Marenated Ideas: A Dialogue with Maren Hogan from Red Branch Media

March 21, 2012 at 8:37 AM Jon Bischke

Maren Hogan

One of our favorite things at Entelo is talking to leading thinkers in the HR and recruiting space. Maren Hogan certainly qualifies. Maren is a marketer and community builder in the HR and Recruiting space. Maren runs a consultancy at Red Branch Media, handling marketing strategy and content developments for HR and Recruiting vendors. You can follow her on Twitter at @marenhogan.

Entelo: Maren, you've been involved in the recruiting space for a while now. It seems that the space is changing rather quickly with the rise of social and mobile. What are the most interesting trends you are seeing?

Maren: Well it hasn't changed all that much in my opinion. The channels are changing and the focus is changing but the methods of attraction (the heart of marketing and recruiting) are pretty much the same. Anywho, the sexiest trends from my vantage point are from two different angles. First, the candidate and the recruiter/HR pro are starting to empathize with one another, due to the upcycling (yeah I'm gonna go ahead and use that word) of user experience as something that software designers actually HAVE to consider. Basically, if it sucks, we as consumers/users have lots of other options, that are easy to learn, install and port our networks over to. I think I used up all my sentences on just the answer, so you'll have to wait for part 2 to get the other bit!

E: We will give you a pass but you need to be on your best behavior going forward! :) On a more serious note, we talk to a lot of companies that struggle with hiring, especially for technical positions. There doesn't seem to be a silver bullet but definitely are some "best practices". What are your words of wisdom for those companies and also, any wisdom that challenges current conventions around best practices?

M: Ah my words of wisdom = education. But not necessarily in the traditional sense. Schools used to train people for jobs. There are lots of hoops to jump through, technical schools, college, business college, apprenticeships, etc. Now there is one clear path to a job and it's NOT working, especially not with the kinds of technical skills we need. So either sponsor kids with promise via educational channels, build a training program that's world class OR hire for culture and teach skills within your organization. Best practices are fantastic but they don't mean a whole lot when the actual talent pool isn't big enough.

E: On the note of traditional education and evaluation changing, we pay a lot of attention to newer professional data sources here at Entelo and companies like Klout, Github, Stack Overflow and Quora are very interesting to us. Are there some sites long those lines that you feel particularly fascinating?

M: I find them all fascinating. My issue with those sources are that they require busy professionals to log in and participate. This makes it pretty easy for folks that are less busy, whether it's because they do project-based work, or because sales is their full-time game or because they are a chronic job seeker. I love the idea of measuring influence, competency, knowledge and skills online but that just tells half of the story. These tools can't replicate a lot of what many HR pros struggle with assessing: long-term goals, cultural fit, work ethic, etc... Even LinkedIn recommendations can't vouch for that sort of thing.

E: Indeed. So, switching gears a little bit one of the relatively unknown things about Entelo is that we're actually also building a time machine here. When that goes private beta and you are able to bounce forward five years to 2017, how does the world of recruiting and sourcing look different?

M: AAAGHHH! I'll be firmly entrenched in my late thirties and hopefully will have mastered the art of daily exercise. As for recruiting and sourcing, it is my hope that it will get simpler. Right now, there is so much misinformation around hiring that jobseekers are just plain flummoxed. Recruiters, on the other hand seem overwhelmed. Obviously, the rash of mergers and acquisitions don't bode well for simplicity but a girl can dream! I just wish that we'd stop trying to solve the problem of finding the needle in the haystack, with bigger friggin haystacks.

E: And if we gave you $5,000 now and asked you to invest in a company that was wildly successful five years from now, who would you bet on?

M: Afraid I can't answer that firmly (too many clients and conflicts of interest and I'm an old school journalist!) but I'll offer this. A company that makes matching more like dating sites, adding culture (or something that looks like it) to smartypants skills algorithms so matches for roles can edge out lengthy searches for jobs could be very successful.

E: You're looked at as a leader in the space and are influential to a lot of people. Who influences you? If you had to follow the writing of only three people, who would they be?

M: Well thanks! People who influence me include John Sumser, Sue Marks and more recently Marylene Delbourg-Delphis, all for different reasons. John makes complex subjects easy to understand and takes a long term view on most everything, I respond well to that. Sue Marks likely does not know she is an influence but the way she approaches her team, family and her life are very impressive for someone as successful as she is. Marylene is new to my pantheon of folks I genuinely admire and she's made quite an impression in a short time. Her passion and intelligence are things I hope to emulate. As far as daily reading: Tim Sackett, Trish McFarlane and Kevin Grossman. (Bonus! I really like the RecruiterPoet!)

E: What's your favorite thing to do when you kick back from all this hard work being a thought leader?

M: I have no one favorite thing. I used to sing in a salsa band. Last summer, I did the Iowa taco ride. This spring, I applied for MFA programs. A month ago, I applied for a reality show. I think the constants would be reading, cooking and shopping. I'm also an excellent driver and the world's best mom.

E: Oooooh, we so want to know which reality show! But we'll stick with the program and simply ask, what's next for Red Branch Media?

M: Red Branch has a long and storied existence that no one cares about except me. In the future, I think it will be more of the same. I'm writing a lot more now, although not on my own blog. I'm excited about getting involved with new companies, having been bought out or acquired in my last two. I think I will build things that make sense to me and collaborate in whatever way people see as bringing value...but I'll always ask for equity!

E: Any last thoughts for the Entelo readership?

M: Hmmm, you mean there are folks still reading? I kid. Yes, it would be this. If you are trying out a new product or service (which I assume Entelo is for many), you have to find a way to build it into your daily processes. I see too many tools that are actually better than what the recruiting team is using but they never catch the wave because it's too hard for people to make the change. This is a mistake and holding people back. Either figure out a way to make the change yourself or give the new tools over to someone specific on the team who evaluates them inside YOUR already established processes. (GE does this and it's brilliant!)

E: Awesome. Thanks Maren and we'll look forward to seeing you at an HR conference or on a reality show soon!! A reminder to check out Red Branch Media and follow Maren on Twitter at @marenhogan. Stay tuned for more interviews with the top thought leaders in HR and recruiting.

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