, gained popularity at the same time. In terms of trends, this could a reaction to talk of moving Recruiting into its own function outside of Human Resources, or moving it under the Marketing umbrella. There was certainly the sense in the boardroom that as marketing budgets grew, the CMO was amassing too much power. It was the corollary to "Software is eating the world." The CMO can't have everything, so perhaps the change in our titles reflected a desire to protect turf.
R: That would be something if it were true. Is it true?
TA: Possibly. But it's also a very corporate way of looking at trends. Are you familiar with social intelligence?
R: Is that like EQ?
TA: No, it's group intelligence. It's basically the sum total of a group's decisions, which tends to be more accurate in describing a current situation. Regular intelligence is good for new ways of thinking, but the group has to follow that thinking for it to take hold, and for good reason, abandons most "smart" solutions. But group intelligence is collectively a better tool for understanding why things happen. Simply put, there are too many variables to understand in economic analysis, or global trends, or even, conversations between people. The world is a complex place, and we're not smart to fully understand it. Social intelligence posits that the group is smart enough to react, but doesn't bother to explain. When I said corporate, I meant solipsistic, which is a focus on oneself. If the summary of a trend is a bit too useful to you, it's probably wrong. That's why I don't think the second response is true.
R: That's very interesting. So, mostly - you'd agree it's just availability of the tools that brought Employment Branding to the fore. 
TA: Perhaps. But what else is happening? What can social intelligence tell us about what's occurring?
R: Social intelligence doesn't explain.
TA: That's true, but we can take a crack at it. How about this. Company loyalty has been in decline for almost 40 years. The dream of the Boomers of working for one company is long-gone, as is the trust in authority that was a hallmark of American society. It's important to recognize this was a distinctly American trend. The classless structure of the US, or rather the assumption that it's classless, required a different kind of loyalty. That was company loyalty. If you think about it, this was actually a enormous reservoir of goodwill. The average applicant assumed goodwill on the part of the company unless they were specifically told this was not the case. 
R: Employment Branding is a reaction to job-hopping?
TA: The challenge of hiring is a basic marketing problem. If they know your name, they apply. If they don't know your name, they don't apply. Today, knowing a company exists is not enough to make someone apply. They want to know about you. They want more from you. 
R: They want more. 
TA: They want more. And thus, to give them more Employment Branding was born. Now, jobseekers don't know it's called Employment Branding, but their expectations are that the company sell itself prior to them applying. From our side, we can see that if we're liked prior to the application, they're more likely to take the job. This is pretty new. I didn't have to do this I started. 
R: So the story then becomes that Employment Branding was made possible by technology, but is a response to the uncertainty in the job market, even for those who are employed 
TA: That sounds about right. 
R: That, is a very good ending. I'll see if I can work that in. Anything else to come mind I should add? 
TA: Nothing important. Good luck on the article. Send me a link, when it's live. 

(the rest of the transcript was fact-checking, spelling, and other basic reporting techniques)


Conversations: I'm Too Busy To Get Anything Done

Sister: So when are we going to lunch?
Senior Manager: This week is just shot. 
S: You're not planning on eating lunch this week? 
M: I am - but, I can't get away. I am over-booked. Back-to-back-to-back meetings and that doesn't even include the work I have to do. 
S: Do you do any work? 
M: All I do is work.
S: You say that, and yet, you're always in back-to-back-to-back meetings. Can't you cancel them?
M: I wish. We're supposed to be open, and give input across divisions. If I'm not there, it slows everyone else down.
S: You're doing it wrong. 
M: Excuse me?
S: You're doing this whole management thing wrong. If you were talking to me like this as an employee, I'd roll my eyes and go get a smoothie.
M: That's why you don't have a corporate job, sis. 
S: That's why you're so bad at yours. Seriously? Back-to-back-to-back? What does that even mean? You walk into every meeting late, unprepared, and with everyone afraid to start because they'll just have to start back over when you arrive. 
M: Ha! I had a manager when I first started who would shut and lock the door one minute before the meeting. You were either in or out. 
S: How did that go over? 
M: I transferred to a better division. 6 months later he was fired when they found out he was sleeping with one of his direct reports.
S: They fire you for that?
M: No. They fired him because that little door-locking stunt was just one of many weird things he did to maintain control, and his division was failing. 
S: It's like what Mom says - that's Business Ethics!
M: So what were you saying? You don't think I'm prepared?
S: You showed up to my birthday party 25 minutes late and with the phone in your ear. When you got off the phone, you were boring to talk to for an hour.
M: I just needed to get out of my head - and into the party. 
S: Exactly. What you should have done is finished the call, got your head right, and walked into my party smiling that your baby sister was turning 30. Now - I happen to know that nothing in life with the exception of the kids, and maybe your husband, is more important than your baby sister, which means that your employees and other work manager type people aren't getting any of your attention. And that, dear sister, is because you're pretending that it doesn't bother you when you're booked back-to-back-to-back. 
M: You really like saying that, don't you. 
S: It's so stupid. Back-to-back is fine. When you say back-to-back-to-back, what you're really saying is "I'm so important - look at me and how busy I am!" 
M: I decided I like your brother better than I like you. 
S: Impossible. Seriously - you said it yourself. I have to get through these meetings and then I'll get the real work done. 
M: You might be right - there's actually some studies on that. 
S: Some studies - and your brilliant, beautiful, perfect sister telling you that if you're whining to me, you're whining to everyone. 
M: I wish it were that simple. 
S: What's the point of being the boss if you can't tell people to do their own work?
M: I'm not the boss. And even if you are the boss, that means less time. You're responsible...
S: For all the you's that are running around not getting anything done and pretending to be busy. 
M: I can't do lunch this week. 
S: Okay - then you should treat me like our brother and pay for my lunch even if you can't go. 
M: That happened one time. 
S: And that's why I'm your favorite. 











Conversations: Al Pacino On Job Offers

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 9.24.44 AM
Guy walks in with an envelope. Pacino is talking to the bartender. Guy sits down next to him

Al Pacino: That looks like a story. What do you have in the envelope?

Guy: It’s a job offer. They sent it over, and I told them I want to think about it over the weekend.

Al: The weekend? How long have you been interviewing?

G: 2 months.

Al: 2 months: And you just need..2..more..days. Just a little more time. 

G: Yeah - I want to make sure this is the right choice.

Al: I get it. You want to be smart about this. You want to take your time and make sure that if you’re jumping from one rock to the next, you don’t slip and fall. I get it. You want security. That’s good, it’s good to want security.  That’s what this is about, right? But uh, forgive me for intruding - life doesn’t work that way. You look at what’s in front of you, or you can peer back into the past, but life itself - is always moving forward. Every tick of the clock is one second closer to death, and we are all terrified of it. We know - we know we take nothing with us, but for today, well, we just want to put a little bit of space between us and the future. Right? 

Listen.

Jobs, promotions,  layoffs - what are they? An opportunity. An opportunity to make a little more, maybe to prove we have what it takes? Maybe a chance to fail, and in the process get a little tougher because we can’t shake the idea that maybe we had it too easy. A guy comes to you, asks if you want a job. What do you do? You call your mom. You think of buying your wife a mug that says San Diego. You check the weather app on your phone. What does it mean? You think looking at house prices is really going to make a difference? 

So what - what are we talking about. An offer? A decision to take an offer? No. We're talking about you. Your life is changing no matter what you do. Let’s say your boss leaves. You want their job. You get it, but you do not get a raise. What did you think was going to happen? Your bosses want the same security you want. They pay you more, then they gotta listen to the next sob story and the next, until their whole day is saying yes or no to people at their door, hat in hand, asking for just a little more. You want to be in that line? That’s security? No, If your bosses understood what they had, they'd already have paid you and you’d be sitting on the other side of that offer, waiting for some guy in a bar to tell you he needs the weekend to think about it.

Hey. You got an offer in hand. You should take your time. Call your mother. Talk about the past. But if you’re going to sit there, with your foot on the brake, checking to make sure that you’re okay, someone might pull into your spot. When they do - you’re going to find something about yourself. You might feel relief.. Well, relief feels good! At least, until it’s time to stand in line, with your hat in your hand, asking for just.. a little more. 

Guy: That’s, that's uh, some good advice. So what do you do?

Al: Pal, you got a decision in front of you and you want to push that off to talk to some guy in a bar? I tell you what I do. I don’t stand in lines.


Do You Believe In The Curse Of The First Resume?

"I never look at the first resume. It's cursed, you know. You print them off, then take the first one, crumple it up, never look at it, and throw it away. That's the only way to ensure a successful hire." - anonymous Reddit User,  /r/recruiting, July 2009

Bill Stevens wasn't your typical recruiter. His background was in documentary film making, which made for interesting stories but did little to put food on the table. After working in New Orleans during Katrina, and then following  a profiler for the FBI, he got a plum job working in the Polynesian islands. What should have been two years in paradise ended up being two months and no paycheck, and he found himself in Los Angeles, unemployed, in the middle of a recession.

Out of desperation he answered a job ad for a staffing firm, where,  based on the strength of his interviewing skills, he was hired and sent to training for a week. And then he was dropped in a cubicle with a phone and a list of contacts to call on a computer screen. The company had a lot of openings, even in those grim times, and Bill's job was to sort through the resumes and call the best ones. He was a natural, as years of pointing a camera at a person made him easy to talk to. Candidates loved him, his bills were paid off, and like many recruiters do, he took a job inside a large company that offered more stability and less sales.

Megacorp wasn't a bad place to work - the benefits were good, the hours reasonable, and the work wasn't that difficult. Perhaps that's what led Bill to start looking around for entertainment. He loved a good story, but stories take time, and his time was taken up with the process.

It was the process that led to this amazing film, and the recruiting discovery of a lifetime. Welcome everyone, to the story of Bill Stevens, the man who uncovered The Curse Of The First Resume.

THE CURSE OF THE FIRST RESUME 

Many of  you have heard of the curse - many of you believe it. It's been trained to generations of recruiters, justified dozens of ways, and eventually, merged with the myth of a Hindu God. Today, it is considered a best practice in the halls of the Fortune 500 and the consulting firms that prowl them. 

What is the curse? Quite simply, it is the fear of looking at the first resume in a stack of resumes. Our study of other 20,000 recruiters showed that not only did 85% of them know of the curse, over half actively avoided the first resume. Not all believed it was a curse - they knew the activity by many names. First is Worst, Not That One, and the earliest version, The Nod to Edith. They all meant the same thing - in a stack of resumes, if you take the top one and read it, the person you hire won't be any good. 

Many people we interviewed for this documentary actively addressed the curse, printing out a stack of resumes just to crumple up the first one and throw it away. It wasn't the paper - crumpling a blank sheet didn't count, and neither did skipping the first resume on a computer screen. You had to print out a stack, crumple the first resume, and throw it away. Only then would the curse be lifted.

That's where Bill Stevens entered the picture. New to the industry, he first encountered the curse when he worked a position for a product manager in Culver City. A fellow recruiter handed him a stack of resumes, but assured him he'd already given a Nod to Edith. When Bill asked what that meant, the answer led him on a seven year journey to uncover the secret origins of the Curse of the First Resume.

The story begins in late 1980's in a branch office of Megacorp. A manager by the name of Ronald McIntosh ran a call center in Pasadena. Ron, known as Big Red by his co-workers because of his tall stature and unkempt red hair, managed about 60 people handling collections for the company. His secretary at the time was a woman by the name of Edith Stossel. One day, in late fall, a young salesman from Apple One came to the door, offering new staffing services in an attempt to replace Kelly Services, the long-time vendor for Megacorp. The young man, whose name is unknown, had a secret weapon - he offered to "fax" new resumes over instead of bringing the resumes to Ron each day to review. We can imagine the conversation as Ron and the Apple One salesperson talked. 

"Fax machine," "technology," "time-saver," "wave of the future." Maybe the young man was good, or it could have been that Megcorp had been an early adopter of faxes for corporate communications, and with Apple One local, there would be no charges for receiving resumes, and Ron could review them at night, or in the morning. Whatever the reason - he signed on. Apple One, the very next day, began sending resumes to Ron to review over fax. 

Edith Stossel was in charge of the fax machine - she treated it like a mother hen, and made sure it ran smoothly and had proper care. Twice a day, she would go to the fax and retrieve resumes that had been sent over. She would remove the cover sheet, and place the resumes in a basket for Ron.

This went on for several years, and as Megacorp grew, it expanded it's offices in Pasadena, adding several departments including human resources, credit, audit, accounting, and a new division called Information Technology. Ron advanced quickly as the company grew, and Edith was promoted with him, every step of the way. In 1996, Ron left Megacorp, but Edith stayed and begin to report to a new manager, David Hedrick. David had business degree from Stanford, three years at IBM, and his plans were to quickly grow in the executive ranks. Finding Edith very useful for her knowledge of the departments and the processes she ran, he largely delegated responsibilities involving paperwork to her. 

For hiring, which now included several departments, Edith connected with an HR generalist named Jackie Sobyak. Edith still collected the faxes, but she would bring them to each manager as they came in, and then deliver them to Jackie to contact for interviews after they were screened. Jackie saw an opportunity, and offered to take the resumes, screen them, and deliver them to managers. This would allow her to determine how many resumes were delivered, as Apple one charged per resume at the time. Edith liked the idea, both because it took work off her plate, and because it saved the company money. Jackie was given responsibility, and after that, she would deliver resumes to each manager. 

The first day Jackie delivered resumes, the managers were displeased. They saw Jackie deliver them, but didn't see her remove the cover sheet. They were concerned that they weren't able to see all the possible resumes. Two of them quickly went to David Hedrick and complain. Hedrick didn't want this marring his upward mobility, so he called Jackie in, explained the situation, and told her to bring in resumes with the cover sheet, as a "Nod to Edith." Jackie did just that. The managers were happy. David was happy, and Jackie was able to cut the spending in her department considerably. When Hedrick was promoted six months later, Jackie was name the Director of HR.

One of the first things Jackie did as Director was to login into job sites. Instead of paying per resume, she paid a fixed amount, and could download all the resumes she needed. When she delivered them to managers (or rather, when her assistant did), she made sure there was always a cover sheet on top. She literally had her assistant print out a cover sheet for a printed stack of resumes, prior to delivery. Many managers never knew they stopped coming from the fax machine.

 As Megacorp grew, an entire generation of recruiters grew up following Edith's workflow, which included always throwing away the first page. In 1998, Jackie left Megacorp to join a dot-com, which received massive amounts of media attention as they grew. Jackie's methods spread throughout the city, both through Megacorp, and through her own work. The spread of the idea was like wildfire.  The First is Worst idea was seen in a recruiting handbook in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1999, and The Nod To Edith was actually found in a Usenet forum for recruiters in Boston in 1997, while Jackie was still at Megacorp. The name changed, but the process spread. No one online seemed to recognize the original intent. Faxes still came in, but recruiters would print resumes and store them in giant file cabinets. It wasn't until 2001 that email of resumes became "standard." By then, there were over 70 mentions of the Curse of the First Resume online, except it wasn't called a curse. It was simply an observation about behavior. 

In 2009, a forum on the popular Reddit website for recruiting has a quote. The user is anonymous, but in this quote, supposedly directly from a manager, is the first use of the words, "successful hire." It received 35 upvotes. 

"I never look at the first resume. It's cursed, you know. You print them off, then take the first one, crumple it up, never look at it, and throw it away. That's the only way to ensure a successful hire." - anonymous Reddit User,  /r/recruiting, July 2009 

The subreddit would use this formulation as an inside joke for many years. In 2011,  a user from Hyderabad spoke of a Hindu god who was given the first portion of everything, or it would be cursed. This new version of the story became the inside joke, and it soon spread to other parts of the Internet. It was 2014, that a Buzzfeed writer picked the story and wrote it as original content, which was then shared over 7,000 times, garnering over 30M views on Facebook.

Shortly after that, references to the Curse of the First Resume became common. They made it into several corporate presentations over the years, and actually were written into an episode of the Office in their last season (only available as a deleted scene on the 4th disk). When we conducted the survey in 2016, almost 16,000 recruiters nationwide knew of the curse, and knew it by the name.

So it was in Century City, in a complex for Megacorp built for the IT department, that Bill Stevens first heard of the Nod To Edith. When he left Megacorp in 2010, he worked on several projects as a documentary film editor, but still sought out recruiters to find the origin of the story. When the Buzzfeed story on the Reddit jokes hit the mainstream, Bill began contacting recruiting departments and searching the internet archive for the earliest clues. This caught the attention of our producers, who agreed to fund the documentary if Bill could find enough content. 

Imagine Bill's surprise when he met Jackie at SXSW in 2015. He was telling his story to a friend in a bar in Austin when Jackie sat next to him. He quickly realized her place in the center of the story, and was amazed to find out that after years of search, it was indeed Megacorp that had originated the process. She was able to contact Edith, who had retired many years before, still lived in Pasadena, and both Jackie and Edith agreed to be interviewed. Ron "Big Red" McIntosh had sadly passed, and David Hedrick, now a SVP for a hedge firm, refused all inquiries.

As the documentary wrapped production, legal threats from Megacorp prevented the initial release, until the threat of an Indiegogo crowdfunding attempt convinced the company to cease litigation. 

We are proud to announce that in the fall of 2017, Netflix will air the original documentary, "The Curse of The First Resume," by Bill Stevens, and a pre-release download will be available on the website, FirstResumeMovie.com 

Thank you for your time, and if you have your stories, please leave comments of your experiences to have the chance to be in the extra features.


Conversations: Probability Texts

Staffing Salesperson: Have you heard back from her? 
Recruiter: Not yet, but I'm hoping she'll call soon. 
S: She has everything she needs? 
R: I sent the offer letter, and we talked for a good 20 minutes about the job. 
S: You sold her on it? 
R: I told her about the benefits, reminded her of the salary increase, and told her how much they wanted her to join the team. 
Staffing Manager: So why are we waiting on the offer letter? 
R: She said it was at work, and she wanted to read it tonight before making a decision. 
S: Why does she need to read it? 
M: Get her back on the phone. Here's what you tell her. You let her know the client has a call tonight with your salesperson, and they're gonna ask if you accepted. Then tell her you're excited about this, but if she holds onto that letter, all that's going to happen is people at work are going to know something is up. 
R: We talked about a counter-offer - she says she's not taking one. 
M: She doesn't know what she's going to do until she walks into the office and her boss, the person who hired her, looks up with those big doe eyes and asks what they did wrong, and starts talking about it being a bad time to leave. Next thing you know - it's a six week wait, that leads to a three month month - and no deal. 
S: Get her on the phone, and if she hesitates, pass it over to me and I'll see if I can't close her. 
M: Thank you, but this is [Recruiter's mess], they can clean it up. 
S: And if we lose this deal because they let her get away? 
M: Let's just get her on the phone. 
-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -

Recruiter: {dials phone}, Hi, [Candidate]? Listen, this is [Recruiter] and I wanted to make sure you received the letter I sent. If you could call me when you have a moment, that would be great - or text me and I'll call you as soon as you have a moment. Thank You!
S: Voicemail? 
R: Yeah - she must be in a meeting.
S: Come get me as soon as she calls. And call her back in 20 minutes if you haven't heard from her. 

{Staffing Manager and Salesperson walk away}
-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  - 

2nd Recruiter: Wow. That was brutal. 
Recruiter: I never should have let her off the phone. How is she going to call back when she told me she wants to read it tonight? Ugh - and now I have to call her again?
2: No, you don't. 
R: Yeah, I do. [Salesperson] is going to be checking up on me in 5 minutes, not 20. 
2: So try this  - wait a few minutes, then text her.
R: What do I text?
2: You start off with a safe one. "good to catch up with you today." 
R: Why?
2: In case her phone shows the messages, it won't get her in trouble. 
R: I should warn more people of that. Then what? 
2: Ask, "What do you think the probability of us getting together in the next two weeks is? 70%? 80%?
R: That makes no sense. 
2: Sure it does. The message gives her plausible deniability if someone reads it, but she knows that you're talking about a two week notice. 
R: So why the probability question? 
2: It's called priming. People like to be consistent. You're asking her if she's taking the job, and asking her to assign a probability to it. If you leave it open ended, she can answer, "pretty good," or "let me read the offer," or just ignore you. If you put a number down, 70-80%, that is way off her expectations, she'll be compelled to answer you with a number. If she writes a lower number, she's not taking the job. 
R: That is some bizarre mumbo jumbo right there. 
2: Try it. She'll respond, and when those two return, you'll have a concrete number to give them. They'll leave you alone, she'll read the contract, and if she was being honest about being cautious, she'll say yes.
R: Do you think?
2: What do you think the probability of you eating at the Olive Garden is tonight? 70-80%?
R: I'm not eating at the Olive Garden.
2: If I said, ordering pizza at home, you'd pick it up on the way home and skip the gym.  

-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  

Recruiter: good to catch up with you today
R: What is the probability of us meeting up in two weeks? 70%? 80%?
Candidate: 75-80%. I'll call tonight when I check my calendar.