What Is Social Recruiting

(April 08, 2009) I’ve started a conversation about the nature of Social Recruiting on an Australian Wiki. It’s my contention that using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn et all to recruit is not necessarily social recruiting. It’s a desktop variant of Recruitment advertising. It’s an advanced form of sourcing.

That’s not to say that using the amazing new social software communities as your own personal talent fishing pond is wrong. It’s just that there’s little new or interesting about the idea of researching a list and sending opportunities out to it. Calling it ‘social recruiting’ makes it seem like something different is happening.

Of course, the evolution to social recruiting is going to take time and make slow progress. Each wave of technology hits the Recruiting beach-head in much the same way. Once the dust settles, we essentially deliver incremental improvements to the old way of doing things.

Here is the essence of the argument :

The potential to build community as a way of recruiting is not something new. I’ve been writing about it for fifteen years and only wish that the idea was mine. As  technology changes the face of recruiting, what happens most often is that recruiters do exactly what they used to do. They just use new tools to do it.

This phenomenon is not unique to the Recruiting world. Our culture is littered with software stuffed with features and capabilities that no one uses.

In Web 0.0, we learned that no one comes just because you build it. What that means in this case is that just because you can build community using social software doesn’t even vaguely mean that that’s what will happen. And, the techniques and values required to build a community have little to do with the technology.

I don’t mean to be cynical here.

Community based Recruiting is a necessary strategy for organizational survival in the 21st Century. But, it requires a whole new way of thinking about the people we have objectified as ‘candidates’, ‘applicants’ and ‘job hunters’. We have to treat them as if they are actually community members. That’s a big commitment.

For a community strategy to work, members need to receive a constant flow of value and be held as a part of the team in some way. Most organizations will view that as a discretionary expense rather than as a necessary investment. Every time you stop investing, you have to start over.

Social recruiting is not cheaper, it’s more effective.

While it might be possible to envisage a world in which the cost of social recruiting is covered by the interactions between community members, that day is a ways off. For now, the rationale for community based recruiting will have to be higher quality and speed. If you are going to call it a community, the members have to get real value from communicating with each other.

If the communication flow is only one way (recruiter to people) or two-way (back and forth between recruiter and people), it’s not community in any real world sense of the world. When the communication happens between community members then it’s a community. Community means conversation amongst the members.

If you use the word community to describe one-way or two-way conversation, you are setting an expectation that will not be met.

That’s really bad branding.

You can see all comments on this post here. I’d love it if you would join me in that conversation. Do you think that community is an inherent an necessary part of ‘social recruiting’?

This discussion echoes a conversation between Raghav Singh and a couple of well known contributors over at ERE. Singh maintains a perspective similar to mine. The other side of the argument is something along the lines of “a face book recruiting page already is a community. Employers are running communities and don’t even know it.

There are 7 Million employers in the United States. Trying to capture them in broad generalizations doesn’t work very well.  Nonetheless, it’s disengenuous to suggest that employers are already engaged in social recruiting. We don’t even have a good definition yet.

I’m on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Friendfeed. Catch up with me.



I’m leading an Intensive workshop called Recruiting Strategy in a Down Economy: Identifying What’s to Come in the Upturn at the Kennedy Recruiting Conference in Las Vegas on May 19.

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