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: 708

Comment by Joseph P. Murphy on February 9, 2011 at 3:49pm

Social Media, as @GerryCrispin stated is just a contemporary version of print - a communication vehicle to a population. 

Every company, regardless of size, has a brand, an image, a following.  Some companies still put a sign in the window - Hiring Now.  It is a low tech version of social media - communicate to those in your sphere of influence.  If a company like Starbucks just had its employees join, it would be a community of over 100,000.  They hire a few thousand folks a year.  A company with 50 employees might only hire a handful per year.  They do not need for a million person fan base.   Scale may be size relative as to how social media works.

 ATT was nominated for an ERE award in 2010 for their social media initiative.  As you say Alasdair, unfortunately, no data on it's impact - at that time.  To their credit, the program was in its infancy.  It does take time to collect data, do the analytics and examine impact.

One of the great advantages of big companies, or companies with big social media communities is data to analyze. It can be determined which Source yields the best qualified candidates and which source has the highest conversion ratio.    Here is a case study of one company doing just that.


Like most business processes, thoughtful design, carefully chosen metrics, data collection, and analysis are required for evaluating success.

Comment by Steve Jenkins on February 9, 2011 at 4:54pm



Bravo!  Though the form of communication/connecting we now call "Social Media" is definitely having an impact, I agree with you---we have to askhow much? 


Right now, I look at it the same way I look at most multilevel marketing "opportunities" (MLM); there WILL be examples of successes, just not that many.  Yet, those successes will be broadcast as certain proof that it works wonderfully.  Like our mothers always said, "consider the source"

Of course there will be instances where a candidate and company fell in love because of a tweet, a Facebook entry, etc.  Let's talk ratios, ROI, etc.


The most painful question I ask an over-the-top SM evangelist is the same I ask of an excited MLM'er, "How many hours did you devote to it?  OK, now divide the proceeds by the hours"  If they can show me a decent profit, and it can be duplicated, I want them to teach me!


Have not seen it yet.  Not saying it won't in the future.  Alasdair, please let us know if you see verifiable stats.  Income divided by hours.


Until then, I will be using it as another wonderful (one of many) tool.  Not the end all that self described, "visionaries and gurus" purport. 



Comment by Andrew Hally on February 9, 2011 at 10:24pm
Here at Bullhorn I filled two contractor/consultant roles on my team myself last month using our new tool, Bullhorn Reach. We've also filled a bunch of perm positions. Lots of our early users are seeing success, not just reaching candidates but developing business as well. While I agree that social is  another means for doing the networking that recruiters have always done, the richness of information available via social networks and profiles (versus just resumes in a database) and the transparency that the Internet often brings could very well transform parts of the industry!
Comment by Samantha McGawley on February 10, 2011 at 4:21am
I agree with Steve - without any specific targeting the purpose of social media is redundant let alone productive for recruiters specifically. Look at Graeme Anthony youtubed his CV to the cmpany he wanted to work for and successfully got the job. You're telling me that it is a coincidence that he found the right channels to access Frank PR? That they hadn't been grooming various platforms of social media and using engaging info and creating conversations about topics that would interest our Graeme? Unlikely. Even if the candidate isn't going to engage in direct conversation with the company about a job - I think that the persona and presence is a massive influential factor in obtaining new candidates.
Comment by Paul Basile on February 10, 2011 at 9:34am

Who knows? As you point out yourself. Some people are seldom right but never in doubt. 

I don't know either about the future of social media and recruiting. But I do know that the internet enables people (recruiters and everyone) to find out a huge, scary amount about almost anyone. I can know your address, who you go out with, what you say in your emails... Go see, and then try to avoid nightmares. 

Personally, I find social media fun, useful as a connection to people but hugely lacking in anything of real, relevant substance.  (In recruitment, that means performance-predicting factors for jobs.) Gerry Crispin is right - it's just another medium.  Except, it can be (is) so invasive.

Comment by Alasdair Murray on February 10, 2011 at 1:37pm

I don't want to work for a big company either, but do you not believe though Morgan, that enough channels already exist for people to find a job? I mean there are generalistjob boards, nich boards, sites attached to traditional print media, plus, to a lesser extent these days obviously, the press itself. Why, particularly in a market that sees levelsofhigh unemployment would social recruiting suddenly be the new fangled thing, the place that all of a sudden delivers what tried and trusted means can't, whether you want to work for a big or small company?

To me, recruitment is all about the message, just like it is with those sexy tv ads we see on our screens. Attraction, motivation, allure - they're all key. There is no magic social recruiting button. Recruiters really aren't missing a trick by not embracing social media. The people are out there. they still pick up phones, browse job boards, respond to creative advertising. In short, social recruiting is an add on for the name companies. They'll get response through it, whilst smaller companies and recruiters won't, barring rare exceptions, find it works for them.

Comment by Steve Sill on February 10, 2011 at 2:17pm
@Alasdair "I mean there are generalistjob boards, nich boards, sites attached to traditional print media, plus, to a lesser extent these days obviously, the press itself." those are not enough, especially when you consider that many companies look for a particular skill level. My company is at 60 employees, and we hope to cross 100 by the end of year. We have a high technical bar, which the vast majority of people cannot meet, and so we have to develop alternative avenues of resume flow. Social Media is just one of those avenues.
Comment by K.C. on February 10, 2011 at 7:27pm

Little late to this party, but thought I would chime in anyway...

The premise of your point that only large companies benefit from SM is unfounded.  In fact, it’s the smaller firm with nowhere near the resources of a large company that leverage the Social Web well beyond their size.  Social Web activity for recruiting is evolving and many of the examples that you describe are a bit outdated already...  The example that Andrew Halley from Bullhorn described (a small company btw) is a terrific illustration where the benefit IS found.

As Gerry Crispin mentions, the ability for expanded understanding of "inner stories" of both company and individual is just beginning.  Not sure about the UK, but here in the US the percentage of people considering a career move is unprecedented (recent Jobvite survey says its 67%), and you can be sure that Social Web activity for this will be immense (on both sides).  Gerry's example of people bailing on interviews after finding out what the manager was really like is just one small example.  Think about Employee Referral programs that are already big sources of new hires - in companies of all sizes they are experiencing emp referrals that are off the charts - so many that they can't process them and are challenging their employees as to the quality of their referrals - all this is due to Social Web activity where employees are getting the referrals from…

In addition, you mention that people are not becoming part of Online Communities due to their interest in protecting their current work situation...please understand that LI and FB are not the only places where Communities exist as there are numerous more targeted Communities where confidentiality is protected so there is unfettered networking (my firm Clean Journey is one of many such examples of this). 

With all due respect, the thought that Social Recruiting is a fad is also pretty myopic...and

Comment by K.C. on February 10, 2011 at 7:29pm

...and perhaps you may want to widen your search for examples.  Using online social tools for recruiting has been happening for years not months, and in the last few years we’ve been able to harness its true networking potential as more and more people become tuned in to the Social aspects of the Internet (600MM on FB is a pretty good start…).  The Social Web is merely an extension of what we have had at our fingertips since effectively the mid 1990's with the advent of OCC.  There is no fad here folks - only question is how to make the BEST use of all the new directions we can now take... (no hype - just reality).


Finally, if you still need examples of where it is working then you’re probably a very busy hard working recruiter - and hopefully because you're filling lots of job orders!  Here are just a few (none of these are our clients btw...), Opower, Amyris and Veeco (Veeco is just getting underway with their program) they are very small fast growth companies who have active management that get the word out about their businesses.  Interestingly most of these companies have very strong Employment Brands and are leading their business sectors.  They also use their own websites to foster much of their presence and then spread this content throughout the Social Web driving interest and hires.  There is little doubt that their success is due to their Social Web presence and the corporate DNA they have been able to create.


The point that new Social Web practices are silver bullets is just as unfounded.  Without a strategy, making use of the new information that is available about candidates and vice versa - these new tools won’t be as valuable – but that can be said about anything that comes with no directions.

No question from where we sit here in Boston that when customized to the situation, new Social Web possibilities are having profound effects for companies of all sizes.


Comment by Sandra McCartt on February 10, 2011 at 8:50pm

I'm curious K.C.  I reviewed your web site.  It appears that you have sold some companies on having your company set up talent communities but none of them have any members at least none in the midwest or Northern California regions.  It doesn't appear that there is any unfettered networking going on with any of these communities since they all show 0 members.

I am assuming that you have promoted the talent communities on twitter, facebook and linkedin so it doesn't appear at this point that you are getting many takers.  What are you hearing from people you invite to join them as to why they don't ?


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