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This year, in my capacity of International CEO of Aquent, (the only global staffing company dedicated to marketing and design) I was very excited to help launch our new website, which specifically promotes the ability of our talent and clients to connect with our Agents, via social networks, if preferred.
You might think then, that I am a social networking evangalist, a true believer that is convinced “old recruiting” is dead and a new world of connecting via web-enabled networks awaits. A world where recruiters will manage armies of “friends and contacts” and slot them neatly into web-generated clients, themselves sourced via a gigantic pool of “Linked-In” connections.
Well, you would be wrong on both counts. No, I am not a social networking fanatic, and nor do I believe a new recruiting world will unfold, based on social networking per se.
Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware of the potential power of social media. I have my “Linked-In” page, and I find it fantastic for information and idea sharing and locating lost colleagues and also accessing talent. I am “Face-booked ” up to the max, although in truth its primarily a way to see what my daughter is up to, and share photos with my sisters overseas. And I fully “get” how Twitter, and the rest, are going to revolutionise how we communicate with people on a broad scale. We are in a dynamic, fast-changing world, and technology is impacting many aspects of human interaction — no doubt.
But remember this! Faxes were going to revolutionise recruitment. Remember? The Internet was going to wipe traditional recruiters from the landscape. Have we forgotten already? Email was going to mean the end of consultative recruiters. Web-testing and screening would mean selling skills and closing skills and candidate management skills were going to be redundant for poor old recruiters like me, living in yesteryear.
And none of it came true. None of it.
Sure we are in a recession now and recruitment as an industry is suffering, but that’s pure economic cycles. The truth is that for the five years up to 2008, the staffing industry was growing like it never had before. Record revenues, record profits, record take-up of our services by both clients and candidates, right across the world.
The Internet and email and job boards didn’t kill off recruiters! New technologies helped them to new heights and new riches! And the truth is that the recruiters who are doing the best now are those who are able to integrate the traditionally required skills with new technologies, and make one plus one equal three.
As I commented in our press release announcing our new website “’Job boards don’t find people jobs. People finds people jobs!”
(See the full release here )
Just before the market tanked about 18 months ago, an exiting employee of my firm, commented “Aquent is great place and Greg a good enough guy, just too old-fashioned”. Apparently most of that opinion was based on my refusal to pander to spoilt Generation Y’ers in our business who wanted everything, gave little in return, and had tantrums along the way to boot. The departing employee who made that remark was going to a new staffing world of in-house café lattes, flexible work hours, torn-jeans dress code — and a talent management strategy based entirely on scanning Facebook all day.
Sadly that business is gone, along with many of its ilk. And of course it’s the “old fashioned” recruiters, people who actually look to connect, personally, with talent and clients, recruiters who consult and add value, staffing professionals who can read between the lines, influence, persuade and truly match beyond a bland job description — who will survive this downturn and thrive in the inevitable upswing.
Social networking is a communications channel recruiters must embrace. No question. But lets be smart about this. It’s NOT the Holy Grail. It’s just a tool. An enabler, and it needs to be harnessed like all the other mechanisms we use to manage our relationships with clients and candidates.
Social networking devotees talk lovingly of “friends” and “contacts,” when in most cases, they are nothing of the sort. Who are we fooling when we call someone we have never met (quite possibly never heard of), “a friend”. Clicking “I accept” does not buy you love baby! How strong are your “friendships” when your “friend” can rid themselves of you by clicking a mouse (and hey, you don’t even get notified your “friendship” has bitten the dust). And your “contacts and connections” on Linked-In can be kept real if you are vigilant and disciplined, and there is huge value there. But accept everyone who wants to connect to you, and you build someone else’s mailing list, little more.
Every day web-advertising spruikers spout scare tactics suggesting recruitment companies who don’t pour money into social networking recruiting will be left behind, and be unable to attract talent. Total nonsense of course.
The real value of social media for the recruitment industry is building communities of like-minded people. Communities where you can showcase your credibility and build up networks that will allow you to source in the future. In fact I think the real value of social media is as an “influencer’,’more than a way to tap into talent . Those recruiters who use social media as a de facto job board, listing endless links to job descriptions juts don’t get the main game at play
Eventually a more structured and fruitful way to mine networking sites will be developed, and then it will behoove recruiters to get serious. But by then the social networking phenomena itself would have evolved into something different!
In the meantime, posting a job vacancy via a Tweet is even less targeted than the least targeted job board. You may get a valid response, you may not. But the fact remains, the real work of a skilled recruiter happens once the talent has applied, not before.
Social networking “gurus” and evangelists pontificate about how its web 2.0 that will make or break the next generation of recruiters, when in most cases these experts have never placed a person in a job and would have zero idea of the dynamic that has to occur for placements to be consistently made.
And that’s what we are talking about here, fellow recruiters. Don’t be seduced by the bright lights! Don’t be hooked into the promise of untold riches based on browsing your Facebook page. Sure, use Twitter, but don’t be a Twit. Play around with Facebook but face up to the reality that the hard work of building an offline reputation and real-world skills is still required. Link-In for all you are worth, but don’t allow the missing link of people interactions skills to be your downfall.
Of course, candidates and even clients, will originate from your social networking activities. I have had success that way myself. And that’s cool and its very welcome. But I also pick up candidates and clients from amongst the parents on the sidelines of my sons rugby matches! No one is really suggesting that as a targeted, sustainable way to re-invent recruiting are they?
Here is the nuts of it. The hard work of developing a sustainable relationship, building trust, proving you can add value, must be done in the “old fashioned” way. The way that has kept me in the staffing industry for thirty years, making money and having fun during every single one of them!
So as Aquent enters a brave new world of a totally transparent website which connects our customers to our people, note that social networking is intrinsic to our plan, but note too that the real theme behind our website is kinda “old fashioned”.
Connecting people and building real relationships.
Because its people who find people jobs.
- Posted by Greg Savage
- On December 7, 2009
- 10 Comments