CXR Origin Story: Part II – A community is born

The CXR Community story continues as we learn how CareerXroads was founded & evolved into the premier community for talent acquisition and talent management professionals. CareerXroads is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this fall. That’s 25 years of gathering with forward-thinkers to examine what’s next in the world of talent… of talent professionals coming together to raise the bar of the profession into a truly strategic element for the world’s leading corporations.

[Read: CareerXroads Origin Story Part I]

How the name CareerXroads came about

In January of 1996, I was invited to speak for the first time at SHRM’s Annual Conference. The presentation title they accepted: HR and the Internet. At the bottom of the SHRM invitation was a note that said, “If you have a book, we’ll promote it.” “What a great idea” Mark and I both exclaimed! And so we proceeded, naively, to write a letter to half a dozen publishers telling them we would be happy to have them publish a book based on our expert reviews of the sites that were good for recruiting on the internet.

We thought the name of the book should reflect the intersection where Recruiters and Candidates meet… the crossroads of the hiring journey. During one of our excursions driving to yet another start-up tech company, we came up with CareerXroads: Where Talent and Opportunity Connect on the Internet.

Good thing we didn’t know how unlikely it was that any publisher would pay attention to two non-authors who had yet to write their first word. We felt like we won the lottery when several publishers expressed interest. However, after learning a bit about royalties and naming rights and hearing that it would take at least a year to publish, we thanked them and turned them down. We needed to have something to sell in Chicago in less than 5 months. We decided to self-publish thinking, “How hard could that be? We have all of the sites we’ve been reviewing already in the computer. Why can’t we just reformat the lists, add a few tables, do some useful organizing and then deliver something to a printer on a 5 ¼ floppy disk?”

Well, this ‘simple’ idea took up every spare moment of every night and weekend for the next several months. Somehow we ended up with 5000 copies of a 206-page book neatly stacked in Mark’s garage with weeks to spare. We boldly printed on the inside cover that if you registered your email with us, we would keep the directory updated until the end of the year.

I called the SHRM bookstore and excitedly asked how many copies they wanted to be shipped for the presentation I was about to give. They asked for just 50 copies (two cases). We shipped an additional two cases to the room we were staying in. Our two sessions on HR & The Internet were each attended by more than 1000 people. I asked the audience at the beginning two questions to answer by show of hands,

  • “How many of you have an email?” (25%)
  • “How many of you have ever seen a page on the Internet?” (10%)

I then strongly suggested that if they wanted a career for themselves they needed to embrace the future I was about to layout. All 5000 books were sold by the end of the day. We emptied out the garage and ordered a second printing of the 1996 edition. Eight editions of CareerXroads (1996-2003) launched the CXR Community, our pivot to building a peer-to-peer model in 2002 and, most importantly, the incredible relationships so many members have built with one another that have contributed in some way to their career and personal success.

[Listen: Fans before they were members, Chris Hoyt & Kristen Weirick share their CXR stories]

The CXR Community is born

By 2002 Mark and I realized the heyday of a print directory of the best career sites was coming to an end.

  • Google was up, running hard, and already pretty good at delivering what was asked for.
  • The career sites themselves were getting increasingly adept at hiding the facts that supported (or contradicted) their outrageous claims.
  • Emerging HR technologies were exploding, compounding the problem of how one would audit their claims and, finally,
  • Competition from free lists was expanding exponentially from every Internet TA expert, guru and ninja recruiter chasing a consulting contract.

We were getting tired of staying on top of what really mattered in recruiting when factually we weren’t doing the work ourselves. What we did know is that on any given day the people who were trying to succeed at recruiting knew what was working for them – and what wasn’t. Unfortunately, the conferences at the time (and we spoke at nearly all of them) were seldom featuring the most progressive talent acquisition leaders.

We didn’t want to start another conference.
We did want peers who ‘got it’ to share in real time.
We didn’t want vendors, suppliers, consultants or editors involved.
We did want to gather a smaller more intimate group who would apply their critical thinking skills to help one another as they shared.

We knew experienced TA leaders were becoming passionate about emerging digital themes (now specializations) in marketing, analytics, and operations. They were experimenting with new ways to accomplish high-volume recruiting, internal executive recruiting, early career hiring and much, much more. We thought if we could create a trusted environment where peers who were passionate about TA and compelled to improve could share what they were doing right now, we could build a community that eventually would model a better path for learning.

[Listen: Chris Hoyt & Mary Brogan discuss what’s so great about community]

In 2002 we invited 40 leaders to Princeton, NJ in the spring and Half-Moon Bay, CA in the fall for a day-and-a-half of sharing. We called our event a ‘Colloquium’ [kəˈlōkwēəm] because among its many meanings, “the word conveys a conversation that is both structured and informal, a meeting of minds that is both serious and spirited.”

CXR Community today

We’ve held over 120 such Colloquiums since – with no plans to stop. While Mark may have decided to retire, I have no desire to hang up my hat. Both myself and CXR have been energized with the addition of Chris Hoyt a few years ago. He has taken this community to the next level. Under his leadership, we’ve expanded our Talent Acquisition community to embrace Talent Management and have been inspired as we watch traditional silos breakdown and see practitioners brainstorm together on topics such as transformation and internal mobility. 2020 has certainly thrown us a curveball but when you have a community as strong as CXR, that just requires another pivot. Today we find ourselves hosting dozens of digital conversations both structured and informal. The CXR community has come together like never before to solve and share their spirited practices and serious decisions.

What started with a befuddled recruitment advertising professional determined to learn about the Internet has evolved into an online and in-person community filled with resources. Today CXR members help each other with vendor reviews, learn from each other with best practice benchmarks, connect and engage on a wide range of topics in our online eXchanges, collaborate on energetic panels that tackle the real issues of the day and even participate in regular digital happy hours.

We think 25 years looks pretty damn good on you CXR Members and Alumni – here’s to 25 more!

Gerry Crispin

Gerry Crispin

Gerry co-authored eight books on the evolution of staffing and has written 100s of articles and whitepapers on similar topics during a career in Human Resources that spans more than 40 years from HR leadership positions at Johnson and Johnson; to boutique Executive Search firms; a Career Services Director at the University where he received his Engineering and 2 advanced degrees in Organizational/Industrial Behavior; and, GM of a major recruitment advertising firm even as he launched CareerXroads 25 years ago.

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