The perils of social recruiting

It seems that everywhere you look these days, people are talking about “social recruiting”. Well, they are everywhere I look. It’s almost as if “social media” is some new magical treasure trove of otherwise unattainable candidates – which of course it isn’t.

All that’s happened is the group of people you used to attract via job postings and traditional adverts are now congregating in other places on the internet as well. Social places.

So, whereas a person who might be open to changing jobs might look on the internet for alternatives, everybody – regardless of whether they want or need another job, can now be found via social media. OK, maybe not everybody, but you get my point.

The ‘Holy Trinity’ of social media – LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook – accounts for the vast majority of social media traffic. All of them need to be used differently when using them as recruitment tools, which is the subject of another blog.

To judge by the types of activity you see on recruiter’s feeds on places like LinkedIn and Twitter, you’d think that social media was some kind of ethereal recruiting nirvana where great candidates are waiting around for jobs to be pitched to them.

They’re not.

What they are are places where the recruiter can target specific types of people, form connections with them, engage with them, build trust and then maybe pitch a job to them at some point in the future, if appropriate.

Instead, the social recruiting you mostly see from recruiters are endless streams of job alerts being fed out to audiences of in many cases, less than a few hundred, very few of whom are potential candidates and most of whom are other recruiters.

You see, that’s the part that most recruiters are missing – the social part.

But before you can start being social, the potential effectiveness of sites like Facebook and Twitter for business are dependent on the size and type of the audience (friends, followers etc), meaning that you have to grow this audience before you can do anything – other than look like someone who doesn’t understand what they’re doing.

So, if you want to join the social media revolution, first understand the networking site you’re using.


Professional, mostly B2B with around 120 million users worldwide. Some describe it as the world’s largest candidate database, which is partly true depending on what sectors you work in.

Great for researching and sourcing white-collar, mid-senior level candidates in areas like technology, digital and marketing. And when you do, approaching them direct.


Mixture of B2B, B2C and social with nearly 500 million users. Great for joining in, having brief conversations and social/business interaction but totally dependent on having built an appropriate following. If you don’t have specific target candidate types you want to engage with, Twitter probably isn’t for you.


Mostly B2C and 800 million users. There are people who will tell you Facebook is a great place to recruit staff, but nearly all of them have a vested interest in that being the case.

Trying to recruit on Facebook makes about as much sense as going on a pub crawl to look for candidates. Great if the potential candidate pool is huge, otherwise a waste of valuable energy.

There are many thousands of other social/business networking sites too – many of them niche and therefore more likely to be relevant to the recruiter if the types of people they need to find are specialist and/or peculiar to a particular narrow sector.

Anti-social sourcing

But the key to all of them is to understand the culture of the networking site/discussion forum first, build an audience and then start communicating with that audience. Once people are listening, they’re far more likely to take your job propositions more seriously.

That’s when real candidate sourcing can begin. Anything else is just trawling.

The closest analogy I can think of is when you go to a social event and someone you’ve just met starts pitching a product/service at you. That’s what posting endless jobs on social media sites is like. It’s mindless and it’s anti-social. More importantly, it never reaches the intended candidate audience and it just encourages more of the people who are following you to disconnect.

It also makes any potential clients looking in think that you’re just a mudslinger.

OK, that’s enough negatives. Hopefully I’ve scared you enough already.

So, to recap, social media is a great add-on to your recruitment if you put in the effort early on. If you prefer to just bludgeon your way in, social media is a great way to show the world you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s not a good look for a recruiter.

OK, just one final negative.

“Are you a good fit for this job?” 

“Nope. Not even close. Hang on, why am I even following you anyway?”


1 Comment

  1. Clare Dodd July 12, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Great post. I totally agree with you – it drives me mad when I see companies basically spamming messages out without engaging. Social media is sometimes seen as an easy route when in fact its a whole new skill that requires effort and practice.

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