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The Lost Art Of Conversation

August 25, 2015
by Tim Tolan
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Tim Tolan

One might think that the last person who would be writing about avoiding a live conversation would be me. After all, I am in the people business and having meaningful conversations on a regular basis is what executive search is all about. But I’ve seen a shift in what is an essential part of business—the art of conversation.

In my own opinion, the shift is largely driven by two major drivers. The first is technology. With all of the tools and technologies that have become mainstream candidates have more choices on their own preferences to talk with a recruiter. No more need to slip out and call the recruiter back for fear someone may find out what you’re up to. Not required. Many candidates send messages through Facebook, LinkedIn while others prefer to send their recruiters a text message. And the shift in communications is not limited to candidates only. I recently received an offer for a senior HCIT executive for a salary over $300,000 via text message.

The other phenomenon is the generational preferences of younger professionals who use their keyboard or thumbs to do most of their talking. Recruiters have also had to adapt to the new world of communicating—at least early on in the candidate engagement process. Adapt or miss the opportunity to engage a great candidate. Text messaging is fairly common—at least initially when trying to get a candidate interested in a new role. Of course eventually you’ll need to have multiple conversations and/or video interviews, but even face-to-face-interviews have fallen out of favor. It’s effective and bandwidth is much faster for business and residential users. And let’s not forget the costs of travel-related expenses to fly somewhere to meet someone for a couple of hours.

I think the answer for us is to use all of the tools available to engage a candidate but eventually we have to have a conversation—and we need to feel comfortable that they can engage in a meaningful dialogue with us and later with our client should we both decide to proceed. It’s gets down to establishing ground rules of how we must communicate to ensure the outcome all parties are seeking. The social media train has left the station and there’s no turning back for the younger generations that use it daily (okay hourly and some minute-by-minute while they are on the clock).   

While social media continues to be the communications choice for many, corporate America seems to be trending towards the opposite. Who would have dreamed that corporations who are very profit focused would go back to having humans answer the phone and disconnect voice mail? Just keep watching and you will soon see that we have two communication trends that are in flux. The great thing about companies eliminating voice mail is we may find our younger workers having to actually engage in a real conversation. What a novel idea!