Go Fish: Stocking the Job Applicant Pool

10 02 2011

With social media on the rise there’s an increasingly prevalent shift into two-way communication channels rather than the one-way methods corporations previously have employed, as we’ve discussed in previous posts. One of social media’s most unique characteristics is that there is no correct way to use it; businesses are adapting, rolling with the punches so to speak, and they’re changing the way in which they function.  They’re listening and then engaging consumers, monitoring their reputation in cyberspace (not only on their website, but in other spaces as well), and advertising/marketing is almost unrecognizable, if only so far as the marketing vehicles businesses employ on the web.  While in most instances its the little guy who first engages the corporation on the web, when it comes to job searching that’s not always the case.  Today many companies are actively searching for talent; this search once closely resembled fishing – it might feel like a big one, but you can’t always tell – with the addition of social media you can get a better picture of those individuals you wish to employ.

Among businesses it appears that utilizing social media for recruiting and hiring is quickly becoming the norm, its one of the more widely used purposes of social media among businesses.  In a survey by Jobvite in June of 2010, nearly three quarters of businesses reported using social media to gain a better understanding of a candidate during the recruiting and/or hiring process.  Predictably, most companies used a combination of Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter to further their connection with the employee; there’s a breakdown by percentages showing the use of several more types of social media used if you follow the link and scroll to the article titled “Heard @HRMAC.”  When recruiting, companies are using these sites to increase their appeal with potential candidates by building a relationship (how often does a company come to you?), expand their pool of candidates, and assist with backgrounding – backgrounding can be potentially dangerous which I’ll discuss a bit later in this post.  But resumes are reviewed again and again to make a candidate as appealing as they could possibly be, by using social media a company can gain insight into a person’s character traits and passions – helping you choose the best fit for your needs and company culture.

Probably the biggest benefit of using social media for recruiting is the cost savings.  Unlike other uses of social media, here its much easier to see your return-on-investment.   For instance, before Linkedin companies would commonly seek out senior managers and executives through a headhunter/recruiter – whose fees usually range from 10-30% of the annual salary for the position they fill.  Intel Corporation used to spend millions of dollars in fees recruiting senior managers and executives using headhunters; changing their strategy, Intel started using Linkedin, searching for suitable candidates on their own.  Intel Corporation not only saved millions of dollars on headhunter fees, Linkedin was able to connect them with suitable, available candidates faster than the traditional methods of recruiting. Although, for those who believe you can only get the big-fish from the largest talent pools, some companies have used Twitter to reach out – generating hundreds of business contacts in minutes, or seconds for more popular companies.  While large companies are using these tools and finding success, it may benefit small businesses even more.  Since small businesses are probably only well known locally, if at all, social media gives them a chance to seek out top-notch talent.

A social media presence not only allows companies to seek out candidates, it draws candidates in as well.  Company social media profiles – especially those found on Linkedin – provide users with easy access to company facts/information, examples of their culture, and other details showcasing the company.  Since Linkedin is a recruiting tool, in this space companies can delete and filter comments (although one case of consumer backlash could change this).  Electronic Arts or EA, an international video game developer known for their popular Madden Football series, has been using social media to recruit talent for the better part of the decade.  They’ve used social media to such success they rely on it as their primary candidate relationship management strategy.  One of the reasons EA has maintained an online-presence for so long is their recognition of the fact that younger generations seem to hold an innate insight into technology and its expanding use – EA realized the best place to reach these individuals was the internet (Mark Zuckerberg, who would go on to found Facebook, created an instant messaging program to talk to his dad while he was at work at the age of 12.  AOL instant messenger came out a year later).  Early on, EA recognized social media as one of the most effective ways to connect to talented individuals; perhaps at the forefront of a similarly unique insight again EA is connecting with even younger fans recognizing that they too will soon become job candidates.

Using social media in recruiting practices can be dangerous, though not enough to discourage use.  A survey by career builder shows that companies often rejected candidates based on several discoveries made through social media: drinking or drug use, provocative/inappropriate photographs or information, displaying poor communication, and lies about qualifications.  Information should only enhance a companies recruiting process, digging for dirt is not professional and could potentially lead to legal repercussions.  While candidates may seem irresponsible for posting pictures of themselves drinking, being drunk is legal in the United States which in turn makes it illegal to eliminate them based on this; similarly, how someone communicates on Facebook is not a  representation of their business communication skills.  More importantly, eliminating candidates based on what you’ve gleaned from Facebook, is actually a violation of their service agreement, and any sort of trouble is big trouble for a reputable company.  Risks also exist if a company conducts their hiring practices through social media too heavily they could not only miss out on talented but less fortunate individuals (lacking internet or computer access), they could be violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act – since an extremely small number of older citizens conduct themselves online.  Some laws also exist protecting job seekers from employers gathering too much information, this ambiguity leaves a remarkable amount of wiggle room for a potential lawsuit.

Social media can be a great way to enhance your presence in the job market, and to recruit quality talent to your corporate team.  However, you should only use social media to aid your applicant search – not limit it.  Instead there are other methods that are both legal and more effective to screen potential problems from your company, such as drug tests and background checks.

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