Jessica Miller-Merrell: I Like My Men Like I Like My HR Technology

Mark Finn, CEO of TalentBox Gets Personal with Jessica at the HRO Today Forum

Jessica Miller-Merrell -TotalPicture Radio InterviewJessica Miller-Merrell

"Signing a contract with an HR technology product that offers a full suite of services is a commitment, a marriage if you will. It's a relationship that has give and take. One bad decision can change your life and maybe even end your career at a company." Jessica Miller-Merrell

Welcome to a special Talent Acquistion Channel Podcast and vodcast (yes there's a video version of this interview - check the sidebar), recorded at the HRO Today Forum at the beautiful Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia. Mark Finn, Co-Founder and CEO of TalentBox, interviewed Jessica toward the end of the conference.

A little history: Our interview was filmed in the Rotunda building, constructed between 1904 and 1908 at a cost of over 1.5 million dollars. (That was serious money back then). When it opened as the Girard Trust in 1908, it was the largest dome in the western hemisphere, at over 100 feet in diameter. The oculas is 142 feet from the floor, the same as the Pantheon in Rome, which it was modeled after.

"Interview Transcript"

Jessica Miller-Merrell | Mark Finn - HRO Today Forum Interview. TotalPicture Radio

TotalPicture Radio's exclusive coverage of the HRO Today Forum at the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia is brought to you by TalentBox, the leading talent focused digital interview platform. Save time. Cut cost. Improve quality. Share and collaborate with others. Four big reasons to start using TalentBox for your next hire. Visit and get started with a free 45 day trial today. TalentBox, where talent meets opportunity.

Hi, this is Peter Clayton. Welcome to TotalPicture Radio. According to our special guest today, Jessica Miller Merrell, signing a contract with an HR technology product that offers a full suite of services is a commitment, a marriage, if you will. It's a relationship that has give and take, one bad decision can change your life and maybe even end your career at a company.

Welcome to a special talent acquisition channel podcast and vodcast. Yes, there's video version of this interview on TotalPicture Radio, iTunes and YouTube, recorded at the HRO Today Forum in Philadelphia. Mark Finn, CEO of TalentBox gets personal with Jessica discussing her post on titled I Like My Men Like I Like My HR Technology.

Now, here's Mark Finn and Jessica Miller Merrell.

Mark: Hi, this is Mark Finn here at the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia at HRO Today. I'm here with Jessica Miller Merrell or Jessica M2 for abbreviation purposes. Jessica, I was hoping you could tell everyone a little bit about yourself and who you are and what you do.

Jessica: Thank you. My name is Jessica and I have a popular human resources and a workplace blog - I guess several sites actually - where we talk about human capital topics, recruiting, social media, all those sort of things that practitioners in this space are dealing with on a day to day basis. I also work a lot with service providers and helping them be able to talk directly to HR because we spend a lot of time on the phone cold calling, emailing but there isn't really any meaningful conversations oftentimes that are happening in those interactions.

Mark: Jessica's a fantastic expert on a lot of the hot topics happening in this space. We were talking about some of them yesterday. I did read however one interesting blog that you wrote recently and the title of that blog was I Like My HR Technology Like I Like My Men. So my question is how do you like your men? ☺

Jessica: I like to do my research. The blog post which is somewhat personal, I like to have the sort of personal story that I weave into a business lesson or topic, and the story is that I had a failed marriage. It didn't go very well for me. I was young and I really took stock and kind of looked at what I'm doing, what I really want, and did a lot of research. And so I think that when you're selecting an HR technology product, you really need to understand exactly what you want and then spend the time prequalifying before you go down that road and make a commitment.

Mark: I was hoping you were going to say Australian but that's fine.

There's a lot of uncertainty out there given that there's a lot of technology and a lot of new directions on a lot of different things. I think HR managers and HR leaders and recruiters out there are really just trying to understand what to do or where to go. What tips would you provide those people?

Jessica: I think that there's a lot of information online. I think it's good to go online and talk to other practitioners. One of the things I like blogging so much is that there are so many great people out there who are sharing their stories and they're there in the folds of dealing with a workplace issue as a recruiter or HR person. So looking for those resources but then maybe sitting down with an expert in the space and kind of talking through it.

Thirdly, the most important thing in my mind is end users. As someone who has had to, you know, 17 clicks to be able to hire one person in an ATS, mind you, I have 150 people that I have to push through my applicant tracking system, that takes time. Senior business decision makers in HR and human capital, they don't think about those things because they don't have to do them. But these are the small things that they need to think about to really make the technology product friendly for the user, happy HR people.

It's kind of happy wife, happy life. Happy field HR person makes for an engaged workforce.

Mark: Jessica, you just launched a new-ish company called Workology. I was hoping you could just share a little bit more about that and how people find you.

Jessica: If you read my blog that I've had since 2007, it's Blogging4Jobs which is a little bit edgy; I love that we like to push the envelope over there and have a little fun. I have 24 writers on the site who are writing. I like having the diverse types of people that are there but I need a place just for me and I wanted to be able to talk to senior HR and recruiting professionals about some of the topics in human capital that we're talking about but put in a practitioner focused way so that as a senior business leader, you have something that you can print off - a white paper, infographic, something that's practitioner focused so that you can really make the business case to add social media or digital technology to your recruitment or HR plan versus just relying on analyst reports and other papers that are out there.

Mark: So it provides a practical way to look at what's out there and find a way to look at adapting or implementing those social media or the technology.

Jessica: Anything related to human capital, really. I'm going to be focused on technology on the site but I feel like we need to have more conversations for the senior HR folks in a way that's somewhat casual and not really technical and wordy but interesting for them to read because when you read some of the information that's out there it's hard to follow and it isn't really fun, because even HR people want to have fun. So we need to be entertained as much as informed about the topics.

Mark: I think that's an interesting point you raise about some of the senior leaders of human capital out there thinking about not so much the technology or exactly how things work but some of the more bigger demographic shifts and the global forces that are happening. What are some of the ones that you think should be top of mind for people that are planning their workforce over the next 5 years and beyond?

Jessica: There was an interesting session about millennials yesterday which I really enjoyed. I think the main thing to remember when we're looking at the younger workforce is not everybody fits into this box that we want to put them in. I am a Gen X but I have a lot of millennial tendencies, which I think a lot of people do. I have a really great friend who is a boomer that she's millennial through and through. The thing that I think is important for people to remember as far as age goes and experience is that these millennials, whatever their tendencies are, the helicopter parents - all the things that we're dealing with - they are now the majority workforce.

If you are marketing to that audience to have them come and work for you, you need to make sure that your messaging, the company culture, and all these things are aligned to work with those people. It's just like trying to sell a product or a service. Why would we sell Tide laundry detergent to men over 65? The audience is females probably 24-40. Your messaging needs to align with that.

Mark: And be relevant to the person you're engaging with.

Jessica: It's not about the senior business leader. They're not the target market, and I think that's the other thing; when you talk to the chief HR officer, the CEO, they're like "I don't get the social media. I don't understand...I don't use text messaging the same way." It's not about you. It's about the people that you're trying to reach, the best and the largest audience that you're looking for to come to work for you. The CEOs are not the target demographic. So what they want doesn't matter.

Mark: One of the interesting things for me in that session that you just mentioned was that there are a lot of actual common factors across all the generations and also delineating this sort of categorized generations which is the fact that people are in different stages of life. People at stages of life is very different from these generational traits that we sort of attribute to people. How do you feel about what do you see about the way different generations are working together and especially in this day and age where there is a democratization of work?

Jessica: I think that the main thing is just sitting down and talking to your people and honest conversations. A lot of times employees are giving the answer that they think that you want which is really not what they want. So getting to know your folks, talking to them on a regular basis, probably scheduled, to have an understanding of what their hopes and dreams are.

The other thing is too if you're building a strategy with a particular audience of people in mind, use your current workforce especially the newly hired folks and conduct interviews with them - focus groups, surveys - that sort of thing. Where are they coming from? Where are they spending their time and if that's the audience, the people that you're looking for, you can create a small strategy from that group of people and they have a real feedback that is as recent. You don't have to spend a lot of money using a large third party company to conduct the research for you.

Mark: I think it's a great point talking about transparency and increasing the dialogue or the two-way chat between employees and existing employees and also prospective employees as well.

Jessica: Social media is leading the way for that. We're use to having real transparent conversations with brands, with people online, so it's going to transition over into the workplace. Employees are expecting and want to feel empowered that somebody is listening to their problems, what they have to say and that they do in fact want to make a difference. Long gone are the days like my dad, he goes to work. He works on a printing press. He's done it for 35, 40 years. He is a machine - that's what he does. He can separate work from life. I, on the other hand, I don't operate that way. They crossover for me.

Mark: Right, right. That's an interesting point. I personally feel the same way as well. And you've got to have fun, right?

Jessica: Fun is important. I mean that's why we live, right? To enjoy the moments with our family, our friends and we spend a lot of time at work, more time than we do with our family, so it makes sense that we should enjoy the people and the work that we're doing.

Mark: It's interesting that you said we spend a lot of time at work rather than doing work.

Jessica: My impression of work for me like I spend a lot of time doing what I love with clients, on the blog, things like that it's not really work. My office is virtual so my commute is 15 seconds every single day. I have clients all over the world, so work for me is a little bit different than I think a lot of the traditional work.

Mark: Jessica, two words: San Francisco.

Jessica: I'm moving. We're going to be relocating in the next few months to the Bay Area. I feel like I need to be where all the evolution and the change and things are happening and especially with technology and that's really three places: New York, San Francisco, or Austin, Texas. My husband is a Sooner fan. I cannot go to Texas. It would be maybe the end of our marriage and I don't want to put him through that kind of misery in Austin being a Sooner. It's too cold in New York City. So the Bay area is a fabulous place and it's just the smell of possibility there. There are so many cool people doing amazing things in their garages.

Mark: Stay tuned for Jessica Miller Merrell or Jessica M2 in San Francisco coming to a store near you soon. Thanks, Jessica.

Jessica: Sure.

Thank you for tuning in to TotalPicture Radio's exclusive coverage from the HRO Today Forum at the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania brought to you by TalentBox, the leading talent focused digital interview platform. Recruiters and hiring managers can use TalentBox to shortlist the best candidates for any type of role. All online, simple to use, interviews can include video-based questions, text based questions or multi-choice questions and can be fully customized to whatever role you're looking to fill. Visit TalentBox on the web at and sign up today for a free 45 day trial. We think you'll get the picture. Also, keep an eye out for new TalentBox videos and podcast interviews on TotalPicture Radio Thanks for tuning in.

Here's a excerpt from Jessica's Workology Blog regarding the HRO Today Forum: "Unfortunately, I've found that most employers and senior leaders including HR and operations don't understand how much information is actually available on the internet. Last week while attending the HRO Today Forum, I watched Matt Charney give a brief demo of how a much information is available using a free tool like combined with the power social media platform's Twitter and LinkedIn. The air sucked out of the room as conference attendees gasped once they realized that information like your home address, personal phone number and email address is available easily online. When it comes to the internet, nothing is really safe and true privacy no longer exists. The idea while terrifying for myself is only intensified by the fact that I'm a mom a to a 4 year old. These tools, however, can also be used as part of your social recruiting strategy. Understanding that fact is where the power of social listening for employers really comes into play. Somes a little shock like Matt's drives business leaders to this reality."


Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is an author, speaker, human resources professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the president and CEO of Xceptional HR and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience and is the author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business.

Jessica is a professional blogger and has managed Blogging4Jobs since 2007. Recently, Blogging4Jobs was named a top career site for job seekers by Forbes Magazine. HR Examiner Jessica as the second most influential recruiter on the Internet and the seventh most powerful woman on Twitter. She is a columnist for both SmartBriefand Huffington Post in addition to Blogging4Jobs. Jessica has interviewed for professional articles in CIO Magazine, CBS, Entrepreneur Magazine, and SHRM's HR Magazine.

Jessica is an entertaining and informative presenter on both human resource issues and workplace social media topics. Jessica's speaking engagements include Working Women's Magazine, SHRM's Annual Conference and the National Association of Convenience Stores. Jessica was named the 2nd most influential recruiter on the Internet and the 7th most powerful woman on Twitter.

Her company, Xceptional HR provides businesses with workplace social media, recruitment strategies, and human resources consulting. Jessica earned a Senior Professional in Human Resource designation in 2008 and earned a Bachelors degree in Anthropology and Business from Kansas State University. Jessica is from a small town in Kansas and resides near Oklahoma City with her husband, Greg and daughter, Ryleigh.

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