Social Cavemen, the Broken Web, and Recruiting

Josh Letourneau Candidate Pool, HR Tech, Joshua Letourneau, Social Network Analysis, Social Recruiting

The web is changing.  Sure, you already knew that, but the web has likely changed since you last considered what the change really meant.  “Back in the day” (say, two years ago), most of our time on the web used to be spent consuming content.  Not so much anymore.  We are actually spending significant amounts of time interacting with others more than anything else.  Maybe that means reading our “Friends and Followers” unique content (ala the rise of the Blogosphere) or Twitter streams, but the way we’re using the web today is entirely different than at any other point in it’s history.  We should have saw this coming – evolution and change are sure things (unless you live in Texas, but we won’t go there today!). For a quick reality check, consider how you spent an evening hour on the web back in 2000 versus how you spend it today.  How about the days when we used to say, “I’m going into the office, Honey, so I can hop on the web for a few.”  Nowadays, we don’t just “hop on the web” – it’s an integral part of the very fiber of our lives.

Mars Blackmon used to say, “It’s gotta be the shoes” in the famous Air Jordan Commercials of the early 90s’.  Well, we all know it definitely wasn’t the shoes!  So what would we say today about the shift in terms of the Social Web and how we use it today?  Many would say, “It’s gotta be the technology”, but is it really?  If we really think about it, the technologies merely serve as tools and mediums in which we can interact among each other.

A couple years ago, I was an outspoken critic of how Recruiters were utilizing Social Media in their Talent Acquisition efforts.  I believed that the “Build it and they will come” Field of Dreams strategy wasn’t sustainable.  It still isn’t, at least not if we expect individuals to come to us instead of the other way around.  Building “Talent Communities” was all the craze, but the flaw in this thinking was that people would come and join the newly found network… and instantly become an engaged and participatory member.  Some of the early infatuation led many to believe that community members would join and never move on – it’s as if there was no shelf-life in the model.  The result?  You already know – dormant Ning communities, or worse, Facebook Fan Pages with 10k+ fans and no content or interaction.  I cringe when I see those today.

We are making progress as a Recruiting Community though – nobody can deny
that.  I’m more and more impressed with each positive Social Recruiting interaction I see on
the openly transparent, Social Web.  The last few years have seen more
and more Recruiters and Talent Acquisition functions gain interest in
basic Marketing fundamentals as well – but if we really want
to be successful, we have to think bigger.  Great Recruiters and Sourcers used to be associated with dry, librarian-centric adjectives like “research-oriented” . . . but today’s and tomorrow’s great Recruiters and Sourcers will more be like Anthropologists and Sociologists who understand social interaction patterns and still have the ability to persuade at the individual level.  The most savvy will shape conversation and the social interaction itself will be the attractor to the Candidate, not an advertisement or job posting.  Conversation attracts; advertisements interrupt.

GeicoCavemen The challenge we currently have in front of us is that the Social Web, in its current state, is utterly broken.  For example, I personally have over 1,300 Facebook Friends.  Are they all really “Friends”, though?  Some are contacts from grade school, some from my time in the Marines, some are co-workers from an earlier job, some are social contacts I used to share a hobby with, some are family, etc.  It’s as if Facebook has one huge bucket to put all our friends in when our real social network (or combination of them) is nothing like this.  So, the million-dollar question is this:  How can we, as Recruiters and Sourcers, tap into the small portion of our Target Talent Pools that is overlapping in hundreds of thousands of “Mass Friend Buckets” on the web?  With Human Beings having between 4 to 6 groups composed of less than 10 people each, how can we find the potential Candidates for our Organization?  (Hint: It’s not about the massive Friend-bucket . . . )

Personally, my take is that achieving this end is about much, much more than finding someone through a bio or keyword search (despite the continued demand for old-school Boolean string training). So let’s take a step forward: Can we create platforms for conversation and then attract in other members of our Target Talent Pool(s) that we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to find?  I think so… but at that point, we’ve only found them, right?  Like Tom Watson used to say at IBM, “Nothing happens until a sale is made.”  It’s here that we have to move onto Stage 2, which is about engagement (sorry to say this word because it’s utterly overused today, but it is what it is.)  Being a great Recruiter will be a function of being a great Social Recruiter (or conversation catalyst) first.

We have to start reconsidering much of what we already know about the age old notion of human social behavior.  After all, that’s what the Social Web is really all about.  Humans have been embracing Social Networks since we’ve been in caves (hence the Cavemen reference)… so they’re nothing new.  Our ability to form small-world networks is largely why we’ve been able to evolve to the point we have.  The web is nothing more than catching up to these social patterns that are inherently human.  As an industry, will we as well?  In short, we must… and as always, we will.  If there is one hallmark of the Recruiting Community, it’s continued progress toward a common goal.