10 Predictions for Recruitment & Staffing in 2012

Social Recruiting finally went mainstream in 2011 with corporate and agency recruiters embracing LinkedIn and internet sourcing as a required skill for the modern recruiter, shifting away from job-board advertising to digital headhunting. It was also a year of continued economic uncertainty ending with fear of a double dip recession in Europe and beyond. Despite this we will remember 2011 as the year that the recruitment industry took its head out of the arse of the global recession and decided to fight back! Our industry bounced back DESPITE global economic uncertainty and adapted to new tools and international markets that had been previously untapped. 2011 was still a poor year in the grand scheme of things but we made it the most successful in nearly 4 years, we didn't wait for the economy to bounce back and rush to our rescue; instead we innovated, became leaner and found new ways to grow.

So, as we face into what we hope will be another growth year for Recruitment, here are our Top 10 predictions for 2012:

1. LinkedIn will reach 300 million users by the end of 2012.

As of December 27th 2011, LinkedIn has over 146 million members, up from the 100m milestone that the company announced 9 months ago. With a growth rate of 50% in 9 months, we predict that growth will continue to gain pace throughout 2012 as most developed or developing markets hit membership levels equivalent to 30-40% of their working population. Ireland currently has 614,000 members (28% of the available workforce), up from 300,000 since this time last year. On a similar growth trajectory LinkedIn will double up globally in the next 12 months. Expect the 200 million mark to be hit sometime in June 2012 with membership growing at a rapid pace in Q3 and Q4 leading to an announcement about the 300 millionth profile sometime in December 2012.

2.  Facebook's decline in usage will continue throughout 2012 as Facebook Apathy takes a firm hold.

Facebook has had a roller-coaster year. The first half of 2011 saw Facebook's total number of users surge to over 800 million with the time on site and average number of page-views growing to dizzying heights. The second half of the year has seen most of those latter gains lost as the average amount of time that each user spends on Facebook has dropped off considerably, the largest such decline in the social network's history. According to stats from Alexa.com, the network's total internet user reach has barely grown in the last 3 months, hitting a miserable 1% growth rate after growing at the rate of 10% for each previous quarter in 2011. Average time on site has dropped from a whopping 34 minutes this time last year to only 24 minutes over the last few months. It is still the biggest social network in the world but we are sensing massive Facebook Apathy amongst its most loyal users as newer, shinier things have come along to distract us in 2011. Recruiters will undoubtedly continue to flock to Facebook during 2012, as they should, but 2012 may well be remembered as the year that Facebook went the way of MySpace. Use it while you can because it may be old news by the time we hit 2013!

3.  Video Assessment will go mainstream for Corporate Recruiters.

Video interviewing, video CVs and video assessment have been around for years. Many may have written the technology off as "unnecessary" for the modern HR or recruitment department but we predict that 2012 will change our perceptions of video technology in the recruitment mix. Faster internet speeds and an explosion in smart phone usage on fast, wireless networks has put a video camera in the pocket of nearly every potential jobseeker, demolishing many of the previous barriers to video usage in our industry. The "Great Recession" has also motivated corporates into operating at increased efficiency with a lower cost base. This drive towards "lean recruiting" and the ubiquitous availability of hardware and broadband will allow companies like Sonru and products like Google Hangouts to really make their mark in the adoption and implementation of video assessment in the corporate recruitment world. We stress the video "assessment" piece as we believe that interviewing remains a very dynamic activity that will necessitate live interviewers and interviewees. Video assessment can pre-screen applicants before the formal interview or can act as second stage screen following a CV phone screen. For agencies, the relationship is often more important than the assessment so we don't predict widespread adoption of video assessment amongst agency recruiters...yet. For corporate recruitment the job application process remains transactional, which suits video assessment whereas there is a much greater value in agencies interviewing and assessing face to face or via phone/ video dialogue.

4. Twitter will explode as a Recruitment Communication Tool

Twitter's power to both interrupt and inform us continued apace in 2011 with steady growth in the network's user base and time on site. TV networks now display the hashtags of their leading shows on-screen and decide on whether to renew new programmes based on Twitter chatter and mentions. In the world of recruitment, most corporate and agency recruiters have finally "got it" and started using Twitter during 2011. Or did they? In our experience, only 20-30% of recruiters are using Twitter but this is still a massive increase on the 5-10% that were using it at the beginning of the year (these particular stats come from the show of hands we ask for when we deliver our Black Belt in Internet Recruitment training, so whilst they aren't particularly scientific, we have still seen Twitter usage grow massively amongst the 600+ recruiters we have trained during 2011).  Most recruiters, however, are still only using Twitter as a broadcast channel, i.e. a way to post jobs in a defined stream. This can be quite good for SEO purposes but SEO isn't what recruitment is all about. Fundamentally recruitment is and has always been about relationships and conversations. We predict that 2012 will be  the year that the current "broadcasters" will switch their use of Twitter to "conversing", a style that we expect they will find more natural. A minority of social media savvy recruiters have been using Twitter to start conversations, engage with candidates and make hires for years, but the mainstream recruiter has not had this epiphany yet. I urge you to check out @techmegan's excellent blog post on how she made 3 hires in 6 weeks using Twitter as an example of the type of epiphany that is coming! Expect more like her in 2012.

5. Social Media Litigation will become the single largest headache for HR departments.

Most social media experts tell us that we need to be "true" or "honest" on social networks, ensuring that we share at least some of our personal side as we blog, tweet or post on social media sites on behalf of our employers. This is generally good advice but when building contacts is part of your job, aka sales or recruitment, the question of who owns those contacts is going to become an even hotter issue. As 2011 drew to a close we were informed of a recent case involving an American Blogger who is being sued by his employer over who owns his Twitter followers. This reminds us of the 2008 case in the UK involving a recruitment consultant working for Hays who was forced to hand back his LinkedIn contacts. Since that UK ruling there haven't been too many cases that have come to light but they were early days. We predict that the latest Twitter case discussed hereis going to lead to a flood of similar legal wrangles in 2012 involving not only contact/ follower ownership but also content posting, sharing of trade secrets, discrimination and privacy. If your HR department still doesn't have a digital communications policy for all employees, get it done now. We predict that HR bodies such as SHRM and CIPD will be expected to be the industry's experts and advisors in this area and will have to work hard throughout 2012 to ensure they are on top of this potential legal nightmare for our industry.

6. Mobile will dominate the total spend in recruitment websites/ career portals.

Have you launched a mobile recruitment app yet? Is your careers page or agency website optimised for mobile? My answer to this question used to be "when the mobile traffic to my site gets to a serious enough level, I'll fix it". 6 months ago this website received an average of 5.1% of its visitors from mobile devices (topped by iOS at 85% of all mobile visits); now we receive 8.5% of our visits from mobile devices (iOS devices still top the list but have fallen to 73% of all mobile visits).

Bill Fischer, the genius founder of TheSocialCV tweeted me during #truDublin last month to inform me that there has been a 400% lift in the traffic via mobile operating systems to job boards during 2011, rising from 2-8%. This pretty much correlates with what I am seeing on our site. Check out your own, it's probably the same four-fold increase. 2012 is the year to get serious about mobile if you have not yet done so. LinkedIn launched the "Apply with LinkedIn" button in July of this year, removing any excuse you had about not needing to have a mobile optimised site to accept CV applications. Job seekers now have the ability to send a customised CV (well, a customised LinkedIn profile anyway) to an employer with just a couple of clicks on a mobile device; have you added this functionality to your site yet?  Google Adwords suggests that there were 83,100,000 searches for the term "jobs" from desktops or laptops in the US last month. The same analytics tool suggests that there were 11,100,000 searches for the same term on mobile devices during the same period. That represents nearly 12% of all job searches on Google in the US. Did you even know that SEO is completely different for Google on a mobile device? It starts with having a mobile optimised site and we predict that nearly 30% of visits to job sites and around the same % of Google job searches will come from mobile devices by the end of 2012. The whole debate over whether to launch a mobile app or just optimise your careers site is unlikely to be settled anytime soon so if you have the budget, do both. Apps are huge and likely to become more important than mobile optimised sites as long as you can think of a good reason why users would want to download your recruitment app. If you're the largest employer in the world, people will likely download an app to search your vacancies but if you're an SME or a relatively small agency, dont expect jobseekers to download 30 different apps to view your jobs and everyone elses. Think about user benefits and what they need before you think about your own needs. Oh, and also expect gaming and mobile to converge in the recruitment space during 2012.

7. LinkedIn will move aggressively into the HR software space.

Let's face it, LinkedIn's paying customers are nearly all recruiters. I am sure there are many non-recruiters who throw $20 a month at them but the serious customers are corporate recruiting departments; LinkedIn barely offer any products not aimed at recruiters. Let me state something, I am a huge admirer of LinkedIn, they have built a product that has literally transformed the recruitment landscape. It's not pretty nor particularly social but with nearly 150 million members, it works. LinkedIn hire smart people and I know that they have been working on some pretty cool products throughout 2011, few of which have yet to see the light of day. I predict that we will see the company launch their first batch of HR specific products during 2012. These products won't service the recruitment function but will instead aide the HR function by providing them with access to unparalleled analytics about workforce behaviour, compensation and benefits, the availability of key skills, job mobility and labour mobility. Corporates traditionally spend a lot more on HR software than on Recruitment software so you can be sure that LinkedIn won't miss this trick. On the recruitment front, expect them to further restrict the access available on a free account, perhaps removing current employer data from members who aren't connected to you and removing some of the advanced search functionality. They're also more likely to block or remove more recruiters who "abuse" the system by spamming their members with unsolicited InMails and Messages about available jobs. Have a look back at our 4th prediction above if you are concerned about your InMails becoming less effective.

8. Free or Freemium will become the new ATS pricing model.

The price of applicant tracking software aka recruitment management software has crashed in the last few years. This has largely been driven by the introduction of SaaS as the dominant hosting platform amongst the main players (Bullhorn, Bond, Taleo, Job Science, etc) but differentiation has become less about price these days as average per-user licenses have hit the $1k mark and is now more about quality of implementation, support and socially integrated features. Pioneers such as Jerome Ternynck and his product, SmartRecruiters are already out there offering a free platform to employers who in turn only pay for added services such as job-posting and social integration. Even then, the SmartRecruiters model is to bulk-buy these credits from third parties and use their buying power to offer them to their customers at a lower rate than they could obtain directly. It's a win-win and a very smart business model! We expect to see some of the main players take the lead in 2012 offering their products for free on a basic install with paid versions or options including social search and social parsing, job board and social media posting, video assessment, Apply with LinkedIn and Apply with Facebook (prediction 8.5!), etc. You will pay for a professional install or migration and 24:7 support, where the true cost lies. Once you make the software free it is easy to quantify the benefits of each product and also to see where the real value lies, i.e. in installation and support. The only question is, which of the major players will go first?

9. Third-party Recruitment Platforms will emerge as the New Job Boards

Job Boards are broken; they have been so for some time but they are not dead, they just haven't been fixed yet. From a job-seekers point of view, the act of searching for a job in one place and then being able to apply for it in that same place is simple and for years it worked really well. But the combination of the Great Recession and changing attitudes to Web Communciation, aka Social Media have meant that this 15 year old system needs a re-haul. At the same time, there have been several companies trying to "crack" Facebook for job seekers, noticeably BranchOut and BeKnown (Monster.com's property) but we're still not sure that job seekers are comfortable mixing their personal lives with their professional lives. This concern is why LinkedIn works so well, it's a CV database masquerading as a Professional Networking site, and our employers are also in on the deception. But professional networking is never going to be confined to just one site, i.e. LinkedIn, hence the appearance in recent years of several newrecruiting platforms, noticeably BraveNewTalent and Tribepad, that allow employers and professionals to network together and discuss jobs, careers and opportunities in a place that is social yet removed from their Facebook or Twitter friends. For all the effort that success on Facebook can cost, an employer can set up a branded Talent Network on BraveNewTalent for free in a matter of minutes. There are already thousands of job seekers and employers using the platform, some for free and some on the premium version and the guys at BNT tell us that they have ambitious plans for a new release in the coming weeks and months. We predict that products like BraveNewTalent will emerge as the modern job board, a common place to go to see all job listings, learn about a whole range of employers and most importantly, network with these employers socially. As these "networks" grow, employers will also be able to search for talent and invite them to join their communities (CV database, anyone?). Will CareerBuilder, Monster, et al finally see the light and move in this direction or will they just buy up someone like BNT or Tribepad and piggy back into Recruitment 3.0? Only time will tell...

10. We will share an increasing amount of content and learning via video.

In November 2011, US internet users watched 21.1 hrs of video on the internet, an increase of 35% on the previous year and 22% alone over the last 6 months. It is hard to deny that we are all watching an increasing amount of video over the internet. Facebook marketeers and SEO experts will tell you that video is more powerful as a method of social engagement than text and will massively increase the chance of your website/ career site being found online. Also, a recent case study from Unbounce suggests that video will double your chances of converting a web viewer from your landing page. Recruiters create social content to drive engagement on social sites that will hopefully lead to relevant applications from job-seekers on their websites therefore we should be paying an increasing amount of time to video as a way of massively improving the return from our efforts. As web viewers (read: potential candidates) become more accustomed to watching video on the internet, they will come to expect more video content from potential employers, recruiters and job-sites. Watching a well-made, clever or informative video for 60 seconds is a heck of a lot more engaging then reading text on a web page!  We predict that video will play an increasingly important role in employer branding, recruitment advertising and website navigation (i.e. informing job seekers how they can and should apply for your jobs). From an industry standpoint we also believe that recruiters are going to become more at ease with interactive e-learning in line with the wider population. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently announced that it will be making available online all of the content from its numerous courses for free to anyone in the world who wishes to access it. MIT launched a new platform called MITx that will make online learning tools freely available as an open source platform that other educators can use. This is a clear sign that e-learning is going mainstream. We already learn so much from YouTube videos but you should expect to learn more in 2012 from socially integrated, rich and interactive e-learning platforms similar to MITx. Using more video in the recruitment mix and learning from video as a recruiter are going to be two clear trends in 2012. We at Social Talent have big plans around the latter so be sure to watch this space over the next 6 months!

11. 30% of our predictions won't come true.

OK, so this is an eleventh prediction but of the previous 10, we know that we won't get it all 100% correct so we are predicting that we will get 3 predictions wrong, but hopefully no more than that. We don't expect many (nor most) of you to agree with these predictions but please tell us which you do agree with and which you think we are WAY wrong with! Come on, you know you want to.....

Views: 11488

Comment by corry prohens on January 4, 2012 at 11:09am

Great post Johnny.  I agree with almost all of your predictions except that 2011, 2010 and 2009 were all supposed to be "the year of mobile".  Not sure I want to fall for that one again...  Have a great year.

Comment by Johnny Campbell on January 4, 2012 at 11:54am

@Corry Love it; I have been a mobile sceptic for the last couple of years and hence have never bothered optimising our site as we just never had enough mobile traffic but now that we're at the 10% mark, I am finally convinced! It would save me a lot of money if it wasn't though!

@Jason Thanks dude

Comment by Bridget A. Ward on January 6, 2012 at 11:01am

Great article--still can't believe that only 20-30% of recruiters are using Twitter!

Comment by Katherine Schiffgens on January 10, 2012 at 5:01pm

Agreed.  Great post and good predictions. 

Comment by Johnny Campbell on January 11, 2012 at 12:37pm

@Bridget @Katherine Thanks guys. The recruiters using Twitter are disproportionately vocal hence easy to think they are in the majority. Hopefully that stat will be reversed next year. I remember not too long ago when only a minority of recruiters were using LinkedIn!

Comment by corry prohens on January 11, 2012 at 12:56pm

I find that most of the recruiters that are using Twitter are just blasting jobs.  I hope that this year recruiters start using Twitter to engage their audiences with more useful and interesting information.  

Comment by Bill Vick on January 16, 2012 at 9:54am

Johnny - well thought out but I can't agree with the emphasis on Twitter or the decline of Facebook. I think most candidates don't really 'get it' when it comes to using social media in the job search or in being found by a recruiter. The FB juggernaut does not seem to be loosing steam and Twitter is like driving down the road at high speed trying to read the billboards that pop up. Good article none the less and thanks for the thoughts.

Comment by Johnny Campbell on January 16, 2012 at 11:26am

Thanks for the feedback Bill; it will be interesting to see if either of those two predictions in particular prove to be accurate; I believe they will but if I could definitely predict the future I would focus on lottery numbers instead of blog posts!

Seriously though; as a recruiter I am not so concerned that job seekers use either Facebook or Twitter to find a job, just that they use them. If lawyers all drink in the same bar and I can pop in and start a conversation with them as a legal recruiter (for example), then its up to me to build some relationships and turn these relationships into placements; same goes for social media. Its just another place where people hang out and can be categorised by skill/ profession/ location etc. The website traffic stats suggest to me that Facebook has peaked and Twitter has a long way to go but FB could turn around and launch a killer revamp tomorrow whilst Twitter might muck up and annoy its growing user base. Nonetheless, it should be an interesting year.

(PS, maybe we'll all tire of social platforms and go back to meeting friends in our local bar to catch up.....perhaps not).


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