Archive for December, 2009

Santa and the Industrial Psychologist

December 11th, 2009

Porter Hall

Porter Hall

by Gary Kustis, Ph.D.

Probably your first introduction to an “industrial psychologist” was in the 1947 version of A Miracle on 34th Street when poor Santa Claus is subjected to a psychological assessment by Macy’s duplicitous Dr. Granville Sawyer.  Dr. Sawyer tries hard to get him committed after Kris Kringle whaps him upside the head with his cane.  It doesn’t bode well for your profession when even Santa wants to open a can of whoop-ass on you.  That may be why at this very moment thousands of “industrial-organizational psychologists” (which is what they’ve been calling themselves since 1987) are voting electronically on whether to drop the term “industrial” from the name of their professional organization, The Society for Industrial-Organizational Psychology.

In fact, the issue at hand is not the annual holiday vilification portrayed by the character actor Porter Hall (who, incidentally, played all kind of cretins in the movies, including the guy who shot Wild Bill Hickock in the back) but the fact that the term “industrial” seems a bit archaic to today’s businesses.  Moreover, it doesn’t really capture what psychologists in this line of work these days.  Sure, these are still the same “scientist-practitioners” who are out there building tests to help screen job applicants, but they’re also busy doing team building, analyzing survey data, and helping to put together solid developmental plans for your employees.  Finally, as you can imagine, trying to brand your profession when it has fourteen syllables also isn’t very easy.

So, I’m off to go vote “Yes” to change the by-laws of the Society for Industrial-Organizational Psychology (aka, SIOP—pronounced “SY-op”) to the slightly more syllable friendly, The Society for Organizational Psychology (TSOP—“TEE-sop”?).  We’ll see which way it turns out after the first of the year.  In the meantime, if you go to Macy’s and happen to see St. Nick, chances are he took a test developed by your friendly, neighborhood “organizational psychologist” before he was allowed to hoist that first kid up on his lap.  Old Mr. Macy may have fired Dr. Sawyer at the end of the movie, but I’ll bet he hired a replacement organizational psychologist right after New Year’s.

Don’t Miss This Friday’s HRchitect WebMingle with Joel Passen of Newton Software

December 9th, 2009

The weekly HRchitect WebMingle is designed to give you some insight into the puzzling world of HR technology, discuss news from around the world that we find interesting, talk about upcoming events in our industry, and provide insightful interviews with people of our industry – who they are, what they do and why you should care. The WebMingle has become the most popular live weekly Internet show in the HR technology industry!

This Friday’s guest will be Joel Passen, Co-Founder and Vice-President of Marketing with Newton Software.

Newton is easy-to-use, web-based applicant tracking software that uses smart technology to simplify and improve recruiting.

Listen live on Friday, December 11th at 1pm CST to the 47th show in our WebMingle series, and the final show for 2009. If you missed any of our previous WebMingles, you can also access them from that page.

Below is a list of some of our upcoming guests:

Jan 7 – Rosette Cataldo, VP of Business Development with KMS Software, an Onboarding Systems vendor

Jan 14 – Morne Swart, VP of Product Management with CyberShift, a Workforce Management vendor

Jan 21 – HRchitect will provide a look back at the world of HR Technology in 2009 and a look ahead to 2010.

Jan 28 – Tim Giehll, CEO of Bond Talent, a Talent Management Systems vendor and Author of “Human Capital Supply Chains”

Newton Software Recycles the Rejection Letter

December 8th, 2009

Rejection letters aren’t a new thing in recruiting software. When you’re evaluating applicant software, the feature sounds like a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t you want to send rejection letters to the applicants you pass on? Most ATS systems have some sort of a rejection letter feature.  So, why do people still refer to ATS systems as corporate black holes? “I sent my resume but never heard back”, how many times have you heard that? How many times has that happened to you? So what gives?

The answer is actually simple. Most employers generally ignore all or most of their recruiting software’s rejection letter functionality. There are two fundamental reasons for this. First of all, most of these features are too complicated to use efficiently. Too often the feature requires recruiters to take too may steps for too little benefit for them. Secondly, sending rejection letters from an applicant tracking system, until now, has been too risky. What if the applicant is interviewing for another job at the company? Who should send the rejection and what email address should the letter come from? Should hiring managers be able to send rejection letters? Has the applicant received a rejection letter before? When? Why? You get the idea.

Having been hands-on in corporate recruiting for more than a decade, the product design team at Newton realized both the power and the risks of automated rejection letters. So, as they started to design Newton’s Thank You Letter functionality (they scrapped the name” rejection letters”), they had to first design an easy-to-use tool that wouldn’t create more work for busy recruiters. And, for the feature to be successful (useful) it needed to virtually eliminate the risks that prevent recruiters from sending rejection letters in the first place. The feature needed to be smart.  The product managers at Newton Software knew if they could accomplish both goals, they could improve the overall experience for applicants while saving recruiters time.

So, after many variations and hundreds of little tweaks later, we’re pretty sure they nailed it. Here is an overview.

Thank You Letter “highlights”.

  • Newton comes standard with pre-built, customizable, thank you letter templates for every stage of the recruiting process. There is a set of corporate templates and a set for each user to personalize.
  • Choose the email aliases from which to send Thank You Letters, corporate or personal email addresses.
  • Decide which members of your team are permitted to send thank you letters.
  • Preview and customize individual thank you letters easily before sending. Choose your desired email alias too.
  • Newton will alert you if an applicant is a duplicate, interviewing for another role at your company and if they’ve received previous thank you messages.
  • Pending Thank You Letters are stored so you can send them later and even send them in bulk. This gives HR / recruiting departments better control of the messaging.


December 2nd, 2009

I managed to secure an invitation to TEDxSF, an independent version of TED, at the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. I’ve never been to the Big TED conference but I’ve been a fan of the videos on the website for years. Calling TEDxSF a conference is not doing it justice. The event was more like a series mini-performances featuring musicians, entrepreneurs, scientists and change-makers.

All in all, independent TED events, TEDx, are less exclusive than Big TED. You apply for an invitation and you’re asked to write about how you’ve changed the world or at least how you’ve been an innovator. I wrote about being a recruiter for 10 years and realizing the need for better recruiting software, throwing caution to the wind and starting a technology company amidst the worst recession in recent memory. Maybe the TEDx committee felt sorry for me.

While the format of the performances was paradoxically similar, a thought provoking monologue aided by some slides and self-deprecating humor, the topics varied dramatically. I enjoyed every presentation and I loved the music and comedy too. Even the crowd was interesting, not the room full of geeks I’d anticipated, more chic, less geek.

Here are some highlights.

– Zoë Keating, a talented, avant cellist, informed the audience that computers crash but cellos don’t after her laptop crashed mid-performance.  For the record, it was a Mac.

-Gavin Newsome, San Francisco’s Mayor, was given 3 minutes to address the crowd. Ever the opportunist, he delivered an inspirational, self-promoting rant ending with, “San Francisco has always been a city of dreamers and doers”. At least he got that right.

-Taking advantage of the venue, Ryan Watt, the Director of Morrison Planetarium and Science Visualization at the Academy of Sciences, reminded us that we may not be alone.

-The best story of the afternoon was told by Jill Vallet, the founder of Playworks, a non-profit that brings physical activities to low-income urban schools.

-Proclaiming that Silicon Valley has been as influential as the industrial revolution, photographer, Doug Menuez, shared images of the Valley’s most brilliant innovators, some in their weakest moments.

You can learn more about TEDxSF at: