The Great SCAM in Recruiting

The Great SCAM in Recruiting

There is a great SCAM being perpetrated in the recruiting profession today. Call it “social capabilities ahead of the market.”

A legion of pundits and trainers have anointed LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter as the future of recruiting. That’s probably an accurate statement but widely misunderstood. These sites may be effective recruiting tools in 2014, but today they aren’t even close. To put it another way, they are social capabilities that are way ahead of the market, if the market you’re after is the one for talent.

Consider the data: AfterCollege is an employment site that’s popular with Millennials graduating from college and with alumni among Gen Xers and even Baby Boomers. It recently polled its visitors to see which methods of job search they found most effective. Despite all the breathless commentary about social media, the top 3 results were as follows:
• Search an online job board (selected by an astonishing 71.9% of respondents)
• Apply directly to the company/organization (70.7%)
• Speak to someone who already works at the company of interest (63.1%)

Social media came in at number 15 on the list of choices and was selected by just 10.9% of respondents which, of course, included those most celebrated for their use of social media—Millennials.

These results mirror those generated by our own survey of job seekers conducted at the WEDDLE’s Web-site throughout 2008. Our respondent population was also cross-generational and numbered just over 1800 individuals. When we asked them “How did you find your last job?”, their top three responses were:
• Replying to an ad or posting a resume on an Internet job board (35.4%)
• Getting a tip from a friend (8.5%)
• Receiving a call from a headhunter (6.8%)

And when we asked them “How do you expect to find your next job?”, they said:
• Replying to an ad or posting a resume on an Internet job board (62.6%)
• Sending a resume into the company (5.9%)
• Receiving a call from a headhunter (5.5%)

Social media came in third from the bottom of 18 choices and was selected by just 1.1% of the respondents.

So, what lesson should we draw from all of this? I think there are actually two key take-aways:

First, beware the hype. Successful recruiting depends upon our ability to tap the talent market efficiently, and social media sites can’t do that because most people use them in a different context. These sites are popular because they are viewed as helpful in finding a date and keeping up with friends, but not, at this point at least, in connecting with employers and recruiters. In other words, the social market has not yet become a talent market … and no amount of expert hyperbole will change that fact.

Second, if you’re going to invest time in training (and I hope you do), spend it adding to your skill set with those tools that reach the largest concentration of talent. Learn how to write job postings that will sell even the most passive prospects on your employer’s value proposition and upgrade your ability to probe the resumes and profiles archived in job board databases. They may not have the sizzle of social media, but they are also not a SCAM.

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  1. With all due respect, I think you are way off base on this entry. It is almost shock value. I don’t know if you stayed for the rest of our conference, but the main theme was on strategic recruiting – building pipelines, establishing relationships with candidates so that when a position opens, the recruiter has candidates to present creating shorter time to fills and keeping unfilled position costs down (sorry for the run on sentence). I have filled 40% of my reqs this year with LinkedIn. As long as companies create a Corporate Facebook Fan sites to attract candidates and do not use their personal Facebook page. There are great companies out there such as EnticeLabs that are using the web to push opportunities and related company information to the Gen Yers and Millenials.

    I know what the ratings say, but I would challenge you to talk to some of the best recruiters and sourcers out there and I will put some Vegas money down that the top three answers come out a lot different.

  2. Michael-

    Thanks for taking time to send along a response to my blog.

    I’m very respectful of your success with social media sites and I’m sure there are other recruiters out there using such sites effectively. The data suggest, however, that you and they are the exceptions, not the rule.

    I’m also troubled by any organization that focuses all or most of its recruitment budget and talent on a single sourcing tactic. If social media sites are working for one employer or another, fine, but job seeker data indicate that their recruiters should be, for example, equally as facile at writing good job postings, and a quick trip to any job board will show that they aren’t.

    To your point, the strategy is correct—filling up a pipeline of talent—the implementing tactic, on the other hand, is too narrowly focused to be effectively with today’s highly fragmented workforce. So, if I had some of that Vegas money to bet, I’d put it on a more multifaceted and thoroughly integrated approach.

    Best Regards,

  3. I think you said something very important and refreshing here Peter. It reminds me of the speech given at every recruiting conference by the top recruitment expert who is a University professor and doesn’t do any recruiting himself.

    He scolds recruiters everywhere for getting it all wrong. You only recruited properly when you were recruiting a star away from your competitor by cold calling personally. I bet he is touting social networking today.

    Imagine if every position down to maintenance and housekeeping had to be handled this way or through social networking!

    Unfortunately, there’s no money in being reasonable. It’s just not interesting enough.

    — Eric

  4. Hi Peter,

    We’ll both be speaking at an upcoming event on June 11th. I look forward to meeting you there and hopefully grabbing a few minutes of your time to discuss the use of social media in Recruiting.

    Comment – If you sign up for Twitter and follow a bunch of people who are very happy in their current job and you start chatting and tweeting without a mission then you aren’t recruiting. You’re socializing. I think this is what you are referring to. I imagine that is not a terribly effective use of time.

    Alternatively, you can use the powerful search feature and alerts features combined with filters in Twitter to get notified when someone posts a Tweet using certain words – such as “new job” and “marketing executive” or whatever. Or “hiring” and “CFO”. In this case Twitter is very powerful. First, its a lot easier to break through and get someone to see your message than it is to do so via email or phone. Second, it gives you the advantage of contacting someone within a few minutes of when they expressed need. If I say “we’re looking for a CFO with xyz experience” and within 10 minutes you contact me and say you have 3 great candidates, that is more powerful than contacting me two days later when 1) i’ve already gotten several applicants and 2) i’m now busy doing something else at the moment and not in the middle of the job-filling role.

    As far as LinkedIn, as an employer I give 2x to 3x weight to someone’s LinkedIn page than I do to their resume. I look at who their contacts are, any references they have, etc. It seems much more real and harder to fake or hide behind than a resume.

    With regard to MySpace and Facebook, I admit I have a lot of trouble figuring out how those would be successfully used in Recruiting. I’m sure they can be. I’m sure some people are doing an amazing job with them. But for most I would agree they are probably much more social in nature right now and as such its probably a lower ROI activity for most recruiters.

    But Twitter and LinkedIn? I’m going to have to respectfully disagree there. I TOTALLY agree with your data that suggests they aren’t great tools for filling sheer volumes of entry level jobs. Agreed. I’ve seen data saying 50% of college students have never even heard of Twitter. Can’t argue that. But I will argue that the ones who are using Twitter tend to be ahead of the curve. For a CFO maybe its a bad example. For a CMO, Marketing Manager, etc. its a strike against you if you don’t have an active Twitter page in this one man’s opinion. So I guess the question is one of criteria here. How are we evaluating whether or not something is effective for recruiting? Are we looking at number of placements? What about “level” of placements? Combination?

  5. Hi Peter,

    For anyone who knows anything about recruiting, this is a non-issue.

    LinkedIn is currently about as important as the resume banks owned by the job boards.

    Facebook, Twitter and MySpace are not an important source of candidates.

    @karla_porter has recruited people on Twitter and MySpace but she is more enterprising than the average person.

    Anyone who is interested in recruiting on Twitter should have a look at my interview with people who are doing it.

  6. I have to laugh about how bunched up people get over topics like this. I think I have been away from the online recruiting community too long because I find the group-think and lynch mob mentality a little silly. But I’ve got to agree with Peter on some of this, probably most of it. The numbers speak for themselves. And let’s keep in mind that the prospects point of view is what we are looking for. Wherever they go to engage, we should show up.

    So if you throw out the small percentage of super users, this analysis is, in my opinion, spot on. My favorite thing to say to folks on my team is “the tool follows the strategy, not the other way around”. But that’s not how most of the early adopters operate: “oooh, Twitter…cool. Let’s use it!” Adopt away.

    People start to geek out around innovative tools but forget that they don’t really fit in a defined recruiting strategy. These tools really accomplish a fraction of the recruiting process, much of which is accomplished much better by other means. Much of the value is disproportionate to the amount of fanboy-ism.

    LinkedIn is awesome in my opinion. But it is essentially a leads database/resume database. You add all your connections to have a bigger pool of prospect to search from. It does little to serve up “relevant and interested” talent. You’ve really got to work it to get out what you want. As they say, you get out what you put in. Still, it’s a great resource.

    Facebook is a leads database that is cluttered up by non-relevant activities. If people think that it’s a better leads database than LinkedIn, they are likely doing entry level or hourly recruiting. That’s OK, but it’s not the greatest tool for the rest of us other than pulling out a bunch of names and using them to create campaigns. There’s no data to suggest any one prospect from a company is better than another and most people don’t even fill out their work info in any depth beyond company name. What passes for relationship building here is certainly shy of real, mutually beneficial relationships. As for employment branding, there could be some value but I think what Peter is talking about activities that impact the means of engagement.

    So far, I think Twitter is an increadible waste of time. If you are using it to automate job feeds, then that’s great, super user. But most of what I see is updates on what people are having for dinner. Drivel.

    I see a lot of people (not necessarily here) really freaking out that someone has dared to defame their blessed tools. Geez. How has this become a personal battle? If you think that all these tools are great and you think they give you a competitive advantage, then Peter is doing you a favor by turning other people off of them.

    If someone is really doing something to use Twitter and Facebook to hire candidates and feels that the ROI is justified, then share. And if we hear from people that make their money off of training or speaker fees (as much as I truly like some of you), then I hope you don’t mind that we can’t really see you as objective. Show me the proof.

    I’m totally willing to change my mind but I want real ROI, factoring in time investment.

    Phew, I am just glad that blogging is old news 🙂

  7. Hi Peter,

    Interesting discussion. SCAM is a bit strong, but I think I know where you’re coming from. Anyone calling anything, by itself, as the future, or the it thing, has missed the point. If thats where you’re coming from, I agree, even if I think the language is a bit over the top.

    I’m a fan of data, and surveys, and certainly use both to guide myself in what to do next. There’s some pretty serious limitations to generalized surveys though. For one thing, I’m not trying to recruit all college grads, or any generalized group. I’m looking to hire for my company, which has its own requirements in terms of background, experience, culture, location, etc. Every company will have some unique characteristics for their hiring needs that will be tough to generalize.

    Also, the lines and definitions have been blurred somewhat between career site, social media outpost, and the purposes for both. I run a facebook page for my company, that isn’t focused only on jobs. However we talk about employment there, and jobs, and lost of other stuff. We also have a job search form right on the site. So, it seems odd to say Facebook is only about socializing, implying that there isn’t a social aspect to recruitment or finding a job.

    Overall, its not about the tools being good or bad, or social media being the future or not the future. The fixation on tools isn’t useful. Can we instead think about appropriate use? Twitter, great for finding, connecting with, engaging, and yes hiring marketing people or software developers. Twitter, NOT great for finding, connecting with or engaging tax professionals. So it seems obvious to state, but necessary in light of the hyperbole on both side of the argument, but it ain’t about the tools; job board, social media, whatever. Its about the most appropriate approach given your specific situation, company, jobs, culture, location, reputation, recruiter capability, budget, etc.

    As an individual, trying to meet all those contingencies, blanket statements of any kind have no value.

  8. The irony is that you’re using a social media tool to bemoan the hype around social media.

    Beware the hype is right. Also, beware status quo and stagnation in any industry—including recruiting.

  9. Talent and dedication truly determines the success of a recruiting company – the legit one. It is true that getting recruits using social networking sites is not a guarantee just because many uses them. People will not click on your site or join your cause if it does not have substance. Aside from that, scams are prevalent and it is difficult to discern which ones are actually real. If your goal is to earn money, there is no harm in that – as long as you follow guidelines and you do not deceive your potential clients with false claims. People who decide to be your recruits should know exactly what they are getting and you need to give them the guarantee that their personal information will be kept confidential.

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