WWD.com/business-news/human-resources/recruiting-in-a-digital-world-5624070/
Melissa Payner, Paul Blum, and Les Berglass.

Where do online and brick-and-mortar retailers look to hire tech-savvy, merchant-friendly, self-starting, collaborative job candidates? That was the question before an industry panel that included Paul Blum, chief executive officer of Kenneth Cole Productions Inc.; Les Berglass, chairman and ceo of Berglass+Associates, and Melissa Payner, then-ceo of Bluefly Inc., moderated by WWD news director Lisa Lockwood.

This story first appeared in the February 8, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“Bricks-and-mortar versus Internet is not in our vocabulary,” said Blum. “We’re a lifestyle brand. All technologies and touch points are coming together. It’s changing the language and thinking around the company. We’re looking for people who have adapted to new technologies and changed things where they worked. We don’t want someone who just picked up individual skills.”

Berglass said hiring for e-commerce or digital commerce is counterintuitive. “You have to look at this with a different set of filters,” he said. “It’s like inventing a whole new sport. The knee-jerk reaction is, ‘Get me someone from Amazon.’ A great person embraces change. They don’t come from a pure play.” The importance of an applicant’s college degree depends on the job opening. “You want to see good schools for a chief financial officer,” Berglass said. “For the head of marketing, you want their accomplishments, not their degree.”

Payner, who resigned from Bluefly last week, said hiring has become much more competitive. “The Internet is very challenging if you have a traditional background,” she said. “Things are changing constantly. Coming from a store environment, it’s not an easy shift. People coming out of school who grew up with the Internet are a different type of person that you’re combining into your mix. Technology has been the greatest recruitment challenge.”

Blum has tried to make Kenneth Cole Productions less hierarchical. “Vertical layers slow you down,” he said. “You need teams. Look for people who have are adaptable, collaborative, communicative and have the courage to take risks.”

For Blum, one of the key assets for a potential staffer is flexibility. “Data is becoming less and less dependable,” he said. “People who are too data- and metric-oriented are a bit of a liability. You have to be capable of ignoring data and trying something different.”