Social Recruiting: Not Just a Buzzword

When I started recruiting in 1995, my LinkedIn was a shoebox and a phonebook. My Twitter was a three-line classified ad in The Oregonian with a reach of 25 miles. By today’s standards, I would need enough shoeboxes to handle 13 million contacts (and then enough space to store all those shoeboxes)! In a nutshell, “Social Recruiting” has enabled us to rapidly access and cultivate our talent ecosystem beyond what we ever thought was possible 17 years ago.

The rules of recruiting have not changed, but the tools with which we do it have drastically improved and become more efficient when utilized strategically. It is important to consider where your target candidates are living and seeking jobs in the social stratosphere. In a recent study, Jobvite researchers uncovered that the amount of jobseekers using social media to find employment is up five percent from 2011. As you can see from the chart below, referrals from professional and personal contacts still rank above all else, and surprisingly, traditional methods such as newspapers are still a main resource for jobseekers.

Although it may have taken a bit of time for the recruiting industry, we have now surpassed the tipping point. Today 9 in 10 jobseekers have a profile on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter and 54% of all jobseekers use LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter to find leads on job opportunities. Investing in your online networks is going to play a big part in landing top talent as the Millennials enter management in the coming years.

Still skeptical of entering into what feels like such foreign territory? As a Gen X who gets called out daily by my younger social media-savvy employees, I get it. But, it is not as foreign as you might think. As I said before, the rules of recruiting are still the same, social media just provides benefits that are becoming impossible to ignore.


As seen in the Jobvite study above, referrals are the number one method of landing a job. Social networks enable the cultivation of these professional and personal social ecosystems. Focusing energy and effort into developing strong Employee Referral Programs, College Recruiting Programs, and ex-company Alumni groups on social networking sites allows the people who define your company to speak to their experiences and stay connected with potential future employees and customers.

The digital natives of the Millennial generation are now reaching middle management, and they communicate through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and several other online platforms just as much as email. They have expansive social networks full of professional and personal acquaintances and friends. It is a huge benefit for companies to tap into these networks for recruiting. Especially when referrals are still the most trusted method of landing that next big opportunity.

We can see FARTHER and DEEPER.

Social Recruiting increases our access to top talent at all levels and modes: active, passive, and my favorite category – not looking to make a move, but still recruit-able! The ability to fill the top end of the funnel enables us to be more selective. Why just select from the most available talent when we can pull from a larger pool of very targeted industry talent? Now I am not just saying that all your top talent will be on social media, but often we can get to potential candidates who are not on LinkedIn through people who are.

Today’s social networks also allow us to learn so much more about leads before we even talk to them. Just one glance at their well-crafted profile and we can know their career interests, previous jobs, tenure, awards, professional affiliations, key contacts, and endorsements. Even in relationships, you don’t get that kind of information until at least the second or third date.

Social media gives you a stage, but we warned, your company brand is also in a fishbowl. Just as we can see more about our candidates, they can also see more about us. Social media has definitely dissolved the opacity between consumers and companies. Website like and many others exist to show companies exactly how they are stacking up in the eyes of their current and past employees. This transparency is beneficial to showcase your good side, but it also forces you to face the bad.


The ability to monitor talent movement and company hiring trends is a valuable insight, and social media has made it so simple to stay abreast of the industry landscape. I start my day by reviewing notifications on the 200 companies that I follow. I can see job openings, promotions, and departures as they happen. These are indicators for leadership changes, business challenges, and overall morale. It helps us know where to hunt, and knowing that is half the battle!

On the flip side, everyone else can also see this useful knowledge. What percentage of your employees have profiles on LinkedIn? In essence, your employee’s resumes are visible to your competitors. Employees use Social Networks to build contacts and reputation and are strategic about their future career moves. You are using Social Recruiting techniques, and so is everyone else. Retaining top talent through engagement, culture, and rewards is a good antidote to the career opportunities that are being served up on a daily basis.

It is LOW COST but not NO COST.

The tools of Social Recruiting are relatively low cost and efficiently leveraged with higher volumes of recruiting. But it is important to note that these tools are getting more expensive. Now that LinkedIn is a public company, it will need to find ways to generate more income to keep their shareholders happy just like airlines charging for bags, legroom, and bathrooms. Despite this, social media still is a very low cost way to effectively reach a high percentage of your target audience, and do it creatively.  For example, have you seen the cheesy recruiting video parody called “At Twitter, The Future is You!” created by Twitter employees? Last I checked, it had just under a million views on YouTube!

As social platforms get more and more crowded, it is essential to establish a strong employment brand. Social Recruiting boils down to marketing. Investing in communicating your brand is critical.  In addition to investing in employment branding, you need at least one person to maintain data, generate content, and interact within the targeted pools/talent pipelines you are building. Yes, this means an additional salary. But, just creating a Facebook page because your competitor has one and then making the intern run it is not going to cut it anymore. Fostering positive candidate experiences by leveraging the tools and maintaining the data is the best way to maximize this mode of communication. In essence, the key to success is in the richness of the interaction, the engagement, and the follow through. To this end, a business case can be built for additional resources.


We have all these great tools, but who is using what? Let’s break down the three big ones, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Twitter = Front Lawn (100M Users) ­– 50% of Companies Use | 40% of Job Seekers Use
Facebook = Living Room (800M Users) – 50% of Companies Use | 80% of Job Seekers Use
LinkedIn = Office (135M Users) – 80% of Companies Use | 30% of Job Seekers Use

LinkedIn is great, but be careful not to put all your eggs in one basket.  In our experience, Twitter seems somewhat less useful than LinkedIn, but Facebook’s foray into the job recruiting market can’t be ignored.  In addition to the size advantage, Facebook is working hard to grab job recruiting and advertising revenue through applications like BranchOut and integration with Jobvite. Also, Pinterest is rapidly gaining popularity, and we are seeing early signs that it has potential to be a good place to troll for trend junkies, designers, and marketing talent.

Recruiting, and particularily social recruiting, will continue to evolve. There is now more information than ever, but the demand to form strong connections is still there. Read our blog post “Virtual Recruiting Goes Old School” to learn more about staying true to your recruiting roots and forming meaningful connections.

This blog was adapted from content created for being on the panel at Portland State University’s Professional Development Center’s HR Social Media Policy Breakfast held on April 19th, 2012.