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: 791

Comment by Paul Alfred on February 13, 2011 at 5:21pm
Alasdair ... Any recruiter who tells me linkedIn, Twitter and Facebook does not help them ... Tells me they really have no idea how to truly utilize SM or maximize its true Power ... Candidates will always have a choice ... This is about how you maximize all the tools to access passive or non passive talent ... If folks fail to invest the time to learn how to utilize these tools and understand their "Best Use" then it will remain a mystery all of these tools have a "Best Use" and provide different types of results and serve different purposes folks still don't get that ... SM is a big topic - speaking about it in generic terms is pointless ...
Comment by C. B. Stalling!! on February 13, 2011 at 6:43pm
 If facebook or twitter both went out of business I would still be making placements. It it one tool that can be a pain in the neck....
Comment by Samantha McGawley on February 14, 2011 at 6:30am

CB Stallings, I understand your point but the fact that you wuould be making appointments even if the social media world crashed is irrelevant. You can't discount something because there are other ways of achieving a similar goal. Yes if the internet hadn't been invented we would all be achieving optimum results through traditional media - but it has and so as recruiters we harnessed its power. Recruitment is holistic these days, whether you "like" something or not shouldn't mean that it isn't effective or useful. I think as technology continues, our early adoption puts us ahead of the game. We're using it to communicate with our candidates and drive for solid relationships. It is an addition to our service. It has to be used holistically to be effective.

Comment by K.C. on February 14, 2011 at 9:13am

Sandra - we've helped a handful of companies make over 100+ new hires and other companies make between 10-20 new hires using Talent Communities, still others have used their Communities for gaining marketing insights and building (or recasting) their company's overall brand. 

From a hiring standpoint, it all depends on how accepting the company is to new methods.  A traditional industry company with long term stable products and services are much less likely to adopt a new process than a company that is pushing innovative concepts and product (I'm sure you get this...)


Most importantly, HR and internal recruiting is very difficult to move.  We rarely make our introductions to this group and instead go to the C-Level or Department Head to introduce the Talent Community concept.  Of course we do the same thing to gain traditional TPR work, but with Communities this is amplified by entrenched recruiting and HR staffs that typically avoid new activity  (mostly out of fear that they will not get new hires from it and be judged poorly - understandable to a point - making it more important to have the departments bring the Community conccept to them for us...).

Samantha - I think you have a very level headed approach to innovation...

Comment by Samantha McGawley on February 14, 2011 at 9:18am

Favourite comment of the discussion

"From a hiring standpoint, it all depends on how accepting the company is to new methods", K.C that is very true and makes the whole game so much more interesting and challenging.

Comment by K.C. on February 14, 2011 at 9:57am

It sure does keep things interesting Samantha, and this point follows on the heels of what you  said about how incorporating technology keeps us "ahead of the game." 


Over the weekend there was a movie about early 1800's naval combat in which the Captain of one of the ships admired a toy model one of his crew made of an enemy ship - he admired the construction as being the "technology of the future..."  Technology is not new - its the study and application of new techniques.  Those that can make use of them to their advantage usually do so...glad to see that you are one of them!

Comment by Phil Welch on February 14, 2011 at 10:25am

I can see what you're getting at, but I've never heard anyone claim that using social media is the be-all and end-all of recruiting. Instead, it's a useful - and still very new - tool that helps recruiters identify the best - and, importantly, the most committed - candidates.


This is why it's working well for household names. True, there are plenty of potential employees out there in these recession-hit times, but that makes the task of finding the candidate who's the best fit even more difficult. At the moment, social media works best as a tool to reinforce and promote employer brands. By identifying the social platform your target audience uses and then engaging with them, rather than broadcasting at them, you start a dialogue that can prove fruitful when you have roels to fill. It's about a continuing conversation, rather than ad hoc messaging when you suddenly need to recruit. Currently, this is where its strengths lie. But in the future, who knows?


Already, niche social platforms are emerging for people with specific interests. Their emergence will offer real opportunities for targeted marketing. So it's not going to be all about Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. As always, it'll be about developing and delivering the most appropriate messages in an engaging way, through the most relevant channels, to your target audience.

Comment by Mat von Kroeker on February 14, 2011 at 11:45am
I was asked to look into social media as a marketing tool for my company (which is relatively small) and the end result was too much time and resources spent for very little ROI.  That's another reason why the F500's can take advantage of this "fad", and will have the resources to take advantage of the next one.

btw---  I look for very technically skilled candidates--- and have tried social media numerous times with passive candidates--- with very little, if zero results. And the active candidate's are rarely qualified.  The way I see it, if I had to rely solely on social media for my position? ... I'd be unemployed very quickly.
Comment by Steve Sill on February 14, 2011 at 12:16pm
Well I don't think anyone has said that it is the end all be all.  It is just one part of a vast net that a company should be casting to retain high quality talent.  You don't need to be a fortune 500 company to take advantage... thinking that you need to be is very short sighted.  It is a way to control the story about your company by reinforcing what you tell the candidates, and it is a way to solicite for new candidates.  Is it the top producing way... "no" but it has generated resumes submissions and even a couple of hires for us last year.  I understand why it might be a waste of time for agencies, but on the corp side its a no brainer.
Comment by Alasdair Murray on February 14, 2011 at 12:19pm
Thanks for all the response folk. I think the only thing that's for sure is that no one is really sure if social recruiting will be with us forever or not. My observations as a former media researcher and buyer are a) social networks are only inhabited by a small percentage of the overall population b) We don't know what drives people there in the first place. Is it to look for a job or to chat inanely with their friends and family c) anyone who has the time and inclination to post everything about the minutiae of their lives wouldn't necessarily be the sort of person I would want working for my company. d) Linkedin I will concede,may have some mileage in it, but it's not really a social network as such, more a stand alone online CV facility that people can browse through. e) Facebook is just too facile for anyone who is serious about their career to have time to get embroiled in, other than to chat with family and friends. They don't go there to find jobs or 'like' companies. f) Twitter is just saturated with tweeted links to hundreds of different recruiters and job boards. There is no finesse involved. Again, it has very limited appeal to those who are serious about their career whilst other channels exist. I could think of more reasons why social recruiting is so hit and miss but time doesn't permit.Thanks again for the input though.


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