How Social Media Hurts Recruiting, and What To Do About It

Jan 18, 2011

part 1 of 2

Everyone is talking about Social Media and the utility it brings to talent acquisition. However, I don’t often hear dialogue about how social media negatively impacts recruiting. But it is creating (sometimes big) problems that warrant discussion, so I am going to talk about those problems here, and hope that you join in the discussion by commenting. I will also provide some solutions and action steps that smart recruiters and recruiting leaders should consider as we proceed along what is clearly a substantial inflection point in the talent marketplace.

When discussing social media and recruiting it is useful to do so in light of the components of the talent supply chain. Social media clearly helps with some aspects of recruiting, but wrecks havoc with others.

I expect we all agree that social media certainly creates efficiency and is more effective in key areas of the supply chain.

As a channel for branding, it’s great. Building talent communities and aggregating people with like interests or backgrounds? Check.  Finding people will abstruse skill sets or experiences (or finding people with particular skills sets that aren’t even that rare)? Yes — the “findability” of talent has arguably never been easier. Marketing jobs and extending the reach of job marketing efforts? Absolutely.  Learning what people really think of your company or department (or even you or your peers)?  All becoming more efficient due to social media.

I’m not saying that social media isn’t helping. It certainly is helping in many areas. But the buzz about social media and recruiting today reminds me a little of the buzz that happened in the mid to late 1990s around “Internet Recruiting.” I was a recruiting manager then, and in Seattle, one of the ancillary epicenters of the dot-com boom, when everyone was looking at the Internet as something of a Holy Grail of Recruiting. Take a look at this article if you’d like a walk down memory lane. Or these stats. My point is that organizations that win with social media recruiting will take a balanced approach to creating utility from the tools available.

There are three key problems that social media creates for organizations who have talent acquisition efforts at a modicum of scale (smaller companies have fewer issues):

  1. The Social Gap Problem
  2. The Social Proof Problem
  3. The Backdoor Problem

Problem One: The Social Gap. One of the problems created with social media as it relates to recruiting is rooted in the overall efficiency of the tools available to both potential candidates and the overall efficiency of the tools available to corporate recruiters. One side is efficient and the other side is inefficient, creating the gap. On the candidate side of the equation, social tools are very efficient. For example, you never will have to remember someone’s contact information, as LinkedIn will hold it and users will update those details in real time.  Facebook allows you to scale ‘relationship maintenance’ to at least up to 5,000 of your closest friends — never before have the nodes on your social graph been more efficiently maintained.

Contrasting this efficiency are corporate recruiting tools, that because of scale and volume requirements are generally transactional in nature, and as we all know, are sometimes downright anti-social in their abilities to help manage relationships with candidates and prospects.

So at the root of this gap is the fact that candidate expectations and behaviors have changed (and fast) … but the toolsets in corporate recruiting generally have not. Part of the reason this has occurred is because Facebook and LinkedIn (and all the other social tools) have experienced skyrocketing growth during the worst economic downturn that we are likely to see in our lifetime. So corporate recruiting departments haven’t changed much, except for getting smaller with fewer resources (that was kind of a joke except for the fact that nobody is laughing), but social tools for candidates have changed dramatically during that same time frame. The “front doors” to companies are still the same, but candidate behaviors have changed: candidates now use their social networks to learn about companies and find people who work there. When they want to learn more or get introduced, they don’t pore over corporate career sites or apply for jobs online; they find people who work there to learn the truth and get connected.

But at most companies, once connected with their network inside of the company, candidates are at some point forced back through the same funnel that has existed for 10-15 years. That is completely incongruent with the social expectations candidates have related to their candidate experience. This results in missed expectations, increased complaints, and reduced recruiting yields. The key takeaway is that most existing corporate recruiting practices are incongruent with supporting the social graph.

Here are some action steps to respond to this gap in expectations:

If you work for a small company, rejoice! Because of reduced scale and volumetric simplicities, smaller companies actually are handed an advantage over larger companies. It is much easier for a smaller company to use social tools and meet or exceed the relationship expectations across the candidate pools they draw from. Take advantage of the nimbleness of your smaller organization to leverage the social graph that extends from your company, and build your recruiting process in ways that will scale.

Focus on the candidate experience by both personalizing it and customizing it. What’s going to happen when a candidate talks to four “friends” at your company and then gets thrown into a poorly executed, unfriendly, depersonalized interview process? I don’t know either, but it’s not going to help your recruiting yields.

  • Personalize the experience by dramatically increasing communications from the people inside of your company to the candidates you are interviewing. Personalize it more by recognizing the hobbies, goals, or “nuanced attributes” of candidates and responding appropriately. For example, eight or nine years ago I learned that a recruiting manager candidate I was interviewing for a role on my team was big into cycling. So I sent him a Starbucks Cycling jersey. He still remembers it to this day.
  • Customize the candidate experience by adapting the less-rigid portions of your process to candidate requirements. Adjust the scheduling by inviting the employees who referred the candidate to lunch (or breakfast) with the candidate. Have them send thank-you messages. Leverage the social graph to improve the experience.

Conduct an entry point analysis and measure it over time Find out if greater or fewer candidates are coming through your referral program. Measure recruiting yields from each source.

Invite candidates’ friends into the recruiting process to be conduits for information. Equip your non-recruiting staff with customized recruiting schwag that they can send to their referrals. Turn them all into recruiters by arming them with tools.

In Part 2 of this series, we’ll talk about The Social Proof Problem, and The Backdoor Problem that Social Media creates for recruiting, and how to respond.

As usual, sound off in the comments section and join the discussion.

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