On Friday night I drove the family over to Gloucestershire to see some friends for the weekend. We decided to drive after work in the hope that the kids would fall asleep and therefore give us the most peaceful journey possible. Now, anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not a ‘man’s man’ when it comes to cars and driving. I don’t have much interest in a car other than whether it has a good radio; can accommodate twins, prams and accompanying baggage in the boot and whether it will get me reliably from A to B. So it probably won’t come as much of a surprise when I tell you that I also don’t know the UK road network particularly well either and as such, have come to be utterly reliant on our beautiful, life saving and occasionally very frustrating  Satellite Navigation System. Embarrassingly, I don’t even have a map in the car.

We set off from Surrey at 5.30pm and our trusty SatNav confidently told me that we would arrive at our destination at 7.30pm. My geography is just about good enough to I realise that when my SatNav instructed me to come off at the M3 rather than the M4, it was taking a short cut, probably across country. It didn’t really feel right though – surely driving through busy urban areas at rush hour isn’t a good idea?  An hour later, when we eventually joined the M4, the kids were still awake as the stop/start nature of the traffic hadn’t created the best conditions for toddlers to nod off. As such, my stress levels went up a couple of notches as the whining started!

We got through the slow traffic on the M4 and seemed to be making some headway until my SatNav, which historically has had a predilection for cross country driving, instructed us to leave the motorway after what felt like a premature amount of miles. My Swedish wife, utterly lacking in geographic, spatial awareness and at times common sense, was pretty direct in her response to my querying  the sense of this;  “Do what the ***** SatNav says, you don’t know what you are doing, it does!” I think this takes back seat driving to a whole new level. Anyway, against my better instinct, I complied (if you know the Swedes you’ll know this is the best adjective) fearing that if I rebelled I would live to regret it…

At this point the heavens opened and what had been gentle rain became torrential. We were deep in the countryside – no lights, no other cars and limited visibility. Brilliant. The kids had realised that they were not getting out of the car anytime soon and their whining took on a slightly more urgent tone. Due to the rain I had to slow down to what felt like a snail’s pace as I made my way through unfamiliar territory and at one T junction, atop a hill, it was so pitch black I felt like I was driving blind. Just when I thought the journey couldn’t get any worse, our SatNav lost its link due to the weather conditions. We were in the middle of nowhere and had lost our only way of finding our destination. There was only one option, I had to call our host and ask him to give us live directions. We eventually arrived at 9.30pm, bleary eyed, with two screaming (and vomiting) toddlers. The journey took twice as long and was far more stressful than it needed to be.

This trip got me thinking; the Recruitment Industry (agency and in-house) has become increasingly reliant on technology and in recent years, Social Media to source candidates. As an example, it is not uncommon now for some businesses to focus their entire candidate attraction policy around Linkedin.  Although this is undoubtedly a useful tool for recruiters, it is best used to complement other sourcing methods.

There are a number of parallels between this situation and my fateful trip. How many of these have we all experienced at some point?

  • A journey (job brief) that at first seemed straightforward that took some unexpected turns.
  • A lack of basic preparation (why bother considering what is the best recruitment strategy when Social Media has all the answers?).
  • Adverse (market) conditions affecting the usefulness of the technology.
  • Allowing other ‘stakeholders’ to influence decisions through their own dependence on said technology.
  • Wasting time on unnecessary diversions (Social Media can be a terrible drain on time).
  • Stakeholders becoming angry and frustrated at the lack of a result within an agreed time-frame .
  • Placing too great a value on the use of ONE technological tool rather than a combination of skills.
  • Eventually calling in the support of a specialist, too late in the process to rectify some of my failings (to my stakeholders I had failed, regardless of the end result).
  • … And most alarmingly, such an utter reliance on one tool that I was blinkered, thinking that just because it would get me to my final destination, it would automatically be inthe best way.  I had become used to settling for second best without even realising it.

Improvements in technology have certainly made recruitment easier but it should not be relied upon to always yield the best result. Referrals, recommendations and good old head hunting should be central to any senior level recruitment strategy.

Going forward, I will buy a map book, a car charger for my mobile phone (battery nearly died on me), I will download a decent maps function to my phone, I will check an online route planner before setting off, I will seek the advice of experts (or in their absence a suitably impressive Alpha male) and perhaps most importantly I will ensure that my wife is aware that I am doing all of this!

In short, I will not rely on only ONE tool to get the best result.

Jez Styles

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