How important is Social Media to the recruitment industry?

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 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...

Views: 381

Comment by Brad Hogenmiller on January 26, 2010 at 11:47am
I would agree with that 100%.

When I started 3rd party recruiting a few years ago I made a big push with social media as a recruiting tool. I was aggressive on Linkedin, and an early adopter with Twitter and other tools. So much so that I neglected the phone, and my numbers reflected that.

Just like getting a shiny new convertible sports car for you've got to know when it's appropriate and when it's not. Your daily driver is still the phone in most cases.
Comment by Will Branning on January 27, 2010 at 1:12pm
Good article! I too like using some of the social networks as a tool. However, I can only point to one placement that has come from a social media site. The phone and my verbal communication skills are my key ingedients to success...
Comment by Harold Ensley on January 27, 2010 at 10:43pm
Great article, I'm going to echo some of your points and the posts above... a vast vast majority of hires are still from effective old-school marketing and working the phones.

I think social media expands reach... that's possibly a very good thing, but it's no quick win. I have doubts that it will ever replace job boards, etc. People that say this, should recall that the Beta/VHS VCR was supposed to eliminate movie theaters. Don't drink this collective koolaid.

I tend to think of traditional methods as the walmart of recruiting -- whereas social media is more of a specialized store. If you need 20 people, fast, yesterday, do what always works. If you just need a few hires, with specialized skills, build a network. Whether that's a social network, or an old school network... it's up to you, and which approach best reaches your audience.

A good recruiter is like a 5-tool baseball player, they can do many things good, and it contributes to the health of their overall game, but at the end of the day, it often comes down to batting average. And if you can't close a deal in this business, it will be a very short career indeed.
Comment by Kenneth Campbell on January 27, 2010 at 10:45pm
This is an interesting discussion and high on my list to watch. In 1982 I got involved in my first Silicon Valley start-up and was instructed by the CEO to hire 1200 sales, tech support, marketing support and operational people across the US in less than 3 years! That would meet the staffing of our PC retail stores. I did it but with a LOT of help from retained and contingency recruiters. My interviewing skills were quickly honed and I had a staff of 8 out looking for the key people.

The biggest problem was screening resumes and getting some initial information to weed out the people who didn't meet the initial specs. No internet, cell phones...ok we had the fax!

Since then I've been involved with a couple more people intensive start-ups and reorganizations and the use of the internet has greatly helped in the process.

Now I see the expansion of Facebook and LinkedIn as two primary (IMHO) sources to initially screen candidates. And this works both ways - the candidates can position themselves for the "ah hah" moment that occurs when a recruiter or hiring manager sees their profile.

Social media, in the next 3 years, will evolve as THE initial screening tool for recruiters / hiring managers. Yes...I agree that the phone conversations are key and that will be the next step after the initial contact via the social media introduction.

I helped the founder of evolve his plan - take a look at that application that combines social media and the power of on demand internet video. We won't even recognize the processes of finding and be found in 5 years.
Comment by Slouch on January 27, 2010 at 10:57pm
Hey Kenneth, I think this is the domain name you want to point to

The domain name you have there does not work on my computer. I'm not sure if you have ever seen Adam do a backflip and land exactly in the place he leaped from so next time you see him ask. It's amazing.
Comment by Lisa Howarth on January 29, 2010 at 5:17pm
This topic has been on my mind for the past several months. I was an early adopter of Facebook and Linked In, ICQ and Messenger before that. But I admit that I find these social media tools getting a little overwhelming to manage and - other than re-connecting with friends and former colleagues - have not seen the holy grail of business value out of them as advertised.

My first few years in business I wasn't even on a networked computer, never mind a social network. Once I got into recruiting, plain old-fashioned file folders with detailed candidate interview notes were how my best people were placed.

Don't get me wrong, technology allows us to find things (and people) faster, but if you can't process the immense volume extremely quickly then you're getting no value from that technology.

I have found that, to be successful in this business, it's the relationship that's the key. If my candidate has 100 recruiters who can now access her 24x7, who's she going to decide to work with? If put in those shoes myself, I'd work with the person who took the time to get to know me and my needs, not the one who randomly "tweeted" me.

In the end, I think all these networking tools lead would-be recruiters to think this is an easy game. Finding the names and resumes is not the hard part, it's building strong relationships and being able to properly read and match candidates' and clients' needs that set the star performer apart from the pack.

Maybe I'll post this later on my Twitter account :)


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