Social media recruitment far from perfect

Not many employers are looking where job candidates can be found: Report
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 12/16/2014

While there's been plenty of enthusiasm around the power of social media as a way to connect and engage with others, few Canadian employers are using the platform to find talent — even though potential job candidates are there in droves.

Just one-quarter (23 per cent) of employers use social media for recruitment — most commonly LinkedIn — compared to one-half of candidates, found a report by Hays Canada. Both groups are on par, however, when it comes to using job boards and recruitment agencies.

“We love (job boards), we use them and lots of our clients use them and they produce results — you just can’t rely on it. It has to be just part of your strategy… they’re not the dominant force that they used to be and there’s lots of other choices,” said Rowan O’Grady, president of Hays Canada in Toronto.

People who are on job boards are active lookers, said Juliet Turpin, manager in the permanent search practice at Randstad Technologies in Toronto.

“Conceivably, you could go and find them anyway by doing a keyword search,” she said. “The people that you really want are in fact the passive lookers.”

And employers may see themselves as using social media but the effectiveness is another question, she said.

“Every single employer that is looking for someone will at least have a LinkedIn profile and would have that posted up and they would check their repository or connections to see whether or not there’s someone there. But would they actually go searching for it? That’s a completely other question.”

For employers, it’s often a matter of too little time — plus, it can be a daunting endeavour.

“If you’re looking at LinkedIn and Facebook… it’s only the connections that you are connected with or the secondary connections and the assumption is that they are connected with anyone who would be interested would come forward, and if they have to search for them, those individuals wouldn’t be available to them in their network. So there’s just a belief factor that they don’t have the connections,” said Turpin.

Missing the target

Those employers that do use social media often miss their target by posting jobs on consumer-oriented channels, found Hays.

Ninety-five per cent of employers that use social media to promote products and services use the same channels to promote career opportunities.

“That’s where it gets confusing,” said O’Grady. “If you go to any company’s Facebook page, they’re using Facebook to sell their products and then they’re trying to put the jobs through that same channel and (the message) gets lost.”

Two-thirds of an employer’s network, on LinkedIn, Facebook, “the whole lot,” are consumers or potential consumers, said O’Grady, meaning the remaining one-third are potential candidates. But only about one-third of those are the right ones an employer wants to be in contact with.

“A company might say, ‘We’re connected to 5,000 people’ but it turns out that only 10 per cent of those are actually candidates that they’re interested in hiring. That’s the dilemma that companies are faced with when they’re trying to use social media. Their social media strategy is built around raising their profile to sell their product and then, through the same channels, to the same audience, pushing a message about coming to work.”

When asked how social media fits into their company’s networking efforts, 58 per cent of employers believe growing a following is important — but cannot pinpoint exactly why, said Hays. A further 34 per cent are unsure about the size of their current social media following, found the survey.

 Employers kind of look at it as a popularity contest, said  Crystal Furtado, marketing co-ordinator in recruiting services at the David Aplin Group in Mississauga, Ont..

“Businesses think the more numbers you have, that means the more valuable your information is but, at the same time, you want to make sure that you’re getting value out of what you’re following and you’re also sharing the value with people who are actually absorbing it. With Twitter, it’s really hard to gauge that — there’s a lot of spam accounts that will follow and it makes your numbers look good but then it’s not a real individual that you’re Tweeting out to,” she said.

“If someone’s actually tweeting us a question directly or sending us a resumé directly, we make an effort to respond to them as a human.”

A company’s strategy should be about starting a two-way conversation and building credibility and a following by regularly sharing useful content, said O’Grady.

“It’s about engaging with the target audience… trying to engage them in meaningful, two-way communication, to create interesting content that people are going to want to hear about and they find productive to engage with,” he said.

“If you’re really serious about building a presence and following as an employer, you’ve got to have a content strategy and that content strategy has to be done over a period of time, it’s got to be consistent… that’s probably the more labour-intensive part.”

Ten years ago, it was about dealing with job sites such as Workopolis and Monster; then LinkedIn arrived and Twitter, and now it’s Google Plus and YouTube, said O’Grady, along with search engine optimization and pay per click for lead nurturing.

“It starts to get very complicated and confusing: ‘How are we meant to keep up with this…?’ If you’re a recruiter in a company, that’s a serious challenge, especially because the organization is trying to solve that problem to sell products — not hire people.”

LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter

Thirty-five per cent of employers don’t have a dedicated employer-branded career page and for those that do, LinkedIn is most popular, found the Hays survey of more than 1,000 hiring managers, HR professionals and candidates.

As a social platform, LinkedIn has had the greatest impact on  recruiting, said Furtado.

“It’s like having a live database that reflects the candidate’s business profile in real time, 24-7, so it works really well for us.”

Facebook or Twitter are often about branding, she said.

“With Facebook, it’s easier to brand ourselves towards the candidate side because most of the time that’s who’s following our page. I mean, most businesses follow or conduct business through Facebook but a lot of candidates do. And Twitter, it’s really easy to target both because there’s such a big presence from both a business side and the candidate side.”

Randstad is actively pursuing social media to get its name out there, said Turpin.

“It’s more about our name and the brand recognition. It’s still completely unproven as a recruiting tool,” she said.

“And a lot of the companies, even with their websites and whatnot and their Facebook, I don’t know what percentage of my clients have actual search engine optimization (SEO) individuals looking at their websites. They’re just building them, their marketing guys are building them, but do they have SEO specialists working on them? No.”

While many employers would like to grow their social media presence for recruitment, said O’Grady, more than one-third are unsure how effective their digital channels are. Thirty per cent are concerned about the growth of social media affecting their ability to recruit.

“You’ve basically got people saying, ‘We really want to do this but we’re kind of scared of it,’” he said. “Social media is very attractive because it can communicate with many people and directly with people but it’s also a little bit unnerving.”

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