Nov 19, 2009
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

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 part of a series called News & Trends.
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