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Is social media killing the recruitment industry?

With one in six job seekers finding their last job through social networks, it’s hard to ignore the fact that social media is having a profound and lasting effect on recruitment. Here we take a look at what part LinkedIn et al play in the hiring process, and what challenges they present to the industry.

When you registered on LinkedIn, did you tick the ‘career opportunities’ box? And if you did, did you ever think anything would come of it? You might spare a thought for John Flexman, the HR executive sacked from his job in January as a result of ticking that very box. But what impact is LinkedIn having on recruitment more widely? Is LinkedIn and social media in general having a negative impact on recruitment? Is it possible that traditional sourcing and selection is being rejected in favour of clients cutting costs and utilising social media instead? Or is social media simply an additional tool, adding value to a client’s candidate search? When The Drum spoke to recruiters about the issue, the general consensus was that LinkedIn is a useful tool if used correctly, but can only take the recruitment process so far. Jo Joseph, associate commercial director at Major Players, describes the platform as a “shop window” of potential candidates, which ultimately lacks the depth required for the process. “If you put an advert on LinkedIn for a role, you may will get bombarded with unsuitable candidates, which you have to address and manage accordingly,” Joseph says. “There is no depth of understanding the candidates, what makes them tick, their motivations... This is where a good consultant comes in. We’ve seen a few clients try and recruit on their own using LinkedIn, however they often come back to us having spent too much time and with not much to show for it.” But with budgets tight, it’s easy to see why clients might be tempted to go it alone. Mark Manton, managing director of Soap Recruitment, accepts that prerogative but agrees with Joseph that recruiting and sourcing through LinkedIn will only get you so far. “You can understand why the majority of employers use LinkedIn, if it means that they can reduce their overall recruitment costs,” he says. “We now live in an age where we have an abundance of candidates to choose from and they are more accessible than ever before. But with this almost unlimited choice, we are faced with the all too familiar problem of information overload and how to digest and select the best people for the job.” This, Manton argues, is where a professional recruiter can add significant value – offering an objective opinion about “an individual’s capabilities and more importantly, personality, attitude and cultural fit”. Finding the right people, he says, remains more about “meaningful relationships” than technology. Simon Pettigrew, managing director, AF Selection, agrees, saying the limitations of online mean there will always be a need for face to face interaction in the process. “An online profile will not tell you much about an individual’s character, integrity, expertise and achievements. In truth, the majority of hires will be made on both a rational and instinctive perception of a candidate which is only achieved by a face to face meeting.”But shouldn’t we expect recruiters to feel threatened by a service that, to the untrained eye at least, appears to offer job advertisers a way to bypass them? Justin Moore, recruitment manager at Become, admits he was once wary of LinkedIn: “Initially I was unsure about what impact it would have on the market and thought it may cut recruitment services out of the picture. However, I soon found that I personally was using LinkedIn more and more for candidate searches, posting adverts, joining groups to contribute to discussion topics, hearing about networking events and also finding out about industry news and trends.” In this sense, LinkedIn would appear to be both a blessing and a curse for recruiters. “Used correctly, LinkedIn is an important source of candidates and clients for recruitment consultancies,” says Martin Anderson, managing director at Carrot Recruitment. “But it can also be viewed as a threat to us because it’s inevitable that our clients will utilise it wherever possible and for certain roles they’ll get a decent response. “Clients’ use of LinkedIn and other channels has of course impacted on the recruitment agencies but the way we look at it is that we need to be fully immersed in all forms of social media in order to engage with the communities of interest to us and our clients.” While social media may pose challenges to the recruitment industry, it also offers clear benefits. The myriad channels – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, blogs, YouTube and Google Plus to name just a few – allow recruiters to build a much more detailed picture of potential candidates than ever before and fine tune shortlists. “It gives us the ability to be less intrusive, make fewer calls and be more targeted,” explains Mike Carter, managing director at Orchard. “In the same way clients might find it easier to find contacts and talent, so do we.” Manton is similarly effusive, describing social media as “a game-changer that has liberated and reformed the industry”. He says: “If you apply Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution to the recruitment landscape, then what we are witnessing with social media is living proof of natural selection and survival of the fittest.” Farooq Mohammed of Digital Gurus sums up social media by saying it is “an added bow in the digital recruiter’s armoury”. At Green Shoots Recruitment, managing director Ann Downs says she’s seen tangible benefits to using LinkedIn: “I have filled permanent and freelance roles from initial enquiries via LinkedIn and have placed candidates who have contacted me via LinkedIn too. I don’t think social media is killing the recruitment industry; it’s a useful tool to advertise your service and attract candidates.” Far from doom and gloom then; most recruiters appear to be of the opinion that social media is adding to their business rather than detracting from it. “Social media isn’t killing recruitment,” Anderson says. “It’s making it more interesting. It’s another set of tools which can really benefit the more savvy recruiters. If they don’t engage then they will kill themselves.” Sponsored by: