Social Recruiting: Myths, Facts, and How to Do it Right
What is Social Recruiting?
Social recruiting is a method for hiring managers to find applicants through social media platforms, It can also be referred to as social media recruiting, social hiring, and social recruitment.
Besides promoting jobs, social media can be heavily used in employer branding. Spreading the word about your employer value proposition to enhance your traditional recruitment efforts.
But social recruiting at this point can only complement traditional recruiting methods like job site advertising.
When would an employer use social recruitment techniques?
Most of the people who recommend you exclusively use social media have an agenda, so I’d like to provide some balance in the over hyped world of social recruiting.
Since 58.4% of the world’s population have access to at least one social media platform (GWI, 2023), it makes sense to consider leveraging these channels in conjunction with other channels. However social media usage is declining worldwide (with the exception of the United States), and only 14%-25% use it for work-related activities (GWI, 2023). And despite its vast worldwide reach, appreciate you probably only want local applicants.
A lot of companies professing “social media is the most useful recruitment tool..” are trying to sell you recruitment social media strategies and platforms. They often give seemingly impressive statistics, such as 81% of job seekers use Facebook to look for jobs, but then you realise that is ridiculous because 81% of jobseekers don’t have a Facebook account!
Or they may give case studies about companies that have benefited from social recruitment strategies. But often these are well-resourced and well-known companies such as Disney or Zappos who could say almost anything on social media and it would become news. McKinsey & Company (2020)</a> make a related point that the top 40 brands in the world outperform competitor brands by 96%.
The main point is, don’t believe the hype. Whilst using social media in your recruitment strategy can be helpful, it isn’t a panacea and it isn’t free.
What jobs can you fill using social media?
It typically attracts users who are tech savvy, early adopters of services, and have a penchant for spending a lot of time scrolling.
The volume of users your job advert reaches is going to vary wildly based on the social media platform. For example, the Pew Research Centre (2021) found 51% of LinkedIn users have a degree. Similarly graphic designers may gravitate to Dribble, and IT developers may be on GitHub and StackOverFlow.
How much does it cost to use social media for recruitment?
You’re going to pay with your time, or money – and often both!
By far the biggest surprise for many employers is how expensive social recruitment methods are. It appears low cost because there’s no charge for creating a profile and promoting posts organically. But the real cost is the time needed to create content necessary to develop interest in your company and to build relationships in social media groups. Remember, your (and your colleagues) time is money.
Frustratingly it is becoming more challenging to reach users organically. The big players including X (aka Twitter) and Facebook are now charging for you to reach more of your followers. Consequently it is best to pay for consistent results.
What guarantees of success do you get using social media in recruitment?
You’re effectively using ‘walled gardens’, they make the rules and if you don’t like you just have to leave. If they change the rules and you don’t like it, tough!
How to use social media for recruitment
Social media can be utilised in three distinct ways:
- Promoting jobs in organic search results.
- Promoting jobs in paid search results.
- Promoting an employer brand.
A key benefit of these methods is that you is that you may attract passive jobseekers. These are people who aren’t currently looking for a job, but they might consider a better opportunity. These people often don’t go to job sites, or visit company career sites. But you may be able to target them with an advert that piques their curiosity.
There is another somewhat grey area, and that is reviewing applicants’ social media profiles.
I’ll cover each in more detail…
Promoting jobs in organic search results
There are a few opportunities to promote your jobs using social media:
- Linking to job advertisements. When you advertise a job on a job site or company careers page, share a link to the advert on your company Facebook, X (aka Twitter) and LinkedIn accounts. This will potentially reach many of your company’s followers and may be found in search results.
- Employee referrals. As above, ask your employers to share a link to the job advertisement on their social media accounts. It is a really easy way to get your colleagues involved in your social recruiting strategy, and you will potentially reach many of their followers. (I provide more information about Employee Referral Programs).
Posting on social media groups. Join relevant groups and promote your job advert.
A significant issue with promoting jobs in organic search results is that you have very little control over when and where it will be shown. And most importantly the results are dwindling fast because social media sites need to make a profit and so are making it harder to reach audiences organically, in the hope you’ll pay instead…
Promoting jobs in paid search results
This is by far the quickest way to broadcast your advert to a wider, targeted audience. For example, your advert could be shown to users who meet criteria such as being of working age, in a certain geographical area etc.
However, targeted advertising can be a double-edged sword. Though you can find some really niche users, you must be careful not to discriminate. Social media sites may even be inadvertently discriminating on your behalf. A campaign group, Global Witness (2021), submitted a claim to the UK’s equality watchdog suggesting that job adverts posted on Facebook were disproportionately viewed by genders stereotypically associated with those roles.
Additionally some suggest that social media is better at targeting compared to job sites. I disagree. Job sites don’t need to target jobseekers because the jobseeker themselves demonstrate their actively looking, the geographical location they will consider and the type of work they require. Whereas social media is often a collection of personal interests and doesn’t know if the user is actively looking for work. Where social media is clearly better is at attractive passive applicants.
<span class="grey-callout"><span class="text-color-purple">Tip:</span> Some paid social media advertising allows you to capture an applicant’s interest without leaving the social media site. For example, the applicant may be able to hit “Apply” and their details are automatically completed and sent to you. Though the information you receive will not likely contain a CV, you’ll receive the applicant’s contact details to take things further. </span>
By allowing an applicant to easily express an interest in this way, you’ll dramatically increase the number of applications compared to redirecting the applicant to another site where your job advert is shown.
Promoting an employer brand
Promoting an employer brand. This is one of the hardest and requires a consistent amount of effort as you need to be an active participant, which may be less feasible for SMEs. You could regularly create and share content about your company culture, values and employee experience to attract jobseekers who align with your vision. This shouldn’t exclusively focus on your job postings. Instead the content should strive to spark conversations that engage users and sometimes just be entertaining.
Employee advocacy. Encourage employees to share their thoughts and experiences about the company culture and why employees love working at your company, rather than specific job opportunities.
Importantly don’t provide branded content for them to share. This should be employee-led content that allows their own thoughts and personality to shine through so it is authentic credible proof that people enjoy working at your company. Additionally avoid setting targets such as “post every week” or it becomes a burden they will quickly resent and this will be reflected in their content.
Reviewing applicants’ social media profiles
I often see hiring managers us social media research applicants. They use LinkedIn to learn more about a candidate’s professional experience, learn about their interests and values on Twitter, and get a glimpse into how candidates present themselves to friends and family on Facebook and Instagram.
This isn’t ideal because hiring managers may be using very superficial information, which could also be inaccurate, to form judgements.
It is also debatable whether this is legal or not. Some employers argue they are purely reviewing publicly available the applicants has allowed anyone to review. Some employers continue with impunity because they know it is difficult to prove. From my perspective I don’t believe you shouldn’t view a candidate’s social media profile without their consent because of various privacy concerns, albeit I accept their LinkedIn profile is work-related. I’ll let you decide with your HR or legal counsel.
X (aka Twitter)
Since Elon Musk acquired Twitter it has undergone a lot of changes, including the name which was re-branded X.
Here is some quick action points for adopting X in your social media recruitment strategy:
- Search X for anybody discussing related keywords. This could be used for generating a target list. Additionally by following them, they may follow you back and re-publish your content.
- Stay engaged, regularly check your direct messages and promptly respond to inquiries, showcasing your organisation's quick and efficient communication. Demonstrate the responsiveness of your organisation to potential applicants.
- Incorporate relevant hashtags like #vacancy or #job in your job advertisements to ensure visibility in job hunters' searches. Additionally, use location-specific hashtags to help jobseekers find jobs in your area. Consider creating a unique hashtag for advertising roles to help prospective applicants stay informed about opportunities within your organisation.
- Include a compelling call to action in your job adverts, such as "apply today," and provide a direct link to the specific job instead of your general careers page. If you have very long links consider shortening them with tools such as bit.ly.
- Utilise videos and images to make your advertisements visually appealing and to offer a glimpse into what it's like to work in your organisation.
- Given the character limitations on X, make each character count. Highlight the outstanding aspects of the advertised job, and consider featuring a quote from a current colleague to emphasise its excellence.
Facebook has changed so much over the decades as they experiment with new initiatives. At one point they had a dedicated recruitment platform that quickly failed. Here are some ideas that have stood the test of time:
- Establish a dedicated webpage for career opportunities within your organisation. Utilise this page to showcase job openings and emphasise your company's culture.
- Take advantage of Facebook adverts' targeting feature, which allows you to focus on specific audiences based on factors like location and job titles. This ensures that your advertisement reaches individuals who are most likely to be interested. I consultant for a care home who recruits a lot of carers by paying for advert impressions.
- While Facebook provides more flexibility in terms of word count, ensure that your job advertisements are captivating. You have the option to create individual advertisements for each role or advertise multiple roles within a single advert. Consider which approach works best for promoting your opportunities.
- Encourage your current employees to share the job advertisements and make comments as it is the fastest way to spread the message.
- Seek out relevant Facebook groups and share your job postings with them. This can include groups for jobseekers in the targeted area, specialised interest groups, or student nursing associations.
- Consider whether advertising roles on Facebook Marketplace is appropriate for your organisation.
I like to recommend tried and tested methods. Whilst I’m not adverse to testing new concepts, I often find social media is over-hyped and the main beneficiaries are those who teach new techniques. Sadly these methods rarely work and become quickly outdated.
Fundamentally social media is now an about interrupting users as they scroll. The best way to achieve this is by paying.