Blogging Bob

So many recent news articles proclaim that social networking and blogging are the keys to effective recruiting. The vibe of these stories is that if you aren’t already using these activities, your fate in the war for talent will be to become another battlefield casualty. You are a dinosaur and deserve to be extinct.

Whenever something new comes along, there tends to be a lot of hype, based on the “promise” of what it may deliver. Think ATS and job boards. It’s a lot like elephants trying to procreate: there’s a lot of hooting and hollering and dust getting kicked up at the start, and then nothing may happen for a very long time. And if it does happen, it’s going to be difficult and painful.

Social networking, and its sibling, blogging, are in such a state today. People are excited about the prospect of reaching hordes of people, and apparently some believe this is the new requirement for recruiting success.

Boy, are they wrong. Reaching hordes of people through media stopped working some time ago. Remember newspaper ads for jobs? The Internet was supposed to change all that. Things were going to be different.

The Internet is interactive, and if it wasn’t at first, then Web 2.0 will resolve any problems that remained. Ah, yes, interactive, like job boards. My goodness, I almost forgot how effective those are, so effective that we must have a “relationship management system.” Because now we have so many relationships (all genuine and heartfelt) that we need social networking.

What’s Wrong with Social Networking?

Before we delve into what is wrong, let’s start with what’s right about it. It’s a way to connect with people in a manner that was not possible before. With any social networking site, you can make a lot of friends and share experiences, information, articles, and a whole lot more, including jobs. Better yet, your network can distribute your jobs far and wide. You can also search your network for those elusive passive candidates.

All is good, all is great, and we have found the promised land. But wait, something is not right. As they say in Israel, why is the promised land the only place in the Middle East lacking any oil?

What’s missing here? For starters, how many people in your network have you spoken with more than once? There’s a reason the average person has only five close friends, and it’s not because Facebook hadn’t been invented. It’s difficult to maintain close contacts with more than a handful of people. The fact that people have hundreds of connections on social networking sites only represents an improvement over a Rolodex, not that we’re suddenly more social.

What do you really know about the vast majority of people in your network, without having to open their profile? Ah, but that’s not the point, because you now have access to a pool of people like never before. With a few clicks, they can learn about your jobs and you can uncover their skills.

If it was only that simple. As many have discovered, it may work on occasion to tell your network about a job you’re looking to fill, but do it too often and your messages become spam. As for finding candidates, social networking sites lack sufficient descriptions of skills to be anything more than possible leads that require massive effort to turn into hires. It is not a scalable model. It may work for an executive search firm or for the difficult high-level positions, but for most others, it is unworkable.

One cannot show that X hours spent social networking will result in Y hires. For those vast numbers of accounting, finance, sales, engineering, and just about every other mainstream position, a recruiter cannot expect to accomplish much, or anything, by social networking.

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It’s another weapon for the arsenal. Undoubtedly so, but it’s a single-shot rifle with an inaccurate sight when what’s required is a machine gun.

The Saga of Blogging Bob

I have a question. Who is going to write all these blogs? And when are they going to write them? If recruiter Bob comes into the office Monday and starts blogging away instead of recruiting, he’ll probably be invited to seek his fortune elsewhere. Management likes to see you do the job you were hired for (bosses are like that). So, if Bob wants to stay employed, he’ll have to blog from home.

Of course, Bob loves his job more than his family, so blogging from home is no problem. He’ll just stay up late and engage in stimulating conversations with all kinds of interesting people online, which is going to make him a stellar recruiter. Oh, except Bob isn’t a very stimulating conversationalist, or writer. And he occasionally feels the straightjacket of his job description is confining.

Bob has other interests, you know. He’s an individual. It is possible that Bob’s expressions won’t articulate the corporate position as effectively as his employer might hope. And it’s possible that maybe, just maybe, a reader might confuse Bob’s views with his employer’s during a late-night blogging session.

The boys over in Legal want to chat with Bob. No problem, says Bob. More fodder for the raging debate in Bob’s blog.

Through his late-night blog, he’s become a master-debater. He’s reaching such heights of success that he’s above trivial considerations like legal liability. He’s bulletproof Bob! Formerly a recruiter with a blog, now a famous blogger who used to recruit!

He’ll get his own byline in major recruiting publications. Stop by Bob’s booth at the next recruiting conference and get a free Bob-ble head. He’ll be on the speaker circuit with bleached white teeth. He’ll date spokesmodels. He’ll be so busy “going global” he won’t have time for recruiting. But he’ll tell everyone how to leverage technology in recruiting, and that blogging is the one true path.

Well, with all that blogging success, Bob’s going to need a paycheck. Thank goodness for social networking. I hear it’s the only way to find a job these days. It’s time for Bob to get LinkedIn.

J.P. Winker is a partner at The A-List, which specializes in sourcing talent for organizations around the world. A former recruiting director at a Fortune 500 company, and executive in the electronic recruiting space, his focus is on developing companies by helping them get the right talent in the right frame of mind.

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