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    Recruiting on Facebook? Like Fishing Where the Fish Are

    Today the folks at BranchOut, the professional networking application built on top of Facebook announced the general availability of Recruiter Connect, their new recruiter focused product designed to provide a platform to allow corporate recruiters to more effectively source candidates from Facebook's 800 million or so users, build private talent networks from which to cultivate candidates, and tap into the social graphs of employees and other recruiters in the organization.

    I was able to see a demonstration of the product and ask some questions of the BranchOut team in advance of the launch today. From the functionality that I saw, and as you might be able to tell from the screen grabs attached to this post, the Recruiter Connect application is clean, easy-to-understand, and has a nice intuitive design and flow. As I watched the demo one of my notes simply read, 'This is really cool.' Maybe not a particularly insightful observation on my part, but still important I think. Enterprise applications, in a way, are not just for the enterprise anymore. Meaning that users of enterprise apps today, especially ones tied to consumer oriented social platforms, need to almost mimic the design, layout, flow, and feel of the fun to use and no explanation required to get going public social networks.Click for full size image

    I'll have to admit I was personally kind of slow to come around to the idea of recruiting on Facebook, at least conceptually. Perhaps it was too many grad students over the past few years indicating they'd never see a reason or desire to want to be recruited via a social network seen to be a personal space, meant for sharing updates and photos with close friends and family. But over the last two years or so attitudes even among the most reluctant seem to have shifted, and as social networks in general, and Facebook in particular, have become such a central component of online identity, for the making and sustaining of social connections, and these days for seeking job opportunities and strengthening professional contacts; the ability to successfully tap into Facebook for sourcing and recruiting is fast becoming an essential capability for many organizations.

    So if you are warming up to the idea that since everyone is on Facebook, (something you really can't say for LinkedIn, and definitely not Twitter, and certainly not some of the other job board or professional communities out there), then understanding the unique Facebook environment, articulating the correct approach and strategy, and importantly, finding the right tools to enable your social sourcing and recruiting strategies on Facebook; are probably on your agenda or soon will be as a corporate recruiting leader.Click for full size image

    And for now BranchOut is leading in that space. Yes, there are lots of other applications and solutions that have either centered on Facebook as a sourcing/recruiting platform, or have augmented their existing ATS or other solutions to connect with and attempt to exploit the Facebook social graph, and I am sure they will be many more to come; but for now it seems like they're all chasing. Either chasing the platform itself and the attitudes and inclinations of its users, or chasing the first movers, (like BranchOut), in fear of missing their passage to social recruiting success.

    Though the future past 18 months or so is just about impossible to predict, Facebook isn't going away anytime soon. And neither is most organizations' need to continually feed the talent beast, even in these tough economic times. So if the talent are mostly swimming around on Facebook, then you probably ought to consider how to drop a line in that ocean, and the tools from BranchOut are a good place to start. 


    Just Click 'Send' Already

    You know you've been there - staring at a lengthy email message for far too long, poring over every sentence and even word to make sure it is just right. That your content, structure, tone, and message are exactly what you had intended whether or not your intention was to inform, convince, persuade, attack, defend - whatever.

    You just have convinced yourself it has to be just perfect before you hit send. Do it already!!!

    But we forget when we are writing these paeans to perfection what we actually do as we are reading our own email messages. We literally scan through them in seconds, micro-seconds maybe. Who is it from matters most, who else is on copy is next in line of importance, followed by the subject line, and then and only then the content.

    And by the content, the first 40 words or so mostly. After that, we either begin to space out mostly, or a few new messages, IMs, Tweets, and such have begun competing for our attention. Forty words, about twenty seconds of reading, tops.

    So if you've been been staring at that one silly email for about an hour or more, or it has remained a 'work-in-progress' hiding in and out of your 'Drafts' folder all day long, just do yourself a favor and click 'send' already.

    Chances are you are working yourself into a lather over something your recipients are going to consider for all of 20 seconds, as yours is likely one of about 200 messages they will see that day.

    And if it is that important, that every word in the message needs to be just right, well then maybe you should pick up the phone and just call the person instead. You remember the phone, right? It is attached to that little device you carry around to get on the internet and send pictures to Facebook with.

    But before you do that, you'd better practice your speech first.  Do you have a mirror handy? Good.

    Hello Billy Ray? This is Steve. I wanted to talk to you about...

    Ugh. Maybe I'll just send that email after all...



    It's great to be alive! Until you're run over by a train.

    The always awesome 'How To Be a Retronaut' blog had another classically amusing piece recently called 'It's Great to Be Alive! Vintage Safety Manual.' The piece, (and you really should go and check it out), features a series of images from a 1940s era safety manual aimed at elementary school age kids. I've placed two of the images (hope that's ok), alongside this post.

    What's interesting about the manual, and probably the reason 'Retronaut' ran a piece about it, is the remarkable and amusing and immediate shift in tone from the cover and title page extolling the wonders of being not just alive but Alive!, to a macabre series of images of destruction, carnage, and death.

    Page after page of accidents, tragedy, and the horrific after-effects of distracted children (mostly on bicycles), having painful encounters with cars, trains, other kids on bicycles - essentially anything and everything a kid in the 40s or 50s could smash a bicyle into. Add in a nice 'creepy stranger in the movie theater' warning, and you've got a nice tight illustrated primer to the dangerous world awaiting any kid crazy enough to venture outside.

    And of course after reading about the 50 ways you can get maimed or killed on your bicycle, the entire (surface at least), purpose and message of the guide, 'It's Great to be Alive!', is completely lost; replaced with the more lasting impression of 'Chances are if you leave the house you'll be horribly injured.' Sure, the authors wanted to try and impress upon kids reading the manual that they needed to be careful and aware, (especially near trains, cars, trucks, power lines, bicycles, other kids, and well, everything), but with the over-the-top and relentless focus on pain and tragedy the entire 'It's Great to be Alive! notion is pretty effectively forgotten. It might be great to be alive, but it's far worse to get run over by a bus and crack your skull.

    Ok, so here's the hook back to the real world, and not the real world depicted in the chaos and mayhem of our little manual, but the one where we have to communicate with colleagues, peers, candidates, customers, anyone really. It could be our external candidate messaging about how fantastic it is to work in our organization followed up with an uneven, non-responsive, and unwelcoming application and communication process. Or perhaps it's a fantastic and high-touch recruitment experience that morphs into a cold, standard, and rote onboarding process that leaves the new joiner wondering if she made the right decision after all. Or it even could be the 'official' employee manual that spends most of its (probably unread) pages telling people what not to do, and the kinds of trouble that await them, (like getting maimed by a wayward delivery truck), if they transgress.

    Truth is, we kind of get used to the negative spin on things. We see it in politics, in the rules and regulations posted all over the place, and it can be easy to see the risk and danger in situations instead of the opportunity and adventure.

    But after a while, maybe even a short while, we start only to see the world in these kinds of negative terms, to see new employees, especially ones with a Twitter account as potential sources of embarrassment.  

    After a while, too much focusing on what bad things might happen, and every bicycle ride starts to look like a flirtation with disaster.


    No manual provided

    We are trained from a pretty early age to expect instructions, directions, user manuals, etc. for new gadgets, tools, and technologies we encounter; and even for new processes we are tasked with performing. What are the steps? What do I do first? And next? Where can I get help if it doesn't work? What are the twenty questions that the thousands of users that have come before me have asked, that the company has managed to nicely collect and list in the 'FAQ' section.Good luck with this one

    Most of us, when we open the box containing a new little toy almost instinctively continue to dig into the packaging to find the little instruction card (often conveniently written in half a dozen languages), before we are willing to take our first, halting steps with the new gadget or product. I do it all the time myself, and for good reason, depending on the new technology, software program, or electronic toy, not understanding the basic operations and functionality can lead to a long, frustrating slog trying to conjure up the right series of steps to begin to see value from the new device. Who wants to spend time, money, and attention on some new tool or technology and be unable to get the thing to work right away.

    But often the instructions, manuals, user guides, or in the workplace purview the tightly written 'do this exactly this way' document sometimes known as a 'job aid' have such a limiting effect on our ability to see and pursue potential alternatives or new use cases, that these documents effectively become limiters on our creativity.  The manual tells us exactly how to use the new tool. The FAQ not only answers all our questions, but makes us feel like there should be no other questions. The process steps become a cake recipe, leave out one item, or add a bit more of another, and who knows what might result - but one thing's for sure, the warranty will not apply.

    When very young children get their first sets of building blocks or LEGOS, there usually are no instructions included. The child simply dumps out the collection of large blocks on the floor and starts using them. Sure, the 'designs' are usually simple and repetitive, but at least they are not prescribed. Once kids, particularly with LEGO sets, begin to progress and build more complex structures, detailed and illustrated building instructions are provide, often running hundreds of pages. You need to follow the instructions very closely to 'correctly' assemble the model, and even one small misstep can result in significant error requiring re-work later on to fix. Assembling one of the larger LEGO sets becomes an exercise in determination and discipline, ultimately kind of satisfying, but also sort of deflating, as by the end of the process all you have really done is to do exactly what was proscribed.

    Eventually the 1,325 piece LEGO Milennium Falcon starts to fall to pieces from play, or storage or carelessness, and you're left with a massive pile of pieces, (mixed up with other pieces from other sets), and no real hope of re-assembling the model to its original state, as usually the building instructions are long since lost.

    But I think we should see that outcome as much more hopeful, holding much more potential. If we did have all the pieces, and all the instruction manuals, most of us would probably just re-build the same model once again. With the instructions, that is all we could do.

    Without the instructions, and without knowing if we have all the right parts, we'd suddenly be free to build anything.

    Have a Great Weekend!


    No, let me see YOUR references

    We have heard it time and time again - top talent always has options - they can play off one company against the other, play the counter-offer game to score additional pay and benefits, and particularly in hot technical fields, seem to remain immune from the tough employment climate. For the most part, talented technical workers, with skills in the 'right' areas, are in demand and will likely have many more options to consider than the one you are trying to recruit them into, or if they are currently on your staff, are probably getting weekly overtures to make a jump.Kandinsky - Title Unknown (someone knows it, just not me)

    So in an environment where this sliver or subset of the employment market seems to be playing by a different set of rules that the broader world, it is quite likely that strategies, tactics, and candidate expectations also are unlike 'normal' and traditional processes. And in the recruiting/assessment process, no step is no more 'normal' than the good old fashioned reference check. Of course you know the drill - candidate makes it past the phone screen and rounds one or two of the interview process, and then it's time for some diligent HR pro to call in those references that are always 'available upon request'. Where the reference check goes from there depends mostly on your belief in the importance of such things and the level and scope of the position you are hiring for. But either way, the candidate is almost always the one on the hook to provide some level of external validation of how wonderful they are.

    But for super-talented and in-demand technical and other folks is this model beginning to shift? Take a look at an excerpt from an interesting piece on the User Interface Engineering blog earlier this week:

    The advice I’m giving to senior, more experienced folks is not to think about their next project as much as they think about their next manager. What traits should that manager have? How do they support their team? When things get rough, how do they deliver guidance? Do they regularly give out praise? Do they take a deep interest in the work and in their employee’s future?

    I recommend folks interview the entire team and learn what it’s like to work for that manager. What happens when the going gets tough? What examples are there of team members growing, learning, and getting encouragement? Do team members talk about how the manager exhibits the desired traits?

    My good friend, Amy Jackson, who works as a talent agent for wünderkind UX designers, suggests you take it a step further and ask the hiring manager for his or her references. Amy says to tell them you want to make the right decision and you need to check them out. Her thinking is that if the hiring manager isn’t secure enough give out sound references, they may be sending a signal.

    Nice. A good old fashioned 'reverse-the-heat' scenario that some hotshot young, (ok they don't have to be young, but it reads better that way), one day soon is going to call you out, Mr. or Ms. hiring manager and ask you to hand over that one-pager with three of your references. The names of three people, that you managed or mentored that would stand up for your ability as a leader, manager, mentor, and someone that should be entrusted to the next step of the candidate's career, and likely much of their day-to-day happiness and engagement at work. Sure, many interview processes have the candidate 'meet the team', but the existing team members that are currently under the manager's control are not likely to be too forthcoming, particularly if the 'reference' would not be all that positive.

    Interesting spin and a challenging one at that. Now I have never actually heard of this happening in the wild, but I bet it has.

    What do you think? Has a candidate ever asked you to pony up some names of past employees they could run references on? 

    Could you hand over three names on demand?

    What might your former staff say about you?