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: 746

Comment by Paul Alfred on February 10, 2011 at 10:02pm

Alasdair let me check its 2011 LinkedIn came out hard core 2004 that gives us 6 years ... Yes companies have made tons of use of SM ( LinkedIn in particular) Tons of Startups unknown to you that have been bought by big players before they even got their feet wet sitting in Incubators have built teams with LinkedIn...   SM works its not a Fad and if you incorporate it in your Marketing Sales Strat its amazing ... 


If you think SM is a fad you need to wake up from the dream you're in ... Did I mention its 2011...

Comment by Alasdair Murray on February 11, 2011 at 2:52am
I didn't say SM was a fad, just socialrecruiting. Yes, there will be some anecdotes about success, but it is far from tried and trusted universally and indeed gets feedback from recruiters that ranges from a "total waste of time" to "yes, I'verecruited using social networks". As I see it, Twitter is just full aggregated feeds and links posted from recruiters to poor content that they call a job ad. Yes, if used as part of  a far wider plan it can help build awareness, but good candidates already know where to look and have so many other choices,plus, most don't want to 'engage' and 'like' and build a relationship with a would be employer. They just want to see a job that appeals to them and apply for it.
Comment by K.C. on February 11, 2011 at 12:33pm

I would agree that strictly using LI, FB and TW by driving people to review job ads is not taking full advantage of the Social Web for recruiting.  

As a TPR for many years, I have been paid to uncover the top 10-20% of talent for each project.  From my experience, these folks do not chase jobs, answer ads or have any interest in becoming a candidate - their too busy doing awesome work.  I earn my fee by finding the best and then determining which of them were best suited to the client company.  At which point I have to get them to see that the client challenges are more interesting and could lead to better things if they were to decide to take on these new challenges - by making a change. 

If there is a way to do this more efficiently - well of course I want to know.  About ten years ago, we began building Talent Communities for our "anchor tennant" clients.  In these Communities we got top 20% people intrigued by the client mission and then fed them an email 3-4 times a year to keep them in the loop (we also called them 2x a year as well to check in with them).  Over time we were able to learn the "inner chemistry" of most of the Community participants so we could be better agents for their careers.  This Community grew to about 100K people managed by our staff.  As fewer openings began to crop up during the Recession we began to automate the process and use software to do much of what our thinning staff would do.  We became fixated on what communication type would work best without a personal voice attached. 

We began making use of Social Web techniques that took this process to another level.  This evolution brought us to launching a company ONLY using these practices and in our new business we designed them so a client could build their own Communities with a bit of help from us. 


The objective is to allow a member to confidentially build a Professional Brand webpage that is comprised of answers from a short survey of

Comment by K.C. on February 11, 2011 at 12:34pm

...survey of questions (no more than 5-10 minutes to complete) indicating their AIM's (attitudes, interests, motivations), along with other Social Web info that they have previously created (blog, comment, video, etc.), to adds a bit more of what they're all about. 

This Professional Brand info is only viewable by the select management of the Communities they decide to join.  We use various data to text or email members that maintains their interest while client management creates "short lists" of people their interested in.  We offer numerous methods of online networking events that "short listed" people can be invited to that provides a way for members to be cultivated and further assessed for fit with the Director or Manager's team or division (short 45 minute events where all 8-10 participate by solving a problem or issue).

Its all about using Social Web techniques to provide a fuller picture of a pre-hire or pre-candidate situation, providing enormous efficiency improvements in the hiring process (much less time spent and wasted for example).  Of course, being able to cultivate 8-10 people that are on-target eliminates the example that Gerry mentioned the other day where 4 out of 5 interviews got canceled once interviewees realized that the hiring manager wasan't too spiffy - this would be less likely to happen because both parties would now know alot more about each other (just think of the admin time alone that it took to schedule those 5 interviews!). 

Sandra: we have only just launched and are concentrating on client development (and building company specific communitites using their channels of SM).  It is our hope that we will be able to generate enough revenue to be able to launch a campaign to build a Clean Journey Community beyond the one we already have this Spring (boot strapping is difficult...) - obviously that will improve our overall value proposition tremendously.  Being that we are in New England, we are concentrating

Comment by K.C. on February 11, 2011 at 12:37pm

...our efforts on the Northeast and as of yet have not made it to your part of the country - although we have a vast pool of knowledge of the national Clean Energy Technology landscape and have ranked most of the companies for Career Investment potential (7,500+ reviewed, about 300 selected thus far...).

Hope that sheds a bit of light...we would certainly be interested to entertain any questions or comments anyone may have...

Comment by Alasdair Murray on February 11, 2011 at 12:39pm
I think the Sunshine Band should get to have their say now :-)
Comment by Sandra McCartt on February 11, 2011 at 12:50pm

KC.  I tried to go back to your web site to review the size of the communities in the N. E.  don't know if your site is down or it's my machine but can't get there.

I understand starting something new it does take time.  My impression was that you had communities up and going thus my question about the reluctance of people to join.  What are the size of the communities you have going in the N. E.?

Comment by K.C. on February 11, 2011 at 3:08pm

One of the built in aspects of driving Community involvement for us is our subject matter - Clean Energy Technology and Sustainability.  Both of which have people (particularly ages 25-34) that are passionate about supporting and working toward a "Greener" future.  This certainly helps us in our quest to grow Communities for companies that work in these areas.  I assure you that this only helps and we've been able to build Communities for just about any company - Alasdair was partly right about types of companies best suited for SM - a company that is employeecentric, has visible and excellent leadership, has a product or service that is making people take notice - and embraces the Social Web practices are obviously going to have much more success (the story is still important regardless of the medium...).  

On our website you will not see the numbers of community members - it only reflects people that have joined thru our site - our client sites are where we track the progress (for now its where we collect new members too).  The software we provide is not visible to non client for numbers it depends (low 100's is typical) - most importantly, TC's are not about huge #'s but the quality of its members...

Comment by Sandra McCartt on February 11, 2011 at 7:20pm
Do you have any metrics as to number of hires made through any of the talent communities you manage for clients?
Comment by Suresh on February 13, 2011 at 11:32am

I think the biggest misconception is that Social Recruiting is Free. If you add up all the time spent in researching and going through all the niche groups, is it truly free?


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