How Employers Use Social Media for Talent Attraction [STUDY]

In a day and age where business has become predominantly digital, most business leaders understand the importance of integrating social media into their sales and marketing strategies, however, many fail to consider it when it comes to attracting the top candidates to their organisation.

Recruitment is a two way process and it is just as essential for employers to sell their company and job vacancies to prospective employees as it is for the candidate to promote their skills and experience upon applying for a role. If you are going to attract the best talent available, organisations are going to have to sell themselves as a great place to work and when checking out a company before applying for a role, social media is often the first point of call for candidates.

Research conducted by Universum, looking at how the top 400 largest companies in the US use social media, has indicated that a large percentage of organisations are still struggling to achieve high levels of engagement within social media.

The study investigated how social media can be used for talent attraction; exploring how much business leaders invest in social media, how they use it for branding and recruiting and whether they measure the level of engagement they receive on social media.

Here are some of the findings from the Universum study:

What is the top channel for promoting employer brand?

Senior executives were surveyed about what channel across digital, print and personal events they find the most important for promoting employer brand and a third of respondents (35%) said social media was the most important digital channel and in second place was the employer website, with 29% saying it is important. The top print channel is brochures (16%) and the top personal channel is career fairs (17%).

Social media is one of the top tools used for job search these days and therefore a high number of candidates will already be present on the networks, especially millennials. For this reason it makes sense to optimise the brand’s use of social media, as it is likely that this is where candidates will build an idea of who the organisation are. Showing the human side of the brand is really beneficial for getting candidates on board and social media opens up this possibility.

Jobvite recently conducted a study of more than 1,800 recruiting and HR professionals, which found that 93% of recruiters use of plan to use social media as a means of boosting their recruiting efforts, however 82% report that their social recruiting skills are proficient or less. This means that although social media for recruiting is at an all-time high, the vast majority of professionals don’t feel that they are using it efficiently.

This isn’t entirely surprising, as there is a lot to learn in order to make the best use of social media channels, from carefully targeting passive candidates, to showcasing the brand, which require time and money to master. A different strategy may also be required for each social channel, for example Twitter posts can be kept brief but frequent, whereas less frequent but meatier content may work better on LinkedIn or Facebook.

How much is invested in social media?

The majority of organisations involved in the research reported that their spending will increase in the next five years, with 65% stating that they are likely to increase spending on social media in general and 63% increasing spending on social media advertising. Survey responses varied with industry and the management consulting industry will reportedly see the highest increase in spending in the coming years, with 84% saying spending will increase within the sector. On the other hand, only 65% of those in engineering and manufacturing said spending is likely to increase.

It makes sense to see a variation by industry as certain industries are more digitally focused than others. It is important to know who your target audience are, as investment has to reflect the potential benefit of using social media to target candidates in the industry. Candidates working in marketing or journalism are almost certainly more likely to be accessed through social media than perhaps mechanics or bricklayers would be.

How do the top companies use social media?

The majority of executives have said that they plan on increasing their use of social media for employer branding; 38% of these said they will increase by a lot and 31% claimed they will increase a little. A further 8% said that they actually intend on decreasing their social media use for one reason or another however.

Despite the importance of social recruiting for attracting Millennial candidates, the level of activity on social media was considerably low. When asked about their activity on social platforms, just 32% of those surveyed said that they work to maintain an active presence on a career account, 42% said that they have a moderate presence, 19 percent reported that their social recruiting efforts are fairly inactive and 11% report no activity at all. In addition to this, only 20% of these organizations employ someone to manage their social media presence for career opportunities.

These findings suggest that a large percentage of the companies involved in the study could benefit from an increase in investment, particularly for hiring an individual to manage the social media presence for the company and can put the time in to optimise social recruiting and employer branding for the best possible results.

To what extent is social media effectiveness measured?

Despite the high percentage of those identifying social media as the most important channel for employer branding and for recruitment, only half (52%) of the survey respondents said that they measure the effectiveness of their social media activity, though 69% do plan to do so in the next five years.

It would appear that they have missed a trick here, as social media requires monitoring to pinpoint techniques that deliver optimum engagement with the audience. It is only possible to do this by observing the success of social media activity on a day to day basis, due to the immediate nature of it and evolving trends.

Tools such as Klout, Hootsuite and Buffer can offer analytics to measure the success of your social media activity.

More than half of the organizations in the study reported that they have a social media policy or guidelines for their employees (54%), which is a positive indication that they are on top of risk management and have a clear understanding of what they want to achieve with their social media presence, though for the other 46% it is important for them to develop a strategy in order to develop a consistent online presence and professional reputation.

Who is accountable for employer branding?

Respondents were asked who they feel should be responsible for employer branding activities and the response demonstrated quite a difference in opinion amongst those involved in the study, with each functional area claiming a higher degree of liability over it. The most popular response was that HR are responsible, though this was still quite low at just 34%, so it would appear that organisations are unclear about their branding and talent attraction strategy and who should implement it.

How can social media be used for recruiting and employer branding?

Marketing departments in large organisations will no doubt have the expertise required for talent attraction professionals to build effective social media programs and if there were to be more collaboration between departments a more effective strategy could be developed.

One particular option that generally receives positive results, is a ‘Social Media Center of Excellence’, which is a training and development program that educates teams on how to use social media efficiently in all areas of the business. Programs like this help to form a broader knowledge of marketing across the organisation, improving the quality of social media use.

In the next year it is important for HR and recruiting to focus on quality rather than quantity and one top accounting firm in the study posted 60% less than its competitors but scored highest in engagement, which suggests that perhaps less is more.

It is also important for organisations to keep up with evolving social media trends, as what works one month may not work the next.


The results from Universum’s study indicate that although the majority of large companies are aware of the necessity of social media for attracting the top talent to their organisation, they are not entirely knowledgable about how to go about it. Though plans are to increase investment of time and money into boosting social media use in the next five years, only a small percentage of the companies involved in the research follow a clear pre-decided strategy and have an assigned team member to manage social media accounts.

For the best chance of attracting top talent to their organisations, I feel that business leaders need to invest more time and money into building a consistent and thought out brand image. This can be achieved by providing thorough training on each of the social platforms, to build a clear understanding of what type of content will be the most engaging, where, and by hiring dedicated staff they can be sure that social media activity is consistent and responsive and in turn create a positive employer brand.