Let’s Be More Human

pw06-02-nolabelsI saw a tweet this morning:

Coffee is the second largest item of international commerce in the world. The largest is petrol.

It got me to thinking (as many Twitter remarks do). Both are types of fuel and both can be argued to be drugs. My mind raced across the words to pull some lesson about telephone sourcing from them and settled on the fact that “names” are a raw material that, like oil and coffee beans, can be transformed into a commodity that fuels a staffing process like no other activity I can think of. One of the acronyms attached to the word fuel is “combustion.” Raw names can combust your staffing results.

Many years ago, when I first started sourcing, I’d harp and harp at Bob (my husband) that what TechTrak really needed was a database. It would drive me crazy thinking about these “names” I was uncovering on a daily basis and the growing pile beckoned me, over and over, to think about them, almost unceasingly.

“Think about it, Bob! These are names of people in the world somewhere. These people possess valuable skills (raw material) that others can use. The knowledge in their heads is priceless. It’s a shame to let them just fall away without capturing them (and the information they possess) in some sort of database that can be used for other things…” It kept me awake nights.

But databases are a lot of work…” he’d remonstrate, looking up from the book he was reading. “Who’s gonna put all that info into a database?” he’d demand, adjusting his easy chair. Then, in 2003, LinkedIn launched with the brilliant idea of putting the world to work and one of my reasons for living (to torment Bob telling him so) was born.

LinkedIn is so simple. It’s just a database that collects names using the voluntary efforts of others — the raw material that sits in the ground until it’s pumped out and transformed into a wildly popular commodity. To do this, however, you have to grasp the enormous potential that lies within the raw material and you have to have the skill to unlock it. Most people don’t have that skill: the ability to communicate.

As hard as it is to understand in this day and age of “communication” in one way we are more isolated than ever.

We are more cut off and disengaged than we ever have been before and the very screen you’re reading this on is one of the main reasons. Many of us are kidding ourselves when we sit down at our desks to “get some work done.” What we’re really doing is plugging into a drug of choice that keeps us at arm’s length from dealing with others on a face-to-face basis and, curiously, from dealing with ourselves. It keeps us from looking at that man in the mirror staring back at us. Look closely now. If the light is just right in your cubicle and you look beyond these written words you’ll see your own reflection in the background of this screen. Look closely. Turn off the light. Let your screen go dark. There you are. Here you’ve been, all along, looking out, watching, mimicking, and waiting. What are you looking for? What are you waiting on all this time?

Do you think redemption lies in here? Knowledge? Riches? Peace? It doesn’t. It lies within each and every one of us and in these days that try our souls each and every one of us has an obligation to examine ourselves in the mirror. What we find may be startling. What we find may be alarming. What we find may be what we’re looking for — a just-in-time application that can save all of us from ourselves.

You see, it’s mostly ourselves that gets in our own ways. Some of us are so full of ourselves that we’re too big to fit through the “OUT” doorway that leads us into the dark unknown, the unfamiliar stairwell — the uncharted hallway. It presents the opportunity to meet up with new challenges, new faces, and new opportunities. It’s not comfortable at first to go through that OUT door but through it go you must if you’re going to reach this thing you’re looking for. This thing called transformation. This thing called change.

Most of us must transform ourselves. We must change our thoughts, our behaviors, and our actions into a way of thinking that doesn’t center on ourselves. We must become outer-focused rather than interior-focused. By developing a “what can I do for him/her/them?” mentality our actions will lead us into opportunities that we never dreamed possible. They will lead us to an abudanza of happiness.

I know I’m on a soapbox here and sounding like a brim-and-firestone preacher but what I’m advocating is an approach that will allow us to connect to others — that will allow us to communicate and engage. Being real, being vulnerable ourselves —  it’s a near-irresistible approach to connecting with others. That other person, that “name” that sits in your database and far away on the other end of the telephone, is likely to be filled with the same hangups and fears you are. When you understand this, it’s not such a task to reach out a helping hand.

Our job today in recruiting (as it has always been) is to connect with other people. With the smorgasbord of “names” so freely available today comes a whole (and not-so-new) other challenge — how do we first contact those persons and what do we say to engage them? After all, we don’t “know” this person. What if they say “BOO!”?

Think about it. Don’t we know them? If you look at each and every person on your list and think about what that person’s daily challenges are likely to be, we humanize a part of the process that goes a long way toward reaching out to those persons. It makes it far easier to approach someone recognizing the core of humanity we all share. I don’t know if it was the deaf and blind Helen Keller who said that it’s our infirmities that make us sweeter but I always think of this sentiment when I think of vulnerability. It’s our foibles that make us lovable. It’s our weaknesses that make us sweet. People generally don’t like us because we’re strong. They like us because we’re human.

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Ring Ring.

“Hello, Reynolds here.”

“Hello, Jim. My name is Maureen Sharib and I’m calling about an open Director of Manufacturing Engineering position there in Springfield. Do you have a few minutes to maybe talk to me about it?”

“Huh? I’m not looking for a job. Did someone say I was?” sitting up straight at his desk, tucking his legs down to the floor.

“No, Jim. I know you’re not looking for a job. It’s my job to identify people who have the ability to do a specific job and I identified you as being the Manufacturing Engineering Manager there and I was hoping you might have an interest in talking about another possible opportunity in the area.”

“How’d you get my name?” standing and pushing the office door shut with a soft click.

“I identified a list of companies in the same manufacturing space as the hiring company and called each one to discern who the Manufacturing Engineering Manager is in each. That’s how I found you.”

“Oh. That makes sense. Well, can you tell me a little about the job? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t keep my options open…”

And that’s how it goes. It’s not brain surgery and it’s a pretty enjoyable process once you get into it. Recognizing that your call is coming from a stranger and being attuned to the call-recipient’s possible reactions doesn’t take a laundry list of comebacks. There are only a few responses that you’ll encounter time and time again and once you start your calling, you’ll find your responses come more and more easily to you with practice. Soon, you’ll be excavating the valuable resources of talent that lies within all those names.

The important thing, though, is to get started. Look at that face in the screen, pick up the phone, take a deep breath, and dial. You’ll be glad you did. You’ll go places you can’t even imagine and uncover riches you never dreamed possible. You’ll be hooked on the drug of success.

Maureen Sharib has been a “Socratic sourcer” her entire sourcing career; from the moment she first picked up the faxed list of Silicon Valley high-tech companies that was her target list to “phone source” in 1996 to today she has instinctively followed this method of investigative sourcing using (mostly) the telephone.  She is a proponent of sourcing as a synonym for success and envisions the craft moving away from a dangerously drudgery-paced life-form existence to an exciting investigative/competitive place within organizations where practitioners co-exist within a framework of market research, human resources, and C-level future planning. She owns the phone sourcing and competitive intelligence firm TechTrak.com, Inc. You can contact her at Maureen at techtrak.com or call her at (513) 646-7306.  If she’s not on the phone she’ll pick up!

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11 Comments on “Let’s Be More Human

  1. Maureen,

    A GREAT post. Technology allows people to hide and to reduce their relationships to a subject-object one. You hit the nail on the head.

  2. Outstanding post Maureen! As Thomas said, you hit the nail on the head. I find it ironic that there is all of this talk about social networking and social recruiting yet the recruiters are becoming less and less social and more relaint on technology.

  3. Terrific post, Maureen! I remember fondly the days before e-mail blasts when you HAD to pick up the phone in order to contact a potential candidate. Not gonna lie…I long for those days again. 🙂

  4. Excellent post Maureen! I agree completely, and struggle each day with the fact that less and less people want to talk to others while opting for seclusion through technology. Thanks for the info.

  5. Not a bad article, but going to have to respectfully disagree, especially in the Tech recruiting world. You have to use every form of communication in today’s world, and also think about how the candidate would like to be contacted. At some point, meeting candidates in person is key, but to gather more qualified candidates – working smartly, saving time – it’s time to quit looking back at the “old school, smile-and-dial”. Recruiters should start working smarter and use today’s technology to our advantage.

  6. I didn’t interpret Maureen’s post to mean that technology should be cast aside. I agree that recruiters should use technology to their advantage however I believe that many have over rotated and become too reliant upon technology. In many cases, there are qualified candidates who never see the light of day because the recruiter (or HR generalist who had staffing added to their job description due to downsizing) relies strictly on what comes out of the keyword search.

  7. Thanks, Maureen. I enjoy people, and can find things to relate to almost anyone. At the same time, I have no desire to have brief, meaningful encounters with large numbers of people throughout the course of the day. With rare exceptions, I prefer to minimize the amount of contact I have with candidates until they are hired- email is better for me than phone, and phone is better than face-to-face. I don’t know what it’s like for other folks, but past the initial, surface layer, it’s increasingly tiring for me to put on my “ordinary” persona the more I have to do it. I would rather minimze the time I have to be around people where I have to be “on guard” and maximize the time I can be around people who accept me as the person I really am, warts and all.

    Cheers,

    Keith

  8. I think Rolando is exactly right here. Nobody is suggesting that we abandon technology. You have to have technology to manage the massive amounts of information. However, the pendulum has clearly swung way in the opposite direction. Companies have put more and more layers between job seekers and themselves. When I started in recruiting years ago, I was taught the difference betweeen “high tech and high touch”. Candidates like “high touch” and companies like “high tech”.

    Of course we would not be having this discussion if the economy and job market were anything approaching healthy. We would all be discussing the “talent war” and how to reach out and touch those candidates.

  9. Insightful article Maureen. Enjoyed the visualization of the call and techniques used during the conversation. Classic and yet very meaningful call that produced results.

    I value the training I received in old school recruiting methods. How to pick up the phone (cold, warm, hot calls) and intiate a conversation (brief of long) to identify, source and recruit a candidate has been very helpful and to me for the last 15 years of agency recruiting.

    I have also readily adapted and infused the techology available today to further enchance the candidate experience. However, it has been my experience using the phone and the subsequent conversations have gotten the greatest precentage of hires. Plus I have built some excellent and valuable professional relationships.

  10. All great points, and obviously you build a better rapport with candidates over the phone and in person, but at the same time, I do find it ironic we are all commenting electronically after this article and carrying on a very good discussion. Carry on…

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