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More Employers Than Ever Recruit on Social Networks

John Zappe
Jul 12, 2011, 7:59 am ET

No longer just the shiny new object in the toolbox, social media recruiting has become an integral part of sourcing and hiring.

A Jobvite survey out this morning says 89 percent of the respondents to its poll (most of them not Jobvite customers) said they are either already using some form of social media in their recruiting or will in the next year. They are also having success; 64 percent said they’ve actually hired people through a social network.

None of this is surprising to anyone who has followed the development of social media. From their roots as a teenage clubhouse, social media networks today have become so ubiquitous and so much a part of American life that half of all adults use at least one of the sites. Pew Research Center says that last year, 48 percent of those over 35 are on a social network.

Facebook is far and away the most popular network. Pew says 92 percent of everyone using a social network use Facebook. No wonder then that 47 percent of North American companies are spending money to reach Facebook’s 700+ million users via PPC. Thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands of businesses — Facebook doesn’t release the actual number of the so-called Fan Pages — have set up sites.

Smaller in number, LinkedIn however has a better-educated demographic. It’s members are older and better educated; 75 percent hold a bachelor’s or graduate degree. On Facebook, the equivalent percentage is 35.The average age on LinkedIn is 40, versus 38 for Facebook. However, there are more early-stage career participants on LinkedIn. It has 36 percent of those 23-35 versus 32 percent for Facebook.

“Social media tools are one of the top three most powerful recruiting tools, along with referral programs and mobile technologies,” said no less an authority than Dr. John Sullivan.

Coincidentally, or maybe not, social media, referrals, and mobile usage have a close, symbiotic relationship. A third of all American adults have a smartphone, says a just out Pew survey, and 87 percent of them use it to access the Internet or read email. Two-thirds of them do so every day. A Google survey reports that almost half the smartphone owners use them to access a social network at least once a day.

As a result, recruiters have been taking advantage of that capability using custom apps, tweets, or vendors to make it easy for company fans, employees (who, on Facebook, are fans), and followers to refer jobs to their own friends and followers.

With 70 percent of the respondents telling Jobvite that referrals are a better fit, it’s no surprise they reported hiring 1 in 10 of them vs. 1 in 100 of other applicants.

Not all networking occurs online, Right Management reminds us. The ManpowerGroup unit says its own study of its almost 60,000 individual transition clients over the last three years found that 4 in 10 found their job through networking. Last year, 41 percent used traditional networking to make the connection that led to their job. Only 4 percent got their job purely through an online network.

Job boards, according to Right Management, continue to hold their own, accounting for 25 percent of the jobs found by the firm’s transition clients. That’s also what CareerXroads’ annual Source of Hire survey found.

While the study didn’t include a specific social networking category, it did find that more than half the companies use social media exclusively or as a significant part of their direct sourcing programs.

Jobvite, of course, is one of the growing number of vendors that automate much of the mechanical parts of social media recruiting. It focuses on referrals from employees whether or not they are on a social network, and from fans and company followers who are.

Bullhorn, a technology powerhouse in the staffing space, has been pushing into social media in a big way. Monday, it released Bullhorn Reach from beta, four months and 10,000 registered users after launch. As I detailed a few months ago, Reach does a lot of the same automating and posting of jobs to social sites that other services do, but it also tracks what the people in your network are doing and alerts you to the possibility they may be preparing to “go active” in their job search.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  1. LINDA-HOANG.COM » Blog Archive » Clicks of the Day: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 Edition!

    [...] More Employers Than Ever Recruit on Social Networks [...]

  2. Carol Schultz


    Good article. I think there’s one thing that isn’t being addressed with respect to hiring via social media. You say that 64% of respondents made hires they found using social media. That’s great, but the more significant question is: What percent of those hires were successful hires? This question needs to be asked regardless of the methods used to acquire candidates.

  3. John Zappe

    Carol -

    Ahh. The metric you want is that elusive holy grail of recruiting analytics. Most companies can not provide it for hires made via “traditional” means, so why would they be able to do so for social media hires?

    Besides the fact that “success” is a fluctuating, and subjective value (except in some very specific situations, with sales being the most obvious), social media hiring simply hasn’t been around long enough for even the bestest of practices companies to have enough data to say anything definitively.

  4. Keith Halperin

    “Last year, 41 percent used traditional networking to make the connection that led to their job. Only 4 percent got their job purely through an online network.”
    That doesn’t seem like very much. What types of jobs were they, and for what types of companies?

    Also, what percentage of companies’ hires occured purely through an online network, and what types of hires were they?
    A thought: what percentage of FaceBook’s and LinkedIn’s hires occured purely through Facebook or LinkedIn, and what types of hires were they?


  5. Carol Schultz


    Success should not fluctuate (more than minimally) if a company has defined what “success” looks like in each role/department. It may be partially subjective, but as long as it’s defined in advance so be it. This is just one of the criteria we look at, and evaluate, when going into an organization.

  6. Bill Humbert


    Interesting article. Like Keith, I have been in the recruiting business a long time and consult with companies on recruitment issues, including utilizing social media as a tool. Social media does have a place but once you get outside the large enterprise corporations, the medium sized and small companies rarely have someone dedeicated to social media. Rarely can they even give you a definition of “social media” without a question mark after their definition. The small companies (those that time and again are recognized as the major job creators) are off of the radar of the companies that conduct surveys and are rarely ever surveyed.

    In the article from Right Management that you included, they mentioned that a job search is a multi-level task where the job seekers use every tool they can find. Generally it is not just social media, job boards, or networking. Many times they use one to get to another.

    I am one of the volunteer organizers at the Park City Career Network. Since Aug. 2009, we have helped 58 locals find jobs in a town of approximately 12,000 full time residents (during what the media has called a “jobless recovery”). We coach those people to use job boards (including corporate websites) and social media to identify the openings (and then follow the company process). Then they network their way to an interview because too many ats have the reputation of being “black holes”.

    Therefore, how did they “find” their job? Depends on the business of the person writing the article – could be the job boards, could be social media, could be the ats, could be networking. All can cite articles to demonstrate their process is the best – or gaining ground quickly (and all are important).

    Since 3rd party recruiters utilize every tool, they would also lay claim especially if they were working onsite or virtually with a client.

    Social media certainly has an important role in the notification of candidates of available positions. It is still a marketing tool. As most marketing folks will tell you, marketing is not sales. At its best, it is still advertising not direct recruiting; and depends on candidates to respond.

    Recruiting is a sales process. It is the execution of the recruiting sales process by either corporate or 3rd party recruiters that determines how successful a company will be in their recruitment.

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  9. Patrick DSouza

    Well from my recruiting experience I found the articles written by Keith,Carol and John very interesting and professional could take some tips from the pioneers in this line of business to enhance their careers and make them more successful

  10. Internship jobs

    Social recruiting has been adapted by recruiters real quick, although there are many services coming up for it but till now nobody has been able to crack the nut.

    Hope to see more action in near future.

  11. Nick Gronow

    While I agree whole-heartedly with utilizing social media for recruitment all day long, it does require either a full/part-time person on staff to manage leads, promote opportunities on various, relevant social media frameworks, and identify the best channels to use. In addition to LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, there is now Google Plus, and a slew of niche social media sites to consider depending on the type of job you are wanting to hire for.

    I checked out Bullhorn today, and while it has some nice features, there are others out there that offer either more or different features that you may want to consider as well. We recently signed up for ZipRecruiter, which promotes your jobs on far more sites than Reach, and has built-in management tools as well. Jobvite is another great one also. Most small businesses should seriously consider one of these mass-posting services to get their jobs out there quickly with one centralized management system to use.

  12. David Smooke

    On the supply-side my findings show that 20% of applicants (and rising) prefer to apply with a social network profile.

    It is data driven approach to how candidates apply through the two most powerful social networks, Facebook and LinkedIn, within SmartRecruiters recruiting software.
    “The Battle for The Professional Network”

  13. David Smooke

    Why are the employers looking to social networks?

  14. CapitolHill Jobs

    Interesting. Thought recruiters used social media to find more negatives over positives. Will be interesting to see how this progresses and what the results show from this over the long-term.

  15. Jared Shaw

    If you want to drive cattle social networks are ok for recruiting. In my industry (computer games, mobile development) not a single person pays attention to job postings or the “are you a fit for my role” status updates. In fact it’s getting worse as the signal to noise ratio increases with more people using them. I use SN’s for reaching out to candidates directly or to make them aware of cool things going on at the companies I work with. From there you create a “relationship” with these people and bring them into the fold. The notion that you can hit a button post a job to a thousand sites and boom your dream employee will pop out at the other end is totally false. Case in point. I have a client with a job posting on Linkedin and other SN’s, its been up for 4 weeks and is being marketed heavily. I’ve called (used the phone) 3 candidates for the role. All 3 have seen the posting but not applied and are now going forward through my agency….hmmm.

    The lesson here is social networks are not a short cut to recruiting but a tool we can use to help the process. In the end there is no quick and easy shortcut to the best people.

  16. Edward Coffin

    I help job seekers to prepare for the job hunt. Usually they are burned out sending resumes to the posted jobs. 90% of applications get nothing more than the automated thank you for your resume. The black-hole just never seems to regurgitate even a true “no we are not interested” letter.

    Then the “job Coaches” tell us that 90% of jobs are found through networking therefore 90% of the job hunt effort should be establishing relationships to further the job hunt efforts. Some seekers take this to mean the more people they are connected to on LinkedIn the better. I add one more thought to that, “It’s not who you know, it is who knows you” that counts. I teach them to engage those who could help to further their career.

    Recruiters should spend more time engaging the job seekers if for no other reason than to find those hidden diamonds that have the skills you need but don’t show very well in the resume or even the LinkedIn profile. I can spend hours with an individual before the real person comes out of his/her shell and shows me what they are really made of.

    I understand the reality is that recruiters are on a tight timeline to meet the sometimes arbitrary requirements of the client. However you have to have a great relationship with the client to narrow down the skills necessary for the job task and likewise a relationship with the candidate to determine his/her real skills.

  17. Keith Halperin

    @ Jared:Well said. You can look them up and call them up right away, or you can send InMails and get a 4-5% response rate WEEKS later.

    WANTED: RFT or contract recruiter/sourcer to just identify, contact, and build long-term relationships with passive candidates for possible future openings. No recruiting or sourcing for current positions required…. Wouldn’t this be a great job?


  18. Seth Handler

    @Edward – great point! As a job seeker it’s not about how big your social network is or how many followers you have, it’s about finding contacts that you actually know and engage with. A network that feel as comfortable asking you for advice or recommendations as you would feel enlisting their help.

  19. Quora

    Do recruiters use Google searches to find candidates?…

    Yes, they absolutely do, and the majority of recruiters also use Facebook, so make sure your profile isn’t embarrassing! The key to getting a job at Google, or any top tech company, is getting an insider referral. You can use services like LInkedIn to…

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