Virtual Relationships

Can you build meaningful relationships without meeting people in person?

As an executive recruiter and coach, I’m amazed at how quickly the pendulum has swung.  A few years ago, clients wanted to understand how we could do our job well if we didn’t meet candidates in person.  How could we possible assess someone through a video, and more importantly, how could we build a relationship with someone over video?

Implied in these questions is the fundamental belief that you must build relationships to work with senior level executives and that this can only be done in person.  As I listened to how other recruiters talked about this subject, I found it interesting to hear the word “meet” expanded to include video meetings. For recruiters trying to maximize income, this was awesome because they no longer needed to fly around the country to actually meet people.

As LinkedIn provides everyone with the ability to “go direct”, companies have also raced to build their own talent acquisition activities.  While every company needs a highly effective talent acquisition function, the focus on volume, speed, and efficiency has further highlighted the “value” of video interviews.  Why should you spend money on in-person interviews if you can “filter” candidates through video?

In this new environment, the central question has shifted from one based on how to build effective relationships to whether it really matters.  The innovation in recruiting and talent acquisition has diluted the value of relationships, and the next generation of executive recruiters will have been raised on Facebook.  When you accept a friend requestor accept an invitation on LinkedIn, you haven’t built a relationship…you’ve simply made a connection.

So, what does this mean to the companies who will compete for the best senior level talent?  Should companies redefine what constitutes a relationship and how to build one or does it even matter?