October 20, 2011   view past issues

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Recruiters @Zuccotti Park

The extraordinary impact of a small group of protesters in New York’s Zuccotti Park holds an important lesson for recruiters. In an era that celebrates virtual meetings on social media sites, it underscores the power of presence. While sourcing and recruiting online will continue to be effective strategies, we must not overlook the potentially profound influence of plain, old-fashioned face-to-face interactions.

You can’t attend a recruiting conference or read an HR publication these days without being told (over and over again) about the capabilities of social media. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and others of their genre have taken the world of recruiting by storm. And no doubt, these tools and the best practices for applying them will dramatically enhance our ability to find, evaluate and hire top talent.

As the Zuccotti Park event illustrates, however, it would be a grave mistake to think that the virtual interactions of social media can replace what happens in the real world. Whether or not you agree with the wide ranging views expressed in the protest, there’s no ignoring the fact that from a single, small group in downtown New York City, the protests have now spread to over 100 U.S. cities and more than 80 countries around the world.

So, what can we recruiters learn from that experience? Simply this: presence has a unique power all its own. It is impossible to convey the passion and commitment of a protest with an exchange of InMail on LinkedIn or wall posts on Facebook. Of course, such communications can (and do) inform people about real world events and even encourage or persuade people to attend them. But, it is the interaction, itself, which captures the imagination and stirs the emotions of those who participate.

Similarly, we can use social media to bring employment prospects to a face-to-face encounter, but we cannot recruit them that way. We can tantalize them, but we won’t get them to apply. At least, not the best talent. They have choices, including in many instances, staying right where they are with their current employer. To convince them to join our organization, therefore, we have to get them to do the one thing we humans most hate to do: change. And, we simply cannot pack enough persuasive power into an online communication no matter how well written it may be.

So, Where Does That Leave Us?

I think we need to devote as much time and attention to our real world interactions as we do to our virtual ones. There hasn’t been a new idea, for example, on how best to connect with job fair candidates since the introduction of business cards. And the same could be said of how we source prospects at conferences and association meetings and how we then recruit them during the candidate touch points in our recruiting processes.

All of these real world events offer the power of presence, yet in many cases that power is sub-optimized or not achieved at all. Why? Because such interactions aren’t considered “state-of-the-art.” They aren’t a big new idea. You won’t find recruitment bloggers opining about them or HR publications debating them. And yet, look what has happened at Zuccotti Park.

So, here’s my suggestion. Let’s spend some time and energy on devising a toolkit of best practices for good, old fashioned face-to-face interactions. How can we do that? One way is to set up exploratory committees in our own organizations.

Their membership should include recruiters, of course, but also hiring managers and some of our most recent hires. With that kind of talent, we should be able to achieve two goals:

  • First, let’s figure out how we can correct deficiencies in our current interactions – how we can have a greater positive impact with what we are already doing.
  • And second, let’s brainstorm ideas for new or different interactions – ones that would be most likely to persuade the best prospects to make a change.
  • If we can make progress in those two areas – if we can capture the power of presence and put it to work for our recruiting teams – we will likely improve both our organization’s employment brand and our yield of the best talent.

    Thanks for reading,


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