How do YOU Define Social Recruiting?

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Before We Define Social Recruiting, Let’s Look at the Raging Debate

I’ve watched with fascination as the debate has raged these last months. Will LinkedIn kill off the job boards? Is social recruiting decimating the recruitment agency sector?

These are all interesting talking points, but for me they miss the fundamental issue. The key question for me is are we actually doing anything significantly different from the way we recruited talent five or ten years ago? There’s so much talk of Social Recruiting, but what has actually changed? Because Social Recruiting needs to encompass doing things we weren’t doing before the arrival of social networking sites, otherwise it’s just a new name for old practices. Let’s see if we can make some sense of this and see how to define social recruiting.

Advertising Job Posts To Attract Applications

From “Wanted!” notices in shop windows to “Now Hiring!” adverts in newspapers to “Featured Openings” listings on job boards. Over the passage of time, a proven method of attracting applicants has always been to advertise your vacancies. There’s nothing inherently “Social” about advertising jobs on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and the like. It’s just job advertising via new channels. I’ll grant you, it’s true that these networks can target adverts to readers in ways that are indeed innovative. But this is just the latest iteration in the evolution of job advertising. Social Recruiting this is not.

Approaching Candidates Directly

Putting aside the merits of Passive vs Active candidates, there has always been a portion of employers’ hiring needs met by proactively approaching candidates who look ideal for the role. Historically this was done by headhunters, accessing proprietary databases and researching industry segments to uncover shortlist-worthy candidates. Social profiles have increased exponentially the number of recruiters who are now able to research markets and approach candidates in this way. But again there’s nothing inherently “Social” about this approach.

Indeed, I would argue that in allowing recruiters to spam direct marketing approaches to candidates, the likes of LinkedIn have actually made this element of recruiting less personal. Likewise, people aggregator sites are extremely powerful for recruiting, but they are just greatly enhancing the efficiency with which a candidate segment can be researched. They’re not introducing a totally new way of recruiting, just an evolution of what’s been done before. In fact every conversation I’m having in the industry suggests there are fewer candidates receiving personal headhunting calls today and more candidates seeing these approaches appear in their inboxes instead. So these developments – whilst clearly very important – aren’t resulting in practices that could be called Social Recruiting either.

Engaging and Reaching out to Candidates in New Ways

To my mind, this is the essence of Social Recruiting. We take the new technologies available to us today – and we figure out ways that we can engage with and reach potential candidates that have never been possible before. Examples would be:

  • Becoming social recruiting brands. Whether you are a recruitment agency business or a direct employer, there’s scope today to be a voice in your industry in a way that was never possible before. You can publish content to an engaged audience of prospective candidates and brand advocates. You can curate others’ content to cement awareness of your company as a leading brand in a given field. You can make your brand visible and easily reached by participating in TweetChats, LinkedIn Groups and Google+ Communities. Today your company can have an audience without having to pay for every minute of airtime or every column inch of space.What’s more, you can engage prospective candidates in one-to-one conversations at the point at which they are only considering applying to your business – and indeed you can provide the spark that makes people contemplate a career move in the first place. Through the use of social platforms, you can engage candidates earlier in their decision process than ever before. You can make candidates feel more appreciated. You can build personal bonds with potential hires and brand advocates. You can improve the Candidate Experience from point of first discovery through to onboarding. This is Social Recruiting. It’s new, it’s effective, it’s social!
  • Empowering your employees to make referrals. In small businesses, referral hiring has always been the hiring nirvana. Countless companies I can think of have only turned to external sources of hires once they’ve reached that size where their own network of contacts simply can’t produce the necessary hires any more. Typically this is at the 20-30 employees mark. Likewise, larger companies have always prized referrals from staff members, as history has taught them that these often prove to be some of the most successful hires the company makes.The challenge has always been to make referral hiring scale with the needs of a business. Social networking sites have brought two big factors into play here. Firstly, referring candidates to your company was always a little awkward. Calling around your old college pals to see who might be open to a move was not something for the introverts in an organisation. Similarly, emailing around vacancies seemed a bit pushy and the reach achieved was dependent on how fastidious your employees were in passing on the message. Social networking has greatly reduced the stigma associated with sharing your employer’s messages with your contacts – and so has enabled greater take-up and therefore volume of hires to be achieved. Social referral tools have also streamlined the process of sharing and so opened up the potential here even further.The second aspect – no less important – is the reach that social networking sites provide for employee referral marketing. Making it easier to get recruiting messages out to your immediate contacts is great progress, but couple that with the potential for the message to reach the extended network of your employees and that gives referral hiring a significant boost. Add in the potential for those prospective hires to be able to interact with people from the employer in ways that weren’t possible before and you have yourself another avenue that is new, effective and social!

Making the Distinction

In writing the above, my conclusion is that there are two ways social platforms have impacted recruiting. One is Social Recruiting and the other is not. Firstly, recruiters can leverage social tools for recruiting purposes. This is doing what recruiters have always done in recruiting, but with some shiny new tools to do things more effectively. It’s not social recruiting, but it does represent a step-change in way recruiters operate and the results they can deliver. Then there is Social Recruiting, finding ways to engage with candidates and reach out to them that were never previously possible. That’s how I would define Social Recruiting – what about you?

Tony Restell
This monthly Social Recruiting column is contributed by Tony Restell. Tony is the Founder of and a respected commentator in the online recruitment and social media sectors. A published author and Cambridge graduate, Tony spent his early career in strategy consulting before going on to build and sell an online recruitment business to Jobsite. He is focused on helping candidates and recruiters use social media to find their next career or their next hire. +Tony Restell
Tony Restell


Social Media Marketing for Recruiters is my area of specialism | Follow for tips + insights that'll help both Recruiters + Jobseekers | #SocialRecruiting
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Tony Restell
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  1. says

    I don’t think you can make these hard and fast rules on what is social recruiting, or why you even need to. You can argue the best way to recruit is through engagement rather than pure posting, but I would define social recruiting as integrating social media channels in to recruiting. I have noticed that many of these types of posts are shared in social media channels are shared using auto-posting tools like Buffer. Is this any different to auto-posting jobs? By the same logic this would be posting and praying content. It seems a bit contradictory to say one is good and the other is bad. If using an auto-posting tool is not social, then the logic should apply to all forms of content distribution, meaning social can only apply where engagement is possible. Social is about channels, not methodology.

    • says

      Thanks for your insights Bill. To clarify, I wouldn’t necessarily argue that “the best way to recruit is through engagement rather than pure posting”. For a lot of recruiters without the resources necessary to do social recruiting well, I would argue that sticking with tried and tested job board posting is the right thing to do. But I don’t think you can call posting jobs somewhere – and not sticking around to engage with candidates – social recruiting. There’s nothing social about it.

      Your point about Buffer illustrates the distinction very nicely. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with automating tasks and scheduling posts, indeed I find it very effective. But there’s a world of difference between a recruiter who schedules sending out posts on their social profiles in the hope of securing a candidate application, without making themselves available for further interactions…. vs. a recruiter who schedules updates and is then there in person to respond to all candidate interest and enquiries that result. The latter makes candidates feel valued and takes the use of social tools to a whole new level in terms of the candidate experience achieved.

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