John Hollon is an award-winning journalist and a nationally recognized expert on leadership, talent management, human resources, and smart workforce practices. For the last six years, he worked as Vice President for Editorial at ERE Media where he founded the highly popular HR and talent management website TLNT.com. Before that, he was Editor-in-Chief of Workforce Management magazine, the nation’s oldest HR and talent management publication.
During his 30-year career, he has also held editing positions at the late Los Angeles Herald Examiner and California’s Orange County Register. He was the top editor for Gannett at two statewide papers—the Great Falls Tribune in Montana, and The Honolulu Advertiser in Hawaii. He also has deep experience in magazine and online publishing, having been a Group Editor and Editorial Director at Fancy Publications in Irvine, Vice President for Editorial at Pets.com in San Francisco, and Editor of the San Diego Business Journal.
In addition to his work as an editor and media executive, John is also an adjunct professor in the College of Communications at California State University, Fullerton.
10.5 QUESTIONS WITH JOHN HOLLON
- The elevator just closed and you’ve got 30 seconds to pitch the random reader on who you are and why they should read your rants. Go..
When I write, I don’t rant — and I wonder what’s wrong with people who do. I teach college part-time, and I tell my opinion writing students that rants are like talking to a jackass in a bar who’s drunk and spouting all kind of BS with nothing to back it up. You want people to read and seriously consider whatever point you’re making? Then you gotta bring evidence, facts, and personal experience to back it up.
You’ve probably figured this out but, I’m an old fart who brings a lifetime of hiring, the occasional firing, and a people-focused philosophy of management of people to bear. It gives me a pretty solid perspective on all things talent. I also believe Millennials get a bad shake from everyone ragging on them because their generation is no better or worse than any of the others that came before them.
More than anything, I bring a big dose of my passion, personal perspective, and life experience to everything I write. And if you want to really get me going, say something about my No. 1 pet peeve – the terribly incompetent, clueless, and shortsighted management we put up with in America today. Just watch any episode of Undercover Boss to see what I’m talking about!
- Now for the mundane – break down your location, title, company/firm and what you do for a living..
I’m a longtime journalist, editor, publisher, and media executive. I’ve worked as the top editor and (occasional publisher) of daily newspapers, magazines, business journals, B2B publications, and talent management websites from Kentucky to Hawaii. I even did a stint in San Francisco at the turn of the century as a Vice President for Editorial at a famous and well-known dotcom startup.
In the talent management and HR space, I’m known for my six year stint as Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, and most recently, as the founding Editor of TLNT.com, a website about all things talent that I built from scratch into one of the most popular and well-read talent management websites on the Internet.
In May 2016 I made the jump to HR tech company Checkster, where I work as Vice President of Content. I’m also an adjunct professor of communications at California State University, Fullerton, where I have taught opinion writing, magazine management, and (don’t laugh!) media ethics in the College of Communications for the past nine years. Plus, I’m a longtime board member at the Kronos Workforce Institute. I have a BA in Journalism from California State University, Long Beach, and an MBA from Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management. I’m a first-generation Californian and live in The OC, in Southern California. I’m also thankful the Rams finally woke up and moved back to L.A. where they rightly belong.
- One more question that everyone expects. What’s the reason you’re in this game? (why do you do what you do?)
I have a talent for writing and editing, plus, I have a knack for managing people and getting more out of them. Most of all, I think that great management can really elevate people and the work they do, and when you get that rolling, you can get a workplace team to accomplish just about anything. THAT’S what drives me and keeps me in the game.
- If you’ve ever been to a professional baseball game, you know batters from the home team get to pick their own theme music as they walk from the dugout to the plate. If we ever have a FOT convention, what theme music will you come out to to pump the crowd up and why?
My music? If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time by Willie Nelson. Why? That’s because if you’ve got the money, well, I’ll find the time. And, because it makes me think of the advice Laurie Ruettimann loves to give.
- Let’s stick with the baseball theme. If you’ve ever been to a pro game, you also know that the visitor doesn’t get to pick their own music. The home team picks that for them, and it’s usually less than stellar, as a means of attempting to crush them. If you could pick theme music for your arch-rival to walk into a conference room to, what would it be and why?
When I Grow Up (to Be a Man) by the Beach Boys, because it’s the ultimate put-down and attacks the other person’s manhood (or womanhood, I guess) at the same time. Two zings for the price of one. Or Wrong by Waylon Jennings – for obvious reasons.
- Finish the following sentence – “When I’m interviewing, I can tell within one minute that this thing isn’t going to work out because _________…”
… the conversation is stilted and forced, the interviewee doesn’t seem to have anything to say, and I’m having to work way too hard to pull information out of them. Nothing good ever comes from an interview that starts like that.
- Name the actor/actress who will portray you in the movie about you. Why the heck is that a fit?
No one in their right mind is going to want to make a movie about me!
- List three of your favorite books to pander to the educated segment of our readership…
- Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia by Michael Korda. You can learn a lot about managing people from T.E. Lawrence. He was a small, slight, junior British officer, a bastard by birth who was denied his father’s title as a result, a Christian, and a guy with no real experience who managed to pull warring Muslim tribes who hated each other together in a common purpose to defeat a modern army. Is that a great management trick, or what?
- Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. Although anything by Vonnegut is good (especially Slaughterhouse Five and Breakfast of Champions), Cat’s Cradle is a satirical and comical take on the end of the world and the madness of modern man. Take from that what you will.
- The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton. The ultimate business book that is something every manager and HR pro should read and keep on their desk – for obvious reasons.
9. List three of your favorite movies to connect with the segment of our readership that doesn’t like to read…
- The Godfather – When I edited a business journal, most every business leader we ever talked to listed The Godfather as their favorite business book or movie. That’s because “it’s business; not personal.”
- The Big Lebowski – Maybe this is an L.A. thing, but The Big Lebowski just gets more hysterical every time I see it. John Goodman beating on the wrong guy’s brand new Corvette with a baseball bat while yelling, “This is how it feels to get f**ed up the a**” is priceless. Plus, it’s a great take on bowling, White Russians, and all that can go wrong if you try to make a quick buck when you don’t have any idea what you’re doing.
- Up in the Air – George Clooney is great as a hired gun that comes in to fire people when top management doesn’t have the balls to do it themselves. Great insights into how no matter how hard you try to depersonalize it, firing people is a bad thing best done one-on-one.
- Let’s reach out to what remains of our readership. Who’s your favorite Old-School Rapper and why?
MC Hammer– I pretty much hate rap and believe there is just about zero musical content to it. But, MC Hammer and U Can’t Touch This is actually something that’s really old school that I can listen to.
10.5. My first car was a <blank> and here’s how it defined who I am….
My first car was a Volkswagen Bug, 1966 I believe. I wrecked it, of course, and my grandfather rebuilt it as a Baja Bug. I ended up selling it to a friend who sold it to a guy who was taking it to Syria. As far as I know, ISIS may be driving it around today with a 50 caliber machine gun strapped to the back. There’s a lesson in there somewhere, I think.