Is social recruiting a symptom – or a solution?

Is social recruiting a symptom of larger problems in the world of recruitment – or is it a solution to recruitment woes? Let me argue both sides of this question:

Symptom: def. “something that indicates the existence of something else”

Argument #1 – It’s a symptom: The #1 complaint about job sites in my recent survey of job seekers was lack of response from employers. Candidates want to interact with potential employers – and the most recent crop came of age with Facebook and related social media platforms. So it’s only natural that they would expect the same spill-your-guts exposure from employers – and that they’d be unhappy if they didn’t get it.

It’s also why recruiters and companies savvy enough to actually interact with candidates would see better results. These early adopters stuck their necks out – and (allegedly) reaped the rewards.

But in reality, was social recruiting the solution? Not really – the real problem was lack of communication between employers and candidates. Social recruiting was merely a symptom of this deeper problem – the proverbial canary in the coal mine.

Solution: def. “the act of solving a problem, question”

Argument #2: It’s a solution: Social recruiting is an evolution in the way employers find candidates. Just as job boards replaced newspaper ads, so does social recruiting replace job boards. It’s a new paradigm – employers and candidates chatting back and forth, exposing information, getting fuller understandings of each other.

In this scenario, social recruiting is a solution to a basic change in employer and job seeker behavior: from one where employers held all the power and candidates meekly acquiesced, to one where candidates hold as much power as employers (and aren’t afraid to use it). Platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter enable employers and candidates to engage directly, without interference. The outcome? Better hires.

Which is it? Symptom or solution? Neither? Both? What do you think?

Views: 22

Tags: LinkedIn, Twitter, job, media, seekers, social

Comment by Jason Monastra on November 17, 2010 at 1:35pm
Quite an interesting article given the social networking platform press exposure over the past few years. Recruiting is the natural business vertical where these platforms could create immediate positive results, however the use of the tools and exact processes for making them effective are far from being defined or have "best practices".

You are completely correct about the lack of communication between employer and employee. It is a significant issue and continues to be with the evolution of automated screening tools and vendor management solutions that create a large gap between the actual needs of the client manager and the recruiters/vendors, etc responsible for solving their problem with the right candidate. But do social platforms fix that issue - YES and NO. Yes in the fact that they create communication channels outside of the norm that allow managers and recruiters to speak. NO in the fact that the corporate processes are the true issues at hand and therefore need revision for there to be true positive movement. Social networking has simply provided a work around.

In terms of the communication with the recruiters and candidates, social networking has provided large benefits, reaching people outside of the "active" seeker and bringing to light networks that can pass word of mouth opportunities across a closed network of people that are typically in the same business field. This is a huge advantage and allows a savvy professional to work with the experts in the field to locate another expert.

I see it as being neither a symptom nor solution. Social networking started for other reasons and someone quickly realized that leveraging that power for recruiting makes sense - therefore it does not qualify as a solution to any problem.

My question remains as this - when are people going to start speaking with people again at the company - candidate level so the proper people get the jobs in a timely manner. Too many automated tools, HR people, etc. in the way for the managers in the trenches to get the people they need. Till that changes, there is no solution.
Comment by Leigh Cosgrove on November 18, 2010 at 4:20am
Ywo very compelling arguments. In argument two you talk about evolution from newspapers to job boards to social media, so what's next on the evolutionary path? Maybe mobile media? Maybe something we haven't seen yet? Or maybe we will go full circle and return to human interaction which we all recognise as an important part of the process. A back to basics approach which digital natives will feel is as different as those candidates who had to adopt the new web based approach to their job search. Who knows?
Comment by Jeremy Haskell on November 18, 2010 at 10:15am
I'm intrigued by the idea that now job seekers and employers both have equal amounts of "power", as you put it. This seems to me a dangerous idea. There has been a lot of disappointment voiced from both job seekers and employers about the current talent market, and I believe that the biggest source of this frustration is unrealistic expectations. I feel like this just raises the bar on the fantasy of what the job market will look like. Sure there is an evolution in employment practice, but I would stop short of calling it a revolution. The pieces needed and the steps required are the same today as they've always been, it's just a different way of putting them together. Social Media is neither a problem or a solution... it is a technique and a channel. Nothing more.
Comment by Heidi on November 18, 2010 at 3:37pm
The use of social media tools is great! I do not think the problem is social media the problem I believe goes back to the fact that no innovative tools will take the place of real interaction. Social Media Channels facilities exchange i.e. a car is a medium for transportation but it is meaningless if the driver is incompetent.

In essence a great recruiter still has to know how to recruit effectively, legally and efficiently. The tools are out there to help us do "part" of our job. The problem comes in when people assert that the tools will eliminate the need for the operator. This is a people business and when you are dealing with human beings - human interactions is imperative.

The foundation of a strong organization begins with its people. Thus if the goal of an organization is to a build winning team the recruiting strategy has to be multi-dimensional in considering the various facets of key players from executive level to entry-level. Each role and the ability to attract and source these individuals will be different so it goes without saying….

Recruiting is ineffective if you try and design the process to be like a manufacturing plant. I.E post and pray; shout out job from the roof top….

A strategic organization thinks about how their people strategy aligns with their business strategy and then integrates the most effective tools to help them achieve their overall goals. Finally, they recognize that one size does not fit all.
Comment by Pamela Bovaird on November 18, 2010 at 5:16pm
Social Media is a way to brand your company and a way to deliver your message in real time to reflect what is happening in your company at the time. This is a great tool for sending a message out about your company culture and responding to misconceptions or inaccurate information that is being perceived about the company. It can also be used to create a household name in the mind of the consumer or in this case the mind of a potential employee. Social Media is not for immediate responses or immediate hires, but rather a way to keep talking about and showing who your company is. It is important to notify and add new posts regularly so others can interact with your company in real time. This is also important for branding and keeping your company name in the mind of the readers. It is another means of getting your message out the masses.
Comment by Jason C. Blais on November 19, 2010 at 9:12am
Jeff, another great post- thanks for stimulating the brain cells today! I do believe that social recruiting, as you identify it, doesn't actually exist in any meaningful way at the moment. The most common way that employers use new media and social networks is to simply drive people back to their career site and job postings. Fundamentally, this is the same as placing billboards by the side of the road. If you know lots of people are driving on a certain road, you put a billboard there to advertise something. Likewise, if you know a large number of people are in social networks, you advertise your employment brand and career opportunities there. What I'm saying is that by and large, social recruiting as it exists today is merely comprised of placing marketing content on new media and social networks to drive potential hires (buyers) to action.

Pamela, to your point, I do believe that in order for social recruiting to have value, it MUST be based on immediate response and engagement, otherwise, you're still at the billboard page. Users of these resources have expectations that your presence in a social network means that you will read and respond in a timely manner to their comments and inquiries... if not, then why is an organization there? The reality, though, is just as you state- people use these platforms at free marketing resources more than anything else.... which is actually a cost effective method for leveraging them.

As for Heidi's comments, I agree with almost all of what you're saying, but I fall off the track when I hear people say that social recruiting cannot be managed as a manufacturing plant. In my experience, not only is that how the vast majority of employment marketing done, it is also what job seekers want, and what should be done. No company can allocate the time and resources to filter through social media for every single hire they make. Likewise, job seekers want to know where to go to find job opportunities in a simple and easily digestible manner. This is why job boards (and even newspapers) still and always will have value- it's what the consumers want (in this case consumers being job seekers). The hard truth is that most companies fill most positions with the manufacturing mentality of recruiting because it's efficient and it works. That being said, employers must have other means at their disposal when it comes to filling those hard to fill jobs with those hard to find candidates, and this is where the value of social networks and new media comes into play.

So, Jeff, to your initial question, I don't think an answer can be established yet. Currently, employers don't have the staff or technology to interact and engage with everyone in social networks, despite the fact that interaction and engagement are what social networks were built for. While there is some value in leveraging these resources to reinforce your employment brand and promote your job opportunities, very few have found ways to use this process to fulfill their large scale hiring needs.

My last point is that from my interactions with job seekers, the major frustration that they feel is that they get very little feedback when submitting a resume to an employer. This has always been the case, but the sense of frustration has grown now that employers are increasing their presence on platforms that are designed to communicate, because in truth so few employers are paying folks to sit all day and reply to inquiries from facebook "friends".
Comment by Jeff Dickey-Chasins on November 19, 2010 at 9:24am
All I can say is - great discussion! Thanks for your comments and keep them coming!
Comment by Heidi on November 19, 2010 at 1:47pm
I appreciate all of the insight! I think we all can agree that strategic organizations must implement and integrate a comprehensive recruiting strategy which includes social media encompassing branding and marketing.

I am not arguing against branding and marketing being an integral part of the recruiting process but there is a notion that simply broadcasting a message to the masses is sufficient enough to reach your target audience. This is simply not true in all cases! Because, some people choose not to engage, they do not have access to certain channels or they may turn the noise off... the list goes on. Furthermore just because a company places an ad in the newspaper (past) or a job board does not guarantee that they will get a response with a qualified candidate (past and present).

What I am hearing is that a good marketing strategy supersedes a good recruiting strategy. A good Marketing and PR strategy is a part of but should NOT be thought of as the sole driving force behind a good recruiting strategy. This one size fits all mentality is unacceptable as it pertains to effective recruiting.

Case in point
An organization can use various channel to send a message out but, if the message falls on deaf ears it is pointless. Therefore I would argue that an effective recruiting strategy goes beyond “marketing broadcasting” or mass production recruiting- again it would depend on the organization, location and position.

For example let’s say a highly reputable organization with a strong brand presence is searching for a Maintenance Mechanic or a Center Director with specialized skills in Elkhart, Indiana (or any rural community). The job is posted on major job boards, tweeted, placed on Facebook fan page and ran in the news paper but the company has no success in filling the position. The message is broadcasted but the intended audience does not hear it so the position goes on unfilled. Now you can take those same positions and post them in another city let’s say Houston, TX and you get a floodgate of candidates. You can reduplicate the process across the US and get different results. I have seen organizations waste hundreds of thousands of dollar in advertising and get poor results. On the flip side I have seen them use the same strategy and succeed.

Experience has also taught me that one size does not fit all. Every organization is not a well know brand and they must decided if they want to put the resources into a social media strategy for recruiting purposes. Perhaps the number of hires they have per year does not warrant the need to employ someone full time for that effort.

When crafting a social media recruiting strategy, I think the most imperative questions an organization must ask itself is: who I am looking for, where do they hang out and what effective tools should I use to find and connect with them. In my experience this "manufacturing style" of recruitment was not always successful based upon the type of position in which, the company was recruiting for. If the position is an entry-level customer service role it might work but if it is a physical therapist position you better have a well thought out strategy because everybody is doing the same thing…

Again, every organization is different and they must decide how and when they will use social media to attract talent; it can be used for building communities, marketing, branding and pr or actually sourcing people thorough various channels. At the end of the day you still have to connect with people. ..
Comment by Paul Basile on November 22, 2010 at 9:38am
Good set of questions. If you have data that suggest that social networks lead to better hires, I would love to see it. My sense is that quality of hire is unchanged, or maybe worse. What is clear is that social networks generate huge increases in numbers of candidates (it is so ridiculously easy to apply) and that employer-candidate communication goes down as a result: employers can't handle the volume.

Social networks are certainly an evolution in the medium for recruitment, and they create a walls-down perception (also reality?) that probably is a good thing. It's not a solution, any more than any medium is a solution. The internet was cool, but not particularly useful for most of us pre-Google. Social media are cool, but not really break-through useful for recruitment... not yet.
Comment by Tim Martinez on November 23, 2010 at 10:33am
I enjoyed your article so much that I decided to create a blog response to it. The conceptual groundwork you've laid down could spawn endless dialogue. I hope people will read your article and continue the conversation. Hope you enjoy my response, which I'll post on Recruiting Blogs soon. In the meantime, check it out at: http://interns.smashfly.com/2010/11/23/categorizing-social-recruiting/. Thanks for the awesome post!

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