Social Media & Recruitment -more questions than answers?

[tweetmeme source=”GaryFranklin”]
I am going to start off by saying I am a big fan of some of the Social Media platforms and the use of them in the recruitment process. I am not an expert as some claim they are themselves; I am an enthusiast with real first-hand experience in using them.

Over the last few years I have been an active participant on some of the online communities and platforms that many many people are using. In that time some of these platforms have proved to be very enjoyable and useful indeed, especially Twitter and LinkedIn. I am comfortable with each and get a huge amount of satisfaction from both. They have both had a huge impact on my life.

Thousands of people try to convince us that mastery of the various Social Media platforms is essential for all those looking for work. Others promote them as essential platforms for agencies and employers as recruiting tools. Many of us have been to presentations that deal with the issue of using Social Media platforms as recruiting tools; some of these delivered by people with more knowledge than us, others I fear by people who might have some understanding of online communities but know little about their application and use in business, let alone recruiting and share their basic knowledge only for a fee. All of these presentations however tell us that if we are not using Social Media we are missing a trick and won’t have access to either the jobs we seek or the candidates we need to hire.

Yet I’ve had conversations with plenty, mostly senior people, who either don’t have LinkedIn profiles or that they have taken their profiles down because they are fed up with the annoying spam they get from head-hunters, agencies and recruiters. One could argue that if they setup their profiles right then this shouldn’t happen. Sadly they don’t and it does. There are only just over 100 million profiles on LinkedIn. That leaves the vast majority of the market workforces not on it.

Much has been said and written about the power of social media as a recruiting tool and to be honest most of it is rubbish and promotional speculation created by people or companies who want you to spend money with them. I do believe there is value in embracing the platforms to get the most out of them. There are benefits and yes people and companies have used it to further themselves, myself included. I’ve found a fantastic job (or it found me) as a result of my enthusiasm for Social Media. I’ve also made some of the best friends I could hope for, but it is not the be-all-and-end-all. Most of the people I know who embrace the various Social Media platforms use it for engagement and interaction on a personal level, many indeed use it for business purposes, either to promote themselves or their businesses in one way or another. That is the great thing about LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as all other Social Media platforms; it is different things to different people. It is not absolute.

In speaking to many in-house recruiters and many agencies each month the subject of the best ways to find the right candidates is always part of the conversation. Some use the various platforms very effectively, however the majority still don’t. They, as well as the candidates they seek tend to rely on traditional methods of attraction; job boards (including LinkedIn in this format) and agencies etc. One thing is clear, many people in recruitment can’t or don’t make much use of Social Media platforms either because they lack the time, interest or sadly the social skills and confidence to do so or they don’t believe they actually need to. (It shouldn’t be a surprise. Let’s face it many many people still don’t know how to use a phone effectively). In fact I would be extremely surprised if most job hunters don’t go to agencies and job boards and corporate sites first to find work, rather than think of to various alternate social platforms. I don’t blame them. If the companies don’t use them what point is there?

This leads to the two questions that prompted this blog post:-

If the Recruiters are not using Social Media platforms why should Candidates and why are they being pushed so hard to do so?

If the Candidates are not using Social Media platforms why should Employers and why are they being pushed so hard to do so?

I am sure there are plenty of opinions as well as answers to these two questions, would love to hear what you all think.

music of the day = Everblue by Paul Cusick

  1. Great post Gary. Apart from a select few, there aren’t too many companies who understand how to use social media to either promote their vacancies or use it to ‘headhunt’. For most, it seems that opening a Twitter account and tweeting their vacancies will suffice. There needs to be a certain amount of engagement from businesses, whether that’s sharing interesting links, or starting some kind of discussion on Twitter/LinkedIn.

    Sadly a lot of candidates aren’t using social media to find their next position, whilst it’s easy enough to set up your LinkedIn to stop recruitment agencies spamming you, it can be quite difficult to filter out the agency ‘noise’ on Twitter when setting up a saved search on Twitter.

  2. Hi Gary,

    I think we can agree that there is always a gap between hype and reality with anything new that comes along, and recruiting or job search through social media is no different from any other development that has occurred in the jobs space over the past 20 years or so.

    However, I’m afraid that you make an assumptive leap in the questions you pose at the end. You mention within the post itself that there are companies who do use social tools ‘very effectively’ in finding candidates. Presumably it follows that the job seekers they found with those tools were also using social channels to communicate and to be found?

    When you have real examples and business cases where new methods of working have proven to be effective, then I would say that businesses who are not aware of them are indeed ‘missing a trick’, and would do well to learn what they can from others who have gone ahead.

    It is true, of course, that these companies, and the job seekers they recruited, remain a minority if taken in context of the entire recruitment market, perhaps even a small minority at that. But it’s worth remembering that the methods they used were only really available for viable use from only a few years ago and there is no precedent in human history for the simultaneous mass adoption of new modes of technology or behaviour, including, I suspect, the discovery of fire and wheel!.

    So they are outliers, early adopters, the thin edge of the wedge. However, just because their numbers are currently small doesn’t mean that their practice is insignificant. They have shown a new way of recruiting / job search which previously was not available – a paradigm shift even- and they have reaped the reward for doing so.

    Why should candidates and employers use social media platforms? Because that minority will surely grow, and everyone will do well if they recognise transformatory change for what it is, and get on the right side of it.

    Best wishes


  3. Good questions to ask Gary. I think the market is still in it’s early days but believe that every employer will have a talent community that will be based on conversation. This will become mainstream. The efficiency of recruitment will improve.

    If you look at hoe the impact of social is systematically impacting every vertical, take music for example, I think one can see what the future in this industry may look like. I feel, although I am biased, the impact of social on recruitment will be greater than the impact of social on the music industry.

    I also believe that the opportunity for talent communities lies beyond just the Big Three – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter.

  4. An interesting post to be sure…

    Reading this and reflecting on it reminds me of the questions being asked when the net became part of the attraction mix. Every Tom, Richard and Henry (!) was out there peddling job boards, WAP sites etc as the ‘big fix’ to every company’s recruitment needs.

    At the time I was recruiting for a food manufacturing business and our dominant roles were shift based operator roles. At that time (early noughties) these guys were emphatically NOT looking for roles on the net (I had data) yet the rebuttal in every sales pitch said they were…

    The Linkedin data is even more interesting as the 100m is of course globally distributed with I imagine the biggest slice of the pie being in the US. In a meeting with some seriously intellectual people this week they remarked that they only signed up for Linkedin following the IPO so are the people talking about it still ‘pre-chasm’ users and only now will it get true widespread adoption?

    In answer to your questions, as someone who is neither flogging solutions or recruiting anymore, I think the use of social media needs to be PART of company’s attraction strategy if they are trying to attract anything past a few people. However, I believe it will track a similar (if not shortened) pattern to the adoption by both candidates and companies, to that of the original online recruitment wave and you will see incremental improvements to the point where we are looking back now at the ghosts of things like Personnel Today and Computer Weekly!!

  5. Hi Gary.

    For me, one of the pertinent points of your piece is the fact Social Media isn’t the “silver bullet.”

    It happens every time something new comes along doesn’t it, “This next big thing’s going to kill its predecessor.” WWW came along and there was, “well, there goes the agencies.” The job boards came along and it was, “well there goes press advertising”. Next, social media comes along and now everyone’s “oh well. Au revoir agencies, job boards and press – it was fun whilst it lasted”.

    We look back and guess what – all of these mediums are still playing their part albeit with varying degrees of preference when you track their usage volume over the last decade. Admittedly press and job boards are being hit, the former much harder than the latter. In my opinion we will see things change further as we go through generational transitions. The press is still used – predominantly, I believe, with younger Baby Boomers and mature Gen X’ers. I believe the job boards will start to take a greater hit as more Millennials mature in the labour market. For Millennials even email is now becoming passé. I read recently the percentage of texts acted upon outstrip emails by a significant margin – so are we beginning to see the demise of another medium.? Some colleges in the states don’t even issue emails to their students anymore. (I know. Even the thought of being without email for a day sends some folk into a cold terror).

    It’s not just in recruitment we see this happen. As a comparison (a loose one anyway) Vinyl –to-CD-to-MP3. People use all three but it’s heavily weighted towards the right hand side of the spectrum – I think the same will happen with Social Media / Social Networking. As has already been mentioned in previous comments we are still very much at the beginning of this journey. Everyone is still finding their way. A wry smile always crosses my face when I see people referring to themselves as SMR “Experts”.

    Obviously time will tell but I for one am onboard. I’m there man. Trying, testing and fumbling as I go. I’ll report back when i have a decent number of successes (and failures) to share. But will I be freeing my grasp on the job boards and press etc – not flippin’ yet I won’t – why would I when I’ve still had very recent successes with them?

  6. I was interviewed on camera about this a while ago where we exposed a fair bit about our social media strategy in the recruitment industry. Here’s the interview –

    Linkedin and talent communities have been the most effective social media tools for us, given our niche specialisation in B2B sales recruitment.

  7. So I had responded yesterday in a lovely long message that didn’t send so here is attempt two.
    As a regular job hunter due to being on contracts, not through choice i’d like to say I have to go through the process of attempting to battle through these new ways often.
    I find agencies is the lazy way, Job sites is a waybut hardly ever get anything back and word of mouth seems to have done me well so far.
    I do have a Linked In account but i’ll be honest its not public along with my twitter or my facebook. These might be imparing me but at the same time there is a built in I don’t know how much I want these people to know about me.
    I’m not the same person out of work as I am in work. (facebook mainly) However I can see how these tools work well if you know what your actually doing with them and more and more pressure falls upon both sides to get these learn them and make them work when most of us are still walking blindly into these social networks not really knowing or seeing the benefit (me)
    I’d also like to pull on your art of conversation being lost.
    With all the modern technology we have forgotten how to pick up the phone and call someone or go round to their desks and explain it. Instead we sit look at the person 4 desks away and e-mail them then spend half an hour having an e-mail conversation that is still lost in translation but then end result is never what you want.
    I’ll be honest I used to do phone interviews and I found them rather odd I know its to find out about the candidate but I was under the assumption that was what the actual interview was for?
    Its a tricky one getting the balance right

  8. Very interesting post, and lots of interesting replies as well.

    I agree with everyone who has mentioned that social media is not a ‘silver bullet’, but it can be part of an effective campaign.

    However, I think the most important thing I took away from this is the value of questioning why we are doing what we are doing. “Because everyone else is doing it” really isn’t enough. Any company using social media in recruitment should be very clear about which social media networks they target and why.

    I hope that the more companies start to use social media effectively, the more candidates will see the value in looking for jobs through these channels.

  9. Was just about to answer the question related to this topic on Linkedin from a candidate point of view but the question is closed now. Anyway, I decided to write a bit of a blog on how candidates should use Social Media to help them find a job, which you can read here :

    • Yeah sorry about that Lee. The answers on LI were so naive and poor that I felt compelled to take it down to stop their further embaressment. Thanks for taking the time to post here though

  10. I’m not surprised you’re asking these kind of questions Gary. I’m still somewhat bemused by the Twitter “Career Chats” which seem to consist of 100s of “careers experts” telling an audience consisting only of each other that you have to put a QR code on your resume and actively upload pictures of your job hunt onto Flickr in order to get a job these days.

    Add to that the get rich quick merchants and wannabes who see recruitment as some kind of easy touch to sell their ill conceived social products into and things get even worse.

    If you strip away all the hype though change is starting to happen. At an event last week I asked an audience of 120 in house recruiters whether they were using some kind of social media activity in their recruitment and 95% of them put their hands up. Six month ago that wouldn’t have happened.

    LinkedIn’s audience may not contain everyone but it is significantly bigger and has a different kind of reach than all the job boards put together

    Once the social recruiting hype goes and the inevitable disillusionment that comes after it has passed ( I believe we will then see the true value that is created where social media and recruitment meet. I believe this true value is all about bringing the human face of recruitment back which IMHO is something that online recruitment took away in the first place! I sense my own blog post coming…….

    • Brilliant – thanks for making me smile

  11. Hi Gary

    Interesting questions and for once I shan’t offer an opinion but give some stats.

    At Jobsite we produce a quarterly survey, a market tracker, which is carried out by an independent company. The latest one has just been published – attendees at last week’s Fresh Thinkers event each got a copy. The survey is conducted across all age groups and is not restricted to active jobseekers. The only qualifier is that they are non-rejectors of online job search.

    Latest findings are that 41% of jobseekers would consider using social networking sites as part of a job search. 57% use personal networks which, I presume, may or may not include an element of social connectivity.

    On the corporate side 10% say they would consider using social networking sites to find suitable candidates, though 28% use personal networks. Again this may or may not contain an element of social.

    The one thing that does come through the survey though is that job seekers and corporates are using a mix of methods – job boards, agencies, personal networks, company career sites…even some print advertising!

    • Oh no opinion? 😦

      thanks for the info Mervyn. It would seem that the stats vindicate the questions in the first place.

      i could reword to “If only 10% of employers would consider using SM why would candidates bother?

      I like the 41% of candidates one – “Would consider” but not actually do or have done or know how to.

  12. Gary

    Think my wording was misleading. The 41% either are or would if they were active (a proportion of respondents are passive).

    I think the interesting thing is the increase in use of personal networks on both sides.

    You and I both have people in our personal networks who were originally social connections. I think some of the real value for social networking in the recruitment process will be to facilitate the growth of personal networks/communities/whatever they’re being called this week!

    • Forgive me for being cynical of such stats. There is a massive gap between “would” and “do”. For example if we take your 41% and in the absense of any other validating data assume that only the 1% is the people who do use SM for job hunting purposes and the 40% are those that would. The word “would” is a definate but probably wrongly used and is perhaps best replaced by “might” which is an aspiration rather than intention. See where I’m going with this? The whole world is likely to say they would or might but my questions are related to those that do. We have to be careful how we look at and interpret data and how we present it

    • garethmjones
    • June 1st, 2011

    Great post Gary. For me, there are only 2 questions to ask:

    1. Will *insert latest fad/technology/demographic trend here* allow me to do what im already doing, but better/easier/cheaper?

    2. Will *insert latest fad/technology/demographic trend here* allow me to do something new, that i couldn’t do before that will give me a strategic advantage.

    I think Rob and Matt get closest to making the best point – that its gold rush fever. Im old enough to remember the coming of the internet to recruitment back in the late 90’s and the term ‘internet recruitment’ being used as Rob and Ben point out. Over time we forgot about it and it became blended into what we were already doing. Sure, some new capability came from it, but the fundamentals didnt change.

    But im inclined to agree with Hung in that its early days and i do believe the overall impact on our capabilities to resource, or more importantly, source, will be very big, once it hits mainstream in the next 5 to 10 years. It will take that long to blend in and become part of the DNA.

    to Lucians point, I also believe communities are key to the future of resourcing, but i disagree with him when he says that ‘every employer will have a talent community’. It just wont work out that way and unfortunately ‘talent communities’ is yet another bullshit bingo phrase that has emerged from this social focus. But thats another blog altogether… 😉

  13. Echoing what Matt said, it was very interesting to see the response at the Recruitment Mix session last week. People are at least trying it ‘to see’. Although around my table there was a lot of disillusion, as no-one had actually recruited using social media and out of 10 people 8 were working for companies where social media was banned in the work place.

    For example one person who worked for a large bank, said this made it very difficult to actively use SM, so they had to rely on the old boy social network of referral rather than casting the net wider through social media.

    • Nspire Recruitment
    • June 6th, 2017

    Nice Post Gary! Keep up the good work.

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