Mobile Recruiting. Hold the Sugar Coating.

Picture this family conference: two parents and two pre-teen kids, taking place in one ordinary living room...

Dad speaks: “Kids. Your Mom and I have made a decision. Between soccer, basketball and karate practices; piano and dance lessons, scouts and bible study you both are out of the house more than you are home. It seems all you do is sleep here. Same goes for your Mom and me. If we’re not coaching or driving you to these events, we’re at work or the gym or PTA.

We’ve decided to take the family virtual. Effective immediately. Pack up your stuff.

We’ll equip you with a laptop and Internet connection so you can do your homework on your own, and a mobile device so you can connect to your Mom and me as needed. You’ll also get a bus pass to get around, and a book of gift certificates to eat at Pizza Hut. We’ll meet weekly at Starbucks for status reports. And of course, you’ll need to check in daily to let us know where you are in case we need you. We suggest packing light – taking any sports equipment you need, your team uniforms and a nice change of clothes for weekly church service. Expense reports are due monthly. With receipts.”

Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Yet this nails how some recruitment company executives feel about mobile recruiting. Virtual offices might have gotten easier to create but they are not easily managed. And unless you’re a sole proprietor or a very small partnership with minimal growth plans, I’d argue that 100% virtual is a mistake if not a myth.

All organizations must embrace mobility. Pure brick and mortar is too expensive and too weighty to compete. But how do you achieve the right balance between infrastructure and iPhone?

Hiring and Firing. Hiring is hard. Firing is as simple as asking for cheese sauce on your home fries. I won’t go into interview techniques here; Craig Silverman gives a remarkable presentation on this topic that you should check out. I’ll mention just one of his recommendations – the telephone test – because it should be used for everyone you hire, not just salespeople and recruiters. If you adopt even a bit of mobility then your people are going to have to talk to each other on the phone. (They’re also going to have to be mature, independent, and self-directed.)

Here’s the test: stick your interviewee in a room by herself with a phone and a goal. It’s role play time. She needs to call you on the phone in your office and achieve the goal. The examples of goals for recruiters or salespeople come easily to mind (e.g. get the client to make an offer, get the candidate to accept the job, etc.) But what about interoffice communication? And what if you’re hiring for a role in accounts receivable, or HR or branch management? Here are some possible goals:

  • For an accounting/back-office candidate: get the salesperson to understand that her client is a deadbeat and she needs to get them to pay up or her commissions and the company’s services to the client will cease.
  • For H/R: deliver a warning for abuse of a company policy on paid time off.
  • For Branch Management: tell a recruiter that his abrasiveness is disrupting the team.
  • For Management: deliver the news of commission or territory reduction to a salesperson.

Communication. A cell phone is not a communication device. It is a hunk of circuits, wires and plastic. And you work with a bunch of boiled frogs.

You tested for communication in the hiring process. Now the real work begins. You say we’re going virtual. The team cheers. You tell them we’re meeting every Monday afternoon and every Thursday morning. Everyone nods in agreement. Six months, or even a year pass; two mandatory meetings become one and an optional second; which becomes two with less than a full-house; which becomes one with people dialing in. Jack gets irritated with Jill over her evaporated sense of urgency; Jill sours over Jack’s lack of confidence in her abilities; and Spot accomplishes nothing as he tries to restore the peace.

The parable of the boiled frog is this: throw a frog into a pot of boiling water and he’ll know it’s hot and jump right out. Put him in cool water and slowly turn up the heat and he will fall asleep and boil to death.

I’ve worked in mostly mortar and I’ve worked in very virtual. The best mix is somewhere in the middle. It’s where Jack and Jill can physically see that the other is pulling his own weight; can confront the other eyeball to eyeball if there’s doubt; and where Spot can just get on with being the dog he was hired to be.

Training. I worked in a staffing company where the training program was a mandatory reading list of two books that I needed to buy for myself. This program was upgraded a few years later. We adopted a shadowing practice where the grasshoppers got glued to the guns. Again mandatory, but this time worse as no salt-worthy salesperson asks for a breast pumping. Nor are they by nature good at it. Decent salespeople are generally hired guns not nursemaids.

In a virtual environment, a formal training and continuing education program is crucial. You are not within reach or earshot of what your team does. Instead you must know that they have the tools to succeed. This doesn’t mean training needs to be done in-house. I’d argue that the best training plans utilize outside resources. Outsourcing enables you to pick the courses that meet the unique needs of each team member, and to ensure that the course work is up to date.

Metrics, Goals, Roles and Accountability. Jack is “moonlighting” on your dime, and Jill is interviewing with your competition. You found out because a loyal employee alerted you; he saw suspicious stuff on their Facebook pages. Sound familiar? If not, it will. You’re in deep yogurt.

You need better radar and this is what goals and metrics give you. Find a system; any system that works for you. (Electronic preferably over smoke signals.) This activity log is a pre-requisite of a virtual environment. Share it; publish it internally. Use it to motivate team members for higher performance; no one wants to be in the bottom half. Leverage it as a tool for promoting accountability. One of the best recruiting scorecards I’ve seen in a long while was presented by Tony Blake of Davita, Inc. at ERE’s Fall 2009 conference.

Gizmos and Gear. To use a mobile device you must first get your head out of the sand. If you have a strict policy that prevents the movement of information from desktop to mobile device shoot yourself now. That policy is as useless and antiquated as the resume files you’re still storing in the broom closet. Change is the only constant. Get over it.

Your recruiters and salespeople already have candidate and client information stored somewhere you can’t access. Resumes are everywhere, and as soon as Google takes an interest in it, Monster and CareerBuilder are busted. The only thing your “unsyncable” policy achieves is a colossal time sink as your people work around it.

A better plan is to provide your people with company property including laptops, mobile devices, and the applications that support the efficient sharing and processing of information across them. This gives your people the gear they need to compete and something you can immediately confiscate if you order cheese sauce with those home fries.

Amy Renz is the President and COO of, LLC, a privately held recruiting services and software company based in Londonderry, NH. Its ALEX Desktop app turns resumes from email attachments and desktop file folders into searchable, 'syncable' vCards. The Company processes several million resumes monthly in over 14 languages from 35 countries and counts among its clients the #1 job board, #1 vendor management system and #1 applicant tracking system for healthcare. Amy has over 15 years of recruitment industry experience including sales and management of multi-million dollar accounts and leadership of high-performance teams. Amy has run three Marathons and is training for her fourth in Boston this year. She enjoys yoga, slalom skiing, and her puppies.

Views: 219

Comment by David Perry on March 23, 2010 at 11:44am
This post is simply brilliant. One of the best constructed most articulate pieces I've read in years. thank you Amy.
Comment by Kenny Poulter on March 23, 2010 at 1:06pm
Outstanding ! I believe you covered it all. EXCELLENT I am now a fan of yours.
Comment by Kwintessential on March 24, 2010 at 9:28am
This definately provides a different perspective on virtual working.


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