Survey: Employers Using Social Media to Find Passive Candidates

By Roy Maurer Jan 7, 2016
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The No.1 reason employers engage in recruiting on social media channels is to attract potential candidates not yet looking for a new job, according to new research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

About eight in 10 HR professionals (82 percent) said recruiting passive job candidates is the primary reason their organizations use social media for recruitment. Increasing employer brand and recognition (77 percent), and targeting job candidates with a specific set of skills (71 percent) were also top reasons given.

The SHRM survey “Using Social Media for Talent Acquisition—Recruitment and Screening,” released Jan. 7, found that recruiting via social media is growing, with 84 percent of organizations using it currently and an additional 9 percent planning to use it. In 2011, only 56 percent used social media for recruitment.

For most organizations (81 percent), social media is one of several recruiting tools used; only 5 percent said it is their primary recruiting tool.

The survey was fielded in late 2015 with 410 responses from HR professionals with the job function of employment or recruitment.

“Searching for passive candidates is one of the keys to social recruiting, especially in trying to find niche candidates,” said Jeffery Giesener, CEO and founder of SourceMob, a social recruiting company based in Minneapolis. “Using social geolocation tools is great for these efforts. From my perspective, additionally, I see social recruiting as being so much broader. Today, with social being on mobile and with over 4 billion global profiles the appeal is so much broader and reaches all demographics.”

The findings square with what Craig Fisher, head of employer brand at software firm CA Technologies and CEO of TalentNet, a social business strategy firm, has seen on the market. He found respondents’ No. 3 reason for recruiting on social media—being able to target candidates with specific skill sets—especially telling.

“With the ability to target social media advertising to very specific groups of people, [social media] is fast becoming one of the go-to methods for sourcing and talent attraction,” he said.

But Fisher added that employers need to “keep good content flowing that is helpful to their social communities and avoid just ‘asking’ all the time, so that when candidates see these ads and check out the company, they see a helpful resource and interesting culture.”

Two-thirds of organizations have taken steps to leverage mobile recruiting and target smartphone users, according to the report. Most commonly, organizations have optimized their careers website (39 percent), job postings (36 percent) and application process (36 percent) for mobile users.

Survey highlights include:

  • LinkedIn is the most used (cited by 96 percent of respondents) and considered the most effective (73 percent) social media site for recruiting. Facebook (66 percent) and Twitter (53 percent) are gaining in popularity, however.
  • Small organizations (under 99 employees) are more likely to recruit using professional or association networking sites, while very large organizations (over 25,000 employees) are more likely to recruit using YouTube.
  • Most organizations (89 percent) use social media to post job advertisements, and three-quarters use it to contact candidates.
  • The majority of organizations use social media to recruit managers (82 percent) and other salaried employees (87 percent), and recruitment of hourly employees via social media is increasing (55 percent).
  • Concerns about legal risks and discovering information about protected characteristics, and not having enough time, tied (46 percent of respondents chose each) as the top reason given for not using social media for recruiting.

“There is certainly a concern about discovering protected candidate information online,” Fisher said. “But we have to keep in mind that anything that is public information is fair game in researching prospective candidates. When those candidates become applicants, the rules change a bit.” Anything seen on a candidate’s Facebook page, for example, can never be unseen, but “you just can’t use that information in consideration of employment if it is a protected characteristic,” he said.

The biggest challenge in using social media for recruitment is getting started, said Evren Esen, director of survey research at SHRM. “It can seem intimidating and time consuming in the beginning, but just like with any technology, once you get used to it, it can become a huge advantage.”

Esen advised setting up profiles on social networking sites related to your industry, and using LinkedIn to join discussions and groups that showcase what your organization is working on. “Pepper the discussions with information about the culture at your organization. Over time you will build a following,” she said.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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