Embracing Social Media to Find the Right Talent

Apr 14, 2008

Recruiters have traditionally relied on old-fashioned human “social networks” for decades.  Now, job market trends and technology are combining to create a brave new world that recruiters need to pay attention to in order to compete for today’s top talent.

The migration of offline to online search for talent is evidenced in how the online job boards went from having virtually no recruitment advertising dollars to the more than $3 billion spent today.  The newspaper recruitment advertisement industry’s revenues plummeted by more than 50% with two years (from $9 billion in 2002 to $4 billion in 2004.)

The facts that social media has democratized content creation and the demand for talent has yet to decrease are two factors that are quickly changing how companies are locating talent, especially that golden child – the ‘passive” candidate.

Content Democratization

The advent of Social Media and Blogs — such as MySpace, FaceBook, YouTube and the more professionally oriented Linked-In — are the result of enabling technology that allows for two things:

  1. An easy way to create content (Website, Video) that does not require programming skills and;
  2. An easy way to connect people’s content to each other through “friends” or “buddy” lists.

This means that content creation on the Internet is no longer in the hands of professional programmers or producers. Consider the fact that over 12 million American adults currently maintain a blog, and more than 57 million read blogs consistently. Combine this with the fact that nearly 90% of companies said they think blogs will be more important for them in the next five years.

Talent Shortage, Anyone?

Recession woes are rattling even the most optimistic economists. Regardless of the immediate economic climate, the search for talented, highly skilled professionals will continue for the foreseeable future. The reason? The Baby Boom generation will first become eligible for Social Security Retirement this year. In the coming decades, scores of experienced professionals will be leaving the workforce and companies will be falling over themselves to find highly skilled professionals, especially in the areas of math and science.

Companies who will thrive in the coming years, are planning now for this erratic labor cycle of supply and demand, and are implementing workflow management and passive candidate sourcing strategies into their initiatives. The top talent of tomorrow will not be recruited by the methods used today (just think of what happened to faxing resumes).  It will be a brave, new recruiting world that will involve social networking, blogs and more sophisticated sourcing tools in order to compete for top tier talent.

How to Mine Social Networks & the Blogosphere

The search for passive candidates now reaches into vast online social networks in order to find qualified candidates for those hard-to-fill jobs. There are essentially two types of social networks: Candidate Networks and Recruiter Networks. The leading Candidate Networks include MySpace, FaceBook  and Linked-In, with niche networks springing up like Ning, Second Life and Jobster. These networks can be excellent sources for finding passive candidates. Recruiter Networks include several split-fee communities that enable recruiters to match job postings with candidates, usually for some type of placement fee.

When it comes to blogging, corporate recruiters have been urged to get on the bandwagon and create their own blogs to do everything from interacting with candidates, to showcasing corporate culture and replacing static testimonials.  If more than 70% of HR professionals and recruiters believe that employee referral is the most effective method of recruiting (Mercer Survey) than the emerging/new media tools are the new methods for corporate referrals and company endorsements.
Social media can be easily incorporated into their recruiting practices:

  • Create a social network for existing employees and alumni. Get your clients to create an employee blogging network.  It’s a great recruiting tool. The best candidate will be ones that have researched your company, interacted with other employees online and have a feel for the culture.  A great example of a passive recruiting blog post is Signal vs. Noise, which has been giving rave reviews by Jim Stroud. Encourage blogging from within to show the talent, to show the openness, to engage with future consumers of your employer brand.  Another subset of this plan would be to start an alumni network, where a company taps into existing social networks like or LinkedIn which may already have communities of former employees connected.
  • Produce a Viral Video and place it on YouTube. Sometimes the best way to showcase a company’s culture for prospective employees is through a little humor. And there’s no better way to promote humor than with a viral video on YouTube. Have a contest with your own employees to create a funny video that conveys why it’s great to work at your company, then post the winner on YouTube and link it to your recruiting site. An example of a wonderful, offbeat recruitment video for a T-shirt company on YouTube is the Lip Dub – Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger.
  • Initial Sourcing and Screening for Passive Candidates: Sometimes the best way to find a candidate is through social networks. Exploring candidates on MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn can provide a richer portrait of a candidate’s experience, interest and cultural fit, as well as the important personal connection he or she brings to the table. There are also sourcing tools out there that will allow you to easily import information you find on these social networks into your recruiting database for easy follow up.
  • “Wiki” Your Company: Wikipedia is one of the most successful social networks on the Internet. It is basically an online encyclopedia of information that is updated and validated by the user community. Scores of professionals and laypersons write for Wikipedia, providing depth of content and links to relevant sites. You can get your company into the “Wiki” game by either posting your company as a link to a relevant topic, or by creating your own topic that incorporates your company’s interests.

So, as an owner or manager of a recruiting or staffing firm, your best strategy is to embrace change (and encourage your clients to do so), making sure you are using new technology to accomplish those old fashioned objectives of finding and placing the best candidates faster. A little investment now could put you way ahead of the curve in the decades ahead.

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