Using Social Media Recruiting For a Better Hiring Process

Time to Read: 7.1 minutes

Updated: December 20, 2022

As many as 70 percent of US employers use social media as part of the screening process, according to a CareerBuilder survey of more than 2,300 hiring managers and HR professionals.

Compare that with the figures in 2006, when only 11 percent of employers used the networking sites. It’s plain to see how indispensable social media have become to the hiring process.

The study also found that:

  • 61 percent of employers screen candidates via social media to find information that supports their qualifications.
  • 50 percent want to ensure candidates have a professional online presence.
  • 37 percent want to see what other people are saying about the candidate.
  • 24 percent use social screening to find reasons not to hire someone.

The last point goes to show that the overwhelming majority of hiring managers and recruiters are using this social power for good. Candidates should not worry social media is being used to keep them out of positions.

As social media specialist Laura Betourne says, candidates should, of course, remove inappropriate content. But when their profiles are private or without a sense of personality, hiring personnel may think they have something to hide.

In most cases, social recruiting can be a powerful way to attract the right candidates, connect with them meaningfully, and ensure the employer brand remains strong and favorable.

Hiring managers who know when and how to use these resources will be able to keep their pipelines loaded with great candidates. Here are some of the social recruiting tools and tips to keep in mind when using them to help strengthen your own hiring process.

Social Media Screening and the Law

Before we get into the advantages of social screening and recruiting, it’s worth paying attention to the laws, regulations, and ethics surrounding social media. The wrong hands can turn a well-crafted tool into a clunky weapon.

Detroit-area attorney Randal Cole says that companies should appoint one person to conduct social media reviews of candidates to ensure a uniform policy. This staff member would then act as a human resources representative.

Cole also suggests leaving the social media screening until after the first interview. Doing it before could open an organization up to allegations of discrimination. And even if something flags up as unwanted or inappropriate, Cole advises employers to have a proper conversation about it. It could have been a lapse of judgment from the candidate, or their account could have been hacked.

In Europe, the law may be on the candidate’s side already. Alanna Petroff, at CNN Tech, writes that employers will need to issue a disclaimer before they check applicants’ online accounts, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Failure to do so could result in transgressing EU data protection rules.

Tied to the above, employers cannot use social media data as part of the hiring process unless it is “necessary and relevant” for a particular job.

OK, now let’s address how social media can be used to get the best candidates placed.

Think Beyond the Familiar Social Networking Sites

At HR Tech Weekly, Helen Sabell, CEO and Principal of the College for Adult Learning, writes that while LinkedIn remains a popular social network for sourcing candidates, recruiters and HR departments should also look elsewhere.

Twitter, Google+ and Facebook are obviously also good sources to tap, but Sabell advises using specialized search tools. Followerwork, for example, searches Twitter bios for job titles and keywords. Google Chrome browser extensions, such as Intelligence Search, scan Facebook and Google+ for candidates.

Using social media is not just about finding the best candidates, or filtering out those who are incompatible. It’s also about keeping an eye on the competition. Keeping track of common hashtags and key terms on social media, Sabell argues, can shed insight into what competitors are doing and how to get the jump on them.

Pam Baker at Search HR Software also suggests broadening the scope beyond the familiar networking sites. She says getting into “niche forums and networks” will open hiring managers up to candidates with specialized skills. She lists as examples Stack Overflow for developers, and the Moz and Warrior forums for digital marketers.

Baker also highlights the value of looking inward. Internal social media and messaging platforms, such as Slack, can be used to recruit from within. This can also be tied to employee referrals, as generating awareness of available roles inside the organization could lead to great candidates applying.

Using internal social networks can also be used to get current employees to recruit externally. Hiring managers requesting help from their own networks, however, need to do it right.

A personal approach is key, Baker argues. A simple link to a job posting is not enough. Rather, a thoughtful post about what the role entails and the company’s ethos, and plenty of specifics will get the most attention.

It’s not just about the platforms available, but the tools that can be used to make social recruiting work for hiring managers and recruiters.

Tools of the Social Recruiting Trade

Christina Pavlou at Workable says social media sourcing can build talent pipelines for future roles while also engaging passive candidates. But having the right tools in hand will help enhance the social recruiting process:

  • Scheduling tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer automate updates for your social media pages for an active online presence, even when there is no one at the computer.
  • Bitly, Google Analytics and other tools can measure traffic and engagement with specific posts.
  • Sourcing tools, such as People Search, gather information from candidates’ social media accounts to build a recruitment profile.
  • Integrated applicant tracking systems with social media can advertise job openings and manage candidates’ applications in one location.

Social Media to Connect with Passive Candidates

Dale Curtis at The Staffing Stream argues that an organization can use social media to attract higher-quality candidates, even passive candidates.

This offers a two-pronged advantage. Not only can social media be used to promote the employer brand online as a great place to work with a vibrant culture, but it also provides an unobtrusive way of communicating with potential candidates.

Many higher-quality candidates, for instance, will work on their online presence as thought leaders or voices of authority in their relevant industries. Social media makes it easier to connect with them.

While strong passive candidates might not also be prolific self-branders, social media offers a less intrusive and more proactive way to reach them. They can be targeted through this media even if they’re not looking for a new role.

Employer Brand, Employee Brand, and How It Can Go Wrong

A key point for an organization to address with their social recruiting is having a strong social presence. Remaining active with posts and interacting with the followers is vital, according to Vandana Tilwani, head of talent acquisition at GroupM. Tilwani advises having “a dedicated team work on micro-sites to post engaging content on a daily basis.”

Building the employer brand through regular — but not too regular — updates is important. But as Lisa Michaels at HR Tech Weekly writes, employers should move away from a text-heavy branded message about their company being a great place to work. They should adopt the practice of great novelists: Show, don’t tell. Photos, videos, and events at the office can show potential hires what it is like working at the company in ways that text cannot.

Social recruiting expert Katrina Collier is also excited about the many opportunities social networks present to recruiters and hiring personnel. However, she warns that with sites such as Glassdoor, Indeed, Facebook, and Twitter, it’s as much about what organizations are saying as what is being said about them by employees.

This is why cultivating a happy workforce will lead to better employer branding. Genuine messages from employees will resonate much better than official company communication by chipping off the PR polish.

Whether it’s employees or employers building the brand, the fact remains that social media is powerful. Organizations have had to become highly focused on perception on social media.

Monitoring what is being said about their workplace environment and culture is a demanding and necessary task. After all, social media can easily become a space for disgruntled employees to vent. They are also a place for candidates to seek balanced information about companies.

Organizations that can use social recruiting effectively will extend their reach to passive and high-quality candidates. Not only will they be building their employer brands, but they will be able to connect with potentially great hires.

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Shanil Kaderali

Shanil Kaderali is a strategic talent acquisition leader with global experience. He's managed and led recruitment functions at companies like Cisco Systems, Symantec, WellPoint, as well as having worked for several Baker's Dozen RPO winners.

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