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Jason Collings



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Blog: Social recruitment – Stop hunting, start fishing


Accepting that there are ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’ it is claimed that over a third of the people in the world are registered members and users of social networks.

In developed, highly networked regions such as the US and Western Europe that figure can approach eighty per cent.

Furthermore, once you have accounted for outliers due to age ranges (the very young and old tend not to be heavy users of Facebook or Twitter), you rapidly reach a position little short of ubiquity.
In short, almost everyone a potential employer wants to reach is socially networked, so the question must be asked; how do you reach them? There have been numerous efforts to harness the power of social networks, to access them like a self-moderated candidate database, with varying degrees of success.
For example, for most executive search firms LinkedIn (or Xing in Central Europe) is now regarded as the primary source of candidate contact information, replacing the old-school ‘little black book’ of contacts. Employers too have sought to use social networks by creating pages on primarily social sites such as Facebook.
Yet by and large these are all too often mere extensions of their corporate website, and to the fast-moving cognoscenti of the networked world, have the vaguely pathetic feel of a parent trying too hard to look cool to their offspring.
Power to the consumer
Certainly attempts to capitalise on the growth of social networking as a tool for recruitment have been much lauded, but in most cases have not delivered on their promise. The truth is that social networking gives the power to the consumer whilst at the same time being fundamentally about being entertaining.
With the exception of the purely business networks, like Linked In and Xing, social networks are there mainly for fun and the fact is, companies desperately trying to appeal to you to apply for jobs isn’t fun; it’s work… it’s dull. Even the business networks are not the happy hunting grounds many would like you to believe.
They are typically overused as a sourcing tool, meaning that many users simply remove themselves from open access and even those who do not begin to see enquiries about jobs as spam and move them straight to the ‘trash’. After all, they are on the network to further their contacts, not for your convenience.
All of this is familiar to the poor frustrated corporate recruiters attempting to coax interest from the apparently boundless, but infuriatingly disinterested online community. So what is the answer?
For many, belief in the potential of social networks as a recruiting tool has mirrored confidence in their share prices. These jaded users see nothing more than a white elephant, a mirage which promised much but delivered little. Yet there is still enormous opportunity in the space, but to capitalise on it requires a fundamental shift in mentality.
The corporate masters, used to being in charge of their destinies, to being the hunter, not the hunted, must learn to accept that in the social networks that dynamic is gone. Instead of hunting, one must learn to fish…
The secret to attracting talent, like with fishing, is to not try too hard. Potential candidates do not want to be chased and pursued, they want to make their own choices without being sold to. The very aegis of being sold to is now attracting a stigma, leaving the impression that if it’s being sold it must be a lie, or at least not all it appears.
Stop selling
In this negative atmosphere the only answer is to stop selling. Indeed the secret to success is to give the user what they want, to use the right bait if you like, which is content.
As we have said, social networking is about entertainment, interest, having fun, or in the case of business networks, making contacts and furthering one’s career. The savvy corporate needs to embrace this reality.
They need to move away from a sales led approach, towards marketing, attracting interest through content designed to appeal to the target audience. They need to make their social network presence a ‘go to’ environment for those in their space, a place others in the same field will want to go.
This begins by having information, blogs, discussions and news, all relevant and interesting to your target audience. It then grows by acting as a forum for those interested in the field(s).
By establishing one’s site as a place of authoritative information and useful contacts, where you can discuss matters of interest with like-minded people, without the fear of attracting rapacious recruiters, you will create an atmosphere of inclusion.
This in turn has a demonstrably significant effect on your employer brand. In this environment a simple button on the site directing interested parties to current jobs, or better yet an interactive environment where they can talk to someone about working at your company, is all you need.
By allowing the candidates to come to you, you have differentiated yourself, you have marked yourself out as caring about them, not just about their CV, and you have embraced the user-defined power of the social network. Happy fishing.

Jason Collings is director of HR and recruitment process outsourcers, Quarsh.

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Jason Collings


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