“Old Skool” Talent Acquisition: not your father’s social recruiting

Over There with Felix Wetzel

From Drop Box

This guest post is from Felix Wetzel.   It is both thought provoking, and possibly controversial.  Please read what he has to say, consider it, and leave your thoughts in the comments.    Special thanks to Bill Boorman for helping me get some great articles lined up for “Over There”, including this one.

Social Media is useless for talent acquisition

Let me make a prediction here: For most companies social media will never play a big part in their quest to attract talent. It’s too time-consuming, too fragmented and – in comparison to more traditional methods – it lacks goal orientation: lost revenue through unfilled positions is always more important than cost per hire.

Now granted, social media can bring down the cost per hire as there’s no recruitment fee attached to it, but here we are talking about delayed productivity and revenue generation.

Social media might work for big, sexy consumer brands such as Apple, Google, EA etc but didn’t they already attract lots of applications before social media, via their website? I suspect that HR people just love having a Facebook fanpage as they can update it independently of IT and don’t need to adhere to stringent security policies that forbids, for example, deep linking etc.

But for most companies (big and small) it isn’t working. At Jobsite, we track the behaviour and usage of job seekers and recruiters on a quarterly basis and our latest findings show that between August 08 and May 10 the usage of social media as a recruitment channel for business has halved from 18% to 9%. Instead of investing in their own social media campaign, companies are better off in focusing on their core business and core strength and instead give job boards (or as I prefer to call them recruitment retailers) the task to find and attract suitable candidates.

Back to basics

These findings are mirrored in the recruitment agency world: A large UK agency has discovered that most placements are being made by the consultants who spend most time on the phone and least placements are being made by the consultants who spend hours on social media listening and engaging. As Scott Stratten tweeted: “Listening and engagement isn’t a campaign.”

It’s good to see how recruitment agencies are transforming: One of the Top 5 agencies is going old skool, every consultant only deals with 150 candidates, but has to meet each one face to face and really understand their needs. Now that’s what candidates love! It also ensures the likelihood of candidate and recruiter being on the same wavelength and therefore working successfully together. Everybody’s a winner.

Cultural matching, or more precisely cultural mismatching, is the single biggest factor of candidates not settling in a job. At Jobsite, we ran research and it showed that £2.5billion per year is lost because of cultural mismatching.

Social media = a cultural checking tool

Now, that’s the natural fit for social media in the recruitment value chain: cultural matching (or for want of a better word “background checking”). And it isn’t a one way process: candidates have as much right and responsibility to check the company and social media gives incredibly simple access to employees. Not necessarily to interact but to find out what they say about their employer. By looking at what kind of people work for the company, what attitudes they display and what values they hold also reveals a lot about whether you would be happy there (as a side note: What a great way of assessing the “brand-fit” of current employees). So expect candidates to get pickier. Obviously this can also be reversed and recruiters can check the attitudes and cultural match of candidates before hiring. That’s the real power of social media and invaluable for the decision making process.

Implicit opt-ins

But this for me leads to an ethical dilemma. I believe that somebody’s private life is their private life and as long as it doesn’t affect their performance negatively, I don’t really care what they do in their free time (unless obviously it’s illegal and harmful to others). So ethically, I am opposed to all the dark arts of the sourcers, I am opposed to befriending an individual on Facebook for these reasons, I am bewildered by people wanting to share everything with everybody and I am absolutely delighted that Steve Boese’s students see Facebook as a private area that is shared only with friends. This shows maturity, caution and most importantly a holistic approach to life – there’s no difference between real world and virtual world, therefore hardwired behaviors are being mapped across to create a compartmentalized and healthy world. So where do you draw the line?

I think it’s fair game to look at everything that is publicly available via a simple Google search and if it brings up their Twitter handle, I’ll also look at that to get a better understanding of the person. But it’s ultimately up to the candidate what he wants to share. Opt-in is not only a prerequisite for email and sms, but also implicit for social media. At Jobsite we give candidates the option to include their Twitter handle and Linkedin profile. They are all self-determined adults, so let’s leave rights and responsibility where it belongs, with the individual.

Put the individual at the heart of your organization

We are all in a massive learning curve about social media and mobile, but one thing is already clear: The individual, and in our case the job seeker, will become more and more empowered. We -as an industry – repeat it over and over again. Now let’s behave and act accordingly: Instead of putting social media or mobile at the heart of the organization, let’s put the job seeker at the heart of it – that will completely change concepts such as talent pools and talent exchange, it requires us to rethink ATS integrations and how social media channels really aid the recruitment process, but most importantly it will reinforce respect for the individual and his private sphere and therefore create trust and candidate driven connectivity.

Let’s just remember: Nobody owns the individual but the individual. It’s not about owning the individual; it’s about knowing the individual for the individual’s benefit, for the creation of a life simplifying and life enhancing service.


Felix Wetzel is the Group Marketing Director for Jobsite and author of the ‘People, Brands, & Random Thoughts‘ blog. For Felix, it’s all about people, brands, sports & politics. His motto is “fortune favors the bold!”

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78 thoughts on ““Old Skool” Talent Acquisition: not your father’s social recruiting

  1. Thanks for the invitation, Michael. I’d be happy to write a guest post. Would you like me to adapt something from the SMinOrgs Social Media Primer/S.M.A.R.T. Blog, or draft something new? Message me when it’s convenient and we’ll work something out.

    As I noted in the SMinOrgs LI group where you shared the item, Felix’s post definitely got my mental juices flowing on a a Sunday morning – and as you noted in your introduction, I expect that was the idea!

    1. Courtney, getting people to think and dialogue is the whole purpose of the “Over There” feature. I’ll connect with you on the content idea later this week! Thanks for thinking of doing something!

  2. With all due respect, this blog post was a disappointment, beginning with the inflammatory “social media is useless for talent acquisition” opener. As the Marketing Director for Jobsite, Felix, you seem to have a biased perspective – and unfortunately that seems to have led to a misrepresentation of the role that social media plays in the recruitment process. To begin with, social media should not be confounded with public social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – it’s a set of technologies that extend far beyond that, and which are increasingly being incorporated in applicant tracking systems and even job board sites (apparently, including yours, with the job referral functionality you mention in one of your comments). Secondly, it’s WAY too early to determine what the value of social media is to the talent acquisition process, as most organizations have still not even experimented with it. Thirdly, you seem to imply an either/or proposition that represents a false dichotomy. The value of social media (which I refer to as new tools for doing old things) will not be determined simply as an alternative to “old skool” recruitment methods, but as a complement to them. What matters most is what a hiring organization’s strategic goals and objectives are, and how social media – along with other methods – can help the organization achieve those goals. “Traditional” recruitment methods are no more strategic by their nature than “digital” methods are. And assuming they have some inherent validity that social media lacks simply because they’ve been used longer is illogical to me.

    The digital era is exciting. Imperfect, but exciting. I for one am fascinated by the possibilities new technologies present for enabling individuals and organizations to be more efficient and effective in achieving their goals. I look forward to continuing to watch the story unfold.

    Courtney Hunt
    Founder, Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) Community

    1. Courtney,

      Thanks for the response to the article from Felix. Despite the fact that you disagreed with his viewpoint, I think the discussion around this topic have been great.

      Would you like to respond to Felix further in a guest post? I am a member of your SMinORgs community and know you do great work. I would love to publish something from you here!


    2. Thanks for your passionate comment Courtney. I share with you the excitment and fascination about the digital era – I think it already has and will continue to change the world into a better place.

      I also believe in a combination of all tools, be it traditional or new, the differentiation I make is: at what stage in the talent acquisition process will they be used? I think social media has an enourmous value if used to identify the cultural match – one of the key hurdles in and the true value of recruitment.

      Other questions I wanted to raise are:
      What is the rationale for its use? How can we ensure that it’s based around the individual instead of the technology? How can we ensure that we respect the individual’s preferences and privacies? Where do we draw the ethical boundaries?

      Social media has its place in recruitment, but a healthy debate is necessary to find its place and to help it establish its true value – currently it gets lost under all the hype and the promise and the facts that it’s measured in a way that will hinder social media to show its true value and beauty.

  3. Felix – bless you. 🙂

    “…most placements are being made by the consultants who spend most time on the phone and least placements are being made by the consultants who spend hours on social media listening and engaging.” – I love it! Not that listening and engaging people via social media is totally worthless…but we’re talking about results, and that’s what I am all about.

    I must admit that I am not as passionate about talent attraction (via social media or traditional job posting) as I am talent identification . I am not a passive recruiter. I am not satisfied to wait and see who comes to me – I simply go find the right people, engage and recruit them, with or without the aid of social media.

    I’ve always felt that the ultimate value that a recruiter provides to active or passive or non-job seekers is the right match – not a relationship: http://www.booleanblackbelt.com/2009/08/candidate-recruiter-relationships-overrated/

    1. Glen

      This is Michael VanDervort. Felix is responding on his own. Thanks for sharing your comments. You know, we both live in Tampa. We really should get together sometime!

    2. Hi Glenn,

      Thanks for your comments. I completely agree with you on the right match being the value creation. That’s what changes people’s lives, that’s what makes the difference.

      Talent identification is neat, it like the shift of perspective it provides. Do you have a precise definition for it?

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