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 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!

Views: 6901

Comment by Tim Spagnola on December 8, 2011 at 11:26am

FWIIW - we were using faxes quite a bit in the 90s as crazy as that might sound. Then again healthcare recruiting has always been lagging far behind with most things.

Comment by Alasdair Murray on December 8, 2011 at 11:27am

My fax machine is (pat of the phone but also) an elaborate paper holder for my printer these days

Comment by Nate Fischer on December 8, 2011 at 11:29am

Nevermind Alasdair that you can't even really see people on Facebook unless you friend them first. . . 

Comment by Alasdair Murray on December 8, 2011 at 11:33am

I keep getting "you have notifications pending" emails from Facebook. Yes, because your network consists by and large of (aside from those that use it sensibly to keep in touch with friends and family in other parts of the world) a load of inane drivel and small talk for kids. It is the Walmart (or Lidl if you're in the UK) of the social network scene and holds no interest for me whatsoever! (although I am sure, as you claim, there are indeed 800 million great people who are just ripe for that vacancy I might have one day)

Comment by Nate Fischer on December 8, 2011 at 11:34am

See its great if you are a corporate recruiter (which I'm not), and can drive people to seek you out, but for us old crodgy 3rd party recruiters it's another reality we will never get to witness. 

Comment by Alasdair Murray on December 8, 2011 at 11:37am

You make a good point John, namely that we all use different apps/channels/networks/ call them what you will. That alone makes recruitment more of a mineifled because whereas before you could pretty much guarantee that you would get in front of a targeted audience, there is every chance that the person who would be best for the job may never see your missive if it goes out on a channel/network they don't frequent. Therein lies the inherent problem. You can reach some of the audioence some of the time but not anywhere near all of the audience all of the time, or anything like it. In short, social recruiting is divisive and thus essentially flawed as a reliable medium.

Comment by Johnny Campbell on December 8, 2011 at 1:06pm

Sandra: On truDublin, it's not our event, just something we believe in and find great for debating these types of issues. In terms of our services, happy to send the rate card if you want it ;-) Kill me for mentioning the fact that I offer a service. 

Alasdair, Nate, Tim: Great feedback, lots of counter-opinions and glad that we're debating these things. Is email still my primary method of business communication? Yes. Will it be in 5 years? I doubt it. If you're recruiting developers or social media marketers then social is probably a great communication tool but if you're recruiting accountants or lawyers, then probably not. There is no "one rule" for everyone, nor does anything truly die (I still get the occasional fax). To me this debate is similar to the one about job-boards. Can you still get great candidates from job boards? Absolutely. Does everyone? Absolutely not. The general trend in most markets (see or comscore) is that the daily uniques is falling fast for all job boards hence we can observe that their is a growing move away from job boards.

There is a definitely a move towards other communication tools and unfortunately there is not one tool, as Alasdair correctly points out. Frustratingly you would indeed have to work 24 hours a day to manage all the possible communication tools but realistically you need to prioritise the channels that will likely be more successful. For most of us that is still email but it would be foolish not to begin exploring other social channels as a method of communication.

In terms of the argument over using Facebook to source or recruiters branding themselves (see: spamming) all over social, that is a different use of social. The point I was trying to express is that social, primarily, is a communication tool. The art of conversation is alive and well and continues in person, by phone, by email, by sms, by Twitter, Facebook messages, wall posts, IM chats etc etc. Recruiters have conversations, that is what we do for a living. If we stick our heads in the sand and ignore valuable and relevant ways to engage in those conversations, then we will eventually fail.

Just my opinions, glad to hear that others feel strongly about communication methods; we should!

Comment by Suresh on December 8, 2011 at 1:20pm

I get the point being made about email, but also believe in being differentiated.

By following the crowd the message gets lost, so it may be helpful to use channels that others are not necessarily using. For example, the re-emergence of radio..


Comment by Sandra McCartt on December 8, 2011 at 1:43pm
So you don't think email is dead you just wrote a Goofy headline to generate comments and offer a discount to trudublin and self promote. Ugh no rate card required thanks anyway.
Comment by John W. Ferneborg on December 9, 2011 at 1:09am

Wow, how can you guys get so down on the fax.  I get wonderful offers for cheap cruses and random insurance quotes.  Mine even can even be used as a backup phone if heaven forbid my desk phone died!

btw, email isn't dead, nor close to it.


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