Back to The Future: Social Media and Jobs

Dec 11, 2012
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

When job boards first launched, they were supposed to be like stock exchanges — a clearinghouse matching jobs with candidates. This was the future: efficient, fast, and simple. Well, it didn’t quite turn out that way.

Job boards are not in the business of filling jobs. They exist to serve up job ads and get paid for that. One can only speculate but things might have been different had the job board model been similar to that of eBay, where a good part of the site’s revenue depends on the successful completion of a transaction. But frustration with job boards is one reason why recruiters so eagerly jumped on the social media bandwagon, despite much evidence or reason to believe that social networks would let them succeed in filling jobs where job boards had not.

There’s not a lot of definitive data on the effectiveness of social networks, but what’s there suggests that social media hasn’t been quite the silver bullet solution that many were expecting.

One survey found that 71% of respondents had not made a single hire from Twitter and 64% had not made any hires from Facebook. What seems to work is LinkedIn, with 82% of respondents to the survey reporting success. But LinkedIn hardly qualifies as a social network — at least not in the way recruiters use it. It’s no different than a job board where one searches for candidates and attempts to contact them for jobs. There’s nothing social about that process. Social means a two-way conversation among people with something to share.

When one looks at the social media landscape for recruiting, the road ahead looks a lot like the road behind.

I keep reading articles about whether LinkedIn is a threat to job boards. Well, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The newest entrant to the field — the Facebook job board — is an excellent example of learning nothing from the past. Despite being the dominant brand in social networking and having more money than God, the board is an incredibly inept offering.

I had earlier written that Facebook’s job board was likely to be a snoozer, but what’s emerged has managed to come under even that low bar. Rather than list what’s wrong with it, just try it for yourself. It’s called a Social Jobs Partnership — a collaboration between Facebook and certain other organizations. I’m left with the impression that there was a desperate need at Facebook do something — anything — that could be a revenue generator, and flogging jobs seemed like an easy solution. It might have been but its execution on the concept is pathetic. It should have called it Jude — after the patron saint of desperate cases.

Succeeding With Social Recruiting

It’s no great secret what it takes to use social networks for recruiting. First, something to search social networks effectively; second, a mechanism for getting the data into a useful format; third, some way to engage with and nurture connections made, i.e., a way to get or create content.

What we’re seeing is products that are point solutions addressing these needs individually. In the first category are tools like Recruitin for searching LinkedIn. A broader solution is Pivotlogix which can aggregate and search profiles across multiple social networks. In the second category — data tools — are products like Broadlook and eGrabber. The third category — engagement tools — include products like Inside Connector and Brave New Talent.

The challenge for most recruiters is that none of these products is a complete solution. This is where Facebook blew it completely with Jude, er, the Social Jobs Partnership. Given the data that’s available to Facebook, it would be a simple matter to offer a board that could target jobs to candidates and provide meaningful content to engage them.

Social networks can also help recruiters know who to target for jobs and the best time to do it, i.e., when they are most likely to be receptive. For example, if someone suddenly starts receiving a lot of recommendations on LinkedIn, it’s a good bet they’re starting to look for a job. Analyzing a person’s Tweets or the content of their conversations on social networks can also reveal if they’re likely to be receptive to being contacted about a job and more importantly what they care about. This doesn’t have to be a tedious manual exercise — companies like Boston Decision and PivotLogix already have the technology to analyze text and ferret out a person’s interests, skills, and receptivity to a solicitation.

The hype around social media was never going to live up to the reality, though to hear some so-called pundits tell it, anything was possible. A particularly memorable line was “recruiters will become irrelevant once social networks start to engage.” Success in hiring requires a lot of work, and it isn’t any easier on social networks. But social networks are a powerful channel to reach and engage potential candidates in a manner that was just not possible earlier. The product that can combine all the elements necessary for success should thrive. It should be named for the patron saint of business success (there’s one for everything) — St. Homobonus. Then again, maybe a different name would be better.


St. Homobonus image from

This article is part of a series called Opinion.
Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!