Recruiting Communication: Email is dead. Send flowers, pay your respects and move on.

Do you remember recruitment back in the 1990s? I do. A typical day would start with the post being delivered, we would gather around and rip open all the envelopes, pore over the CVs, passing them around the boardroom table in Number 2 Argyle Square, Donnybrook, where I started my recruitment career with HRM Recruitment. You would get straight on the phone, calling the various new candidates, inviting them in for interview before filling out the "coding sheet" that was handed to the administrative support team who would scan them on to your database and code them appropriately. By the time your candidate arrived two days later, you might see their details on the database - pretty slick stuff, eh?

Once the candidate confirmed their interest in your vacancy you photocopied their CV, sticking white labels on their personal details and copying the CV onto paper with your company logo in the top corner. You prepared a fax cover note, printed the standard cover letter and added your CV "pack" to the fax queue. If your shortlist submission was particularly urgent you tried to sweet-talk the admin assistants into skipping your CVs to the front of the queue. Sending 5 or 6 packs of 15 pages took time! As soon as you knew that your "pack" was being sent, you ran to the phone, called your client and asked them to wait by the fax machines because some great CVs were coming their way. A productive day in 1990's recruitment!

For those of you who started your recruitment career in the Noughties or god forbid, the 10's (do we have a definitive description for this decade yet?), you probably think we were all mad. We weren't, we just used the technologies of the time and post and fax were it. Fast forward to 2001 and none of us would have dreamed of waiting for CVs in the post. You received applications from job boards via email that you automatically uploaded to your database, electronically, and you emailed your prepared CVs to your client that same day. Times had changed and many of us scoffed at the old-school guys who were still fiddling around with fax machines and opening envelopes.

For those of you who still use the phone and email as your main, if not only, forms of communication, brush up on your faxing skills - you're about to join the world of recruitment obsolescence. Email in 2011 is the fax machine of 2001. Think about it: how do you communicate with your friends and family? Do you send them all emails or are you texting them, skype-ing them, IM'ing them, sending Facebook messages, writing on their walls, tweeting them or chatting on iMessenger? Where do you see funny jokes these days - is it in your email Inbox or did you see it on Facebook, Skype or YouTube? You might not be using them all, but I guarantee you that you're using at least one of these new communication tools more than you use email.

The world of personal communications is no longer dominated by email. Secondary school graduates in 2012 are unlikely to have an email account, they never needed one. They're using all of the many communication tools available on their smartphone to get in touch quickly and cheaply. Social is the new email and rather than one standard format we have lots of them! It's not just the "young people", everyone is using mobile technologies and social networks to communicate. In comparison, email just seems so old school. So why is it that we insist on using it as our primary business communication tool? Indeed, it is still the primary business communication tool but even in business, email is dying.

Social Recruiting is not just about sourcing canidates, building talent communities or branding your business. At its most fundamental level it is about communication and includes your first contact with a prospective employee all the way through to the interview and how you communicate feedback throughout the process. Smart companies are communicating to the masses via social networks like Facebook (check out Bill Boorman's work with Hard Rock Cafe on the recent opening of their Firenze store) and Twitter, keeping applicants updated on where they are in the process through simple, quick updates on the social platforms that their candidates are spending the most time on. Businesses like Dell are providing Customer Service through Twitter rather than answering telephones and responding to emails. But it's not just about the larger, corporate efforts - it starts with you, the recruiter, who has a prospect you want to engage with. It might be a CV (lucky you!), a LinkedIn profile, a Twitter bio, a name that you wrote on the back of a bar-mat last night or the Facebook profile of someone who posted a question on your Facebook Page. What you do next is vital! If you were back in 2001 would you send them a fax? Of course, you wouldn't. So why now do nearly all recruiters reach out by email? Email is dead. Send flowers, pay your respects and move on.

Picture this. You receive a text from me. My name is already programmed in your phone so you know exactly who the text came from. I ask you a simple question in two lines. How long is it likely to take you to respond to me? Faster or slower than if I emailed you? I have 800 unread emails to look at and return, some of them no-doubt extremely important yet I find myself responding to relatively unimportant (in the grand scheme of things) tweets at 6am when I'm shaving, only 5 minutes out of bed. Why is that? Immediacy is vital in recruitment. You need to reach people now, get feedback, progress or move on.

The method of communication that you use will dictate the speed of response that you receive. So maybe you can find millions of developers on LinkedIn but how likely is a busy programmer going to respond to you in 10 days, let alone 10 hours by email (an InMail is an email, don't forget; it's old school and one of several fatal flaws in LinkedIn's model)? That same developer is probably on Twitter, but you're afraid of Twitter, to you it represents everything you hate about technology, you don't understand it, it confuses you, there's loads of jargon involved and you're afraid of looking stupid if you use it wrong. Get over it or get out of recruitment. That developer you want to talk to, she probably sends 20 tweets a day; no matter how busy she is, she's checking her mentions (think emails from strangers on Twitter) every 2 seconds as they flash up on her phone like text messages (60 % of Twitter users globally use the network on their phone, not their desktop). She'll probably get back to you in less than 10 mins. Do you know why? Because people prioritise things like texts, tweets and Instant Messages differently than they do emails, post and faxes. You dont let 800 text messages build up before you start respoding to them - nobody does. Emails are typically several lines long and traditionally rather formal. Tweets, IM's, Facebook posts - they're all only a handful of words, quick and easy to write on the fly on your mobile. I reply to Tweets at 6am because I'm limited to 140 characters and it's just plain fun compared to sending emails.

What if your developer says she isn't interested? Good recruiters always ask for referrals. How likely is it that this developer will forward your job spec by email to all the people she knows who might be interested? She can do it with one click of a button on Twitter or in Facebook if you share a link with her. If she has 1,000 followers, you may have engaged her, confirmed she's not interested and got her to re-post it to 1,000 other people in the space of 10 minutes. This social stuff is fast! Feels like the change in gears that we went through when we moved from post and faxes to email doesn't it?

Social Recruiting is more than replacing your old database with LinkedIn. It's more than setting up a Facebook Page that looks like your website (in fact, it isn't either of those things at all!). Social is about how we communicate, how we consume information, how we entertain ourselves and how we make (and break) new relationships. The web transformed the way that we live, the way that we buy things, the way we learn, the way we watch TV, read books, listen to music, talk to friends in faraway places. "Social" or what some people call "Web 3.0" is just as revolutionary. Recruiters are not immune to the changes that social has had on our societies, our businesses, our relationships. Before you start asking yourself how you can find more candidates online, how you can brand or market your business, start asking yourself how you can better communicate with people using social. Recruiters are social animals, our job is to start conversations, talk to people, ask questions, match people, give advice and to sell (those of you in denial about the role of sales in recruitment, go back to HR please). Try sending a fax to a java developer today, see if you can get them interested in your job. Don't fool yourself into thinking that your email or voice message is a better way to communicate in 2012.

If you're interested in discussing issues such as these with like minded recruiters, come visit us at truDublin next Thursday 15th December. Visit trudublin2.eventbrite.co.uk for tickets and don't forget to use "socialtalent" as your discount code to get €25 off.

Want to talk to me more about these issues, I'd advise that you tweet me @recruiterblog, it may be a while before I see your email!

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Tags: business, communication, email, fax, for, machine, media, methods, new, of, More…old, recruiting, recruitment, social, technologies, trudublin

Comment by Alasdair Murray on December 8, 2011 at 9:00am

I would suggest that with the proliferation of social networks/apps around that it would only be the totally wired for sound recruiter with 24 hours a days a their disposal that has all bases covered. One person may have a Twitter account but not Facebook, another vice versa and yet another neither, preferring instead Skype or a Messenger via which to communicate with friends and family. Everyone, however, has an email address. If the best person for the job isn't on the network you choose to frequent/ promote a vacancy, they may well never get to see it or hear about it, no?

Comment by Nate Fischer on December 8, 2011 at 9:18am

I'll wait patiently for the incoming assault of posts on this obviously probably arguing against your logic.  Email is part of your campaign, and the PHONE is never dead my friend, don't fool yourself.  There may be a lot of people out there who utilize Social Media out there, but if you text me without some how otherwise introducing yourself to me first, you are are dead to me.  Simple as that.  While I believe specifically enhancing your talent community with Social Media is possibly going the way of the future, I NEVER believe this is the ideal way to introduce yourself to someone, I believe you will more often get ignored if you don't ask for permission.

Comment by Alasdair Murray on December 8, 2011 at 9:31am

"if you text me without some how otherwise introducing yourself to me first, you are are dead to me" - me too. The assumption that social media surpasses everything that has gone before is misjudged and naive. Human beings are essentially led by their emotions and would far rather someone call and say "hey I have this great job you just must hear about" rather than read it in a tweet or a Facebook post that's devoid of any emotion.

Comment by Tim Spagnola on December 8, 2011 at 9:32am

Johnny - thanks for the post. Good luck next week w/. TruDublin. I think there are a few points here that hold merit, but also feel from a recruiter perspective you do need to factor in who your audience is. Outside the recruiter space however you are not a lone in calling for email to be on it's last legs.Last week there was a interesting article on TechCrunch Solving Email Overload With A Company-Wide Ban. More and more companies begin to adopt this mentality and recruiters might be forced to revisit this post, but for now - email still is working for me at my desk.

Comment by Nate Fischer on December 8, 2011 at 9:39am

Facebook is still primarily being used by people privately for their friends and their own network, most young people don't know how to scrub their profile to make it recruiter friendly.  But I'll leave the facebook argument for another day.  There are some attempts via Monster and others to create an application to compete with LinkedIn.  But you CAN NOT source on Facebook, period.  Don't fool yourself otherwise.  You may get lucky and scout some people, but with the new privacy updates you won't find more than 10% or so of the true candidate that may reside on FB.  (UNLESS of course you create a talent community in other means first by which point you aren't really sourcing that person if he is on your friends list, you already know him).  

If you post enough work related stuff on Twitter for it to gain a recruiters attention, it's probably ok to tweet to their wall with a job.  

See there is a huge difference in generations I'm guessing.  Younger folk probably are more apt to get texts from a total stranger.  It's not naivety, it's a matter of courtesy.  You ask for permission, if permission is granted then albeit text away.   

Comment by Alasdair Murray on December 8, 2011 at 9:57am

What I want to know is where do people get stats like " 18.4 million people found current job via Facebook, 10.2 via Linkedin, and 8 million via Twitter!" - a headline I saw as recently as yesterday? Indeed, here's the source http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/social-media-job-stats_b16217 There are so many claims and counter claims out there, so much contrived self-serving BS (yet very few actual live testimonials) it is little wonder that the modern day recruiter is a little confused.

Comment by Nate Fischer on December 8, 2011 at 10:01am

No, when you go back and read the real articles, it said that 8 million people utilized Twitter in their job search, doesn't mean that twitter got them a job.  If you look at some of my previous comments to other people's post, most of those "statistics" come from people trying to sell their products. 

Yeah people will get confused it's funny how marketing works huh?

Comment by Alasdair Murray on December 8, 2011 at 10:08am

The big change these days is, recruitment never used to be a forum for marketing - employers wanted results, ads in the right place at the the right time to get the right response in terms of quality and quantity. Now, with social being pushed as being all the rage, it's a free for all mess with no one really able to categorically state or back up that what they have to offer is actually where the best people hang out online. The press may be considered old fashioned in the modern day as a recruitment advertising medium but job seekers knew where to look, you knew what you were buying into and, importantly, the publishers could provide valid testimonials to prove their point. We call it progress but it's messy, often confused and unclear progress in many ways.

Comment by Alasdair Murray on December 8, 2011 at 10:48am

PS - to qualify my statement "recruitment never used to be a forum for marketing" what I mean by that is, yes, you'd get publications come along that claimed they had so many readers who had such and such a profile, but you soon found out if it were true or not by the response, or lack of it. There were also tried and trusted newspapers, both national and regional in the UK plus trade journals you knew had the audience you were trying to reach. Their online equivalents still have that targeted reach, even if the readership figures ae lower than they were when 2 or 3 people read the samehard  copy of the magazine. If you take Facebook - apart from the fact that it started as effectively a dating site for teenagers, hardly anyone puts a full and accurate profile of themselves on there which would give a recruiter the slightest clue about what they do for a career and thus the audience they were buying into other than by age and geography, which alone is not enough for me. Facebook possibly being a talent pool of 800 million people is a huge overstatement of the reality. Amongst my professional friends, very few even bother with Faceobook. They think it's inane, immature and only useful for keeping in touch with far flung family and friends. If they want a job they know to scour the trade and national  press websites and niche job boards. In short, many are making recruitment more complicated than it really need be and social isn't the magic fix or silver bullet some will have you believe.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on December 8, 2011 at 11:19am
Nice promo for trudublin. Are you on the payroll or dud you just drink the koolaid?

However, if you were still using the fax in the 90's I can see why you are so excited about Facebook and texting. Any time someone proclaims anything dead they are normally selling something. Please include a rate card for your training and consulting services.

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