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Not Finding Purple Squirrels With Tammy Colson

Tammy Colson I first met Tammy Colson online on Twitter, and then in person at a recent #gso tweet up event here in Greensboro, we got chatting about recruiting, HR and social media. Tammy has been involved in the industry for a long time. And so we decided to conduct an interview on the topic. Here's a few of my questions and Tammy's excellent responses!

John: How did you first get involved with recruiting?

Tammy: I actually started in recruiting at 15 years old. My father owned an agency, and as it was a family business, I was expected to work. I started in the office conducting interviews for temporary candidates and developed my skills from there. I've been in Human Resources and Recruiting most of my
professional career, primarily as a generalist, and now as a consultant to small businesses.

John: How did you first get involved with social media?

Tammy: Using social media for something other than reconnecting with old friends really came to my attention in early 2008, when Will Carroll (@injuryexpert) introduced me to Twitter. We've been friends since we were 14, and he was using the social media space to market himself and his writing. This set the example to me as to how social media could be used in other ways, and benefit business.

John: What is a purple squirrel?

Tammy: In recruiting, a purple squirrel is the candidate the hiring manager thinks they want, but is impossible to find. In dating, its the ideal mate that doesn't actually exist, mostly because neither is based in reality.

John: What are the pitfalls in using social media for recruiting?

Tammy: An individual's social media community can be a homogeneous group. Particularly in the US, I find it to be largely the better than average educated, technologically savvy, forward thinking people. We are still on the leading edge of what social media is capable of as a user group. Because of this, it can be difficult to come in contact with a broadly diverse base of people. Another pitfall is as it exists with any of the traditional mediums. If you simply advertise "I'm a recruiter" on Twitter, Facebook or
LinkedIn, and expect the right candidates to fall into your lap, you are missing the point of the technology. The idea is to build a community by getting to know people, engaging them and enlarging your network to find candidates and clients.

John: Any dangers from using social media to promote jobs?

Tammy: The most realistic danger is that of a non-diverse candidate pool, or the belief that if you simply post jobs, that great candidate you are looking for will see the posting and call you. "Post and Pray" is still prevalent in social media, and while getting your job postings out there is important,
developing working relationships with other recruiters, talking to people who could potentially become candidates, or refer candidates to you, is really the goal.

John: How should companies handle social media training?

Tammy: Many companies are still quite fearful of utilizing social media as a tactic of engagement. What those companies generally have not realized is that this is the perfect opportunity to listen to customers and employees. Both groups have always talked about your business, and now that conversation has moved online to an even broader audience, and for the first time its visible to you without having to be a "submitted complaint". Where once a dissatisfied customer or employee would talk to neighbors and friends in the community about their issues, those same complaints are voiced to a very public and growing audience. All companies now have to do is pay attention, and address consumer concerns in a timely manner.

To this end, social media training should primarily exist as a "do no wrong" policy. Engaging customers in the social media space is relatively simple. Polite, friendly interaction can increase corporate good will with minimal expense. Training consists of teaching good customer service and communication skills. Creating a conversation with those who like your brand, so that they promote it, and managing issues so that while there may have been a problem, it can be concluded in a timely manner, which lessens
any damage to your customers (both internal and external)

John: Who are your favorite people in recruiting social media land? And why?

Tammy: Recruiting wouldn't be recruiting without people like @billkutik and @gerrycrispin - they are incredibly intelligent members of the recruiting community, and considered pioneers in the industry. There are so many great people in the HR and recruiting space, its tough to pick just a few. This is
one reason I have 2 lists of over 300 people I follow called HR Intelligence and Recruiting Connections.

It is important to listen to many voices in the industry, and not get trapped in an echo chamber. Human behavior is consistent, but not static. Introduction of new ideas and challenging one's assumptions are important to making decisions in a fluid business environment.

John: How does a recruiter manage recruiting talk, and personal talk in social media? Is personal important for building relationships with candidates?

Tammy: I try to use the guideline of keeping business during business hours, whatever those hours may be. I find nothing more annoying in social media than an individual who is all business, all the time. Friday night or Sunday morning posts about your business strategy tell me that you don't know how
to turn it off. Injecting some personal information into the conversation allows those that interact with you to connect, not just with your business, but with you. Successful businesses are relationship builders. This doesn't just apply to recruiting.

John: Tell me more about what you are doing now, and what you see the future holds for social media?

Tammy: Through soutHRn communications, I work with small businesses to improve their talent management and social media strategies. I also book professionals in the Human Resources industry for speaking engagements.

When I am not eyeballs deep in human resources and social media, I am planning tours for clients in the NC and VA mountains for wine and hiking adventures with my company Southern Wine Trails.

John: What do I see for the future of social media?

Tammy: This is a growing collaboration of minds that is creating ideas, entrepreneurial businesses,and new thought leaders. We are social creatures, and this tool broadens our reach and opens doors that we could not have previously known. The tools will continue to improve, and our community, both personal and professional, will become more global and broader in scope.

John: Thanks Tammy, great answers!