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: 796

Comment by Jerry Albright on February 16, 2011 at 10:05am
Most of the groups there are so bloated with recruiters it just becomes more of the same (tired) "content'.  Frankly - I don't need to see the constant stream of every other recruiters job orders or job hunting tips.  It's just another overloaded self-promo site like all the rest.
Comment by Phil Welch on February 16, 2011 at 10:05am

Jerry - I refer you back to my previous comment. Social Media isn't just about the Twitters, Facebooks and Linked Ins (and, yes it is a social media site) of the world - and if that's what Alasdair's referring to, he's taking an incredibly blinkered approach. Social media is a tool for you to use in any way you see fit. Whather that's following a soccer team, keeping up to date with celebrities, or, yes, recruiting people to your organisation.

Paul's right - it's been in incubation for 6 years and is just starting to have an impact, so inevitably, there won't be too many success stories - yet. But the fact that we're starting to hear these success stories, to me, shows that it's a really useful recruitment tool to support all the other tools at your disposal.

(and, yes it is a social media site)
Comment by Alasdair Murray on February 16, 2011 at 10:11am
I'm not wearing blinkers Phil, rather, I am challenging those who DO advocate Twitter and Facebook and don't talk about other lesser known avenues. I'd be as interested to see case studies about those channels as  much as the elusive ones about the big 3.
Comment by Phil Welch on February 16, 2011 at 10:15am

Alasdair - people not looking for jobs through social media and not seeing your 'ad' are not the same thing.

Yes, people see social media as a 'social' platform. So if a researcher asks them if they use it when looking for a job, they're bound to say no, because they don;t see that as a social function. But if you put a job opportunity in front of them, they're not going to ignore it.

People don't listen to the radio for a job either, but that hasn't stopped countless recruiters using radio to attract people. If your audience is listening to the radio, whether they're looking for a job or not, then it's worth looking into. Same with SM.

Comment by Slouch on February 16, 2011 at 10:19am
Alasdair, in reference to your comment just now about Linkedin being an online CV receptacle, if companies like Top Prospect which I just wrote about here takes off and is successful, LinkedIn might become a one of the greatest places ever for employees to moonlight. I have no idea if it will work. I also just tested a free ATS that allows candidates to submit their linkedIn profile as a resume against the job they are applying for. I have never seen that before.
Comment by Jerry Albright on February 16, 2011 at 10:20am

For me it all boils down to a very tiny spot in the world - my desk. 

Am I making more presentations?  Are MORE candidates considering my clients?  I've got to say - no.  Most definitely not.  So should I feel inclined to continue trying to squeeze something out of the Social Recruiting world?  No.  Not unless I have no need for cash flow.


Is it an emerging platform?  Well I guess it is.  Can someone in my position afford to stake my claim early and await the arrival of my desired candidate pool?  Perhaps spending months/years in the "early adopter" role?  No way.


Funny how the question seems to be "Can anyone show me a result or two from Social Recruiting?"  - as if somehow putting a few hires together would justify this entire charade?  (Pronouced "sha - 'rod" for those of you in the UK)


What I find interesting is how the discussion isn't "how much better" Social Recruiting is.  It's "does it even work?"  Anyone whose livelihood depends on sending an invoice from time to time is most likely NOT putting much emphasis on the SM Strategy.



Comment by James Todd on February 16, 2011 at 10:51am

It seems that anyone who questions that recruiting is evolving into a social media driven industry is branded a luddite on this forum.  Based on what I have read here and in some of the articles on other forums the SM tool of choice is LinkedIn.  However, when you look at LI's revenue streams "advertising, premium subscriptions, and hiring solutions" you can make a pretty good case that the only evolution occurring is that of LinkedIn evolving into a job board.  I run a niche recruiting agency, I really don't have a dog in the fight, if SM becomes an effective way to reach my audience, I will hire some folks to make it work, as of yet I have not found the justification for that investment.  On the other hand, internal recruiters for big firms in select industries have demonstrated a return on investment that is now warranting the major expenditures that will generate the 200+ million in revenues linkedIn will earn in 2011.  Alasdair, like you I am waiting to hear from the first independent recruiting getting great results from SM.  We have all heard from the folks who earn a living developing tools,strategies, marketing plans and websites, just not from the sales people on the ground who make a living placing candidates.

Comment by Alasdair Murray on February 16, 2011 at 10:53am
"If your audience is listening to the radio, whether they're looking for a job or not, then it's worth looking into. Same with SM" - I agree that was always the age old argument with press advertising too. We wanted to appeal to those not necessarily looking for a job, so why has press been dropped so readily? I know it still works for open days, new store opening recruitment drives etc. as I have clients that use it. Can it just be down to cost? Radio ain't cheap. It's an interesting debate. I'm not involved in servicing clients anymore but still interested in the whole rec ad genre. I get the feeling that rec ad as in industry is slow to pick up the social media baton as so few case studies abound and other channels still work.
Comment by Alasdair Murray on February 16, 2011 at 11:03am

Jerry, more than the odd testimonial or case study would certainly help the cause, but by and large they seem to be as rare as rocking horse shit and from organisations that, as I described above, could float a cigarette packet down a river with a message on the back and attract people - Virgin, The BBC, Apple, Microsoft etc. etc. Back in the day when I was a media researcher if I had contacted a newspaper and asked for facts and figures if all they had was one exampkle of someone finding a job through their newspaper and were very cagey and protective and considered me something of a fool for daring to ask the question "does it work?" you could guarantee that I would not be using them as a recruitment vehicle.


There is,of course, a vast difference between an employer embarking on a profile raising campaign across social networks and a recruiter looking for a one off hit. As far as the employer building the profile is concerned, of course, no harm done.It's inexpensive and it gets your name out there.  would I recommend social media as a recruiting tool for recruiters? I would have to say, with the evidence, or severe lack of it, at hand, right now the answer would be 'no'. There will be exceptions to the rule, but you're missing out on such a large chunk of your audience and you really have no idea what has  motivated someone to fire up twitter or facebook. If someone visits a niche job board you know they're not there to follow Justin ****ing Bieber or talk about last night's tv!

Comment by Jerry Albright on February 16, 2011 at 11:07am
This is getting too heavy for me.  Anyone know a Sharepoint Developer in Cleveland?  Mechanical Engineer in Wisconsin? Robotics Software Developer in NYC?


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