Reflections of an Entrepreneur’s Independence…


Just over 11 years ago, I opened this business. On my birthday actually (June 8). Each year on July 4, I have reflected on how blessed I am to own my own business, and how America affords (and afforded) me the ability to do that. It is certainly not the only right I have as an American, and not the most important – but damn is it personal.

I was thinking recently how awesome it is that I am living the vision of the business I had over 10 years ago. I am. As I review the meetings I have set up for this month, the projects we are working on for 2017, and are commissioned to work on through 2020 (yes, I said 2020)…it warms me. I did it.

I want to thank America for my rights to do what I do each day. WordPress is the platform that is handy and easy, and so I am doing that.

Thank you America.

I wish I could say it was easy and straightforward. It wasn’t. Like our forefathers, I needed to declare that independence and take on all the risks associated with it. Lean on family, friends, and supporters to win the battles I needed to win…and people to help mend the wounds that were sustained during those battles.

Being a business owner in this weird world of recruiting / HR is not easy. It have battle scars. I have regrets. I have had many failures. I have burned bridges, and in some cases just blown them up. But for each one of those bridges that were burned, or wrong turns made…there are 10 bridges built and a dozen correct turns made.

The costs? My health, my relationships, my supporters.
The rewards? Also my health, my relationships, and my supporters.

Did I ever think of quitting? YOU BET. SO CLOSE.
Did I? NOPE.

11 years later, our “elusive”, “nobody knows quite what you do”, “we hear you do the unusual stuff” brand gets the call when a company needs help and they are out of ideas.

Its flattering and humbling. Our clients are so humble and realize “I can’t do this” or “I should not try to do this myself” or “we need to experiment and maybe fail” – which is such a mature sign of a leader. Somehow, our team, our support, our brand, and our work has produced the ability for us to get the really, really, really hard and unusual stuff to work on. What is even better, is that I get to say NO.

^^ That is more recent. PASSING on work because its too easy OR because it is not helping enough people or is

The data is essential to do that work…but nowhere near as much as the volunteerism our clients exhibit by checking their ego in return for results.

So…again, THANKS AMERICA. You got this citizen living the dream. It wasn’t easy, but nobody ever said democracy or independence would be easy. You have to want it bad 🙂

How Samsung Killed Facebook and LinkedIn…Slowly

I was just reviewing an article posted by my friend featuring interesting visualizations made in 2016. That was posted on FB (thanks Randy Bailey).

While I was looking, I was reminded to flip over to LinkedIn (while on my Samsung) to look up somebody.

Then I noticed how similar the threads look on my mobile….and I mean how wildly similar they look.

  1. Tile based visuals that sweep up and down
  2. Profile pics upper left
  3. Headline plus pic below
  4. Like, Comment, Share…in that order
  5. Comments below yet condensed

As a data and visual guy, I looked a little deeper, breaking it down to the visual elements themselves…

  1. Grey borders around the tiles
  2. White tile backgrounds
  3. Black bolded headlines in basic font
  4. The preferences for each tile in upper right (your controls on following)
  5. Swiping right and left flips through secondary applications (FB does the marketplace, events, etc…LI its messaging program etc. Even our notifications menu is in the exact same place.

Thank goodness some of the icons are different.

Then I looked at my LI thread. Ads, articles, and selfies. On Facebook…ads, artciles, and selfies. Lots of more kids, politics, and pub crawl documentation…that is for sure.

Pause. Is the reason that people are becoming more personal on LinkedIn and more professional on Facebook is simply the UI???

Is my mobile phone to blame for the merging of the content on these platforms?

User interface is an odd thing. A design is created to make our gestures and engagement familar and repetitive. In fact all design is that way. We know how certain things work based on their design…and to make sure our biases are satisfied. If the design of LI and FB on my device is virtually the same, then its on the USER to actually fight any natural bias that comes from using that design – like sharing content.

This totally does not hold up on a laptop. The UIs start to divide more based on the white space, noise, column design and more importantly functionality, since the mobile versions are lite versions of the product.

But people aren’t necessarily logging on using a laptop…are they? Recruiters sure…but we know people are social on the go…meaning they see the same thread design. Over and over.

If you notice, Insta is different, because their actual design is different (you need a photo, no link insertion) and thats okay for Team Zuck as those that are tired of FB do IG instead (or both).

I am coming to the realization that the changing of our threads is not user choice…its user bias, and potentially out of their control. The more reinforcement there is with platform design, the more it is “okay to post”.

FB is a juggernaut, and LI is chugging along post acquisition. LI just changed their UI, with many people not digging it.

Me? I think LI needs to progress fast and change its mobile UI even more so users start thinking differently about what to post. And good for them changing the UI…differentiation has to start somewhere.

In the meantime, I am not going to blame the sales person tosses up a selfie and a “hell yeah” after the big win (and thats a tame example). If I see too much, just unfollow 🙂

Cmon LinkedIn…change that mobile UI. Zuck isn’t going to move…when are you?

For comments and discussion on this article, please conduct the same in the forum in which you found the post. Thanks in advance.

Dear HR, I don’t care what ATS or CRM you use. Yours Truly, The Planet.

We just want to use our devices. As future workers, please realize we engage with our devices. We are cool with uploading an attachment, a Dropbox link, wrapping a profile (LinkedIn, Monster, Indeed, Snagajob, whatever) and we will do a few swipes right, left, up and down to answer your questions about whatever you ask. That is legit and we get it.

You have not been listening. Thousands of us have sounded off in feedback surveys. We know you know the candidate experience rating plummets as application time lengthens, and how drop off rates increase the longer the apply process is…so thanks for listening. We are so appreciative of you asking and doing NOTHING to change it. XOXO. So let’s call it on which system you use “on behalf of the candidate”. Its over. You get a few swipes of our time, we want some alerts and the ability to check status. Just like any other single consumer oriented service.

Hey Google, send my resume to…Do you think we care what inventory system Amazon, Walmart or Rent the Runway use?? Umm…NO. We just want our stuff. We want to order it, track it (maybe) but certainly get it. If we can, we just want to talk out loud and get our stuff. This is what you are competing with. For whatever reason you think you are special and have no need to conform to how we do anything else. BOO.

So to all the HR systems talking about how awesome your “candidate experience” is…just stop. Flip your script. Start describing how the recruiter, HR and hiring managers we engage with use your system better. The happier they are, the better they treat us. On your website, list your feature and benefit set showing how they are better off, cause frankly if we can’t swipe right like Tinder, we are moving on. So make that a standard for us and stay focused on them. Help them help us.

We love gifts, especially one with a Ribbon, Wrap and is Assembled with Batteries. We love something pretty and opening up stuff. Having it all built and ready to wear or play with. You know a gift that sucks? A hutch from IKEA. “Oh…thanks Jon. It is an IKEA hutch. I am so excited that you got me something that takes 45 minutes to build.”

You know its a crappy gift when the person getting it says “oh…its a [insert gift].” Do you really want us saying “oh, its a 45 minute application”. So you know, its a wonderful surprise to apply and have it be easy. This means we have more time to cruise through Glassdoor, your website, your videos and your products so we can say “yes, this would be a cool place to work”. And then we swipe right to apply.

We have have hope for HR. We have hope for you. We know you will come around. You will seek out ways to make this fun, easy and inviting. Our patience has a limit though. At some point we will just move on to a place that respects our time, and gives us better gifts. Remember, our attention span is about 5 minutes now. #MovingOn #SorryNotSorry

These Aren’t The Recruiters You are Looking For…

The candidate’s recruiter…whoever that is 🙂 Titles can be dangerous. Just because your email signature or twitter bio says you are a recruiter, DOES NOT mean that you are the “recruiter” to your candidate. Conversely, if your business card says something other than recruiter, does not dismiss you from being placed right into the role of being one. 


Who is REALLY the “recruiter”?
Is it the corporate assigned recruiter for the function/region/business…or the employee that the candidate knows who asks him/her to apply?
Is it the sourcer that sent a templated spammy InMail and got a response?
Is it “Sally”, who that candidate has known a long time, and who sings the praises of that company on the train ride home.

Maybe “the recruiter” is simply a weird combination of Twitter, Glassdoor, CareerBuilder, the corporate website,  and the hiring manager that had a great phone screen with the candidate. Maybe the “recruiter” is a head hunter who called that candidate and has placed them three times before…or maybe, its nobody, as the candidate recruited themselves right into applying.

Let’s admit the most obvious thing there is in recruiting – our standards are weak and virtually non-existent. There are no rules. We have laws and practices, but there are no standard rules. You can appreciate how ridiculous it would be that with no standard rules or practices how its MADNESS to assume that there is a standard perceptions of how the candidate views who is “their recruiter”. 

PAUSE….let that sink in. 

UGH. Now what?? How do you control the candidate experience now? You can’t even control who the candidate believes is the most pivotal role in the relationship.

Our natural biology is designed to protect ourselves and our offspring first, not the pack. Looking out for others that are not dear to us is not our natural state. Think about your day – did you say Thank You to the Starbucks barista today? Did you wish them a great day? Did you turn your phone off completely at the last dinner you had with a friend to give them full attention? Maybe you did…but maybe you didn’t. If you did – realize that those behaviors are learned. So let’s realize our human nature (and our flaws) and simply give people tools, reminders, and encouragement to slow down and be deliberate with others. 

With that, consider this – maybe the recruiter is not the pilot. Maybe they are simply the air traffic controller. The pilot certainly sounds sexier. They are in control of the plane, they wear cool jackets and sunglasses, they are recognizable, and in many cases respected. Meanwhile, the air traffic controller is hidden, placed in a tower, and works all hours. Their job is has NO actual role other than to drive awareness and advocacy to this concept >> a strong experience needs to be placed into the hands of EACH of your employees, regardless of their role, not the recruiter.


Here is what you don’t do…get a bunch of adults into a room and tell them they suck at being human. 
Are we seriously having lessons on how to be courteous? How to smile? How to say THANK YOU? I don’t need my LinkedIn thread or a conference session to tell me NOT to treat people like an ass (I am good at that when I need to be anyway). Of course I say this as I prepare for several conferences coming up discussing candidate experience – but I am not getting to the front of the room and telling people to be human. However, I will tell them how to use analytics and evidence to see where human flaws happen across the THOUSANDS of interactions that happen daily, so we can encourage people to slow down and be deliberate. I promise I won’t talk about how important it is to be courteous. My teachers, parents, grandparents, and the rest of the village did that when I was playing soccer on Saturday mornings with the other 4 year olds. This is playground 4 year old stuff, and we have escalated common courtesy so much it is now lost in a sea of technology, conferences and presentations that really are not necessary. Maybe I am the exception. I was just a kid who went to public school, played outside occasionally and loved watching TV when mom didn’t make me study, so CLEARLY I am in the minority and demented in thinking that courtesy is not a bother or pain in the ass.


Aspen has crazy awesome tech that tracks engagement and experience, and I love using data to help understand where to make change. The fact that we can find out how engagement and experience is good/bad across thousands of locations, employees, and interactions is impressive…but the fact that we had to design it…that is actually kind of depressing. I didn’t design it to track where the planes are in the air, to use the radar analogy, I did it so we could AVOID collisions. Our humanity creates those collisions all the time, and that injures people – sometimes deeply. I wanted to know where people were being discriminated against, so it could stop. Where inequality needs to become equal, and where fairness needs to replace what is unbalanced. That’s why experience and engagement is important…safety first.


Back to the playground…I got my own 4 year old to teach…

Sourcing and the Great Assumption #TBT

Inspired by the social media phenomenon “throw back Thursdays”, we’re introducing our own throwback where we will pick a blog that we wrote at least three years ago, and re-post it with commentary(bolded and italicized below). Not only do industry and businesses evolve quickly, but so do people, so we’re cautiously excited to see what kind of stuff we were writing about so many years ago.

A little over five years ago we wrote…

First to admit that I am not a sourcing guru. For one reason or another, that is assumed by people I meet, and at first I was not sure why that followed me around. Don’t get me wrong, on the daily grind of recruiting I was able to cold call and hunt down the folks, but no better than many recruiters – I just made tons of phone calls 🙂 I will admit, dropping about 150 voice mails before 9am each morning always helped.

As the world becomes socially smaller though, I really admire all the sourcing folks out there that really spend time and effort understanding the methodology of cutting through all the networks, groups, media sites, and of course those who gate crash and get the names. I have not honed this skill over the years, primarily because I have to focus on other competencies to hone, and have advised many to outsource this work to experts who hone those competencies daily.

I still stand firm on my belief that for positions where you need to recruit, as in you really need to sell it, you need to PLAN on having at least 50 conversations in the bag before you make the hire, give or take a few.

I still standby this. I think the difference is that our ability to record conversations, assessments, and insight on candidates has changed. We can use video, assessment tools, CRM tools, navigation search, word vectors and more to drive the “conversations”. I think in general, we need INSIGHT from 50 places that tell us that these 3 to 5 candidates are the right candidates.

These include the interviews and back and forth with the managers/candidates, so assume that about 15 of them are already off the table for sourcing.  You need to have 35 strong, detailed conversations about the job, people in the marketplace, their qualifications / interest / motivations / experience, and then some secondary validation in order to feel really good about the 3 to 5 people you are putting in mix. If you can’t count the 35, I think you are making some really big assumptions when stating “this is the best talent”.

INSIGHTS, not only conversations.

Of course you may want to double count previous conversations you have had in the space, but I just call that knowledge. Maybe you can cut out a few, but don’t you think that you should at least have 25 good conversations with either people you trust will know the right people OR the actual prospects themselves in order to find a slate of 4 or 5? If not, what are you using as your decision engine…the resume or LinkedIn profile that they produced themselves?

Numbers still work as far as I am concerned. You need to be able to show proof that you have an understanding of the market, the company culture, and so on as you make recommendations. Where this goes away is if the hiring manager is now in control of pairing down the candidates to a select few (many organizations do this).

So back to the Great Assumption – Managers think recruiters / sourcers are actually doing this work (or more) to find the talent that is needed AND we also think that in order to be successful, we need to have this amount of effort.


STILL BOGUS. Especially with all of the algorithms, automated matching tools and so on. The amount of work that we need to do is dramatically less. However, the amount of insight is about the same. You need the education and data to back up the claim that you have presented a good representation of what the market can bear, that its as good or better than candidates previously, and potentially same or better than current employees. The journey and the sights seen along the way are pretty much the same. Imagine driving from Connecticut to Philadelphia. The journey used to take days, now it takes a few hours. If we travel at 55 mph or 90 mph along the highway, we pretty much see the same things, experience the same, but obviously get there faster at 90mph. The issue is do we drive slow or fast based on how much time and input it will take to make the manager ready to arrive at the destination.

Sourcing is not about math. Sourcing is about results. We know the matching can just happen. This is not a manufacturing process. There are people who just gel with the recruiters, leaders, and managers. Chaos happens, and we break through the math all the time. Maybe “great” recruiters are lucky, or the brand works, or maybe they are just highly skilled and tuned to the managers, so their research is solid.

Yes – all about results. Hell, rather than driving to Philadelphia, maybe I can take a helicopter and be there in 60 minutes, if that is in the budget and needed.

Besides – I can prove that sourcing at this level is unlikely to happen all the time anyway:

  • 2100 hours in a year for a person to work
  • assume 20% for non-recruiting meetings, training, water cooler time (1680 hours left)
  • assume all meaningful convos + notes captured are 30 minutes (3360 sessions)
  • 50 sessions per hire (67 positions filled a year)
  • Meanwhile – you forgot scheduling, research, document prep, offer letters, admin, and a bunch of other stuff.

Maybe your team does less – maybe they do more. But even IF they are doing less or more, you can’t deny the numbers…so what are you giving up? I appreciate if your team is really good at finding 2 people and selling it hard to the managers who buy it when you tell them “this is the best talent” and a great hire happens. Be honest – did you REALLY source to 35 to 50 conversations or just get people who match?

Even 5 years later, we aren’t doing the conversations…but we ARE getting more insight. In fact, we might have hundreds of insights vs just 50 conversations.

And it is AWESOME to get people who match. That is the goal. Just don’t tell the managers you busted 100 hours of sourcing and hard selling when you made three phone calls and got three great candidates.

Just reveal the data you used to make the decision. If you are using analytics and tech, it won’t take as long.

We need to be cautious about the Great Assumption – that we sourced “all the talent”. 1 – it is difficult to prove, 2 – it is difficult to have it happen consistently, and most importantly – 3 – it does not really matter if you have a great hire and the person is productive.

This one I am going to shift a bit.

1 – Yes, its difficult to prove that you considered all the talent.

2 – No, we can pretty much prove now that we don’t do it consistently.

3 – it DOES matter – because engagement and value of work is important to the recruiter. Feeling empowered and helpful increases retention. Sure we need a great hire and a productive one, but the recruiter needs to feel they did their job and contributed (and have others agree). Look for that alignment. Of course we can be more focused on quality now with all this data we have. We can now measure their ABILITY to be great and productive much earlier on, and that directly links back to how the recruiter is measured and perceived.