Thursday, July 28, 2011

Social Media Recruiting

Recruiting via social networks is getting hotter and hotter. But the quality of hires may depend on how well your employees know the people in their social networks -- and whether they want their Facebook connections being used by recruiters.

By Andrew R. McIlvaine

No doubt about it, social networking is the hot new medium for finding employees.

A June survey of 800 HR and recruiting professionals by Burlingame, Calif.-based recruiting vendor Jobvite found that nearly 90 percent of U.S. companies plan to recruit through social media this year, up from 83 percent last year. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) use two or more social networks.

But of the three major social networks -- Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter -- which one generates the most employee referrals who were actually hired by companies? Surprisingly enough, it's Facebook, not the more career-focused LinkedIn.

That's according to an aggregation of social-recruiting data from Jobvite's 500 corporate clients, which include Starbucks, Whole Foods and

LinkedIn did generate the lion's share of total new hires found via social networking, accounting for 73 percent of such hires within the last six months, according to Jobvite's data. Just 20 percent came from Facebook and 7 percent from Twitter.

However, Facebook accounted for 43 percent of new hires generated from employee referrals, compared to 41 percent for LinkedIn and 16 percent for Twitter.

"I was surprised that Facebook is generating as many referral hires as it is," says Dan Finnigan, founder and CEO of Jobvite, which builds tools to help companies recruit via social networking. And yet, it makes sense, he adds.

"Peoples' connections on LinkedIn tend to be with people whom they may never have personally met," he says. "But their Facebook connections tend to be people they actually do know and interact with, and their engagement levels with Facebook tend to be quite strong; they're on Facebook every day, and that means the power of their connections there can be quite powerful in driving referral applications and, ultimately, new hires."

Employee referrals have long been the strongest source of new hires, says Finnigan, because those new employees tend to have a better understanding of the company, a better fit with the organization and typically stay longer and perform better than hires from other sources.

This is not to say that HR leaders should go all out in encouraging employees to get the word out about new openings to their Facebook friends. That move could backfire, says attorney Shayna Fernandez.

"I think many people would find it annoying to have their Facebook friends sending out advertisements for job openings," says Fernandez, an employment attorney with Bryan Cave in Phoenix. "These networks are supposed to be for your social use, not for job-hunting purposes."

Most people do tend to hold their Facebook connections "more sacred" than their LinkedIn ones, says Dan Kimball, chief marketing officer at McLean, Va.-based recruiting vendor Jobfox.

The real measure of a connection's value for employment purposes, he says, is not whether employees personally know the person but whether they feel the person's skills and experience make them a credible candidate for an open position.

And Facebook "friends" are often no more likely to be real-world buddies than one's LinkedIn connections, says Jason Alba, CEO of Salt Lake City-based consulting firm and author of I'm on LinkedIn: Now What???.

"One of my favorite things to do is go to my Facebook wall and purge all those people there whom I've never actually met," he says. "So I don't agree with the premise that people are much more likely to personally know their Facebook connections."

That's not to say Facebook can't be a potentially valuable source of new recruits, says Alba. It simply means you need to take a different approach to recruiting on Facebook than you would on LinkedIn.

"People who spend time on LinkedIn tend to be career-focused and very receptive to a formal message about jobs, whereas the environment on Facebook is more casual," he says.

"So on Facebook, you want to take a more casual approach: 'Hey, my company has an opening for such-and-such, please spread the word.' You're not necessarily going to hit the target audience you want, but you will find lots of people willing to spread the word for you," he says.

For its part, LinkedIn says the connections people make on its network are valuable because they're made in a professional, not personal, context.

"They actually know whether their connections are competent or not ... instead of just knowing that they 'are nice, fun or went to college with me,' " said Francois Dufour, LinkedIn's director of hiring solutions, via email.

LinkedIn is in the process of rolling out "Referral Engine," said Dufour, which is intended to "help employees easily identify professional connections who best fit their companies' open roles, and then makes it easy for them to recommend the best of those connections to recruiting departments."

Two other vendors, BranchOut and Monster's BeKnown, have also emerged as ways designed to make it easier for employees to utilize their Facebook connections for finding new jobs and referring people to open positions at their companies.

These offerings aside, one of the most effective ways to recruit via social networking is also cost-free, says Alba.

For example, he says, recruiters who want to locate potential hires on LinkedIn can post information about job openings to the relevant interest group, in which LinkedIn members discuss shared interests -- usually of a business nature -- with each other.

"Although LinkedIn has recruiting services that they charge for, you can get by that by sending a message to the relevant interest group along the lines of 'We have an opening in this area, where do you think we should look?'" he says.

"That way, you get the word out to the relevant people without having to pay for it," he says. "I'm not a big fan of paying for job postings."

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