Do Recruiters really get Social Media??

I had a great time at the Recruiting Unconference (trulondon) last Thursday…lots of interesting and thought-provoking debate and information. Over the next few blog posts I am going to write about some things that have had me thinking.

A key track for me was the one on Social Media…I have certainly tried to embrace LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogging over the last year or so and talk passionately to candidates about the need for them to get connected and get in the conversation. I was keen to learn more…

Track host Matt Alder started by asking each group member what social media they used and why…and four things immediately stood out for me:

Hardly any recruiters seemed to use any Social Media other than LinkedIn

Those that use LinkedIn seem to regard it as a database, a source of names to headhunt, and a medium to advertise jobs

Most recruitment companies seem to regard a consultant’s LinkedIn connections as owned by the company not the consultant

The only interest in Twitter seemed to be as a medium to advertise jobs

Clearly there are a lot of recruiters in the UK who haven’t yet got Social Media. There was little talk of developing networks or communities, of engaging candidates and clients in groups. It seemed depressingly familiar, just another medium for finding names to headhunt and for advertising roles. I’m not saying that there aren’t recruiters who provide a service doing just that, but why do we have this amazing new medium which opens up all sorts of possibilities, can really transform the way we work and interact, enables us to deliver some real value for candidates and clients…and then just try and find ways of using it to do the same old, same old…

I’m going to share some of my thoughts about LinkedIn here…Twitter will get its own post, hopefully soon!

On the question of ownership, I firmly believe that my contacts are mine…and I say that having been employee and employer within the industry. I appreciate that I have made contact with people whilst in employment, but it is how I have worked and interacted with that network that has provided fees and therefore revenue for the business. I know that there was a court case involving Hays last year which they won, but I believe in that case that the employee in question was sending invitations to clients that he hadn’t met or worked with, whilst at the same time setting up in competition. Sorry, but that’s unethical. Also when it was heard, use of Social Media as a business tool was still fairly embryonic.

I have met virtually all my contacts; those that I haven’t met I do have a working relationship with, and would have spoken to them at length on the phone (or social media). I have never invited (nor accepted an invitation from) anyone that I have not had interaction with. I can share information with them through status updates, and will call or send messages on a regular basis especially acknowledging when they have a relevant change to their status. Used properly it provides a great platform from which to start building a network/community (Twitter can help further develop this)

My LI network has delivered fees, not just for me but also for colleagues…and I am transparent with the network, giving them visibility of my Twitter feed, and this blog, on my LinkedIn profile.

Someone on the track, who owned a small IT recruitment business, legitimately raised the fear that a consultant leaving and taking his LI connections was taking business away…and Paul Harrison (Carve Consulting) who co-hosted the track made a great point when he said that the company may lose someone’s contacts, but then they would hire in someone who would bring with them a whole new set of contacts.

My personal view is that the attempt to protect is old, sales led recruitment thinking and does not take into account the possibilities opened up by social media.  Recruiters, in future, will be hired because of their network…not just who they know, but how they engage with the network, what information and knowledge they build, what business opportunities the network offers. There’s an onus on the recruiter to behave ethically and professionally if they want flexibility and trust from their employers…certainly not adding connections that are not technically part of their network, and with whom they have had no personal interaction, particularly if their intentions are to leave soon.

I did make the point on Thursday that in my opinion recruiters probably would not join a business that made them leave their contacts when they left…I certainly wouldn’t sign a contract that effectively said ‘we want you for your contacts, and when it’s time for you to leave, we’ll keep the contacts, thanks’

Social Media policy will soon be an extremely important criteria for candidates to consider when assessing a company (actually, why isn’t it now?)… and a legitimate question for the interviewee to ask. In fact as recruiters I think we should be finding out what the policy is when we take a brief.

I can certainly see a time soon when businesses will be rejected if their policies are not forward thinking, encouraging, empowering and trusting.



26 thoughts on “Do Recruiters really get Social Media??

  1. Great post Mervyn. I agree with most of what you say – I spoke last week (hence why I couldnt make it to the unconference) at an APSCO meeting in Manchester and made similiar points.
    LinkedIn is a networking tool, therefore recruiters need to engage with their community (candidates & clients) – this means they should be able to raise their profile as a respected professional (and maybe even a thought leader) in their marketplace/specialism.
    To see LI as a rich candidate sourcing pool in isolation is like going on holiday to Spain and lying on a beach all day every day – missing the numerous other things the country has to offer!
    That said I would take issue with you on the ‘only connect with people you know’ argument. The fact is that LinkedIn is only a great place to find people if you have a network big enough to see them. I am not advocating being a LION (although it clearly works well for some) but it is good practice to connect widely in order to increase the amount of users you can see.
    Too many users get very ‘precious’ about who they connect with – it doesnt have to be a relationship or commitment to anything, sometimes it can just be a network building excercise but there should also be a community within that of connections that recruiters engage with.
    Mark Williams
    ETN Training

    1. Thanks Mark and I take your point on Linking with more people. I think it’s a question of balancing the personal side of building and engaging a community, with the more impersonal approach of connecting with a number of people who you may not know. I know that within the HR sphere in which I operate, having too many connections can often put people off of joining your network.

  2. I agree it is absurd to think that the company owns your LI database and contacts. It is also absurd to only be using LI as a database and place to advertise positions. In my opinion the most effective way to use LI is to think of it as an electronic Rolodex (remember those?). If you want things to happen you have to CONNECT with people, be aggressive, yes make a phone call. If someone wants your LI contacts it is because they are too lazy to make their own connections, do their own work. They operate out of fear and in two years will still be reviewing a resume to determine if a candidate is a good fit (that is a whole other blog post) 🙂

    1. Thanks Gretchen, I agree with you. Properly engaged and qualified connections will want to deal with the person with whom they have developed the relationship, not a stranger who connects off the back of another relationship.

  3. Interesting points and thanks for your comments on the unconference. I think you are wrong to single out recruiters as being the ones who don’t get social media as if it were a luddite profession. I think the issue is that most professions don’t get it, in fact most people don’t get it. Look at any channel and match users against the population, you will find in every case that the greatest number are those not involved. Recruiters are no different.
    I’m more interested in why you think most people don’t get it and what can be done to educate others. On a positive note, fewer users creates greater opportunity for those that are active and involved to gain an advantage when it comes to true sourcing. The main benefit to social recruiting as i see it is the convergence of disciplines with H.R, recruiters, vendors, job seekers and others communicating on a regular basis. This new space is where i see the real benefit from learning and gaining referrals/trust coming. I have included this in my #trulondon wrap up.
    In terms of ownership of the network i have a mixed view on this. if guidelines stipulate that personal and business networks are kept separate then it is reasonable for a company to retain some ownership over the connections. It would be wrong for a recruiter to download their database and walk down the road regardless of if they had worked hard developing these contacts. Leavers should be expected to respect any contractual restrictive covenant that applies (usually 3 months) and to rebuild the network once the period is over. That is both ethical and legal. By having a clear policy on this you avoid ambiguity and encourage corporate businesses fearful on this point to embrace social media. The problems occur where no policy exists and confusion reigns. Simple policy and guidelines will lead to quicker expansion and adoption of social networks.

    1. Thanks Bill. The post was meant to be about how they use it, not how many. The blog is about recruitment because that’s what I know best, and what I’ve done for so many years.

      The post was written in response to what I found at trulondon, just about all the recruiters had an LI account but seemed to see it as a database for headhunting and a medium for advertising jobs. Their only interest in Twitter was for the same. I know that a lot of people don’t get it, but you and I both know that moving forward recruiters need to be able to engage, build and develop their networks and communities, yet this side of LI seems to pass a lot of recruiters by.

      Part of the reason, IMO, relates to the sales model. Most recruiters are targeted to get vacancies, get candidates and close the deal. There is little focus on developing relationships. Speak to any hiring manager/director and the number 1 complaint will be about the lack of a considered, value add, consultative approach. This will only come when recruiters can step back, build up their contacts, knowledge of their clients and their sector, and properly consult and add value to the recruitment process.

  4. Mervyn

    Great post. As someone operating in the recruitment sector – but not as a recruiter, i find LI a great networking and business deveopment tool but you are right that so many people only use it as a way of ‘collecting’ people.

    I use the anwers section quite regularly and have written my profile to include as many keywords as possible. Both these things have helped our seo enormously. One client approached us because I came up no 2 on a google search – it wasn’t our website – it was a question I had answered on linked in! And on the poeple search on linked in, someome found me by entering pr, recruitment, recruiters – we came in at numbers 1 and 2. Both those examples are now fee paying clients! So by working g at making sure you are working LI on a regualr basis, you can really boost your profile and visibility. By the way – i see mark Wulliams has posted – he does soem fantastic training courses on linkedin – well worth it for anyonme who wants to learn how to use it more widely!

    1. Thanks Tracy. You make a great point about the value of answering questions, often overlooked. LI offers many opportunties to engage and build in addition to collecting names.

  5. Just wanted to share something I learned from the unconference regarding this. I have always been an advocate of only linking in with people I know or have connected with in some way, be they candidates, clients, friends, etc. I’m not anti the LION crowd, it’s just not how I’ve chosen to use Linked In as a tool. Someone at the unconference who attended the afternoon track (I’ve forgotton who it was… SORRY!) had done some market research on networks though and their findings showed that people with large, loose networks were actually more likely to find and keep meaningful employment than those with small, closer-knit networks. I will try and track down who it was because my recollection of it is all a bit vague but it was a very interesting point and certainly went against everything that I would have expected!

    1. Thanks Wendy, would be great to know who that was. If you remember maybe you can let me know…it’s an interesting angle and would be good to share. The link between network and employability is an interesting one to explore.

  6. Nice post. I don’t think the issue of doing the same old same old is unique to recruitment of in fact to the UK. People are inherently lazy, and think that if I just do the same thing here surely it will work as there are more people. What they fail to understand is that different mediums and in fact sites are in the market for different reasons and should be approached that way. But remember we are all still learning and no one is an expert.

    And I completely agree regarding ownership. Those of us who work damn hard to build our network do so for not only our current jobs but for the future as well. To have a company say that they own that network list is wrong. When you leave are you suppossed to hand over your LI and Twitter account to them and start again?

    1. Thanks Justin. There’s certainly been a tendency within business in the UK in recent years to veer down the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ road. I think that the current economic difficulties have shown that some business models, particularly those that can prosper with a short termist attitude, don’t stand up to rigorous pressure.

      You are right too, we are still learning, however within an industry that relies on building long term relationships, you would have thought that more people would be trying to learn quicker!

  7. Great post Merv – thought provoking. Having been a client, a candidate, a recruiter, run a recruitment business and consulted to recruitment businesses on a range of issues including structures, systems and technology i can say, without a shadow of a doubt that the recruitment industry is most definitely a Luddite profession. Particularly when it comes to capital and technology investment irrespective of their approach to change which is usually slow.

    Of course there are other industries that are similar, but many that have equivalent size revenues and businesses generally respond faster to customer needs and invest more in infrastructure. Of course, there are recruitment firms that are not in this camp but in my experience they tend to be the small, privately owned businesses. As they get larger, the issues get more pronounced.

    There is definitely an opportunity here for conversations to take place amongst the different parties but i don’t see convergence. They have always been there and there has always been dialogue, but this ‘new’ thing means that, as a recruiter for example, if you get it right, you can have a dialogue with say, the VP Marketing for Sony or the VP HR for Glaxo, (Or perhaps more strategically the Marketing Executive/HR Advisor??) within a social framework like LinkedIn or Twitter or a blog that you would not have been able to have before, building credibility for yourself in the process.

    Unfortunately, none of these opportunities will be realised if recruiters enter social media and the conversations in the same way they have managed relationships in the past. As both Mark and Mervyn have said you have to be genuinely ‘in it’ as a community/network member. My favourite word here is authenticity. If you are not and just see LI and others as a database to be farmed it wont work for you. I blogged on it recently and likened it to going to salsa classes with the sole intention of getting your leg over. Link is here if you want to read the post!

    Re ownership, i’m with the majority on here – its not the company’s. Non compete clauses are in place to prevent client poaching and this is totally separate from your individual connections. Having connections is not new, having them on linked in is. Personally i find it hysterical that any organisation can come up with such a wheeze and would only encourage them to think this way so that hopefully they will implode due to their own stupidity sometime soon.

    Oh and Tracey, great example of LinkedIn use and i shall be using your words to encourage our consultants to get with the program!

  8. Mervyn, did not get a chance to say hello I was filming most of the time which was shame as I would have loved to join many of the tracks.

    I agree with you about recruiters and social media, for way to many it is;

    1) Linkedin and using a “CV” database.
    2) Build a Linkedin Group and a Facebook page.
    3) Putting some jobs on Twitter

    and then ticking the corporate I’ve got it covered box.

    Wrong – social is way more a change, from how you recruit today “reactivitly” “post and pray for a response” and I’ve got a “talent pool” but I can’t use to;

    1) Engagement.
    2) Honest and transparancy.
    3) Relevancy
    6)Content led.

    For me social is a holistic approach and takes recruitment out of silos and requires a philosophical C change.

    In a funny way “The social model for recruiting should become part of an Employer Brand project!! in is the inward and outward perception of an organisation and social is very much part of that thinking.

    In reality most recruiters do not enjoy the investment in people and therefore time to manage what social really means for recruitment.

    Shame a lost opportunity.

    As for my LI’s same as my old roladex…it’s mine!!
    Sorry for rant but seeing an opportunity go begging always bugs me.
    Keith Robinson

    1. Some great points Keith…rant away! Likewise I was disappointed not to have had the chance to talk to you at the unconference…we seem to share similar views here. It’s interesting to me that a lot of recruiters who make efforts to ‘get it’ are those with a history in the business…those who realise that any chance to build, develop, engage and communicate with a community or network must be explored and taken.

      Alas, I think the KPI/metric sales led model restricts a lot of recruiters from taking the time to indulge in communication which does not immediately yield a vacancy or a placeable candidate.

  9. Quick footnote to my comments. For the record I spend more than half of my time training non recruiters in how to use LinkedIn as a business development tool and Recruiters are generally streets ahead of most users in their understanding and application of LinkedIn.
    That said others are not distracted by the ‘candidate generation’ factor and they are beginning to get great results. Recruiters often have better, wider reaching networks but don’t always use these networks to their advantage by networking effectively.

  10. Good post Mervyn, I agree 90% of recruiters use LI inappropriately. I use it the same way you do and as such it is rich source of business development. I do not believe there is any need to connect to anyone who is not known to you on a personal or professional level. If you need to find someone then do a search. If they’re not in one of your groups & you desperately need to contact them pay the subs and use the in-mail (I rarely need to use it, as I contact people through the groups (for free) and have 15 to use.
    I have come to the conclusion that Facebook is not a good recruitment tool, Twitter is a micro-blog and blogging – yes good but I never find the time….!

    1. Thanks Russell. Using groups, (like using the Questions mentioned in Tracy’s response) is often overlooked as a great way to build and develop your profile within your network, and to attract others.

      There’s a lot of discussion about Facebook, and there seems to be a strong feeling within the online recruiting community that it will develop into a major recruitment medium over the next 5 years. Twitter is still evolving, and yes, blogging is time consuming!! Having said that, there’s no reason why these activities will not, one day, be seen as more effective than a cold call in developing relationships and identifying potential opportunities.

  11. Brilliant. I love your candor. It is what make your blog stand out from the rest. This stands testimony as you have received 10 comments on this post alone. Recently, I suggest that sometimes being contrary can be a good way to engage others in debate. Of course, in the spirit of healthy engagement, you put forth a compelling viewoint for us to consider. I applaud you! Recently, I wrote about points to make your blog relevant you have done just that. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Margo! I read your blog and thought that it gave some very good advice. My aim is to question and challenge where I think that it would be useful, not to disagree for the sake of it.

      We both belong to a very active community of multi national HR and recruiting pros who have met through Twitter, and who regularly support, challenge and share in equal measures…a benefit of social media that is totally lost on people who aren’t prepared to open up and use it!

  12. I was sorry that I didn’t get the chance to sit in all the streams at the Unconference particularly this one on the way recruiters use (or abuse) social media. Linkedin is an incredibly powerful tool that many members still don’t know how to use properly but I’m a great believer in evolution – the strongest will survive, the rest will fall by the wayside. All these technology tools are great enablers for building relationships of all kinds but I’m surprised at how many in the so-called ‘people businesses’ don’t possess the interpersonal skills that it takes to really leverage these tools.

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