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Katherine Jones


Partner and Director of Talent Research

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Why it’s time to scale your social calendar for talent acquisition


The Plainspeak Analyst is Katherine Jones, Partner and Director of Talent Research at Mercer, the world’s largest human resources consulting firm. Her job is to design and deliver insight research and services to Mercer’s global clients. She was previously VP, Human Capital Management Technology Research at Bersin by Deloitte. She has a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from Cornell University.

It’s rather like “Finding Nemo” or perhaps “Where’s Waldo?” Locating and engaging with prospective candidates is one of the hardest issues recruiters face: rarely are potential candidates—that is, the ones you really want—hanging around on your career site filling out applications. 

Once the organization identifies a need for employee support, how do you find the qualified people you seek? Where are they located and how might they be reached?

In the past, recruiters relied on newspapers; this was disintermediated by the move to their technological counterpart — the job board. Both of these were passive means of seeking employees; hence, the moniker “post and pray” for this activity.  With the advent of social media, everything changed. Recruiters can now engage directly, early and often with potential candidates.

And, with the new-found ability to incorporate referral management into both social media and their own internal sourcing processes, recruiters extended their reach to a far broader network of viable candidates.

It was really the rise of social media that changed talent acquisition—the first change in the process since the industrial revolution.

Social networks include the expected titans (LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter), as well as niche players that address industry-specific networks (for example, those for technologists, health care professionals, college professors, artists, and many more).

Companies such as GitHub, HackerRank and dribbble are often providing more relevant screening content in the highly technical job categories than a traditional resume ever could.

The advent of LinkedIn and the “Apply with LinkedIn” button within online applications radically simplified the way candidates could apply for jobs.

But social networks also make recruiting easier for recruiters: first, they can obviously “cruise” the network in search of skill sets or experiences they seek, and second, they can create true talent pools – something that recruiters have strived for in the past and not readily accomplished.

Private talent pools can also be collected from previous applicants who did not find a job in your company through tools such as Lever’s Nurture Recommendations that search through archived past applicants for new jobs.

Often overlooked, however, is the marriage of social and mobile.

Mobile rules the hearts and minds of most professionals today, especially the Millennials and GenXers. Innovative companies leveraging mobile functionality are reinventing the job board model by introducing gamified elements and features of successful mobile apps  to improve the candidate experience.

Big data continues to be a competitive differentiator for companies that can successfully leverage it to offer more personalised, data-driven solutions to their prospective candidates.

The social search companies aggregate all of an individual’s information that lives in the public domain and provides search access, for a fee, to recruiters so they can get a more detailed overview of a given candidate. They provide advanced web search tools which accommodate the social graph of the person initiating the search query or the person being searched for.

These technologies leverage innovative algorithms and machine-based learning techniques to produce search results that can provide significantly more visibility into the candidate being considered. The data generated pulls from social platforms such as LinkedIn and others.


The proverbial war for talent continues unabated. While perceived as acute in many countries, HR in general remains more focused on building, growing, and promoting its internal talent than in external hiring initiatives in the year ahead, according to Mercer 2017 Global Talent Trends (available at no cost here).

“Finding Nemo” is going to require a shift in HR’s attention: to using social and mobile aps to source and engage job candidates, often needing to lure them away from current careers.  

Author Profile Picture
Katherine Jones

Partner and Director of Talent Research

Read more from Katherine Jones

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