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BEC: The impact of social media on recruitment

Barbados Employers' Confederation

BEC: The impact of social media on recruitment

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In the past, to recruit employees, organisations would simply advertise opportunities in the local Press; engage a recruitment consultant or, more recently, post jobs online via the company website or on popular job boards. This “passive approach”, many claim, is on the way out. In 2009, for example, it was reported that saw a 31 per cent drop in revenue. This was greater than the overall decline in the recruitment industry worldwide.

Today, with the advent of social media, hiring managers and recruiters find that they need to be more proactive in their approach, by engaging with talent across a wide range of social networking platforms. Essentially, companies and recruiters need to be where their candidates are in order to engage them in the recruitment process.

One issue for recruiters in particular is that often the best candidates, who advertise themselves online via social media sites, tend to want to be found rather than having to actually apply for jobs. It is the role of recruiters, therefore, to become experts in using social networking technology to ensure that they are effective in finding the right candidates; while at the same time staying ahead of competitors, who are trying to do the same.

The problem which arises is this: if all of these candidates are online waiting to be approached, why do companies need to engage a recruitment consultant to find them? The candidate database in effect becomes public, and some would argue, the recruiter becomes obsolete. The situatoin, however, is more complex. Although some commentators claim that social networking will increasingly replace the curriculum vitae, candidates and employees are constantly being advised to be selective in what they put online. Online profiles don’t necessarily paint an accurate picture of the individual. Both candidates and employers are cautious about the content of some profiles.

Some candidates in the marketplace are concerned about the security issues (identify theft and so on) associated with having personal information online. Others are wary of being victims of discrimination by providing employers with demographic information (such as age and race) that could potentially exclude them from the recruitment process.

Employers can essentially filter out candidates based on numerous “subjective” factors such as “university attended” or “previous company worked for”. Basically, assessing someone’s potential employability based solely on an online profile leaves the door wide open for unethical practices. Candidates therefore feel more secure if they are being represented by a recruiter, and are willing to share relevant information openly in a confidential transaction.

There are cases of potential candidates “locking down” or deleting online profiles after receiving numerous job approaches. LinkedIn, for example, has a function for private access where in order to link to and/or view a profile, a user will be asked to verify that they know the individual first, by providing that user’s personal email address as identification. The employer’s perspective is different. Not all employees are looking for a new role and these individuals are also usually the most sought after candidates.

Employers are aware of this and therefore, in some cases, are urging employees not to promote themselves too effectively online, as they can essentially become vulnerable to poaching. The wider issue of confidentiality also comes into this. Most employers don’t want certain information about the company published online. For example: key clients they are working with, or sales targets. These details are often essential in the assessment of an individual, but they won’t necessarily be available online.

Recruiters, however, have relationships with active and non-active candidates in the marketplace and either intimately know, or quickly become aware of, someone’s achievements, after a detailed assessment process. So what then are the pros and cons of such recruitment methods.


Cost effective – social media hiring is low cost and often free.

Fast – there are many examples of employers using sites such as LinkedIn to make “quick” hires.

Employer branding and retention – there is a plethora of social media tools online for companies to promote the employer brand effectively to prospective hires and current employees.


Lacks diversity – 83 per cent of LinkedIn users are caucasian (Quantcast, 2010).

Time consuming – too much information for companies which want to conduct a detailed and robust search. This is where recruiters can help.

Lack of control – managing brand outposts is tricky and inevitably negative content will slip through the net.

Transparency – how reliable is candidate information online?

Discrimination – personal information could lead to employers being influenced by factors like race, religious views and age.

Limited – ultimately the candidate can decide what information they are willing to share. You only see what you see.

There is no doubt that social media has improved the recruitment process by making it more open and democratic; increasing the visible talent pool from which to engage and recruit. Having an intimate knowledge of someone’s capabilities or knowing who the best person for a role is, however, can only be gained through personal knowledge of an individual and of a particular industry sector.

You can’t simply rely on who may or may not have an online profile and also that the information contained on it is true. It is unlikely therefore, that social media will replace the traditional recruitment methods in the near future.

(Sourced from