Recruiting social: The real impact of social media on the recruitment process

by 24 Sep 2012

Having a successful social media strategy is becoming vitally important for both employers and employees alike. Steve Shepherd provides his tips.

Social media has quickly become a vital consideration for all HR professionals, with the medium presenting a huge opportunity for organisations to communicate with existing and past employers and increase their candidate pool while reducing administrative costs. Importantly, however, in order to effectively harness the full potential of social platforms, businesses need to integrate the medium into their overall HR strategy. Social media is not sufficient as a standalone, and organisations which treat it as such will likely miss out on the benefits.      

Over the past decade, few developments have changed our society more than social media. Its rapid uptake has seen the world shrink before our eyes, and communication is now more immediate and far reaching than anyone could have imagined. Initially viewed as simply a personal function, the medium’s shadow now looms large over the corporate world as businesses begin to see the true potential of this platform.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the recruitment sector, where social media is having a profound impact not only on how employers interact with existing, past and potential employees, but on candidate screening processes and general employer branding. Having a successful social media strategy is becoming vitally important for both employers and employees alike.

Implementing a standalone strategy is not the best way for HR managers to harness the opportunities that social platforms present. Companies should instead look to the way in which social media has been integrated into the life of most users as a model of how to best utilise the platform for HR purposes.

Integration not segregation

Businesses are undoubtedly beginning to see social media as an important aspect of their recruitment strategy, with recent research conducted by Randstad* highlighting that 65% of employers acknowledge the platform should play a pivotal role in talent attraction.

This quick acceptance is no surprise. With over 950 million people globally using social media in its various forms, there are huge opportunities for employers to access a world of talent which would have previously gone untargeted.

Further, with the latest estimates from the Australian Human Resources Institute showing local business spend close to $20bn annually in replacing existing employees, there is a fantastic opportunity for companies to expand and tailor their searches in a more cost effective manner.

While this unparalleled reach and cost-saving potential is a huge upside for all businesses, HR professionals need to remember that social media doesn’t automatically ensure you will find the right person first time. The potential of the medium does not negate the importance of other recruitment techniques in ensuring a candidate is the right fit for your business.

Combining social media with other analytical tools, including psychometric testing for personality and ability analysis, as well as traditional interviews to determine past performance and behaviour is vital to ensure your business is hiring the candidate most suited to the role and organisation.

While social media can help you reduce your costs, this benefit can be lost if the right candidate is not hired first time. In this way social media should be seen as a powerful addition to your HR processes, not a replacement for them.

Don’t overstep your boundaries

While social media has opened a small portal into the social lives of potential employees, it also presents a professional and ethical dilemma.

Before scrolling through a candidate’s Facebook page, employers should consider whether this is really beneficial in narrowing the pool of prospects?

While social profiles can reveal past indiscretions as well as behaviour outside of office hours, it often does not reflect their professional personality. This is not to say it can’t assist in providing some background on a candidate, but HR professionals should be wary of writing off prospective employees based solely on their Facebook page.

Ultimately it is the position being applied for which should determine the relevancy of an applicant’s online activity. If the role is public facing or within the digital space it will obviously factor more into consideration than many internal office positions.

Consider the employer brand you wish to present when assessing applicants social media presence. Do you wish to be perceived as an organisation which is dogged in social media policy, and does this fit with your organisational culture and office policies?

Act appropriately       

Just as there are significant differences in tone and audience within more ‘traditional’ recruitment avenues, the same is true for social media channels. Any approach to a potential candidate needs to be tailored to suit the forum, with some platforms being viewed as a more acceptable means to contact talent.  

As would be expected, LinkedIn is the favoured medium for most HR professionals with Randstad research* reaffirming 60% of employers view the platform as important for talent retention. This isn’t to say other forums aren’t effective in reaching talent in various industries, with 35% also stating that Facebook played an important role in their talent retention strategies.

When entering a forum, employers should be careful to learn the ‘rules of entry’ before conversing with or approaching candidates. Ensure that you adhere to any rules of the medium and that your approach is not out of place for that particular platform. Entering a network blind can often damage your employer brand amongst users and negatively impact the desired candidate’s perception of your organisation.

Jump onboard!

Unlike many self proclaimed ‘game-changers’, the impact that social media will continue to have on business is profound. HR professionals will have to be nimble in adapting to changes in the medium, and ensure these changes form part of a unified talent attraction strategy.

Many Australian businesses are already incorporating these platforms into their procedures, with 32% of companies expecting to use social media as part of the human resource strategies*. This adoption rate will also likely skyrocket, with the US experience attesting to the fact that utilisation of social media channels by HR professionals is now the norm (80% currently use various platforms to recruit candidates**).

What is clear is that social media should now be viewed as a vital aspect of all company’s talent attraction strategies, and that significant thought needs to be given in order to ensure procedures implemented not only complement the individual social medium, but also an organisation’s employer brand.   

About the author

Steve Shepherd is Group Director of Randstad Australia, a Fortune Global 500 Company and one of the world’s largest recruitment & HR services providesr, employing over 570,000 people every day with the aim of “shaping the world of work”. For further information about how Randstad is shaping the world of work, visit

Steve will present at Ark Group’s Internal Communications conference in Sydney on October 30. Click here for further information on Ark Group's upcoming events. 


*Randstad Workmonitor December 2011

**Social Recruiting Survey: Jobvite 2011