The Impact of the Social Graph on Recruiting

For far too long, marketers, advertisers, and recruiters have undervalued the way actual decisions are made. Witness the interrupt driven nature of product advertising and job postings. The assumption is that by placing information in front of customers or prospective candidates, we will automatically convince them to buy our products or apply for work at our organization.

Real World Decisions

In the real world, this is not how things works at all. Most people make important decisions in consultation with the people they trust. Interested in buying a new car, ask your friends who have just bought new cars about their satisfaction. Interested in working at a company, track down friends or friends of friends who have worked at the organization and ask about their experience. While customers and candidates may initially narrow their selection field based on advertising, they will most certainly not be compelled into action by only this information. In the new social dynamic, people will increasingly rely on their network to verify and validate important information. However, this trend is not a revolution as some have offered. Instead, it is simply an evolution of word of mouth facilitated by the organization, efficiency, and growth of each individual’s personal & professional network.

Individual Network

Those who have been on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for any length time can easily recognize the behavioral change that is taking place. These sites enable individuals to connect with a wide variety of people including: elementary school friends, high school friends, college friends, and current & former colleagues. Essentially, each individual is no longer limited to gathering information from the small number of people they frequently talk to. Instead, they can broadly tap into an expanded network of connections to get advice on a wide variety of topics. Each individual is also loosely connected to the network of other individuals within their network through weak ties. Depending on the complexity of the desired information and the strength of the network (direct & indirect ties), it is theoretically possible to expand the reach of an individual network to thousands or millions of connections. However, all that really matters is getting connected to the right person(s) at the right time.

Weak Ties

As an example, someone in my network recently dropped their cell phone in water. Having experienced this several times personally (don’t ask me why), I immediately offered; power your phone down and put it in rice overnight. This connection was somewhat skeptical, so she further probed her network. After several other people chimed in, this person put the phone in rice and then followed up with a success story…another phone saved. Here’s the kicker, she’s a weak tie; I’ve never actually met this person in real life. But, our friends know each other. So, I was more than happy to share the insights I had into saving a water-damaged cell phone based on my prior experience.

Recruiting Application

Now, consider this example from the perspective of recruiting individuals for your organization. Let’s say you are looking for someone to fill a role and you communicate this information through traditional and emerging channels. Depending on how the role is packaged and the strength of your employment brand, prospective candidates will initially learn that your company has an opening. If they are interested, they will query their network to see if the information contained within your career site matches reality. Based on the alignment of this information with their target employment criteria, this candidate will reach out to supplement this information through either formal or informal channels. At this point, an employer can also tap into their network to help learn more about the potential candidate. Are they on LinkedIn? Have they been recommended? Do you know someone at their former/current employer? Through a mutual diligence process, employer and employee fit can be evaluated without spending lots of time, energy, and resources on untargeted interrupt-driven activities.

In previous years, employers and candidates might have simply done a web-based search on Google to find the desired information. The problem with this approach is the democratization of publishing and the corresponding lack of an effective filter. Anyone can get a blog on Blogspot or Wordpress or Posterous and push their information out. If these publishers are skilled in search engine optimization (SEO)/search engine marketing (SEM), their results will rise to a prominent position within search. As a consumer of this information, it is hard to assess the motivation,quality, or inherent bias. Is this information really the best or does the publisher simply have great SEO/SEM skills? However, if you receive information from a friend or a friend of friend; there is a much better chance that information will be of higher quality. The main reason being, people value their membership and status within a network. They will not intentionally jeopardize their relationships by offering insights on topics in which they have no experience or promoting products/service that they have never used. Instead, they will offer to connect you with someone who has the highest likelihood of offering the necessary help. In what other ways do you think the social graph will change recruiting?

–Omowale Casselle (@mysensay)

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About the Author: Omowale Casselle is the co-founder and CEO of mySenSay, a social recruiting community focused on connecting talented college students with amazing entry-level employment opportunities. For more social recruiting insights, subscribe to our email distribution list or follow us on Twitter.
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