Gerry Crispin is an industry treasure and a virtual encyclopedia for anyone who wants to take a look back at how things used to be, as well as getting an historical perspective on the present and the future.
Chad & Cheese chatted with Gerry and it turned into a conversation that lasted well over an hour (too much for our listeners to digest in one sitting). We've chopped it up, and this is the first in a series of what we're calling Gerry Tales ... like Fairy Tales ... get it?
Enjoy this Nexxt exclusive.
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Chad: Gerry Crispin is a literal walking volume of recruiting history. Joel and I had an opportunity to sit down with Gerry for over an hour and a half to talk history, now, and future state. This is only the first in our Gerry Crispin series. Welcome to Gerry Tales. Enjoy, after a word from our sponsor.
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Announcer: Hide your kids, lock the doors. You're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruiting industry right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinion, and loads of snark. Buckle up, boys and girls, it's time for The Chad and Cheese Podcast.
Chad: It's Gerry motherfucking Crispin.
Joel: Friday afternoon with Gerry.
Chad: Come on now. Gerry, what's up?
Gerry: I like that intro. I think that's a fabulous one.
Joel: He's probably never heard it before. This is his first podcast.
Gerry: It is. It's close to my first podcast.
Chad: Gerry, I think you should actually make it. You're a standard in the industry, so therefore, from now on, you should ensure that whenever you are going to present or anything like that, and they're introducing you, it has to be "Give it up for Gerry motherfucking Crispin."
Gerry: I love that. I would like that, actually.
Joel: I agree.
Gerry: That would be kinda neat.
Joel: That's perfect for HR, because they don't like to play it safe at all.
Gerry: This is not a podcast who plays it safe for any ...
Joel: No, no. That's why you're on, Gerry, because you don't play by the rules.
Gerry: I don't care about the rules anymore, I'm beyond them.
Joel: I'm getting to that, too. Jumping out of planes and shit.
Chad: Going to Birmingham.
Joel: So, a lot of our listeners, believe it or not, don't know you, the name, whatever, so I know you've done this a million times, but give us sort of the elevator pitch on you and then we'll get to the good stuff.
Gerry: And the fact is, most people don't know most people. Just ... It's just the reality of it all. I will tell you that, next month, I will have graduated from college 50 years. So that will be the kind of cool thing about that. And I will you that every single year, from the time I graduated, I was in some form of recruiting. I was in career services, as a way of getting through graduate school. And most recently, in my last 20, 23 years with CareerXroads, we've kind of pivoted a couple times, but the reality is I support a community of talent acquisition leaders who hire probably between two and three million people a year. And really focus in on my passion, which is what is community? How do you really help each other succeed? Not only for yourself, but making commitments to other people as well.
Joel: When did you send your first email, and when did you buy your first domain name?
Gerry: Oh, cool. That is cool. My first domain name that I bought was
Gerry: Dot org. Yes.
Gerry: Which I then turned over to them. My second, and my first dot com, was shaker.com, which I then turned over to Shaker.
Chad: Our travel sponsors, by the way.
Joel: Yes. Let's hear it for Shaker Recruitment Marketing.
Gerry: I had an epiphany in about '93, something in that order, '93, '94. Things were just beginning to heat up, in effect, and I went to my college, Stevens Institute of Technology, and had acquired them, if you will, as a client. I was very proud of the fact that my alma mater was now a client. And one of my friends who still was there was the head of the library. And I went over to the library to tell him that, "I'm now a client ... You're now a client, da da da." And he was in his office, and he was turned away from his desk, and he was pounding on this little old-fashioned Pentium 286, or something like that.
Chad: Uh-huh (affirmative).
Gerry: And he goes, "Just a second, Gerry." And then he turns around and I said, "Well, what were you up to?" He says, "I need a new research librarian, so I'm hiring a research librarian." I said, "Oh, cool!" I said, "That fits my news. You are now my client. I will be able to get the req from your HR department, and I'll help put together an ad, and get it into the newspaper." And he goes, "Oh. I don't think so." I said, "What? What do you mean? Why not?" He says, "Well, I just put that ... I just was typing into a Usenet group, and I sent it into this one that research librarians use." I said, "I don't even know what a Usenet group is." And just then, his six minute fax machine began clacking, and after a few lines, you could see that it was a resume being sent in.
Chad: What year was this? What year was this?
Gerry: This was 1993.
Joel: And a fax machine, boys and girls, is ...
Gerry: Yes. And a light bulb went on in my head, and I -
Joel: That's about right.
Gerry: Said, "Oh, shit." I said, "That's a loss to the New York Times this Sunday."
Gerry: And my commissions are gone from that, you know? And I'm going, "Holy shit. What would happen if everybody did stuff like that?"
Chad: Uh-huh (affirmative).
Gerry: So that was my first epiphany, and then you know Ward Crispin, right?
Gerry: Well, Ward Crispin was a bulletin board guy, back in that day. And somebody gave me his name, and I called him up and said, "How do I get on this thing called the internet?" And he was actually helpful in finding the two addresses in New Jersey where I could, publicly, connect to the internet with my ...
Joel: You just had a local ISP.
Gerry: Yeah, local ISP. You had to have these rubber cups that you stuck on the edge, end of a phone, and it screeds back and forth in order to be able to do anything, and obviously that was the beginning of that shit.
Joel: So you weren't surprised by '97ish, when the job board revolution
started. What do you remember about that time?
Gerry: I was writing books by then.
Joel: Yeah. Yeah, for those who don't know. Gerry wrote books. These things with paper and a binding and -
Gerry: I made a living selling paper books about the internet, for God's sake.
Joel: Chad and I both remember those books, because at least at my company, they bought them for all the employees and passed it around.
Gerry: I know.
Joel: And we sent the ... E-span and Job Options, yeah we sent those with the ... When you ... You rated us as a top job site. And Michael Forest, you know -
Gerry: Nation job, if I recall.
Joel: Well, Job Options.
Gerry: Oh, Job Options. Right.
Joel: Michael Forest, who I know he loved you. And we put a sticker on it and sent it out to prospects and clients.
Chad: Oh, yeah. So did OCC. I mean, we were sending that shit out all over the place.
Gerry: Yep. I used to call them up and review them, and the first book, which was written in 1996, had 300 websites and a few job boards, rank ordered, in a variety of different ways. And we sold ... I gave a talk at SHRM National Conference in 1996, on HR and the internet. And in an hour after that ... Yes, true. It was the first time SHRM had ever done that. It was my first national conference speaking, and actually the projector was like a ton. It was a huge, monstrous thing that you had to play with.
Chad: Oh, yeah.
Gerry: And I showed slides of different ways that HR might change, given what was existing on the internet, and of course the most advanced pieces were some of the job boards that were developing. And literally, two hours after my talk, we had sold 5,000 books.
Joel: Holy shit.
Gerry: And Mark Miller, this was 1996 -
Joel: This wasn't an overhead projector, was it?
Gerry: Oh, no, no, no, no. This was on a big, huge, monstrous table, in the middle of the place. And we kind of darkened the entire room. It was really dark in order to get some kind of visibility on the screen. So it was really awful, and obviously the very primitive-looking screens. I remember asking people, and this is June 1996, "How many of you have an email address?" 25%.
Joel: Higher than I would have thought.
Gerry: And I asked, "How many of you have seen a page on the internet?" About 10%.
Joel: Uh-huh (affirmative).
Gerry: And my comment after that was, "When I'm done, if you're not ready to embrace this technology, you need to go find a different kind of profession."
Joel: Or find another planet to live on, because this thing's going to consume everything you fucking do.
Gerry: Yeah, but there were a lot of naysayers in those days, and from '96 to about 2000, you could have an argument, a strong argument, with folks who basically said, "This will never catch on in the short run," that "This will take decades to accomplish." And as a result, many of those who were caught when 2000 turned to 2001 and all hell broke loose. Fundamentally, it really did cause a huge disruption, right around the turn of the century.
Joel: There were a lot of people saying, "We were right," when the 2001 recession hit, and all these dot coms bellied up.
Gerry: Oh, yeah. I had left everything for CareerXroads by then. But I remember spending every week, every two weeks, or something like that ... Computer world would come out, and when computer world came out, I looked at the ads, and calculated the percentage of companies whose ads said, "Send us your resume via some internet approach." And the percentage was rapidly growing over the course of '98, '99 from 10% to probably 60 or 70%. So obviously people were doing something that ... Changing the game, in terms of that input. And you knew that the output was then going to shift heavily towards the net as a result. People were now engaged.
Joel: If only we had bought Amazon at $4 a share.
Chad: Or Google, maybe. I don't know.
Gerry: Well, no. Google wasn't around.
Chad: No, not then.
Gerry: The reason why I could sell so many damn books was because the search engines were the biggest choke point. You couldn't find stuff easily. And you did have to understand how to use boolean.
Chad: Yep, yep. Hitting AltaVista, or whatever the fuck.
Gerry: Well, even Yahoo.
Joel: That's when Super Bowl ads made sense.
Gerry: Oh, yeah. Oh, without a doubt.
Chad: Keep an eye, and ear, out for more Gerry Tales, coming soon.
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