Social Recruiting Goes Viral

Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Quora, Twitter catching on rapidly as tools to find talent

By Aliah D. Wright March 12, 2012

As more p​eople use Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and now Pinterest, more recruiters are tapping those sites to find talent.

But because statistics show that people are spending more time on Facebook than any other site, some recruiters who use social media say it behooves them to go to the site people use most.

According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 56 percent of HR professionals said they use social networking sites to recruit candidates, up from 34 percent in 2008. Ninety-five percent of HR professionals polled in 2011 said they use LinkedIn; 58 percent use Facebook. About 42 percent use Twitter. Most of the positions filled, 82 percent, are for nonmanagerial and salaried employees.

In a question-and-answer feature on SHRM Online, Kay Calivas, managing director of Stephen James Associates, said the social networking sites are not popular just for quick access and networking. Calivas said that “reaching people through an open medium ultimately broadens a recruiter’s center of influence.

Some view LinkedIn, with about 150 million users, as the social networking site for people in suits and ties.

“A lot of people aren’t on LinkedIn … but everyone you know is on Facebook,” said Oracle Director of Talent Management Strategy Steve Boese.

“Facebook is eating the web now,” Sarah Patterson, director of marketing for employment app BranchOut, told SHRM Online. Employment experts said that’s the reason some Facebook users and recruiters are slowly allowing employment apps such as BranchOut, BeKnown and Glassdoor to access their Facebook pages.

The Numbers

While BeKnown, which launched in June 2011, wouldn’t reveal how many users it has, BranchOut told SHRM Online it has 10 million registered users., which provides independent application metrics and trends, reports that BranchOut had 540,000 daily active users on March 9, 2012. On that same date, BeKnown had a reported 9,000 daily active users. Glassdoor, which just began allowing users to access Facebook in February 2012, said it had 10,000 daily active users on March 9, 2012.

According to a November 2011 study by Jobvite, which launched its social recruiting app on Facebook in late 2011, 53 percent of recruiters use Facebook because they see it as an effective way to get employee referrals.

Sites such as Twitter, YouTube, Quora and Pinterest “are turning out to be valuable tools for job hunters, too,” George Anders wrote in a recent Harvard Business Review post. Anders is the author of The Rare Find: Spotting Exceptional Talent Before Everyone Else (Portfolio Hardcover).

Facebook reported there are 850 million users on its site. Internet market research firm reported that people spend an average of nearly eight hours per month on Facebook. ComScore reported people spend an hour and 38 minutes per month on the blogging site Tumbler; an hour and 17 minutes per month on Pinterest; 36 minutes per month on Twitter; and six minutes per month on Google+.

In 2010, when Pinterest was founded, people used the site to create pin boards. They added photos of vacation spots, clothes, recipes and other things they collected from across the web. Now people are pinning stunning visual resumes. They’re making career-related pin boards to aid their job searches, too. Pinterest, reported ComScore, is the fastest growing website in recent history, with more visitors than CNN and ESPN. Ranking service Alexa reported that it is the 50th most popular site in the world.

But in terms of popularity in early 2012, Facebook remains king, and app developers from some of the most popular recruiting sites online are slowly starting to move into that space.

“There’s a huge audience of people on Facebook—people who you’re not going to find on LinkedIn,” said Tom Chevalier, product marketing director for Monster Worldwide, which operates BeKnown. Once users access the app, it pulls in their photo, where they work and their friends list.

“We don’t bring invideo or pictures. Newsfeed conversations aren’t brought in. You’re able to still use the Facebook platform, but you haven’t violated the social norms that people have come to expect from Facebook,” Chevalier said. BranchOut and Glassdoor work in much the same way.

BeKnown and BranchOut have special functions for recruiters who want to mine the site for passive talent.

“As Facebook has become more intertwined and engrained in what people do on the web … there’s a little bit more of a lowering of that bar between public and private and personal and work,” said Boese, who is host and creator of the HR Happy Hour podcast and is an instructor at Rochester Institute of Technology.

However, “it’s an early time in recruiting on Facebook,” he acknowledged, not just for recruiters, but for users as well. “Companies that figure out how to leverage Facebook as a recruiting platform are really going to have an advantage over those who don’t,” he said. “Over time, the ubiquity will be enough … to wear down the idea that ‘I’m on Facebook and I should be private.’ ”

BranchOut, founded in 2010, allows colleagues to network professionally and businesses “to brand their companies on Facebook,” Patterson said.

“They can create a page where they can share their jobs and share their company culture and help … mobilize their fans and find their workforce,” she said.

Friends Help Friends

Glassdoor’s new connection feature allows job seekers to network with Facebook friends for referrals and to see personalized job listings.

“We did a Harris survey that revealed the two most trusted ways to learn about companies is through past and present employees,” said Glassdoor co-founder Tim Besse. With the Facebook feature, people can log in to Facebook through Glassdoor’s site and see which of their friends may work at a company they’re interested in and ask them “about the interviewing process, pay questions, or what it was like to work there,” Besse said.

But not everyone thinks that recruiting on Facebook is wise.

“I don’t think most people want to network on Facebook—not with hiring managers,” said Rachael King, a social media strategist. A consultant to the National Guard, King trains guardsmen how to use social media as a recruitment tool. Although the developers of BranchOut, BeKnown, and Glassdoor said their apps don’t access a person’s complete Facebook profile, most people are hesitant to try them, King said.

“Most people have things on Facebook they don’t want a hiring manager to see. It’s just a personal network,” she said, adding that “people are already so wary, and this is coming on the heels of endless privacy battles with Facebook and Google—with them tracking you across the web. So many people are on guard about giving their information out.”

She predicted that such platforms for Facebook recruiting will be gone by 2013.

Rules change, noted David Davis, a software engineer who writes Android code for a living.

“Companies can and sometimes do change their policies,” Davis pointed out. “New administrations come in, sharpshooters and efficiency experts are hired, and what used to be the company’s policy when a user signed up for an account may quickly morph into a policy, agreement or terms of usage that look nothing like the original. And we already know most people don’t read them anyway.”

Aliah D. Wright is an online editor/manager for SHRM. You can reach her via twitter @1SHRMScribe.​


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