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(May 02, 2006) We asked Hans Gieskes to comment on the evolving Referrals conversation. Here's his take on Jeff Hunter's musings from last week:

Some nice "old school" thinking here, and I mean old in the sense that there's too much "Art pour l'art" going on in social networking, with people trying to rack up connections as if there's a race to see who has the most. However Jeff, I'm less pessimistic that in general value and opportunity for meaningful relationships are moribund / on their way down. I reject up to half the invitations I get to connect on LinkedIn, as they're from people who claim to be a colleague though they joined a company after I left. On the other hand, when people I know and trust tell me "you should talk to So & So", then I do without hesitation.

But we should not be surprised that the behavioral changes which technology (especially the www) causes often initially show a lot of silly stuff, before common sense returns along with broader adoption. Purposeful networking pre-dates technology as we know it, the www provides many wonderful ways to speed it up and make it easier but the www does not provide a substitute. People without meaningful relationships will not get results from just using the technology. An employer with unhappy employees and not many friends or acquaintances who have a positive view of him / her will not be able to get referrals through any of the new tools available, incl. H3.com. Third party recruiters will of course assist him, as it's their business and their only business.

Recruiting is the most ultimate form of direct marketing, in which only results count in the form of a new hire, but often lack of result is painted over with tons of elaborate metrics or group hugs chanting "but we got a nice talent pool out of it nevertheless…" or "look what a wonderful blog". Headhunters are often viewed in same range as realtors or used car sales people, somewhat unjustifiedly so, as we all use all their services most of the time. However, headhunters put the name of the person hired on their invoice, and most of them send you no invoice unless there is a hire. No BS. They are also often very good in building and monetizing networks be it on the unspoken suggestion of "help me with a lead and maybe some day I'll help you find a job…"

Definitely relationships with a clear end for both sides!

Talent Scouts, the people in your network who have the best and often the most relationships with employed & employable people cannot afford but to be stricter than a Jesuit when it comes to responding to a referral request. If they feel any hesitation about being able to vouch equally much for both parties, they will politely refrain from making a referral, nowadays by simply hitting "delete" on the email request. It's the right thing to do, intuitively for them, and aspiring Talent Scouts should understand why: every interaction between people involves some form of balance sheet movement. People remember kindness, support, and genuine showing of interest as they do remember rudeness, indifference and shameless networking.

Nobody keeps score and everybody knows the score!

In many parts of Asia people will first extend kindness or present a small gift before they will even consider asking a favor. During the twelve months before we launched H3.com we used "thank-you payment" on all screens and in all functionality. We then decided (also based on market research) that it should be "referral reward", which we now use. When talking to our customers on whose behalf we pay out these rewards and to their talent scout cash reward recipients, it's clear that they mostly see it as a nice way to say "thanks for vouching for my company and vouching for my new hire!" But more importantly, the employer's next request is now guaranteed to get urgent and diligent attention for sure!

As to your question John of "Is it really the case that a network is either a web of intimate relationships or a data mining opportunity?" I think it's the former, be it with a broader definition of what "intimate" means…

  • Our personal networks consists of a range of very intimate (direct family) through mere acquaintances (former class mate, former colleague). As professor Granovetter proved all can be a source of job referrals with the latter even being the most productive! However, network connections with whom you have no stored goodwill at all, they're just data in your address book – no value for pretty much ever!
  • Broadcasting is data mining through setting off controlled explosions, so chances of damaged goods and collateral damage are real.
  • Data mining is done by computers, which can be fooled rather easily by both employers and candidates.

We promise to conclude this sequence shortly. Here's where we've come:

  1. The original questions about referral systems
  2. Hans Gieskes (H3) responses.
  3. Our summary of H3 and Jobster responses
  4. Jason Goldberg's (Jobster) answers
  5. Eric Yoon (Job Thread) takes a whack at the questions
  6. Dave Lefkow's opening salvo: Referrals and Diversity
  7. Lefkow: Referral System Best Practices
  8. Lefkow: Some Actual answers
  9. Hunter on Referrals, Not Commodities

 John Sumser . - .  Permalink . - . Today's Bugler

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