Twitter, Xing, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr.......there is no escaping the continuing dominance of social media in the press. Just as you think you have got your head around it all, someone invites you to connect with them on the next big social networking platform. The question is, just how important is social media to the recruitment industry?
I must start with a confession. I am a big fan of social networking and Web 2.0 platforms and whilst the debate as to whether social media can yet be regarded as an essential business tool still rumbles on, there is no doubt in my mind that companies neglecting these evolving technologies in the coming months and years will find themselves at a distinct disadvantage.
Admittedly, I think a lot of companies that have actually embraced these new technologies are still a fair distance away from figuring out how to accurately integrate the tools available to them alongside their existing marketing strategies and how to generate a healthy ROI. The point is though, they are trying. Why?
Well, aside from those who are signing up to social networking purely because everybody else seems to be doing likewise and they don't want to get left behind, I think most companies (like X4 Group) can smell potential. And whilst many of us haven't quite figured out how to nurture and maximise this potential to date, we know that we must keep experimenting until we get it right. For example, as a professional recruitment company we want to be accessible to as many clients and job seekers as possible and social media allows us to engage with large audiences in real time, which in turn helps us to speed up the entire recruitment process and ultimately results in happy and satisfied 'customers'. This is surely the key criteria when it comes to deciphering the importance of social media to the recruitment industry. Does it improve our processes and make us more efficient and does it add value to the services we provide?
I think the simple answer to this is yes, if it is integrated effectively with traditional recruitment methods - in particular the one (and arguably only) thing that if you removed from the recruitment process would render the industry deceased; the art of conversation.
Alan Whitford, founder of the European recruitment community website RCEURO.com summed it up perfectly for me in the latest "Recruiter" magazine (20 January) whilst talking about this year\'s killer apps.
"But remember, social media apps, be it Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, are all just one very small tool in the communications kit bag. For me, the most important killer app is still the telephone"
Whilst we can eternally debate which methods of social media are going to revolutionise the industry, the irrefutable fact is that should social media suddenly cease to be, the recruitment industry would not fall to its knees. Conversely, if we lost the ability to communicate with our clients and job seekers -face to face or via the telephone- recruitment would come to a grinding halt.
So when I read articles about companies employing so called Social Media Recruiters, I get somewhat confused. Surely this is like advertising for an Email Recruiter or a Job Board Recruiter?
In my eyes, the core skills for a world class recruiter remain constant throughout the evolving recruitment world, albeit with a necessity to gain an awareness and familiarity with the advent of tools designed to make the job easier such as email, job boards and now social networking. In my eyes it is these core skills (such as the ability to gain trust and effortlessly liaise with individuals at all levels) that will always make a good recruiter, regardless of the latest technology or fad.
Only time will tell just how important social media becomes to the recruitment world. Personally, I think it will have a fairly major impact over the next year or two, providing people don't expect it to generate instant income and effectively do the job of a recruiter.
To put it in context, I am sure there are thousands of people out there who can create digital campaigns, write blogs on countless websites, twitter to the world about all and sundry and load promotional videos to youtube (all potentially valuable skills in the recruitment process), but can they negotiate and close a deal with the Managing Director of a highly budget conscious organisation?
Now that requires true social skills...