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The New, New Thing

by Nov 19, 2009, 5:37 am ET

Picture 4I recently tried to arrange a meeting with someone visiting the Twin Cities and learned from his office that he’d asked that anyone wanting to reach him should “Tweet me.” Tweet me? E-mail or text messaging not good enough? Let me get this straight: I should try and arrange a private meeting to discuss a potential business deal using a medium that is literally open to the world. I have a better idea — Tweet yourself.

I suspect that the aforementioned twit, er, Tweeter was trying to look cool rather than gain anything practical from using Twitter instead of other modes of communication. After all, e-mail is so 20th century, and as for the phone — that was invented in 1876. Who would want to admit they used one? Might as well resort to carrier pigeons.

Let’s Go Surfing

Recruiters have a tendency to jump on the latest technology without fully appreciating its benefits or ramifications.

The newest entrant to the recruiting world is Google Wave, soon to be the solution du jour. By this time next year you’ll be told that if you’re not using Wave your career as a recruiter is likely to disappear faster than a burst of flatulence in a hurricane. You will be done with; finished; gone the way of Pontiac and Lehman Brothers — and deservedly so.

So what is Google Wave? Its inventors describe it as what e-mail would be it had been invented today instead of back in 1971. E-mail was a product of its time — an electronic version of postal mail — just faster. Back then the bandwidth was very limited so the best that could be done was send out small amounts of text. Its purpose is to send messages. It is a collaborative mechanism of sorts, but the constant back and forth of e-mail chains can get out of hand very quickly, the chaos increasing exponentially the more people are involved. Enter Google Wave: much better suited to a collaborative work environment than e-mail. A user who sends out a wave creates a workspace shared with all the people that receive it. The participants can add text, pictures, links, maps, etc. Everything is visible to everyone as it happens because all activity is logged in real time since the wave is stored on a central server instead of individual computers. Wave also keeps the activity organized and searchable. Wave brings together the functionality of just about every social media application and online communication tool. You can read everything you ever wanted to know (even if you didn’t) here.

Wave has some appeal for recruiters, not the least of which is that it’s free. As a collaborative tool it can help with activities like group interviews, evaluating candidates, writing up job requirements, etc. That’s the low-hanging fruit. Thinking more broadly, if an employee sends out a wave to a group of friends, then a recruiter could surf it (I just coined a term) to engage with them: an instant social network. Make it reach a large enough group and you could have a tsunami. Maybe not — that has too many negative connotations. Nobody wants to be associated with that. On the flip side, a bunch of disgruntled candidates sick of the shoddy treatment they got could get together and unleash one to wreck some company’s employment brand. That would be a Katrina. The possibilities are endless.

Diamond in the Rough, or Fool’s Gold?

Of course, the path to social media nirvana isn’t all roses. For all its faults, e-mail has some great features — like being able to ignore it or respond on your own time. Wave is a real-time application, which means it demands real-time attention. That can limit its appeal. Not everyone wants to be engaged all the time.

E-mail had another reason for gaining in popularity so fast. It did something that was very familiar and didn’t require a fundamental change in behavior from users. There’s a reason e-mail icons have a picture of an envelope. Using Wave well will require people to make some significant changes in behavior. Collaboration in real-time is not a normal everyday activity.

How much will Wave change recruiting? Impossible to predict. It’s just a tool; no more, no less. It’s only as good as the people who use it. Some recruiters will undoubtedly find creative ways to use it but for many it will only be a distraction. It will generate a lot of buzz and have some value in some circumstances for some people. What is absolutely certain is that it will not be a silver bullet solution for recruiting. There are none.

Get your account, and when you have it, let’s go surfing. Don’t wipe out.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • http://www.johnstonsearch.com/about.php Brian Kevin Johnston

    Raghav- I love your articles… They are always thought provoking…

    I recieved an invite to googlewave and just started to understand the features, videos, blogs, etc.

    I am excited as I believe there is value in this platfrom…

    BUT.. It DOES NOT replace my face to face and phone “connections”…

    Best,
    Brian-

  • Joshua Letourneau

    Raghav, great article and you are correct – there will be value in some circumstances for some groups of recruiters. As much as things change, they all too often stay very much the same.

    I have a blog post in the queue at FistfulofTalent.com regarding much of the same – my analogy is one evaluating our military’s ‘technological advantage’ in Afghanistan.

    Afghanistan’s terrain renders the lionshare of our technological advantage absolutely moot. You might say that the ‘latest and greatest’ technology is not an accelerator of advantage, but rather an inhibitor . . . and you’d be right.

    There are similarities when we look at Recruiting. Despite the sheep flocking to every new product release, the most successful recruiters (and recruiting organizations) have mastered the most primitive of tools, such as email, phone, and above all, the ‘will to win’.

  • http://www.capitalhealth.org Valerie Bruno

    Great article, Raghav. It’s important to recognize that not every new tool out there is one-size-fits-all for all recruiters in all industries.

  • http://www.talentdrive.com Robert Bialk

    Raghav you are fantastic at taking a 360 degree view of technology. Thanks.

  • http://www.hughesvaladez.com John Hughes

    Good article with the exception of the comment “Recruiters have a tendency to jump on the latest technology without fully appreciating its benefits or ramifications.”
    This generalization could be said of many disciplines and/or groups. Many of us take the time to discern what is practical for our client needs versus simply being an interesting toy.

  • Keith Halperin

    Once again Raghav, I applaud you telling us that “the Emperor has no clothes!” As I often say:

    “I fear that the hype will continue as long as there are slick hucksters ready to sell the latest recruiting snake oil panacea to desperate and not-yet insolvent recruiters and their superiors who fail to recognize that in most cases they are futilely “rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic” of the elimination, automation, or outsourcing of the majority of their duties.” What surprises me is that there are still any not-yet insolvent recruiters and their superiors left who can afford this.

    SOURCING: Why does anyone consider this a meaningful topic of general discussion anymore? When you can hire high-quality sourcers (both telephone and internet) for around minimum U.S. wage (or less), why do WE need to know how to do it better? Are we that broke that we can’t afford it, do we plan on competing in the marketplace against sub-minimum wage sourcers, or is there a belief that the small numbers of high-level “Osama in a Cave- Type” searches are enough to keep a substantial number of Western sourcers working at a middle-class level of income?

    CORPORATE BRANDING: Obsolete- it’s in the hands of the employees and candidates through sites like Glassdoor
    (http://www.glassdoor.com/survey/start_input.htm?showSurvey=REVIEWS). Treat your employees
    and your applicants decently, and hope for the best; you can’t rely on your marketing drones and shills as much anymore…and speaking of which:

    APPLICANT EXPERIENCES: If you/your recruiters are too busy, hire a Virtual Assistant for $800/mo. to make sure that all applicants’ experiences are professional, if not pleasant. If your company isn’t prepared to pay someone less than the cleaning staff earns to make sure they leave a good impression with applicants, then THEY REALLY DON’T CARE, and the word will get out (see above).

    SOCIAL MEDIA: There are only 24 hours in a day- what’s the best use of your time? Do YOU need to find new ways of getting hold of people? (See above.) How about doing recruiting activities s which can’t be eliminated, automated, or outsourced? How about becoming a “Solution Recruiter” who enables the client’s work to be done, and not just a peddler of walking,talking widgets for sale or rent? How about working to develop tested, verifiable Generally Accepted Recruiting Principles (GARPs) which really work, and aren’t just what someone like me SAYS they are so they can make some ill-earned lucre? My suspicion: the latter options require a lot of hard work, requiring rational thought and soul-searching, while hearing about the”the new new thing” doesn’t.

    Thanks for the opportunity to vent,

    Keith “MY New New Thing Webinar Coming Soon” Halperin

  • http://www.staffingtalk.com gregg dourgarian

    Raghav’s delightful writing style notwithstanding, he misses the point of microblogging services like twitter, confusing them with the flood of other newsy products in a plaintive what’s-a-poor-recruiter-to-do response to real change taking place in how prospects demand to be treated.

    Here’s the problem: prospects don’t want to listen when sales wants to talk, and sales doesn’t know when prospects need information.

    C-level execs gets dozens of unsolicited emails and phone calls every day from recruiters. We’d go nuts if we tried to politely answer them.

    Unlike email or the telephone or for that matter carrier pigeons (actually I’m not sure about the pigeons), direct messaging in microblogging services require permission. Unless our account has been hacked we can’t get interrupted by a commercial there.

    So Raghav’s prosepct wasn’t trying to be rude or cute or techie in telling him to Tweet, he/she was simply doing what people that manage their time well are increasingly doing – turning off the noise.

  • http://www.talentdrive.com Robert Bialk

    Gregg I understand your point on “turning off the noise”…but there is a law of diminishing returns. I have two young teacher (daughters) living at home and we were discussing the value of twitter this week. They are tuning out twitter because they want to turn off the noise. Just too busy to deal with another medium. Between blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing, email,and countless others coming online; I think many people are getting over loaded with the ltest and greatest (Google Wave).

    There was an article in ere that was brilliantly written on “micro celebrity” where a person had an enormous amout of Facebook friends; but did they really have “friends”. My main takeaway from Raghav’s article is the lack of interpersonal communication via voice is cheapening the value of recruiters and business executives.

  • Harold Mellor

    Raghav, do you have a Twitter account?