Meet Doug Kerken, RecruitingBlogs Activist – “The Tropical Feeling of Falling Three Floors Down A World Trade Center Elevator”
“My little man Homer””… dogs are my thing … I love big ones, little ones, hairy ones, crazy ones and even droolly ones too. My little man Homer is a rescue and I really wish I could rescue all the dogs that aren’t cared for properly. Homer wouldn’t dig that too much but he would sure have lots of friends and butts to sniff … He’s our kid, he’s my little rescue, and our million-dollar baby”
“… one of my colleagues and they had to find a bathroom, switch pants and clean the wet ones. I’m not kidding. This all happened in a 30 minute span. All I remember is pants under the hand dryer. That single event told me I have to source better, and ask better interview questions. “
• RecruitingBlogs Profile
• Personal Causes: http://www.aspca.org/
• Location: Point Pleasant Beach NJ
• Office: 732.903.6923
• Cell: 732.300.5159
• Personal Email
Doug Kerken has been in the “Internet Recruiting” space going for over a decade. He has been through mergers, acquisitions, and total liquidations. What Doug refers to, as “The stuff that makes your skin thick and your eyes a bit keener.” Doug began his career selling resume database access and job postings on a website called InfoWorksUSA in the late 90’s. He recruited and sourced for a CMM and Function Point Analysis firm in New Jersey. He has worked at JobCircle.com, HireHealth.com, and BioSpace.com learning, selling, consulting, and schmoozing alongside “some of the best and most animated salespeople and colleagues ever.”
Doug loves working with HR professionals, “we are humans too, and for the most part we are a pretty cool bunch.”
Doug’s Specialties include Job Marketing, Employment Branding, Employment Marketing Strategies, Career Fairs, Search Engine Optimization, Job Descriptions, Lead Generation, Forecasting, Cold-Calling, Negotiating, and Closing.
Six Degrees: Tell us of your home world.
DOUG: I’m lovingly attached to my girlfriend, my one and only, Amber Forbes. 2 years ago she moved all the way from beautiful, sunny, San Diego to Point Pleasant New Jersey to live with…me. We met at a Career Fair I was hosting while I was working the West Coast region for BioSpace.com. We don’t have any children but we do have a very needy mush of a Black Labrador retriever, Homer. He’s our kid, he’s my little rescue, and our million-dollar baby. He was rescued from a puppy mill and has had major reconstructive surgeries to correct lots of joint problems. He’s in great heath now and pretty much just wants to be on you, all the time.
I’m a HUGE car and music guy, HUGE! I have an old Land Cruiser and a retired Police Mustang which I have now turned into a pretty nasty (but legal) race car. I love the science of space, planets, stars, nebulas, galaxies, random space dust, wormholes, you name it. I’m utterly astonished that we’re really so insignificant in this place we call space and I really do wish I was some type of scientist or engineer or astronaut. Mostly so I could take a trip to the dark side of the moon and break out a telescope. How cool would that be?
I’m an animal lover, but dogs are my thing. Nothing against cats, but I’m allergic to them, so I stay away. Dogs on the other hand, love ‘em. I love big ones, little ones, hairy ones, crazy ones and even drooly ones too. My little man Homer is a rescue and I really wish I could rescue all the dogs that aren’t cared for properly. Homer wouldn’t dig that too much but he would sure have lots of friends and butts to sniff. I donate to the ASPCA regularly, and also random charities and walks, I also play in charity softball tourney’s that people ask me to donate to. Softball is a big part of my life as well. I play from April through November and It’s great, but I’m getting older and things are starting to hurt in places I never knew I had things.
Six Degrees: How many years have you been in the staffing industry?
DOUG: I’ve been in different parts of the staffing and recruiting the staffing industry since 1999. Worked for job boards, staffing agencies, hosted career fairs, SEO’s pay-per-click aggregators and I’ve even had a hand in publishing a magazine. Yep.
Six Degrees: How did you get started as a recruiter?
DOUG: I actually got started in the industry selling resume database access and job postings to recruiters at a company called TheWorksUSA.com. About a year after starting there, I then made my debut as a recruiter at an IT staffing firm called Software Management Solutions (SMS). It was a very specialized shop focused on Function Point Analysis and the Capability Maturity Model (CMM). I was in charge of locating any and all Function Point professionals as well as their support staff, which would have included system admins, developers and project managers. It only lasted about half a year, but it was worth it and I learned so much.
Six Degrees: What single event had the most impact on your sourcing/recruiting career?
DOUG: The single most shocking event that changed my recruiting career was actually twofold. One of my admin candidates was on his way to an interview in the World Trade Center in May of 2001. He was a jittery guy to begin with, then an elevator cable broke and the elevator seemed to fall 3 floors in an instant. His bladder couldn’t handle it, his pants got wet, and it was our responsibility to clean him up before his interview. He was basically the same size as one of my colleagues and they had to find a bathroom, switch pants and clean the wet ones. I’m not kidding. This all happened in a 30 minute span. All I remember is pants under the hand dryer. That single event told me I have to source better, and ask better interview questions. Second part is, the next day, while at local New Jersey Technical Recruiters Association meeting, I was approached by one of the founders of JobCircle.com about selling their products to recruiters and HR. Based on what had just happened, I thought, maybe sourcing and recruiting isn’t my game right now, I should try my hand at the job board game again. The economy wasn’t great, and so were job boards weren’t killing it. So, I got fired for not selling enough in the 4 months that I was there. Never had a chance, but it was the best thing that could have ever happened.
Do you have a mentor to whom you attribute your overall outlook on recruitment, capabilities, and/or model your career after?
DOUG: That’s a great question, I have a few. The first is Matt Zeto. We worked together at TheWorksUSA , SMS, and JobCircle. He taught me how to sell and more importantly, how to sell to HR. He’s also the guy who fired me which gave me a chance to meet the guy that I’d attribute overall outlook to, Chris Amato. We’ve worked together since late 2001 at HireHealth.com, BioSpace.com, GetTheJob.com and OptiJob. He’s a clear thinker that knows what the industry wants and he’s great at adapting to the environment. He’s taught me how to think quickly and roll with the punches. Working with Chris, we’ve seen the recruitment landscape change and technologies come and go. We’ve survived the highs and lows and we’re still out there making a difference.
Six Degrees: Tell us about your organization, OptiJob :
DOUG: Our organization, OptiJob isn’t a huge company but each one of us has specific roles in the OptiJob machine and we all get along very well with each other because we’ve been together so long. Currently, my title is Business Development Director. That means on any given day I can be the sales manager, reseller contact, partner manager, tech guy, resident auto mechanic, happy hour location manager, driver, breakfast order guy, and also business development director. I’m sure most people who read this interview can relate to that.
Six Degrees: (A) What other companies’ recruiting operations do you admire or have heard are best-practice examples?
DOUG: I admire large companies like Hyatt and Microsoft that are using their established brands to pump out great, engaging content to their millions of potential applicants every day. Organizations like ARINC, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, and Gulfstream Aerospace are doing great things as well. I also admire the companies in our space like Jobs2Web and Arbita who, like OptiJob, have great ideas and technologies that will undoubtedly help companies solidify their position in the changing web 2.0 environments.
(B) In what aspects are they superior?
DOUG: I think the bigger companies have a name that goes a long way and they’re using it to their advantage. The smaller companies don’t necessarily have the huge name recognition the big guys do so it’s their content and their message that drives their applicant traffic. We’re always working together on great ideas to attract candidates in places they never thought of. It’s not easy, trust me.
Six Degrees: What recent general news story or industry trend do you feel will have an impact on your work in the future? Why?
DOUG: Well, I think the whole Ashton Kutcher vs. CNN Twitter thing has really helped put the social media/social news scene in the spotlight. Now it’s pretty hard to avoid it, the Web 2.0 revolution. It’s all around us. Everything we do is centered around a Facebook page or a tweet, a Digg page or a YouTube video. Our favorite actors, politicians, sports stars, even random people who we didn’t know existed 2 years ago are now influencing us in ways we never thought imaginable. My work is constantly impacted by someone’s blog post, or website, or a tweet that can radically change the way we think or recruit. Companies are racing to get on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, even to the top of the Google listings. It’s making us think harder and faster than ever to come up with more innovative things to make it easier for companies get there.
Six Degrees: Tell us about your broader involvement within the staffing industry:
DOUG: I try to attend as many conferences, meetups, and industry events as possible. I’ve been and still go to events like Search Engine Strategies, SHRM, ERE, BIO, AAPS, DIA, you name the acronym, and I’ve been there. This year has been tough though. You see, I’ve just turned 30 and this seems to be the time where all of my friends want to get married, but they hesitated to check the schedule of some of these events. I’m slated to miss pretty much everything this year, but watch out, I’ll be back in 2010. I haven’t done much speaking at said events, although I’d love to. I think I have a unique ability to relate with lots of different types of people and I also have a great way of conveying my ideas and opinions. If you want, I’m ready to go. Sign me up to speak at your next event.
Six Degrees: Can you detail how the recession has affected your particular industry niche?
DOUG: The recession has definitely affected the staffing/recruiting industry as a whole, from job boards, to SEO’s, to advertising and staffing agencies, you name the industry niche, it’s taken it’s hit. The recruiters and sales people, who haven’t produced, have been the ones that have felt it the most. Every company has had to make some kind of cuts. In most cases I’m close to, people are given a new lease on life and a unique opportunity to re-brand and network themselves and really learn a lot about what they’re capable of. I have also found that this particular recession has enabled me to get back in contact and even do business with some of the greatest minds I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with.
Six Degrees: Aside from simply the generic term “Networking” what specific efforts have you made on your own behalf, or on behalf of colleagues to broaden your opportunities. Are there specific groups, both online and in-person that have proved fruitful in extending your personal brand and job seeking prospects?
DOUG: For the most part, I’ve been trying to practice what I preach. Becoming involved in all the social and professional networks where not only my peers are, but also places and networks where my clients also want to be seen and heard. I’ve attended local Meetup groups and other networking groups that I never thought I’d be going to. But, to get ahead and make the right friends, you have to go outside the box. A great example is RecruitingBlogs.com. I always had a profile, but I wasn’t active. I found myself reading everything I could and even commenting and chatting with my peers and colleagues. I’ve since joined all kinds of different communities and networks and it’s really given me the opportunity not only to learn, but also sell my ideas to a broader audience. I’m not much of a blogger yet. Mostly because I’m not sure if I want to blog about the last concert I saw, the awesome steak I had or the wild conversation about user-generated content I had with my client this morning. Maybe I’ll just start blogging about all three. But, if I do start, will anyone even read it?
Six Degrees: Given your own Trial and Error experiences as a Networker, what advice do you have for your peers on what NOT to do?
DOUG: Be passionate. It’s easy to connect with someone who’s passionate about what they’re selling or their abilities as a recruiter. It makes you want to learn from this person and absorb everything they’re saying. I know for sure that I’ve been boring and I’ve looked like I’m just going through the motions, and I’ve blown it. I’ve also tried to be too slick and also blown it, quicker. Also, don’t be someone you’re not. Be genuine, don’t over promise, and don’t make outrageous claims that just can’t be backed up. When I go to networking events there are people you want to network with and then there’s others who can come across as totally unbelievable. But, no matter what you’re doing, you want to get people to trust you and enjoy talking with you. If not, they’ll see right through you. Then word spreads and you’re doomed.
Six Degrees: What is your next career goal? What do you need to do to get there?
DOUG: My next career goal, that’s a great question. Well, besides honing my skills and helping grow OptiJob to take it to the next level; I guess my ultimate goal is join my peers as a thought leader in this industry. Our industry is chock full of outstanding talent and great thinkers that the road ahead won’t be easy. I know it will take a lot of hard work, a lot of blogging, great feedback, results, and most importantly, respect. It’s not easy getting people to trust you and what you think. Maybe this interview will help. But like I said, it’s going to take a ton of work on my end to stay relevant and come up with great content and opinions that others will not only trust, but pass along and maybe implement in their lives or at their organizations.
First Published at RecruitingBlogs