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Meet Geoff Webb, Hewitt Associates Sourcer & Toronto Community Activist

Posted on July 9, 2009
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Q&A with Geoff Webb (Grand Master Sourcer)


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* First published RecruitingBlogs.com
Geoff Webb has over 10 years of experience with Recruitment and Resource Management with some of the top consulting companies in Canada and the United States — “Geoff is Canada’s Most Connected Recruiter”.

In addition to his sourcing expertise, Geoff specialties include: Recruitment, Resource Management, Training and Coaching, Career Transition, Health Services and Privacy.

Q&A with Geoff Webb

Six Degrees: Tell us of your home world.

Geoff: I live in Toronto with Michelle (we’ve been together now for over a decade), we have two daughters Inanna is six years old and Dara is two years old, we currently take care of three cats, a cockatoo (named Cookie) and a dog, wow, we really have too many pets.

Not only am I a Master Sourcer, but I’ve been involved in Canadian politics for over 20 years, in that time I have worked for two Prime Ministers, one Premiere and a number of Members of Parliament. As well, I was once held by the Secret Service at the White House (it wasn’t my fault I swear). I was there on a school trip, a friend threatened to burn down the building, I got taken in for standing beside him (such an idiot). I am currently very involved with the Parks and Communities movement in Toronto, where we try to focus communities around urban park spaces. If you want to see a great model for an urban park check out www.dufferinpark.ca – we rock. When we’re not volunteering I like to spend time with my two little girls, we hang out a lot with friends in the parks, but also like to go rock climbing, we are all avid rock climbers (so if you know of any good rock, I’ll climb it). Currently my eldest daughter and myself are trying to figure out if it’s possible to build a zipline in our backyard

Six Degrees: How many years have you been in the staffing industry?

Geoff: started out in recruiting at Parachute Community employment centre in 1989, so I have been in the staffing industry for wow, for 20 years now.

Six Degrees: How did you get started as a recruiter?


Geoff: Funny story actually. I didn’t want to be a recruiter. At first I went to theatre school and aspired to a career as a Stage Manager. I’ve always had an artistic side of me, however, after about three years of Theatre School I decided that I really couldn’t stand actors and that might get in the way of a career.

So I went to work for my friend Tim McVegh who ran a community employment centre (Parachute, named after “What Color is your Parachute”). My job there was to assist underemployed youth in the Regent Park area of Toronto to get on-the-job skills training through a Government of Ontario program called Futures.

That got me hooked so I worked my way through school and got my certification in Human Resource Management. When I did the course I thought that I wanted to be in Training and Development, but during my coop I ended up working for Canadian Tire as a Staffing Assistant.

Now this is where it got really interesting, growing up my father was a professor of cognitive science at UofT and so we had a lot of computers around the house. I got the job at Canadian Tire because they were implementing a new ATS called Restrack Hire (which eventually became Taleo) and I understood both the HR world and the technology world, and Canadian Tire was the first company in Canada to implement the system.

My role was to work as a Jr. BA on the implementation. Through that process I became very interested in Recruiting and started to assist on some of the Campus recruitment initiatives. And that’s how I got started in Recruiting. Since then I have mainly focused on Technology hiring because I have a love of Talent Acquisition and Technology.

After Canadian Tire I worked briefly for a year with a Technology agency called Ian Martin IT, until the VP and a good buddy Craig told me that he didn’t “want to hold me back from something better” (no Craig Silverman it wasn’t you but I love that line).

I then spent the next few years working for Computer Task Group on the IBM account as an RPO recruiter, this gave me the opportunity to manage recruiters as well as move my young family to Vancouver for a year…since then Vancouver has been our second home. It also gave me the opportunity to meet some really great American recruiters and learn the phrase “that dog won’t hunt”.

After deciding to return to Toronto I worked for Xwave, Cognicase and then CGI (where I briefly delved into the world of Resource Management). After leaving CGI in 2002 I started to really become interested in the Candidate Generation or Sourcing side of the business. So I started my own company and with the help of my friends at Head2Head worked for companies such as T4G, Microsoft and Tucows (thanks guys).

I then did a pure sourcing gig at Intuit for two years where I had the great pleasure of working with some of the best sourcers in North America under Traci Wicks (who btw rocks). I also got to attend the first Sourcecon and really started to delve into my community of peers. I am currently working with Hewitt Associates on the Central Sourcing team, again, I am very lucky to work with such a dedicated and smart bunch of folks under the inspired leadership of Chris Gould and Cynthia Wehrenberg.

Six Degrees: What single event had the most impact on your sourcing/recruiting career?


Geoff: I can remember the day when the sourcing world really opened up for me, during my stint at Microsoft Canada I sourced and recruited for the Enterprise Services team. Let me say that it was a challenging assignment, as you had to find people that not only excelled technically but also were prepared to go on the road 80% of the time. We were using all the usual channels at the time, however, one day I was having lunch with a couple of the folks who were Technical Evangelists, and they were talking about the Microsoft Developer contests that were going on. It sounded both interesting and a lot of fun, so I inquired further about, well, what the heck they were. At the end of the conversation I was dumbfounded to find out that we already knew most of the best talent out there through the contests, but no one had thought to connect the contests to Talent Acquisition, and that’s when it struck me, everything can be about recruiting. You just need the proper recruiting ecosystem in your company. That’s when sourcing became really interesting for me, the more creative the approach the more exciting I get about it…and over the years I’ve done some crazy things, set up hotdog stands across the road from competitors, rode the elevators looking for contacts, crashed conferences to meet with developers. But I’d have to say that was a defining moment for me.

Do you have a mentor to whom you attribute your overall outlook on recruitment, capabilities, and/or model your career after?

Geoff: you know I can’t say that I have any one mentor, however I have to give props to some folks for really opening my eyes to the sourcing world and community based recruiting.

A big prop has to go out to my friend and mentor Traci Wicks at Intuit, Traci really taught me two valuable lessons 1.) that online communities are great but always need to be supported by direct human connection and 2.) your sourcing strategy no matter how complex should always answer the question “how am I going to move this person from a prospect to a hire”. I will forever carry those lessons with me.

As well, Leslie O’Connor gave me the opportunity to connect with so many people that share a common passion for sourcing through the Sourcecon venue. I owe many of my relationships with my fellow sourcers to Leslie.

Speaking of community builders I would be remiss in not giving a shout out to my fellow Torontonian Jason Davis, Recruitingblogs has been a great place not only to connect to the recruiting world but also to see how vibrant online communities can be created and maintained. Also huge shout out to all those sourcers and recruiters that I connect with regularly to share ideas…unfortunately to numerous to all name here.

Six Degrees: Tell us about your position at Hewitt:

Geoff: Currently I am a Sourcer on the Central Sourcing team at Hewitt Associates, I work on a team of seven sourcers under the direction of Cynthia Wehrenberg, besides my everyday sourcing duties of finding the best and brightest of the HRO world I also work on researching and evaluating new sourcing tools and technologies and then showcasing those technologies to the team. Further I am involved with the team building out the Hewitt social media strategy (with my good friend the brilliant Michael Marlatt), an opportunity that I am very excited about.

I am extremely proud to be working on a sourcing team that has come so far so fast, in six months we’ve really become a force to be reckoned with in the Sourcing world, I would put us up against any sourcing team out there today, yeah, I mean you – bring it.

Six Degrees: (A) What other companies’ recruiting operations do you admire or have heard are best-practice examples?

Geoff: Wow, so many, however, if I had to pick the top three I have always admired the work that Marvin Smith has been doing over at Microsoft, building Talent Communities that are true self sustaining and self propagating. I also really enjoy the work being done by Chris Hoyt and Amybeth Hale over at AT&T around the integration of their social recruiting elements, and last but not least I am a huge Josh Khan fan, he’s both a cool and very smart guy and understands that not every tool is made for every job.

(B) In what aspects are they superior?

Geoff: you know in all these cases including Hewitt, I am highlighting companies that are daring to be different, to push the boundaries of traditional Talent Acquisition, to really delve into social recruiting, daring to make mistakes and learn from them. I have a lot of respect for any company that puts themselves out there and is prepared to make some big OOPS. Another very important lesson that I learned at Intuit was if you aren’t making mistakes then you’re probably not innovating. In all my favorite companies I see a lot of innovation in our space.

Six Degrees: What recent general news story or industry trend do you feel will have an impact on your work in the future? Why?

Geoff: Hmmm, let ‘s see, Job Boards, yeah, they’re going to replace Third Party Recruiters…wait, wrong decade. No, seriously for me it’s got to be two things, 1.) the emergence of social media, and when I say that I don’t just mean Facebook, Linkined, Twitter, I am thinking beyond that with Diigo and Del.i.cious and other social bookmarking sites like Stumbleupon, I am talking about blogs, widgets, anything that can tell me more about you as a person other than your resume and can allow me to connect with you as a person more fully and 2.) (this is me Faith Popcorning a bit here), the fact that the future of Sourcing will be less about resumes and more about the content, I as a Sourcer I will be more interested in what you demonstrably know than what you have written on your resume.

Six Degrees: Tell us about your broader involvement within the staffing industry:

Geoff: Granted I haven’t been a huge conference attendee (probably that long trek across the border), however, I have religiously attended both Sourcecon conferences and have attended Recruitfest and RNG here in Toronto. I look forward to the day when Canada can say that we are in the Talent Acquisition conference game, I hope that day will come soon.

Six Degrees: Can you detail how the recession has affected your particular industry niche?

Geoff: I have been very lucky not to be a member of the unemployed up to this point during the recession. However, I know many of my fellow recruiters and sourcers that were downsized during the recession. To try to combat some of the effects of the recession in Toronto we started a monthly meetup of recruiters, hoping that the direct connections that we make will entice folks to help each other seek clients, new gigs, contracts, whatever they need.

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.

Geoff: Well, let’s see, the last time I was looking for work I started a Facebook group and called it “Help Geoff Webb Find a Job” and invited all my “friends” to the group, I would then keep them updated about my job search status, I also run a number of social networks for Canadian Recruiters and have invited my Linkedin friends to a Ning group called “Friends of Geoff Webb Worldwide”. I help to run the Sourcecon Ning site and I am a regular contributor to Recruitingblogs.com. I also have one of the largest Facebook networks of recruiters on Facebook – all these media allow me to stay in touch with my community and share information with them. As I stated above I am also the organizer of the Toronto Recruiter Meetup and I am often called upon by community groups in Toronto to set up their online social media. I would start my own radio show, but Animal has that covered.

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?

Geoff: Don’t ignore people, and be your authentic self. The best way to tick people off is ask them for something and then ignore them when they come calling to you. I try my best to answer every wall post, every Linkedin inquiry, every Tweet that I get, otherwise, I’m just another avatar out there. As well, do “pay it forward”, helping someone today can often become an opportunity of tomorrow.

Six Degrees: What is your next career goal? What do you need to do to get there?

Geoff: I’m torn there…on one hand I would like to be the Talent Community Manager, and work within social media to grow and enrich Talent Hubs or Communities by providing interesting and rich content but also introducing an element of the human touch, I don’t have it all figured out yet, but I’m learning. I could also see myself as the Product Manager for the next killer recruitment app out there, again, not there yet, but I’m learning.

Industry Recommendations for Geoff Webb

“Geoff and I worked together at Intuit, as Senior Recruiters, and then he moved into the Candidate Generation Team. He is passionate about building recruitment pipelines, creating sourcing strategies, training peers in technology tools that increase their ability to effectively use the newest and latest & greatest tools and, last but definitely not least creating new social networks. Geoff is an Excellent Sourcer, with many tools at his disposal and full of ideas, strategies and networks. He brings alot of tools and ideas to the Table and can help a Recruitment Team and the related Business Groups find a good solution to enable them to Hire the right people and talent!” October 17, 2007
Linda MacNeil, Senior Recruiter, Intuit Canada Inc.

“Geoff strives to always look at new innovations in sourcing from a technology perspective. If there is something new out there he is the expert. Geoff also is a GREAT trainer and is committed to training new sourcers so they become successful! When brainstorming with Geoff there are no obstacles always solutions. Thank you Geoff for being such a committed innovator in sourcing.” August 13, 2007 Top qualities: Personable, Expert, Creative
Traci (TWicks) Wicks

“Geoff managed a heavy recruitment load, and was successful in establishing a user group for Java programmers. He always knows about the latest technology and sourcing strategies, effectively determines technical competence among candidates,, and managed the hiring relationships with ease. He is a pleasure to work with and is willing to share ideas and best practices.” September 10, 2007
Janette Richards, Recruitment Consultant, Intuit, Inc.

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