Recruiting vs. Social Media: Crossroads

Social Media recruiting is evolving quickly – it seems like there’s something new every five minutes. There’s no shortage of new technologies and a growing dot com mentality among some recruiters. You’ve seen them – a little clique-ish, highly attentive to the ‘next big thing’, early adopters of blogging, Facebook, Twitter, and now Foursquare. But while the possibilities are exciting, the buzz around social media is driven by potential more than effectiveness.

Despite all the available tools, most social media hires come from LinkeIn. This is because we already know how to source from LinkedIn – it’s a lot like searching a resume database. In fact, it’s exactly like it. In fact, some of the ‘in’ crowd argue this doesn’t count as social media recruiting.

With such a high rate of change, knowing what’s going to happen makes it easier to prepare. Here’s what’s shaking.

Social media are at a crossroads. The pull to become truly useful is at odds with the market’s desire to see (and use) it as an advertising vehicle. It’s a contest between going for depth with a pool of candidates, or spreading the word as far as possible. The first requires intelligence gathering, the second is an ad play – both fast and easy.

At it’s heart, social media is about relationships. Connecting with friends, following people, chatting, or geo-locating. Technology has facilitated communication in a big way, but hasn’t “solved” the restriction on our ability to meaningfully associate with limited numbers of people. Most humans are capable of managing a finite number of relationships. Technology can extend communication, but relationship capacity is less scaleable.

The strategic question remains, do you go wide or deep? Do  you go wide and use social media to create the widest possible posting distribution? Or will you be more effective focusing on a pool, expanding the depth of those relationships?

Here’s the bottom line. For social media to become a reliable sourcing venue, it has to go beyond an ad play. Otherwise it will follow the same arc other ad media have followed. Whether a newspaper, job board, billboard, TV or radio ad, once an advertising venue becomes effective, everyone jumps in, reducing the medium’s effectiveness for all. Then everyone goes looking for a better medium. We’re in such a transitional period with job boards. Like newspapers before them, they were king of the heap. They were cash cows but now they’re passe. Everyone is looking to social media to replace job boards. Given the variable results we’re accustomed to from advertising, ad users will always keep an out for something better.

The challenge is that most recruiters are so addicted to advertising that anything resembling an advertising vehicle is hijacked for that purpose. Jobs2Web is a good example. Despite offering a basket of services able to support talent communities, the most common use appears to be spamming (opt-in) contacts with postings. Its easy to blame the vendor, but they wouldn’t be in business unless they were feeding buyers what they want. We’re told J2W will develop mobile apps – at the request of customers, of course. Buyers are complicit, if unwitting, in the erosion of recruiting effectiveness.

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