Many years ago, too many to remember clearly, I worked as a third party recruiter. All the clichés were present and correct. We'd "hammer" the phones, stand up to "pitch" and the paper resume was a valuable commodity. Job seekers were putting resumes on-line and those passive candidates were found by guessing at telephone numbers and taking circuitous routes to get around secretaries and P.A's.
I'd love to say that the entire industry has undergone a sea change and we've gone through a Moneyball style transformation and that "Big Data" has made everyone's life better, and in some ways it has. However, for some the old ways of doing things don't seem to have gone away. Social media and the growth of social networks have given us a tremendous opportunity to engage in a way unlike we as recruiters have never done before. Unfortunately, there are some that seem to be going out of their way to ensure that's it's the noise not the signal that fills this new space.
It's my contention that the growth of social networks has led to a new openness in the sharing of information and the access to that information has meant that employers are effectively forced to partake in the conversation. Before the growth of this new communications forum companies controlled the flow of information and with it the entry and exit points to information relating to their staffing, now they are up for discussion and comment.
It is in being, or attempting to be "social" that I see some recruiters struggling, or at the very least being ineffective. Sourcing using social networks should be a pervasive part of how we reach out to an audience of potential candidates. Their unique properties that allow us to enter into conversations with applicants is exactly the reason they are superior to the job boards of old, and exactly the property that is being ignored. Here, in no particular order, are a few of my current pet hates of behavioural anti-patterns I see when recruiters are using Social Networks.
1. It's a natural human trait to find the easiest path, to not have to repeat the same actions over and over again. If you're looking for a role you feel is generic there is a tendency to make your messages generic too. Specifically with LinkedIn there is a tendency to cut and paste messages. While this will get your message to more people you won't get the response rate because people don't like to feel like they are generic - especially if that message calls out the candidate's "unique" skills then treats them like one of the herd, credit the recipient with some intelligence - they will know the message is a duplicate.
2. Social Media lets us learn a tremendous amount about a person before we make that important call. Why then do some just rush to the first contact? Using information that is out of date, or ignoring key parts will just be a waste of time. If you call a a candidate and ask about the extensive work in C++ he did at university 12 years ago and not refer to the 5 most recent years he's been coding in Ruby, you shouldn't be allowed near a telephone.
3. At first glance automating the tweeting and status updates of job requisitions sounds like a great idea. Jobvite is one a handful of applicant tracking systems that allow for the broadcasting of links and adverts of your live jobs through your own social accounts. However, social media is an engagement platform not a bulletin board. If you have a managed to get a number of followers or have a large network they will soon tire if your only update it to tweet links to an list of your vacancies. Effectively you are adding to the noise, you will be unfollowed, you will be ignored. For a similar degree of success you might like to try shouting out job titles into a well - it's largely the same thing and at least there you'll have an echo.
4. When using a new network or forum for the first time it's important to gain an understanding of the norms and conventions of that network. Lurk a little. Learn how and where it is appropriate to make an approach. A good example of this is joining a private group on LinkedIn centred around a largely technical discussion ignoring completely a tab marked "Jobs" and pasting your job ad slap bang in the middle of a technical debate. You instantly alienate the audience and risk being removed from the group in short order.
5. Being present on a particular network is not a guarantee of success. Being first to place a job advert on a particular network does not make you more innovative or creative than other recruiters. If a network exists for a specific type of content don't try and circumvent this. If you do, you're just adding noise. Text based job adverts on Instagram are a good example of this. Instagram at it's best exists as a celebration of the visual form - or in more mundane terms as a platform for adding filters to a photo of a latte - why waste your efforts trying to circumvent the form? Save Instagram for arty shots of your work environment, or find a happy employee and post their photo as proof they exist.
6. In adopting a more social approach there can be a tendency to ignore the socially established barriers that would exist in other forms of contact. Some social networks are best used for discovery rather than contact. For example, I might find a candidate using Facebook search or Twitter but for the candidate these could personal outlets rather than professional. They may not welcome a contact here, knowing that a recruiter has found you on Facebook and has probably perused your photos and status updates doesn't make for a relaxed and comfortable candidate experienced. Look at how a candidate utilises a network, if it's largely personal they might not want to be approached in a professional capacity on these networks, why not use a second network to make the approach? Find them on Facebook and contact via LinkedIn. Talk to them, don't stalk them, talk don't stalk!
Social networks allow for individual, tailored and above all, authentic approaches. Social networks may well be the future of recruitment, but some old adages remain true - you only get one chance to make a first impression. Make that first impression count, research, approach creatively, source intelligently and you'll get the responses and referrals you're looking for. Smart sourcers make the candidate feel special and unique, their approach is measured and relevant, the lazy seek to broadcast, screaming into the void, looking busy and generating nothing.
Finally a post on social recruiting wouldn't be complete without an Infographic, so here's my snarky attempt.