I attended the Social Recruiting Strategies Conference last week put on by the Global Strategic Management Institute. For a great recap of the conference see Jason Webster’s Top Quotes post at Ongig.
It was one of the most refreshing and thoughtful series of talks I’ve attended in a long time. That’s because the BSq (bullshit quotient) was so low.

Most of the speakers agreed it’s early and no one knows what, if anything, works yet. Instead, they explained what they were trying, and what they had learned so far.

I came away with more questions than answers. But having great questions is always far more valuable than someone else’s answers anyway.

Here’s what I’m wondering.

Does a “like” really mean anything?

A like, or +1, or even a comment, only takes a couple seconds. Liking a company page on Facebook means that someone clicked. It doesn’t mean they actually like it, they know anything about it, or they will ever give it another thought. What I liked 5 minutes ago has nothing to do with what I want now, or two hours from now, or next week.

Clicking is not “engagement.” Choosing from “like” or nothing doesn’t tell you much at all.

Recruiting and hiring is really about developing relationships. Relationships require time, trust, and mutual interest. So while setting up a jobs page on Facebook or a company twitter account may be great for brand awareness, I’m not sure what it does for finding the right person to hire.

What are you really measuring?

Measuring social media activity is a lot like measuring a jet’s contrial. You can see that a jet has been there, and learn something about the direction of travel, and maybe something about the wind and turbulence. Mostly though, it just tells you about the humidity of the air the plane flew through.

Looking at a contrail won’t tell you about the jet itself. You don’t know where it was going, who was on it, or why they were going there. A contrail just tells you about the conditions surrounding the exhaust.

Clicks are digital exhaust. Measuring clicks tells you someone was there. That’s it. It won’t tell you why they clicked, what they want, or anything about what they like or dislike enough to do anything other than click.

How will Recruiting and Marketing sort out the social media turf battle?

Once Recruiting starts building pages on Facebook, tweeting, and promoting the company, they make marketing nervous. An undercurrent from many of the recruiters at the conference was concern about the turf battle between Marketing and Recruiting.  Since Marketing has been the primary public voice of the company, it’s uncomfortable for Recruiting to be more than just a “career” page on the website. Now that Recruiting is involved in social media, there is competition for control, resources, budget, and credit/blame.

Messaging and branding should be consistent, or at least compatible, between recruiting and marketing because it affects the public perception of the company as a whole.

Is the information people put in online profiles true?

In high school, some of my friends managed to create and graduate a fictional person.  It required having inside access to administrative records, tremendous ingenuity, and a lot of work. The fictional (former) student now has his own Facebook page, which was easy.

All the recruiting software, every application, all the cool tools and sourcing tricks, are based on the assumption that the people and information online are real. They aren’t.

It’s not just college football players with fictional girlfriends. Job hunters have figured out how to create multiple pages to try to control what information is seen where. Online information is no more accurate than any resume; and people lie on resumes all the time. It’s so easy to make things up and put them online.

It’s also easy to learn all kinds of things about people online. So we are beginning to see the tension between what people say and what they do. It will be interesting to watch how this tension evolves as we can track more of people’s online actions. As people figure out that really nothing online is private, I expect more guarded disclosures and more disinformation to protect privacy.

My overall takeaway is that social recruiting is an important part of a company’s employment brand. Yet, it has to be more than just putting up a Facebook page and posting self-serving ads. In order to gain and keep people’s attention, you still have to give value and invest the time and energy to build real relationships. And that is often the opposite of social media.


Speakers: Four of the SRSC speakers were HR Examiner authors: John Sumser, Hank Stringer, William Tincup, and David Kippen, who each gave an insightful and funny presentation. Well, David Kippen wasn’t that funny, but his talk was great. We also enjoyed the excellent presentations by Jennifer McClure, Lars Schmidt, Craig Fisher, Jason Webster, Cloe Rada, Stephane Le Viet, Kellie Thompson, Shannon Van Curen, Elizabeth Brown, Francene Taylor & Gary Zukowksi, Carolyn Thompson, and Dustin Carper. As always, Dwane Lay did an incredible job as the Master of Ceremonies.

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