Social Recruiting: It's not for recruiters

Another blog from the archives. This post caused lots of reaction when I posted it on my own blog. be interested in your reactions:

Now this might seem a bit controversial, it’s not intended to be. I'm a big advocate for using social in the recruitment process, I'm just not convinced recruiters are best placed to be doing it. I came to this conclusion while working with Oracle. They are very open to being social and see the potential that building communities around fan pages will bring.As a part of this project, I spent a lot of time talking to other corporate recruiters about how (or not), they do social, and I saw a few recurring themes. The most common barrier being available time and targets to hire now!

The complication for all recruiters (and this is not dissimilar to any corporate and most agency recruiters that I have talked to), is time to work outside of anything other than the just-in-time recruiting model. Time pressures mean that recruiting activity is transactional. It’s get a job, find the candidates, fill the job and move on to the next job. Line managers demand hires yesterday, and the relationship needs to be hirer/potential recruit now, rather than potential recruit future. Time and business pressure dictates that it is this way.

Social activity is more about sourcing and broadcasting opportunities in the here and now than in the future. The recruiters job is to get people hired as quickly and effectively as possible, finding potential employees based on skills and experience and converting them in to employees. The job of the recruiter is the locator and the closer. More of a completer finisher than a relationship builder.

Does this mean then that I see social recruiting as wholly transactional?

Far from it. Social plays a massive part in building employer brand, pipelining the talent community and communicating with the world at large about what the company is really like to work for. Employees who develop social networks can provide access to potential employees with any opportunities that come up, acting as the introducer to the recruiter via referral. Employees take and tag pictures and video that says everything about the employer in a credible way, without needing any words or marketing spin. Employee content carries far more credibility than recruiter credibility. After all, a recruiter will always update that this is a great place to work, an employee will only share that if they really believe it.

There in lies the next challenge for corporate, getting people to post and comment freely. It’s not that they don’t want to, but it’s often a case from day one of employment that they have to follow strict rules contained in a brand manual, and get 3 different levels of permission, authority and approval before they can comment about the company or it’s products. Jump forward to this new age of social. Employees are asked to act responsibly towards confidentiality of business and people, courteous and respectful. The basic guidelines are to “Be a grown up.” And then it is up to them to post what and when they like. Any content (blog posts excepted) that take more than 10 minutes to create and tag is considered too manufactured. Content needs to be instant, real and ideally involving people. Once you open this up, and get over the early resistance then you are away.

Once the communities are building with plenty of connections building, people commenting and asking questions, then it’s time for the recruiters to get involved. the role of the recruiter at this point is to identify who could be looking for a job from their on-line behaviour and questions. Recruiters need to get applications and enquiries directly from the Facebook fan page and other social places. This is where the engagement becomes critical and the recruiters can use their skills to match the potential candidates. This might be come in for this job, or it might be stick around and stay in touch, there’s nothing now but I like the look of you. Alternatively it might be talk to this recruiter, they may be the right person for you to talk to. All of this kind of interaction is lost once a C.V. hits an A.T.S. in the traditional way.
All employees should be involved in the social part of recruiting, with the recruiters taking care of the transaction, in the most timely and efficient way.


This process in Oracle is responsible for nearly half the monthly applications, and the numbers are growing. The recruiters build relationships with the best of the applicants, and the business provides the content and engagement. There is another team of resourcers who deal with and direct applications to the right place. Now this is a big budget company, but the same principles will work on a smaller scale.

What part do you think recruiters should play in social recruiting? Where do you think my thinking falls down?


Views: 1028

Comment by Achyut Menon on September 28, 2011 at 9:33pm

Bill, I agree with your comment "All employees should be involved in the social part of recruiting, with recruiters complementing the efforts".Bulls eye!

Personally, I feel -as the 'industrial' economy has given way to the 'intellectual' economy, the power of choice has significantly shifted from the employer to the employee-who now has the prerogative of being a la free agent-deciding when/where/whom and what conditions to work at! And this has resulted in the tenure of one's employment in the recent past.

I think if one were to look beyond the step of recruiting, and had a slightly longer term view -then it becomes apparent that a 'right hiring solution' can improve 'quality of the talent being hired for the right reasons', as well 'reduce attrition'.

Globalisation, technological advances & social media has only increased the impact of 'connecting & sharing' and influence views, opinions and concerns.While corporates can perhaps control 'paid media' (read Advertising), or 'owned media' ( read PR, blogs and external communication), I think the most critical is the 'earned media' what the community think and share. 

So, the traditional recruiter..or a sourcer..has to grow up..and become an ambassador -or a talent scout-and strive for building 'employer branding'...and set expectations of career aspirations!

And for this..recruiters have to be MORE social in future to be more effective :)!!

Comment by Bill Boorman on September 28, 2011 at 9:41pm
I see it more as a shift between formal talent attraction and informal talent attraction. The recruiter is the best person to select, manage and close, but does not have the time to focus on either future hires or engagement with anyone other than target candidates. It's more about time and purpose than desire. Besides, people want to hear from someone doing the job, not someone selling the job
Comment by Richard Cialone on September 29, 2011 at 2:57pm
IMHO, if someone "doing the job" can't also "sell the job", then having that employee interact with potential candidates is counter-productive.  Classic selling principles are to get a person excited about the product (whatever that may be), then move the discussions to the nitty gritty.  I believe that remains the best approach.
Comment by Richard Cialone on September 29, 2011 at 3:07pm

I've been thinking about relationship recruiting since the late 90s.  It occurred to me that the recruiting function could be structured similar to sales and marketing.  Sales, being the "get the business now" aspect, and marketing focusing on mid- and long-term business.

Over time, what became clear to me is that, while it makes perfect ROI sense to stay in front of potential customers by establishing and building relationships, it doesn't really work as well in recruiting.  The main reason is that anyone who is willing to give a company money can be a customer, only a very small percentage of potential applicants/candidates can be hired.  So, by its very nature, relationship recruiting sucks up inordinate amounts of time.  Very few companies are willing to dedicate a resource to interacting with people who will never be hired.  And by the time a recruiter figures out that a particular individual is not a fit (culturally, cognitively, etc.), much time has already been spent.  Multiply that times however many people are in the "community", and one can see how the ROI may not be very attractive.

As for employees and hiring managers getting involved in this very labor intensive process, that may work occasionally.  But for the most part, it detracts from their core function in the company.  It may be "fun" for them to do once or twice, but after that...when they see how frustrating it can get having to tell people that they are not really a good fit for the how quickly their interest wanes.

Comment by Ron Pobuta on September 29, 2011 at 3:15pm

Your treading on some very thin ice with this one, considering all we are inundated with from ATS hawkers and Job Sites. "Social Networking is the future!". I am not disagreeing. It is inevitable. At some point, it will be the norm. But not in our lifetime. The focus is still on getting the candidate in the pipeline now.  Interviewed Now. Hired Now. Social Networking is great for branding. Both personal and for business. I use it extensively.  Folks who want a career in this business and want to make serious money? Here is my advice: Pick up the phone and speak to a human. Sell the job and get referrals. Hone your sales skills and be influential. Invest 30 minutes of your day updating your Social sites, posting jobs, etc. The beauty of Social Networking, and its only other benefit that I can see right now outside of branding is that it is working when you are not.

Comment by Steve Ward on September 29, 2011 at 5:23pm

Great observations Bill - but ones that refer to a mindset, I very much think should be altered. 

You have represented largely the corporate in-house recruiter, but agency recruiters are the same in where social media communications creates genuine opportunity. 

I continue be perplexed by the age old feeling that Recruiters `don't have time` to build relationships. Great recruitment is built on a foundation of the nurturing great relationships, both passive and active, both socially functional and with business intent. The ability to stand out as a `person`, an `integrator` - within any industry, by visibility, sharing and interaction - is where social media options create fantastic distinction for truly effective recruiter. 

Great recruitment stems from building upon great communication lines - social media is communications in the most dynamic format. To consider that `wasted time`, is missing the point of social media. 

Comment by Paul Alfred on September 29, 2011 at 8:36pm

Bill great post ... I really think that the Recruitment model as it is, does not allow for a Recruiter to invest the time needed to build the network and the channels to capture future channels and if they do it has to be looked upon as a long term strategy and not a short term gain to be fed to a 2-6 week turn over pipeline.  


Social media is effective when the investment is made as in the Oracle real-world example where Recruitment function can turn to a Talent Management Pool built and lead by a division focused on Branding - marketing what a Company is allabout on a facebook, G+ Twitter - where now all the recruitment function has to do is connect into that pool and make connections with the results of the investment placed in a Social Media Strategy.  Recruiters in this case have not ceased what they do best but now their efforts are enhanced without slowing down the pace that is already demanded by the recruitment function.  

Recruiters serious about Social Media need to make an a "Additional investment in time" by creating a blog/forum  with useful info  connecting the channels as to how they get that word out and communicate with their target audiences via the SM channels and realize that this effort increases your "Brand Value over time"- where now you not only have potential candidates you target checking you out but potential Clients not on your radar checking out the content and interested in the kind of candidates you are targeting.   This is a Long term strategy that you either decide to "buy into fully" or continue to dabble it's your time use it as you see fit.   I will totally understand the general Recruitment school of thought  which  says; "I see a guy/girl I like - let me call him/her ...."  

Comment by Michael Miller on September 30, 2011 at 1:44am

Bill – your post brings up several good points that I agree
with, but mostly if we’re talking about a corporate recruiter where I have had
the support staff focus on updating social media.  Good third party recruiters are building
long-term relationships to place some candidates now and perhaps others years
from now so networking with that pool in a variety of ways makes more sense.

Since the top source for new hires are usually employee referrals and often
companies will have an incentive program for their employees I think you’re
right on with having corporate employees out there on social media interacting
with potential employees.  I would have
to say the question comes down to what space you’re recruiting in; are you a
corporate recruiter or a outside recruiter? 
Do you recruit in a market so tight that you need to use everything
including the kitchen sink approach?

Depending on a recruiters need, social media may have its uses above just

Comment by Dorothy Wong on October 13, 2011 at 7:21pm

I agree to your point that social media is a wonderful tool to establish the employer's brand for the company. I am part of Gen Y. As a job seeker, I will always start with the career page of the companies that I am similar with and I think I am a good fit for. I learned about those companies mostly from my friends' social pages (e.g. Facebook), and from the instructors and professors.  I am always curious about my career choices and the companies that they work for. This is how I feel as a Gen Y job seeker.

To read more about Gen Y job seeker go to:


Talking about how to establish employer's brand on popular social media like Facebook and LinkedIn, there is no better way to start than learning about the pros and cons of each medium when it comes to social recruitment and brand establishment. Identified is having a webinar: Facebook vs. LinkedIn; a social recruitment showdown.

To learn more and register please go to: Facebook vs. LinkedIn - A Social Recruitment Showdown


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