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Monster Returns to its Cave

On August 9, 2016, in HRExaminer, by John Sumser

2016-08-10 hrexaminer img with monster and randstag logo in article titled monster returns to its cave sq 225px.jpg

The pathetic sales price of $429 Million is evidence of the Monster management team’s complete incompetence. It doesn’t mean that job board valuations are tanking, just that those guys knew how to wreck a hotel room.

One of the most under-recognized people in the history of online recruiting is Tony Santiago, the founder of the Tax Search Family of Brands. Tony, who has been a client over the years, is one of the few people able to successfully deploy the full range of recruiting services under one architecture. TaxSearchInc is part job board, part educational center, part industry benchmarking resource, part events calendar, part temp to hire, part executive search, part OD consulting, part career advisor (at all levels), and, part everything else involving candidates or recruiters. It’s the whole shebang and it’s focused exclusively on the tax industry.

And it makes money.

Tony’s paying customers (employers) need college graduates, tax season extras, seasoned pros, career changers, executive VPs, CEOs, contract workers, temps, and, strategic hires. The professionals in the tax profession need a gateway to employment. Tony and his team deliver full service to both ends of the spectrum. If you’re in tax, this is part professional association, part career marketplace, part recruiter and part placement service.

Did I mention that it makes money?

Tony’s secret is focus. I saw him a couple of months ago in Charleston, SC. (He’s moved there so he can kayak and use his scuba gear in the ocean.) As I always do, I asked him why he didn’t franchise his incredible recipe for owning the center of Human Capital in a market niche. “I’d lose my focus. Then I’d start delivering crummy service. Growth isn’t worth the distraction in my case,” he said.

Tony’s shop is service first, technology second, another illustration of focus. “We solve the problems that we have, not the ones that we might have,” he’s fond of saying. And that’s a big difference.

The move of recruiting from phone banks to online services was abrupt. Monster led the charge towards global dominance. It seemed clear (at the time) that there should be one or two of everything.

HotJobs was Monster’s primary competitor in those early days. Both companies were tarnished from the beginning with the idea that they weren’t supposed to compete with their ancestors. The strange relationship between job boards and the staffing industry colored much of the industry’s early history. Many strategy sessions concluded with the decision not to enter the staffing markets. At HotJobs,  it was deciding not to cannibalize  the parent company business. At Monster, it was a decision not to compete with customers.

A good deal of energy was spent reassuring the staffing markets that the job boards were not there to disrupt, they were there to serve.

The reluctance to compete with the ecosystem coupled with the bizarre notion that a global employment marketplace serving everyone was a good idea prevented those early job boards from innovating. It was their own mindsets that prevented them from becoming LinkedIn. For a very long time now, people have been saying that job boards are dead.

It was never true and still isn’t. But, the fact that they insisted on wearing straight jackets prevented them from realizing their potential.

Indeed became the centerpiece of a Japanese staffing firm. They were the first. Now Monster is becoming a component of Randstad, a European staffing operation. The pathetic sales price of $429 Million is evidence of the Monster management team’s complete incompetence. It doesn’t mean that job board valuations are tanking, just that those guys knew how to wreck a hotel room.

JobBoards are best understood as the gateway component of every recruiting ecosystem. Staffing firms and employers alike need a steady supply of candidates and they need relationships with those candidates. It’s true whether recruiting is your business or a critical function in your organization. The interface between the external market of candidates and the internal market of hiring managers simply won’t go away.

Everyone who recruits has to be good at what industry veteran Hank Stringer calls ‘bi-directional selling’. That’s a Texan way of saying that Recruiting involves a hefty dose of paradox. The way that a candidate sees the world is completely (Completely) unrelated to the way a hiring manager sees the world. Recruiting is where those two contradictory world views come together.

The other day, Steve Boese (who is fast becoming the voice of HRTech) said, “You might not like ‘Time to Fill’ as a recruiting metric, but it matters to candidates.” I was astonished. I’ve long viewed ‘Time to Fill’ as a time waster and have congratulated myself for being so smart. Steve did what great pundits do. He made the completely obvious obvious. I’d stared at the question for years and never seen the other side of the coin. Boom. There it was.

That’s how far apart the worlds of the hiring manager and candidate are.

We are entering an era of full spectrum recruiting. Any company of scale has to be great at a lot of things to do recruiting. Any company that hopes to serve those companies requires even greater effectiveness. All recruiting operations require job board functionality, sometimes inside the operation and sometimes outside of it.

Monster returns to its roots. But, those companies evolved in the interim. They look like TaxSearchInc now. It will be interesting to see if the big guys can do at scale what Tony Santiago accomplishes with focus.

There is an important quiet revolution happening in the Recruiting world. The market facing functions like job boards, employment branding, candidate acquisiton, pipelining, CRM, drip marketing campaigns, and, all the rest of the marketing influence are shaping the public conversation. The internal processes, characterized by ATS workflows and team construction, are the next frontier.

(The deal has, as they say, gotten some hair on it. Read the update.)

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