Until relatively recently, only the technologically savvy, curious and ultrasophisticated human resources professional was comfortable with online recruitment. Today, online recruiting is an indispensable tool for locating talent for every job level, with some recruiters and hiring companies relying solely on online portals. With Internet penetration levels increasing worldwide, geographic boundaries disappearing when it comes to professional mobility, and the quest for top talent increasing in booming regional economies, the medium is definitely here to stay, says Karen Nethersole, Esq., founder and CEO of Full Circle NY, a career-development firm that connects job-seeking professionals with recruiters.
“The shift from print to online recruitment has occurred as businesses, trying to cut costs more than ever in this economic climate, realize the cost and time benefits of advertising job vacancies online,” Nethersole says. “Used efficiently, online recruitment can serve as a tool to quickly find quality applicants among the quantity of applicants.”
However, talent acquisition goes beyond online facilitation tools and it remains one of the biggest challenges facing human resources professionals today, says William T. Rolack Sr., diversity manager at Adecco Corporate in Melville, N.Y., and president of the Greater New York chapter of the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources. “A company’s ability to be successful relies heavily on its ability to attract and retain top talent. The challenge is doing this consistently. Companies that have not positioned themselves as an ‘employer of choice’ are finding it extremely difficult to maintain their work force,” he says.
Retention programs have to be seen as budget items that do not just go away because of a bad economy, Rolack insists. “It is what fuels profit generation. HR professionals must continue to keep the pressure on to save programs that are in support of employee development, diversity and corporate social responsibility.”
Social media recruiting
Social media sites — such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter — make the recruiter’s job easier as it relates identifying a well-rounded candidate, HR experts say. The recruiter now has the ability to understand more about the candidate’s background and work experiences, view recommendations, learn more about the candidate’s professional memberships and affiliations, and view other information related to the candidate’s life outside of work, Rolack notes. Moreover, the information is more up to date than information found on traditional résumé job boards.
A survey of 100 hiring managers at small, midsize and large companies, published in June by Jump Start Social Media, found that 75 percent go to LinkedIn to research job candidates before making a job offer, while 48 percent check out Facebook and 26 percent go to Twitter. When asked where they find talent for job openings, 66 percent said LinkedIn, 23 percent said Facebook and 16 percent said Twitter.
Yet some HR professionals still see social media as the domain of marketing and Generation Y not the HR department. “They still don’t see the full value of social media,” says Nethersole.
True, the response rate to job offers remains low on social networks because not everyone registered on these networks is job hunting. However, the sites are rapidly moving from pure social networking to an environment where candidates can post and advertise their profile and find a new job, and which businesses can make full use of to attract the best employees. Employers who do use the sites say they are able to connect with highly qualified job seekers on a more personal level than ever before.
“I’ve learned over the last several years how important technology is and how it affects everything we do in terms of communication, networking, talent acquisition. If you’re not technologically savvy you’ll be excluded from the conversation because these conversations are being held virtually and online. If you’re not connected through social networks, you’ll be cut out of vital information you need,” says Darryl Simon, president and CEO, Vantage Growth Strategic Advisors, organizational, executive and human capital consultants based in Columbia, Md.
The sites also are an effective means of locating “passive” job seekers, a valuable segment of the marketplace, says Nethersole. These are individuals who have plenty of employment opportunities and do not need to send out a lot of résumés to land good positions. Recruiters are unlikely to find them listed in stale résumé banks held by job boards or among the submissions to their company Web sites. In a 2008 survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, some 53 percent of respondents who use social networking said they do so to search for “passive” candidates who have not applied to a specific position. Just over two-thirds said social networking helps them reach candidates whom they otherwise wouldn’t know or would not know how to contact.
Niche job boards, such as Full Circle NY, are similar to social-networking sites and attract members from a specific location, industry or interest. “Today’s professionals are accustomed to visiting or creating communities focused on their specific wants, needs and interests. Niche job boards are well positioned to deliver just what these professionals are looking for and which general boards like Monster.com, CareerBuilder and Yahoo HotJobs often do not provide, given their broad focus on being everything to everyone,” Nethersole says.
Not as widespread
Steve Williams, director of research at the Society for Human Resource Management, argues that the use of social media for job recruitment may not be as widespread as it’s trumped up to be. “There’s a lot of talk about recruiting with social media sites, but it really is just talk,” he says. “Just three percent of organizations use social networking as their primary source. About seventeen percent use it as part of their hiring process.”
According to a 2008 survey of 571 HR professionals, conducted by the society, of the HR professionals who use social-networking sites to screen applicants, 52 percent spend just one or two hours per week on this activity, 29 percent spend three to five hours and the remainder spend longer.
Many HR professionals may not realize that the sites can yield talent for more than entry-level jobs, Nethersole says. Tech-savvy college graduates dominate social-networking sites, with six-figure earners the most active income group, especially in spectator social activities such as reading blogs and listening to podcasts. The SHRM survey shows that 65 percent of respondents who have done some postgraduate work regularly read blogs and 36 percent engage in critique activities, such as writing reviews.
Finding the right person for the right job at the right time via online portals can be challenging because of the number of applicants for each position. Indeed, as more companies establish Internet recruiting arms and as job-posting boards proliferate and search firms tout their online services for middle managers, recruiters seem to be turning to “automation” to assist them with the task of sorting qualified applicants.
“The big question is, can online recruiting stand up to the millions of job applicants? The sheer size of the techno-hip, social-networking crowd is staggering,” says Nethersole.
With more than 100 million profiles, MySpace.com’s population is now almost as big as Mexico’s. Facebook’s size, at more than 30 million users, compares to the population of Canada. LinkedIn reports that its rate of new membership doubled between August 2008 and November 2008. During that time, the site added a new user every second. MeettheBoss.com, an exclusive networking site for top-level financial executives, launched in September with 20,000 invited members. On the day that Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection — Sept. 15, 2008 — the site recorded a 60 percent increase in traffic.
No one disputes that the Internet has made a recruiter’s job easier in many ways. It is easier to find candidates online by geography, vocation or type of position than in newspapers, for example. At the same time, online posting has its disadvantages. Recruiters have to post requirements in more places and sift through more potential candidates to find the right fit, increasing their workload. Moreover, now that job applicants can apply to a multitude of jobs by simply pressing the Send button on their computer, recruiters are deluged with online résumés while still having to continue using old methods of handling candidates off line — contacting potential candidates, conducting preliminary interviews, setting up meetings with the company and briefing the interviewer, for example.
And while recruiters increasingly are searching for candidates online, many of their companies are not signing on to the medium at the same pace, leaving recruiters without a consistent online message to bolster their efforts. Some companies say they fear liability with individual recruiters analyzing and using online personal information in hiring decisions.
Clearly, the Internet and social media will continue to impact the way human resources professionals locate, vet and hire talent. “Any HR Professional who does not embrace social media, simply put, will be doomed to failure!” Rolack says. “With the technology advances of cell tower triangulation and global positioning systems, recruiters will be able to pass along their location to candidates they are seeking to hire, thereby increasing the opportunity to connect and close the deal. Location-aware services will take social media to the next level. They will give recruiters the ability to source candidates not only by experience, but also by their radius from work locations.”
Such tools of the trade, however, do not address the strategic positioning of HR professionals within their respective organizations, industry experts argue.
“Many HR professionals have seen their jobs outsourced over the past several years due to lack of strategic focus on the business at work. Too many times we find HR professionals getting caught up in the administrivia of work and not focusing on what creates a differentiator for the work that they do,” Rolack says. “It’s time to buckle down and work directly with business leaders to provide them with HR support services that assist them in achieving their business goals.”
Black HR professionals in particular must truly understand the business environment in order to survive, says Simon of Vantage Growth Advisors. That means understanding business acumen, their organization’s strategic view, how value is created in the organization and what the business model is, he explains. “If you look at the trend, you see senior executives increasingly are tapping business leaders, line executives — those with operating experience — to run the HR function in their companies. That says they doubt whether traditional HR professionals have the business savvy and acumen they’re looking for to lead their companies in some very challenging, difficult times.”
Clearly, techno-sophistication is a plus in today’s recruiting environment. Whether it is enough to ensure HR professionals a place in tomorrow’s companies is another matter.