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    Online Buyers Bribed for Positive Reviews

    January 30th, 2012

    I’m sure it happens more than we hear of…online merchants bribing, enticing, or otherwise cajoling buyers for positive reviews.

    A piece by David Streitfeld which appeared in last week’s New York Times, (click here), exposes the practice of offering a refund for a positive online review. “Hundreds of reviewers proclaimed the case a marvel, a delight, exactly what they needed to achieve bliss. And definitely worth five stars.”

    Customers who purchased protective tablet cases from Amazon merchant VIP Deals received along with their purchase a letter extending an invitation “to write a product review for the Amazon community.”

    “In return for writing the review, we will refund your order so you will have received the product for free,” it said.

    Through the use of this product review campaign, “VIP pushed its product far above the competition, none of which had so much enthusiasm with so little dissent.”

    “Asked why Amazon did not seem to notice that at least a few consumers called into question the VIP deal on its own site, a spokeswoman declined to comment.” Hmmn!

    Long Island Tweet Up

    January 26th, 2012

    I attended my first Tweet Up last night. Held at a local mall, it was very well attended, and the crowd was welcoming.

    It was an eclectic group, interested in “all things social”. I expected it to be an extremely youthful group…and was pleasantly surprised to see a mix of all ages. People were anxious to become acquainted, and introduce me around. And not because they needed jobs…truly in the spirit of sharing.

    Since the event took place at 6pm, a nice aside was that the mall restaurants donated food, so there were lots of good things to eat! Soups, sandwiches, snacks and beverages.

    Before the evening ended, I had received several new invites/follows on my social media accounts. I will certainly attend future events with this group!

    Your Resume vs. Oblivion

    January 25th, 2012

    In a piece by Lauren Weber (no relation) in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, “more companies rely on technology to winnow out less-qualified candidates.”

    “Recruiters and hiring managers are overwhelmed by the volume of resumes pouring in, thanks to the weak job market and new tools that let applicants apply for a job with as little as one mouse click. The professional networking website LinkedIn recently introduced an ‘apply now’ button on it s job postings that sends the data in a job seeker’s profile directly to a potential employer.”

    To “cut through the clutter” many large and midsize companies have turned to applicant tracking systems to search resumes for the right skills and experience.

    My frustration as a recruiter?

    We have worked with some of these large companies, such as Citibank and Cablevision, who utilize tremendous tracking databases to store the resumes of everyone that has ever applied. Despite their tracking systems, they have engaged us to recruit talent for positions that are a challenge to fill. These systems are not foolproof; they don’t account for a candidate who may have added new skills and not included them on the resume, or who have not highlighted their responsibilities in a way that allows the system to identify them as viable. We take the time to become acquainted with a candidate before we present them, asking pertinent questions and delving deep into their experience and skills. But when we present a candidate that is “already in the system” we are cut out of the loop.

    My feeling on this? Then don’t interview the candidate after we present them! If you already “knew” this candidate, and had not pursued them for the position, they must be treated as “new” in light of the introduction we make that highlights why they are relevant and appropriate for the role.

    Perhaps for positions that do not require a specialized skill set this type of software is a convenience, but if you seek sophisticated direct and ecommerce marketers, there is no substitute for a trained eye and a live conversation.

    To read the piece in its entirety, click here.

    SOPA – Stop Online Piracy Act

    January 18th, 2012

    If you don’t know what it is – and I’m ashamed to say I didn’t – it is an anti-piracy bill making its way through Congress. It aims to crack down on copyright infringement by restricting access to sites that host or facilitate the trading of pirated content.

    Wikipedia is the biggest name among the approximately 10,000 websites that pledged to go dark today in a broad Internet protest of the SOPA and PIPA (Protect IP Act) online anti-piracy bills.

    This explanation of the issue is taken directly from Wikipedia:

    “The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), also known as House Bill 3261 or H.R. 3261, is a bill that was introduced in the United States House of Representatives on October 26, 2011, by House Judiciary Committee Chair Representative Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) and a bipartisan group of 12 initial co-sponsors. The bill, if made law, would expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement and copyright holders to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods.Presented to the House Judiciary Committee, it builds on the similar PRO-IP Act of 2008 and the corresponding Senate bill, the PROTECT IP Act.

    The originally proposed bill would allow the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as copyright holders, to seek court orders against websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement. Depending on who makes the request, the court order could include barring online advertising networks and payment facilitators from doing business with the allegedly infringing website, barring search engines from linking to such sites, and requiring Internet service providers to block access to such sites. The bill would make unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content a crime, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison for ten such infringements within six months. The bill also gives immunity to Internet services that voluntarily take action against websites dedicated to infringement, while making liable for damages any copyright holder who knowingly misrepresents that a website is dedicated to infringement.

    Proponents of the bill say it protects the intellectual property market and corresponding industry, jobs and revenue, and is necessary to bolster enforcement of copyright laws, especially against foreign websites. They cite examples such as Google’s $500 million settlement with the Department of Justice for its role in a scheme to target U.S. consumers with ads to illegally import prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies.

    Opponents say that it violates the First Amendment, is Internet censorship, will cripple the Internet, and will threaten whistle-blowing and other free speech actions.Opponents have initiated a number of protest actions, including petition drives, boycotts of companies that support the legislation, and planned service blackouts by English Wikipedia and major Internet companies scheduled to coincide with the next Congressional hearing on the matter.

    The House Judiciary Committee held hearings on November 16 and December 15, 2011. The Committee was scheduled to continue debate in January 2012,but on January 17 Chairman Smith said that “[d]ue to the Republican and Democratic retreats taking place over the next two weeks, markup of the Stop Online Piracy Act is expected to resume in February.””

    At issue is the concept that SOPA provides the ability of intellectual property owners (such as movie studios and record labels) to have substantial control – some feel too much power – in order to protect their interests. For example, if Paramount Pictures says that a website is infringing on their copyrighted work, the studio could demand that Google remove that site from its search results, that PayPal no longer accept payments to or from that site, that ad services pull all ads and finances from it. On top of that, SOPA could allow that the site’s ISP prevent people from even going there.

    Content creators have battled against piracy for years, but it’s hard for U.S. companies to take action against foreign sites.

    I will follow this issue with interest.

    Groupon – friend or foe?

    January 12th, 2012

    I just read a piece by Chicago business writer David Wolinsky entitled: Groupon Sinks Another Business.

    This characterization is completely unfair to Groupon

    What is happening is that some small businesses, already on the brink of insolvency, are signing on with Groupon in the hopes of enhancing business. And Groupon delivers on its promise; which is to drive business to these establishments. The way they do that is to deeply discount the establishment’s product or service, making it more attractive to the consumer. The expectation is that by giving away a deeply discounted sample of that product/service, the establishment will gain a customer that will return to pay full price over time. Instead, Groupon often drives bargain hunters who are only interested in a 1-time “deal” to floundering establishments.

    A number of businesses have not only not experienced the desired “turn around”, they have come undone as a result of participation with Groupon. The article referenced the “infamous cupcake incident“.

    At the end of the day, we are all responsible for our own actions. Anyone who opens a business must do so with eyes wide open. We are risk takers by opening our doors. Sometimes the risks yield rewards; many times, sadly, they do not.

    The article does close with these words, “Folks should slow their roll and not assume a Groupon is mandatory, or a save-all salve for an ailing business. Run the numbers. Calculate the risks. Don’t rush into it.”

    Why Recruiting Looks Easy

    January 10th, 2012

    From…I cannot locate the name of the writer, so forgive the lack of attribution:

    “There is an absolutely wonderful children’s book called 20 Heartbeats about a painter who paints a horse for a very wealthy man. I hate to ruin it for you, but I have to say what happens.

    The rich man pays this famous painter to paint his favorite horse. But years go by and the painter won’t finish the painting. The rich man finally shows up at the painter’s house and demands the painting. The painter obligingly whips out a piece of parchment, dashes off a horse in black ink with his brush, and then hands the painting to the rich man. All this takes less than the time of 20 heartbeats.

    The rich man is, of course, aghast. He storms after the painter to demand his money back. However, as he walks after the painter, he sees what has been taking so long.

    All along the walls are hundreds and hundreds of painted horses. The painter wasn’t procrastinating, he was practicing. The rich man then finally takes a look at the painting that he purchased so long ago, now in his hands. It’s a perfect horse, a horse so real that he whistles to it.

    As every art form takes discipline and practice to look easy, every kind of work takes years of diligence to perfect. Recruiting is no different, but few professions look so simple. It’s really hard to pass along a piece of paper, right? You can almost hear hiring managers thinking to themselves, “Yeah, I’ll bet your fingers are really tired from dragging all those resumes from a folder into an email. Real hard work.” Few jobs seem so easy to duplicate.

    The end product of recruiting, for one thing, is someone’s else’s work – it is someone else’s talent, ability to interview, and everything else they have that gets them hired that is the end product of the recruiter’s process. It’s hard to pinpoint the recruiter’s exact role in this pseudo-science. Did they identify the talent? Spot them? Find them? Assess them? Understand the job? The culture? Have the right database? The right connections? The right insight into the department or hiring manager psychology? Did they make a lot of calls or know some secret strings to search for in Google? It’s hard to say what it is exactly that the recruiter does and so it’s easy to discount the recruiter’s role entirely.

    However, we might be looking at it wrong. A recruiter’s value can’t be found within the process of a single hire. It can’t be found in that space that sometimes spans twenty heartbeats between talking to a manager about a job to the identification of a possible talent.

    You have to look at everything that comes before that identification to see the value of a good recruiter. A great recruiter creates the conditions for that magic luck to strike. They don’t talk to a lot of different people. They talk to everyone. They don’t want to know their clients or their company’s competitors. They want to know everything that’s happening at every company in their area. It’s a massive amount of work that requires constant rejection, failure, stress, and is compounded by the minutiae of job offers and the uncertainty of human emotion.

    That’s why very few succeed at recruiting. It’s not like there is anything special about that one placement. There is nothing about identifying a candidate and getting them a job offer that requires any particular kind of magic, or even a college degree for that matter. Unlike a beautiful painting, anyone or any recruiter can luck out and make a placement or two. But the background required for long-term recruiting success is much different. It involves the deep study of companies, products, markets, assessment, and professions coupled with a kind of brute force stamina to doggedly pursue the talents of other people. This is the process that forges the recruiter’s talent. This talent, when functioning at its best, is impossible to find.”

    Cash Mobs

    January 9th, 2012

    Don’t know what a “Cash Mob” is? I didn’t either.

    Similar to a “Flash Mob” (a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, and artistic expression), a “Cash Mob” is a new social networking and shopping movement aimed at enhancing sales at selected small businesses.

    They are “buy local” campaigns in which social media is used to drive throngs of customers into local businesses, where members are encouraged to spend $20 or $30 in the establishment targeted. Some reports link the cash mob phenomenon to the Occupy Movement.

    Follow up to Odd Interview Questions

    January 6th, 2012

    This is in follow up to my earlier post about odd interview questions.

    Many of you read a piece in the Wall Street Journal called How to Ace a Google Interview: click here. It alluded to the famous “blender question”:

    You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and thrown into a blender. Your mass is reduced so that your density is the same as usual. The blades start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?

    I am posting this letter, which appeared in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, verbatim. It articulates my feelings on the matter of odd interview questions perfectly!

    “I don’t take issue with asking job candidates how they would handle situations that might arise in a new position or with posing questions intended to gauge a candidate’s seriousness. We need more of such scrutiny so that key decision-makers are competent and properly engaged.

    What we don’t need are questions involving hypothetical jumping out of blender jars and animal characterizations masquerading as scientific assessment (“How to Ace a Google Interview,” Review, Dec. 24). These have nothing to do with the performance of any job and seem to reflect only a runaway ego on the part of the interviewer. They bespeak an “I’m smarter than everyone else” mentality, which purports to find a connection between this drivel and job performance, which is, of course, only apparent to those with comparable intellects.

    It’s also revealing that the essay approvingly depicts the “blender” interviewer, even though the interviewer arrived late and sweaty, without any consideration of the applicant’s time and with a lack of attention to customary personal hygiene. So many of our problems result from this sort of self-absorption and lack of respect.

    You serve your readers well by noting trends of this nature, but please don’t treat every bizarre fad as being incredibly insightful. Many times, the emperor really doesn’t have any clothing.

    Martin B. Robins

    Barrington Hills, Ill.

    Top 25 Oddball Interview Questions of 2011

    January 3rd, 2012 is a website where anyone can find and anonymously share an inside look at jobs and companies. Their information comes from current and former employees, interview candidates, and even the companies themselves.

    Each year they publish the “25 Oddest Interview Questions”. It’s always fun; this year is no exception:

    1. “How many people are using Facebook in San Francisco at 2:30pm on a Friday?” – Asked at Google.

    2. “Just entertain me for five minutes, I’m not going to talk.” – Asked at Acosta.

    3. “If Germans were the tallest people in the world, how would you prove it?” – Asked at Hewlett-Packard.

    4. “What do you think of garden gnomes?” – Asked at Trader Joe’s.

    5. “Is your college GPA reflective of your potential?” – Asked at the Advisory Board.

    6. “Would Mahatma Gandhi have made a good software engineer?” – Asked at Deloitte.

    7. “If you could be #1 employee but have all your coworkers dislike you or you could be #15 employee and have all your coworkers like you, which would you choose?” – Asked at ADP.

    8. “How would you cure world hunger?” – Asked at

    9. “Room, desk and car – which do you clean first?” – Asked at Pinkberry.

    10. “Does life fascinate you?” – Asked at Ernst & Young.

    11. “Given 20 ‘destructible’ light bulbs (which breaks at certain height), and a building with 100 floors, how do you determine the height that the light bulb breaks?” – Asked at QUALCOMM.

    12. “Please spell ‘diverticulitis’.” – Asked at EMSI Engineering.

    13. “Name 5 uses of a stapler without staple pins.” – Asked at EvaluServe.

    14. “How much money did residents of Dallas/Ft. Worth spend on gasoline in 2008?” – Asked at American Airlines.

    15. “How would you get an elephant into a refrigerator?” – Asked at Horizon Group Properties.

    16. “You have a bouquet of flowers. All but two are roses, all but two are daisies, and all but two are tulips. How many flowers do you have?” – Asked at Epic Systems.

    17. “How many planes are currently flying over Kansas?” – Asked at Best Buy. More

    18. “How many different ways can you get water from a lake at the foot of a mountain, up to the top of the mountain?” – Asked at Disney Parks & Resorts.

    19. “What is 37 times 37?” – Asked at Jane Street Capital.

    20. “If you could be a superhero, what power would you possess?” – Asked at Rain and Hail Insurance.

    21. “If you were a Microsoft Office program, which one would you be?” – Asked at Summit Racing Equipment.

    22. “Pepsi or Coke?” – Asked at United Health Group.

    23. “Are you exhaling warm air?” – Asked at Walker Marketing.

    24. “You’re in a row boat, which is in a large tank filled with water. You have an anchor on board, which you throw overboard (the chain is long enough so the anchor rests completely on the bottom of the tank). Does the water level in the tank rise or fall?” – Asked at Tesla Motors.

    25. “How do you feel about those jokers at Congress?” – Asked at Consolidated Electrical.

    Curious about the answers? Click here.