The Problem with Recruitment and Social Media

Defining Social Recruiting

Social Recruiting (Digital Recruiting, ERecruiting, Online Recruiting, Recruitment Marketing, Purple Squirrel Hunting et al.) is at a cross-roads. It has been around long enough that it should now feature as a standard part of most recruiter’s toolkits, but in a lot of cases, even the most basic of tools aren’t being utilised.

Before looking at the problem I’ve attempted to break down what I’m referring to as social recruiting:

Social recruiting is the use of social media tools to identify and contact candidates and clients. There are three core elements that fall under the term social recruiting:

  • Active Sourcing – finding and approaching candidates (or clients)
  • Marketing – building and engaging with talent communities through social media and  promoting employment or agency brands
  • Job Marketing – promoting specific jobs either through paid or organic social channels

To be clear social recruiting isn’t the pinnacle of recruitment, it isn’t going to replace every other recruiting channel and not every solution is suitable for all industries. Social recruiting also isn’t going to eliminate the need for recruiters, however if recruiters don’t learn to be comfortable with these tools there is a major risk they will be left behind.

The Problem with Social Recruiting

I find the easiest way to show the problem of social recruiting is to compare it to a new product in the technology sector. Products travel through a user life-cycle, starting with Innovators, then Early Adopters, then the Early Majority, then the Late Majority and then finally the Laggards (people that falls behind others).

Some products move through this cycle faster than others (iPhone) and others don’t progress any further than the Innovators stage (Google Glass).

LinkedIn was launched 4 years before the iPhone, yet its most simple use (as an online recruitment database) has only just reached the Late Majority stage of the life cycle. Other tools and techniques are significantly further behind, with most still with Innovator or Early Adopter audiences.

Unfortunately as a recruiter promoting that you or your company has xxxx followers on LinkedIn and xxxxx database / ATS candidates is no longer a convincing response to a client or line manager’s enquiry about your recruitment capabilities, nor is it going to allow you to effectively source candidates.

As an industry it seems we are slow and often resistant to change. There are several different reasons for this, as broken down below:

Mismatched Delivery

As those championing social recruiting we do ourselves no favours. The mainstream recruiter audience still views those involved with social recruiting as recruiting hackers and corporate rebels. Here is a great quote borrowed from Ant Hall’s blog on a recruiter’s view of recruitment conferences.

“When did recruitment change from being professional first & foremost, fun and value add to being grunge, too cool for school, foul mouthed and very adhoc?”

In the technology sector these attributes are often associated with start-up companies that are in the Innovator stage of product life cycle. However as these companies grow and ideas turn into marketable products the personality of these businesses evolves in order to relate to mainstream consumers.

I have the upmost respect for those that do fit into the category above, they have driven and will continue to drive the change in our industry. However in order for the mainstream recruiter audience to embrace new ways of working, we have to focus on teaching and sharing new ideas, concepts and solutions in ways that are more relatable to the audience we serve.

Perceived Complexity

Ever changing x-ray search strings and data hacks are great for the recruitment Innovators but they unnecessarily muddy the waters of social recruiting, making it appear complicated and daunting to the average recruiter.

This perception coupled with the lack of practical information and an unknown track record has led the majority of recruiters to not look much beyond LinkedIn and in most cases LinkedIn is only utilised as an extended database. 

Recruiter Mentality

Social recruiting in general requires a different mentality from reactive recruitment (recruiters relying on randomly timed candidate applications or referrals). The mentality and skills now needed are a mix between traditional head-hunters or phone sourcers and consumer marketers.

Head-hunters have for years been proactively tracking down, contacting and selling opportunities to candidates irrelevant of whether they are looking for work or not.  Likewise consumer marketers have marketed products or services to user demographics, rather than relying solely on people choosing to enter a specific retail store.    

Craig Watson refers to Yesterday’s Recruitment Heroes in his blog, I believe a large group of recruiters risk falling into this category unless we address this mentality change.

In some places changes should be easy, for example replacing time spent filtering high volumes or largely unsuitable applications, with targeted approaches to a smaller pre-identified audience. However as has been shown with the general poor quality of InMails, even this mentality change can be challenging.

For me the biggest mentality change for recruiters is adjusting to become more sales orientated towards candidates. Instead of having candidates that have expressed interest in a specific job, recruiters have to learn to invest time understanding prospects and then selling opportunities to them.

Positive Social Guidelines

For years all employees (including recruiters) have been restricted, dissuaded or micromanaged in their use of social media at work. These oppressive guidelines have slowly rescinded but in their place is confusion. Rather than sharing content, engaging in online conversations and learning how to use online tools, recruiters are instead unsure what is acceptable and often chose to do very little.

Whilst it is important to continue to have clear social usage policies, it is essential to work with recruiters to educate and train how to best to be social. In some instances we have even worked with agencies to incorporate clear guidelines on being positively social into job descriptions! Thislink takes you to a printable desk-side printout that provides clear direction on what recruiters should be doing on social media.

Concluding Thoughts

The good news is that recruiters aren’t shut-off to change. Often we are too focused on what is happening on each specific day to take notice of tools that can produce better results in the future. However if recruiters are provided with sufficient time and ongoing guidance, then the seeds of change will begin to take effect.    

About The Author

Chris has worked in the recruitment industry for 8 years, where he has been fortunate enough to spend considerable time getting to know the inner workings of three different recruitment sectors construction, technology and energy.

Most recently whilst recruiting high end technical professionals for the oil and gas industry in Houston, Chris was exposed to one of the most challenging labour markets in the world. The sourcing solutions he learnt to apply were far ahead of those that he had been exposed to back home, so he decided to return to New Zealand and share these insights with the local recruitment marketplace.

Now at Prominence Chris focuses on working with both agencies and employers to up-skill recruiters on social recruiting and also to advise on social employment branding. Through Prominence Chris also volunteers at tertiary education facilities to provide real world advice to students and career counsellors on how best to utilise social media for job search purposes.

Chris can be found on Twitter @findsouth

Views: 637

Comment by Matt Charney on May 5, 2015 at 12:12pm

Chris, awesome post. Hit me up if you'd like to share some of this stuff on Recruiting Daily, too. 


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