I’ve had a few run ins, albeit friendly exchanges of banter, of late with a few pro social recruiting types. Obviously it’s difficult to explain ones self fully in 140 characters or less so I thought I would take a bit longer to explain my stance.
I make no bones about it – I like social media. I said as much over 2 years ago in a blog that picked up on Ricky Gervais’s flounce (he’s since come back as we all know). Indeed I have gained business I would never have otherwise got from social media. However, to me it’s all about horses for courses and people’s motivation.
Here’s what I mean.
Prior to the online phenomenon that started with a trickle of IT jobs being put online and over time grew into what we have today, the press was the tried and trusted route to finding a particular type of person. Sometimes it was via the trade magazines (and indeed latterly the online equivalent), sometimes the national and sometimes the regional or local newspaper (I can only speak for the UK but I know from experience that the structure of the US press was/is somewhat different, not least because of the comparative size of the country). Sometimes even a combo of all three depending on the extent of the campaign and number of hires required. Radio and open days were often part of the deal – basically whatever it took to make enough noise based on the size of the project/numbers involved.
In each instance however (I used to be a recruitment media buyer as part of my day job) we would carefully examine all the criteria and available options, specifically looking for the reach each medium had in terms of our target audience, both geographically and by skill set. Sometimes we would target particular towns/regions where we knew a certain industry to be prevalent – aerospace is one that springs to mind. The jobs on offer may have been hundreds of miles away but the best people were worth pursuing and persuading, even if they didn’t yet know their next move was soon to be upon them. Ah, the good old-fashioned passive job seeker people now refer to with an air of doubt. Trust me, they really did exist and they were exactly the sort of people we would seek to track down.
What applied back then equally applies now, and it’s this – quantity doesn’t mean quality. Putting an advertisement in a national newspaper because it had a circulation of 3 million simply didn’t work. It was all to do with demographics. Each national newspaper had its own niche but, try as they might, for certain roles they could never persuade advertisers with any regularity to give them a try, because they simply didn’t have the right readership. The same could be said of mass circulation magazines like Cosmopolitan. Big numbers but not the right audience. People simply didn’t buy that magazine on the off chance there might be a recruitment advertisement targeted at them in it. They tried to launch recruitment sections but they simply never took off.
So my point? Well, several really. 1) When people try and wow me with the fact that Facebook has 800 million, soon to be a billion members I remain suitably unimpressed. Indeed my first thought is, what sort of demographics are we looking at. Second, what about the geographical spread, third, let’s say I am looking for an accountant in Birmingham. Does Facebook know how many accountants in Birmingham they actually reach? I doubt it. Why? Because one in four of all Facebook members actually fail to complete a profile that tells the world what they do for a living. You are therefore straight away unsure who 75% of the population of any given area actually are, other than by their age. Compare that with an accountancy institute and straight away you can be sure how many qualified accountants there are in a specific area should you want to send out an e-shot looking for specific qualifications and experience.
That’s just one example. The point is, and I’ll say it again – quantity does not mean quality. How do we know the best person for your job is on Facebook or Twitter? There’s a good chance if they are a highly skilled and much sought after professional they won’t be. Or even if they are, maybe it;s somewhere they got to chat with family and friends and get away from the rat race they're caught up in. i.e. what's their motivation for being on Facebook? I’ll concede at this point that if a household name employer – a Virgin or a BBC or an Apple – is looking for staff then social recruiting can work, but historically those sort of organisations people aspire to work for can advertise anywhere, even on the back of a cigarette packet or in a shop window and they will get huge response. We used to get them quite literally queuing round the block when we ran campaigns for British Airways cabin crew. But what about the Joe Soap average companies, the ones that people don’t yearn to be a part of?
What gets me is how a comparatively few success stories, most notably from large organisations like the aforementioned ‘names’ or The Army or big security outfits can be testimony to, or a reason for all and sundry jumping on the social recruiting bandwagon in search of the holy grail! “Job boards are dying” you’ll hear self-interested social media gurus with a motive cry. No they’re not. They need to evolve in some cases for sure, but if an employer wants to straight away target a particular industry sector, plenty of niche boards are out there – and they can give you hard facts and figures. The sort of facts and figures that media buyers crave. They don’t want the phone call that says “ere geezer, we’ll shove your job on 100 job boards for less than a ton”. The administrative nightmare alone would not be worth the apparent saving (which would actually turn out to be very costly in admin and failure to get back to every applicant).
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we’re making recruitment more complicated than it needs to be. And, importantly, we’re misleading people into thinking that because the likes of Facebook has 800m members that there’s the answer ion one cosy social network. No! Only 25% of FB members tell you what they actually do for a living. Not only that, the motivation for many being on there is not to be hassled with unsolicited intrusions, it’s to talk to friends and family.
Answer me this (because I really am willing to be convinced) - if Facebook is such a good medium for recruitment why oh why can’t I simply go somewhere online and find lots of readily available hard facts and figures that will stack up when compared to a niche job board or a trade magazine, online national newspaper careers portal or industry database?
The simple argument that Virgin and The Army have used social media for recruiting tells us nothing we didn’t already know. Put simply, The day that the facts and figures and comparisons that give a compelling argument for social recruiting are freely available online is the day I might just see it as something more than a 'may as well chuck it on the schedule add-on' for all but the few organisations that are, like British Airways, lucky enough to to have people queueing round the block no matter where or whatever they advertise for.