I make no secret of the fact that I have a low tolerance for places of work where I feel under-appreciated. I remember being told that my clockwork like routine of finding a new job at roughly the same time every year would hurt me in the long run as how could employers trust me to stick around for any appreciable length of time? I can tell you now that that’s simply not the case and I can say that every new job that I got an interview for I eventually landed without a hint of them mentioning my apparent employer disloyalty. Interestingly for my latest job my resume didn’t really enter into it and I was introduced to the idea of the “Dickhead Test” method of recruitment.
We’re all familiar with the old adage of its not what you know, it’s who you know. As it turns out this old saying is incredibly accurate as only 20% of jobs are filled through the traditional process of someone sending in a resume, having an interview and then starting to work at said place. This means a whopping 80% of jobs are filled based on recommendations from friends, colleagues and other informal associations. For someone like me who’s gotten every job of his but one through the formal market (the first exception being my current job) I always wondered how this process would go down and strangely enough it’s not that unfamiliar.
Instead of the usual routine of sending you resume off into an unknown abyss of someone’s email inbox you’re instead invited out simply for a coffee and a chat. This initial interview is called the dickhead test and is done just to gauge what kind of person you actually are. Make no mistake, this is the time to put your foot in the door, however instead of getting blasted with questions directly related to the job you’ll likely end up talking shop for an hour or so before it concludes. You see someone who is vastly under-qualified for a position will not do particularly great in this informal situation as they’ll lack the particular skills that would require them to have the casual banter around those particular topics. It’s a pretty effective way to weed out paper cert and brain dump candidates without having to dive deeply into a mess of technical questions that they can simply prep for.
I hadn’t really drawn the parallels between that and the formal process until I read this question over on StackExchange. The question asks why they need to bother with a resume in this day and age where a lot of their accomplishments are available for everyone to see on the Internet. The top answer nails it, saying that the resume should serve as a kind of distilled version of all your accomplishments packaged in such a way that anyone could get a good feel for you with minimal time invested. Indeed the resume is just another form of the dickhead test from the informal market, something that hints towards your capability without bludgeoning your potential employer to death with it. Once you’re past those initial barriers then those kinds of things will help elevate you above other candidates so it’s not like they’re completely useless to the formal recruitment process.
For me I believe services like that are more helpful for discovery of potential candidates from within your professional circle. I can’t tell you how many calls I received from potential recruiters who’s only tenuous link to me was through my profile on LinkedIn. In that regard then these services function as a dickhead test that you don’t have to actively participate in. Whilst I myself haven’t landed any jobs on the basis of such services (although you could argue that the LifeHacker gig kinda was since they asked for my LinkedIn profile) I do know of others who have been approached informally via such services.
I guess the idea I’m describing isn’t too different from the traditional one of “getting your foot in the door” however I feel my nomenclature is far more appropriate for what the process actually entails. Most of the time your long list of potential skills is only part of the equation and the rest is based around general things like your critical thinking abilities, how you integrate with the team and your ability to show up on time when needed (why that last one is so rare still baffles me). Understanding the mechanics of these various forms of the dickhead test will hopefully enable you to be far more effective in finding better employment as I know it’s certainly helped me over the past 8 years.
It’s hard to believe that we’re still in the first year of Google+ as it feels like the service has been around for so much longer. This is probably because of the many milestones it managed to pass in such a short period of time, owing the fact that anyone with a Google account can just breeze on into the nascent social network. I personally remained positive about it as the interface and user experience paradigms suited my geeky ways but the lack of integration with other services along with the lack of migration of others onto the service means that it barely sees any use, at least from me.
Still I can’t generalize my experience up to a wider view of Google+ and not just because that’s bad science. Quite often I’ve found myself back on Google+, not for checking my feed or posting new content, but to see conversations that have been linked to by news articles or friends. Indeed Google+ seems to be quite active in these parts with comment threads containing hundreds of users and multitudes of posts. Most often this is when popular bloggers or celebrities start said thread so its very much like Twitter in that regard, although Google+ feels a whole lot more like one big conversation rather than Twitter’s 1 to many or infinitum of 1 to 1 chat sessions. For the most part this still seems to be heavily biased towards the technology scene, but that could just be my bias stepping in again.
Outside that though my feed is still completely barren with time between posts from users now expanding to weeks. Even those who swore off all other social networks in favour of Google+ have had to switch back as only a small percentage of their friends had an active presence on their new platform of choice. This seems to be something of a trend as user interactivity with the site is at an all time low, even below that of struggling social network MySpace. Those figures don’t include mobile usage but suffice to say that the figures are indicative of the larger picture.
Personally I feel one of the biggest problems that Google+ has is lack of integration with other social network services and 3rd party product developers. Twitter’s success is arguably due to their no holds barred approach to integration and platform development. Whilst Google+ was able to get away with not having it in the beginning the lack of integration hurts Google’s long term prospects significantly as people are far less likely to use it as their primary social network. Indeed I can’t syndicate any of the content that I create onto their social network (and vice-versa) due to the lack of integration and this means that Google+ exists as a kind of siloed platform, never getting the same level of treatment as the other social networks do.
Realistically though it’s all about turning the ghost towns that are most people’s timelines into the vibrant source of conversation that many of the other social networks are. Right now Google+ doesn’t see much usage because of the content exclusivity and effort required to manually syndicate content to it. Taking away that barrier would go a long way to at least making Google+ look like its getting more usage and realistically that’s all that would be required for a lot of users to switch over to it as their main platform. Heck I know I would.
Whilst we’re still in the very early days of Google’s latest attempt to break into the social networking scene they’ve still managed to create quite the stir, at least with the technically inclined crowd. The combination of a decidedly non-Google-esque interface coupled with the simple fact that it’s not Facebook was more than enough to draw a large crowd of people over to the service, to the tune of over 25 million in the short time its been made available to the public. The launch has been mostly trouble free for Google with their rock solid engineering providing a fast, bug free experience and its straightforward privacy policies. There has been one sticking point that’s been causing quite a stir however, enough so that some users don’t see it as a viable platform.
That issue is the fact that you have to use your real (legal) name on Google+.
Now for most of us this isn’t much a problem, especially if you’ve been on a social networking site before. For the past 4 years or so I’ve been using my real name or some abbreviation thereof online for the simple fact that it helped build my online presence, rather than hiding it behind a thin curtain of a pseudonym. That’s because for the most part I haven’t had the need to hide behind a curtain of anonymity (thanks to living in Australia, for the most part) since if I feel the need to express my opinion online I also feel the need to attach my name to it. Of course I still have pseudonyms that I use (Nalafang and PYROMANT|C are the 2 most prolific) but they’re more part of my gamer heritage than anything else, as I don’t really use them in any other context.
Still I understand that many people have built relationships and authority based upon their pseudonyms rather than their real names and this is where Google+ struggles. A great example of this is Digg’s top user MrBabyMan, who has quite the following thanks to his heavy involvement in the news aggregator, has a much smaller following on Google+ due to the restriction that he use his real name. Of course dedicated followers are able to suss this out but the point remains that people are far more aware of his online presence as MrBabyMan than they are as Andrew Sorcini. The question then is why is Google being so pedantic about real name use on their new social network?
You could trace it back to Google attempting to mimic what Facebook has, where it’s almost a given that anyone on there is using their real name. Of course many people don’t use their real name (for many reasons) but Facebook doesn’t seem to take much of a stance when they do, and will even let you change your name on a whim should you feel the need to do so. Google’s stance, at least according to CEO Eric Schmidt, is that they built Google+ primarily as an identity service not the social network that everyone is making it out to be. That’s an interesting notion but, for me at least, doesn’t answer the question of why Google won’t let people use pseudonyms on Google+.
There are many people who want to use Google+ as another platform for their online presence and for some this means using it under the guise of a pseudonym. Now whilst the case can be made that people will tend towards being fuckwads when given some degree of anonymity many have their online identities closely tied to the pseudonyms which they created. If Google was really serious about being an identity service then these sorts of people should have no issue since their identity, at least online, is their pseudonym. The question then becomes what’s the benefit of forcing them to use their real name rather than the one that they have so much invested in and whether this could become a big issue for Google’s new identity service.
For Google the benefits are pretty clear. Since your Google+ account is heavily intertwined with all other Google services the second you opt into their social network all those other services, nearly all of which are pseudonym supporting, now have your real name attached to them. Whilst Google already had a pretty good profile of you built up already thanks to those other services they now have a vastly more critical bit of information that ties them all together. There’s nothing particularly sinister about this motive however, it’s mostly so they can more expensive ads targeted at you, there’s a non-zero benefit to Google requiring your real name on their social network.
Those seeking to join the network under a pseudonym are at a distinct disadvantage however as they’re basically leaving their current online identity at the door. Of course the argument could be made that they’ll transition fine and it’s just that Google+ is still in its nascent stages, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that Google is doing potential users a disservice by not allowing pseudonyms. There’s a happy middle ground for both Google and potential users in the form of verified accounts (which they’re already doing for celebrities) or say letting users have a nickname displayed whilst having the real name hidden but Google doesn’t seem to be amenable to these ideas, at least not yet.
For a social network that’s basically been issue free since day one it’s a real shame to see Google get stuck on something that’s been so ingrained in the Internet community since it’s inception. I don’t think it will be the nascent social network’s undoing, but it’s definitely not getting them any positive press and has the potential to keep many power users away from the service. It will be interesting to see how they deal with this going forward as right now their focus is (rightly) on growing their network, rather than dealing with edge cases like this. However they could win themselves a lot of good press by simply allowing pseudonyms on their network, whether they will do that or not is something only Google can answer.
I’ve been a keen user of social tools for a while now, over 4 years if memory serves me, and if I’m honest I’d have to say that whilst they’ve been extremely useful for my personal life they’ve really done nothing for me professionally. Sure Facebook and Twitter helped get this blog out of the doldrums of it seeing an average 1 page view a day (rocketing it to a whopping 10 per day, woo!) but apart from a single piece of software to review I haven’t really furthered my career or future prospects for wealth through using these channels. I could put that down to a major lack of trying however since my career has done pretty well without me having to rely on my social network.
I guess I’m just lucky that I’m in an industry that’s mostly meritocratic.
However recently I’ve started to get noticed by people who’ve found me through my social networking exploits, mostly through LinkedIn. Now the profile I have up there is pretty rudimentary with the only updates I’ve done to it over the past few years being to update my current job location and put a profile picture on there. Still the past 2 months has had me receive multiple phone calls, connection requests and emails all originating from LinkedIn. All of them are recruiters either eager to put me in a position they have or to build their social networks so they have a bigger candidate database, neither of which I’m particularly interested in at this current time.
You see whilst my profile might be public for everyone to see I’m not one of those people who makes connections on there for connections sake. It’s like any other social network to me, if I friend you on Facebook I consider you a friend, if I follow you on Twitter it means I’m interested in what you have to say. A connection on LinkedIn means I’ve worked with you in some capacity in the past or I see potential value in maintaining a business style relationship with you. An unsolicited request from a recruiter matches none of these rules and only serves to dilute the network of people that I’ve curated and only creates value for the recruiter. Sure its flattering that they consider me a valuable enough person on face value to want to connect with me but they’ve also done that with hundreds of other people so it means a lot less than they think it does.
For the most part though the requests are pretty harmless. I’ll get a single email asking to join my network and simply ignore it since I have no idea who they are and since I’m not currently in the market for a new job have no interest in establishing a relationship with them. However there was one persistent bugger who not only sent me multiple connection requests but also decided to email me several times and drudged up my phone number from an old resume he’d pilfered from a previous employer. I thought he would’ve got the hint after me not responding to him for 2 weeks but I guess I underestimated just how desperate some of these people can get.
You know how most of the recruiters I talk to got past the initial barrier? They offered to come see me in person and have a chat about what my needs might be. If you’re not willing to get past the barrier of doing a simple half hour meeting with me then I’m not going to be interested in giving you the recruiting bonuses and recurring commissions that one of my contracts will get you. Sure it’s a small thing but it shows me that you’re not just interested in fleshing out your candidate database and, more importantly, it gives me a chance to see if you’ll provide more value than just pimping me out to job agencies. Market knowledge is as important to me as is your ability to find jobs when I need them.
Could this all be solved by simply taking my LinkedIn profile Down? Sure, but since I’m a massive control freak I’d like the ability to have control over the presence I have on the web and with many people now googling potential employees that presence counts for a lot. I may have to deal with the odd obnoxious recruiter and may never realize any real value from it but I feel it’s still far better to have it than not. Well at least until this blog hits the number 1 spot in google for David Klemke, which it can’t be far off doing now.