There’s a tendency that I find quite surprising in today’s society to depreciate relationships formed through the use of technology rather than face to face interaction. A tendency expressed by the juxtaposition of virtual and real, resulting in a very false impression that the single fact we are in the same room with someone is the main factor determining the quality of our interaction.
As if the means of communication can be the single factor determining a relationship between two people.
I would have thought that there are other factors that can have far more importance; that there’s far more types of relationships than just those developed on and off line. Factors such as language, the context of the relationship, the level of commitment from both sides… After all does it not matter whether you communicate in your native language or rather one that you have learned as a teenager or as an adult? Or if the relationship is formed in a personal or a professional context?
And yet we don’t qualify professional relationships as better or worse than personal ones, nor do we think interacting with someone in a language other than our mother tongue is more meaningful than if we do it in a second language.
This distinction between virtual and real has a significant impact on recruitment. After all, as sourcers or recruiters, we interact with most candidates by use of technology. And for those of us working remotely, this is really the only kind of interaction we have with both the candidates and the hiring managers. If we agree to believe that ‘virtual’ interaction has any less meaning than face to face, doesn’t that mean that most of our professional relationships don’t even have the potential to become meaningful?
So here’s what I believe: it’s not the use of technology that makes your relationships virtual.
Recruiters in general don’t necessarily have the best reputation among candidates. But if you listen to the long list of complaints, I doubt that the means of communication has anything to do with that situation. Good recruiters are not those that don’t use technology at work, but rather those who do not let the tool they are using to influence the quality of their work.
Approaching a candidate on LinkedIn (or any other network)? How about introducing yourself before you start bombarding people with ‘opportunities’ they don’t really care about. Calling someone to get a referral? Maybe just ask them if they have the time to help you out. Rejecting someone with an email? Try not to suggest that the world is filled with people more qualified than them to do the job by saying “there was a number of candidates who were a closer match”.
The truth is in any of these examples it’s not the means of communication, but the content that is most important. I find that there are people that I have never met that I feel closer to than some of the people I meet face to face every single day.
So let’s stop pretending then that this has anything to do with how we feel about people and how they feel about us. Let’s stop using technology as an excuse for our lack of skills when it comes to building relationships and maybe, just maybe, we’ll find that we’re able to have relationships that are real despite of being virtual.