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: 794

Comment by Alasdair Murray on February 16, 2011 at 11:09am
Nope,sorry.I could recommend a few people for a price though. They will likely just fill up your in box and be irrelevant, but you never know!
Comment by Phil Welch on February 16, 2011 at 11:14am

Press hasn't been dropped completely. And I still go back to my point about judging which media is right to reach your target audience. Which is why press still works for local events like open days and new store openings.

The main problem for the press - particularly in the UK - is that fewer people are reading newspapers. Instead, more people are getting their news online. And recruiters, quite rightly, are following them. So, as those people move into social media, recruiters are following them there, too. As with any new media, it'll take a bit of time for them to find the best way of using social media to recruit. But it all comes down to the age-old marketing principle - get your message to the right people in the best possible way. And in an increasing number of cases, that will include using social media.

Comment by Phil Welch on February 16, 2011 at 11:18am
Alasdair - you seem to be deliberately ignoring the point that I - and several others - have made, tat nobody is suggesting that you should use social media in isolation. It's one of a number of tools you should be using.
Comment by Alasdair Murray on February 16, 2011 at 11:23am
I agree Phil,but some, as the poster above said, accuse others of being Luddites if they don;'t go along with those pushing social recruiting at every opportunity. Long and short of it is, there are niche and generalist job boards out there, also some of the media, both national and trade press, have decent careers portals. Why oh why do we need another avenue, other than to play very much second, or even third, fiddle? General profile raising by employers,no harm done, but directly addressing and attracting jobseekers? I'd go Guardian, Jobs Republic and creativepool every time as a copywriter and I am sure an Engineer could flag up a few existing sites they would use for a job search too.It;s targeted and we know they are going there for career related reasons. A big beef with rec ad agencies is the loss of revenue from having to settle for 15% of £200 instead of say £3.5k a press ad might have cost, but employers are still willing to pay for the online equivalent of the media space as they know it has a relevant audience. No such assertions can be made with Facebook and twitter with any confidence.
Comment by Alasdair Murray on February 16, 2011 at 11:29am
Phil, this is predominantly a recruiters forum so maybe not the platform to debate the merits of a direct employers annual social media recruitment plan. Many  recruiters won't have campaigns, they will use social media in isolation as a one off hit for a particular role. and some already believe that it has taken over from the job boards as the place to be. Witness the hordes of tweeted links to jobs, thousands every day, many badly written and semi illiterate with the allure of a dead sheep. As I say, it's of no consequence either way to me, but I am enjoying the various viewpoints, many from recruiters,some for,some against. The recruitment industry jury is very much still out and the evidence for is sketchy.
Comment by K.C. on February 16, 2011 at 12:35pm

Just read through the last few pages of this thread...its patently obvious how Jerry and Alasdair feel about any SM changes in the recruiting landscape.  It seems only natural that Alasdair from the UK where there is historically an imbedded culture of anti-poaching (although this is changing), and advertising for active job seekers is prevalent (the 2/3 of active job seekers that don't use social media attest to this) would feel that SM is a waste of time (the early days of the launch of England’s would counter that view incidentally).  For Jerry - and I would guess most individual or 2-3 desk TPR recruiters - he would of course not be tuned in to Social Recruiting solutions as it is a departure from how he earns a living and takes extra effort (as all changes to imbedded business practices do...) and as anyone in the TPR business knows - you have to work your butt off to keep pace with the work to be successful (with all the unproductive time spent using traditional recruitment methods, could it be any other way?).  Almost all recruiters that I discuss this with have the same response, “prove to me that it works, and don’t make it more work than I am currently doing!”  I’m aware that there are tons of TPR folks successfully using social recruiting as part of their work mix and no question that as tools begin to make their way into the TPR world it WILL become de rigueur

Incidentally, I DO appreciate reading both Jerry and Alasdair’s posts – they are always very educational!

Comment by K.C. on February 16, 2011 at 12:43pm

From where I sit, the real story is that the Social Recruiting evolution is just entering into the TPR world and as it is evolving in early 2011.  Its geared more for internal talent management as the best SM solutions currently are all about building an external community of top talent to draw from on an on-going basis and to maintain a sense of community for a company's current employees aiding retention.  An illustration of this is the polar opposite of what Alasdair shared about how UK job seekers view SM.  In a recent JobVite poll, 2/3 of American passive and active job seekers ARE using Social Media to propel their careers - that's like 80-100 million people - so perhaps external recruiters may not be using it - but a ton of your potential candidates are and companies of all sizes are scrambling for solutions to take advantage of the new “normal” (oh yeah, and this is NOT the future as the JobVite poll, just released, was conducted in  October 2010!). 

Comment by K.C. on February 16, 2011 at 1:48pm
Phil Welch - If you're still following this thread - I would love to hear more about the game app and FB example you wrote about last week (it had to do with improving brand awareness for a big company...).  We can do this offline if you're game - I sent you a friend request which allows us to privately message or you can send me an email - (we've looking into taking a similar approach and it would be great to hear how you think it worked...)
Comment by Paul Alfred on February 16, 2011 at 3:58pm
I used to get the Newspaper every morning .. Now I read it online ... Newspapers have either gone belly up or had to conform with the new trends ...  I could give countless examples of the Impact of Social Media on our daily Lives ...  Ok so we have some Recruiters that are just getting their feet wet , some have half a foot through  the door and others are neck deep ...  This is the reality ...
Comment by Alasdair Murray on February 17, 2011 at 3:36am
i understand the example about newspapers,of course. Here in the UK though there are several national newspapers with an online offering that includes a pretty decent careers portal. Then you have the trade press - engineering, catering, retail, finance, housing etc.etc. - all have online careers sections too. Throw in job boards, both niche and generalist and to be honest the average jobseeker would struggle to cover all bases if they had to factor in a trawl of social media too. Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of social media in general. I've gained business through it. All I am suggesting is that whilst SM may be good for employers profile building campaigns and household names recruiting, when it comes to lesser known organisations and the vast majority of recruiters, it will never be a vehicle via which you can simply post a link to a job and expect the floodgates of quality candidates to open. There are just far too many links being posted and tweeted and the quality is no better than that you can find on a targeted website i.e. the aforementioned media owned career portals and the niche and generalist job boards.


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