Social Media: A Growing Tool for Employee Recruitment

The task of finding talented employees is a continuing problem for many employers. That’s why an increasing number of companies are turning to a popular and effective resource, though not one without risks. According to recent research by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 84% of their members are now using social media to attract quality candidates and more are planning to do so. Just five years ago, only 56% said they recruited using social media.

Here are some results of SHRM’s research.

For more than half of those who use social media this way, it’s their primary recruiting tool, while many more use it as just one of multiple tactics. A top benefit cited by users of social media was the ability to broaden the universe of candidates to include people who might not have been actively seeking new jobs. This can be particularly valuable when simply posting job openings isn’t drawing the right kind of applicants.

Most of the SHRM survey respondents report they are also using social media in their recruiting efforts to:

  • Increase their brand and recognition,
  • Target candidates with certain skill sets,
  • Target a specific job level to recruit (for example, entry-level positions, managers, executives),
  • Make it easy for applicants to contact them about employment,
  • Benefit from the perceived low cost of this tactic, and
  • Find job candidates in other geographic regions.

Also, one-third of survey respondents use social media to find “traditionally underrepresented groups,” including minorities, veterans and people with disabilities.

Which Sites Are Most Used?

The SHRM survey shows 96% of employers are using LinkedIn, which they say is considered to be the most effective social media site for recruiting, by far. Facebook is second on the list, used by 66% percent, followed by Twitter, used by 53% of respondents. Other possibilities include professional or association sites for particular job categories, Google+, and Instagram.

And how are employers using social media sites for their recruiting efforts? One of the best ways to build a social media presence and gain credibility is to prompt and contribute to job-related discussions. That’s accomplished by commenting on other people’s writings, posting links to material of possible interest, and putting out original ideas. While effective, this kind of posting can be time-consuming, which may be why only about one in four SHRM employers in the SHRM survey report doing this.

Social Media Recruiting Tactics

Here are several other common ways employers are using social media for recruitment:

  • Posting job advertisements,
  • Contacting potential candidates,
  • Searching for passive job candidates by using the sites’ search feature,
  • Encouraging employee referrals, and
  • Creating a group or page for your organization to post information and career opportunities.

The SHRM research also shows that more and more recruiters are building their systems on the assumption that prospective recruits will be using mobile devices. For example, more than one-third of the survey respondents have mobile-optimized career websites, job postings and job application processes.

If recruiting via social media has become so popular, why are some employers holding off on using it? One commonly cited reason is potential legal risks associated with obtaining “protected characteristics” information about individuals, such as age, race, gender and religious affiliation. Another is the time it takes.

Yet with only 16% of polled employers not currently using social media for recruiting purposes, these two issues don’t appear insurmountable.

Legal Concerns

Possibly the area where employers need to be most cautious about potential claims of discrimination is in screening applicants based on their social media profiles. That may explain why only 43% of employers do admit to using these profiles for screening purposes.

In defense of this method of screening, those who take advantage of it say:

  • They are able to obtain more information about an applicant than would be provided by just a resume, CV or cover letter,
  • They can easily verify information from an applicant’s resume, CV or cover letter, and
  • Job candidates make this information accessible by including their social networking websites on their resumes.

Given possible legal hazards of using information posted on social media to screen job applicants, for example, claims of discrimination, as discussed above, companies that do use this practice would be wise to have policies in place with ground rules for screening.

The survey clearly shows that social media is becoming a standard tool in the recruitment process. But as with any practice that impacts the composition and quality of your workforce, careful planning and execution is essential to gain the greatest benefit — and minimize legal risks.

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