Digital Darwinism

I take hiring very seriously. Though it sounds like a platitude, please allow me to elaborate. For a recent marketing position of mine, I looked at 274 resumés, conducted 18 phone screens, had 8 face-to-face interviews, managed 5 group interviews, and hired 1 person. She’s been a great addition to the team. Before I actually speak or meet with a candidate, I do a good deal of research, which I call digital anthropology :

  • Google them
  • Traverse their twitter stream
  • Read their blog
  • Check out their LinkedIn profile
  • Watch their YouTube videos
  • Follow whatever digital trail they’ve cut

Charles DarwinI want to get to know each qualified prospect to ensure that they are compatible with my team. If all my digital anthropology is good, I’ll be able to have a much more productive dialogue. Why do I do this? Because a great hire can transform a group and a company, while a bad one can be deadly. Regardless of the discipline and the vetting, I truly won’t know a person until he or she is aboard. Fortunately, following their digital footprints is critical to my decision process.

And I expect candidates to do at least as much to me.

They’re making a potential career decision and they should determine if I’m someone they’d want to work with. They should be prepared to know me and my company.

This past week, I had the shortest phone interview of my life: 8 minutes.

I currently have an open public relations and communication position. I found a promising candidate who had the right type of resume and some rather impressive media wins. I was very excited about talking to him. Though I did my digital homework and discovered a few gaps, I figured we’d cover those issues on the phone. But first, I wanted to find out if he did his digital homework.

After some cordialities, I asked him about my company’s press coverage (which had been quite good) and I got a very vague answer. Hmm. Did he actually look? This was disconcerting, since this candidate was supposed to be a PR and communications professional. That raised a flag, so I probed deeper and asked him about a major event my company was hosting in New York. The description of the event was prominent on my corporate website, had its own stunning microsite, drove an active social media following, and garnered some nice press coverage.

The candidate didn’t even know about it. That ended the interview: 8 minutes.

I’d like to say this was an isolated incident, but it’s not. In fact, it’s more of the norm. I see this all the time and it really troubles me. Shame on me for being an optimist about future hires. Are so many people this inept? We live in a digital world where everything is a click-away. I’m writing this from a local Starbucks and I have full access to the entire world while I sip my coffee. If you can’t prepare for my interview, then just send me a Starbucks gift card, that way I can be well-caffeinated as I prepare for my next interview with somebody who actually cares.

Rob Ciampa



  1. A very useful cautionary tale, Rob. How did you end the interview? Did you call out the candidate’s unpreparedness? I am sometimes too reluctant to cut short conversations I know will go nowhere.


    1. Thanks Chas.

      I called him out and told him he was clearly unprepared. I don’t think he expected it. I told him to contact me when he “did his homework.” He won’t.



  2. Rob,

    Good post. but I am going to have to disagree with you on this.

    I think people do not take interviews seriously since companies are not transparent in their process. I tell people not to prepare until they have had the initial call to see whether the company is for real, You are looking at this from your side, but please do also look at it from the other side too on what companies are putting candidates today to find that perfect “gem.”.

    You may need to consider changing the way you are doing it. You should form relationships way in advance with people who could end up working for you rather than doing it the traditional way that has proven to be not that effective and extremely time consuming.

    Looking for candidates is a 24/7/365 job.


    1. Jay,

      Thank you for your comments. Once I screen a candidate, I lay out the entire process. Often, candidates who are in a rush don’t like the fact that I take my time. The process discussion helps vet as well.

      I do think many candidates are jaded because they ultimate get blown off by recruiters and hiring managers, which is as unprofessional as it gets. I try to give bad news directly as well. 99% of the time I get thanked.



  3. Great piece Rob. I no longer do much interviewing in either direction. But when a business opportunity is going to be the subject of an upcoming call I do the same digital investigation that you outline for each of the participants. I will also do the same for each member of the board of directors. Often you can uncover some unsettling facts by Googling “CompanyX sucks” or some other combination. A Twitter search may reveal customer satisfaction/reputation data too.



    1. Thank you Richard.
      In our contemporary (a.k.a. digital) world, why would one NOT do this for business, boards, etc. Moreover, if someone can’t do these things, should their credibility be questioned, regardless of their legacy success? That’s a tough one. Are we now measuring wisdom with 1’s and 0’s? Isn’t a blend of digital and legacy wisdom a great thing? 😉


  4. I ask for a some semblance of understanding but dont’t expect too much. Most of the people I interview are employed and either dipping a toe into the market or I’ve found them on my own. I usually turn around a phone screen in 2 days and I find it hard to penalize my prospective candidate because they couldn’t create a full digital profile of me or my company.

    In this market I am more than willing to accept their application or response to my solicitation as an invitation to then start the exploration.

    Maybe its because I’m a father with kids pulling at me when my work isn’t but I nust don’t choose to be hypercritical on candidates’ *full* understanding of me and my company at phone screen.


    1. Mike,
      What I’m talking about can take as little as 10 minutes. If a candidate can’t do that, I want nothing to do with him/her. I come prepared to the phone screen, so should they.


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