Social Media in Recruitment Isn't Working - Just Ask A Candidate

Another week and another social media conference goes by. Another chance for the ever-increasing number of social media experts to tell recruiters how to attract and engage with candidates, create talent pools etc.

But here's the problem.  In this avalanche of 'this-is-what-you-should-be-doing' information, who is representing the views of the candidate? In the social media recruitment equation, candidates are customers and they have a voice.  They are the ones who need to be attracted and engaged with. Which companies ignore the opinions of their customers? Well, in recruiting terms, it seems most of them.

I am currently a candidate looking for a job, so I have some real insight into the motivations of job-seekers, and what companies are offering in the social media recruitment space. And, frankly, from the candidate perspective, the scene is not good.   There are some real problems to overcome.


  • Most corporate websites are firmly in the grip of the marketing function. The objectives of the marketing and recruitment arms of a business with regard to social media comms are different. Candidates do not want to be inundated with corporate PR, but they are.


  • Usually a mix of corporate news and retweeted/shared articles which can be found elsewhere.  A lack of genuinely insightful and original content of interest to a potential employee.
  • Recruitment output is often limited to tweeting/sharing job postings.  By their nature, most will be irrelevant.

Time Constraints

  • People who are out of work want to get back into work quickly.  People who are in work and want to move do not have a lot of time to conduct a search. Job-seekers do not want to have to follow/like/share/link to large numbers of different sites or pages to have irrelevant jobs posted to them.  They want to see lots of relevant jobs in one place. That's why they go to job boards.

Lack of Discretion

  • Engagement with social media sites can be in the public domain, and increasingly employers are likely to take a dim view of some of their employees' online contacts. (In the interests of balance, a big tick in the box for Google+ Circles in this regard- but are there really 100 million active users?).

Passive Engagement.  

  • There is still a sense that simply having a Facebook page etc will give you a presence and attract candidates, an "if you build it they will come" approach.
  • There seems be be a lack of commitment to engage from the employer/recruiter standpoint. The onus is still very much on recruitment as a transaction, and on the candidate to seek out and apply to a role.
  • Why, when in such a scenario the recruiter has full access to CV & contact details from many candidates who have shown an interest in the company, is nothing positive done with this information?  Telling unsuccessful candidates to keep looking on the website for new jobs does not convey the idea of an organisation actively committed to building a pool of talented individuals on which to call in future.

Lack of Trust

  • Candidates ARE interested in a potential new employer's reputation and culture, but they rarely either look for or get this information from a corporate-sponsored site. A general internet search on corporate reputation is much more instructive.

Corporate Fear

  • Candidates, both passive and active, can and do join groups where they can share experiences, information and problem-solving techniques with like-minded professionals from the same sector.  But which corporate is going to sanction a site where it may be sharing information with someone from a competitor company? I haven't seen one.

LinkedIn and Twitter are my major social media of job-seeking choice. I use the LI job board (!), but also in the same way as a recruiter, I can use LI to identify and contact people direct who I think might help with my job search and exchange information that I think is relevant and over which I have some control. The social media recruitment model just doesn't seem to be as targeted.

If I, as an active job-seeker, see no incentive to engage, what chance do companies have of attracting the passive job seeker, that Holy Grail of the recruiting world?

The irony is that all the building blocks for successful social media recruitment programmes are out there.  It is just that nobody seems to be asking the most important people, the candidates, what will attract them in.

Views: 2140

Comment by Tim Spagnola on April 25, 2012 at 7:00am

Good post Ian - thanks for sharing.

Comment by Jerry Albright on April 25, 2012 at 8:57am

Two thumbs up here Ian.  Great post! 

Great thoughts and examples of why, for the most part, these promises of employment branding, talent communities, etc. are not quite as effective as the advertisement leading us in their direction. 

I am still of the opinion that when someone is considering a new position - they go to the job board.  In many case they don't need to go any further.  To think that "talent" is interested in anything beyond finding a job when they need/want one is folly.

Comment by Suresh on April 25, 2012 at 9:30am

Good post.

Keep it simple should be the message, people are trying to get cute..

With all the websites out there, most people visit a handfull a day, their favorite places. The key is to advertise there..Thats it.

Comment by Jim Stroud on April 26, 2012 at 4:07pm


LOVED your comments and would like to discuss them with you on my show. Interested? Send me an invite on LinkedIn and let's connect.


Comment by Ajay on April 28, 2012 at 2:32pm

Ian, some very candid observations. As recruiters we tend to get carried away by the 'hype' of social recruiting and assume that candidates out there are waiting to be hired through social media which is not necessarily true. I recently read that although about 70% of employers are trying to use social media for recruiting only about 30% of job seekers are actually using social networks to search for jobs!! Seems like a huge disconnect to me.

And the disconnect will not go away, unless employers figure out how to actually use social networks for recruiting. It is a cultural change in terms of communication, content, engagement etc and employers are still to get all these aspects right.

Your take regarding the time constraint was also spot on, and I see a huge gap there. is one site trying to close that gap although I am not sure how popular it is, since it seems to focus only on US based jobs. The community's take on such developments would be appreciated.

Comment by Gerry Crispin on May 4, 2012 at 10:29am

Ian, take up Jim Stroud's offer.

You represent well.

There is much more attention on this subject in recent years and to the extent firms are beginning to recognize that there is a 'value' that can be attached to the treatment of all candidates, more of them are beginning to improve the candidate expereince- and even look to their 3rd party [agency recruiter] partners to help in this regard.

To get a sense of one initiative that is gaining traction, take a look at where last year we outed 24 firms for their efforts and initiatives in improving the candidate experience. Last week we launched the 2012 campaign and extended it to the UK as well as a separate effort, with  a slightly different flavor. There is much more work to do but eventually job seekers will have a choice of searching for jobs among the companies that demonstrate a higher 'standard' of treatment. Give us a few years on that...even though it may not help you today. Your voice is helpful for others.

Comment by Ian Harvey on May 10, 2012 at 5:17am

Thank you all for taking the time to comment. Much appreciated.

Comment by Sean Rego on May 11, 2012 at 8:48am
Ian, great article. You have made some very valid points and would like to connect. Sean Rego
Comment by Randall Scasny on May 11, 2012 at 9:38am


I feel like you are reading my mind! But the phrase that sticks out for me is "the hype of social recruiting." While Linkedin is a darling of Wall Street right now, what is causing it to generate increased revenues? At 195 bucks (US) a job ad (what I paid to run an ad of LinkedIn), I tend to think it is NOT due to their connections, rather their job ad postings. In fact, LinkedIn is morphing into just another job board. But that's another topic.

I operate a job search assistance service based in Chicago. I'm in frequent contact with job seekers of all types. When they are ready to purchase my service, I ask them about LinkedIn or Facebook and if they got any leads from these sites. I get blank stares. Nothing. On the other hand, if you read and listen to the recruiters who frewquent this blog, they are all hyped up about social media recruiting. Frankly, I'd like to see their numbers. In fact, I'd like to see published the hiring success rates of all online recruitment platforms! I think it is fairly low. But these numbers are unavailable because the finanicial success of LinkedIn, Monster, CareerBuilder, et al, has little to do with the success of individual job seekers getting hired. If these media would close the loop and build their business model around both sides of the hiring equation, they would probably not have people like Ian or myself doubting the validity of social media recruiting.

Millions of members are meaningless if less than 1% of the membership -- who make the effort of putting their identities and info online -- get what they want: a job.

Who is really getting hired on LinkedIn? In the U.S., about 2% of the population make over $100K US. About 80% of the population make 50K U.S. The 2-percenters generate the big placement/commission fees of recruiters. So, really for the most part, social medias are not serving the road job-seeking market. Yet, the typical job seeker is being driven to these venues of ever increasing competition -- hyper competition with very little results.

Randall Scasny

Director, FS5 Consulting

Comment by Russ Recruits on May 11, 2012 at 1:22pm

I' ve just filled an external vacancy, today - using no job boards, nor ads - No direct applicants (as my prime role is internal)

Using nothing but Linkedin, found a passive candidate who was perfect.

My Investment - zilch - my mark up close to £10k, and one happy 50+ Candidate who thought he was on the scrap heap.

Strip away the rubbish on Linkedin, Use groups, use it correctly & wisely and add to some old fashioned candidate service - presto - it does work.

Though I agree with the majority of the above, the golden rule to me is still this...

Candidates DO NOT have $ signs above their heads.


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