Recruiting @ Web 2.0

Apr 27, 2008
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

Businesses big and small convened on San Francisco last week for the Web 2.0 Expo, all with different agendas — to launch new products, to gain VC funding, to keep an eye on the competition, and over all to celebrate this thing we call Web 2.0. I had the absolute pleasure of attending the conference due to the generosity of Dave Manaster at ERE Media (you can read the story about how it all came about here) and had opportunity after opportunity to meet some fascinating people.

During the course of the week, I met a variety of attendees, from technology directors to marketing folks, from CEOs of brand new companies to engineers from industry giants. In talking with many of these people, I found that several of them had attended the conference with the goal of finding talented people to come work with them.

So naturally, since I was attending representing a recruiting resource (and being an advocate of making strategic networking connections), I offered to help them out by bringing some of their needs to the attention of the ERE audience. You can check out some of the folks in this video I’ve made.

Those with hiring needs attending the conference used different methods of outreach, and from my personal perspective there were some that worked well, and others that kind of flopped. Below are two examples, one good and one not-so-good, of recruitment strategies used by those in attendance.

Recruiting That Worked — Personal Touch Coupled With Social Media

Before the event, a Crowdvine social network was set up where conference attendees could reach out to one another and request meetings with other attendees. I thought this was a perfect method of finding people who had expertise in one area or another, or for locating a representative from a company that you wanted to work for. In the days prior to my arrival, I searched this network using keywords such as “hiring”, “recruit”, and “talent” to see who was going to be searching for future employees. I reached out to interesting people and we exchanged contact information to set up times and places to meet and talk.

One of these connections actually produced a very interesting hiring need that I thought would be perfect for several people who read ERE. I met JJ Toothman, co-founder of a new start-up called Shiny New Toy. Shiny New Toy is a social media consultancy that assists its clients in developing online strategy to reach new audiences using a lot of the Web 2.0 technologies that are available.

JJ initiated our contact after reading my profile on the Crowdvine network, and he told me he is looking for a social media researcher to work for him. He reached out to me specifically because in my profile, I mentioned that I work in recruiting and I use social media to do my job. His need is for someone who is an expert social media user and can help with research within their clients’ business areas to find communities of people who would have an interest in their product or service. They would need to uncover the influencers in these communities — the bloggers, analysts, superusers, etc. — and help establish relationships with those people, in addition to helping uncover news resources to provide for clients.

This position would be a great fit for someone with excellent research skills in addition to a thirst for knowledge, the ability to communicate effectively, and of course in-depth knowledge of the use of social media. JJ also told me that this would be a virtual position, and after speaking with him I told him that I had a perfect audience to present this opportunity to. 🙂

He was pleased, and I hope that this may result in a hire for him! (if you’re interested in his position, please let me know (amybeth at and I’d be pleased to do an introduction!)

(Admittedly, I also took advantage of the PR talent that was available and did a little bit of sourcing for Waggener Edstrom while in town. I was able to meet with a couple of potential candidates while at the conference which should result in some excellent hires for us!)

Recruiting That Didn’t Work — the Fishbowl

Lots of companies who had set up booths in the expo hall put out fishbowls to collect business cards. Several of these companies were giving away free stuff and all you had to do is provide a business card to be eligible to win. My guess is that many of these companies will also be using these business card collections to do some recruiting. I would imagine that about 90% of the people who dropped their cards in the fishbowl just wanted the free stuff (heck, Etelos was giving away a free MacBook Air; I’m perfectly happy at Waggener, but I dropped my card in for that!!)

Amazon hosted an after-party across the street from the Moscone West hall on Thursday evening, and at the party they had a fishbowl for business cards and a rep who was handing out cards with a list of job openings for which they are currently hiring. Sounded good, but there was absolutely no mention of this ulterior motive in the official party schedule.

In addition to that, the venue was terribly inadequate for the number of attendees, the food and drink service was too slow (party-goers descended upon the food table like starving piranhas and servers were taking drink orders as opposed to having an open bar available), and in the middle of all this chaos, they decided to have an Amazon rep make a speech about something that I’m sure no one remembered. For about 10 minutes, this poor guy stood up at the top of the stairs and spoke (about what, I couldn’t tell you because I could barely hear him and I was busy trying to elbow my way to the food table).

While I’m sure Amazon will find one or two good candidates from this chaos, again, I’ll bet at least 90% of the attendees were there for the food and booze, not to get an interview at Amazon. And whoever thought it was a good idea to give a speech in the middle of all this probably should have re-thought that strategy.

That being said, one could argue that gathering hundreds of business cards using a fishbowl could produce some good hires, but at the same time, purchasing an expo booth slot was VERY expensive (I heard one company spent $60,000!), as is hosting an after-party like Amazon did. I think the best route was the one taken by companies who explored the attendee network, pinpointed interesting people, and requested to meet with them. The cost of doing this? Maybe a cup of coffee (which was provided to us for free), 15 minutes to have a quality conversation, and whatever the admission cost was to attend (starting as low as $100 for the expo hall only).

Being a big fan of social media, and especially after having met these individuals, I believe that while it is important to know and embrace the fundamentals of recruiting, it is equally important to understand the impact that social media and the rest of the Web 2.0 technologies have already had, and will continue to have, on the way that we do our jobs in recruiting, sourcing, and research. These tools will help us do our jobs easier, but only if we allow them to. And career opportunities in this space are hot right now (obviously!), so jumping on board at this time could be financially rewarding for you as well!

In an upcoming article, I will discuss specifically two entrepreneurs I had the pleasure of meeting whose companies are geared to serve the needs of the recruiting community. I will also review some of the technologies that were showcased that will have direct impact on our recruiting research practices. Please keep an eye out for more videos, pictures, and reviews of the conference!

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.