I think my phone is broken….

It’s strange to think how much recruitment has changed since I first started. I remember my early days in recruitment – we were literally told to ‘hammer the phone’. We would make hundreds of calls per day, and at one point we even had software installed that monitored the phone lines to see how many calls we were making and how long we spent on each call.  The core belief was that the more time you spent on the phone, the harder you were working and networking.

But in 2012, has the stereotypical image of the phone-monkey salesperson finally died?  I’m sure that many of you would agree with me that nowadays the call-to-hit ratio (i.e., the chances of actually speaking to the person whose number you are dialling) is very low indeed, both on the client and candidate side.  I would say that you are lucky to speak to one person out of every ten you call.

So if we aren’t using the phone to make calls, what are we using it for?  Well it was recently revealed that us Brits now send more texts than make phone calls with our mobiles and with the advent of smart phones, it’s easier to receive emails and social networking notifications than ever before. Texts, emails, tweets, InMails, Facebook updates… all of these can be accessed, read and sent by our mobiles without ever once having to make a phone call. I would certainly agree that having extra channels of communication can benefit me when I’m doing my job, but this does leave the hapless recruiter to ponder if we are facing a future where phone calls are a thing of the past.

There are a number of theories why people are using the phone less today.  In this brave new digital world, have we evolved to the stage that we no longer wish to communicate with our mouths, but rather with our fingers? Have we become too scared to pick up the phone and actually speak directly to a stranger?  Or, just like that famous joke (“nobody drives in London – there’s too much traffic!”), is it quite simply that as volumes of sales calls have increased, people are fed up with constantly taking calls and just leave their phones to ring out?

Networking will always be the way of making the most effective placements, and using the phone on a daily basis is the best way to keep in touch with those network connections; getting updates on changes in situations, discussing new opportunities, gaining leads and referrals.  I’d like to think that as someone who can type 50+ words a minute I will be ok with this movement to text-based recruitment.  However, examining this in comparison to a phone call, communicating solely by text is a false economy.

In a brief 5 minute phone call with an applicant we can expect to have a conversation that, if transcribed, would average at around 750 words.  750 words of lovely recruitment goodness including leads and qualification, all in the space of time it takes to make a decent cuppa.  I could only manage to type 250 words in that time – only a third of the information that would be transmitted in a phone call, and it is all one-sided. I would miss out on the opportunity to listen and respond to what the applicant is saying; lose the personal touch and leave myself wide open to being misconstrued, as tone doesn’t translate well to email.

I personally don’t think that there’s a magic cure that will allow recruiters to combat this shift away from actually speaking directly to people over the phone. I do believe however that using the phone less will have a detrimental effect on our billing ability. Closing a candidate is the only way to control the recruitment process, and if you don’t speak to them over the phone, you won’t be closing them effectively. Furthermore, if you don’t speak to the candidate in the first place, then you are never going to place them!

I regularly hear the ‘more experienced’ (as I wouldn’t want to offend them by calling them old) guys in our office talking about the days of the ‘faxed CV’; laughing about putting labels over phone numbers and sending CVs via a wonderful new piece of technology called a ‘facsimile machine’. To many of the young guns reading this, that must sound like a time when dinosaurs roamed the earth, but this only 15 years ago, around the last time England reached the semi-finals of a major football tournament.  15 years from today, maybe I will be laughing that we used to actually speak to people over the phone.

For now, if you’re serious about billing big, then the best thing you can do is get back on the phone and start speaking to people directly, to build the trust and relationship you need to close your next deal. And with that thought, I’m off to make some phone calls!

Related: Are Recruiters Hiding Behind Social Media?

Thanks to Andrew Fairley for his help in researching this article.

Adam Bolton is a Technical Recruiter for ABrecruit Ltd who specialise in recruiting for .Net developers. If you would like to get in touch with Adam feel free to leave a comment below and/or tweet him at @ABRecruitLtd. He also runs IDinLondon.