Social recruiting? It's just a passing fad (unless you're a household name company of course)

Microsoft. Apple. Google. Coca Cola. Virgin. The BBC. What do they have in common? Each of them could advertise on the back of a cigarette packet, put a card in a shop window or float a message in a bottle out to sea and they would still get a good response to their recruitment campaigns. Indeed all of them receive hundreds of unsolicited applications each and every year.


Go to a conference and listen to the head of HR of one of these corporate giants wax lyrical about how social media is an integral part of what they do, has generated great interest and they have even filled a few vacancies through it. Great. I’m genuinely pleased for them. But what about the rest of us? The companies not so many people have heard of or aspire to work for? The unknown SME that may well offer better terms and conditions and brighter career development possibilities?


You'll hear plenty of talk about social recruiting is where it's at. Build a relationship with people. Get a fan page on Facebook. Get people liking your company. Get them wanting to work for you because you sound like such a great, down to earth yet aspirational organisation. The theory's great. The trouble is, it's just a theory. Do individuals really want to announce their interest in working for a particular company when someone from their current employer might be snooping around? Is declaring your love of a certain organisation something people are happy to do in a group or are career aspirations strictly an individual, private thing (not to mention the embarrassment of an adult confessing to ‘liking’ a company. It’s like the virtual note passed under the desk at school - ’I really fancy you’)? Truth is, no one really knows for certain.


What is certain however is that if you go looking online for testimonials about social recruiting as a success story, you'll find they are few and far between. Yes, you'll find the household names extolling the virtues but, as I said, what about the hundreds and thousands of other companies that don't enjoy such a high profile? The information to back up the theory just isn’t out there.


Easy, the social media gurus will tell you. Companies just need to go out there and get themselves a Facebook fan page, tweet a lot, blog about how great they are etc. etc. “Build it and they will come” mentality. But, if every organisation did that then social networks would merely be full of companies talking about how great it is to work for them, so how would a potential candidate be able to differentiate? How would seeing the wood for the trees be any easier? If anything it would get more bewildering and confusing.


Quite simply, social recruiting is an over-rated fad that will only ever get results for well-known companies that people have aspired to work for for years. There, I’ve said it.


Sure, there’s no harm in having a company page that talks about how great an employer you are, just as tweeting your vacancies may possibly generate a bit of interest. But, the social networks themselves are so time critical, so full of transient inhabitants who a lot of the time aren’t looking for a job but just want to talk about their day or crack a joke or tweet a link to a picture of a redneck house built out of multi-storey caravans. There are so many other channels they can use if they’re looking for a job. Plus, no one really knows how many accounts are active and how many have been created by individuals who, once the novelty wore off, just went off and explored the latest fad to come along (right now, they’re probably on Quora. In six months who knows?)


Don’t get me wrong. I think social media as a whole, has its uses. I myself get business from it. It’s also a consumer products company’s dream (low outlay, add in to the whole marketing mix etc) But, as a recruitment vehicle for anyone but the Fortune and FTSE companies, the household names and the high profile? Sorry, but no (though of course I would be more than happy for recruiters to post comments about successes they have had via Twitter, Facebook, Linekdin and the like.


Remember, when I blog, I like to be contentious and generate a lively debate, so don’t take it personally. No one really knows what's down the road for social and this is just my take. Why not prove me wrong with some testimonials that aren't from well-known companies?

Views: 710

Comment by Jerry Albright on February 9, 2011 at 11:26am

Right on the money!


I've been wondering though.  If I do somehow manage to wrangle a placement or two out of the whole SM mess - am I obligated to say it works? 

Comment by Alasdair Murray on February 9, 2011 at 11:43am
That's exactly what it is, a hit and miss mess. And, as an ex mnedia researcher and buyer, try as I might to find just a handful of testimonials on the web about how great it's been for recruiters or smaller companies, I can't. The good thing about it is it's free,so no harm in having a holding page on Facebook or Linkedin or whatever, but really, it's not as if there is a shortage of candidates these days with unemployment the way it is. Itmakes me laugh when I see guest speakers atconferences are from Google,Microsoft or A N other big name compnaytalking about their success with social networks. OF COURSE THEY'LL BE SUCCESSFUL. They'd have been successful ten years ago if they'd done the same thing. They already have a 'want to work for' profile.I just think that recruiters particularly, are being sold snake oil and having their hopes raised to unachievable heights when it comes to social recruiting, I really do.
Comment by Jerry Albright on February 9, 2011 at 11:47am

In a second review of your post - I think maybe you're missing one of the keys to success as claimed by the SM Gurus:  Content.


You see - if you join a bunch of "communities" and add nonstop strings of job hunt tips, resume tips, interview tips, and (did I mention) job hunt tips - then you'll be seen as a valuable member of said communities.  Once you've achieved this level of conversation candidate will then flock to you.


I'm almost there.......:)

Comment by Lesley Hardy on February 9, 2011 at 1:11pm

Its a tool.  It has given recruiters access to passive candidates, but unless you are prepared to work any contacts you have, its like any database.......full of people you cant hope to have a "relationship" with unless you put in the mileage.

While people will happily register for this and that, your right, they dont want everyone knowing their plans, or that they are on the market.  

Im a huge fan of social recruiting, but its another nice step in the process of being out there in traffic.

Comment by Becki Dunaway on February 9, 2011 at 1:26pm

I agree with most of your post.  Social Networking is simply that -- networking.  It's just another tool in the Recruiter's tool belt; until the next "fad tool" arrives.

Comment by Steve Sill on February 9, 2011 at 1:40pm

Social Recruiting is branding support for all of recruiting.  It lends support in telling the story of your company and is usually not as stuffy as the Corporate Page (if it is, it tells the candidate to look else where).  It is one more tool at your disposal to entice candidates to apply, or continue with the interview process.


Hopefully you try to differentiate you page from what others have.  As will all advertisement (Free or Not) you need to find a way to standout.

Comment by Alasdair Murray on February 9, 2011 at 1:43pm
I am extremely interested in hearing all viewpoints on the subject.I just genuinely cannot find much documented evidence of social recruiting success on the web, other than for 'name' companies. I guess my cynicism to a degree comes from the fact that I was on the boat when BBS (bulletin board services) took off in the late 90s. We had a common interest (it was a soccer team, but that's another story), we were able to exchange views on different subjects, we could throw out a question and someone somewhere in the world would have the answer. We decided that meeting up would be novel. "Hey you're "Red Fox". I wondered what you looked like. "Spiderman's Nemesis" good to put a face to the name. Isn't this fun?" - and I guess we thought that this sudden face to face interaction with total strangers who shared a common interest but up until then had been inaccessible, could, somehow, change the world. Truth is, eleven years later, I seldom visit that site. Yes, I've made a few friends from it. I even got small bits of business out of it. But, it was a fad. A moment in time. A novelty. It was just a tiny part of life's tapestry. Twitter and Facebook are the modern day equivalent of those BBS. People are making new acquaintances they would never have had. They're meeting up with strangers and laughing at the fact that some of them have weird names online but in person are quite normal. But, are they basing their whole career around that bunch of strangers? Are they dropping all other existing means of finding a job? There are so many unanswred questions and yet when you hear social media gurus and heads of HR at 'name' companies talk about how social recruiting will change the world, it must be hard for those experiencing that social interaction I experienced back in the BBS days, for the first time right now via Twitter et al, to doubt the word of these experts. Me? I'm just a cynical old fashioned sort of guy who questions whether in ten more years time we won't be sayin
Comment by Gerry Crispin on February 9, 2011 at 1:53pm

Some, large, well-known firms can still post a small advert in a local paper and get candidates to line up around the block. That neither proves...nor disproves the value of print in 2011.

You are certainly right to question a lack of data but concluding that it then supports your negative claims is as narrow as those who drive us all nuts with their 'hype'.


As more data comes in, lousy firms (or divisions, or teams), in both large AND small firms will find that their use of specialized interactive media opens doors 2-ways. As a candidate, I may be able to see just how successful you really have been in getting me into the firms you claim to work with. As a candidate I'm going to easily drill into that brand hype and discover much more about the hiring manager's reputation than he or she may want.


Social media may become more important in the recruiting process but not necessarily in the ways firms currently intend.

Recently, for example, a mis-sized company in Toronto invited a slate of 5 candidates to interview. they had ticketed and expected them in...until, at the last minute 4 dropped out. As they got closer, they checked out the hiring manager and team w social media and found it to be wanting. 

Personally I see SM having much more of an impact on leveraging 3rd party capability to deliver the goods for critical positions most firms are not prepared to recruit with internal resources...which has nothing to do with large well-branded firms.


I think the biggest flaw is the assumption that a new tool will replace the quality of the interaction or substitute for intelligent decision making. The added value of a recruiter doesn't change whether using the pony express, telegraph, telephone, us mail, direct mail, newspaper, email, inmail, wall posting, text message or tweet. However the medium can impact scale, cost, efficiency, speed to present, first impression, quality of content, perception

Comment by Steve Sill on February 9, 2011 at 1:57pm
Well you should also look at your Target Market (i.e. what do the people you are recruiting like to do in their free time).   Many embedded Software Engineers don't care for Facebook and much fewer on Twitter so if you are looking for those folks its probably not worth it.  If you are looking for UI Designers, PR, Sales, Marketing, Web Developers then I suggest you do.  Most of the people I recruit first check us out on Wikipedia, and then check us out else where.  PR does our FB page and Twitter Acct (which I'm am glad for) but they tell our story which makes my job a whole lot easier. I just started a posterous page where I republish articles about my company and other articles on Social Media.  It is getting traction and has provided another source of resumes, for which I did absolutely no work (not a lot, but enough to make me happy).
Comment by Gay Carter on February 9, 2011 at 3:09pm

I only wish we could convince companies in the Silicon Valley - California and other areas in the U.S.. They are all about their websites filling their positions for them, even the unknowns.  Just ask any recruiter who finds their job on the companies’ website, or tracks it down because they've seen it on a  networking site. The response more often than not, we're not using outside sources.  These companies are sophisticated, they know how to use LinkedIn, Facebook, and other sources. They hire into their recruiting positions, people from the outside recruiting field who have honed their networking source techniques. Then again, being the home of Google, Facebook, etc. maybe our area is just more sophisticated and knowledgeable about social networking. But it seems to be widespread nation wide in America.


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