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The Hyperconnectivity Paradox: Why Reaching People is Harder Than Ever

The Hyperconnectivity Paradox: Why Reaching People is Harder Than Ever

When I text my brother, I can usually expect a response in 2-3 days. I’ve never asked him why he’s so bad at responding. I figure it’s none of my business. When I receive a text or miss a call from my friend who lives in San Francisco—I live in Kentucky—I know that I only have about a minute to respond. If I take any longer, he will have already moved on with his life and, for the sake of wasted time, I should probably abandon any attempt to continue the conversation.

According to Facebook, they averaged 1.18 billion active daily users in September 2016. Twitter’s website (at the time of writing this article—Nov. 2016) says they have 313 million active users. In 2014, 8.5 Billion texts were sent each day in the U.S. alone! By 2018, it’s expected that people will receive 97 business related emails per day.

Then there’s old fashioned phone calls, diminishing but still relevant—the NSA said that in 2013 there were about 3 billion phone calls being made in the U.S. each day.

We are living through a digital revolution—a time of ever increasing hyperconnectivity—but somehow it doesn’t always feel that way.

Maybe it’s because only 22% of emails are ever opened—or the fact that the number of phone calls that go unanswered is increasing. When those calls go unanswered, 72% of callers don’t leave voicemails, which is probably smart because 80% of people say they don’t listen to them.

Contacting People We Know

Our social habits, when it comes to communication, are also in a revolution.

While I expect one friend to respond to all of my social media messages, texts, or phone calls, I don’t have the same expectations for everyone. That may because there is no universally accepted primary form of communication anymore. My grandma doesn’t text, my brother doesn’t write letters, my wife isn’t on Twitter, and one of my friends isn’t on Facebook. I remember—when my wife and I were planning our wedding—trying to collect people’s addresses to send out invitations. Besides letter writing, I had to use each of the aforementioned forms of communication to complete our list—plus phone calls—and, for some people, it took multiple messages before they responded.

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I don’t know how often my uncle checks his social media accounts, I don’t know my old coworker’s email address, and I don’t know the new cell phone numbers for all of my old high school friends. This meant that the best process was trial and error. If nobody responded on Facebook, or an old email address bounced, then I had to track down friends and family through other people.

Who has a home phone anymore? My family hasn’t had one for over 8 years. Furthermore,I have friends that I haven’t called in years but we text on a regular basis. Communication has changed.

Contacting Businesses

When I call my bank, I know the exact moment that I can interrupt the robo-operator by pressing “0”. While that gets me a little closer to my goal of talking to a live person, I still have to make a couple more numerical selections before I finally get placed on hold—because they are always “experiencing higher than normal call volume”—and wait for an actual person to help me.

I called the manufacturer of my microwave because it needed repair—it was almost 20 minutes before I got to talk to someone.

The pre-recorded message suggested several times that I go to the website to make a service appointment but I didn’t have the warranty information needed to make an appointment via the website. I needed to talk to a person—a small request, I thought, since I was reaching out to a multi-billion dollar company.  But, this is the way things are now. We live in the world of online chat support, FAQ pages, and automated emails.

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There are even websites like GetHuman.com that try to address this issue. Get Human’s tagline is “Get painless customer service.” On their site, you can enter the name of a company with whom you have an issue and Get Human will give you the best phone numbers and web pages to get your problem solved—or you can pay them to get it solved for you since dealing with company’s customer service processes is often difficult and time-consuming.

Many companies, especially in the tech industry, are abandoning phone numbers altogether. Try entering Facebook or Twitter into Get Human’s system and, while it will provide you with a number, the number is only a recording that directs you back to a website. This is of course, understandable for a company like Facebook with over a billion customers.

Contacting Prominent People

How many emails do you think Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, gets each day? I’ve emailed him. I didn’t expect a response and I didn’t get one. But I was able to find his email address—or at least one of his email addresses—and while I know there’s a 99 percent chance that it’s not actually Sir Richard Branson managing the account but an administrative assistant, since it exists, I figured it must serve some purpose. So why not try.

But if I found the address by engaging only a moderate amount of search-engine sleuthing skills, then so can millions of other people, and that seems to be the problem with hyperconnectivity—when we are all connected, the people whose attention is most in demand are overwhelmed with requests. It’s like a thousand swarms of bees all vying for the nectar of a single flower.

For the uber-famous, it’s an impossible endeavor to try to respond to every request for attention. There simply isn’t enough nectar for all the bees.

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I remember writing a letter to Michael Jordan as a child. Months later, I actually got a signed letter back. I have no idea if it was actually signed by MJ, but I got a response. There may be celebrities left with impressively responsive fan clubs but I’d venture to guess that a vast majority of fans aren’t writing letters these days.* They’re tagging celebrities in tweets and taking a chance with an unsolicited email.**

*It’s important to point out there is likely a big difference between response rates with fans and response rates to business inquiries directed at celebrities. **While probably impossible for Richard Branson, I can think of a couple celebrities that claim to personally respond to every email.

Contacting prominent people becomes then one of two things—the cliched ideas of rising above the noise or “it’s who you know”.

Look at Sir Richard Branson again—right now he has 8.7 million Twitter followers. That’s a lot of noise to overcome, but at least one man did it. He got creative. While most people were sending emails and tweets followed by prayer or strategic follow up messages, Joe Tannorella built a website. DearSirRichard.com was a personal message to Branson, disguised as a website. On the site Joe asked Branson if he would be willing to record a short clip to be played during his best man speech at his brother’s wedding—Branson was his brother’s hero. In the end, with the help of a few Twitter advertisements, it worked—Branson sent a personal message to Joe and his brother and Virgin Mobile reached out too, asking Joe to email them directly.

It seems one cliche begets the other—you need other people to help you rise above the noise. That’s why Joe put his personal contact information on the website and asked anybody with a connection to Branson to please forward his info and his request.

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Counting People

Compare the following two web pages:

http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users/

One shows a live counter tracking the number of people in the world. The other shows a live counter tracking the number of people that have access to the internet. You’ll see that the latter is rising much faster. One day those numbers could meet and there are lots of people working to make that happen.  Google company X has Project Loon, Facebook has Internet.org—both projects aiming to bring Internet access to the entire world. Independent projects like Connect the World are trying to bring people and companies together with the same objective.

We can only speculate on what technological advances await us down the road and with the sizable growth potential of Internet access, it would seem we are still in an early phase of person-to-person hyperconnectivity. This means that, as more people come online, the noise will only get louder. There are already 3.5 billion people with internet access worldwide and every day another aspect of our daily lives becomes digitally connected—simplified in an app. or swallowed by a new industry—each change creating new avenues for communication.

As one person said—their name appropriately lost in the noise–, “It has never been so easy and so hard to reach someone.” This is the paradox of hyperconnectivity.

Featured photo credit: Pavan Trikutum via unsplash.com

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Chris Egan

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

More Resources About Job Interviews

Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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