The Bait Debate: While Some Folks Are Hooked on Social Media for Getting Top Recruits to Bite, Others Say the Concept Is Overhyped and Old-Fashioned Methods Still Reel in the Best Candidates

By Pyrillis, Rita | Workforce Management, February 2011 | Go to article overview

The Bait Debate: While Some Folks Are Hooked on Social Media for Getting Top Recruits to Bite, Others Say the Concept Is Overhyped and Old-Fashioned Methods Still Reel in the Best Candidates


Pyrillis, Rita, Workforce Management


DAWN MITCHELL, A RECRUITER FOR BUSINESS software maker Red Hat Inc., knows that using social media to search for talent goes well beyond tweeting jobs. For her, it's about "living where the candidates are," which means reading industry blogs, joining professional groups of Java or cloud computing experts on LinkedIn or Facebook and posting technical questions on those sites in hopes of ferreting out the sharpest thinkers.

"It's just not enough to post a job," says Mitchell, who has been a recruiter for the Raleigh, North Carolina-based company for four years. "I also comment on discussions and post questions. I'm not a technical person, but I try. I follow blogs; I read up on industry trends." The payoff, she says, is finding candidates who can thrive in the company's fast-paced entrepreneurial culture. Mitchell, who specializes in recruiting sales engineers and consultants, uses Facebook and Twitter, but nearly all of her recent hires come from LinkedIn, she says. "I find individuals who have strong opinions. I don't want just anybody."

Recruiters have more technology tools at their fingertips than ever before, and the variety of choices can be daunting. In addition to social networking sites, there are a plethora of Web-based recruiting and tracking systems to choose from. Automated Data Processing Inc., BrightMove Inc., HRsmart Inc., Jobvite Inc. and Taleo Corp. are just a few of the growing number of vendors offering tools that they say can help companies find top candidates, improve the quality of hires, save money and raise awareness of the corporate brand.

"Social media is at the heart of everything we do," says Bill Peppler, managing partner at Kavaliro Staffing Services in Orlando, Florida, which specializes in the information technology and financing industries. "We make numerous job placements that we never would have been able to do without Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Pretty soon everyone will be finding jobs that way. Someone asked me if I have my résumé on CareerBuilder or Monster and I never have. But I have a LinkedIn profile and so do most of our clients and job candidates."

Not everyone is so dazzled, however. Dissenters believe there's more hype than reality to recruiting through social media. "I'd love to drink the Kool-Aid if it did anything for me," says Jerry Albright, a recruiter based in Avilla, Indiana, who specializes in information technology, engineering and manufacturing jobs. "These folks do not hang around on Twitter all day. They're not sitting around the dinner table checking their BlackBerry. They're nowhere to be found. I take issue when someone says social media is the way everybody's going. It's not the case."

Albright is not anti-social media--he tweets, he blogs, he's on Facebook and LinkedIn--he just doesn't see how they will help him fill jobs for clients. "If I was helping a customer set up a new graduate recruiting program, I'd be all over social media," he says. "But when I need to find someone with 15 years of experience as an electronics design engineer for subtractional power house motors, tweeting does me no good."

For recruiters like Albright who are circumspect about social media's promise, the only tool that provides consistent results is the phone. The rest is "smoke and mirrors," he says. "What bugs me the most is that brand-new people in staffing think that the old school stuff is just washed up. To be in recruiting as long as some of us have been, you need to balance what's new with what works and what doesn't." Clients, he adds, "don't care if I'm using the latest social media tool or standing at the mall with a sandwich board on."

NOT FOR EVERYONE

Clearly social networking is not for everyone, says John Boudreau, a professor of management and organization at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business. The decision to use social media "depends on your applicant pool and your organization's needs and capabilities," he says. …

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