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December 2005
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The New Division of Labor

On my desk: The New Division of Labor: How Computers are Creating the Next Job Market.   by Frank Levy and Richard J Murnane.

Thoughtfully sent over from the Princeton University Press, I'll read and review the book whose premise is that jobs lost in recession never come back, but are replaced by new jobs and new paradigms of working.

Considering my wife and I run a business out of our home based on easy access to computers that quite literally could not have existed ten years ago, this is a timely addition to the Durbin library. 

And once we catalogue the independent recruiters in St Louis who run their businesses in a similar manner with a phone and a computer  - well, you see the connection.

How do you pronounce it?

I'm not sure if I should call it Vone-age like Phone-age, or Vo-Nage, like, well, like a French Canadian might say it, but the wife and I are in love with our new Vonage phone services.

We bought the wireless router on line, and the two home phones and a base station at Best Buy on Saturday.  We plugged into the router and the phones, waited ten hours, picked up the phone and had a dial tone.

Easy as that.  $24.99 unlimited calling to the US and Canada.  No long distance.

Compare that to SBC's offer to have me pay $60 a month for extended local calling, with long distance and Canada costing more.   

We read about the company with our new subscription to the Wall Street Journal (Christmas present for the wife).  An essential part of starting any new business - and if you're a recruiter - well, unlimited phone calls has got to sound pretty good.

Now if only I got a referral fee for pitching the product, or better yet if they decided to advertise...

Coming Soon

I'm in my final week at Kforce, and will need to retool the blog to reflect that.  StlRecruiting will remain, but it will turn into a full-time advice and connection blog - rather than pitching jobs.

I won't disappear, as my new company, the Durbin Media Group, will be focused on building, supporting and connecting online communities to corporate clients.

Exciting times ahead.  Many of you will be getting e-mails and phone calls soon.

Math is Hard,II

Writing about math is often the surest road to irrelevancy, but I can't help my fascination with numbers.   As it turns out, the mysterious quants of mathematics are about to fascinate us all.

"...Companies are hitching mathematics to business in ways that would have seemed fanciful even a few years ago. In the past decade, a sizable chunk of humanity has moved its work, play, chat, and shopping online. We feed networks gobs of digital data that once would have languished on scraps of paper -- or vanished as forgotten conversations. These slices of our lives now sit in databases, many of them in the public domain. From a business point of view, they're just begging to be analyzed. But even with the most powerful computers and abundant, cheap storage, companies can't sort out their swelling oceans of data, much less build businesses on them, without enlisting skilled mathematicians and computer scientists."

The quant is simply a term for someone who does quantitative analysis.  For our purposes, it's a mathematician who analzyes human behaviors to uncover hidden trends in large groups.

Think of the television show Numb3rs, or if you've been unfortunate enough, the movie pi.  Or The big screen soon to be mega hit The DaVinci Code.  Numbers are the new magic for many of us - if only because words backed up with numbers just sound so authoritative.

Just don't get too enamored - especially when someone tries to use a Fibonacci sequence to get you to buy their latest software.

"Math's other problem? Sometimes it's just not as smart as advertised. As mathematicians expand their domain into the humanities, they're working with new data, much of it untested. "It's very possible for people to misplace faith in numbers," says Craig Silverstein, director of technology at Google. The antidote at Google and elsewhere is to put mathematicians on teams with specialists from other disciplines, including the social sciences."

The Why of Contract Staffing

An ongoing Review of Guns, HIred Guns and Warm Bodies

Gurus, Hired Guns and Warm Bodies provides a lot of information on the what of the staffing agency.  Barley and Kunda do a great job providing objective descriptions of the players in employment, but the "why" can't really be described in a study. 

They do however, provide information for us to analyze:

From p.113

"I get literally, two or three calls a day from these contracting shops.  'This is Joe at Pyramid Consulting and we're just calling to see if you have needs.'  Some of these guys call me once a week. It's the same person every week. No matter how many times I say no, no matter how many times I don't return calls, they jut call over and over and over.  It's brute force.  I get hundreds of these little companies calling me."  Most managers found cold calls from agents to be disruptive, unpleasant and time consuming.  Shirely Daner was clear on this point.  " I hate them," she told us.  "They're like use car salespeople, except they're selling people instead of cars."

The chapter then goes on to explain that this process, as distasteful as a hiring manager may say they find it, is often the way they hired.  It worked for the agencies, the contractors and the companies.  It worked, and thus is continues.  .

This the essential dilemma in staffing relationships.  Agencies are reacting to the employment needs of the hiring manager in the only manner that works.  If their internal departments, or some other kind of consulting salesmanship worked to place contractors and help these businesses, it would be used.

For the vast majority of hiring managers, taking calls is part of the job.  And when they are in a rush - when they actually need that talent quickly - they're grateful that there was someone there who calls every week at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday to ask if he or she has needs.

This brutal pace is also what leads to such high turnover.  Most people don't take rejection well - and account managers in staffing are no exception.  Managers often tell you that they want personal relationships and that they will call you when they have needs.  They do call, but only after you've established a relationship.  Without cold-calling, how are you going to form that relationship?

The summary of the chapter describes the problem hiring managers faced.  They (and the contractors) believed the best source of hiring was their personal network, but the quality of the network never matched the quantity of the need.  The staffing firms understood the sales and marketing aspects, but their quality was often suspect overall (not for a specific job order or candidate). 

Staffing agencies fill an information void on available contractors, which is why they exist, and why they get paid.  A pretty simple explanation, but one we forget when that phone rings.

Risk Taking in the New Year

Canadian Headhunter over at writes about risk and the role of the headhunter.

I don't know if I fit in the category, but on Monday, I resigned my position as an account manager at Kforce.

It's a good company, but when the infrastructure of a company is now a laptop, a phone and a map of the area hot-spots, there's no reason to stay inside if you think you have what it takes.

My non-compete prevents me from starting a recruiting company or accepting business inside St Louis, but I am available to work on independent permanent staffing outside a 75 mile radius.  That will not be a my main goal - though I plan to keep up a heavy emphasis on networking and can be relied on to turn up names with ease, my goal is to start pitching online media consulting to corporations.

Building communities is the advantage of the blogosphere over traditional marketing.  My five years in the blogosphere is currently a big plus - two years from now, the space will be flooded with newcomers, and my shot will be gone.

I can be reached at or, and if you would like to speak to me for any reason, send a note and I'll pass my cell phone over.


p.s.  StlRecruiting will continue and continue to grow.  I'll actually have some time for it now.

Cryptic Messages

Have you ever read those posts that talk about something momentous happening in the life of a blogger, and they pass a message on with little information, but grandiose promises of something cool, interesting, and worth coming back to check in a few days or weeks when they finalize it?

Worse than a television cliffhanger, the promised event never seems to occur, or it's something about announcing a new partnership or accepting a new position with a new company.

Well, I have one of those announcements, but I'm not going to stoop to pretend that those who come by this site are interested in the vagaries of my life.

There might be some cool moments coming up though - and I certainly have more free time to work on blogging - so depending on whether you consider that a good or bad thing - make sure I have you as a LinkedIn contact in the very near future.  In fact, go do it now. 

Inside the Minds of Recruiters

Just surfing through a thread on called I will not Apologize

Inside is an excellent description of the daily practices of recruiters concerning, bill rates, perm fees, interview styles, headhunting, sourcing, client interaction, and candidate contact and representation.

If you want to know what your recruiter is thinking when you call - here's your peek into their psyche.

Guns, Gurus and Warm Bodies

I'll be reviewing Guns, Gurus, and Warm Bodies this weekend between football games and blogwriting.

Stephen Barley and Gideon Kunda have launched a book and the publisher forwarded me a review copy.

My initial thoughts are the book is thick with wonky goodnes, and the stories I've flipped  through are compelling.

You can get an excerpt on negotiation, social networks, tax status and the philosophical difference of billable and non-billable by flipping open just about every page.  Coming soon...

Referral Fees

A tight labor market has once again made referral fees a hot topic.  In year past, rewards for employees for passing on the names of their friends and coworkers reached a normal high of $2,000 (there are some rare exceptions), which never quite made sense to me.  Three questions about corporate referral fees for their employees/

1) If a company was willing to pay a fee of $20,000 to a third party staffing firm, why wouldn't they pay more to their employees for finding the same person?  The money could even come out of the staffing budget (the source of the funds may be the problem, now that I think about it).

2) When the friend is placed, are they angry at their friend for taking $2,000 out of their potential salary the way that many candidates think recruiting companies affect salary?

3)  Are there potential discriminatory complaints that can be made from a company that hires people that are referred to them?  Would this be a potential legal issue that has to be vetted by employment counsel?

If anyone has these answers, I'd should like to know.  Maybe I'll ask George.