This isn’t an original thought, but it’s my spin on it. This week I met with a large number of recruitment agency directors at a UK Recruiter networking event.  James Caan was speaking, and two other guys.  No offence to the 2 other guys, one from Barclays Capital, I think, and the other was a lawyer specialising in the recruitment agency sector.  Let’s face it though, everyone rocked up to hear the recruitment Dragon drop some pearls of wisdom.

What I always enjoy, is the company of someone who is plainly an “old school recruiter”.  I especially like to hear their perspective on the industry today, given our shared experiences over the past 25 years or so.  I’ve met a few recently, including Raymond Pennie, @RecruitmentDad, and now Jimmy Caan.  In fact the room at this week’s event was full of individuals who had remained, and prospered, in the business for a long time (predating email, Internet and mobile phones).  Back then, the only piece of technology was a fax machine, and maybe an electronic typwriter.  To a man (and woman) they were all very proficient at plain speaking, and getting right to the point.  Opinionated, blunt and very talkative; which in my book are good things.  I can’t abide people who don’t know their own minds. What we, and James Caan talked about, was that the process of recruiting can easily get lost behind the technology and the techniques so prevalent today.  As the great Caan himself said, “If you want your consultants to be more productive, tell them to get on the fucking phone more!”  He got a rousing applause for that, as we could all relate to it.

So here’s my “Good old days” bit. Before 1990, everyone had to remember telephone numbers.  They just did.  I still remember to this day my Aunt Betty’s, Uncle George’s, and our own telephone numbers, as well as many more family and friends.  I recall perfectly all the registration numbers of my dad’s cars and postcodes of where we lived.  There was a geeky satisfaction in this, but the truth is that everyone had to do it by necessity.  More than that, I remember full CV’s of candidates I placed in 1987, and even fees billed!  As technology has helped to organise so much of our lives, we have needed these skills less and less.  The moment we had speed dial, email, Outlook and mobile phones our world changed irreversibly.  It’s not that the ability to recall had gone, it just wasn’t needed anymore.  That’s why I can dial a number I knew from 30 years ago, but have never ever managed to remember a single mobile phone number, other than my own (and lots of people don’t even do that).  I actually stopped committing telephone numbers to memory around 1999.

What this means of course is that if you want your consultants to “pick up the fucking phone”, they cannot simply do so as a reflex; flipping from candidates to clients 20 times in an afternoon.  10 years ago, a friend (Tony Kenmuir) who was a director of an Edinburgh agency, showed me a piece of software his consultants had, which used caller-display to show a popup of just who was phoning, if they were on their contacts database.  It also showed the log of calls to that person, and recent emails correspondence.  Just this week I enquired if there was any kind of plugin for MS Outlook that could do this.  Xobni came closest, but still couldn’t do what I wanted.

My point to all of this, is that we seem to be losing out on the benefits of embedding this information into our brains.  All information is transitory, as it goes straight onto a mobile phone, or a pc.  The ability to go directly to a specific candidate on a database is great, but we no longer enjoy the benefits of browsing through card systems of hundreds of individuals, and our memories being refreshed and prompted to action by other brilliant applicants as we go.  Interviewing those candidates, and reviewing their cards, meant that we had a personal connection with them, so that when a perfect job came in, we could instantly match the right person to it.

Technology has allowed us to unlearn much of the stuff that was formerly a necessity.  Additionally, I believe, it has also made many recruiters into big Jessies, who are scared to “pick up the fucking phone”.