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Marvin Smith

Marvin Smith is veteran talent acquisition practitioner who focuses on strategic talent sourcing, talent community building, social recruiting, employment branding, and the use of technology to drive talent identification and engagement strategies. He has been on teams that were at the forefront of resurgence of talent sourcing as a strategic weapon in talent acquisition. These teams piloted groundbreaking programs (ERE-Media-award-winning) work that used business intelligence, data, and technology to segment the target talent audiences and build talent pipelines and communities. His current role is a strategic talent sourcing consultant with Lockheed Martin, where he is responsible for talent pipeline building for critical skills talent; project management of a RMP (recruitment marketing platform); and driving corporate-wide, talent community initiatives. Previously, he served as senior research recruiter on an internal executive recruiting team with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; a strategic sourcing program manager with Blackberry (Research In Motion); and a talent sourcer/program manager for Microsoft. He is a writer and speaker on the topics of talent communities, strategic talent sourcing, Moneyball sourcing, and talent acquisition strategies. You can follow his blog or join a community that he created on talent community development or follow him on Twitter.

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What Is a Talent Community in 2013?

Marvin Smith
May 8, 2013, 5:56 am ET

Screen Shot 2013-05-05 at 6.56.07 AMIn 2013, it seems everyone is talking about talent communities. Some people call their job alert system a talent community; some people refer to their CRM as a talent community; some people call their LinkedIn company group a talent community; and some job boards refer to their resume database as a talent community. And, it seems, there is a vendor solution for each flavor of talent community. These diverse opinions create interesting discussions and debate until it is time to seriously consider whether to invest in a community of talent; then the confusion sets in and creates the question — what is a talent community?

For me, defining a talent community is easy.  keep reading…

A Nagging Question: What Happens if Facebook Decides to Shut You Down?

Marvin Smith
Dec 16, 2010, 2:41 pm ET
I had just finished a presentation at ERE and was walking though the event reception area when a voice from behind me asked “what happens if Facebook decides to shut you down?” I turned to see who had asked such a bold question. I recognized the inquiring voice to be John Sumser. I thought to myself: ‘we are Microsoft, why would they want to shut us down?’ After all, Microsoft owns part of Facebook, which would not make sense. My reply to John was: “great question, John, but I have not really thought much about it. I am not really worried about it.” After a few more minutes of cordial conversation, I departed to the adventures of the day. But over the next months, I was nagged by the question which I really did not have an answer.
Now, I have an answer. I know firsthand what happens when Facebook decides to shut you down. keep reading…

3 Trends That Impact Recruiting

Marvin Smith
Feb 24, 2010, 5:41 am ET

crl_mastheadIn addition to a shortage of talent, Microsoft E&D has identified three trends that impact recruiting and have caused us to see a new way of looking at recruiting solutions.

  1. Technology seems to be in beta
  2. The Internet has turned from informational to social
  3. People (customers) are in power

In the April Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership, I’m going into more detail about this. But for the abridged version, let me say that technology is changing at a mind-numbing pace. An interesting phenomenon is that solutions are being released in beta, as opposed to waiting for the final version of a product. In beta, the solutions are continually improved until another better solution is developed. And then the cycle continues as the new solution is offered in beta release.

At Microsoft E&D, we began a three-year program with a hypothesis that we could use technology to enhance the human touch and create a better experience for prospects and candidates. We found a vendor partner that offered a potential solution, but we understood we were in uncharted territory and needed to be nimble with respect to change. keep reading…

Sourcing Insights: No More ‘Apply or Goodbye’

Marvin Smith
Sep 3, 2009, 5:12 am ET

FL09_Masthead“Apply or Goodbye” is a great metaphor for a transactional recruiting process. Sadly, “apply or goodbye” seems to be the end result with most recruiting processes. Everything seems to be about a transaction—filling the open requisition. If a prospect is qualified and interested, then they are moved through the process. If they are not qualified, then at best, they receive a letter of rejection. If a prospect is not ready to apply to do a job, we usually do not know about them. We have de facto told them “goodbye.” And given the prospect-to-candidate falloff rate (research projects application non-completion rates as high as 70-80%), a great number of prospects get lost because of the transactional nature of recruiting technology.

In a moment of frustration (or epiphany) I quipped that candidates were seeking relationships and our recruiting technology offers them the equivalent of a one-night stand (or more accurately a chance to complete an application). Looking past the potential off-color nature of the comment, the truth is there is a gap between what people in this world of Web 2.0 desire and what a typical recruiting operation allows. That gap is the williness on the part of recruiting to have a conversation with you unless you are part of the chosen few that meets with requirements of a specific job. keep reading…

Sourcing Insights: SEO is Not Enough!

Marvin Smith
Aug 12, 2009, 5:58 am ET

Search Engine Optimization seems to be on everyone lips. SEO seems to be on the tip of every consultant’s tongue. SEO is “all the craze” right now. The chief reason to “optimize” our jobs is because job seekers primarily use search engines to look for a job (as opposed to job boards). But if you think SEO will solve your challenges with talent identification and engagement (aka sourcing), you will be disappointed. keep reading…

Sourcing Insight: Control Freaks Hate Community

Marvin Smith
Jul 27, 2009, 3:25 pm ET

Control freaks hate community. And most recruiters are control freaks. Ergo, recruiters hate community. Perhaps my deduction is a little harsh (and purposely attention-grabbing). Maybe a better way to describe how many recruiters feel about community is that they are suspicious, or at the very least skeptical.

To suggest that recruiters are control freaks is not an epiphany or an “ah-ha moment,” as being controlling is one of the traits that make recruiters good at our jobs.  We are managers of a set of projects called search assignments or requisitions and are required to direct a volume that easily reaches the double digits. And we need to control as much as possible to be successful.

Recruiters like the idea of community and having a relationship with prospects and/or candidates. But when recruiters take a deeper dive, they begin to understand that some of the conversations that transpire in community are outside of their control, they lose some enthusiasm. So why advocate community if one cannot control the outcome?

In my upcoming Fall 2009 ERE presentation, I am weaving five topics/questions/discussion points into the storyline. One discussion point is “Web 2.0 solutions proclaim that this is the new way to pipeline candidates into a private talent community. What is a talent community and how do I build one? In this article, I will deal with the “why” of talent communities.  And if you are in Florida in September, I will discuss the “how to” at length. keep reading…

Sourcing Insight: Market Segmentation

Marvin Smith
Jul 22, 2009, 5:26 am ET

The interviewee queried the Microsoft Hardware Interviewer: “What is Microsoft’s commitment to hardware?” The applicant continued: “While, Microsoft is known for software, what is your vision for the hardware business?

This scene played out over and over. Sometimes the candidate would even be looking over the interviewer’s shoulder without noticing the poster proudly displayed behind the Microsoft hiring manager. Yes, after 25 years, we were still getting those questions.

That was two years ago. Since then, we have changed the perception of Microsoft Hardware. We have changed the brand Hardware@Microsoft. Hardware@Microsoft has become a profession. The average “person on the street” may not know anything about Hardware@Microsoft. But a target audience of engineers who work in hardware will know about the importance of hardware in terms of Microsoft’s business vision.

ERE acknowledged our work with a “Most Strategic Use of Technology Award” and industry thought leaders like Dr. John Sullivan called our work “pioneering.” (In fairness, this award was shared by a talented group of colleagues who created View My World and incidentally just launched a new careers site.) While being recognized by one’s industry is flattering, the real success of our work was in solving a business need in our division.

The story of making Hardware@Microsoft a profession was an answer to a critical business issue.

keep reading…

Sourcing Insight: Virtual Third Places

Marvin Smith
Jul 14, 2009, 5:12 am ET

A woman in Boston picks up a glass of red wine. She puts her nose into the glass and breathes in deeply. She takes of sip of the wine and a slight smile crosses her face. She gently sets down the glass and types a few words on her computer. She watches the screen intently for a reply. A friend in Los Angeles responds to her comments. A few moments later, a comment comes in from a woman in Sydney. The comments continue to flow in from Hong Kong, from Tokyo, and finally Berlin chimes in.

This is the monthly Friday night (depending where you live in the world) Women’s Wine Club. Like clockwork, the first Friday night of each month these friends taste a new wine and share a conversation about their new discovery. They use Twitter as the means of sharing their wine tasting experience.

This wine tasting Twitter example seems to be becoming very much a part of the fabric of the 21st Century social experience. This is an example of a Virtual Third Place.

Ray Oldenburg coined the phrase — a “third place.” Oldenburg, an urban sociologist, suggested that informal, public gathering places are extremely important to community. He suggested that bars (Cheers), coffee shops (Starbucks), bookstores (Third Place Books) and other establishments are Great Good Places or “third places” (in contrast to the home and the workplace, the first and second places). These third places create space for conversation and creative interaction.

The “third places” of the 20th Century are morphing into the “virtual third places” of the 21st Century. The Twitter wine club is a scene that is being replayed in different stages, but with a common storyline: social encounters are taking place cyberspace. It is a logical extension of a third place. Job and careers are two of the most frequent topics of conversation; many virtual third places are being formed to discuss all the aspects of our respective professions. If there are discussions about careers, there must a role for recruiting in the virtual third places.

So how does a virtual third place fit into a recruiting strategy? Imagine you are a recruiter in Seattle or Portland that recruits recruiters. One virtual third place that you would want to join in the conversation would be the NorthWest Recruiters Association LinkedIn Group. The NWRA is an affinity group of nearly 900 members comprised of corporate and third party recruiters — the ideal target audience for a recruiter of recruiters.

The NWRA as an affinity group is not just a virtual third place, but also creates opportunity for face-to-face conversations. This mix of virtual and face to face conversations seems to be a very effective method of community. I am not suggesting that belonging to affinity group and having conversations with the members outside of a trade show or a meeting is new; it is certainly not. But what is unique about the 21st century model is the transparency of conversations to all the members of the group and an invitation for any member to share their views. That levels the playing field and fosters deeper relationships.

One of the aspects of virtual third places is the natural segmentation that has already occurred by the interest and self-selection of the members. For the sourcer (and I believe sourcing is marketing), as it is with a brand manager in marketing, segmenting the target audience is one of the challenges of the job. In this new world of social media, networking, and Web 2.0, much of segmentation occurs naturally. The challenge of the 21st century isn’t so much finding the community, but more about how we function as a member of the community as a recruiter with requisitions to fill.

How one functions as an effective member of a community is a subject for a different conversation, but there are several avenues available to pursue. If your practice is designed for the longer term, then perhaps becoming a listener and finding your voice in the community can be very effective. Communities tend to have a life of their own, and learning the culture and norms of the group could provide valuable insight. I have noticed the one or two NWRA members who recruit recruiters tend to move behind the scenes. They support the organization, volunteer for events, and are visible, productive members of the community.

A bright shiny new toy creates new words to describe old things. It is not so much that the old needs the “new” associated with it; it is more that a new vocabulary is required to explain the new dimension or new aspects of an older discovery. In the 1980′s I was very comfortable referring to my Rolodex (contacts/prospects) as my network. I referred to the National Association of Accountants or the Oregon Society of CPAs as affinity groups. And I referred to the directories of those affinity groups as money. I attended, networked, and supported those groups. Relationships and reputations grew out of those groups; clients were served and careers were enhanced. Today, I am comfortable describing my network as a database. I am comfortable with describing the affinity groups as a community (as they may have been all along). I join communities; participate in discussions; and give generously back to the community. And I still call the community membership directories money.

At the Fall 2009 ERE event, our talent community pilot will be discussed in the broader context of Web 2.0 Beyond the Social Recruiting Hype: Microsoft’s Approach to Building Talent Pipelines and Communities. While the presentation will be much broader than a discussion of “virtual third places,” this concept is a cornerstone of our community development workstream.