Part I: The Reality of "Social Recruiting" and How To Approach It

I was recently asked to talk about “social media and recruiting” (for staffing firms: how to approach it, what to do, etc.) at the SIA Healthcare Staffing Summit held this past week.  This assignment really caused me to think about the challenges of adoption and what a reasonable perspective on approaching “social recruiting” might be.

I think one of the biggest and most important challenges is "misconception."  There is so much hype in the environment and so much pressure to “go social” that it is easy for firms to move forward without thinking it through (Fire-Ready-Aim Method).  While it is clear that “social networks” and “social media” have already become pervasive, critical realities in peoples’ lives and in how businesses operate, I think that we are only at the beginning of something we are calling "social recruiting."  That is: the beginning of understanding how to leverage “social networks” (like Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), “social media” (like Twitter, YouTube, etc.), and other “social tools” (such as 3rd party services like Ascendify, Bullhorn Reach, Jobs2Web, Monster Beknown, etc. or,  or solutions like Insight Squared that address the so-called “big data” and analytics that come along with all these social networks, media, and tools)--as well as a whole set of other converging important technologies (mobile, unified communications, etc.). 

I recently finished reading a series of ERE posts (“Recruitment 3.0,” “Recruitment 4.0,” and the concluding--ominously titled--post “Recruitment 5.0:  The Future of Recruiting—The Final Chapter”).  Well, nothing like stirring up the pot.  But more interesting for me, than the very interesting futurology provided by the author, were the comments of readers (recruiters, staffing professionals, etc.).  One of the common threads across these comments was something like:  “Ok, so there is all of this cool stuff out there and coming… But what should we do, how should we deal with it, take advantage of it?  And, BTW, many of these new innovations appear to just be offering different (maybe better?) ways doing what we have been doing all along (finding talent directly or by referral, engaging talent, evaluating talent, etc.).  So are we really talking about such a disruptive revolution in what we do?”

My answer to that question is “yes, in some ways,” but also “no, in some very important ways.”   In fact, I think that “smart” staffing firms will approach this emerging domain of so-called social recruiting in  a truly evolutionary way that is not disruptive, but actually enhancing of their core business principles over time.

In our recent “2012 Talent Acquisition/ Recruiting Survey" of staffing firm TA/Recruiting executives, the most frequent response to the question “Which talent acquisition technology areas will become notably more important over the next 1-2 years,” the responses stacked up as follows.


“Social Media-Networking Platforms” was the most frequently cited area (71% of respondents).  “Mobile” was also frequently cited (which should not be surprising, as smartphones and tablets are becoming THE dominant “personal device,” already eclipsing laptops and PCs).  I would also argue most of the other areas cited (Website, Integrate ATS/Job Boards/Social, Sourcing/Outreach Tools, Candidate Relationship Tools., Talent Pool/Community Tools/Platforms) are really technology elements of a “social recruiting” solution.

So there is clearly a lot of anticipation and mindshare!   At the same time, the survey revealed considerable reservation and uncertainty, as reflected here:


The good news for staffing firms, I believe, is that the “natural path” forward is one that should be more incremental and evolutionary, stretching over many years and allowing for management of uncertainty and risk.  In fact, I would definitely recommend suppressing any big knee-jerk reactions in trying to “go social” and become a “social” recruiter and staffing firm.  Yes, the technology is expanding and changing rapidly, but that is all the more reason to step back and proceed thoughtfully and incrementally with a planning horizon that stretches over several (3+?)  years (even as counter-intuitive and paradoxical as that might sound). 

In subsequent posts, I will be discussing what such an approach means and looks like and try to convince you that it is an appropriate one.  But as the take-way from this initial post, as we embark upon a different understanding of “social recruiting,” I would like make a few remarks to try to clear the air of the “cloud” of “social” hype that were are all living in:

  • “Social” is real, and it is here to stay.
  • “Social” and “social recruiting” are very broad concepts and ways of approaching life and commerce.  Both are comprehensive of many buzzwords and elements (including social networks, social media, social tools, websites, job boards, unified communications, et al). 
  • What makes this “social” new and innovative is really the cumulative new technology that has come into our hands over the last 15 years (and is continuing to come).  We (as recruiters, staffing firms, employers) will still need to find (directly or through referrals), engage, evaluate, and otherwise support “the right stuff” (the talent, their skills, knowledge, and qualities).  But the means and processes of doing so will change because of the ecosystems of technologies that are emerging in and around our businesses.
  • That said, for practical reasons, I would like to propose a more functional definition of "social," rather than continuing to have us all muddle through the cloud of buzzwords and hype (social networks, social media, etc.) that were are inundated by.  So, my definition of "social" is this:  “processes and systems enabling electronic/online, engagement-rich, value-adding connections and relationships.”  And “social recruiting” will be arrived at as you each make choices over several years to evolve your own specific technology-enabled, talent ecosystems.

The choices will be many…  ranging from combinations of many granular elements (various home-grown or 3rd party platforms, tools, etc.) that will lead you in your own unique direction (at one end of the spectrum)  to (at the other end of the spectrum) adopting total solution platforms (such as LinkedIn) that promise to fulfill all your staffing firm’s talent acquisition needs with regard to  the “processes and systems enabling electronic/online, engagement-rich, value-adding connections and relationships.” 

What we call things might seem trivial and unimportant, but certain terms like "social recruiting" can harbor gross misconceptions (as was the case at the turn of the last century, when automobiles were called "horseless carriages"). So, hitch yourself up, and and come along for the real ride.


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Ruth James01/24/2014 01:37 pm

I think that using social media in business is the right way to go. Without being known on social sites there's almost no marketing. Just take a look at pinterest and facebook, when someone recommends a business their friends are way more likely to use it.
Ruth James |

IT Staffing Services

Than Nguyen10/31/2012 05:07 pm

Employers’ use of social media is the hot topic at the moment and while we can discuss the privacy and legal ramifications, the reality is that unless your organization has a clear and documented policy, the practice will continue, informally or otherwise.

Staffing Industry Analysts

Staffing Industry Analyst Karpie Andrew10/24/2012 11:23 pm

Ben, Thank you for your comment and for pointing that out. You are quite right: today, LinkedIn is a professional social network and a set of recruiting tools. I was looking slightly ahead where I think "the ball is going" when I refer to LinkedIn as "a total solution platform." I do think that is where LinkedIn is heading, and we will see them there in 1-2 years. Perhaps I will be wrong. In any case, I should have distinguished between where I think LinkedIn is heading and what it is today. Thank you for catching that. Andrew

WebRecruit North America

Ben Cameron10/23/2012 01:11 pm

Great article, Andrew. Indeed, I believe social recruiting is the obvious next-step for both employers to source "the right stuff," as you say.

But I wonder if calling LinkedIn a "total solution platform" is misleading. LinkedIn is no doubt powerful, but it's more of a tool. I liken it to giving someone a carpenter's toolbox and then telling him to build a cupboard. LinkedIn makes talent more accessible, but you still need a good recruiter to put it all together. What I see emerging then are service providers to LinkedIn's product/(toolbox).

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