Technology and Relationships: From Face-to-Face to Cyberspace

Several years ago, I wrote an article discussing Kevin Kelly’s book, New Rules for the New Economy.

Kelly was the editor of Business 2.0 magazine and still plays a major role in Wired magazine. Kelly believes that networks are the key to 21st century business. Technology is the means by which these networks are put together and it is through them that relationships form. In fact, these networks create relationships.

It is interesting to think that the reason social networks have grown so much over the past five years is because of the fundamental technology that makes them possible: the Internet.

Technology in the 21st century is not just a tool to manage information; rather it is a tool to create and channel relationships between people, between businesses, and between employees.

What is hard for most of us to grasp is that relationships don’t have to be face-to-face. What is happening is that relationships are moving to cyberspace. Whether we are using chat rooms, email, instant messaging, social networking tools, or some other media, we are creating or maintaining a relationship.

Most young people are quite comfortable talking with strangers in chat rooms and by email. The best recruiting sites are most likely to be interactive and focus on relationship-building.

Successful and truly value-added uses of recruiting technology have almost nothing to do with information storage, sorting, searching, or retrieval. Instead, the real value lies in using the technology to facilitate communication with prospective candidates, to educate, sell and screen them, and to build global networks of contacts and prospects.

Ideally, a prospective candidate finds your website and is enticed by interactive content and exciting design. This encourages her to explore what various jobs might be like. She watches a day-in-the-life video, takes a video virtual tour of your site, hears the head of R&D talk about new products, and has an opportunity to take a short, fun quiz on how well she fits into your culture.

Perhaps your site will let her define a dream job and then find the position closest to that in your firm. All of this will be personalized and easy to navigate.

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If the candidate finds nothing of interest, she will be given an opportunity to remain connected with your organization by joining your social network, perhaps created with a tool such as Ning. The social network will offer a newsletter, chat rooms, and the ability to email you or others in the firm.

If the candidate is interested, software tools will begin to evaluate her for the position. It might begin by asking a few simple questions about the candidate, questions you might ask in a telephone screen. Depending on those answers, it would move on to more sophisticated and complex questions.

Throughout this process, there has been no face-to-face or voice-to-voice contact with the candidate, although these options could be made available easily. What is defining here is that the candidate is no longer passive but is being invited to participate and interact with your site. The candidate is placed in control of what she sees and where she goes and what she chooses or does not choose to do.

A recruiting site that is fully in the 21st century will have most of what I have described as well as many other tools and functions to enhance networking and relationship-building.

Here are five fresh ideas to use today:

  1. Write job descriptions for individuals, not categories or types of people. There really aren’t any programmers, but rather individuals who can write C++ code, or some other code, for a particular application at a certain speed and level of complexity. The job descriptions should generate some excitement and jump out at the right candidate. They should also be easily emailed or referred to others because one of the growing ways to find people is by referrals from others. If I see a job described that fits someone I know, I am likely to let them know about it if it is easy to do so.
  2. Create blogging opportunities, which are powerful ways to keep prospective candidates engaged. Even though blogging has been around for years, only a handful of recruiting sites have a blog aimed at candidates. The most well-known is Heather Hamilton’s at Microsoft. Most of us have let legal issues and the difficulty to overcome internal bureaucratic processes stifle the use of this potentially excellent communication and relationship-building tool.
  3. Build chat rooms into sites so that candidates and recruiters can have ongoing discussions. Recruiters should spend more time building traffic in the chat rooms by offering seminars on what the company does, profiling various jobs by having someone who does that job answer questions in the chat room.
  4. Use online seminars or webinars to build traffic and create learning opportunities. There are a number of webinar firms that offer inexpensive software that you could harness for this purpose.
  5. Generate excitement through contests and games. People respond to trivia games, contests, and online surveys. They like the instant feedback and the ability to do something rather than just read. These contests are also a way to get people to return frequently to your site. Each time they return is another opportunity to recruit them, or at least to have a conversation with them and keep them excited about your organization.

The takeaway point here is that rather than inhibit relationships, well-defined technology facilitates the creation of relationships. Whether we like it or not, technology will define and enable all the recruiting that takes place in the 21st century.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


8 Comments on “Technology and Relationships: From Face-to-Face to Cyberspace

  1. Kevin –
    I don’t think individuals (candidates/applicants) are ready to be treated as a ‘number’ or disposable commodity. People are human and need real interaction, especially if they are going to ‘buy in’ on a posted position or join in some type of online communication. What I am hearing from corporate, contingency and contract recruiters is that there is a huge drop off in candidate response – much of it due to technology. Companies have lost that ‘human touch’ and the HR industry is reeling from overhyped ATS and web-enabled technologies, i.e., social networking, IM, podcasts, voicemail, cell phones, text messaging… the list goes on and on. Does anyone pick up the phone anymore? It’s just too easy to ignore caller IDs, voicemails from home, cell and office phones, too easy to delete or ignore emails and Blackberry messages… I’m talking about information overload and clutter in the corporate space!

  2. I agree with the facts presented in the article, and feel it poses some interesting ideas. I have definately been using social networks, chat rooms/IMs, etc. in my recruiting efforts and they are proving to be successful (especially given that I am a technology recruiter :)— I was interested in any suggestions on how to best use ‘blogs’ in this process. Our corp. office is in charge of our website design, so how can I go about this on a smaller scale– set up on my own page, like myspace!? and what would be the context? any thoughts on how you have used this would be great!

  3. I agree wholeheartedly with Mark here. We have become so dependent upon emails that we could all probably throw away our cell phones, unless of course, they’re Blackberries. I can’t remember the last time one of my Hiring Managers actually returned a telephone call without me having to place it 3 times. I was listening to an executive speak not long ago and she threw out a phrase that made me sit up and think, she said ‘There are no emails in heaven’. It’s a simple phrase but I think we forget too often that we are in the people business, why would we work so hard to avoid interacting with them?

    As someone who started recruitng when the fax machine was the ‘big technology’, I have loved the advances and for the most part have embraced them, email, internet, blackberries, ATS, on and on. In reality, the technology has improved the overall quantity of hires for everyone. The problem I’m seeing in my industry (IT/ERP Consulting)is the employee retention rates are dropping at an alarming rate. I believe that if you look at the companies that are suffering through low retention rates, you might find technology playing a large part in how they recruit and manage their employees. Many of those organizations have lost touch with their people. No email, blackberry, internet or ATS is going to help much when you’ve got an employee who says, ‘I’m tired of being a number here, I’m going somewhere that I will be appreciated’.

    Let’s keep the technology coming but remember that people are the lifeblood of what we do.

  4. Technology when used to deal with the mundane tasks such as posting the jobs, receiving the candidates into our chosen application, sending invites to the ones who seem they are in the realm of possibility for matching up to the position is appropriate. As is the prospecting in social networking groups, etc. The break down is once we have someone in the process, and things are not going peachy keen and we tend to not take their calls cause we don’t like being the bearers of bad news and we leave them hanging, that’s when it is an obstacle. Not for the recruiter who doesn’t want to tell the candidate they aren’t a fit nor for the candidate who doesn’t want to tell the recruiter that they feel is somewhat likeable that they are not going to take the job being offered. Both sides use technology as a block in this way. And that’s when it is frustrating on both sides, cause it gets to the point of just wanting to know the outcome. Well technology can take on that role too. A simple email that says no is all it takes.

    The problem with the information overload is not because the technology is there. Were it not for the technology, how would we cope? I cannot imagine it. Take it out of the equation and the picture only gets worse because things that we automate now, we would have to do manually. That means we would be less available to make or take phone calls because we’d be so bogged down we would not have time for the ones that we are able to make.

    For IT recruiters, being able to communicate through all the different channels that are available now is a necessity. It’s where these candidates are in their down time, not all, but a large percentage are. Many people, not just the technically savvy are now living in two worlds. Their offline world and their online world with friends and relationships ever bit as important to them in one world as in the other.

    Social Bookmarking is the technology to use if you’re going to be trying to utilize the social networks. Many of these people, especially your creative types are on Youtube. I use both Social book marking and a little known technique I picked up to exploit Youtube’s system to reach those I need to reach out to. Luckily for me, most recruiters seem resistant to using these channels, so I am free to cherry pick to my heart’s content at the moment. If anyone is interested in learning more about these techniques, I’ll share them, but not online. Send a message to my profile, and I’ll respond. Right now I have very little competition, and I’d like to keep that way as long as I can. I’ve always been an early adopter, but eventually everyone else catches on… shucks lol

  5. I agree. In the mean time, how about just reviewing your existing job site to assure it keeps its promises and deals with applicant as potential business partners. Some findings and suggestions in a short article based on my experiences with these sites: Jobs Web Sites that Work (or don’t) at

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