Social Recruiting Interview: Impact Of Social Media On Human Resources

social media hunter

I just wrote out an interview with a German reporter about the use of social media in hiring. Normally, I don’t post my notes in reporting interviews, but as this interview will be translated into German, and edited to fit the report, I’ll make an exception and post my thoughts here.

Could you please describe what you do – how do you help companies as a “social media headhunter”?

The title Social Media Headhunter has two meanings. First, I’m a retained search recruiter, working with companies to find employees with social media skills and experience. Most companies know they need to invest in social media (or social business), but the field isn’t mature enough to allow executives to write an accurate job description, or filter the appropriate candidates. That’s where I come in, helping define the position, locating candidates, and then managing the hiring process.

The second definition comes from training recruiters on the use of social media in hiring. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube services, and blogs provide a rich pool of possible employees, but figuring out how to find and recruit them takes a new mindset. That’s what I teach.


What do you think are the most important changes for human resources managers which have been caused by the new “social media” technologies/virtualized business environments (“cloud economy”)?

Social media breaks down hierarchies of knowledge and provides new tools for information sharing. We first saw and continue to see this in politics, but the impact on all business is apparent. From shopping and coupon sites to sales strategies and product review, the power is switching from the company to the consumer. This is true both for B2C and B2B i. The cloud economy allows instant information transfer for those connected to it. This has an impact on the way we hire, and what expect from new (and current) employees, but it also changes the way that we look at hiring. Job-seekers have more information than before about salary, working conditions, and the health of the company, and so do our current employees. Hiring, retention, and training are now more complicated, because we all know more. At the same time, it’s an unprecedented opportunity to harness that knowledge to improve our companies and hiring processes as well. From a legal standpoint, the ease of video recording and data transfer on mobile phones is probably the more granular threat. A greater threat than corporate espionage is the unwitting leaks of confidential information that threaten a companies strategic decisions. Add in the embarrassment of top executives getting caught, and you have a strange new Orwellian world that can’t be ignored. We are all watched now. How does one adjust their behavior in that kind of environment? From having drinks with friends to inter-office flings, privacy is off the table. And for younger people, many who lack a filter on what is appropriate, the internet’s long memory is going to cause changes in how we react to behavior outside the office.

How can companies use social media to recruit new talents? Which are the advantages of facebook and other social networking sites for recruiters? Are there typical mistakes Human Resources Managers make when they are trying to recruit via facebook/linkedin/twitter….? Any dos and don’t´s?

Companies should first understand that social media is a two-way street. It’s a personal channel that has to be nurtured, which takes not only time but focus. The good news is more and more people are on these networks, which means a larger talent pool. The bad news is they want something in return for their attention, which means companies are no longer solely in charge. The advantages of Facebook are primarily contact. Candidates spend so much time on Facebook, and if you’re their connection, they will respond to you. The younger generation prefers Facebook messages to email contact. That’s an essential piece of knowledge when recruiting college and high-school age employees.

The Biggest Do’s.

  • Have a social media policy in place for both recruiters and the general employee population. You have a dress code. Have a social media code.
  • Do connect with candidates on a personal level. Treat social media messages like phone messages or email. Don’t lose your professionalism.
  • Do understand the expectations of the platform you are using. Some sites are great for blind messages to candidates. Some prefer a little warm-up before you ask them to interview. Some don’t ever want you to ask that question.

The Biggest Don’ts

  • Don’t broadcast messages like they are advertisements
  • Don’t build social media profiles and then abandon them. That’s like not answering your phone
  • Don’t get into arguments online if you’re going to use your account for business. In fight between a fellow and a fool, onlookers don’t know who is the fool, and who is the fellow.
  • Have Social Media tools made the headhunter´s job easier? A lot of employees list their employment situation on social media networking sites. How can companies avoid to lose their employees to social media headhunters?


In the short run, they’ve made the headhunter’s job much easier. It’s free knowledge about a person’s working situation. In the long run, as companies adapt and candidates get smarter, headhunters will need to turn into recruiting process experts and not just resume sourcers. If you don’t want to lose your employees to a headhunter, treat them better, and make sure they are informed and engaged in their current jobs. That’s all they ever wanted anyway. And don’t worry about blocking or stopping them from posting information. The speed of information is faster than any policy you could create.

Do employees and managers need new skills in the “social media world”? Which skills should employers look for in potential hires? Do personal networks/digital social capital get more important as staffing criteria?

Yes. They’re going to have to be smarter about everything. Lucky for us, social media provides those tools. When hiring, you have to ask yourself, “do they understand how social media is affecting their division, city, company, or region?” Do they understand how to build personal networks and share information, without putting the company at risk?

On the second question, I’m a bit of a dissenter. I think hiring based on personal networks/ digital social capital is lazy and unproductive. I don’t want someone good at promoting their name online. I want someone who can accomplish the business goals using social tools and principles. Show me productivity gains, not Facebook friends.

Some companies even offer bonuses to their employees if they help to fill open positions – the employees use special software (matchin engines like appirio/jobvite….) to search the profile information of Facebook friends and LinkedIn-contacts. Is this a good way to mine employees´ social networking contacts for potential hires? What about privacy concerns? Could that be bad in terms of “employer branding” as potential hires might be annoyed by the idea that software from an unknown company infiltrates their (private) social networks?

It works. The quality of the hire depends on the people using it, as do the privacy concerns. My biggest concern is that you’re creating selection bias in your recruiting, and outsourcing it to people not trained in recruiting processes. The biggest advantage is it really seems to work. I think these tools can be an important addition. They’ll work very well for some companies, and not for others. I don’t see much of a backlash.

Final Thoughts?

A final note would be the increasing focus on social business. Social media is cool, and it’s changing the way we look at the world because it improves the speed of information transfer. Social Business isn’t yet mature, but when knowledge transfer inside a company reaches the speed that it currently achieves outside the company, you’re going to see massive increases in our productivity. I see social media as the human version of Moore’s Law. Computers keep getting faster, but humans haven’t really evolved to match them. We are the brakes in the process. Effective social business principles are going to alter the way “we” work in the same way that computers changed the way companies did business.

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