by Sarah K. White

Recruiters increasingly rely on social media to find talent

May 23, 2016
CareersIT JobsIT Leadership

The talent war is on in tech, and recruiters are taking advantage of every weapon at their disposal. A recent study found that recruiters are getting creative in how they source candidates -- moving towards social media and messaging apps.

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Credit: Thinkstock

When you decide to start looking for a new job, Twitter and Facebook might be the last places you’d expect to connect with recruiters. But that’s quickly becoming the reality, as more recruiters turn to social media to find viable candidates to fill open job requisitions. Alexander Mann Solutions, a talent acquisition and management service; and Social Talent, a recruiting software and analytics company, released their 2016 Global Recruiting Survey, which shed light on how some recruiters use social media in their efforts.

The survey looked at 998 recruiting professionals around the globe including in-house recruiters, recruiters working at third-party providers and recruitment agencies. The results revealed some changes in the way recruiters are sourcing talent, including an uptick in the number of recruiters turning to social media outlets. But they aren’t using social media the way you might think — to reach out and directly approach candidates — rather, it’s becoming one important element in a far more complex process.

Social media

Social media has pulled ahead of most typical recruitment services. The study found that 37 percent of recruiters felt that their primary source for finding talent was social and professional media outlets. Comparatively, 26 percent cited using paid job boards, 11 percent said they worked from direct applications, nine percent said they sourced recruits from internal referrals or alumni and just three percent cited recruitment agencies as their main source of talent.

“Not only do the results of our 2016 Global Recruiting Survey demonstrate that social media usage across the board is on the rise, but 37 percent of respondents believed that social wasn’t just an option, it was their primary source for finding top talent. That’s huge. We’re fast approaching a day when those that don’t embrace social recruiting will be left behind, and there won’t be any distinction between being an effective recruiter and being social media savvy,” says Ian Cluroe, director of Global Brand and Marketing at Alexander Mann.

LinkedIn is still the most popular social media outlet to source talent, with 97 percent stating that they used the platform in 2015, up just one perfect from 2014. However, Twitter saw a decrease in use, with 56 percent stating they found talent on the platform in 2014 dropping to 37 percent in 2015. Facebook remained generally the same, with 37 percent citing they used the social network to find talent in 2014 and 35 percent saying the same in 2015.

However, the numbers do show that social media recruitment has pulled ahead of other resources, and become a staple in the industry. Ben Martinez, vice president of People and Culture at HireVue, a digital talent interaction company, says that social media has opened up a new dialogue with candidates. It not only allows recruits to get to know other employees better as well as the company, but for the employer to get to know the recruit as well.

[ Related story: 5 Ways to Use Social Media to Boost Your Career Prospects ]

A surge in messaging apps

While Twitter use may have dropped off, popular messaging apps cumulatively saw a 40 percent increase from the 2014 report. In the 2015 study, it found that 55 percent of recruiters said they use Skype in the recruitment process, while 23 percent use WhatsApp, 15 percent use iMessage and 6 percent use Viber.

“Too often, recruiters shoot over a message and then move on, content with never hearing back. But our research has shown that social media, including popular messaging apps, enables smart recruiters to expand their outreach and make it more personal and more creative, and truly make a lasting personal connection,” says Cluroe.

The idea is that if you can find a user on the media platform they enjoy using the most, the chances of getting a response back are greater than the alternative. Some companies, like HireVue, are even turning to apps like Snapchat and Periscope, which both blur the line between messaging apps and social media apps, to create a rapport with potential candidates.

“We use it to live stream events and get others engaged in what you are streaming. We do regular walk arounds of the office to showcase people and our space. One of our favorite fans tunes in from the U.K. She regularly tweets at us and has met several of our people via Periscope. When we have an opening in the UK, we plan to consider her,” says Martinez.

On Snapchat, Martinez says he and his colleagues can give outsiders a glimpse into their working culture, and also help current employees stay connected. A snap from a co-worker might even prompt an internal dialogue or a conversation that continues in person, which is just another benefit to the platform. For HireVue, apps like Snapchat and Periscope are great mediums through which they can showcase what it’s like to work at the company, giving potential candidates a better idea of where they’re applying.

[ Related story: 10 top jobs by salary for social media pros in 2016 ]

Social media is just one part

Of course, you shouldn’t get the impression that recruiters are reaching out to candidates on social media and completing the entire process through those platforms. Rather, social media has evolved to become an integral part of a many-step approach to recruitment. Social media is a way for employers and recruiters to humanize themselves, and create a more personal impression on candidates. It gives candidates the capability to learn more about the company outside of the corporate website, and it gives recruiters a better idea of who they’re hiring, outside of the professional interview.

“It’s oftentimes about creating a personal connection with them and keeping them warm so that they want to come work for you. So you share content about the company, you share employee stories, you share thought leadership — all of that adds up to make you an attractive employer,” says Cluroe.

Just as with messaging apps, recruiters rely on social networks as a way to reach out to candidates on the platforms they use most — be it LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. Recruiters can pinpoint where these recruits are most active, and start a dialogue with them rather than go through cold calls or impersonal emails. You might notice that a candidate is very active on Facebook, so the chances of them seeing the message and actually responding are greater, says Cluroe. He also says that a recruiter might notice that someone follows their company and favorites or retweets a lot of their content. In that case, the recruiter has already found someone who is clearly interested in their company and will probably be very happy to hear from them.

The bigger picture

Cluroe points out that for businesses trying to integrate social media into the recruitment process, it’s not about abandoning traditional process. Rather, it’s about making social media just one small part of a larger process. Don’t underestimate the power of a phone call over an instant message, he says, because social media tools may make the process easier, but it still doesn’t override more traditional resources that have worked for decades. What he means, is that reaching out electronically is great, but you still can’t beat a phone call with an interested candidate in the end.

But regardless, the results demonstrate that both job seekers and employers need to take social media recruitment seriously, because if they aren’t, the competition certainly will, according to Cluroe. “If a job seeker isn’t making themselves publicly available across the social spectrum, and building a presence in strategic social spots throughout, they’re not going to get discovered. Likewise, recruiters need to know how to not only discover, but genuinely connect with individuals on social media. Otherwise, your competitor will make a stronger connection and entice that candidate just by building a social relationship, even if you offer better pay or benefits. Guaranteed,” he says.

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