Social Networks, What a Mess!

Apr 23, 2008

Are you overwhelmed with the hundreds of new tools, applications, websites, and services that have sprung up over the past few months?

Social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn are all the rage. Some recruiters are charging forward with Twitter and other SMS-type tools. Websites are being revamped with videos, blogs, and simulations.

Recruiters who are not using any of these tools or who are not remaking their websites feel as though they are falling behind. Other recruiters are feeling confused and uncertain over how to effectively decide whether these tools are useful or just a waste of time they don’t have.

As a profession, we are faced with too many tools and very little experience or wisdom in applying them effectively. Recruiters are confused, as are the senior management teams of most organizations, as to which technologies are essential to winning the talent war and which are fads.

Some recruiters rely entirely on Internet search or on job boards. Others are busily creating new interactive websites and writing blogs. Some are reverting back to telephone and face-to-face meetings out of frustration and confusion.

Tools and services are often purchased because the salesperson did an effective job in selling the benefits of their product, or because the recruiter is afraid that they will lose their competitive edge if they don’t have the latest tools. Unfortunately, recruiters rarely have a clear strategy on how to deploy and integrate technology into their recruiting process.

In order to steer technology choices, you need to understand what is happening in the world of recruiting technology, and there has to be an appreciation for the evolutionary nature of all technology.

Four Technology Rules to Implement

Here are the most important technology rules that every prudent recruiter should follow and understand.

  1. Recognize that technology evolves faster and faster. Whatever software or Internet application you are using today will most likely have evolved significantly within one year. It may have been upgraded, it may have evolved or merged with some other technology, or it may simply be superceded by a better concept. You always need to understand this when you invest in a technology. Never purchase any technology without agreements and understandings about how and when upgrades and changes will be made. Always be willing to “pull the plug” if a technology seems to be going nowhere or does not meet your needs. Have a backup strategy and don’t rely entirely on any tools or technology until you are certain that it works for you. When you first hear about a new technology or tool, use Google to search the Internet and find out what others are saying about it. Log into forums or consult sites such as Geoff Petersons’ StaffBytes, which is a fantastic listing and commentary on emerging tools and technologies. Use your own networks to seek out in-depth information or just survey your colleagues to see who else might be using the tools or technology.
  2. Have a technology strategy. Take a step-by-step approach, perhaps starting with a base-level solution that will allow you to handle administrative tasks and automate the transactional side of your work. The tools that handle this are usually applicant tracking tools, and I consider them to be foundation technology. You might then focus on branding and attraction tools that could include a more interactive website, email campaigns, a blog, and other similar tools. From that, you could move to Internet search and talent pool development using Facebook or LinkedIn. Most medium to large organizations could perhaps implement two of these at the same time, but lay out a project plan and set milestones to track your progress.
  3. Look for “out-of-the-box” tools and technologies that expand your capabilities. All early tools copy what is done in some other way. For example, early applicant tracking systems simply scanned in resumes, duplicating paper electronically. These early systems rarely add anything new. Over time, the products evolve and become more aligned to their own unique capabilities. Always seek tools that do more than you can do with existing methods. Think outside the traditional and be open to vendors who offer products that seem to break the established molds. They are probably onto something pretty good. Firms like Itzbig, Checkster, SkillsSurvey, Job Fox, Twitter, Ning, and Standoutjobs all offer innovative solutions that are worth looking into.
  4. Create a way to sort or categorize technology. Even though the world of technology can be confusing, most products fit into categories that then help you decide what might be best for you. I fit most of these into one of six categories: Branding or Attraction; Sourcing; Talent Community Development and Relationship Management; Assessment; Administrative; and Onboarding. Branding and attraction includes your career site, email, or other outreach campaigns you do along with videos on YouTube, for example, or a corporate profile on Facebook. Sourcing technologies would include any tools and techniques for finding people on the Internet, such as Google. Tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Ning are social networks and are useful both for sourcing candidates and for maintaining relationships with them. Tools such as Checkster and SkillsSurvey help conduct reference checks and assess candidates. By putting the technologies into categories, it becomes much easier to decide how relevant they are to your needs and strategy. If you can’t figure out where a tool fits, ask the vendor and have a discussion that educates you and helps build your ability to make tough decisions.

Technology is an essential part of being a modern recruiter. Most recruiting will revolve around the Internet, social networks, and the related tools that make this work.

We will be communicating with candidates over email, SMS, and IM. We will be assessing them with simulations and other tests, and we will be checking their references virtually.

No one will be untouched by technology, and having a coherent and well-defined approach to adopting new tools and technologies will be important to your happiness, peace of mind, and success.

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