Social Media – a cautionary tale

“The thought police would get him just the same. He had committed–would have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper–the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it. Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed forever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you.” – George Orwell, 1984, Book 1, Chapter 1

Social Media – A Bright New World or a Disaster Waiting to Happen Consider the quote from 1984 at the start of this post in light of the modern situation with our New Social Media World for a moment. Consider the frantic drafting and re-drafting of corporate social media policies to protect organisations against every imaginable, definable and perceivable scenario that their legal advisers can envisage, and this sort of envisaging does not come cheap of course. Review the constant media reports of amendments to public law, the perception and interpretation of acts likely to cause offence, a breach of the peace. How many media reports are there already of commercial suicide because they underestimated how disappointed a customer was, career suicide because they posted something offensive about their own employer or boss. Then consider the global concerns about elements related to privacy and marketing possibly even brainwashing. Remember the furore over subliminal imaging? How is that different from source amnesia? Except one is legal because we don’t really understand it yet and it is also big business, and the other was banned because we thought we understood it in the 60’s and 70’s when the World was in awe of such things. Governments and Judicial organisations around the World are trying to define what is acceptable, what is within the law, what you can say, who you can say it to and what the punishments are for breaches of these new first Social Media World laws and legislations. In my opinion they are rushing headlong into a mine field that will last for generations.

Can You Tweet Yourself to Death? Professionally – YES! Incorrect utilisation of social media can ruin your business, your brand, your reputation, your career and possibly your life in literally minutes. I am a recruiter, a Head Hunter and I operate internationally across various markets, diverse cultures and religions. I only have to make one ill thought out post on twitter or LinkedIn and I can easily offend someone somewhere amongst all the cultures, religions, belief factors and ethical perceptions. I may never actually know who I offended or why, but they can alienate me from hundreds of people who have never met me but will judge me without even uttering a word to me. For recruiters in a world where our entire business is people related and based upon relationships and reputations social media is literally a dream opportunity or a potential disaster waiting to happen, as Gary Chaplin found out when he accidentally blind copied an insulting email to thousands of people. He intended the sentiment of the original email, he maybe thought it was funny, he was undoubtedly a little angry at the time. But he never imagined it would go as far and as fast as it did. Bad news has never travelled so fast and so persistently as it does today. Imagine if someone made the same gaffe as Gerald Ratner did in 1991 today? For those who don’t remember it here is a little sample:

He said: “We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, ‘How can you sell this for such a low price?’ I say, because it’s total crap.” He added that his stores’ earrings were “cheaper than an M&S prawn sandwich but probably wouldn’t last as long”.

He wiped almost £500 million off his companies share value, that was in 1991! The damage was limited in many ways because bad news did no travel so fast. You could get PR Gurus and Corporate Communications people to disaster manage (SPIN) and spread counter claims almost as fast as bad news moved. Not today. Personally and privately it can cost you your friends, your relationship, your family and even your liberty almost instantly. It isn’t just you as the individual who drive this by the initial insensitivity or stupidity or possibly even correct but unwarranted or illegal statement or thought. It is also the media who use the same tools to drive and create a social frenzy out of a little piece of social media because the more visits, the more hits, the more advertising they secure the more money the company earns. I have even heard of one guy whose own wife exposed him for buying and reading pornography, her tweets became a hit in Japan, he was ridiculed to the point of attempted suicide.

The power of social media is breathtaking. The sheer concept of literally millions of people reading within minutes if not seconds, something that was intended for a small, private select audience of my friends or family is mind blowing. It used to take PR Companies weeks, months and maybe even years to get an advertising or political message out but now one carefully choreographed and stage managed strap line or piece of guerilla marketing can do the same job as dozens of PR and Branding Execs in hours if not less.

I find it frightening on so many levels. Yet despite my fear of it and probably in spite of my naturally outspoken, passionately driven and often strongly opinionated personality I still play with it and experiment with it just like I am right now. Put your hands up if you are only here because of the cat and gun image? Yes. I thought so. Almost all of us, even the so called guru’s who charge to train and teach and maximise our use and a firms investment LinkedIn, Twitter and so on, are really like that first human being Bert, who played with fire out of curiosity, hypnotised by the mystical flickering flame. When he subsequently set fire to his enemies dwelling and realised that the wonderful flame could also destroy things nobody had invented the offence of arson. There was no example set. Nobody considered it a crime of passion, it was just one of those things. We haven’t even educated one single generation yet about the benefits and the dangers of social media. As far as I am aware it does not form part of the school curriculum, it is not discussed as part of the moral guidance delivered in churches. When I was a child there was a splendid Community Police Sergeant called Keith Ellis who used to come to my school. He brought people to talk to us about the dangers of railway lines, swimming in lakes, crossing roads, talking to strangers, riding bicycles and later during our teenage years he warned us of the dangers of drugs, alcohol, glue sniffing, aerosol abuse and going off the rails. Who tells our children today about the dangers of social media? I know that we are quite rightly abundantly clear and aware of the dangers of strangers on the web, but how does a 17 year old know what Facebook can really do, how does a 40 year old know how to utilise his privacy settings? Who has told him? How does a job seeker know that he is actively alienating every recruiter and potentially lot’s of prospective employers due to his blog posts or his rants on discussions on Linkedin.

Make-BelieveWe are basically making it up as we go along, changing the rules to suit public opinion, jumping to conclusions about what everyone thinks, responding en mass in an almost hysterical manner. Forgetting that just because it is the majority opinion it doesn’t make it the right opinion. I think it was Ricky Gervais who said something like

“Just because you’re offended, doesn’t mean you’re right.”

The problem is if people don’t truly understand how it works, how can they be responsible. There are no written rules, we don’t have a moral or ethical guide or compass on Social Media, because it is still happening and it is too complex. In recent months we have had examples of people imprisoned for making statements perceived to be inciting a riot. In a couple of cases individuals who appear to severely lack any kind of sound moral guidance or social responsibility claimed they were joking, they didn’t mean it, they were just having a laugh with their mates. How do we really know they were not, after all none of the ones convicted and jailed were actually caught in the act of public disorder or affray. In effect it was a ‘thought crime’, it was a brain-fart, it was an outspoken moment of stupidity, but it was probably shared and understood by their desired audience, they just did not realise it was not shared and understood by mine and yours. If they had known that a second of misguided humour could secure you 3-4 years in prison do you really think they would have done it? Really!

Education and Prevention is Key In the UK it is extremely difficult to obtain a gun, at least legally anyway. There is good reason for this, people don’t understand how to use them safely, can’t secure them properly and are often tempted to use them negligently or in moments of anger. Similarly with cars (cars not cats okay), you have to be taught how to drive one safely so that you don’t kill someone or yourself. But even then there is massive investment in telling us the obvious, don’t drink and drive, don’t speed, cautionary signs on motorways for example.Despite the fact that we have all taken courses and passed a test. Where are the public notices warning us about the consequences of social media? You wouldn’t give your child a loaded gun (or any gun for that matter) yet we all willingly give them a mobile phone!

Parental Guidance – If you are Parents and your children are engaging with social media, tell them how to use it properly while you are explaining about the birds and the bees and how not to communicate with strangers. If you are an employer who encourages your employees to use social media then appoint a volunteer social media representative, encourage them to stay ahead of the game, to train, to issue advice. It is simply not enough to assume that everyone knows what they are doing, just because you have issued a Social Media Policy. You have an obligation to protect your employees just as you do to protect your revenues and your business. If like me you are using social media but feel like you are often wearing a blindfold, then be cautious, never post in anger and always review, have reviewed by someone else or think twice before posting.

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No cats were injured in the process of writing this article. Many of the examples used are for effect only and do not represent the views and opinions of the author / authors. Any tips, suggestions, legal advice, insight, education references are extremely welcomed on this subject matter. Please share, re-post and feel free to enlighten me, make constructive comments.

Spam Connections = Spam Fritters, the corned beef of connections.

I’m not sure if Spam Fritters are globally infamous, and I do mean Spam Fritters not Spam Filters although the distinction isn’t necessarily that great. If you don’t know what Spam the foodstuff is then click here – Spam. But when I was a child they appeared to be the staple of any school lunch menu and to be frank were pretty bloody awful to say the least.

However, it would seem that like any great product Spam the recipe owned and created by Hormel Foods Corporation back in 1937 has been revitalised. Unfortunately it is in the form of the absolute garbage generated almost constantly by our email transactions. Now we all get this, we all have spam filters, we have firewalls and so on to try and minimise it. But of late there appears to be a whole new kind of bacterial spam infection unique to LinkedIn. The Spam Connection Invitation.

This is cause for concern. As a recruiter / head hunter I connect to lots of people. But as a LinkedIn member since 2005 and with over 5,000 connections I tend to be rather select. In the vast majority of cases either I have reviewed the profile and believe there to be a valid quid pro quo mutual benefit or they have viewed mine and thought the same.

So why do I seem to be constantly targeted by a company called EngageTech? Of the circa 10 connection invitations I receive weekly none of them have reviewed my LinkedIn profile. None of them offer any insight as to why they want to connect with me and none of them have anything of any measurable value to offer me or to reciprocate in any way for connecting with them. I’ve connected with them sometimes and waited for the marketing email, for the introduction to their services but it never comes. So what is their aim, it has to be entirely one sided. The aim of this company and a few others who are very similar in nature must surely be to mine my data, to somehow extend their knowledge through my hard work and perseverance or to simply add my contact details to one of their clients mailing lists.

To that end I now just ignore the request to connect and subsequently block them. But still these invites keep on coming. It is annoying. I know it is probably unique to me, but I still get a little rush of excitement when I receive a connection invitation. I can’t wait to see who has selected me out all the millions of profiles on LinkedIn to extend an invitation to connect is. To say the least it is pretty bloody disappointing to discover that it is just another random EngageTech employee who offers nothing. Who just wants to sell my email address and phone number to the highest bidder.

Sorry EngageTech but whatever it is you are doing you might want to revise your approach. Maybe a little transparency would help, maybe a “Hi Darren, love your profile and think there could be mutual advantage in being connected…..” would go a long way.

My advice to anyone who receives an invitation from an EngageTech employee is to just ignore it, you may actually just significantly reduce your spam levels….

 

Pigeon Recruiters and the race to Game of Thrones, Flea Bottom

PigeonsFor many recruiters it’s tough out there despite the changing tides of the economy apparently. The pace of adaptation is rampant across the commercial sectors and there is undoubtedly a disconnect somewhere between the companies who use recruiters and recruiters themselves. In essence pro-active collaboration where a customer and a service provider work together to truly understand a need and then to establish a solution has fallen by the way side. In many areas chaos has ensued and the end result is almost a race to the bottom to see who can do the least for the least. Before long much of the recruitment industry will reside in Flea Bottom.

But this isn’t a new and shocking revelation. This has been blatantly obvious for over a decade. So what has been the recruitment sector’s answer to this decreasing lack of faith in its ability to provide value and to resolve the pain many companies feel in probably the most time consuming and costly activity many of them engage in, recruitment? A quick look around and the answer is clear. The vast majority of the industry decided to dumb down. No industry cohesion to improve quality, drive up service levels and to increase the capability and therefore the expectations. No, almost as one across the board the vast majority of the recruitment industry adopted the stance of those cute cuddly but often baffled lemmings and all held hands and walked off the cliff together.

As corporate buyers embraced lower levels of service with lower expectations and accompanied these with lower deliverables the move towards ever decreasing fees was inevitable. The recruitment industry unbelievably couldn’t wait to embrace this commercial virus with open arms, rather like a heroin addict stops complaining about the quality of their supply providing they have a supply, any kind of supply regardless of the consequences. All morals and ethics discarded to feed their habit.

When I first joined the recruitment industry I worked for an independent company in Leeds called Link-up. It was mandatory that within the first 6 months you attended 2 training days per month at Head Office. This was complimented by in branch training led by Managers or Regional Directors. You had to demonstrate in live situations such as client meetings, candidate interviews, issue resolution and role play scenarios that you had acquired and adopted these skills to a certain level. This was enhanced by external training and coaching on skills such as Public Speaking, Power Point Presentations, Interview Coaching, Spin / Solution Selling, Creative Writing and so on, skills which most recruitment firms today would scoff at. How many invest this amount of time and money into new recruiters today?

How many recruiters actually focus on providing a solution? When was the last time you invited a recruiter into your office and they explored your business, its processes and suggested an approach or a solution and gave you alternatives demonstrating the pro’s and con’s as to what the advantages and disadvantages of each were? When was the last time a recruitment consultant actually showed any inclination to consult? When was the last time a recruitment consultant told you that you didn’t need to use a recruiter, you needed to do something else instead or offered to drive internal recommendations or similar for free?

Or did they just agree to sign anywhere at any expense and grasp that job description and vacancy requirement as quickly and eagerly as possible like a pigeon scrambling for that last bit of corn?

Do your recruiters inhabit Flea Bottom or Kings Landing?

Talent Alienation or Talent Attraction Conundrum?

What most automated recruitment systems and applicant tracking systems really should have as an automatic email response.

What most automated recruitment systems and applicant tracking systems really should have as an automatic email response.

As the UK economy begins to stutter back into the black and organisations tentatively raise their heads above the trenches they have been dug into like infantry battalions in Flanders Field during World War 1, the early indications of a fresh war are clearly becoming visible. That is the war for talent. After such tough economic challenges this war could very well be as challenging if not more than ever before. Now is the time to review and seriously consider how to stay ahead of the game and ensure that you are leading from the front. Change your organisations mind-set and begin to switch to Talent Attraction as opposed to Talent Alienation.

Let me suggest a little role play exercise. Imagine for a moment that you are an applicant who has a life-long dream to work for your organisation. After sitting tight for the last 5-6 years in your current role, acquiring the skills and expertise needed to move upwards and onwards now is the perfect time to see what is available. Now test how easy it is to actually identify where and what the potential vacancies are and then to apply? See what the response time is if any, and what the quality of that response is?

Recently I conducted a very straight forward review of a medium sized but very attractive company on their recruitment strategy including how they sourced and the actual application process. It was startling. Very quickly it became apparent that this company had actually gone out its way to ensure that the whole process was difficult, frustrating and almost inexplicably distanced from any kind of human identity. It was almost as though in a bid to minimise the white noise of incorrect or inappropriate applications they had given no thought whatsoever to all the really good ones. This makes absolutely no sense to me, it is like using an industrial rock crusher to find a diamond.

I actually spoke to some of this company’s most recent hires to ascertain what their individual experience had been like. Vinesh had applied directly to the organisation for the same job through 8 different job boards over a period of 3 weeks and had never once received a response. None of the application options provided him any specific name or direct contact option. He was basically applying in the dark. He may as well have thrown a paper dart into Outer Space for all the good it did.

He finally got an interview through a recruiter.

Another far more senior qualified accountant called Jackie had applied for the same job 3 times via 3 different recruitment companies without realising it was actually the same job. Only one of which explained to her who the organisation was, what the culture was like, the strategic vision (including a clear IPO strategy for 2015) and provided her with an insight on the key relationships aligned to this role. Jackie was actually delighted and impressed to spend over an hour with this recruiter in person over coffee. Jackie got the job but not through her preferred choice of recruiter who unfortunately was too slow to send her CV forward because he wanted to meet her first. Imagine that? A recruiter was sloppy enough to actually want to meet, interview and prepare his candidate before he submitted them for consideration? Seriously just pause for a second and imagine being that recruitment consultant?

Shouldn’t the actions of that recruiter be standard wherever possible? How can the alternative process, no interview and no preparation or selection process be preferable to a hiring organisation? More importantly Jackie went on to explain that the recruiter who interviewed her was so animated and enthused about the organisation that you could almost believe that they worked directly for them as an employee. Scant reward that recruiter got for his enthusiasm, although Jackie and the business intend to address this scenario positively in the coming months.

I’m not bashing anyone here. All I am saying is that whether you are a hiring manager, work within HR or an In-house Recruiter just take 30 minutes once a month. Pretend to be a candidate who wants to work for your company and from scratch knowing nothing see how easy, how gratifying and rewarding it is to try and identify and apply for a job with your organisation.

You could be even more diligent and pretend to be a mystery candidate and apply for one of your vacancies through one of your PSL recruiters? But that may just be a little too scary for most of you. I suspect many of you would be absolutely appalled at the lack of actual professionalism you met. I think many of you would actually physically gasp at the lack of real screening, interviewing and preparation you received. But then you need to balance any findings with a comparison of how you as a business have set up your recruiters to work for you?

The best of luck if you are one of those companies who really offer prospective job seekers an engaging and rewarding experience, there are many of you. But for the rest of you as the War on Talent picks up momentum you may find that Talent Alienation creates a Talent Attraction Conundrum which can have far reaching consequences.

Please feel free to contact me directly for straight forward and honest advice on any of the points raised above by either connecting with me on LinkedIn -http://uk.linkedin.com/in/emeaexecutivesearch/ or calling me on +44 (0) 113 230 5555

LinkedIn adopt a Facebook tool that is long overdue and an abundance of LIONS!

Maybe I am behind the curve here and this facility or option has been available for a long time. But until today I didn’t realise that LinkedIn now had an option to block people from viewing or interacting with your profile.

Now maybe it is just me that has the occasional stalker on LinkedIn, but regardless the ability to block them from ever being able to see my profile or my activity ever again is actually rather satisfying.

Let’s be honest about this there are a whole multitude of people who have intentions which are far removed from doing honest business, from enhancing their sector or professional knowledge and essentially contributing to what is undoubtedly the worlds premier professional social network. I know that the many of the spam and phishing emails I receive come as a result of the openness of my contact information on LinkedIn. On average I receive about 25 invitations to connect from fake profiles. I know this because I use an online image checker to verify the authenticity of their profile image.

Those LION (LinkedIn Open Networker) Groups are partially responsible I am sure, anyone can join and anyone can message the group. I realised a long time ago that LION generally means multilevel marketing, work from home scams and all the other detritus of the world wide web.

On a more serious note almost all of my female colleagues and associates tell me they get marriage propositions and similar from suspicious characters all over the world. So I am sure they will be relieved by this option greatly.

Now I’m just waiting for them to introduce an option whereby I can restrict pictures of Lions, Word Puzzles, Maths Conundrums and other general pollution from my timeline.

I am a huge fan of the natural world and having seen Lions in the flesh sleeping in trees and prowling the bush in places such as Uganda and Rwanda I think that is where they belong. Either that or with some soothing and intelligent voice over courtesy of Sir David Attenborough. Not all over my LinkedIn profile.

So I toast LinkedIn on the introduction of this facility and look forward to even greater safety features in future. Deleting all the fake and duplicated profiles would be great. But considering that the families of the bereaved find it almost impossible to get their relatives profiles removed I won’t hold my breath for too long.

What is wrong with recruiters?

This is a live example of a job post advertised on LinkedIn:-

“Sore Managers for Luxury Retail Brands

XXXX XXXX - Senior Recruitment Consultant at XXXX  International Consulting Pvt. LtdTop Contributor

Looking for people with excellent communications skills and very good understanding of sore operations..”

Now maybe I am being pedantic here, but is this really acceptable? Several questions present themselves with this example:

  1. If you were a client would you really want this recruitment consultant representing your business, at any price?
  2. If you were a candidate would you actually respond to someone who advertised for candidates with ‘excellent communication skills’ who themselves couldn’t be bothered to actually proof read and spell check their own advertisement before posting it globally for the world to see? How can this recruiter actually quantify or test communication skills?
  3. If you managed this recruiter would you question the integrity of your business and the validity of your training and development?
  4. If you were the recruiter who actually posted this vacancy and someone professionally commented on this grossly sub-standard work would you consider editing the actual advertisement and then re-posting or would you just ignore the advice?

I see this kind of work everywhere. Any random search of any job board brings up endless examples of appalling attention to detail, an absolute lack of personal or professional integrity and generally what can only be described as shoddy work.

Consider this for a moment. The actual job advert is in the public domain and is essentially the branding and PR of a recruitment business. Advertising of any nature speaks volumes about your business, how it functions and how it behaves. If a recruiter and a recruitment business can’t get this very public basic process right, what else in their business don’t they get right? What processes behind the scenes are subject to shoddy work, a poor attention to detail and a general apathy about quality?

Is it any wonder clients expectations of many recruiters are so low, that they insist on huge PSL’s and low fees with very little in the way of actual quality process, service or delivery?

Who is to blame for this? Is it the recruitment industry itself? Or is it the fact that many of our customers consider this to be acceptable?

Will organisations such as The Institute of Recruiters and their drive for professionalism and qualification gradually eradicate poor quality of work of this nature?

 

Dear Dave – Please find my CV attached

Ah don’t you just love these people? Where would my business be without their unrelenting and endearing overtures. Everything from ‘Dear Esteemed Recruiter’ to ‘My Most Respectful Sir’ is used as an introduction. My particular favourites are ‘Dear Mrs Darren’ and ‘Dear Dave’ which always makes me smile and of course reminds me of the late Roger Lloyd-Pack and his infamous character Trigger in Only Fools and Horses.Dave and Trigger

But seriously, its bloody annoying. I can’t think of any other scenario whereby someone would just assume that they can access and utilise your expertise and business services for free and expect some form of service when I have no idea who you are and have not invited the introduction. It is nothing less than spamming.

I will use a live example. This morning some candidate who I only know as Chronos1@gmail.com sent me an email with the subject title ‘cv’. Now at first I thought this may be a phishing scam but took the decision to open the email on my phone. This enlightened individual had sent his ‘cv’ randomly to over 1,000 recruiters across the world and lucky for me he had openly Cc’d all our addresses so we could all see each other. I love the sensitivity of this approach. Not only does Chronos1 want me to waste my time reviewing and unsolicited ‘cv’ but he also wants to compromise my email address by creating and distributing an open mailing list. Or maybe he just thought we may all like to get in touch and discuss the merits of such a wonderful candidate. Maybe he thought that advertising the fact he had mailed it to over 1,000 recruiters would provide some kind of race to secure his candidature?

I doubt it because the idiot forgot to attach his ‘cv’ to the email. I use the term idiot loosely here of course.

This is spamming and if job seekers think this is how to get themselves noticed they are as delusional and misguided as those idiots who automatically apply to every single job advertised on every single job board in the hope that the Exec Search consultant recruiting a Group Finance Director might sit up and take notice when they see Bob Smiths comprehensive work experience as a fork-lift truck driver and banana harvester.

As for Chronos1, if I had the capability I would send you back a virus to ensure that any access you had to the world wide web was disabled for the sake of everyone.

Right I must leave this blog post here. I have to dash and send off all my tax paperwork to a couple of hundred accountants I have never met but have recently connected to on LinkedIn in the hope that despite being very busy one of them might just sort out my company tax return for the year for free…..