Grab a Beer, It’s HR Happy Hour!

by Ryan Healy on April 4, 2012

I’ll be joining Steve Boese on his awesome HR Happy Hour show Thursday night, April 5 at 8 pm EST.  We’ll be talking about recruiting your next boss, the war for talent, Gen Y, and all things HR Happy Hour.  That means Ill have a beer in my hand while I’m on the air, and you should too! Steve is always a blast to talk with and we have a lot of fun, so I’m looking forward to it.  Grab a six pack and tune in on Thursday at 8 pm EST.

Go ahead and mark it on your calendar!

If you want more, you can check out all of Steve’s HR Happy Hour interviews here.


There’s a new war for talent. Even while some victims of the recession are still out of a job, workers with in-demand skills like programming and web design can work wherever they want and command a huge salary.

Companies are literally fighting a war every day to keep these types of talent in their organization – and to steal more skilled workers from the competition. If you think this is blowing things out of proportion, consider this: a recruiting firm sent 150 baskets of cookies to employees at social-game-creator Zynga to let them know they want to chat about opportunities at other companies. They didn’t send those baskets to their homes; they sent them to the Zynga office. Talk about Brazen!

As the economy continues to recover, as baby boomers continue to retire, and as the gap between the skills companies need and the skills most people have continues to grow, this war for talent will only intensify. The companies who see this coming and are prepared to do what it takes to hire and retain the right people will survive and even thrive in this new war for talent. The companies who play the wait-and-see game will be in big trouble.

This new war for talent will lead to major changes in the workplace. Here are five predictions for how it will change things forever.

1. Companies will begin teaching practical skills to employees, job candidates and anyone else who wants to learn

As companies recognize the need to train talent, develop skills and retain employees, talent management and training and development are becoming even more critical for most successful organizations. Companies will become increasingly focused on developing their internal talent through professional education and non-stop feedback.

However, as the skills gap continues to widen, this will actually go a step further, and employers will begin teaching and offering practical skills based education to anyone who wants to learn. Whether it’s a job applicant or someone who just wants to grow professionally, everyone is a potential employee, so it makes sense from an employer branding and a recruiting perspective that companies offer this type of training to any interested party. A great example of how this is playing out right now is Living Social’s Hungry Academy.

2. The higher education institutions most resistant to change will collapse, the most forward-thinking institutions will re-invent the system and the cost of education will drop radically

College – particularly the cost of college – is under fire. Occupy Wall Street showed the world just how much anger there is over rising costs and the subsequent student loans that prevent graduates from doing what they love.

Everywhere you look, you see new startups claiming to reinvent education, vying for a piece of this massive market. It’s inevitable that today’s notion of going to college for four years — and $150,000 — will change. The institutions that expect to stay relevant will have to do a much better job of preparing students for the workplace and investing serious time and resources into improving their career centers. The question is, how fast will things change, and what exactly will this future look like?

These are enormous questions, and yet one thing is for sure: the institutions that survive will adapt to the new reality, and the ones that don’t will die.

3. The new “talent” will be life-long learners

The war for talent used to mean finding the most educated and most experienced people to work for you. But the new war for talent is a war for skills, a war for bright people who are constantly curious.

As technology continues to evolve and new skills become relevant overnight, it will be impossible for anyone to have all of the skills that a company needs at any given time. So the people you should be most interested in hiring are the people who want to learn and want to grow.

These are the people who will be motivated to learn the new skills a company needs on their own, the people who will actually take advantage of training and development opportunities. New tools will pop up to help identify these people, and the best recruiters will be obsessed with hiring these life-long learners.

4. Resumes will finally become irrelevant

As employers continue to recognize that the best hires do not necessarily have a college degree or relevant experience but are constantly curious generalists willing to learn what matters today, resumes will continue to become a poor judge of candidate.

We’ve been moving in this direction for years, but now more than ever, it’s nearly impossible to pick up a piece of paper or even a Linkedin profile and make a decision on whether a job candidate is worth interviewing.

The best way to know if someone is curious, driven and relevant is to ask them tough questions and find out what they read, what they’ve learned at their last position and how they seek self improvement in their spare time.

5. Job boards will adapt or die as the resume is replaced by the instant need for personal communication between recruiter and candidate

As resumes become increasingly irrelevant, the next industry to die or reinvent will be the job board. We’re already watching companies like Monster lay off hundreds of employees and put themselves up for sale. It’s pretty obvious that spraying and praying by clicking “apply” and hoping to hear back from employers is a broken process that leads to nothing but frustration by candidates and recruiters alike.

The new online job search is all about instant personal communication between recruiter and candidate. A combination of smart matching technology and “old-school” recruiting practices where a candidate is allowed to actually talk with a recruiter at the beginning of the process is the near future of this industry. My company, Brazen Careerist, is already testing this theory with our online recruiting events and seeing huge demand.

A very real war for talent is about to slap us all in the face – and it’s time to be prepared. The companies that are ready can use this transition to their advantage and come out on top as the next Apple or Google or Facebook. The ones that don’t? They’ll likely find themselves out of business.

Also, don’t forget! I’m offering a webinar for recruiters and HR specialists on April 10 titled, “Are You Winning The War For Gen Y Talent?”


Why Talent Matters Now More Than Ever

by Ryan Healy on March 14, 2012

A quick look at the jobs data will tell you that while there is still high unemployment, companies of all sizes are hiring.  This is great news, the recession is finally coming to an end, but the catch is that most companies are hiring for hard to find skills like Software Developers, Data Scientists, Social Media Strategists, Digital Marketers, and User Experience Designers.  Each of these skills is very specific and not possessed by most of the population, which explains why there are so many unemployed people out there with so many open positions available.

The fact of the matter is that there will never be enough talented people who have the exact skills that companies need, because technology is changing at lightning fast speed and skills that were relevant five years ago, or even two years ago are often outdated today.  Every time a new platform comes along (think Facebook, IPhone, Adwords), old important skills become obsolete and new skills that often never even existed before become critical, and as we all know technology is not slowing down.  If this rapid pace of innovation continues we will soon see industries being disrupted and new types of jobs created every other week.  The ramifications of this on the workplace are enormous and every talent management professional, executive and entrepreneur needs to be aware of how this affects their company.

First off, the need for recruiting, nurturing and retaining the best of the best talent is more important than ever.  It is the single most important function in a company.  Most of us understand this already, but more and more even the executive suite in major corporations are beginning to realize that they can no longer ignore the “soft stuff” like HR, Talent Management, and Succession Planning etc.

This “soft stuff” is all about people and people are what ultimately determine if organizations win or lose. Whether you’re a massive company who needs to continue operating at maximum capacity, or you’re a 3 person startup who needs to innovate and iterate at rapid speed to beat your competition, the people you hire and don’t hire, the people you promote and the people you let go, will ultimately determine your fate.

Second, the definition of “talent” has fundamentally changed.  Talent used to be someone who had years of experience in a particular field or a particular skillset.  But when the skills you need to win change every other month, you need a new type of talent.  You need someone who knows what skills will win, and who is motivated and savvy enough to learn those skills on their own.

This new type of talent may be from a tier 2 or tier 3 school, and they may not have any experience in your industry, or in some cases, any experience at all.  As someone who is growing a team you need to create your own definition of talent, identify the traits that they need, and hire folks who fit the bill.

For example, at Brazen we’re always looking for people who are hungry, flexible, honest and most importantly, curious.  I know that someone who has all of these traits will succeed.  If the first experiment doesn’t work, they’ll try the next experiment.   And while they’re in the middle of that experiment, they’ll be writing down ideas for experiments three, four and five.  One way or another, someway, somehow, they will figure it out.  I also know that someone who is constantly curious and motivated will never be able to rest until they have learned the next critical skill.

When technology changes so fast, and things go in and out of focus, the only way to stay ahead and stay relevant is to stay educated, and to never stop learning.  To me, that’s what a startup is all about, and those are the types of traits we look for when we’re hiring.

As technology continues to outpace education, and new skills become critical overnight, the true “talent” will be the people who stay hungry, stay curious and never stop learning.  The most successful organizations will be the ones who identify, hire and retain these special people. “Talent” may not look like it used to, but it is without a doubt more important than ever before.

To learn more and continue this conversation around talent, you can join me at a webinar on April 10, titled “Are You Winning The War For Gen Y Talent?” 


Why The Online Job Search Is Broken

by Ryan Healy on October 17, 2011

Companies are spending millions on employer branding, recruitment advertising and online sourcing – and they’re generally doing a good job. I’ve been amazed by some of the innovative techniques companies are using to reach and connect with candidates through social media.

A Jobvite Social Recruiting Survey reports 87 percent of employers are using Linkedin to find high potential candidates, 55 percent of employers have a Facebook presence, and 47 percent are using Twitter to build their employer brand and have conversations with job seekers.

However, while using social media to recruit and spread your message has made major headlines in recent years, most companies have failed to pay attention to everything that happens after a candidate clicks the ‘apply now’ button – the candidate experience.

According to a study by Potentialpark, 94 percent of job seekers report using the Internet to find career-related information (no surprise), but 74 percent are frustrated by the impersonal and non-transparent online application process – if you’re in the industry, again this is probably no surprise.

Far too often, as soon as candidates are entered into an applicant tracking system their hands are tied.  They are told to sit back and wait to hear next steps, and their candidate experience has all but ended.  If this is a great candidate with a great resume, and the right qualifications, they might hear back two to three weeks later.  At that point it’s a crapshoot as to whether the candidate found a better job or wrote your company off all together.

On the other side, candidates who are not a fit will most likely never hear from your company again.  If they do, it will be a generic “thanks, but no thanks” message, months after the fact. Candidates are left with a bad taste in their mouths – and no innovative Twitter campaign, funny YouTube video or engaging Facebook page will ever change that.

This means you lost your opportunity to add all of these candidates – the good fits and the bad fits – to your talent pipeline.  When it’s time to fill more positions, you’ll repeat the same old process and spend hundreds of thousands on sourcing and messaging because you won’t have a talent pipeline ready to hear from you.

In their comprehensive Candidate Experience ReportGerry Crispin, Mark Mehler and their team of contributors make the case that delays at any stage of the recruitment process are almost guaranteed to negatively impact candidate reactions – and this is especially true of better quality candidates.

Crispin and his team are now organizing The Candidate Experience Awards, and I for one, am ecstatic to see people finally giving this part of the process the recognition it deserves.  It’s time to start thinking about the steps after the apply now button as an integral part of a recruiting and employer branding strategy, not an afterthought.

In his HR Examiner post on eliminating the black hole, Colin Kingsbury eloquently makes the point that there is a massive imbalance of time, money, resources and energy put into outward facing recruitment marketing compared to the candidate experience process itself.

He says, “All it takes is one or two clicks for a jobseeker to transport herself from that world of fantasy and into the bowels of the company’s ATS, where impersonal job descriptions and bureaucratic application processes dishearten even the most enthusiastic applicant.”

While the ‘apply now’ button was once the answer, it has now turned into the problem.  It’s the beginning of a long and painful process, but companies continue to devote their time and resources to everything that takes place before a candidate hits apply now rather than looking at the bigger picture and treating it as a complete process.

At Brazen, we’re thinking long and hard about how we can help.  Brazen Connect, our soon to be released applicant engagement system, is a great start.  Dozens of other organizations are already addressing the problem in unique ways, and many more will come.  In the coming years, there will be plenty of technology options for companies to broaden their focus and improve their candidate experience, but it all starts with recognizing that the ‘apply now’ button is not the end goal, it’s just the beginning.

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A startup is a big, scary, risky thing.  There are tons of questions, and very few answers.  The only way to stay sane is to know what questions are most important, test the hell out of those questions, and find an answer (or at least a hint of an answer) in the data.

That’s the basic premise of a lean startup.  As Steve Blank says, a startup is not a small company, it’s a temporary organization designed to find a scalable business model.  When you look at your startup through this lens, you realize that you cannot possibly run it the way that a Fortune 500 Company is running things.  You need a new model.  The lean startup model has given entrepreneurs the basic framework to do this.  But it’s just a framework.  Every company needs to function in a way that fits them.

At Brazen, we put our own lean model in to practice.  The idea was to create a culture of Learning and Discovery that goes beyond product development, beyond customer development, and actually touches every piece of the company.  It’s still a work in progress, but it’s already had a tremendous impact on how everyone at Brazen views their work, reports their progress, and knows when it’s time to push forward or pull back.  Not to mention the fact that it’s helped us find a great new business model.

I gave a speech about this very topic at The DC Lean Start Up meetup in late April.  My speech starts at the 26:06 mark.

Video streaming by Ustream

Here’s a very quick summary if you don’t want to watch the whole thing.

  1. We turned our staff meetings into learning and discovery sessions.  Everyone wrote down answers to three questions:
    1. What did you learn last week?
    2. What are you testing this week?
    3. What do you need to test, that you are not able to get to this week?
  2. I keep a master list of open questions.  No matter how big or small a question is, I write it down.  Then I go back and organize this list as much as possible.  Often it’s only once every couple of weeks, but the act of writing things down helps.
  3. I also keep a master list of answers.  Whenever a test proves or disproves a question on my list, it is moved to the answers document
  4. Full transparency – this model worked amazingly well for us when we were searching for a model.  We now believe we have found a model.  We continue to test, but our meetings are more and more focused on achievement, objectives and milestones.  We still talk about learning’s and adapt and pivot all the time, but when it’s time to scale (as it almost is for us) you need to move on.


What Does Brazen’s Future Hold?

by Ryan Healy on May 25, 2011

This post was originally published on the new Brazen Life blog.  You can read the full posting here.

Today is the beginning of what we refer to in the office as Brazen 3.0: A new logo, a new blog, a focus on Network Roulette and Virtual Recruiting Events, and a new purpose and vision for the future of Brazen.  We have a new team and we’re ready to rock and roll to make Brazen even more valuable to you and take it to the place we all knew it could be when we first launched.

We’ve learned a lot over the past year. Above all we’ve learned that in order to provide you, our members, and our millions of future members with a truly valuable resource, we must be three things: 1) highly educational, 2) incredibly useful, and 3) totally live. Let me explain.

Brazen will teach you how to achieve your career goals, fast

Today’s higher education system is broken.  Students spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get an education that leaves them with a nice looking piece of paper and not much else.  This is especially true when it comes to parlaying that education into a career.

College majors don’t teach things like: how to effectively market online, how to create a real social media strategy for your company, how to generate sales leads and reach new potential customers, and how to manage a team of engineers to create a truly transformative product.

Brazen will fill in these holes. We will offer webinars, e-books, bootcamps, Facebook apps, and premium content from our hand-selected network of experts, all with an eye toward educating you on how to succeed in today’s workplace.  We’re starting with the Brazen Life blog, expert interviews and webinars, and our soon-to-be-released Facebook app.

Read the rest of this post at the Brazen Life.


Notes On Living An Inspired Destiny

by Ryan Healy on March 22, 2011

I took a family trip up to Kripalu, a yoga center in the Berkshires, this past weekend.  Rebecca accurately described the trip as The Griswolds meet Eat Pray Love.  Now that I think of it, this may be a pretty accurate description of my entire childhood.

Anyway, the trip was meant to be some quality family time, some yoga, and a whole lot of personal development.  We ended up in about 9 hours of workshops about “Living an Inspired Destiny,” with a guy named Dr. John Demartini.  When you first meet this guy, you’ll probably think he’s nuts.  Which he is.  But he is also ridiculously intelligent.  Over the 2 days I took in what resonated with me, and I ignored what didn’t.

The basic premise is that for every positive there is a negative, for every good there is a bad, the universe is constantly balancing itself out, and if you can truly accept that, and live according to your highest values, you’re living an Inspired Destiny.

Here’s what resonated with me:

On Values

For each of the 12 questions below, write down the top three things that come to mind:

  1. How do you fill your space?
  2. How do you spend your time?
  3. How do you spend your energy?
  4. How do you spend your money?
  5. Where are you most organized?
  6. Where are you most disciplined?
  7. What do you think about that manifesting now?
  8. What do you visualizing that is manifesting now?
  9. What do you talk to yourself about that is manifesting now?
  10. What do you speak about with others?
  11. What inspires you?
  12. What are you goals?

When you’re done, go through each of your answers and label them A, B, C, D etc. If you have 12 A’s, 12 B’s and 12 C’s, you’re living a perfectly congruent life and are living up to your highest values.  The more letters you have, the less congruent your life is.  The trick is to be completely honest with your answers, it’s not what you want them to be, it’s what they actually are.  If kids are your top value, then you need to be a stay at home parent, if success is your top value then you should be a workaholic.  You get the point.

On Wealth Building

The 6 things that raise wealth building according to the 20+ Billionaires he has spoken with extensively:

  1. Building a business that serves an ever greater number of people
  2. Refining and remodeling services into more efficient procedures to increase profit
  3. Saving an ever progressive portion of profits
  4. Investing in ever progressive risk and leverage
  5. Accumulating and amassing a vast fortune
  6. Initiating a financial cause and legacy

Sounds like the key traits for entrepreneurs to build a successful company if you ask me.  Must be why I liked this part so much.

On Hiring

I asked a question about hiring people who share your values.  Here are his tips:

  1. Write a job description
  2. Ask the applicants to answer the 12 questions above on values
  3. Match each portion of the job description to the applicant’s top values.  If you have more matches than not, move on to #4.
  4. Match the top values of the candidate to company’s top values and vision
  5. If it’s a match, you have the right hire.  If not, find someone else.

I liked this part a lot as we are in the process of hiring a number of critical positions at Brazen.  This helped to remind me that 1) we should never, ever settle, and 2) as a company, we need to be crystal clear on our values, vision and company mission.  If we’re not clear, we can’t possibly make a successful hire.

On Fear

He claims there are 7 fears that hold people back

  1. The fear of not living according to some set of morals and ethics
  2. The fear of not being smart enough
  3. The fear of failure
  4. The fear of loss of money
  5. The fear of losing loved ones or the respect of loved ones
  6. The fear of rejection
  7. The fear of not being healthy, having a good body, being good looking etc.

If you understand that you should not be afraid of a lack of any of these, and you should also not be infatuated with a gain of any, then you are living an inspired destiny. (I think this is what he said anyway)

On Stress

Stress is an inability to adapt to a changing environment.

What I’m taking away

As with all of the personal development teachings that I study, I take everything in, figure out what makes sense to me, what I can apply to my current life, and I apply it.  The other stuff I ignore, at least for now.  All in all it was a great weekend, I learned some interesting stuff, tried Yoga for the first time and was able to spend time with the fam.  Check out some of Demartini’s stuff for yourself to see if you think he’s a quack, or if he’s actually on to something.


Why Ideas Matter And So Does Execution

by Ryan Healy on February 7, 2011

For the past year or so,  the tech world has been obsessed with the idea of the lean start up.  Essentially the lean start up is a set of principles, developed first by Steve Blank and now others like Eric Reis, that gives start ups a road map to hypothesize, test, and iterate on their products until they find the right “product market fit.”  The concept is fascinating, and I have to admit I’ve read Steve Blanks “Four steps to the Epiphany” three times, and I’m slowly but surely implementing the methodology into everything I do with Brazen.

A major part of the Lean Start Up methodology is the idea that start ups must be prepared to “pivot,” at any time.  If the product does not seem to be catching on, then try something completely new.  Don’t debate what to do next, just ship it, test it and analyze the results.   The new conventional wisdom says that no one is smart enough to figure out what people want, you just have to give them enough choices and they will tell you what they want by their actions.

The pivot has gone from novel to sexy to cliché in a matter of months, but the truth is, the pivot and the economics behind the lean start up methodology are at the heart of a very real entrepreneurial revolution that we are in the midst of. We are living in unprecedented times for entrepreneurs and I consider myself lucky to be a part of it.

However, I also see many dangers in this new way of building businesses.  The new rallying cry is that ideas do not matter, execution is everything.  I wholeheartedly disagree with this, and am happy to see some people standing up for the value of ideas. A poor idea with great execution won’t work, and pivoting to a new bad idea, no matter how great your execution is, still won’t work.

Idea’s are critical, as entrepreneurs we are creating the future and we need to be thinking about products that can help people, solve problems, create value and most importantly have repeatable, scalable business models at their core.

The cost of development and time it takes to launch a new product have decreased tremendously in the past few years, but this does not mean that the time and hard work it takes to come up with a new hypothesis for your new business model have decreased.  In fact, I would argue that because it is so easy to roll out and test new products, the ideas behind those products have become even more important.  Every start up team with solid engineers is on the same level from a technical standpoint, so the new “secret sauce” is in the well thought out, innovative, disruptive, game changing ideas that happen to have a business model embedded in them (see Groupon, Living Social, Kickstarter, etc.).

Another problem with de-emphasizing the importance of the idea behind your product is that it becomes very easy to give up on your idea if it doesn’t immediately take off.  Most great products are not immediately adopted by the population at large, only after the right tweaks, changes and ideas do they catch on.  Minimizing the value of the idea you are pursuing gives you permission to skip the hard work when something doesn’t work out perfectly.  An idea that you know, deep down in your gut, solves a very real problem, will eventually become a successful business if you are persistent and continue to pursue it in new and innovative ways.

I love where consumer facing technology is right now and I love where entrepreneurship is going, I’m convinced that we are in unprecedented times, I just hope that every up and coming entrepreneur doesn’t forget that building a business is about an idea, and a team, and support, and fundraising, and development, and A/B testing, and marketing, and sales and business development and a whole lot of hard work.

Sifting through a million variables to find a business model is the hardest thing you will ever do – I can speak from experience as I’m smack in the middle of it.  There is no short cut, there is no get rich quick scheme, the Lean Start up Methodology and the ability to Pivot do not give you an excuse to quit when things get hard.  They simply provide a framework for how to create a successful business from scratch.  Just remember, before there is creating a business, there is an idea.  And that idea, or some variation of it, will become your business.


Shipping Out in 2011

by Ryan Healy on January 23, 2011

Seth Godin had a great post asking readers a simple question, “what did you ship in 2010?” This uniquely personal post about his accomplishments in 2010 was an interesting look into how Godin approaches his life and his career.

If you asked me if I was a “planner” or a “do-er,” like many things, I would tell you that I lie somewhere in the middle.  I’m a huge proponent of getting things out there and taking action rather than planning, plotting and thinking.  But I know there is also tremendous value in not shipping something until it’s been sufficiently thought out, talked out and written down.  So this whole concept of what you “shipped” is really interesting to me.

I know plenty of people who have shipped tons of projects, and I know others who have talked a lot, but actually shipped nothing.  By taking a step back to write down everything you shipped over the past year, it will become clear as day that you are a planner, a doer or somewhere in between.

The do-ers will have a list of many failures and a couple successes, planners will have a hard time coming up with a list at all, and people who live in that gray area will have a Godin-like list of many successes and very few failures.

Outside of moving in with Rebecca (best decision I ever made), moving to Washington DC (top 5 decision), and what we shipped at Brazen, I’m having a hard time coming up with a solid list.

It looks like 2010 had too much planning and not enough doing.  2011 will be in the middle, and this blog is where I’ll start.