Talent Acquisition

What is the True Role of Social Media in Hiring?

The rise of the internet, and particularly the rapidly-growing popularity of social media, has transformed the way employers and job seekers communicate and more recently, the way the recruitment process works in general.

In the past, sourcing candidates with the right qualifications, experience and cultural fit was a complicated and time consuming process, which is why employers generally turned to independent recruitment agencies for professional help. More recently we have seen a shift towards ‘in-house’ recruiters (who I must add, are generally very professional and effective in sourcing talent) who, with the rise of social media can tap into a global pool of potential candidates with just a few clicks of their mouse. Whilst this evolution has benefited many employers with their hiring during a period of global downturn and job shortage, I am not so sure it is a sustainable or effective sourcing method medium term.

The downside to this approach is that the use of social media networking for job seekers is done primarily by ‘active’ candidates who are, for one reason or another ‘in the market’ looking for a new role. It is widely regarded that the best candidates are generally ‘passive’ job seekers and are unlikely to put themselves or their profile in the public domain.

Regardless of being in a candidate rich market, high calibre and professional employees can be just as tough to find today, if not tougher than they have been in the past. With thousands of resumes flooding the market, it often requires a deep and specialist understanding of your sector, business, and more importantly, the intricacies of your vacant role, along with years of recruiting experience to find that one employee who can truly add value to your company.

While social media makes it easy to find a thousand, dare I say it, mediocre candidates in one day, locating the perfect match for your unique business needs is still a job best left to a professional, specialist recruitment agency.

Besides the size and quality of the applicant pool, what has changed in recent years is the way people advertise their skills and the way they network with potential employers and other industry professionals. Building a career and job hunting are now a lot more complex than sending the same resume to prospective employers via snail mail, or even via email. For example, LinkedIn, the social media channel developed specifically for professional networking, now has over 200 million members from all over the globe.

While LinkedIn is leading the way in professional communication and business development, other social media giants like Facebook and Twitter are not far behind. In fact, back in November of 2012 Facebook launched a new US based job board feature that gives recruiters the ability to connect to users who are looking for work in their local area. While Twitter is less conducive to professional networking since it restricts posts to a limiting 140 characters, it can still be tremendously useful for locating local talent. By advertising open positions to followers and searching the user database with keywords that are related to your business, Twitter can be the perfect tool for supplementing other social media channels.

In the practical sense, that means any recruiter can use a searchable database to pull hundreds of candidates with resumes and skills that seem ideal for any open position within your company. But, what reads perfectly on paper doesn’t always translate the same way when you meet and interview the candidate. The difference between recruiters who use social media to locate active candidates, and independent professional recruiters, is that the latter are trained to find passive candidates who not only have the background you are looking for, but who also have the most potential to grow within your company and fit in with your employee culture and team dynamic.

While it seems like a no-brainer in today’s economic climate, there is an inherent problem with relying on social media and the Internet in general to find your perfect candidates quickly. It’s simply not a sustainable strategy in terms of future growth as the pool of highly-skilled, professional and specialist candidates will inevitably shrink as domestic and international economies rebound further, jobless rates will fall meaning more vacant roles become available, making finding the best possible employee be a lot tougher than throwing a few keywords into a social media search engine.

To secure and retain the quality of your employee team in the future, it’s important to maintain a good relationship with a truly specialist recruitment business who is well networked across your sector. This recruitment partner will have the capability to utilise a variety of traditional recruitment methodologies, combined with all available social media channels to help you handpick the perfect candidates for your business in any economy.

Author: Paul Simms is an executive recruiter with 15 years of experience across the Australian and UK markets. He is the founder of Wright Executive, a specialist business within the Accounting and Professional Services sector.

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