Why You Should Stop Wasting Your Time With Social Recruiting

2980220819_a9a33b2dedThere’s nothing new – or even remotely interesting – about the concept of social recruiting, yet for some reason that doesn’t seem to stop this industry from discussing and dissecting this passe, seemingly passing fad incessantly. In fact, I’m pretty sure we’ve been talking about social recruiting since 2007 – if not even earlier. If only MySpace or Google Wave had the same sort of sticking power.

The innovators, influencers and instigators in our industry largely continue to sell recruiters on social, despite a pretty broad body of evidence that shows that it’s less effective as a source of hire than, say, a career fair or display advertising.

But that doesn’t stop the cottage industry dedicated to social recruiting from trying to stay relevant enough to keep milking this cash cow for all it’s worth.

Of course, to provide fodder to try to keep this stale topic fresh, we constantly create content and presentations which continually perpetuate this asinine conversation. You know the kind of stuff I’m talking about: “top innovators to follow,” “biggest mistakes to avoid in social recruiting,” “10 Key Tips for Social Recruiting Success.” These cliche riddled check-lists are about as creative as most job descriptions, and just as compelling, too. Snooze. Alarm.

The topic of social recruiting, however, goes deeper than the seemingly simple definitions applied to this amorphous and ambiguous business construct.

Why Social Recruiting Is A Waste Of Time

f4970dd116c3ab262654e8ac74e7ea03Google will tell you social recruiting is defined as “recruiting candidates by using social platforms as talent databases or for advertising. Popular social media sites used for recruiting include LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Viadeo, XING, Google+ and BranchOut.”

Well, if BranchOut represents a popular social recruiting site, than that’s probably a bad bellwether, considering how viable that turkey turned out to be (joining XING and Google+ in the dustbin of social media history).

But using the definition provided by Google – which is where most people trying to figure social recruiting out likely start, you can see that in short, social recruiting requires sticking up a bunch of career pages and employer brand based groups across all of these networks, planting a flag on any platform that supports posting and sharing content.

Every HR event, conference or webinar these days has some speaker telling you that you’re screwing your ability to attract top talent if you don’t have dedicated careers pages on social media; I’m sure you’ve heard from many marketing “gurus” and “social media experts” (hint: such a thing does not in fact exist) selling you their social snake oil. They make it sound so simple; all any employer has to do is build a branded page, throw up a few jobs and maybe a generic careers video or some employee pictures and boom and the candidates will come.

You’ve got a careers Twitter account, a jobs widget on Facebook and an RSS feed hooked up to your LinkedIn page? Boom! You’re officially a social recruiter, my friend. Throw in a cutesy picture of a company birthday celebration or bowling outing or some crappy copy about your mission, vision and values, and you’re almost ready to keynote one of these specious sessions on your own, since you’re a rockstar ninja guru or some shit like that.

But hold on a minute. If social media is really about relationships, and recruiting is all about hiring, how, exactly, is posting a bunch of feeds with nothing more than a job title, location and link in any way constitute “social recruiting?” This approach fails at building relationships, and is even less successful at attracting candidates and clicks. It’s understandable that open jobs would be the primary currency of social recruiting content, considering that these are your candidate calls to action and your raison d’etre for adopting social in the first place.

But it’s damn near impossible for social to actually facilitate any real recruiting outcomes or help with hiring when it’s so forced, mechanical and not nearly as interesting as almost all the other content on your average social site. Buzzfeed article, cute cat video or job description: which would you be the most likely to ignore? Your candidates feel the same way. I don’t know about you, but I’m on Facebook to see what my friends are up to and maybe find a few interesting or funny articles worth reading, not finding a job worth applying to.

Honestly, I think I speak for most candidates when I say that before I started working in this industry, it never even occurred to me to think about looking for a job on Facebook, much less finding or engaging a career specific social media page, unless I happened to come across it while researching roles at a company or I’m doing due diligence for a social media job. Other than that, I’ve got about as much use for these as that “poke” feature on Facebook. No one knows what the point of that is, either, but that doesn’t stop people from using it – similar, of course, to social recruiting.

This represents the fundamental problem right there – we create career pages and content and assume candidates will find it compelling enough (read: give two shits) to actually apply for one of those jobs you keep posting. You’d think the numbers would work out in favor of this at least having some efficacy. There are half a billion people on Facebook and 974 million active Twitter accounts, but what percentage of those people apply to your jobs? Let’s just say the odds are pretty piss poor.

When A Tweet Falls In A Forest…

3788507-0263382210-annoySo how are recruiters like you supposed to attract and engage candidates on social when there’s a .000000001% chance (and I’m being liberal with that estimate) that they’re actually going to reach the right person and convert that passive candidate into an active applicant.

I’m confident that the statistical likelihood that any “A” players or perfect candidates are fans of your Facebook careers page or follow your dedicated jobs related Twitter handle are even smaller.

Even if you’ve built yourself a pretty big ‘talent community’ (which these days is more or less a pay-for-play proposition), it’s unlikely that you’d consider anyone actively looking for a job there for an actual job at your company. After all, you continue ignoring these “active” candidates who are already applying for jobs at your company;  who needs another platform to brush off an unqualified candidate? That’s what ATS systems are for.

As a marketing professional, social recruiting represents a bit of a conundrum to me. Now, in theory, sure, every brand (employer, consumer or otherwise) should at least have a presence on social, or at least that’s what I learned from the “experts” and “thought leaders” at all those fancy social business conferences I’ve attended over the years. But to me, having social accounts simply so that you have social accounts seems kind of like the digital version of a tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear it. You’re investing time, but are candidates? And if candidates couldn’t care less about your social presence and continue ignoring your career pages, is it even worth it to keep dedicating resources to this dud?

I think not. I know I’m flying in the face of conventional wisdom and “branding best practices” (whatever the hell those are) on this one, but I really don’t think that recruiting and sourcing teams should have career or employer-brand specific social profiles and pages, particularly for those companies who are just now getting around to launching their social recruiting initiatives and are starting from square one with zero followers or fans.

If you survived this long without social recruiting, I promise you’ll still be OK, even if you’re one of the few remaining holdouts out there. Trust me, you’ll have the last laugh.

Follow me on this one.

How Glassdoor Finally Made Social Recruiting Make Sense

Last week, I started considering the idea of whether or not it makes sense for companies to have career-focused social profiles and pages thanks to an announcement from Glassdoor unveiling the launch of their latest product, Company Updates. For those of you who are unfamiliar, this feature basically is just what you’d expect from a product called Company Updates, allowing employers managing their Glassdoor pages to post status updates directly on their Glassdoor profile to add dynamic and deeper branding elements and real time responses to augment the static reviews, salary ranges and job descriptions already out there.

With 46% of candidates reporting in a recent survey that they were using a review site like Glassdoor to get the inside scoop before even applying for a job, I think that Glassdoor just might have uncovered the real way we should be defining social recruiting and assessing our social strategies for attracting and engaging potential candidates online.

In short, the integration of a status bar that’s seamlessly embedded directly into an employer’s Glassdoor profile is social recruiting that’s actually, truly social, since it allows employers to communicate with candidates without having to dedicate the time and effort to build up fans and followers on Facebook or Twitter. Plus, this functionality actually lets companies start a conversation in a place where actual candidates actually go during their job search. That metaphorical tree in the forest just got a little louder, y’all.


This potential game changer from Glassdoor seems, to this marketing professional at least, to make perfect sense – I mean, it only reasons that you’re better served posting status updates and content on places where candidates actually go instead of on some social network that forces you to pay to build an unqualified, untalented “talent community.”

The point of social recruiting is attracting those real, live people who could maybe be viable fits for your open roles and merit some sort of consideration or maybe even the occasional interview or offer. I know, sounds crazy, but these candidates aren’t spending their time trolling Twitter or scrolling through their Facebook news feed – and if they find your social careers page, they’re likely to ignore it. Of course, these candidates are most likely already on Glassdoor, and there’s some overwhelming evidence that’s one site with information and content compelling enough to capture their attention – and inform their decision on whether or not to actually apply to your company.

Candidates love leveraging Glassdoor because it’s a system of record that’s an open forum providing real feedback from real employees at real companies talking about their real career experiences and what it’s really like to work there. This is the stuff candidates connect to and care about, not some automated jobs feed that automatically posts openings to Twitter. Plus, the most serious candidates won’t connect with you on social anyway, since doing so opens the door to you having ammunition to use their personal information found on those sites against them.

Candidates are scared of what HR and recruiting might find on social, and few will actually proactively go out of their way to provide this sort of potentially self-incriminating information voluntarily. You’d have to be an idiot, right?

But What About Personal Branding?

Vaginal_bulb_syringeI realize that this opens another can of worms as it relates to the whole concept of “personal branding” for recruiters. If their organizations choose not to pursue an active employer brand strategy, isn’t it incumbent on recruiters to build out their own social profile and presence?

Well, I have to admit, I throw up a little in my mouth when I hear the phrase “personal branding,” since it’s one of the douchier concepts in a space full of douche bags, and my answer here, again, is an emphatic no.

The only exception would be for those recruiters subject matter expertise and experience actually doing the job they’re recruiting for, and will use social to legitimately connect with candidates and communicate candidly about the work they do and the employer they do it for.

But if you’re just another recruiter out there tweeting and posting just because it’s there, trust me: there are enough of those as it is, and being a subject matter expert in recruiting is a piss poor way to actually build a recruiting relationship. Plus, my guess is, you’re probably too busy to actually make this pay off enough to realize any modicum of recruiting ROI.

Do you realize how much sweat equity it takes to build up your personal brand to the point where it actually attracts people to you? I imagine the answer is a shit load, considering I’ve been doing this social media stuff for going on 7 years now, and it’s only been in the last year or so that people have proactively reached out to me (and I mostly blame that on Charney). Now, if you’re responsible for actively sourcing, recruiting and hiring people every day, there’s no way investing in building a personal brand is going to be worth the effort. You just don’t have the time – trust me, I sure as hell don’t and I’m a social media professional, for crying out loud.

How To Really Make Recruiting Social

social-network-prequelSo what does all this mean for HR vendors selling social recruiting solutions and the HR practitioners leveraging these tools and technologies as an integral part of their recruiting strategies?

Here’s an idea: maybe you should finally seek out ways to change the infrastructure of how you hire and start actually calling candidates and having personalized, individual interactions and 1:1 communications with the ones who you might actually hire someday?

This is where you should be focusing your engagement, not adding social media channels that make no sense other than maybe making you look kind of cool (spoiler alert: it doesn’t).

Instead of “joining the conversation” and adding some “share this” buttons to every damn job posting, how about starting a conversation and sharing those jobs with those applicants who are sitting in your ATS wondering why in the hell they never get a call back – if you have the time to build a careers related Facebook page or Twitter handle, you sure as hell have the time to start creating ways for candidates to talk to recruiters live – online or otherwise.

For example, let’s say I just applied to a job. I want this job, so there’s no way I’m going to use those sharing buttons and let my whole network in on the chance to beat me out for this thing. I also am currently employed, so I’m not going to broadcast that I’m looking in the most visible way possible – I know enough to know to keep this all on the DL. So why not remove those social integrations and sharing functionalities entirely and replace them with live chat capabilities or a call to action to set up a time to have a 1:1 conversation with someone who’s actually in HR and recruiting at your company?

Even if that’s a lower level associate, intern or even an office manager, they can probably answer most questions about what it’s like to work at a company and what to expect from the hiring process – which is WAY more social than, say, a row of buttons prompting them to tell the entire world that they’re looking for a new job. You want to make recruiting social, start by actually talking to top talent, first – I promise you’ll find it pays greater dividends than spending your time slaving away on Facebook, anyway.

katrinaAbout the Author: Katrina Kibben is the Director of Marketing for Recruiting Daily, and has served in marketing leadership roles at companies such as Monster Worldwide and Care.com, where she has helped both established and emerging brands develop and deliver world-class content and social media marketing, lead generation and development, marketing automation and online advertising.

An expert in marketing analytics and automation, Kibben is an accomplished writer and speaker whose work has been featured on sites like Monster.com, Brazen Careerist and About.com.  A graduate of Pennsylvania State University, Kibben is actively involved in many community and social causes – including rooting for her hometown Pittsburgh Steelers.

You can follow Katrina on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.


  • Clearly you’ve forgotten about the monstrous success of BeKnown.

    • In BeKnown’s defense, the people who ran that product didn’t know what Facebook was before they decided to build an app for it.

  • TheBradLazarus

    Thank you, Katrina – great piece, this needed to be said! Roughly 99% of these “social” recruiters are clueless, as it definitely takes more than a vague Twitter shout-out to fill a job. Less social, more recruiting, people!

  • Mitch Sullivan

    This is a fantastic article, although sadly, I think it will fall on deaf ears.

    Most people are red pill takers.

  • Robert Laseak

    Great article. Been doing this 20 years and we went through the same thing when Monster cam on the scene. It’s all just noise. None of this matters if you can’t pick up the phone,
    talk to candidate, build a relationship with them and be their advocate!

  • Steve Myers

    I was with you right up until you started shilling for Glassdoor.

  • Someone should wash your mouth out with soap… but apart from that, this is one of the best and most honest articles I’ve read on Recruiting Blogs (apart from mine, of course). Very insightful! Still, I remain a member of the “I’ll try any approach that works” school of thought. I will never rule out any way of reaching a great candidate.

  • USDfiatmony

    I found your piece informative and confirmed many of my experiences with job searching on social media. What amazes me is all the effort recruiters put out to draw people to a req. but then the company makes candidates use some crappy tracking system to apply. I stopped bothering with tracking systems as well as social sites. Yes, I am limiting my possibilities but I just got tired of spending 1 – 2 hours on each application doing what in my opinion should be the HR department’s job. I just say NO to candidate tracking systems and social. They are both a waste of my time from my perspective.

  • Jay Mitchell

    Great piece! And I love your sarcasm and honest off color language!!!!!

  • I know I’m in the minority here and it could be due to the fact that I work in Social Media & recruitment. However, the article seems to look at Social Media purely from a passive perspective (posting content). My role does involve posting content on Social Media sites, and allowing people to find my companies sites, which will ultimately lead candidates to our recruitment site. That is only one-half of my job though. Another big part of my role is Talent Acquisition. Using Social Media sites to actively approach passive candidates. I search Social Media for top talent. If you’re just posting content then I agree Social Media won’t work for you. If you’re actively seeking out talent, then it certainly will work. I’ve made a career out of it.

  • Freyja

    Outstanding column – and I laughed all the way through it – the way I do when I read “true”! Well done and enjoyed the appropriate language along with it. You said what I think…

  • Jim Durbin

    The importance of social recruiting isn’t what we do – it’s what candidates do. Some companies understand this and do well. Some recruiters understand this and do well. Doesn’t mean that Social Recruiting is a fraud. Certainly it’s no worse than the promise of any ATS, CRM, Job Board, or whatever the next Tinder for Recruiting is promising.

    And there are such things as social media experts. I know, because I get paid to find them.

    Social Recruiting is an easy target in our networks, but it’s no worse than the information out there on any other aspect of recruiting. Go to any SHRM column and suppress your gag reflex when they talk about exit interviews, salary negotiation, or how everything you do is a violation of some law.

    And when it comes to Glassdoor – candidates don’t go to Glassdoor. They go to Google, and Glassdoor is the current search engine champ. The idea that candidates want the inside skinny on a company, and are willing to connect with recruiters selling the company brand is one of those things you hear at a conference and giggle.

    If recruiters can use Glassdoor to connect to candidates socially, who exactly is going to train the recruiters on the social etiquette? And why are you taking useful recruiters and turning them into customer service reps responding to angry job-seekers who just read horrible things about your company?

    • Jim: candidates do go to Glassdoor. But it’s for compensation information, which for some reason is the #1 reason job seekers report to utilizing them. Agree with most of this but Glassdoor is still losing to Indeed on SEO.

      • Jim Durbin

        You’re correct.

        I had to test that – since that wasn’t what I saw last time I looked – but, look at that – indeed shows up over glassdoor. Interesting, because Glassdoor has two entries in each. Makes sense for their categories.

        /Reviews, /Salaries, and /WorkingAt… generate double entries, while Indeed only lists the company Careers and Employment, but their meta description mentions all of them.

        I wonder if that’s because I usually searched “glassdoor,” and ended up with that false impression.

        I have this new keyword research tool to play with. I’ll look it up and send the data and the tool to you.

  • Kasia Borowicz

    Wow, this felt like a very, very long read… And unfortunately I can’t see the value. I don’t understand Katrina why you wouldn’t use any data to support any of what you say… in fact “Google tells you” – that bit already makes it sounds weird, Google never talked to me to give me definitions of… well anything really. So that’s not really your source of information here, it’s just how you got to the source of information. I don’t understand why HR conferences are mentioned, or marketing professionals, considering recruitment is a separate industry and neither HR or marketing is involved in recruiting, social or otherwise. Usually. “I think I speak for most candidates” – I’d avoid it as you can’t possibly really voice the opinion of an entire nation (as being a candidate is just a stage, so everyone is one at some point), especially when you don’t even use any data to support it… It’s a serious mistake to make, confusing you own opinion with the opinion of your target audience. The assumption that companies don’t care about active candidates – I don’t know what it’s based on, let’s not even go into discussing whether there’s any merit to categorizing candidates as either passive or active.
    Finally, the Glassdoor bit… The only positive paragraph in this post – which I find quite surprising unless they sponsored it. Especially since a deeper look into social media (unless you insist on being US-centric, which doesn’t make sense to me considering the generalisations in the post) would reveal that there are actually social media platforms that combine functions available on LinkedIn and Glassdoor… (happy to share more if anyone’s interested, but no it’s not available in the US, at least not the one I’m referring to).
    So in conclusion, I feel like I’ve wasted a lot of time to get through a text that doesn’t even read easily to learn absolutely nothing… except that the author seems to really hate social recruitment for reasons that remain unclear…

  • Katrina, you raise some excellent points here, which make sense because you’re coming it at it from the marketing perspective, you are only talking about the ‘attraction’ or ‘spray and pray’ piece. So I agree with all of that.

    But I also agree with Dale, social sourcing is the magic piece that’s missing from your post. A true social recruiter knows how to hunt via social media to find people, suss out their interests & expertise, and then engage people properly in conversation – be that on social media or on the phone – using that information in the conversation. A true social recruiter, will build the right following of engaged people before they share their roles (hopefully only occasionally) so that they’re not spraying and praying.

    Certainly here in the UK, the market is now candidate driven so recruiters need to know how to use social media properly, if they wish to succeed adding it to their toolkit. But you’d expect me to say that, I am one of the conference speakers you refer to… but I believe recruiting is a person-to-person game and so I only ever say that social recruiting is a balance of social sourcing, sharing great relevant content, employer/personal branding, and sharing the occasional job. Miss the sourcing piece or don’t bother building the right audience, it is indeed pointless.

  • Andy Hyatt

    Katrina. Interesting piece. I don’t think your issue is with social recruiting, per se, but those who sell it without any real understanding of what it is, how it works and what they want to get from it. IMHO, a properly executed social recruiting strategy can be very effective but it has to be planned up front and optimised continuously. And yes, I have the stats to back that up!

    Far too many agencies fail on the planning piece. To set out a proper social recruiting strategy requires the right infrastructure, content, insight and tracking framework. But many campaigns adopt a light touch approach to insight and start banging out content to their heart’s content from the onset. And the activity just becomes white noise.

    Even more agencies fail on the tracking piece (if I hear one more agency define a social recruiting campaign as delivering ROI because it got plenty of ‘likes’ and ‘RTs’ I think I’ll cry…) If they did have a decent framework in place they would see, just as you indicate, that as a last source for recruiting, social is indeed low – around 3-5%. Even in properly managed campaign. But what they would also see is a much higher return in quality candidates and candidate conversion.

    And there’s the crux. Social recruiting, executed intelligently, tends to result in a significant drop in applications (try selling that to HRDs during a recession…) Potential candidates with a greater understanding of the brand that they are looking to work with, recognise when their value sets differ and are more likely to self-deselect from the process. Conversely, those who do remain, have a higher affinity with the brand and (anecdotally) are more likely to be better quality employees. I’ve seen this time and time again – with organisations like Staples, KPMG, Enterprise and Barclays.

    The problem is that HR often isn’t tied up, so it is difficult (but not impossible) to bring all the strands together to demonstrate what does and doesn’t work: agencies do the attraction and media; the ATS does the sifting; recruiters (or RPOs) do the direct recruiting and sometimes sourcing; line managers tend to do the interviews (a practice swiftly being replaced by video interviews and pre-application psychometric tests) and very few do the onboarding. Attempting to tie these together into a single framework that allows to to understand recruitment ecosystem is complex and time consuming.

    But when you do it, and get it right, the rewards can be hugely significant – Staples and KPMG saw their overall recruitment costs drop by 30%; Enterprise by 40%. Candidate quality and conversion was significantly better (initially the figures stood around 50% improvement…) And organisations like Barclays have gained significant traction on issues that they have been struggling too engage with like Diversity & Inclusion.

    So by all means air the debate. But please don’t shoot those of us who ARE doing it properly!

  • Michael Miller

    I don’t think you understand what social recruiting is. Which is worrisome for a marketing professional. The fact that most companies are doing it incorrectly – and those are most of the examples you site – is not an indication that it doesn’t work. For the record my company doesn’t sell social recruiting solutions! We did recently complete some research, though, that among other things, points to increased use and effectiveness of social recruiting as a channel for those companies that are having an easier time filling roles than their competition.

    One of your last paragraphs makes a valid point about 1:1 engagement, indeed, engagement of any kind. That’s the big opportunity with social recruiting. Making and building relationships. I’m not going to get into the how-tos here, but they exist. You should know, most are borrowed from marketing. That’s not to say marketing has this social thing figured out, either. Lots of marketers mess it up completely, too, but some do it right and make it work. The same goes for social recruiting.

    Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. That’s just lazy.

    • Matt Charney

      If anyone understands what social recruiting is, they’re probably selling consulting services or writing specious content for Forbes Online. Either way, I don’t think there’s a consensus there, and frankly, it doesn’t actually work as a source of hire and is more resource intensive than any other recruitment marketing medium. Now, when we start talking about SEO, maybe this won’t be a totally spurious conversation.

  • Pingback: Social Recruiting Without Social Sourcing Is A Waste Of TimeBlogging4Jobs()

  • Pingback: Why You Should Stop Wasting Your Time With Social Recruiting | The Recruitment Alliance()

  • Recruiters Map

    Excellent article all the way up to the h3 tag “How Glassdoor Finally Made Social Recruiting Make Sense,” even though the title of the article is why you should stop wasting your time with social recruiting. You obviously must mean to say everyone should stop wasting their time with social recruiting because you’re not using Glassdoor; Therefore, you’re doing it wrong.

    I’m not sure how adding an input form to share content on Glassdoor is any different from sharing content on a Linkedin, Facebook, or a Twitter company page? It’s not going to get you anywhere when it comes to recruiting especially when the content is often times boring!

    You’re right about something though Katrina – “We all choose to be on social sites for a reason and 99.999999% of the time it’s not to find a job – or to have a job find us!” If people are searching for a job they tend to go to places where there are jobs listed – both active and passive candidates – not sure why recruiters don’t see this more clearly. I mean wouldn’t you go to a grocery store or a place to get something to eat when you’re hungry? You’d be really stupid if you went to a grocery store where people are searching for something to eat and try to start recruiting, right? Yet that’s what recruiters do daily and then wonder why they aren’t receiving the results they expected.

    You can lead a horse to water, ex… Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, etc… doesn’t mean they’ll drink.

  • Jenn Wales

    Strategic recruitment is not social networking, i prefer to use platforms designed for recruitment like freelancer,com, joberu,com and other job portalsLinkedin job ads are substandard compared to other online job ad products. The business model of linkedin is fundamentally flawed, It is monetizing social networking by offering products which do not suit the very essence of social media

Just add your e-mail!