Social Media and Recruiting a Diverse Workforce - Can you have both???

One of the obligations of socially-conscious professionals is to “give back” to the community –
mentorships, presentations, cash, etc. Not that it is a heavy burden and I do what I can. Recently, I agreed to sit in on a focus group of HR professionals to strategize ways of attracting a diverse workforce to the
city, and our respective organizations. Our economic development group is very helpful to local companies with the problems they face and this is one of the ways they bring value. Once all of the pleasantries were exchanged, we got down to business and shared our best practices with companies who needed
some help.

The impact of social media was a big topic of discussion for recruiting in general– it’s cheap, it is cutting-edge and it’s effective. But does the organization support it? 33% of the participants in that discussion said “no”.
So I checked out the Emerging Workforce Study done by Harris Interactive, Inc. and just published last week by Spherion. I found that little round table of folks is par for the course. The study revealed that only 22% of companies are using social media to find and reach candidates. Ok, fine. If I believed my own hype, I might have stopped there and felt pretty good about myself and my organization by comparison.

Then I got to thinking, is social media really all its cracked up to be for creating diversity in the workplace? I have used social media for years in recruiting very hard-to-find design engineers and technology pioneers
and it works. The internet has always been a rich source for people of all backgrounds and talents so I never dug
into the demographics of social media websites. I never had to go that granular before with my sourcing metrics, as one category pretty much took care it – “Other Internet Source”.

Although websites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are effective for finding web-savvy people, be careful – the users of social media are predominately young and white. LinkedIn users, for example, are 2% Hispanic and 5% Black, (HR Strategist, 1/12/2010). If you recruit heavily from social media, make sure there is no
disparate impact in hiring. One sure way to do this on the front end is to vary your sources and not rely too heavily on one or two tools.

Social media does lend itself in other ways to a diversity strategy – by creating an employee branding campaign, building a company reputation of inclusion and community service, and by engaging current employees, (increasing referrals and decreasing attrition). I would highly recommend using these to supplement any talent acquisition effort and make it more effective in reaching qualified candidates.

Lesson learned: use social media to find talent but do it responsibly and as part of a company-wide strategy. Keep up-to-date on the latest research and findings from polls, surveys, and the experts in selection procedures. Make sure you know the pros and cons because the proverbial “sword” can cut both ways.

Works Cited:
Emerging Workforce Study, by Harris Interactive, Inc.

Heed new legal risk of recruiting via Facebook, LinkedIn by the HRStrategist, 01/12/2010

Views: 380

Comment by Joel Capperella on June 17, 2010 at 1:57pm
Thoughtful post ... I do believe it is hard to get an accurate picture on social media demographics. It seems a new report comes out with new perspective nearly every week. Facebook claims that their population mirrors the U.S. population, and Google Ad Planner has age demographics suggesting the largest population set is nearly evenly distributed from 25 to 44, and that the large majority of all social media users are over the age of 25 (this would include my mom, who just turned 70 last year) ( These will likely ebb and flow as development of a social platform advances, tools come and go, and Facebook tries to eliminate privacy from the English dictionary. Your suggests are incredibly relevant for those who seek to protect diversity in the workforce. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with the focus group.

Joel Capperella
Comment by John Heffron on June 18, 2010 at 12:33pm
I think the trap that many fall into is the pressure as recruiters to produce. Social Media can be the easy fix in getting people to our ATS and satisfy the hiring managers desire for a decent candidate pool. What I encourage my staff to do is build local relationships with diverse organziations and reach out to them on a regular basis to share not only our job opportunities but job seeking tips, resume review, etc and like you said, give back to the community. This has in itself turned into a tremendous pipeline where we spend little on advertising and yet have robust and diverse candidate pools. No matter where Social Media and technology takes us, recuitment can never be just about one strategy but a well rounded mix.
Comment by Nikole Tutton on June 21, 2010 at 6:09pm
Thanks for the comments!


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