More businesses are starting to integrate social media into their recruitment but is it really the next big thing in the race for talent?
We’ve all heard how social media can help businesses reach consumers on a global scale. The massive marketing power presented by the likes of Facebook and Twitter is beyond dispute.
However, there’s more to social media than meets the eye. On the one hand, it puts companies in front of an audience of millions – even billions – who may wish to part with their hard-earned cash for a product or service. On the other, the recruiters and HR managers of the world will inevitably have a different view of this audience. For them, it represents a global talent pool that can be dipped into whenever a new position needs filling.
“Social media has given small businesses the recruiting power and reach of much larger organisations,” says Pierre Berlin, head of EMEA staffing within the Talent Solutions business at LinkedIn. “As a result, it’s now cost-effective for even smaller organisations to employ a recruiter full-time, saving money they might have normally spent on expensive recruitment agencies.”
Equally, social media can serve as a useful accompaniment to firms’ current recruitment strategy and put the message out to their network that they’re in the process of hiring. “Often, it will just tie in quite naturally to existing marketing efforts that a company is engaged in,” says Logan Naidu, founder and CEO of Dartmouth Partners, the recruitment consultancy. “For instance, if a small business has a Twitter feed that they use for their customers or for business purposes more generally, it makes sense to leverage that network they have in order to supplement their hiring as well.”
Despite these opportunities, smaller firms are not yet taking full advantage of social media in their recruitment efforts. According to an Office of National Statistics (ONS) report from December 2013, ICT of Activity of UK Businesses, 2012, the recruitment of employees only ranked fifth in the six most common uses of social media among businesses. Just 11.8% of companies were using social media to recruit employees, compared to the 33.1% using it to develop business image and market products.
Closer inspection of the companies that utilise social media in recruitment reveals that just 9.9% of firms with 10-49 employees – and 18% of those with 50-249 employees – make use of it when hiring. Meanwhile, more than a quarter (28.3%) of firms with 250-999 employees integrate social media into recruitment, with that percentage rising to 41.9% for companies where the workforce totals over 1000 staff.
One possible explanation for this is the sheer resource gap that exists between small and large firms. “When it comes to the other bits of the process – the sifting of applications and interview process itself – that is actually where a lot of recruitment firms come into play,” explains Naidu. “A lot of the challenge of the recruitment process is to go through that stage whilst trying to manage the business and everything else that’s going on.”
Putting in the time
But if an SME is willing and able to invest its time into it, a dabble in social media can certainly bring rewards. Spreckley Partners, the PR company, has advertised two junior roles on LinkedIn recently. “We wanted to see if we could hire without having to pay the extra fees to recruiters,” explains Robin Campbell-Burt, associate director at Spreckley Partners.
This approach has come with added man hours but Campbell-Burt believes it’s been an effective channel for the company. “We had 120 applicants for our most recent vacancy so I had to look at each and every one of those to see if they’re appropriate, which was a lot more work than when a recruiter is sending through people after you’ve briefed them on who you’re looking for,” he says. “But with a bit of patience, the end result was that the people we’ve got to interview are of the same quality and calibre as if we’d gone through a recruitment consultant.”
It’s also provided Spreckley Partners with a useful reference point for the next time it recruits. “Everyone who’s applied who we’ve quite liked the look of; we’ve got them on our radar,” adds Campbell-Burt.
Not a panacea
But as it stands, social media is just one piece of the recruitment puzzle. It’s not yet threatening the existence of traditional channels meaning a reliance on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter won’t be that fruitful for the majority businesses. “You should be relentless in looking for talent and if you think that you can just run an advert on social media or in your local newsagents, and that will do it, it probably won’t,” says Patrick Tame, founder and CEO of Beringer Tame, the digital and ecommerce recruitment company.
Certainly, it’s yet to have as big an impact on recruitment as it’s had on the world of marketing. The same old rules apply. “Everyone hopes for a panacea that will solve their recruitment problems but there is no quick fix to recruitment,” says Peter Burgess, managing director of Retail Human Resources, the retail recruitment company. “The only way to do recruitment is to see a hell of a lot of people before you see the one that you want.”
However, whilst social media may not be the be-all-and-end-all for seeking out talent, it’s undeniably become a shop window for potential recruits. “All companies need to look at the way they are represented in social media because it’s a candidate-driven market and talent chooses where it works,” concludes Tame.