The Death of the Phone Book

Today I was given the names of two AS/400 software developers.  While I was still on the phone with the person who provided me the names I clicked a linkedin tab (I generally have several open in Firefox at any given time) and typed in their names.  Lots of results but no one local much less with AS/400 or RPG.  So I googled the names.  Still nothing.  I finished my call and thought that I would do something I had been taught when I first started recruiting. I was going to look in the phone book.

So I looked for my phone book and did not see it out.  I stared looking through my cabinets and drawers and still could not find it.  It finally dawned on me that I did not have a phone book.  I further realized that I had been in my present office for over a year and in that time I had never used it, much less realized that I did not have one.

That brought me back to a conversation I had in the morning.  I was at a breakfast meeting for entrepreneurs and I met someone starting a new business in PR.  At some point the conversation turned to linkedin and that she was having trouble getting her account started.  Another person at the table was amazed that in her profession she was not already deep into linkedin.  We gave her some suggestions and exchanged business cards.  I expect that I will be connecting with her some time soon, and probably making further suggestions for her use of linkedin.

On a regular basis I tell people that I use linkedin every day and that it is the most valuable tool I have as a recruiter.  Today I was surprised at just how far this had gone and how ingrained it is in my daily recruiting practices.  So much so that I have not used the phone book in a year and did not even miss it.

This also means that social media and especially linkedin have taken a major place in our culture.  To be a business professional and NOT have a detailed linkedin profile is considered a social blunder.  It is now almost a requirement and not just for technology professionals but for businesses and people from all professions. Even my wife who is a doula has a linked profile.  There are even consultants who help people create a better and more effective profile!

I am sure that I can find a phone book and I have other ways to track down those two people.  But recruiting has changed forever.

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3 Responses to The Death of the Phone Book

  1. Lee Drake says:

    Having been in on that breakfast conversation, I appreciate the observation here. Nothing could be more true than the statement that online tools have replaced or supplanted our every day tools. On the other hand – there is nothing out there that actually replaces a white pages phone book. Everywhere you try to search for people’s personal phone numbers online you get faced with a “pay gate” of some sort. I wish there were – it really irks me that the phone companies are perfectly willing to spend tens or hundreds of thousands printing and distributing printed white pages while not providing the very same service on their website for a fraction of the cost for free. Perhaps this is just a local Rochester thing – do other cities have a better online personal phone book availability?

    I think more importantly though is the message to candidates, recruiters, employers and employees – social media (Facebook, twitter, linked in, email still), etc are all key factors in establishing your network – and have supplanted many non-digital ways of doing the same thing.

    Eric and I are what you might call “super connectors”. With over 1000 people in our linked in accounts we have a network that is both large and rapidly expanding. I didn’t happen to have any cards with me (my bad but these days they just pile up on my desk – I just take a photo of the card I want to remember and move on, I suspect others do to). Both Eric and I had an easy answer for that though – google us – we’re most of the first page of results for either of our names. Are you on the first page for your name? Why not?

  2. Eric R. Derby says:

    As much as I think an on-line phone book would be useful, I also have some doubts about it. With more and more people getting rid of land lines, and cell phone numbers not being listed in the phone book, how useful would it be? I found a number of articles that say about one third of US households no longer have land lines. And that number is growing every year. We need a better solution.
    With people getting charged for receiving calls on cell phones people are going to want more privacy and are not going to want their numbers printed in a phone book. I cannot yet think of a good solution.
    And yes I agree that social media has changed the way we do things. But of course my kids already knew that!

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