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Thursday, October 14, 2004

Blog or not to Blog

Email article from CrossXroads, which is an excellent article for recruiters using or thinking of using Blogs to find candidates.

A syndicated career columnist just asked about what a blog was and how it might be used in staffing- especially by job seekers. We answered: Just when you finally figured out how to post your resume online and search for jobs on multiple-sites. Just when you thought you caught the biggest wave in networking history and could link from one 'friend of a friend' to one of their friends to the company where you really want to work. Just when you were getting comfortable with all those online screening interviews, virtual job fairs, instant background checks, company research sites and web-based career management tips, along comes - 'recruiter blogs'.

Blog. The sounds like an early title for a Sci-Fi movie starring Steve McQueen but it might be better to think of it as a contraction of Web & Log, an Online Diary that comes complete with a selection of 'paper' colors and formats. Anyone who ever enjoyed putting their thoughts down on paper and is still anal enough to keep doing it day after day after day is a sure fire candidate to become a 'blogger'.The reason why blogging isn't quite as analogous to keeping a diary as it should be is that a (paper) diary is typically thought of as private but, online, if you are willing to go to all that trouble of writing on the web, why would you hide it? Let everyone see it - and everyone does. And not only can the world share your thoughts, they can also tell you what they think about them (your thoughts).Every 'posting' you make to your blog is a two-way discussion between you and your fans (they must be fans if they bother to read what you wrote). You might return to your last posting to find (possibly) dozens of comments assuming you want to create an open dialogue with just about everyone. Finally, if you happen to like to read a blog or two yourself, every day but hate the inconvenience of navigating to multiple sites you can download software (RSS, atom) that helps you control, keep track of your favorite blogs, learn when new postings are up and even import them and format them for your own custom news feed. Essentially you can tell your computer "Hey fella, go out on the web and check my favorite diaries and if something new has been added, bring it to me and format it this way."The really nice (but still unappreciated) feature that this 'pull' technology offers is privacy. It means you can monitor information sources without disclosing who you are and without giving your email to someone who might misuse it.

So, how do employers benefit by blogging? Several recruiters at Microsoft are pioneering the answer to this question by creating an open dialogue with potential candidates. Heather Hamilton, a Sr. Microsoft recruiter, and her colleagues Zoe Goldring and Gretchen Ledgard have been sharing what they think it really takes to compete for a position at Microsoft and perform once it has been won with 10s of thousands of 'readers'. Each handles it with a style that is uniquely their own (i.e. that means try not to do what they do). They respond to questions and comments openly and publicly. The bottom-line is they keep the most qualified candidates engaged and interested until the right position comes along. They offer honest feedback and guidance to folks who may never compete effectively for a job at Microsoft. They share personal opinions about their company, their work, the people they meet and the teams they support. Most firms wouldn't tolerate having their recruiters publicly engaging in an 'unfiltered' Q&A with outsiders without having a lawyer present but, Microsoft seems to embrace the notoriety and knows how to hire and retain empowered recruiters. Obviously their leaders trust their judgment and ability to maintain a credible dialogue without putting their firm at risk. This is a brilliant bit of strategy to build a real 'community' among prospective candidates and manage them as a 'pipeline' because the price of entry is too high for most firms to contemplate (unfortunately).This is not your (grand) fathers hiring process.Why we don't think blogs will become the tool of choice anytime soon is that recruiters wasting their time trying to search millions of blogs for the 'right' candidate just isn't how this tool should be used- unless of course the job requires writing blogs. Having found the finalist for a position however, it would be easy (maybe too easy) for a recruiter to research candidates by reading their blogs but, unfortunately, that wouldn't be a good thing either because the typical blog is going to contain a lot of personal information that has no relevance to their ability to perform.I

n an excellent article by, Kris Maher, in his Wall Street Journal column, The Jungle, last Tuesday, he stated that many 'experts' predicted that blogs could become the "next wave in electronic recruiting, following job boards and corporate career sites." We couldn't disagree more. Blogs are too labor intensive and, coupled with the discipline imposed by a 'diary' format, the number of recruiters who can exploit the form credibly are few and far between. The comments we made when Kris interviewed us for the article were that "This is an untapped resource for managing a pipeline of candidates," and "The use of blogs by corporate recruiters is still in its infancy - more companies (will) experiment with the interactive format."We would advise jobseekers to put their blogs on hold while seeking a position (or keep them confidential until they land) and suggest employees to be careful what they say about their firms even if they write their blogs on their own time.For corporate recruiters, the fundamental element to a successful blog is to speak 'honestly' and this will be too risky for most. But, for the willing, a blog offers a critical edge in engaging the most qualified candidates early and managing them in a pipeline for a firm's future openings. For most firms though, their experiment will fail when either a recruiter's poor judgment or the firm's legal beagles shut it down.

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