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HRExaminer Radio

Guest: Carmen Hudson, Principal Consultant, Recruiting Toolbox
Episode: 113
Air Date: September 4, 2015


Carmen Hudson wears several hats. She is currently Principal Consultant, Recruiting Toolbox, Founder of Recruiter Hunt and co-founder of a national conference for tech recruiters, Talent42. Carmen draws from over 15 years of recruiting experience, including recruiting leadership positions at Amazon, Starbucks and Yahoo. Her expertise is in helping clients build the right sourcing and recruiting strategies, and implementing them in the real world of limited budgets, competing priorities and highly competitive recruiting environments. Carmen consults and trains companies to help them leverage high ROI solutions for big sourcing, social media and technology implementation initiatives.

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Begin transcript

John Sumser:                       Good morning, and welcome to the HR Examiner radio show. I’m your host John Sumser. We’re coming to today live, from beautiful downtown Occidental, California, where innovation got it’s real birth in the great State of California. The ocean fog is drifting in over the hill, and we’re going to talk to Carmen Hudson today.

Carmen is one of the legendary figures in the recruiting world. She currently, a principal at Recruiting Toolbox. She co-founded a conference in Seattle called Talent 42. She’s been in recruiting for 15 or 20 years now, including working at Amazon, Starbucks and Yahoo. She’s a ball of fire. We’re going to have some fun this morning. How you doin’ Carmen?

Carmen Hudson:               I am doing well. Doing well, despite the time. I’m awake and I’m here.

John Sumser:                       It’s 5:00 somewhere. They’re listening to us in London today, and it’s 5:00 in London.

Carmen Hudson:               That’s how I justify the glass of whiskey in my and my pajamas.

John Sumser:                       Okay, that’s good. I’m sure that’s powerful and it’s a boosting thing there. Tell us about yourself.

Carmen Hudson:               First thing I’m going to get rid of the feedback. I didn’t realize that I was actually, playing myself live. Okay, rookie move. I’m doing well, doing well, Keeping busy.

John Sumser:                       What’s the Carmen Hudson Story? Tell me the Carmen Hudson Story.

Carmen Hudson:               Carmen Hudson Story. Let’s see I got in this business, as you said, 15 or 20 years ago. I was in Chicago. The Internet happened. I was working in a consulting firm, as a matter of fact, doing marketing. I got a call from a friend who was a researcher at an executive search firm. She asked if I wanted to come and work there. I had no idea what executive search was. I went and interviewed, and checked it out and my only question was, would I be able to use the Internet? If you remember back in the mid-90s, companies doled out Internet access as if it were precious gold. For me it was the most fascinating thing happening ever. The response was, “Oh, of course you can use the Internet all day, everyday. We use it to research.” I accepted the job immediately and haven’t looked back. That’s how I got into this business.

Soon after that I moved out to Seattle. Spent some time in staffing firm doing some sourcing. I was trained by a woman here in Seattle, by the name of Deb Hester, who was just was an incredible sorcerer ahead of her time with Internet research. Eventually, I did a little bit of work at Capital One. I was one of their first sourcing people. I came back to Seattle and joined Amazon as one of their first sourcing people.

The rest is history; spent some time doing some campus recruiting and pep recruiting at Amazon, spent about a year and a half at Microsoft then, went to Starbucks and had some fun there and Yahoo. After that, went out on my own. Started dabbling in technology, and building companies and connected back with John Vlastelica, the founder of Recruiting Toolbox. He’s also the person who hired me at Amazon. Now we’re working together, almost full circle on some of the companies I worked with I the past, so fun times for me. I’ve had a blast dong this.

John Sumser:                       That’s great. What a wonderful thing to go back and work with the person who hired you. That must be quite an experience. Tell me something about Recruiting Toolbox.

Carmen Hudson:               Sure.

John Sumser:                       What’s Recruiting Toolbox?

Carmen Hudson:               What is it? Despite our name recruit. It’s really, a small group of consultants. We sound sometimes larger than we are, but they’re really, five us. Four of us are consultants. We all have our assorted pass in corporate recruiting. We’ve all been corporate recruiting leaders. We do every thing from help companies with their strategy, their process, their technology to training. We train hiring managers, and we train recruiters and recruiting leaders.

We are probably, best known for our interview training. We get to work with some great organizations, helping them retool their energy, training, getting their hiring managers up to speed. Our sourcing training. I work with tons of recruiters, helping them face the talent market and getting them confident about being able to go out and find candidates when they need them.

John Sumser:                       What is typical day look like for you?

Carmen Hudson:               It just depends. One of the reasons I’m enjoying myself tremendously, is that many days I get to design that and then, there are some days when I don’t. I do a lot of travel probably, 50 or 60 percent travel. I’m on the road. This fall will be no different. It’s either traveling to client sites both domestically and internationally, now. As well as various conferences when I can make it. I will put in a full day or two, sometimes three of straight training which means that I’m focused on one client, on one thing, every thing else goes out the window. I’m back on a plane. I’m digging deep into developing content. You know me, on the side I like to develop technology and websites.

I’m working on something now. Some days I spend a bit of time on that thing. Of course, I’m a big fan and learner, so I spend a good portion of almost everyday on social media.

John Sumser:                       It’s interesting. You’ve done it all. You’ve been sorcerer. You’ve been a recruiting leader. Now, you’re a recruiting trainer and intellectual mover inside of the recruiting thing. You have also done a series of entrepreneurial things. Could you talk about those a little bit?

Carmen Hudson:               Sure thing. When I left Yahoo I launched a company called Tweet A Job, so it was the very first Twitter job distribution engine. I just thought of it one night and decided it should be built in the way of all crazed entrepreneurs with a kernel of an idea made that happen. That was just the first time I’d ever even thought of doing something like that and very much enjoyed myself in building that product, and went though the full cycle of being so excited about the idea and then, trying to figure out if my customers could get enough value from it. Some said it at Tweet A Job, but that did eliminate my interest in building out products. I continued to do that

I’m working on a product now that’s just a hub for recruiters, helping them understand the tools that are out there. Developers and product managers out there have a site called Product Hunt which everyday highlights the new and very use products that are used in technology or that are useful to folks. I am developing a site called Recruiter Hunt, so same idea. A site where we can crowd source. What are some of the best tools out there, website apps, what have you, that work well for recruiters. I am working with a developer and trying to get that site out. That’s something that’s exciting to me.

I also have worked with other startups on their products. I’m working with a really exciting one called Great Hires in San Francisco, these days. I’m excited to point of bursting in terms, of telling people about this product. We should see some major announcements coming from it soon. It’s in the realm of mobile candidate experience.

John Sumser:                       Interesting, interesting. This is a pretty, full spectrum thing. You’re one of the few strong female leaders in the recruiting industry. Do you think that-

Carmen Hudson:               I don’t know if I agree with that all.

John Sumser:                       You’re not a strong leader?

Carmen Hudson:               Probably not, but there are way … there are many of them. There are many of them out there.

John Sumser:                       Do you think it’s representative? You go and you look at room full of recruiters and you see an even balance and not a predominately white male universe?

Carmen Hudson:               You do when you go out. When you go into corporate America and you go into smaller rooms, who’s actually, getting the work done and leading the teams and setting the strategy? I see as many women as men, if not more.

John Sumser:                       That’s interesting. I don’t encounter that, but I don’t spend as much time inside big companies as you do. You probably, have a better [inaudible 00:10:17]. Who are some of the great women leaders in the industry? If I missed it that badly, who are some of the examples of great leadership that you’re referring to? Tell me about it.

Carmen Hudson:               I will tell you, if we look inside some of the top companies here, there are tons of women. We get to work with great clients. Head of PA at the GAP, for example. Someone I use to work with at Microsoft is a woman. One of the lead account acquisition people at Target, for example. We had her at Talent 42, she’s a woman. A good friend of mine, leads one of the most important staffing firms for recruiters based in Atlanta, she’s a woman. I couldn’t name them all. Many are my friends, good friends and love them to death and know that they’re doing tons of work. Very rarely do they appear on stage. Probably, just not the people who are going to do a lot of self-promotion in that way. They’re getting a lot of stuff done.

John Sumser:                       It’s very hard. This is an interesting piece of conversation, it’s very hard to be an industry leader if you’re working in the trenches. There’s no way to communicate outside of the trenches, that I’ve seen, that works very well. You end up with things. I sat in on … We’re going to talk about this a little bit, the conference call to form a national recruiters association, that’s being led by a universe of the usual suspects. When you listen to that call there was a couple of female voices, but it was a predominately white males on that call. I wonder if that’s the public face of the industry. Now, maybe you’ve got some idea of what you do with the public face of the industry and whether it needs to be fixed so that it’s more representative.

Carmen Hudson:               You’re absolutely, right. That’s the public face of the industry. I could speculate on why that is, but I think that something can be done. You have to be … You have to consciously be aware that … Perhaps this is not viewing it the right way. You have to do some work to correct that. California too is a good example. We are right now in the moments where we are looking at the program. We curate our speakers very carefully. We work very hard to identify people, voices that just haven’t been heard before. We’re also, looking for people with great ‘in the trenches’ experience who have great stage presence, not an easy thing to do.

We always challenge ourselves. Who’s on stage? What does it look like? Do we have enough female voices? You’re right, we go and the voice is … We just naturally [skew 00:13:28] to towards those people who intentionally take this up. I don’t know why that maybe white males.

Sometimes you have to cajole people into speaking. People who are not necessarily always out there. We had one of the heads of the global units at Amazon. We have Danielle [Monahan 00:13:52] on our stage. She’s not someone who goes out and does a lot of public speaking. Once she does she, you definitely want to be there and listening to what she has to say. We have had the head of talent at Google, head of engineering talent at Google. She’s a woman, had her on our stage. The folks are out there. You have to seek them out. Sometimes you have to convince them that they should speak publicly, but they’re there especially, in our profession.

John Sumser:                       It’s interesting. I’m going to see if we can organize a little bit of research. I don’t think the numbers [bare 00:14:27] you out. I’m sure there are some great trans-level women leaders in the business. The reason you can’t find them for speaking is there aren’t any. Great for Amazon and great for Google. The majority of the world is in the high tech company in Seattle or in San Francisco.

Carmen Hudson:               I don’t know.

John Sumser:                       These companies … Those companies are in a bind right now, so putting women in roles of leadership in companies that have massive diversity problems is a necessary move, and, so to suggest that state is what it is in places where there are big bandages on a problem, I don’t know. You sure have a different view of the picture than I do. Tell me about Talent 42. Tell me a little bit more. It’s a very magical thing. People who go are enthralled. People who go, who are fans of your show are rabid fans of your show. I haven’t been. I’m interested. What makes it different?

Carmen Hudson:               Awesome. We’ve got to change that. We’ve got to get you up here for Talent 42 next June. John and I, we were kicking around ideas one day. We thought about, “There should be a tech recruiting conference.” We get so many calls from tech firms and non-tech firms who are facing this challenge, “Where do I get my engineering talent? We’re not hitting our goals. We don’t have any new ideas. Can you help us with that?” We thought about if we had something like this, what would it look like? We started building the conference of our dream personally. Who would we like to see on stage? What kinds of topics? How would the conference feel? We happen to share the idea with out friends at Dice. They said, “It sounds a little risky. We’ll help you out financially for the first year. If it works great, and if it doesn’t we’ll learn something important. Go off if you guys want to put the time and effort into planning it.”

Off and running we went, having very little experience planning large scale events. Smaller scale events we had some experience in our local staffing association. Pulling together 250 people is no small job in the marketing and the planning that goes into it is just an incredible amount of work. It’s also, a labor of love. It was really, an opportunity to think about this in a different way to call on people that we have the excuse to call on. One of the premises was that in addition to having tech recruiting leaders on stage, we wanted to actually, have engineering leaders. We wanted to hear from them, what was their opinion of what we do? What suggestions might they have? How would they challenge us? From there that’s how the conference was born. We called on every single contact and resource that we had from prior jobs and people came through. We sold out the first year, much to our surprise. It was surprising in it of itself.

The other piece of it that was surprising, was that people came from all over to this conference. We said, “Great.” This is annual affair. We’ve done it. Next June will be our fifth year doing it. I can’t believe. We get an incredible array of tech recruiters. About half of the audience are leaders, half are just practitioners. We design our content around that. We make sure there’s leadership content. We make sure there’s practitioner content. We make sure there is a sourcing lab where people get hands-on coaching from sorcerers in the business. We make sure we are putting some of the most thoughtful and evocative sourcing leaders or recruiting leaders on the stage. We get engineers from top companies to come and talk to use about what’s happening in their organizations. It’s two days and we make it fun.

John Sumser:                       That’s great, that’s great. I’ll look forward to getting there one of these days. I didn’t realize Dice played a role in the founding of the conference. That was Terry Starr, right?

Carmen Hudson:               Absolutely, that is absolutely who was involved.

John Sumser:                       You know she’s gone. She’s out of the industry now.

Carmen Hudson:               I hadn’t heard that. I actually, owe her a call. I just want to catch up with her. In fact, I hope to get to New York at some point and love to sit down with Terry. No, Terry was very instrumental in helping us move this through the powers that be at Dice, and championing the idea. Their support at the lead has been unwavering and it’s been a blessing for us. Those first couple of years we could not have done it without them. It’s also … It’s one of those things where I love seeing the vendors actually, support the industry and the people who are doing the job. Kudos to them and all of our sponsors for … Our sell as we’re talking to our sponsors, is that come out and support the industry and help us create this community. We’ve been really, fortunate to have great, great sponsors who get that idea.

John Sumser:                       That’s interesting. I don’t think we’re going to see another Terry Starr for awhile. She really, came through the industry and did fertilize a lot of interesting innovation in the industry. If there was a Hall of Fame she might be willing to be the first people to go in the Hall of Fame.

Carmen Hudson:               To go in there. She understands marketing from a different angle. We hadn’t been marketed to in that way.

John Sumser:                       It’s very interesting. Part of what happens as the result of Terry’s extraordinary work is this idea that the recruiting universe could do with some professionalization, starts to emerge. There’s a murmuring the universe of the beginnings of national recruiting association. What do you think about that?

Carmen Hudson:               I’m going to say something, and all due respect to the folks in D.C. I am a 100 percent in favor as long as we do not create another [inaudible 00:21:54].

John Sumser:                       What would you have it be?

Carmen Hudson:               I would have it be … I would look at some standard settings and some educational component. We really, tap out in terms, of professional growth and development. I know that sounds a little bit self-serving and maybe, it is. I also know from my experience as a recruiter, boy what I didn’t know. I hailed a fairly important job in some companies, some important companies. Absolutely, any learning I did was self-guided. There were fewer organizations out there where I can get some help, but not a lot … no road map to growing professionally. No road map to how do I develop myself into a leader in this field? No road map even to think about how I grow my career and take it … You don’t see … You might see HR people advance to [sea 00:23:01] level roles. You don’t see recruiting people advance to sea level roles. That’s one element I’d like to see.

The other might be some form advocacy, really, forming thoughts around what happens in the labor and employment market from the perspective of recruiters. Issues of fairness, issues of immigration. Pete Radloff did some excellent writing a couple of weeks ago on immigration. We have a point of view. We have direct knowledge of what’s happening, and what’s effective. We don’t have a voice. Those kinds of things.

John Sumser:                       Those are all great ideas. Do you think an organization can actually, move those ideas forward? Are there people who have those kinds of organizational savvy necessary to actually, make something that can do that? Tell me how what you described is different from [Scherm 00:24:06].

Carmen Hudson:               Scherm is an organization that I don’t know if the have a greater goal in mind. If they do, and possibly they do, it’s not communicated well, and it doesn’t speak to me as a recruiter at all. I don’t know if that is the place where I’d go to get any current information on how to advance my career or what’s happening in the industry. It’s not that place. It certainly, does not speak as a voice for me in Washington in anyway that is transparent or representative of my views or they certainly, haven’t asked me about what my views even are. I don’t see them as a foundation that is helpful or representative, and that is what I would like to see that’s different.

John Sumser:                       Are you aware of a professional association that actually, does that? My sense is that they’re all like Scherm.

Carmen Hudson:               I don’t know if that’s the case. I don’t know if that’s the case. I’d have to think about that. I haven’t thought about that.

John Sumser:                       I haven’t heard it [inaudible 00:25:27]. The closes is IEEE which has a consistent practitioner focus, editorial approach and delivers certification value. It’s a very rare thing. Engineering, the curriculum in the body of work inside engineering is very focused, and it’s easy to understand what is and isn’t true in engineering. It’s less easy to understand than some social work like recruiting, what is and isn’t professional.

Carmen Hudson:               I’d have to think that through. If an organization, a membership organization is the way to make this happen, or maybe, it’s thinking about the structure of that organization or who leads that organization, that would be the difference. I do know any platform where we might have a voice, and we might become stronger and we might help each other learn is worth a shot if we have nothing.

John Sumser:                       That’s a long way from it being like Scherm.

Carmen Hudson:               I take that back. Now that we have-

John Sumser:                       Anything’s worth a shot.

Carmen Hudson:               We have some very strong local organizations in some areas that are their support recruiters. Their focus has usually, been as the individual contributor, level of recruiter and not one of [inaudible 00:27:08] the leadership around profession itself.

John Sumser:                       It’s going to be interesting to see how this thing evolves. I am certain there will be a new national recruiting association. My guess is I will see you in the thick of that. In spite of your protestations, you are significantly important in the business as a strong woman leader. You will have to be in the center of anything that happens for it to succeed.

Carmen Hudson:               I try to be there. It’s for the fun factor John.

John Sumser:                       No, you bring the fun with you.

Carmen Hudson:               I’m just trying to figure out who’s who and what’s what.

John Sumser:                       You bring the fun with you. We’ve got a couple of minutes yet. What do you want to make sure that the people who listen to this remember about you?

Carmen Hudson:               That’s a good question. Oh, my gosh. For me I really, enjoy this profession. I love what I do. I’m always trying to think of new ways of approaching it. If they know and remember I am out there and accessible and always happy to pitch in when I can, that sums me up. I’m there. Despite the fact that I’m consultant I won’t charge you by the minute. I try to pay attention to what’s going on. I always want to know what’s new and expand my network. That actually, should sum me up fairly well.

John Sumser:                       [Agreed 00:29:03], you’re doing amazing things. You’re doing amazing work. Why don’t we close out. If you’ll reintroduce yourself and tell people how to get ahold of you, we’ll call it a wrap, so go.

Carmen Hudson:               Thank you. I’ve really, enjoyed as always John just chatting with you. Carmen Hudson. I am Carmen at Recruiting Toolbox and People Shark on Twitter, you can find me there. You can find me on LinkedIn. You can just always just reach out to me, happy to meet new people, happy to connect with new folks.

John Sumser:                       Fantastic, thank you so much for taking the time to do this, this morning Carmen. It’s been wonderful to get a chance to catch up with you.

Carmen Hudson:               My pleasure as well John.

John Sumser:                       Thanks so much. This is John Sumser. You’ve been listening to HR Examiner Radio. We’ve been talking with Carmen Hudson who is the Principal Analyst at Recruiting Toolbox and a legendary force of nature in the recruiting industry.

I hope you all had a good time listening today. We will be back again next week. Have a great, long holiday weekend. Signing off today. Thanks for being here.

End transcript

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