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Sinan Aral (a Professor at the NYU Stern School of Business), recently wrote an interesting article about influence. 1 Basically, he argues that much of what we think is two parties influencing each other is actually people with similar interest gravitating towards one another. i.e. Birds of a feather flock together.
This intuitively makes sense – I don’t buy diet coke because Taylor Swift says it’s a good idea. To this point, I question how much influence any individual celebrity / person has over my product decisions. Aral makes a compelling argument in his article that this is true for most of the population as well.
…Yet it is hard to deny that influence plays a role in how we perceive products, which indirectly impacts purchasing decisions. A high profile celebrity wears a dress on the red carpet of a major televised event once – and the next day there are a considerable number of consumers that want one. NBA basketball shoes have spawned into a niche industry (with the Jordan brand king of the mountain). Further to this point, who can deny the influence of Oprah’s book recommendations on consumer purchasing behavior?
…So influence matters (even if not as much as we sometimes think). With that said, how should this phenomenon affect the way we recruit for talent? I’m inclined to say that it should do so in three ways:
1. Companies should understand the candidate population they are recruiting for at events.
There is a tendency to often send HR/recruiters to serve as brand ambassadors at recruiting events (be they info sessions, job fairs, or other one offs). I think a better strategy might be to pair those recruiters up with employees who share similar backgrounds to the prospective candidates attending the function. Having an alumni from one’s graduate program energetically get up and talk about why they love working at your company is likely to illicit more energy than having someone from HR get up and talk about why their organization is a great place for the engineers/scientists/financial analysts etc. in the room to work.
2. Branded company content needs to be easily accessible to those who might champion it.
Having social media pages and company websites with interesting, streamlined, accessible content isn’t likely to attract someone that wasn’t already predisposed to your organization/product… but it will likely increase engagement among those who already have a natural affinity in that direction. Increasing exposure increases positive feelings – people like things they spend time around. This is called the mere-exposure effect. To this point…
3. Engage, engage, ENGAGE!
Recruiters have a tendency to only engage with prospective candidates when they have a job opportunity. By developing relationships with intriguing individuals in one’s talent pipeline, however, when the perfect opening finally does come up that perfect candidate is much more likely to be receptive to it. This doesn’t have to take a lot of effort. Follow candidates on twitter. Send them positive articles and info about your company on Linkedin. Comment on interesting things they post about in social media channels. 3-5 minutes a week spent engaging with a candidate can vault you to the top of their employer list.
What did I get right here (or wrong)?
As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
If you have questions about something you’ve read here (or simply want to connect) you can reach me at any of the following addresses:
SomethingDifferentHR@gmail.com OR firstname.lastname@example.org