Reflections on Social Hiring

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Several months ago, I was involved in a hiring process in my office. A position had opened up and we received a high number of qualified applicants for the position. Because of my strong belief that people are often so much more than their resume, I sought to use social media in order to give me a very broad perspective of our prospective applicants.

In early conversations with my human resources manager, I asked about whether I might be able to ask the applicants to provide a 2-minute YouTube video which would answer one simple question:  “Why do you want to work for our agency?”  I figured this would allow me to screen a high number of candidates quickly and determine the following skills of each candidate:

  • Could they share a clear and concise message in under 2 minutes?
  • Could they coordinate their resources to create something out of nothing?
  • And….how creative and “outside the box” were they as individuals?

My initial hopes in asking each of them to use YouTube were quickly dashed by an outside agency who insures us for liability.  Many questions were raised and despite some of our solid answers, we decided to allow applicants to choose any type of platform with which to communicate their answer to the question as long as the presentation was consumable within 2 minutes of time.

I was prepared to see anything and everything from interpretive dance to essays!  With this new definition, we also added a 10-minute Skype-based interview so that all of the applicants would be on the same playing field.  We invited 33 people to participate in this process.

This short follow-up interview included two basic questions which were asked after the review panel evaluated each presentation:

  • Why did you choose the platform that you did to convey your message?
  • What challenges did you experience in coordinating your presentation?

This was a fascinating process and 28 folks ended up participating in these interviews.  The submissions we received included a gorgeous scrapbook, YouTube videos, XtraNormal animated videos, SlideRocket & Prezi presentations and some standard PowerPoint presentations.  Even as panelists, we learned so much just by watching some of the great presentations of the panelists.

We saw the following benefits in using this social process:

  1. We were able to screen a much higher number of candidates quickly. These interviews were all completed in approximately 1.5 days.  Using traditional in-person interviews, we could only have screened about half of these candidates.
  2. This process allowed greater geographic diversity of candidates. Instead of candidates having to coordinate travel to arrive in person for an interview, they needed only to have Skype or Google Hangout to participate.  Our human resources also tested technology in advance of the interviews with each candidate so that we didn’t encounter any last minute problems.
  3. Despite our frank encouragement to be creative, we still saw a large number of Powerpoint presentations. And, compared to other types of presentations, it was extremely difficult for candidates to make their Powerpoint presentation fun, entertaining or convey a concise message to its audience.  This also highlighted a need for all of our project managers to evaluate whether Powerpoint continues to be an effective medium for engaging with audiences in other training or messaging environments.
  4. Two minutes was a tough, yet effective limit, to convey a concise message.  And while candidates often commented on the time limitation, it is important to remember that actual audience attention span is often less than 2 minutes.  As we strive to create clear messages, we should be well practiced in doing so in less than 120 characters and under a minute.

As you participate or conduct interviews, consider how you might incorporate social technologies into the process to evaluate communication style and abilities of your future employees.

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The Importance of Confidence

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Over the past 4 years, I’ve met a lot of my online friends “in real life.” And, as a sociologist, I’m always curious to see if someone will live up to their online persona.

There are 3 possibilities, right?

I am always delighted when people meet or exceed my expectations and sometimes slightly confused when meeting them is more underwhelming than I expect it to be. When this occurs, I wonder if I have pegged the person wrong or whether the anonymity of being online gives them a confidence that they don’t otherwise hold in face-to-face interaction.

I think it’s important to realize that human communication is never perfect. We are all human and ultimately, we are all messy in one way or another. What is often not “seen” by everyone are the dark thoughts, the sordid history and the pain that belies every single one of us in our lifetime.

From having met a ton of people in my lifetime, no story is really as pristine as the fairytales would have us believe. And frankly, have you really read the fairytales? Even they are full of wicked witches, interrupted destiny and the early demise of most parents.

The difference, communication-wise, between most people, however, boils down to the confidence of the message.

Why is confidence important?

  • Confidence illustrates that someone is comfortable in their own skin and with their message,
  • Confidence gives an aura of expertise and knowledge, and
  • Confidence people make us want to believe that the message and story is real.

Confidence, in the delivery of your message, is entirely under your control.  If you haven’t really considered how you deliver your message, consider practicing as often as you can.  Meet people, listen to what is of interest to those that you find yourself in conversation with and seek to find something of connection in each interaction.

Remember, relating to others involves a 2-way street which means sharing and listening to what is shared in human interactions.  No expects you to be perfect, but they will listen to your message differently if it is delivered with confidence.  Intentionally, be confidence this week in at least one interaction and see how others respond.

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It Isn’t Always Easy

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Sometimes, based on our personal vantage point in social media, we perceive that adoption and use should be easy. After all, it’s easy to write a tweet or post a Facebook status update, right?

But because a person can individually use social media well, doesn’t mean that the key questions are easily answered for businesses who are considering adopting social media. And sometimes, people perceive that small businesses will have a more difficult time using social media as compared to larger organizations.

Size of an organization isn’t always an indicator of the challenges involved. The complexities rest more specifically in these following issues:

  • The clarity of the mission and messages involved.  Do you know who you are as an organization and can people easily resonate with what you’re doing?
  • Are you willing to listen to those who engage with your messages and adapt your communications to their needs or interests?
  • Do your social media and marketing folks share an understanding of your risk tolerance…how far are you willing to push the envelope to relate to your audience?  Will you keep doing the same things out of comfort even if it isn’t working?
  • Are there decisions that you need to consider to minimize or mitigate possible risks in your communication strategy?  If you have people in your agency with conservative risk tolerance, have you thought about how to address these concerns in advance?

Some of the conversations and decisions you will make when adoption social media will be tough.  You will hear many excuses about why adopting social media may not be right for your organization, particularly if you sit in the risk-adverse organizations or technologically conservative agencies.

It isn’t always easy to adopt social strategies into a corporate culture, but if you know your business and are insistent on relating to others, it can be done.

One of the best strategies in dealing with risk-adverse organizations is simply identifying the concerns of others and listening.  Don’t rush to answer every challenge. Step back and truly listen, commit to finding answers (even if you already know them) and allow a reasonable amount of time to pass to address the concerns.  Sometimes, just giving those who resist some time to express their concerns and feel heard can go a long way towards chipping away at resistance.

It may not be easy, but it will be worthwhile if you commit to hearing your customers.


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Social Media Requires Marathon Spirit

Marathon Spirit

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Using social media in your business is not something that a person just finishes in an afternoon. A journey to adopt policies, protocols, select platforms and training your employees can take months and years to establish and grow.

You may feel like you are running a race to keep up; however, it is not a short sprint. Indeed, transforming the way that you communicate and collaborate on projects requires the spirit of a marathon runner. A marathon is not only an extreme physical challenge, but also a test of a person’s mind and will.

Jacqueline Gareau, who won the 1980 Boston Marathon, once said “The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy…It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed.”

Likewise, communication changes within an agency can result in much resistance. Using social media can be seen as foreign, risky or uncharted territory. And while painful at times, a clear mission and will power will be required of anyone in their journey to implement new methods and tools.

Regular and consistent training is important for any runner. Setting small targets and advancing your practical knowledge is critical to achieving success in the marathon of social media.  Encountering set backs can be tough, but you must have a strong spirit to work your way through each hurdle.

This coming week, you have the opportunity to participate in several workshops that will help you in this journey:

By using a promo code CANDY, you may take any of the top 3 courses for free.  We encourage you to join, participate, share and learn from each other.  Show us your “marathon spirit” and stay committed to the long road ahead towards implementing and enhancing your social engagement.  You can do this!

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Eating Elephants?

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Army General Creighton Abrams once said, “When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time.”

Now, I’m not sure how many elephants you’ve eaten, but frankly, it’s one of the things that has never made my bucket list.  There is little context for this famous quote; however, I imagine that it must have been said in the context of war which I’m sure seems as daunting as staring down any elephant in the wild.

When to-do lists, personal change aspirations or projects seem overly daunting, it can feel hard to know where to begin.  And when you throw elephants into the mix, have you ever thought about where you’d even take that first bite?

Yes, it’s a crazy analogy and when taken to its literal extremes, I’d venture to guess that no human would dare to actually take a bite of an elephant.  Would you?  Really?

Now, if we turned that elephant into something that we’d actually want to eat, the analogy makes more sense. So, maybe here is the lesson:

  • Forget about the size of the overall project,
  • Don’t see an elephant, see something that motivates you,
  • Segment your work into smaller, bite-sized chunks,
  • Prioritize what needs to be done first,
  • Reward yourself for small accomplishments because each step is one action closer to your goal, and
  • Give yourself a reasonable period of time to experience and learn from the journey.

Many people see working with social media as that huge elephant.  Instead of turning that vision into a large, cinnamon-smothered elephant ear, they run in fear.  But, if you endeavor to spend just 5 minutes a day, learning one new thing, eventually you will be surprised at what you know about how to use social media.

Don’t worry about the size of the whole communication spectrum.  Start with what you are familiar with.  Do you use Facebook personally? Learn a little bit more about using for groups and agencies.  Consider how you can take that one area and apply it to your business.

And if you’ll commit one hour a month, you can meet other people, talk about one specific area and improve what you know in leaps and bounds.  In the coming week, we have the following fun classes:

And, if you’re just starting out in social media, you can take “I’m Too Old for Social Media” for free by using promo code: kevinROCKS.

Whether you are seeking to improve your knowledge of social media or working on training for a marathon, forget the whole elephant. You can do this in an encouraging and supportive environment and we’re here to help.  Don’t let the fear keep you running away from your goal.  Turn around, face it and take steps towards your target.  You’ll be glad you did.

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A New Endeavor

You’ve probably noticed that this blog has become a little quiet as of late.

It’s not because I’ve felt any less engaging, but I’ve been busy putting together the nuts & bolts to a new project that I’m just about ready to unveil.  But, first….a little transparency on where I’m going.


  • I’ve worked in government for nearly 2o years and recognize that there are some innate differences on how information and engagement is initiated, handled, managed and recorded between the public and private sectors.  Most recently, I’ve worked as a local Emergency Manager and had the tremendous blessing to implement and watch the development of social media use in this arena.
  • I enjoy social media immensely.  I’m not a guru and I don’t know everything there is to know.  I ask a lot of questions, listen for good practices and am not afraid to learn something new every day.
  • Most social media training is offered from the perspective of the individual user rather than the perspective of organizational implementation.  And the change management issues related to organizational adoption of social media use can be significant.

What Am I Going to Do About It?

  • Develop & coordinate the delivery of web-based training that is fun, affordable, engaging and keeps pace with the changing social media landscape.
  • Classes will be under an hour and will cover a number of different topics in the following 3 arenas.

Awareness:  These classes will answer the “why” you should adopt social media.  Course examples will include Case Studies of Use, Policy & Strategy Development, Jumping the Hurdles and other why-based classes.

The target audience for these courses include people who aren’t quite sure social media is for their agency or for those trying to get started. 

Operations:  These classes will be targeted at the modest user of social media and will be platform-specific.  Examples may include how to use Facebook Pages, Twitter, Tweetdeck, Picture & Video platforms and a variety of other key tools.

The target audience for these courses will be general users who want to learn more about how to apply these tools to a work-related context.

Technician-Level:  These courses will be available for social media users who want more education and experience in applying social media knowledge to particular types of activities.  Monitoring Social Media, Archiving Techniques, Conducting Exercises, Gaming & Public Education Campaigns, and other key classes.

The target audience for these courses are for avid users of social media who are trying to figure out how to apply social media to accomplish business-related missions in their organizations.

What Can You Do About It?

Shortly, a class schedule will be posted on this website and a page will be dedicated to all of the training opportunities. To stay informed about course availability and sign-ups, you can ensure that you receive the latest information in the following ways:

  • You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address into the column to the right of this blog post.
  • You can follow class announcements on Twitter by following @Engaging_Others
  • You can “like” the Engaging Others page on Facebook

Do You Have a Training Course that You’d Like to Deliver?

  • If you have relevant training courses that you think would fall into one of the 3 categories mentioned above, I’d love to chat with you about partnership opportunities, please email me at for more information.




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Magical Moments

If you know me, you have probably teased me at some point about my level of engagement with social media. And, as a girl who writes for 6 blogs and has presence in about 30 different social media spheres, I’d be the first to laugh and utter the first of 12 steps of my happy addiction.

But I want to share with you what social media does for me….it allows me to get to know people before ever seeing them face to face. Through quips and conversation, I can nearly immediately tell if I will be life-long friends with someone or if I will be far too intense for where they are at in life. I can tell if we share the same values, are heading the same direction or if we will argue endlessly about whether we prefer Pepsi or Coke.

In short, before we exchange business cards, I can already admire you for the person you are and the values that you hold dear.

You see, as an emergency manager, I’m often told “exchange the business cards before you have your next disaster” and while you’ll catch me saying it, too, I find that even just exchanging cards is too limiting for me. Sure, I might call on your business or agency if I remember when or how I met you, but the reality is, for every 200 business cards, I receive, I eliminate 195 of those contacts out of my directory every year.

It’s the people that I get to know that I keep close. It’s the people we get to know behind the business card that matters. Do we trust them? Can we figure them out? Can we know that they won’t seek an opportunity to step on us to get ahead?

In the past 4 years, I’ve gotten to know a lot of people online first. In some cases, I’ve spoken with people so regularly that others find it shocking that we’ve never met “in real life.” How is that possible, I am asked? “You speak with such similar voices, have worked on so many projects and your names are synonymous with so much.” I often shrug and reply, “Despite having never met, we share a respect for each other that is tangible and real.”

And while I realize I have friends online that I may never meet, it is always a joy to meet someone that I’ve previously known virtually. Prior to this past week, I had met about 90 people online first and then in real life….and in this past week alone, I had the pleasure of meeting 24 of my long-time Twitter friends. And rather than spend any time “introducing” ourselves, we easily identified each other, greeted each other with warm hugs and continued many conversations with the professional and personal excitement that we had previously shared online.

Now I am someone who generally prefers one-on-one conversation to group chats. And if you watch me work a room at a tweetup or social event, I strive to have as many one-on-one conversations as I can even when others are around. Relating to people personally that I already admire becomes magical and real.

About 15 years ago, I married my childhood sweetheart. At our wedding reception, my maid of honor gave a toast that brought me to tears about the story of the Velveteen Rabbit. After reading the following selection from the story, she shared that time and love are what make us real to each other.

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Connecting with people over social media allows us to get to know each other “bit by bit.” It confirms behavior expectations, shows evidence of values and allows us to laugh and love ever before we finally meet that person in real life. If you aren’t compelled to meet those folks that you follow and already admire, may I suggest reevaluating your engagement strategy?

Now I realize that some of you may still be using social media to “watch the news” and while you may not consider developing “relationships” with your news anchors, you’ll likely begin to find yourself following other voices of those in your profession, local community or for a variety of other reasons. Consider why you follow certain voices, what your friends or followers share with you and whether you are open enough to the possibility that you could be real to someone else. Don’t miss out on those opportunities for fresh perspectives, great ideas and some amazing “new” friends!


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Are You Putting the “ME” in Team?

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Surely you’ve heard the saying “There is no “I” in team” before. And while there is no specific letter “I” in team, people often dread group projects because of team dynamics.

We’ve probably all sat on one or more teams where either the team got stuck in the storming phase and little was accomplished because personalities clashed regularly or the team never made it out of the forming stage in which to preserve the relationships, they never addressed key communication issues and a smaller percentage of the team accomplished most of the work.

The tricky thing about group dynamics is that they rely on trust which has to be both given and received. In a way, it’s kinda like Twitter, where life is “double opt-in.” It is not enough for a team member to give trust to others.  They must, through good communication and achievement of goals, earn trust from those they work with.

But before you can get into a smooth rhythm of team-based work, there are a few things that must be put into place first.

  • All members of a well-functioning group must have clear communications about each other’s strengths, skill sets, roles and responsibilities.  This ensures that team assignments can be best matched to the skill sets of the team members which can illustrate trust and respect early on in a project.
  • Roles should be agreed upon at all levels.  This is particularly true of team leadership, if the leader has not been selected or assigned through a formal process.  If some, but not all members in a group believes that the group is running on a consensus model where all members bear equal decision-making authority, this can result in significant confusion.  There may also be different definitions of what “leadership” truly means in any group.  Clarifying expectations among team members can also become more important than you might initially presume.
  • The process for decision-making must be agreed upon or clearly spelled out.  Conflict is natural and should be encouraged on any good team so that ideas can run through a crucible and end up better for working their way through the group.  However, how the group achieves consensus or makes decisions are key to results which the team can live with (even if they ultimately disagree with the decision made).
  • When communications falter or needs arise, there must be a clear process for conflict resolution among the team members.  Without a clear process for resolving conflict, a team will break down when it comes to trust.

The value in groups is that, collectively, they can accomplish much more when they are functioning well.  When teams break down, however, they can become difficult to manage and result in long-term relationship damage that can ultimately harm your brand or agency.  Keep your team together by ensuring these basic issues are clear for all involved.

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What You Put Out Into the World Matters

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When you are commenting on a social media platform, you have the ability to say anything. And the ability to share openly can be a power that comes laced with a two-edged sword. The speed of social media allows you to consume information and judge the content or the person who shares it in an instant.

This past week, I saw individuals and groups attacked. I saw people respond and wish to respond in ways that made me wish to see the Twitter Fail Whale show up just to give us all some extra time and space to minimize the emotional replies.

Last night, I watched the Ides of March which was a fascinating political movie which explores choices and affiliations that are made. And without spoiling the movie for you, I was struck by the quote at the end of the movie where the narrator says “What you put out into the world matters.”

If that message wasn’t strong enough, the sermon in church today was about character and integrity. We were encouraged to realize that character is not what you believe, but how you live your beliefs when no one is looking that matters. In a heartbeat, you can destroy a reputation that you spent years building.

This is especially true in social media. If you have little to no reputation and begin attacking others, you may create a reputation that will harm yourself for a long time. If you share awesome content, help people and build a great reputation, your close network may ask if you’re having a tough day, but will likely forgive some errant tweets. To those who don’t know you, however, you risk creating barriers with folks you don’t yet know.

Basic Communication Rules can be found in the famous Robert Fulghum Poem “All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten.”  I think it bears reading today and consider if we have truly learned these lessons based on how we communicate online:

These are the things I learned:

Share everything.
Play fair.
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life -
Learn some and think some
And draw and paint and sing and dance
And play and work everyday some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world,
Watch out for traffic,
Hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder.

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Keeping Up


Today, my kids were given a box of “Sweethearts” candy and I was pretty amused to find some candy hearts that referenced social media. Instead of “call me” in these candies, you’ll now find “text me.”

While I realize that these small candies don’t offer a huge platform for a lot of characters, it is funny to see that even these classic candies are no longer referencing voice communications. It is clear that they are keeping up with the times which made me reflect on other industries that are still struggling with being open to consider how people are learning to communicate.

What do you need to know?

  • Texting and short messages are becoming the norm because the quantity and pace of incoming information is high.  Do you know the basic short messages of your business?
  • Communicating via social platforms is occurring.  Are you meeting people there?
  • People connect, at an emotional level, with what they respond to.  Do your messages resonate with folks on an interesting or emotional level?
  • There are a lot of available communication platforms, but do you know where your customers, stakeholders or colleagues are?  They could be in different places online.

The key to “keeping up” with social media is simply being willing to learn, willing to listen and willing to try.  Because choosing not to participate in online communications says just as much about your willingness to stay current with the times.


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