Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Real relationships, not online connections, build true professional networks

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.

Some of the top recruiters start 10-20
quality relationships per week.
I am in the IT and Healthcare IT recruiting and staffing business. I am also a self-admitted technology maven and admirer. So when I ran across a blog regarding LinkedIn's affect on the recruiting industry, I felt compelled to expand on the subject further. While Navid Sabetian says that LinkedIn's bubble will burst and briefly, in closing, that one needs to cultivate relationships with top line candidates and build them over the years; with all respect to Mr. Sabetian, I think both points are obvious.

Here is the bigger picture:

Yes, Facebook will have a billion users soon enough, which equates to a ridiculous amount of influence.  LinkedIn is probably the largest network of potential candidates and recruiters on the planet right now.  There are the 'old' job board standards (Monster, Careerbuilder, Dice, etc…), Google+, and 'who knows what else' emerging that I haven’t yet fully experienced.
There is no silver bullet: Meaning, there is no next or current 'big thing' that is the source to go to find the best candidates for all the open jobs out there.  This new market for talent is not about finding a single, or even two or three sources to find people.  It is about creating a network of real people, across all the relevant channels available to you.  It’s not about how many connections you have on LinkedIn or Facebook, but about how many people in your specialty areas with whom you are able to create some form of human interaction.

In fact, some of the best sourcing around is still done the old fashioned way; through direct, in-person communication. The internet has a host of tools for finding qualified candidates on paper (or on your monitor if you've gone paperless); however, it doesn't replace the legwork of striking up a conversation and getting to know them.

Sabetian claims to have a professional network with 16,000 direct connections with another 12,000 waiting in the wings, with whom he cannot interact due to a glitch on LinkedIn. It raises the question of how one would interact with the first 16,000. In one work year, assuming no vacation or holidays, you would have to interact with 61 people per day. Is it doable? Yes. Is it realistic each contact will be a good connection and suitable for an ongoing relationship? No. Some of the best recruiters make 50 to 100 contacts and start building 10-20 solid relationships a week with candidates.    

To me, as a few of the blog comments also eluded to, it seems that LinkedIn will likely become less effective as recruiters start to use connections as a database. The relevance you can have to one another on a human level in a sea of 28,000 connections seems to be very low for both sides; rendering the service less valuable to both parties. It brought to mind Malcom Gladwell's idea in The Tipping Point that we, as humans, cannot maintain more than 150 real social relationships with others at one time.

In fact, I think it is why I am of the opinion that LinkedInitself is having trouble remaining relevant to users today.

Is the idea of having a professional network with thousands of connections compelling? Certainly it is. But only if you maintain contact with your network, remain relevant its members, and interact with them on a regular basis. Otherwise it's just an overinflated database; not a true network.

Even with all the technologies and social 'networks' available, the basics of recruiting haven’t changed; or maybe they did for a while and now they have come full circle. The only difference is that now, we have more sophisticated tools to make the job of finding real people to develop real relationships with easier. 

I haven’t been in the industry long enough to know how things were done pre-Internet circa 1995, but I do know there couldn’t have been any option other than building a real contact network.  It must be much easier now to find the people to build that same network today; but people are still people and they want good jobs, with good companies where they feel valued; and they want the same when being wooed for a position.

All of the perks that many companies are starting to offer (benefits, higher than average pay, flex-time, daycare, healthcare, free lunches, etc.) to make happy workers cannot replace investment in relationships with those employees. We'll explore this idea further next week.

Good recruitment firms and recruiters become an extension of their clients' business and are often the first point of contact a candidate has with an employer; making relationship building with both even more critical.

Josh Kaplan writes on various subjects including management, information technology breakthroughs, healthcare IT recruitment and innovations, big data, IT staffing and recruitment, and technical news and trends. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Internet is Forever: The importance up front planning when building your brand

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.

Google on 2 Dec 1998 courtesy of the Internet Wayback Machine.
We've all heard the stories about wild spring break pictures coming back to haunt people years later or Facebook statuses from long ago taking down someone's political career. It's likely going to be a bigger problem for Millennials and their children. Although cliché; the internet really is forever and someone, somewhere has that picture or rant, even if you've deleted it.

Gizmodo's Attila Nagy recently posted a different take on the 'internet is forever' theme that is far more amusing and teaches those of us in the IT field a bit of a lesson about up front planning. Nagy dug up '23 Ancient Websites That Are Still Alive' that range from still functional search engines from the mid-90's to some classic gems.

After reviewing the list of sites, and admittedly checking some of them out along with the source code, I realized that, at that time, the web was relatively 'new' in terms of mainstream usage and some of the innovations brought forth were state of the art. Even though the first domain name was registered in 1985, fewer than 15,000 were registered in 1992. (Today, there are over 233 million.)

No solely internet-based company has existed for more than about 18 years, yet we all depend on the web, at least in part and certainly in IT staffing, for our livelihood. I looked back at a few sites that I was happy to see still exist for nostalgic reasons. I also realized that just because you can make something blink, create an animated gif, or know some groovy flash tricks; sometimes it's better to sit back, think on it, and just say 'No!' (Google's cached pages and the Internet Archive Wayback Machine can offer some other prime examples.)

This run down memory lane brings to mind the fact that The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (a novel series developed from a BBC radio program) has always been one of my favorite books. Recently, though it dawned on me that if I were to try and explain it to my six-year-old daughter, that this guy has a guide which can tell him anything he needs to know about anything in the universe instantly, she would probably say, 'You mean like Google on your iPhone?' (Note: Altavista came up nowhere in this fictional conversation.)

The internet made Douglas Adams' masterpiece largely non-amazing.  (Or perhaps it shows how genius he was in predicting what technology might exist in the future. If you take his explanation as to the origins for his idea, this was likely not the case, or was it?)

Sensibility and taste mattered then and it still does today, whether you're engaging in social media or building your business. When you're branding your domain, blog, or yourself to the outside world, some up front planning and design work can go a long way in the success of your efforts. A halfhearted effort, or the latest and greatest widgets don't mean a thing if they're not relevant to your users/followers.

Some of the most visually engaging sites in the world became irrelevant overnight when Apple decided that Flash was not safe for its mobile platform (Hitchhiker's iPhone anyone?). Some of the earliest Flash art itself was subject to user bandwidth limitations and, when you have only a few seconds to engage with a potential site user, a long load time could make or break your brand or cause a recruiter to bypass you on the way to the next candidate.

The point is; maintenance, generating new content that is relevant to your audience, and keeping up with technology changes can make all the difference in the success or failure of your web-facing initiatives. What seems relevant today can quickly become forgotten or, for better or worse; a lasting reminder of what used to be.
What do you think? Does one need to be a vigilant planner when preparing an online branding initiative, carefully considering all facets of your site on the front-end, or, are you of the school of thought that the web is always evolving and adapting your online persona professionally or personally is an inevitable part of technology advancement? Do you think outdated, sometimes iconic websites and messaging are perfectly acceptable if they remain relevant or have a large following?

Josh Kaplan writes on various subjects including management, information technology breakthroughs, healthcare IT recruitment and innovations, big data, IT staffing and recruitment, and technical news and trends.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Look what I did! (You should too): A story about social media, peer pressure, and approval.

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.

Are you unconsciously influenced by what
you see on social media?
Recent national events have created a flurry of social media activity. From the election and the associated fervor on both sides to Superstorm Sandy; millions of pictures have been sent, tweets were flying a mile a minute and who was behind them? Survey says: Us.

The need to be first or to fulfill our own need for approval from others is explored a bit further in a recent article from Forbes' Jeff Bercovci. In a witty read, he discusses the various stages of approval seeking and how by the nature of the media itself, it is impossible to have someone notice something you're proud of unless you put it out there. He also discusses the type of peer pressure created by the good deeds of others as well as, pressure created to tell people you did something good.
I want to take this idea a step further this week. We've all heard the echoes of our parents voices when we read, 'If your friend jumps off a bridge, should you?' It's a universally used example to deter kids from buckling to peer pressure.

On social media, when you see that your friend likes something, or in Bercovici's example; voted, or has an opinion on a current event, or is ranting about the blown call in the closing moments of the game; does it make you feel like you should do the same?

Does it motivate you to speak out on topics you normally would generally have no business giving your opinion on?

My first instinct is to say, 'No. I don’t.'  But, maybe I do and I just don’t notice?

When I see people post a picture of their kids, do I subconsciously follow?  When someone posts a poignant news story, I re-post it sometimes, and yes, if someone posts that they donated to a charity, or helped someone less fortunate, I have looked into that charity or researched a situation.

Let's take it a step further.  Should companies use social media to promote their own philanthropy or practice philanthropy for the sake of doing good in the community and egging others on to do the same? Is their cyber-bragging wrong because they are a company? Should they wait for someone else to recognize their efforts or, should they tell the world to promote a positive message and goodwill outside their main line of business?

Should we wait for someone else to promote positive messages about us or what we've done, or, should we bask in an introspective satisfaction that we've done something positive in the world?

Social media causes us to seek responses.  By nature we as humans generally want approval, confirmation that we are good people with a purpose, so it seems natural that we would post about positive things we think and do. The confirmation from our friends further fuels the desire for more positive attention. It’s a never-ending cycle, but not necessarily a bad one.

What do you think? (You can let me know here, on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, etc.)

Josh Kaplan writes on various subjects including management, information technology breakthroughs, healthcare IT recruitment and innovations, big data, IT staffing and recruitment, and technical news and trends.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Words Matter: The importance of semantics in business.

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.

Choosing the right words make or break a conversation.
There’s a distinct difference between wording something poorly mid-speech or mid-conversation and choosing the wrong words to manage and motivate.

Making a gaffe during a speech will happen to you (if you indeed do find yourself giving speeches).  It might even become a memorable part of the speech or conversation despite your protests and embarrassment.  Just chalk it up to your growing 'binder full of gaffes.'

Carefully chosen wording used to manage and motivate, however, can be instrumental in getting the best results from others. The right word choices can make all the difference when trying to elicit positive outcomes and feelings from an employee, in a meeting, during a review, or any other interaction; be it in a business or a personal setting.

Saying, 'How might we…?'; as in this LinkedIn posting from IDEO's CEO Tim Brown; is a perfect example of combining three important words into a synergistic powerhouse of verbiage can generate positive and creative results.

In IT staffing, words are an integral part of how we match candidates and clients. We ask clients what they truly want in a candidate beyond the job description. In addition to covering the skills, projects and jobs listed on their resume/CV, we ask candidates more about what they want from their career; we ask what they would like to take away from this project or how they would handle a situation that the client has told us might come up. Comparing and contrasting the client and candidate responses to these carefully selected 'word strings' can be the key to mutually positive outcome for all of us involved in the process.

Some other positive outcome provoking strings include:

  • 'I really appreciate…'
  • 'Tell me more…'
  • 'Yes we / you can…'
  • 'What do you think?'
  • 'How would you handle…?'
  • 'Please elaborate on …'
  • 'How do you feel about…?'
  • 'What's your take on…?'
  • 'What can we do about…?'

I am sure there are thousands of other powerful and efficient phrases out there that can be the catalyst for a positive conversation or outcome when interacting with others. If you have some gems you use to inspire, spur collaboration, praise, or motivate, I'd certainly like to hear them. Feel free to comment or drop me a line.

Josh Kaplan writes on various subjects including management, information technology breakthroughs, healthcare IT recruitment and innovations, big data, IT staffing and recruitment, and technical industry news and trends.