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Verity Gough

Sift Media

Deputy Editor

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Recruitment 2.0


With jobseekers turning to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to find work, how can HR make the most of social networking and unearth the talent? Verity Gough logs on to find out how best to harness the power of Web 2.0.  

There is a strange revolution going on in the world of recruitment. What was once the domain of job boards and agencies is slowly and surely being integrated with a flourishing social networking movement. Yet while advertisers have been quick to capitalise on this burgeoning market of potential candidates, HR has been less forthcoming about taking the plunge.

The changing face of recruitment

When you look at the figures, it seems almost foolhardy for HR to not integrate Web 2.0 into its recruitment strategy. Take Facebook for instance; currently it has nearly 200 million members worldwide, including more than 500 groups with the subject ‘jobs’. It offers the opportunity for organisations to create professional profiles, post events, comment and engage with potential employees across the world. More interesting still, far from being the domain of Gen Y, the fastest growing population among its users is aged 25 and older.
And then there’s Twitter. With a somewhat smaller share of the population with just over six million tweeters, the microblogging site is another new target for recruiters – and it seems to be catching on fast.  In fact when TwitJobs launched in March it gained more than 4,500 followers instantly. And now with TweetMyJobs and TwitterJobSearch joining the market, HR is spoilt for choice.
Lisette Howlett, HR consultant and founder of Hire Scores online recruitment agency, may be pro social networking for recruitment purposes but warns that the market is still young and HR needs to approach it with caution when creating a campaign. "The whole recruitment paradigm is shifting and will be totally unrecognisable in the next six years. At the moment, we are at the wrong end of the shift and are in a situation where there is too much stuff – everyone is overwhelmed," she explains.
"Engaging with the social networks takes a strategic plan – work out what you want and how to promote yourself and you stand a much better chance of getting a result." To this end, she recommends that those new to Recruitment 2.0 should think about scanning the well established social networks like LinkedIn, while creating a professional page on Facebook is also a good first step.
However, while it is easy to set up a profile, there are a number of pitfalls to be wary of: "Congruency is important when creating your professional profile on social networks because information on the internet is there for good," warns Howlett. “You cannot be chirpy and ‘out there’ on Tuesday because you’re hiring design people, then sensible and sober on Wednesday because you’re hiring lawyers. Candidates will see the two ‘yous’ and at best they will be confused, at worst they will think you are disingenuous. Your brand and the environment you are offering people to work in needs to be aligned much more than it ever used to be," she adds.
So how can HR ensure they don’t alienate their potential candidates? Lucian Tarnowski is founder of BraveNewTalent, an add-on application on Facebook and other social networking sites that allows candidates to create their own second, professional profile. This enables them to see the employers that interest them and join their community, as well as connect with other like-minded jobseekers.
While this may sound like sleeping with the enemy, Tarnowski is confident that this approach is working: "Gen Y don’t see it as a negative thing, they know they are in competition with each other but they just see it as a much more interactive way to look for a job; and right now embarking on a job search is a very lonely process, it’s just you and your career, so by making the job search social, a lot more interactive and engaging, is a good thing for both sides," he remarks.
Tarnowski believes that Recruitment 2.0 has the ability to revolutionise the relationship between organisations and employees, but only if it is done correctly. "Right now the use of social media by recruiters is the same, old top down business model: they have a job which they need to promote and put it out to the market as much as possible, or they need to promote their employer brand," he says. "But a lot of employers think that putting a banner ad on Facebook is ticking the box of social media and networking – it’s not."

Softly, softly, catchy monkey

In fact, he argues that the reason HR has been so anti-social media has been down to its topsy-turvy approach: rather than seeing it as something to be controlled by the organisation, it should be viewed as an organic process that involves a whole new way of communicating with potential candidates. "There needs to be a fundamental shift in the relationship.  For social media to work successfully it needs to belong to the candidates and what we do is empower them to initiate the relationship with employers," he explains.
Unfortunately, in an effort to ensnare candidates through social networking, many recruiters have alienated them and rather than generating interest in the brand, they have ended up saturating potential employees with ‘brand spam’.
"It’s what I call interruption rather than interaction," says Tarnowski. "You’re interrupting people and stopping them by saying, ‘hey look at me, I’ve got this job, we’re this employer brand’. There is so much noise out there on the web with ads coming left, right and centre yet all the studies of Gen Y show that they completely ignore ads, they are blind to them."
Instead he recommends building a relationship in advance of the application so the employer can connect with a whole community of people who want to work for them. "Then they have the ability to dip into that community, rather than putting their employer brand out to the whole market," he reflects.

Building a campaign

One organisation that has been using Recruitment 2.0 to find new staff is global hosting company, Peer1. They wanted to create a new UK team of ‘customer-service focused geeks’ who would get a buzz out of client satisfaction whilst also knowing all there is to know about web hosting. In order to find these illusive candidates and test the resolve of successful applicants, they created an offer where new starters would be given £1,000 if they opted to leave within the first two weeks. The company used this to seed the opportunity into online media using Twitter and Facebook, as well as news rooms and blogs to draw attention to the offer, and received 85 applicants in 24 hours and now have a very successful team on board.
"Social media is a crowded space, with a lot of spam as well as news that you have to fight against," explains Dominic Monkhouse, UK managing director. "This strategy worked because it literally got people talking and generated a buzz. People were passing details on to their friends and colleagues and basically doing the recruitment for us. We hired an outside consultant to filter the applicants due to the scale of the response."
However, timing was also critical to the campaign’s success. "We announced this recruitment drive on the eve of the government’s unemployment figures which painted a pretty grim picture – so our recruitment drive stood out," says Monkhouse.

As news of successful social media campaigns spread, the fervour for Recruitment 2.0 increases, but, warns Howlett, tried and trusted methods should not be neglected. "Social networking may be a low cost method but not necessarily a cost-effective method," she warns. "If you are a significant recruiter of new talent, then actually it is cost effective to invest in your own pipeline and get your direct recruits up – even at the lower end you are going to pay 10% per candidate that someone else finds for you but if you find them yourself, you pay nothing," she says.

So will social networking replace other more well-established methods? "Where social networks are best is around educating in order to increase the quality of dialogue between the company and the candidate and those that do have a good strategy in that space could really set themselves apart," reflects Howlett.
Tarnowski agrees: "The change that’s going to come to the recruitment space off the back of social media is going to be absolutely huge. I’m absolutely 100% positive that in between one and five years every single corporate brand will have a social media engagement platform where they’ll be engaging with stakeholders, potential candidates, potential customers, current customers. And I’m absolutely sure that will happen."

3 Responses

  1. Look here too

    Dear members,

    If you find this topic interesting, then why not join the ‘social media and recruitment’ discussion group? Here you will be able to share opinion and discuss the latest opportunities and ideas on how social networking sites are being used more widely as a tool for recruitment. To join the group, click here.

    Kind regards

    Lucie Mitchell

  2. Yes…but
    OK – I can agree with many of the sentiments expressed in this piece. Lucian’s call for employers to engage in relationship building is in my opinion on the one hand admirable but on the other it just doesn’t reflect my experience of cold hard business / recruitment / HR even in (maybe particularly in) the big well known “employer of choice” brands. Relationship building with the potential candidate community out there is something that we all nod our heads at as almost self evidently a “good thing” but in my experience employers aren’t much interested in investing time and effort nurturing a relationship with someone that they have taken a look at and decided they aren’t / won’t ever be a credible candidate. I’d genuinely be interested to know how a service that aims to help employers and individuals build longer (pre employment) relationships does.

    My own take on all of this is that there are already enough social networking platforms out there and we don’t want to create yet another. But, what we wanted to do was to incentivise individuals to use their existing realworld and virtual networks to help employers to solve their recruitment issues. This has to be implemented in a very focused way and our area of activity is commercial property and construction. We hope that we have learnt from and improved dramatically upon the first wave of “recruitment by referral” businesses – do take a look at (

  3. A recruiters view!

    The use of your "network", both on and offline, is more important than ever as employers seek to get the most value they can from a new hire. There may be more candidates out there but the desire to get the best is still strong! The importance of building a cohesive online brand, across social networks, should be recognised both by HR teams to represent their specific brand and Recruitment companies to fully represent their clients and expertise.

    Gone are the days of a recruiter thinking they can post a one off job posting on an online forum / group, as the article points out it is much more about taking time to build trust and a solid network of both close contacts and a broader group who are aware of the companies existence. I would say the term Recruitment 2.0 is greater than just the use of social networking….it is a term that refers to the dramatic shift in the options open to any company that wishes to recruit.

    Grant Bodie Mount Recruitment

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Verity Gough

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