eme enough it’s a wonder I survived it—as in, if I didn’t die in the process it could only make me stronger. The prison experience was described earlier on this Forum (in my contest entry for the best RBC Recruitment related Horror Story). It tested me on many levels and was dangerous beyond my full realization of how much in harm’s way I actually put myself in--but it was only one of four of my challenging exposures that put me in recruitment roles over the past forty-one years working in the discipline. I promise I won’t bore you with all four. I’ll touch on just two here.
My first experience in formal recruiting came about in the Army. Not as a recruiter of candidates for induction into the military, but as a recruiter of civilian staff to work in positions reporting to hiring managers who happened to be military officers in the Officer Personnel Directorate (OPD) assigned across fourteen Pentagon level Army Branches, e.g., Adjutant General, Finance, Infantry, Quartermaster, Aviation, Air Defense, Military Intelligence, Signal, Military Police, Logistics, etc. The role of the OPD was to identify, select and appoint officers, of all ranks, to assignments worldwide—many of whom were in combat zones.
Upon graduating from college in 1971 I enlisted in the Army. Vietnam was still hot with no end in sight. So, like my father, uncles and brothers, before me—in time of war--we all volunteered to get into the fight (Korea for my father; WWII for my five uncles; and Vietnam for me and my three brothers). BTW my mom was part of the war effort herself—working in the war factories in the ‘40s when her brothers went to war.
After graduating from Army Boot Camp and Advanced Infantry Training (AIT), I was set to get orders to go directly into combat in Vietnam--as did all graduating AIT classes did from Fort Polk, La--for the previous six years. However, as fate would have it--that order never came down. Instead, I was sent directly to Washington D.C. for assignment to the Presidential Traveling Team (the advance team that arrives ahead of the President’s arrival anyplace in the world to secure his safe arrival and departure). Due to my VOLAR (volunteer) status in a time of war; my recent college degree, high test scores and strong performance evaluations the Deputy Commander for the Officer Personnel Directorate (OPD) pulled my file and requested that I be reassigned directly to the Pentagon to the OPD Administrative office to take over Civilian Staffing; the Army Suggestion Program; and Special Projects.
The Colonel who assigned me, back in 1971, to my first recruiting role had a civilian GS 13 level employee retiring and felt I could handle an Action Officer’s Desk—which I did…well. Facilitating the recruitment, promotions and transfers of key civilian talent that worked in support, and in liaison roles, with military staff and leadership during the Vietnam War was an honor, a privilege and a duty for me at that time. In war time, or staying in conflict readiness, when I think of how all the roles in an Army depend on each other to bring forth successful missions I truly appreciated how important the role of a recruiter is for mission success, particularly when life, death and safety issues hang in the balance. That three year experience cemented my love for recruiting and launched me into what I do today—recruiting.
Entering the Danger Zone:
When the Vietnam War ended in 1973, and the military build-up was now downsizing--I was recommend for Officer Candidate School (OCS) but elected to leave the Army when my enlistment commitment was up the following year. It turned out to be bad timing because the stock market crashed and with the ongoing effects of the 1973 Oil Embargo added to the misery of a great recession. Jobs were scarce so I worked in temp jobs until my Uncle alerted me to a Grant Project that was failing in the California Department of Corrections. The Cooperative Training and Employment Project (CTEP) was a Federal & State funded project administered by a minority not-for-profit community based organization called the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (MAOF). CTEP was designed to stem the high recidivism rate for minority inmates in particular—but was open to all inmates interested in participating.
Unfortunately, CTEP was set to be defunded due to the failure of two previous Directors and high staff turnover. Working in prison with a no-hostage policy clause (see my horror story) for all who enter there; and working for a not-for-profit (very low pay) did little to attract job applicants--so there it was. And there I was—at the time with my college degree, great Army/Pentagon level experience and high recommendations—pumping gas at gas station in La Jolla, CA. I was rooming with my brother in San Diego—both of us doing casual labor jobs until the recession showed signs of recovery. So on my uncle’s recommendation I applied and landed the job.
Landing in prison, as it were--by choice, however was a decision that bothered my family and friends for obvious reasons—and was unsettling for me at first because my life was threatened on the very first day I was “in prison” addressing the inmate leaders (see RBC horror story) regarding the rehab program. Nevertheless, I volunteered to do the job and to this day I’ll tell anyone—I’d still be there if it wasn’t for Prop 13 which was the California Tax Revolt that defunded CTEP and other social services programs at the time in California.
The short version of this experience is that—yes, it’s not for everybody. Most say prisons are for punishment and I agree. But I also feel that the majority of people in lockup today will be getting out at some point down the road. And if they are only going to be part of the revolving door process—how does that help them, their families; future victims and society at large? My decision to go there was based on the simple grasp of the situation--to be part of the solution. Bottom line, who wants to be a future victim, directly or indirectly? I felt here was a unique opportunity to attempt to make a difference and to stem predictable outcomes. Yes, my staff and I were in considerable danger—but that’s partly what won us respect on the yard—the fact that we would risk our safety for their benefit because we were there to help them help themselves through training, counseling and job placement. Yes, recruiting candidates from the general population didn’t sit well with inmates who were rejected. And some were happy to express their unhappiness with our decision. We were briefed and given assurances that help was available but “you enter this prison at your own risk” was clearly understood—and it all worked out.
Our work on behalf of inmates who wanted to better themselves also won respect from correctional staff and administrators…and employers because we were job placing parolees who were doing well enough on the job that employers came back for more candidates. Without getting into too much detail the training and rehab program was a remarkable success over a three year period given the negative statistics that haunt corrections in any state with high recidivism rates (50%-70% in some places) and the high costs for incarceration. Our job placement rate was in the low 92% range with a 9% recidivism rate compared to California’s 50%-60% return rate.
White/Black & Hispanic inmates participated and those who survived the prison experience and benefited from our program eventually paroled and were placed in viable jobs across the State of California w/IBM, XEROX, Hewlett Packard, JC Penney, etc. The results were getting positive press and we were ramping up to expand the program but unfortunately ran into the famous, or infamous, depending on your stance on such matters—Proposition 13 (the Tax Payers Revolt in California). Prop 13 cancelled funds for many social services programs like CTEP.
Yes, I love recruiting and my military and prison experiences enhanced my ability to make a positive impact in corporate America as a recruiter and Staffing Manager. And now, as an independent Recruitment Consultant, I continue to make a difference for candidates and clients who go on to make their mark as well.
oose the software even if it is one of the pricier ones out there. I chose it despite that fact because after that investigation it certainly looked one of the best in terms of what it offered. We can afford it and you are correct, I did understand the costs full well and entered the contract with 'eyes wide open' so that was my choice. To your point about 'when value is felt', I suppose from my side it is difficult to completely disregard the cost of that value you are seeking, and the greater the cost the more you feel that 'lack of value' so I think those two things are difficult things to separate. I just can't see beyond the belief that we shouldn't pay for something we couldn't use. If it is the way 'SAAS' vendors operate, it is in desperate need of a change. I was speaking to a good friend who works for a company that specialises in compliance and trade order systems for the financial services industry and he was telling me that clients pay half of the fee on installation of the software, and the remaining half on go-live. It is sometimes debatable as to what constitutes go-live, but they tend to base it on the date on which the client is able to derive sufficient benefit from the system and in deriving that benefit are happy to sign-off the acceptance of that software. I know SAAS systems are different and don't require an installation as such, but the way they operate shouldn't be that different to older installation-based systems as to charge people a full fee before they are able to derive any benefit from it. Anyway - I think we may agree on that point.
2.) IMPORT - Perhaps I could have run one or two more tests before spending the time preparing the data for import. I have worked as an IT consultant and I haven't worked on many projects where some issue comes up and one bemoans the fact that one could have done more testing. However, I spent a considerable amount of time in my 'planning', based my data preparation on what I researched in the Bullhorn Support Centre in conjunction with a lot of questions to tech support, and so believe I was pretty thorough in my approach. I appreciate that imports are complex affairs, particularly as client data and requirements differ markedly from one to another and so to get an import carried out successfully, vendors need to make sure they can cover their costs and so fees are high. However, in providing tools that allow clients to carry out a simpler import, the tools really need to work. I did readily admit that to their credit Bullhorn eventually agreed to do the import for no charge, but it did take a very long time to come to that conclusion. The recent attempt at import has uncovered a few more bugs in the import tool and I really think that a professional organisation should have a tool that works properly. If not clients that are offered this tool as an option, will always face issues and have to revert to Professional Services which will incur a cost that wasn't expected.
3.) CONTRACT - I think you're spot on when you say that contracts exist as a tool of last resort. In one of my final discussions with Bullhorn on the matter, the contract was referred to right upfront in the conversation with the Bullhorn representative telling me that as a signatory on the contract I should have understood it and must therefore pay. I said that I understood this full well but that having been a business owner myself, when one of my clients had raised a situation where a contractual term did not make complete sense or possibly threatened a fruitful ongoing relationship, we had carefully considered their case and when required had moved outside of the strict contract terms to maintain a good working relationship. I suppose what I felt continually through the process is that they had not carefully considered the facts of our particular case and were going to the contract and it's terms long before they needed to.
4.) SHARING MY EXPERIENCE - You mention my one-sided, self-serving story Martin. Clearly you disagree with the sharing of my experience with others? I consider myself a reasonable person and have tried to keep strictly to the facts of my experience. Bullhorn are welcome to share their side of the story too. The crux of the matter is that I really feel strongly that they have not tried sufficiently to understand the extent of my frustration. At no point has anyone ever picked up the phone and called me and said 'Let's try and come to some kind of resolution on this'. Aside from the one telephone conversation, which I requested many times, I have only received emails with a pretty hardline, reasonably unapologetic attitude, informing me that as a signatory I am responsible for what I sign. When dealing with a software vendor, after-sales support and customer service is most often more important than the functionality of the system itself and on this side of things, in my experience, Bullhorn fall horribly short of what I think are my reasonable customer expectations.
Thanks again for your response.
Martin H.Snyder said:
Nobody likes to see Bullhorn screw up more than I do, but Justin, I'm afraid to say that I think you had a hand in creating the problems and that you responded disproportionately to those problems. The quote for the conversion was high, but at least on the planet. Conversions are craft-jobs that require extensive quality communications to achieve great results. That’s costly no matter who does the work.
All vendors know that not every new customer can afford that service, and there are always smaller import/export jobs that need doing, so the good tools all have robust tools to help end-users with DIY projects.
In your case, you found a legit bug in the import tool, but a pro import analyst would have run test loads at the earliest stages of the project- the initial map- which would occur prior to massaging the bulk of the data for import. So their bug and your inexperience led to an obstacle. Your expectation was that they would move heaven and earth to see you through the job, and when they failed to do that, you became angry. Then, to their credit, they ended up doing the job at no charge anyway.
So to fully understand customer centrism, we need to know that when pro services are out of reach financially for customers, vendors should then just step in and do the job anyway. I guess I get it…..but how good do we want vendors to be to customers other than ourselves?
Next up is a misunderstanding of the financial obligations. You say that, sure, there is a contract, and yes, it does spell out the start and end dates of the payments. I will guess that customer centrism means payments are only due when value is felt and contracts are for the other guy? With the former, I can agree 100%. We would never try to sustain an account charge when a customer could not get value. Contracts exist as tools of last resort in a business relationship. When Bullhorn goes to the contract first, that’s a big mistake and something they will have to fix, but clearly, you signed it, and you are obligated to pay it and then recover for their breach.
Withholding payments due is your breach, regardless of their breach. That said, most people understand that the accounting functions and customer service functions of smaller businesses (and Bullhorn is still a small business) are often quite separated. They ended up doing the right thing, again, as would be expected. And here you are, filling search engines up with your one-sided, self-serving story, trying to hurt them because they would not bend as fast as you wanted them to.
Sometimes firms screw up. Lucky we are in a business where life and limb is not on the line. Sometimes disputes take on personal or emotional baggage, and one side is clearly unhappy but for difficult to understand reasons. Customers are the life of any business, but they are not always right, and they have ethical obligations which exceed the mere handing over of money.
I took the time to pen this because people can learn from it. The original sin was your acknowledgement that Bullhorn is expensive, yet not really accepting what that fact means. Affordability is personal, of course, but when you buy something expensive, the purveyors expect you to be a person can happily afford the offering. When that’s not operative, it’s not automatic trouble, but it takes some patience and accommodation on both sides to work out well. That seems absent here.