New Technologies, Apps Boost Social Media Recruitment Powers

By Dave Zielinski Aug 29, 2011
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As the use of social media as a recruiting tool matures, staffing and talent management companies are applying lessons learned and fine-tuning their social strategies to help close the still-considerable gap between hype and hiring results of these popular networks. These next-generation approaches go beyond creating LinkedIn or Facebook careers pages, tweeting out job openings and making online application processes as user-friendly or compliant as possible.

Mollie Lombardi, a human capital management analyst with Boston-based Aberdeen Research, has been conducting research on trends in video-enabled talent acquisition. She said social media is playing a growing role in that form of recruiting.

“We are seeing more organizations’ social recruiting approaches use candidate video as a core part of their strategy, because it enables multiple stakeholders to comment on particular candidate responses or collaborate around selection processes as job applicants move through the funnel,” Lombardi said.

Some industry vendors have turned their focus further upstream in the talent acquisition process, introducing technologies to help woo and track talented job candidates who aren’t pursuing a job change actively.

Relationship Management Tools

One such example is Kenexa’s new Social Solutions, a multipronged set of social recruiting tools integrated fully with Brass Ring, the vendor’s applicant tracking system (ATS). A featured component of the product is a candidate relationship management tool (CRM) geared to building connections with passive job candidates, those who aren’t seeking jobs or might have already applied at a company but who could be suited for future openings.

Abby Euler, director of product marketing for Social Solutions, said the tool was launched in part on a belief that organizations often give short shrift to “candidate attraction and connection.” Kenexa touts the CRM’s ability to integrate with its ATS and social network accounts, enabling users to manage and connect with candidates from one dashboard screen.

“You can build a great ATS and have the most seamless recruiting workflow in the world, but if you don’t have the right candidates coming to it, and you aren’t feeding it with strong talent that hasn’t heard of you before, you are doing a disservice to your company because you are basically ‘posting and praying,’ ” Euler said.

Euler said clients have long asked how they could create a “holding bin” for candidates who they’re not yet ready to recruit or who aren’t ready to be recruited but who recruiters want to stay in contact with for future placement needs.

Pinstripe, a recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) firm in Brookfield, Wis., has kept pace with shifting client needs by adding “talent community managers” to its list of services. Anne Bucher, Pinstripe’s vice president of client solutions, said the role of these specialists is to conduct in-depth studies of clients’ brands, work cultures and value propositions, then connect with passive candidates via social networks to help them see a client organization as an employer of choice. Pinstripe often manages clients’ Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn recruiting efforts in a turnkey arrangement.

Sending these candidates helpful information like targeted white papers and career development tips enhances their receptivity to recruiter contact. “You want to make sure you’re doing more than just constantly pushing jobs at them,” Bucher said.

Jim Holincheck, a human capital management analyst with the Gartner Group, said organizations having the greatest success with social media recruiting are going beyond simply posting jobs to the three largest sites.

“These organizations are always trying to engage talented passive candidates in what the company is about, what it’s like to work there, and how they’ll enjoy the people who work there,” Holincheck said. “It’s a much deeper relationship building philosophy than we’ve seen in previous generations of sourcing and talent management technologies.”

New iPhone Recruiting Apps

With the use of iPhones and iPads still mushrooming, more company recruiters are employing innovative mobile applications to help attract or find candidates. According to recruiting experts, some of the most popular and useful apps are Power Search Utility for Google, AutoSearch Mobile, Global Recruiting Roundtable and Bump. These applications help recruiters create more effective Boolean search queries, keep apprised of the latest recruiting trends and best practices shared on the web, and swap contact information at networking events by simply “bumping” iPhones together.

Yet while recruiting apps grow and the hoopla around social media recruiting continues apace, the reality is that there is still little data supporting its effectiveness as a hiring tool. In a study that examined the source of 36,000 job hires over two quarters in 2011, Job2Web, an interactive recruiting marketing company in Minneapolis, found that only 1.5 percent of its clients’ hires originated through social networks, said Doug Berg, Jobs2Web’s founder.

“Companies’ career sites drove about 40 percent of hiring in the study, with job aggregators in second place and employee referrals third,” Berg said. “We see our own clients still using social media in a supporting role for recruiting, with career sites being a foundation.”

Some recruiting professionals who once were big proponents of social media-driven recruiting have adjusted their strategies based on recent experience. Michael Long, head of culture branding for Rackspace, a web-hosting company in San Antonio, who writes the Red Recruiter blog, is among that group.

“What I realized is companies had this belief that if they opened their doors to social media recruiting, suddenly everyone would be interested in joining their Facebook pages or tweeting to their accounts,” Long said. “But in reality, I think the job search is a more intimate process for most people, especially passive candidates.”

Long has altered his recruiting strategy at Rackspace to one that encourages employees, or “Rackers,” to compile stories about how they were hired into the company, interesting or fun work they’ve done or even detailing their core values, then share those tales as they see fit on social media. He believes that this is a more authentic and effective method for getting passive candidates to think positively about the company than just posting job openings on networks.

While Long said that about a third of Rackspace employees are active on Twitter, social media recruiting has produced few hires at the company. He found Facebook’s social ads to be a good branding tool but to have a low conversion rate in terms of job hires. Rackspace has had more hiring success using job aggregators such as, search engine optimization tactics and e-mail marketing campaigns to members of its talent community.

Social Network Marketing Engines

There are companies making effective use of social networks’ marketing capabilities to recruit. By using Facebook’s advertising options, for example, recruiters can target employees at a competitor’s company by job title, location, age or even college attended. When the ad is clicked on, it might bring the passive candidate back to a branded landing page.

“We think that strategy represents an effective next-generation marketing approach that goes beyond traditional job postings,” Berg said.

Regardless of its many applications, social media recruiting is here to stay. What remains to be seen is whether new technologies and innovations can make it more of a go-to resource for corporate recruiters in the hiring game.

Dave Zielinski is a freelance business journalist in Minneapolis.

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