Is Social Media Making Recruiters Complacent?

By Bill Leonard Jan 14, 2015
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There’s no denying that social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook have become valuable and possibly indispensable recruiting tools for employers. But some experts are claiming that recruiters have grown too dependent on the online networks and that the quality of candidates identified and selected by employers is declining.

Staffing industry surveys have shown that social media has quickly grown into one of the most dominant recruiting tools—if not the predominant one. For example, a 2013 survey by the Jobvite website revealed that 94 percent of respondents reported that they either used or planned to use social media as a recruiting tool.

“Social media as a recruitment tool is almost universally accepted and used by nearly every employer, as some research has shown,” said Richard Maltz, senior corporate technical recruiter at Instant Alliance, a Chicago-based hiring and recruiting consulting group. “The question I think we need to ask now is: Are recruiters becoming too reliant on social media platforms like LinkedIn?”

Maltz and several other recruiting experts believe that answer is yes.

“LinkedIn and many other social media platforms are useful and powerful recruiting tools,” Maltz said. “And when combined with other tools and used correctly, recruiters can get very good results. If, however, they rely too heavily on just one tool, then the quality of job candidates and quality of hires will suffer. Social media should not be a recruiter’s be-all and end-all for evaluating candidates.”

The issue, some experts believe, is that social media and technology have made it too easy to generate lists of candidates who appear at first glance to fit a job’s skills and experience criteria.

“It’s really easy to use a platform like LinkedIn and generate a source list, so when talking about this I think you have to differentiate between sourcers and recruiters,” said Bill Wright, senior technical recruiter at TalentFusion.

“Sourcers can be really good at generating call lists but what does a person do after getting that list? The best and most effective recruiters can move past that list and find ways to identify the best candidates, and then create strategies to connect with them.”

Wright said that a bit of homework can make a world of difference in finding and then connecting with the right candidate. Many of what he called “old school” techniques, such as networking and meeting face-to-face, now can be accomplished with high-tech tools like video-conferencing, instant messaging and, of course, e-mails.

Wright said that with a few online searches he can often learn very quickly where a candidate went to school and what his or her hobbies and interests are, and may also be able to identify common threads that an employer could then use to capture the attention of a top-notch candidate.

“Some of this can be found on social networking sites, and some information might take a bit more effort,” Wright said. “The best and most successful recruiters use all the tools that they have at their disposal because it definitely gives you a competitive edge.”

Although social media platforms have made sourcing candidates easier, the ease of use may be making some recruiters complacent, Wright added.

“With a platform like LinkedIn, it’s very easy to generate a list of names and then hand it to a hiring manager and move on to the next assignment,” Wright said. “But the issue boils down to: Are you actually identifying the best candidates for the job? I think people have confused the ease of use and sourcing efficiency of social media with effective recruiting.”

As technology continues to improve the efficiency of applicant sourcing, recruiters’ workloads have increased along with expectations to achieve results much quicker. These mounting pressures can diminish the quality of job candidates and new hires.

“Certainly I think there’s more pressure than ever to get results and deliver them as quickly as possible,” said Batsheva Chase, vice president of sales recruiting at Peak Performers Inc. in Santa Monica, Calif. “Online platforms have made it easier to generate candidate leads, but at the same time, it shouldn’t be your only tool. It’s an important and useful tool, but it’s not the best in identifying the most qualified candidates and connecting with passive candidates.”

Chase agreed with Wright that the best recruiting results come from building relationships and making connections.

“I can understand how someone could come to rely too much on a social media platform like LinkedIn for example,” Chase said. “But I believe the best recruiting results require mindfulness, almost a Zen approach that uses your best abilities to talk, share and interact interpersonally with candidates.”

She admits that her approach typically takes more effort and time, but it’s time well spent.

“It’s all about finding the best person for the job and making a good fit with the employer,” Chase said. ‘If you don’t make a good fit, then most likely the new hire won’t stay and you’re back to square one and will have to spend more time and more money on a new candidate search. It’s much more time- and cost-efficient to get it right the first time.”

Any recruiter who is relying solely on a social media platform will be limited by certain constraints, experts agree. First and foremost, most of the platforms, especially Twitter and Facebook, are set up for social interaction and not as a candidate or job-search vehicle. LinkedIn tends to have a more professional and job-related view so many recruiters have focused their efforts there. However, LinkedIn is not solely a job placement or recruitment platform, which recruiters should keep in mind.

Bill Leonard is a senior writer for SHRM.

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