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.

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.

  • Dennis Smith

    J.P. – good article. I do disagree, however, with the basic premise that one should not expect to accomplish much with regard to social networking and blogging.

    If it is a tool, as you suggest (and I believe it is), why should I have no expectations of accomplisment? I have expectations of success with the other recruiting tools I use. If used wisely, and not in a humorous sort of manner as you suggest, I believe one can certainly have a measure of success. Certainly, the expectations should be reasonable – no argument there.

    I also disagree with the fact that you write Bob’s byline (saga) as if it’s what every sad blogger should expect in the end. Again, it’s humorous, but dead wrong.

    Any recruiter who has effectively used a blog in the last 4-5 years has said the same thing you have said with regard to the wise use of a blog. I have spoken at conferences and webinars for the past 3 years and repeated over and over again: ‘Blogging is not a magic bullet for volume hires.’ This has been repeated by many of my colleagues as well. 4 years later you follow up with an article that seems to make fun of anybody who believes blogging can work; as if we’re all delusional and blinded by our hopes of instant blogging success.

    Well, no, nearly four years of blogging hasn’t changed my mind. It’s been very hard work and I’ve never once told anybody that it’s simple, easy, and their road to glory. But I will tell you this – it has worked very effectively at connecting me with thousands of people around the world (passive job seekers to be specific), that I might not have met otherwise. And, yes, placements.

    I’ve never been fired for blogging – never been raked over the coals by the corporate attorney either. Not saying it can’t happen, just saying it’s not as universal as you make it sound. In fact, prior to joining T-Mobile, the hiring Director asked what I could to continue blogging and increase placements for their engineering recruiting team.

    Recently, an article was posted that bore a similar resemblance to this article. I’m very grateful that Harry Joiner (marketingheadhunter.com) took the time to respond to the author regarding his reasons for blogging. I’m not sure Harry would agree with you either, since his blog has been well worth the investment of his time. Here’s Harry’s response:

    ‘One of the great advantages enjoyed by recruiters who blog is that they have known all along how to monetize their content: Placements.

    I have blogged for nearly four years now, and I have never once considered adding Adwords to my sidebar or generating content as a standalone business. That would be like stepping over dollars to get to pennies.

    The real money is in recruiting, and in that sense, my content blog is a means to an end ? not an end unto itself.

    Some of my fans ask me why I don?t post more often. I tell them that I have reached a point of diminishing returns on my blog in terms of how well I am doing in search engines.

    Seriously, how much better could I be doing? Let?s see ?

    http://www.google.com/search?q=marketing+recruiter
    Estimated clicks per day: 21 – 28 according to Google

    http://www.google.com/search?q=marketing+headhunter
    Estimated clicks per day: 7 – 9 according to Google

    http://www.google.com/search?q=management+recruiter
    Estimated clicks per day: 51 – 80 according to Google

    http://www.google.com/search?q=logistics+recruiter
    Estimated clicks per day: 4 – 6 according to Google

    http://www.google.com/search?q=finance+recruiter
    Estimated clicks per day: 10 – 14 according to Google

    This is all targeted traffic, and it does not include the hundreds of long-tail searches that hit my blogs every day. Nor does it factor in type-in traffic: I own hundreds of domains and maintain many weblogs. MarketingHeadhunter.com alone gets 300-450 unique visits per day. My vCard has been downloaded >15,000 times. (Yes, I can prove it.)

    So, let?s be fairly clear about two benefits of blogs:

    I.) Increased trust and credibility with the prospect.
    II.) Increased visibility in Google, which now accounts for 69% of all US search activity.

    For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last 5 years: Why is SEO so important? Well, as I mentioned on Recruiting.com last year, recruiting sales leads (aka ?call-in JO?s?) seem to originate in one of two ways ?

    WAY 1: The prospect ?

    a.) Receives incoming cold call voice mail from recruiter,
    b.) Googles recruiter to see if they?re for real,
    c.) Checks out recruiter?s blog from Google results, and then
    d.) Returns call of recruiter if there?s a need and the recruiter appears to be any good.

    WAY 2: The prospect ?

    a.) Has a legitimate need and then use Google to produce a ?short list? of relevant recruiters,
    b.) Checks out recruiter?s blog from Google results, and then
    c.) Reaches out to recruiter if the recruiter appears to be any good.

    Either way, no blog, no sale. Sure, referrals might get wedged in to the process somewhere, but increasingly: You?re gonna get Googled. And when you do, a great blog can be a powerful differentiator.

    My first recruiting job was for an old-school recruiter who swore high and low that recruiting is a sales business, not a marketing business. Although I didn?t argue at the time, I was pretty sure that he was, at best, only partially right.

    As always, the cornerstones of any successful recruiting practice are still TRUST and CREDIBILITY. But sales isn?t the fastest way to establish those things. Word-of-Mouth marketing is.

    And that?s where blogs come in.’

    Respectfully,
    Harry Joiner

    J.P. – thanks for indulging my long response. I guess four years of hearing people tell me that, people like me are always saying ‘social networking and blogging are keys to effective recruiting,’ has finally gotten my goat.

    Strange, I live in the blogosphere and I never hear people saying that. I only hear them say they are tools (just like all the other tools we use each day).

    Respectfully,

    Dennis Smith
    Executive Search
    WorldLink, Inc.
    ~ recruiter, blogger @ WirelessJobs.com

  • Marvin Smith

    You guys must have interesting meetings!

    Some solid thinking. I agree with some of challenges of Blogging.

    I was however taken back by your suggestion:

    ‘One cannot show that X hours spent social networking will result in Y hires.’

    As a fellow dinosaur, I believe that is fundamentals of what made us successful in the old days. Regardless of the activity, there will be funnel numbers which will illustrate the number of contacts, to prospects, to candidates, to interview and to hire. As you stated….the more things, the more they remain the same.

    I am thinking there might be a business model to outsource our blogging? Thoughts?

  • Rafael Cosentino

    I have spent a lot of time marketing to social networks. I even founded one of the largest ad networks on Facebook called Adblade which does very well. I can tell you that recruiting on popular social networks (except Linkedin) does not work. I even tried advertising Realmatch on Adblade which distributes text ads across dozens of popular facebook applications and the CTR was pitiful at about 1/20th of one percent. Only 15% of users converted and after spending $2,000, I stopped very disappointed. My CPA was around $24 per user and elsewhere it?s more like $2.25 per user (less then 1/10th). You don?t have to guess why serious stuff doesn?t get attention on social networks. Think about the people that are using Facebook, their age, why they are using it and what their doing. They are sharing pictures, hooking up with ?Are You Interested? and playing ?Scrabulous?. Do you really want to hire someone that spends their day writing on other people?s walls? This is not the ideal environment to reach a person serious about business. Also the statistics clearly show using social networks is a personal fad which has a beginning, a peek and an end for most users. Facebook and Myspace are churning users and advertisers faster then you can say ponzi scheme. The quality of the audience is truly the pits.

  • Chris Russell

    Your article is so pessimistic I don’t understand why. Social media/networking is not just about a job posting or writing a blog. Its about communicating with candidates on their own turf. Its about engaging them with media theyre comfortable with. Its about fishing where the fish are.

    Many companies are now finding success with Facebook groups, blogs and their own social networks. I cite recruiter.wordpress.com and wirelessjobs.com as 2 good examples.

    Candidates are now talking about your company via new sites so its imperative that employers start reaching out to them.

  • Rob Levin

    I’m sure some will flame away, but I loved the article and couldn’t agree more.

  • Kent Voyles

    J.P.:

    AMEN! Social networking and blogging is way overrated. Who has time to ‘social’ network? Allow me to share a story from my retired father.

    My dad retired from 30+ years in banking. When he held his loan committee meetings he would attend with a 8X14 legal pad, pencil and a TI calculater (the latest technology of his time), his ‘snot jocks’ came to the meetings with lap tops, excel speadsheet formuals etc..you get the picture? At the end of the day, the numbers and the answers were the same, just different paths to arrive.

    Social networking and blogging have benefits, some even for recruiting. But the idea of ‘out with the old and in with the new’ only sets your productivity back.

    I would love to hear from the ‘big billers’ of the search industry on this topic. I would find it hard to believe that they have abandoned making hundreds of phone calls so that they can write blogs or hundreds emails instead.

    My penny’s worth: Know what you are hunting for and hunt in the best place for it using the tools that are accepted and work for that environment. If you want to date a blonde would you go to a red head convention? Would you hunt a bear with a 22 pistol?

    J.P. you make great points. Don’t abandon ‘old tools’ for ‘new tools’ if the old tools still work. Use a mixture to reach those you want to reach.

    Happy Hunting!

    Kent Voyles
    Corporate Recruiter

  • Thomas Ferree

    JP, great article. Excellent source for any of us in recruiting that are weakening and thinking of ‘just’ starting a blog to help our business.

    I’ve been in business over 30 years. Always fun to see that the more things change the more they stay the same. I’ve always found the key has been knowing which companies have the types of people that my clients want to hire. Then go get them. Candidates respond when jobs offer what the candidates want/perceive they want from an employer. It’s my job as a recruiter to know what that is and then to present it to the candidates.

    Thanks for lightening up the day.

  • Master Burnett

    I read with great interest this article, unfortunately it really missed the mark.

    I will agree with your core premise that for the vast majority of recruiters blogging and social networking will yield much smaller volume than expected if and only if those recruiters approach these new channels from the same perspective they have previously approached others.

    Blogs and social networks were not developed to replace job boards and they should not be viewed as such.

    Like all successful technologies, blogs and social networks are NOT A SOLUTION, but rather tools that ENABLE a solution. Leveraging such tools to drive modern recruiting functions requires a strategy, one that demonstrates both understanding and respect for the populations that have embraced these tools as active users.

    It is clear from this article that the author does not understand the perspective of those that have embraced these tools. For active bloggers and social network users the tools are much much more than an evolutionary Rolodex or an additional channel to broadcast generic employment messaging. (Unfortunately the author is correct in stating that this is how many recruiters approach these tools.)

    The effective use of these tools should not produce thousands of hires, but rather specific magnet hires. They should also be used to manage employment brands.

    The statistics show that roughly 1:100 people can produce content others will subscribe too. That content can be produced rapidly, is seen as more credible than corporate communications, is more informal, and can spread virally. A good blogger or someone with a strong social network can reach thousands despite the fact that they may not maintain what older generations would consider a close personal relationship. (What constitutes a relationship is changing, who would have thought 50 years ago that you could have sex without ever meeting the other person in person!)

    Effective recruiters should not attempt to recruit the masses, but rather build relationships with those that influence the masses. They shouldn’t broadcast job announcements, but rather share stories about work life capable of spreading virally and that support the employment brand.

    Strategic recruiting requires a strategy, and any modern strategy SHOULD define the role blogs and social networks will play in the process. Like it or not massive online communities are forming. Nearly 40% of all the interaction among members of such communities is work related. What is said about a firm in a blog post, or a private message between two community members carries much more weight than old schools recruiters understand. The statistics are clear. While social networking may not have captured the author of this article, it has captured nearly 70% of the incoming 2008 college class. I’m saddened that this author doesn’t get it, but then again most don’t.

  • James Colino

    Pretty angry article there JP. Not sure what Social Media did to you to make you so hot.

    The reality is, you have to understand that no recruiter with any merit is looking at Social Media and saying that it’s the only thing we should be focused on. Everyone knows that Social Media strategies are just another weapon in a well-rounded arsenal anchored by real person-to-person networking.

    Do you really believe that if someone is passionate about recruiting they shouldn’t blog about it in their spare time? And if they do, don’t you think they’ll be seen as an industry expert? I’d argue strongly that 5-10 minutes once per week writing an article about recruiting in your field and putting your blog on your email signature or business card will shine positive light on you as a professional. Everyone has 5-10 minutes a week and something to say about their profession. And it won’t get you fired…unless you’re a complete idiot.

    And do you really believe that social networking sites like LinkedIn aren’t a good source for candidates? I sent 3 Inmails 2 months ago to 3 candidates: I got a good referral, I got a hire, and I made an offer that was rejected from these Inmails. I use it constantly for professional networking too. How are you supposed to build your network if you don’t reach out to new people? Doesn’t mean they have to be your best friend. Maybe you ‘talk’ to them once per year.

    I think we all need to look at some GenY statistics and look where we’re heading too. The next generation of communication is not about privacy, it’s about participation and people-helping-people whether they know each other or not. Ever benefit from a product review? Ever post a review to an article (like this)? That’s social media…that’s participation…that’s web 2.0. That’s where we’re heading and the ‘kids’ behind us don’t know anything different.

    Was the purpose behind this article to make all the GenXers and Boomers feel good about not understanding Social Media either? Or were you just venting your frustration at not understanding how to use it?

    I think we all need to figure out how to leverage these tools in the best way possible because they’re here to stay. Or should we just go back to using Newspaper ads like you suggest? Because apparently all the job boards did was cause a huge candidate flow problem…

    I don’t know about you – but I work in a corporate setting and about 50% of my jobs are still filled using job boards. Doesn’t seem like a problem to me.

    All I’m saying is that no one in their right mind thinks that Social Media is the ‘key to recruiting success’. But I do believe that articles on this site should look at both sides of the coin. Social Media can be an effective tool…if you know how to use it. I don’t think this was a good representation of how to use it.

  • Peter Falzarano

    Social networking sites have two things going for them that all recruiters love to have:

    An innocuous reason to contact someone new, and introduce yourself. And a good excuse to reboot an old contact (‘Hey! Please accept my invitation. What have you been up to lately?’)

    Especially if their contact info is otherwise unavailable or simply out-of-date?

  • Jennifer Sukenick

    Social networking sites have two things going for them that all recruiters love to have:

    An innocuous reason to contact someone new, and introduce yourself. And a good excuse to reboot an old contact (‘Hey! Please accept my invitation. What have you been up to lately?’)

    Especially if their contact info is otherwise unavailable or simply out-of-date?

  • Mike McDaniel

    Thanks for bringing the discussion from techphoria back to reality. Well done!

  • Dennis Smith

    Nice job, Master Burnett. Thanks for saying what I felt in a much more succinct manner.

    Dennis

  • Rob McIntosh

    What I first found interesting was Denis posted his response before the actual date it was published (Dennis are you hovering on the keyboard again looking to capitalize on the 3 hour east/west coast time window at 12 O?clock ?).

    Sorry, for the initial observation distraction.

    What I find amusing about articles like this is everyone becomes polarized into two opposite camps and people take exception to specific words vs. looking at the broader theme. Sort of like how people sometimes do not see the woods for the trees. Lots of JP?s article is dead on the money IMHO, and other commentary is plain off. In reality, this is life where we all have to find the right middle ground in articles and situations on what might work for us in our own particular situations. I know sometime a heated debate on contrary position can add to making sure an article is well rounded, but please lets all keep in mind that the majority of the time we are all smart adults (yes, I might be optimistic for a Wednesday) and depending on your POV we can determine what makes sense and what does not.

    Occasionally we need to take an empathetic view through others eyes to see the story being presented vs. automatically jumping in the polar opposite contrary opinion camp. As you reading this comment will clearly note I am not taking the for or against position on this article???Well guess what, that was my point :-)

  • Paul DeBettignies

    I ask because I do not easily find you on any of the sites. It would be nice to know what your experience is in social media to go along with your opinion.

    I look forward to a much longer rebuttal but until then:

    -Blogs, MySpace, Facebook are tools just like cold calls, Monster.com, email, and networking.
    -Recruiting is in my opinion about creating relationships with people. MySpace, Facebook and blogs are tools to help facilitate that.
    -If someone can go to my blog, Facebook or MySpace page and learn about me as an individual, as a professional, about what I do as a recruiter that is a win.

    I find it ironic that you dismiss these tools, that you question how well one can ?know? all these people. So I ask you, does the phone and email really do it that much better? Can you really get to know greater numbers of people with the phone and email?

    I spend 30 minutes at most doing a blog post. My average phone call with a person to see if they are interested in a job is 10 minutes.

    After three years of ?slow but sure? with my blog it sees 155 visitors a day and another 179 through the RSS feed.

    Do the math.

    http://www.mnheadhunter.com

  • Bill Wager

    Master:

    You are so right! These recruiters just don’t get the compelling need for manifold tools forming a strategy, as it were.
    I, for instance, sit on a park bench with a cigar, around noon, on sunny days, waiting for candidates to approach me.
    My success has been fabulous. The highly selective candidates I’ve been able to ‘magnetize’ range from a fellow who speaks to and understands pigeons to the hereditary king of Santo Domingo (he was deposed in a coup led by Ringo Starr) I’m considering taking my methodology on the road, you know, speeches, seminars, training. Definitely need to blog about it.
    Now, I?ve actually Identified two candidates produced by my method, The Pigeon Man and His Majesty—what are you holding?

  • John Kennedy

    Actually I have been rather surprised at the lack of recruiting potential on such sites as Facebook and MySpace.

    15 years ago you could find IT candidates even in CHAT ROOMS – although back then pretty much everyone online was quite technology oriented.

    Sometimes I find myself wondering, ‘Okay, if valuable candidates are not frequenting the social networking sites, where are they hanging out?’

    Some ARE on LinkedIn of course, but, as one might expect, most of the very active users of LinkedIn seem to be recruiting or marketing oriented. Great for research, great for general insight, great for ideas on where to start searches, but it’s pretty rare – at least for what we’re working on – that the candidates themselves are on LinkedIn.

    So the next question is – where are the valuable candidates hanging out online?

    The thought crosses my mind – maybe they’re not.

    I’m thinking quite a few of them wake up in the morning, put on their uniforms (even if those uniforms are just business suits) and do their jobs – every day – often with no overtime pay, inadequate time-off-from-work – spending what little free time they have with their families.

    So possibly the ONLY economically feasible means of contacting those valuable candidates is over the phone.

  • John Kennedy

    ‘I would love to hear from the ‘big billers’ of the search industry on this topic.’

    You won’t of course.

    I think probably the best commentary on this particular subject was a presumably ‘big billing’ recruiter being interviewed on one of Bill Vick’s videos.

    I don’t recall the exact comments, but this recruiter said something to the effect, ‘I’m fairly certain that at least one of my clients paying my confiscatory fees would be incensed to the point of contemplating an act of economic violence against me if that client even DREAMT that I spent the last 10 minutes talking to you for this video.’

    HOWEVER … :)

    I have noticed that ‘big billers’ DO hire people in ‘research’ roles to mine web-hosted information.

    There still is a great deal of fascinating information to be had on the various networks, but at some point it has to be turned over to driving sourcers and take-no-hostages closers for it to be of much value.

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