Branching Out From The Mainstream Social Recruiting Tools

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One of the questions I hear asked most often is the burning issue of how many social media channels a recruiter should use. Should you focus your efforts on just the mainstream offerings of the big networks like LinkedIn and Facebook? Or should you branch out to the likes of Twitter, Google+, Quora and Pinterest… and to start-up and niche social networks… and to the huge array of tools out there that allow you to leverage your presence on the mainstream networks more effectively? Whilst many of these social recruiting tools and resources are free to use, all take an investment of your time and so the decision is not one to be taken lightly.

This is a very timely issue for us to address though. We’re hearing from a growing number of recruiters that candidates are starting to become “saturated” by the volume of approaches they’re receiving on the main social platforms, most notably on LinkedIn. This is no great surprise – you’d expect marketing in any channel to produce diminishing returns as the volume of marketing grows; and certainly LinkedIn has been extremely successful at growing the recruiter user-base of its offerings, such that marketing to candidates has grown significantly. But if it takes an ever greater effort to produce the same results from mainstream channels, that in theory could make less mainstream activities increasingly worthwhile. What once was not the most productive use of your time could potentially evolve into the most productive use.

Well that’s the market context to this debate. To answer this question effectively though, let’s look at what you’re trying to achieve with your social recruiting strategy. In all likelihood, you and your company want to:

  • Expand your network and extend your reach into the pool of candidates who’d be considered relevant for your business
  • Improve your engagement with this pool of candidates, so that they have a heightened awareness of your brand and are more likely to respond favourably when you approach them to discuss a potential career move
  • Ensure that you are distributing your vacancies via whichever channels your target candidates are most likely to see, so that you fully leverage the brand awareness and engagement built above. Plus use those vacancies to drive interest in your social profiles
  • Do these things in a way that makes you stand out from your competitors, achieves greater engagement than they achieve and produce hires in a shorter time and with a greater success rate than they can

If we’re agreed that these are your main objectives, then the question becomes whether extending your social use beyond these mainstream tools allows you to achieve these objectives more effectively and in a cost-effective manner.

(if you have other objectives you’d want to add, by all means assess whether other networks and tools allow you to achieve these additional objectives too)

Expand your network and extend your reach

There are a number of key considerations when it comes to extending your reach within your target candidate audience. The first sounds obvious – but is often times overlooked. Which social platforms do your target candidate audience actually use? If there aren’t enough of the right types of candidates using a social channel, it doesn’t matter how much you master the medium or how engaging your presence is – your efforts are going to produce disappointing results. Conversely, a niche network or tool may have only a tiny fraction of the user-base of something like LinkedIn – but if it’s generated a strong following in the sectors you’re targeting, that could prove to be a very lucrative channel for you to invest your time in.

A second consideration – and one that’s no less important – is the responsiveness of candidates in your sector when engaged via different media. Facebook has the greatest candidate reach of any social media platform I know, with something like four times the number of people using the site compared to LinkedIn and roughly double the number of users as Twitter. Yet in many sectors, recruiters would cite it as being easier to engage candidates on LinkedIn or Twitter than on Facebook. Biggest isn’t necessarily best – and so it’s the case when talking about other smaller networks you might choose to mine. They may have a smaller user-base, but if it’s far easier to strike up a dialogue with potential candidates on niche sites that may turn your social recruiting priorities upside down.

So ask yourself – and take time to research – where do candidates in your sector like to hang out? Where are conversations taking place between the professionals you would like to hire? That could be an industry chat forum, it could be a niche social network (eg. a Ning-powered network), it could be on places like Quora or Pinterest. If you can find places to engage candidates where there is less noise and distraction from your competitors, you’ll leverage your time investment considerably.

Improve your engagement

One of the most exciting reasons for branching out beyond the most obvious services is the potential to greatly improve your engagement with candidates on those mainstream platforms. Let’s take LinkedIn as an example. One service recruiters will want to take a look at is Five Hundred Plus. This connects to your existing LinkedIn network and allows you to prioritise which contacts it’s most important for you to maintain regular contact with – and then track and alert you when you’re failing to do so. Services like this can take you from being a recruiter with an impressive but under-served LinkedIn network to one who is immersed in their network and always front-of-mind when the candidate is thinking of a career move.

Another one to look at is RecruitEm (recently rebranded but available via:, which provides a friendly user interface for using Google to track down profiles on LinkedIn. There are similar services out there to help you identify people to engage with on Google+ and Twitter. They all take the stance that using these mainstream platforms on their own is not enough – if you want to have a greater reach and better engagement than your competitors, you need to be using a variety of complementary services to mine and work those platforms more effectively.

Of course one sure-fire way to increase engagement with candidates is to provide them with engaging content, preferably content you’ve written or curated yourself. You might do this through guest blogging on appropriate sites, you might choose to curate others’ content with services like or Whichever option you choose, it’ll involve familiarising yourself with additional services over and above the mainstream social networks.

Ensure that you are distributing your vacancies via the right channels and strengthening your social profiles at the same time!

Now unless you recruit in a very tight niche, the chances are you are going to build an extensive network of candidates. Probably too big a network for you to be in weekly or fortnightly contact with them all. You can do a great job of expanding the reach of your network. You can do a great job of being more engaged with your network than most recruiters in your space. But if your candidates aren’t exposed to your recruiting messages at the point in time when they are thinking about making a move, you might lose out to another recruiter whose openings just happened to be seen at the most opportune moment.

That’s why it’s important for you to also focus on delivering your job vacancies in a manner that is not going to go unnoticed by candidates. Some ideas for achieving this would be:

  • Building into your social networking activity a consistent means by which you keep candidates informed of your open vacancies. Maybe each Friday you share a list of job titles and links of the roles you’re looking to fill, so that people in your network come to expect this from you. Maybe the content you share during the week is done using a share bar tool such as SharedBy through which you can continuously expose candidates to your open vacancies (without your social streams being a non-stop barrage of job adverts!). The key here is to share your openings in a way that is consistent and easily understood by your network, so that they always know where to look for them when they themselves are interested – and ideally are exposed to them without needing to do anything out of the ordinary.
  • Ensuring you post job openings on a job board or corporate career site where they are highly ranked by Google. Since many candidates’ job searches will incorporate a Google search to uncover openings, ensuring your vacancies appear in these searches will help to leverage the goodwill you’ve built up via all your social networking endeavours. If you don’t already have a job posting option that’s proven to do this, you’re welcome to open a recruiter account on Social-Hire where job listings are both free and well ranked.
  • Maintaining a presence on the leading jobs boards in your sector. If there are career sites that candidates are known to turn to during their job hunt, you want to make sure your offers are amongst those the candidate is exposed to when they start searching. You can’t stop them from looking elsewhere, no matter how strong your relationships have become through your social networking endeavours. But you can tip the balance in your favour by showing candidates that there are roles in your organisation similar to the ones they are looking at elsewhere – and where they have the added advantage of already having an established relationship and route into the company through you.
  • Last but not least, I’m amazed how few recruiters use their job adverts as a means of strengthening their social networking reach. Let’s start with the fact that most candidate views of a job advert end with the candidate hitting the “back” button and you never hearing from them (contrary to what you may have assumed from the application volumes you receive!). Yet a portion of those candidates will have been interested in your company – and would be interested in applying should a more appropriate role come up in the future. Incorporating plugs for candidates to connect with you via social media is the perfect way to end a job advert. If the role is perfect they’ll apply. If it’s not, many will connect with you and therefore receive your updates in the weeks and months that follow. If you’ve been looking for ways to improve your ROI from job board spend, look no further than this!

Hopefully you’re starting to see that the potential to improve your social recruiting is there – if you’ll take the time to leverage your existing presence by using ancillary services, niche networks and job boards to strengthen your reach and your engagement. Do these things in a way that makes you stand out from your competitors, achieves greater engagement than they achieve and produces hires in a shorter time and with a greater success rate than they can and you will then be one of a select group of recruiters who have truly leveraged the full potential of social media in recruiting. Good luck!

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


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  1. says

    Tony excellent advice and insight. I would think another significant contributing factor is the existing culture of the company. If one is going to spend time outside traditional channels recruiting it seems to me that would imply an interest or endorsement fo these channels. So for example if a company expects to attract a candidate using social channels will the candidate continue to engagement when/if employed or will it come to an abrupt halt.

  2. says

    Thanks for the positive feedback Joe – and interesting points you raise too. It’s such early days in social recruiting that in reality I suspect this is a case of “only time will tell”!

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