Good Recruiters Don't Need To Be Experts In Who They Recruit

When I first started recruiting, I worked on tech jobs. These were desktop, and hardware, and sys admin, and then some developer and designer roles. I knew next to nothing about the technology, but in 1999, neither did anyone else. Heck - we were hiring kids out of college with C++ course to be Java programmers for $45-60,000.

As I got better, and the tech did as well, the old argument that recruiters should know what they were working on led some of us to get CIS degrees (most of them got out of the industry). I thrived by asking questions, and my business really went wild once I started posting interview questions like what to ask a Java Swing candidate. In addition to traffic, hiring managers would call me and argue about what I posted (managers don't call recruiters unless they have to - in case you're wondering. 

In 2006, when I rolled out of recruiting to join my wife's marketing firm, I focused on social media. Blogging, copywriting, and SEO were my bread and butter, matched with her design prowess (just check out for a taste). As I got better, social media exploded, and I found myself consulting with firms large and small to do the work I once recruited for. That led me to work hard at learning digital, including email, PPC, and the full marketing stack from story to distribution. That made me a better recruiter, because I was recruiting for the roles I performed (and later managed). 

And what I found out was the old saw that candidates wanted recruiters to understand what they worked on was not universally true. Calling as a peer, candidates found that lying to me was more difficult than the recruiters they were used to working with. I burrowed down into details, and I joked with them about using the wrong jargon. And you know what - they hated it. I didn't realize in technology how much I was missing - in my early career blindness, I was practicing matching candidates by how well they pitched a story and how serious they were about the job. In today's world, I see massive flaws in candidates, but I also see massive flaws in the job descriptions, and had to learn that the perfect candidate was one who could survive the interview and then thrive at the job. That's not always clear on the resume. 

It's true that knowledge of an industry helps, but after a decade in digital, I'm finding the gaps in my own experience. I don't have millions of dollars running through my fingers, which means that I'm behind the curve in understanding social display for the Home Depot. I'm not testing a 5,000 page sites traffic using eyeball tracking and service virtualization (no one is doing that last one, yet). I'm not up-to-date on the size of pictures of the best phones for Facebook live, and I've never looked at my website on the Microsoft Surface Pro. 

In short - the experience I've relied on to sell and recruit as a digital expert is no longer accessible unless you're actively inside a team of people doing the work. That doesn't mean I can't still place someone with experience using Facebook Ads to drive webinar sign-ups that fit into the Hubspot funnel, but it does mean that if I were tasked to do the job - I'm no longer able to sit side by side with a candidate and compare notes. 

It's a career arc that is strange. I went from knowing nothing to knowing everything (that you needed to know to hire for social) to knowing some parts of everything. My biggest challenges now are making sure I stick to the script, listen to the candidate, don't jump ahead, and most important - that I don't mistake nostalgia for technical competence. 

I once firmly believed that a career recruiter should be able to effortlessly switch industries, as knowing how to recruit was more important to knowing who to recruit. That insight wasn't wisdom, but rather the experience of working on different technologies that moved faster than our ability to learn them. If that's still true (and it seems a constant), then no recruiter can ever be expert in their field unless their field is dying. 

That's too much thinking, and it's the nostalgia trap instead of real understanding. Do you know why managers and candidates think they need recruiters who understand them? It's because our industry hires entry level recruiters and burns them through them. The number of inexperienced or new recruiters is always several times greater than the number of experienced recruiters. A new recruiter at a tech firm in San Francisco is going to talk to hundreds of people in a week, while I talk to the top 20% in the industry. This means that most of the people talking sand emailing with recruiters are talking to inexperienced recruiters. Internally, recruiters have multiple requirements and a lot of process to manage. The niched recruiters internally tend to work themselves out of the job and move on.

It's very likely that managers and candidates are mistaking technical expertise for a recruiting model that brings them recruiting expertise. It would have been simpler to point this out in the beginning, but for those of you who've read to the end of this post, would you have believed me?

Day 2 Morning Notes From Digital Dallas Summit 2014: #DDSUM14

Here we go with Day 2. 

1) Good advice fom @weisesarah about creating personas. Give them a name and a picture. Ask what's in their purse. Make it specific. 

2) The question I heard from a candidate about what makes you more money, improving your mobile app buying experience or hiring a social team still makes me cry a little. So I posted it as a question. 

3) Email isn't dead. Everyone who makes money admits they use email, and @mparkerbyrd says that it's still 3400% ROI for email. But everyone hates it. And it's also true that kids don't read their email. What does that mean for the future?

4) I'm not comfortable with training your customers that you'll always respond. These teams aren't prepped, and all they want is to get you off line. 

5) Talking about marketing automation - he uses the word Omnichannel. I can't wait until that word is destroyed. We should mock it. - Although Hassan Bawab of Magic Logix has a good definition - "fancy way of saying your sales staff is providing the customer with an ideal [buying] experience."

6) I like the slide, "I've known you were going to purchase this for six months." "You're weirding me out - can I just pay and leave." Marketing Automation session from Hassan. 

7) I just asked the conference organizer to play Shia Live. Actually played it for him on my phone. Not sure if they're taking requests for bumper music. They're playing Billy Joel right now. 

8) Mel Carson tells a great story about hiring a monk from Google Ads. It was 10 years ago. He has a testimonial. 

9) Mel also talks about breaking PR into different tiers. I remember doing this for blogging in 2006. The difference now is that much of the "national press" we used to pitch has been replaced with "national blogs." This is the advantage of experience. 

10) In the Marketing Technology panel, listening to @ipullrank - it's funny, because no one here bats an eye at that data privacy intrusion we take for granted, but I can't help but think a lot of people would freak if they knew how easy it was for just about anyone to know almost everything about someone that is in a database. Address, phone, email, IP address, number of people in the home, ages, credit card purchase data. It really is a scary world, but it's been around since the early days of the ETL Data Warehouses. 

Notes From Digital Dallas Summit 2014

This is going to be just a section for my notes:

1) Trying to choose between Beacon talk and videos. I want cat videos, but will go to the Beacon talk.
2) Met Amy King from Nested Strategies. Ran into Jeremy Roberts from Sourcecon. {What's he doing here?}

3) American Airlines speaker Philip Easter is funny. Video is too damn loud. And hysterical, because with a iphone5, it looks outdated. NVC technology tells American Air where people are when they check in, allowing them to customize service for their apps, for special needs, kids... Pretty cool. 
4) Ran into another candidate - looks like funny Tweets are doing their job. 

5) Will Clevenger of RBA is a smart guy. Remember to follow him. Talking about trends and disruptions. 
a) Enhancing customer experience, b) Transforming digital, c) customizing rewards. 
What does ambient mean?

6) Microsoft guy on UX - didn't like when one of world's biggest companies claims they're a startup, but this guy is polite, and so is the audience. Super polite. When he says hipster doofus, no one laughs sardonically. They all nodded. 

Coming To You Live From Digital Dallas Summit 2014

I'll be at #DDSum14 today and tomorrow, looking to connect with digital and social candidates, but also introduce myself to companies struggling to hire. 

Look, it's tough out there. The people doing the work are heads down right now in Q4, and it's really difficult to separate those who are on the team from those who are leading the team. Knowing isn't enough, as getting your program or campaign through the enterprise is the skill that is more important. 

So don't be afraid to say hello. Here's my smiling face. Just try to imagine me without a beard. or a hat. 

2012-11-18 07.18.24

I am looking right now. I have a Director level position for social commerce in Southern California - someone who understands social strategy but can integrate social display with their content team while interfacting with customer service. I'll take senior managers, especially those of you who are underpaid, and I'll take those of you paid just enough but who want to move away the coming Snowpocalypse. 

Either way - look me up. 


Or you can text me at cyberdust, that new app by Cuban. 

I'm jimdurbin on cyberdust. 

November Headhunting Report For Digital And Social Marketers


Spring is still the big time for digital recruiting. Many company companies bonus in February and March, especially those looking at their holiday sales, which means no one likes to leave with $30,000 on the table. 

Hiring is slightly up for companies who don't depend on 4Q, and movement by candidates in companies where the bonus isn't assured is always a risk.

Below are my notes for October's calls - if they're useful to you, consider sharing it to your network. 

1) Companies are taking too long to hire

Check this article out from Harvard Business Review. It's happening, and getting worse. Basic premise is there's a lot of risk in hiring, and execs/managers/companies are nervous about it. Companies need to improve their process, and recruiters need to address concerns on both sides. There's a lot of wasted time that occurs because "top talent" likes to be courted, but isn't honest about what they want and need.

My rule of thumb is 30 days. You have 30 days from the day the candidate feels like they are a candidate to hire. After that, not only do offers fail, but performance and retention are affected as well. 

And if you're  company that has a critical digital management position open for over six months, Beware! I've seen a number of companies hollowed out when management positions aren't filled.  

2) Salaries about to explode in the social commerce space for the right people.

This is happening in a lot of tight areas, and nothing is tigher than social commerce right now. There are only 50 companies on the Social Media 500 with revenues over $1MM tracked to social media channels. There are 100 companies that want that, and they want it today. I anticipate Sr Manager and Director level positions rising dramatically by June of next year. At the same time, I anticipate much shorter leashes for those jobs. If they boost your salary by $20,000, you may have only a quarter to show results.  

3) Salary matters less then budget and authority

The really competent in this space range from the technical to the analytic to super managers. In the last month, I've heard dozens of times that salary is less important than budget commitment and authority. Salary still matters, but a big bump in pay is less important than infrastructure and marketing department integration. Great social and digital leaders need senior level executive champions who commit to letting them create working campaigns. It's not about a $10MM ad campaign. It can be $100,000, as long as you get the full amount and are allowed to complete the campaign. 

4) Telecommuting is a huge unmet need

Big Brand experience can be important in this space. Apple is not the same as Pete's Apple Emporium. But the number of large firms with a big digital presence can be very limited in a single city that isn't San Francicso or New York or Dallas. There are some very talented people who can't uproot their families, but would travel or take telecommuting jobs with large brands. 

Companies don't like this, of course. They want to see if you make it before they let you work remotely, so there's a tension there that should be interesting. The companies that figure out telecommuting or commit to remote teams are going to be big winners, or...candidates will just have to move for new jobs. Hard to tell where in the cycle we are.  

5) 1 out of 5 of you has what it takes
When I first committed to social media headhunting in 2008, 80% of the people I spoke with had never taken a check for what they claimed they could do. Now, most people get checks, but they're wildly optimistic about their impact on the company.

Well, social is now a preference layer instead of a skillset, so integration with the company is a must. It's fascinating, because social piggybacked on the old fight between Digital and Print (or Creative or Traditional), and now, full integration really is a powerful tool. Combining Direct Mail with Television with Email with Social with Sales is hard to do, but many of you are getting good at it. 1 out of 5 that I talk to understand it and have done it. 

That's good news for companies, who now are told "this person exists," instead of "um, let me look around."

About These Reports

These reports are going to start coming monthly, as a way for me to keep notes and track trends while I'm on the phone.  Expect to see more writing here as I'm now focused 100% on the recruiting side of the house for Brandstorming, and am no longer taking marketing or outsourcing contracts.

Our sweet spot is going to be executive search in  Digital/Social/Web/Content/Email/Analytics in the 100-180K salary range in the US, focusing on the South, Midwest, Mountain West, and Southern California.

 If we're not connected, do so now. Go ahead and call me a friend to connect. You're reading, the blog, right? 

View Jim Durbin's profile on LinkedIn

 If you follow me on Twitter, RT or favorite something I write, and I'll follow back so you can do a confidential DM. I don't live tweet to people who may be looking.

I'm Looking For A Senior UI Developer In Northern Virginia

Spending a lot of time in Austin, and this came across my desk. High end position working as a Senior UI Developer comfortable interfacing with a server-side Java team.

Update: the position has been filled, but there's a similar one for a team in Northern Virginia. Salary is still good, and it's clear what they're looking for.   

Here's my job desciption: 

My client is looking for a serious developer with deep experience coordinating between a UX team and Agile/Scrum developers. The job is UI, which means deep experience using Javascript to bring the product to life, but this isn’t a front end designer position where you make the pretty pictures and hand them off to the developers to mess up. We’re developing analytic tools in a multi-platform environment, and we’re doing so in a small company underneath a bigger one work environment.  So, benefits, but not too many TPS reports.  

This is a collaborative position where you work with the product manager, take the advice of the UX folks, and work with the architects to make sure they understand that a working product is not the same as a product that delivers a quality UI to customers. 

You’re not going to just do strategy - you’ll be expected to build features and components of server side services, which is why this isn’t a 70k a year design position, but that’s what we keep getting in resumes.  

The Boring Stuff:
- Analyze, design and develop Web based UI capabilities and J2EE server side services in an Agile environment
- Work with product management on detailed requirements and deliver working
features in short iterations
- Write code that is of superior quality, and ensure good test case coverage of the modules.

 Degree: I don’t want to say. Let’s just say that if you can do the work, this won’t matter, and if you can’t, this won’t get you the job. 

Keywords That Are Fun:
- Javascript, JQuery, AJAX, CSS, HTML5, Flash, D3js, SQL, JSON, XML, REST, SOAP, WSDL, Maven
- Java. (not as a programmer, but clearly the description is working with server side developers and the more you know how to do that, the better).
- Familiarity with Application Servers such as JBOSS
- Experience with RDBMS's such as ORACLE, DB2, SQL Server
- Knowledge of XML based technologies


This is a serious position. It's for someone at the top of their game, but still likes to get their hands dirty. It's not a Creative Director job. It's a not front end design job.  It's a get in the middle of the corporate development team and work with everyone beginning to end. The good news is that you're in at the beginning. The bad news is you can't site at your desk listening to Daft Punk and knocking out some clean design that looks awesome.  And, you'll have to work with the UX team, which means they'll want to do stuff that offends the creative mindset, but tests well, in the UX lab.

If that's you, I want to talk to you. It pays well, and it's going to be interesting work.  

Contact me by emailing me at the link at the top right, or calling me at 214-509-7262.

Social Media Case Studies Mean Jack Squat

Case Studies.  They are the new buzzword after "engagement" and "business metrics" grew stale.  As social media matures and splits into more familiar territory (customer service, marketing, PR, Sales, recruiting, operations), the cry for case studies is now spoken at every conference, and written in the blogs and tweets of charming consultants everywhere.


Case studies are not science.  They are marketing tools written by copywriters to help a client make a sales decision.  They are a risk management tool for buyers that can be compared to a reference check on a company.  Half the point is to show the prospect that other companies they recognize have paid you, the second half is to prove that you're not just making this all up. Most important, case studies are written to persuade, not explain. 

So why the fetish?  Why do so many people write blog posts where it's assumed that having case studies gives authority?  Mostly it is because they don't understand the purpose behind case studies.


Let's assume you watched that, which I strongly urge you to do.  After making the claim, this is the point where I'm supposed to back off it and say that case studies are actually important.  I'm not going to do that.  I won't deny that prospects often demand them.  I won't deny that some prospects have case study requests embedded in their RFP's.

I will state that good salespeople don't need them.   If you buy the proposition that case studies serve as an informal reference check, then you can recognize that a request for case studies after a presentation is a vote of non-confidence in your presentation or your company or in you.  Asking for more information on how you worked with another company is known in sales parlance as an objection.  The case study company is different.  It's structured different. It has different communication and market advantages.  How relevant is a case study written to showcase your success?

Do you know when case studies are useful?  It's when they are written internally as part of an after-action report for a project.  Self-evaluation, which includes critical analysis, is as important for a company as it is for an individual.  A Case Study that explores where you succeeded and where you failed is of more use in working with a client because it suggests a willingness to learn from past mistakes.  It shows an interest in how things get done, instead of a marketing tool intended to ease fear. 

In evaluating candidates and companies, my goal is to find out what they know and how they approach problem solving.  A case study, like a resume that shows sales numbers without explaining how they achieved them, is only a tool to filter applicants. Let's quit pretending they are more than that. 



SXSW In Small Bytes

It's going to be impossible to dig through my notes from SXSW, as the overwhelming nature of the five day event has my brain firing in multiple directions on possibilities and pitches.  While unable to see everything I wanted to, the interconnected maelstrom that was the recruiting and marketing community let me talk to dozens of people I respect from reading online, and another hundred I've just met and now follow.

While a number of reports will talk about how crowded and big SXSW got, I found it possible to connect one-on-one with a lot of people.  Must be a recruiting trait - I spoke with people on elevators, in line at coffee, standing around at parties, and even in the shuttles back and forth.

I'll be writing out a lot of my notes and trying to link those I met, both here, at StlRecruiting, and at the Brandstorming Blog, in an attempt to pass on the knowledge I received and to give some link love to those I met.

In the meantime, keep this nugget of wisdom close to you for future SXSW and conferences in general.

Most people who go to events like SXSW don't know a lot of people there.  Even those who do, can often find themselves on the outside when they attend a new kind of panel or a party that their friends haven't shown up to.  These people are not only happy to speak with you, they're grateful to have someone to speak with.  Ask them questions, like any good recruiter, about where they're from, what they do, and what they hope to get out of the conference. 

We had a product and a company to sell at SXSW, but we weren't there to get leads.  I was there to find out where the world was going and what it currently looked like from the highly-connected.  Sure, Craig and I talked about the company when it was appropriate (except once, when I had too much Red Bull and got excited, but that's another story for another time), but other times we jut sat back and listened.

The online network can seem big, but it's really just a series of subconnected groups and individuals.  It's the same thing as being onsite at large conferences.  There is a lot to learn if you can focus on the people around you and what they have to teach.

More to come. 

Social Business Is About Productivity

I throw my hands up in the air sometimes when I read about social media as some new paradigm of marketing. The connections afforded with a networked community do pose challenges to the way we communicate with customers, prospects, and internal staff, but that's not where social media currently resides.

Social media is a public phenomenon, but no one pays for something that occurs naturally. Like it or not, your goal as a social business consultant needs to be on the company - altering internal habits in a way that lays the groundwork for different divisions within your client to take advantage of information about product, services, and competitors. Most social media consultants focus on content and profile creation in the hope that user inertia will create conversions of some kind.

You create a Facebook post. User reads it and forwards it to friend. Friend buys. ROI! This is 99% of what I'm reading in social media consulting. Some are smart enough to talk about conversion and calls to actions (those from search marketing), but if you search through the pages, you'll find very little of that. The areas you do see good integration are where social-savvy employees add the tools to their current jobs, which is why recruiters take to LinkedIn so well.

Social media is not just marketing.  The real value lies in the productivity an employee gains from being tightly networked to their industry.  No matter how good the strategy, the employee won't follow it if they aren't persuaded to change their work habits. 

Social media may best be understood as a public movement, but social business is about altering the way we do business, and right now, that's where much of the money companies should be spending on social needs to go. We need internal expertise in a company that takes into account how that company sells, markets, hires, and communicates. Outside strategies and strategists may be brilliant, but if you can't apply that information internally and hold the employees responsible for learning and applying what they learn, you're not really doing anything other than glorified copywriting.