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Recruiting: SoMe, Web 2.0, Pros & Cons and the future - some thoughts

posted by Alex Hens
19 February 2009

I was recently approached by OnRec.com ("The Magazine for Online Recruitment around the world") to contribute to an article. You can read the article here - Using social media and Web 2.0 effectively (with additional contributions from Jamie Leonard, Euan McDonald & Lucian Tarnowski). I thought I'd post my full thoughts here too. How can recruiters use social media and Web 2.0 effectively to engage candidates? The best way to use social media to engage candidates is by first ensuring you understand your target audience. If you have an idea of where they may already be congregating online or what they’re consuming (by way of web content) then it’s a great idea to ‘listen’ to them first whilst you work out what you can bring to the party. If you’re hoping that a couple of tweaked press releases every other month will in any way be engaging then you’re setting yourself up for a very public fall, or worse: indifference. Put yourself in the audiences’ shoes because they’re asking “What’s In It For Me” and if you can’t answer that with some degree of empathetic certainty then best manage your expectations right down from the start. Engagement requires the buy in of both parties – and if you aren’t offering anything compelling or interesting then you can’t really expect to reap the benefits. But once you are confident that you know your audience then the best advice is just to get on with it. You’ll soon know whether you’re hitting the right note and raising any interest, and then: keep it up; keep listening; stay true to your brand values; show integrity; keep looking for other avenues to broaden that reach. Overcoming the initial inertia is probably the hardest part of the whole thing, after all then you’re just doing online what you do in the real world. What are the benefits and also pitfalls to avoid when using social media and Web 2.0? The very least you should achieve is an enhanced search engine profile (Search Engine Optimisation), because the search engines love regularly updated content - and you should be producing that if nothing else. But the full rewards, if you get it even modestly right, are very compelling:

  • The potential to broaden your recruitment horizons – reach outside of traditional, potentially stagnant talent pools and desperate active job seekers.
  • The opportunity to change preconceptions about your business that might otherwise have harmed your recruitment activity (often without you knowing).
  • Influence / balance online conversations that would otherwise negatively affect your employer brand.
  • Reach passive candidates, establishing and then maintaining a front of mind presence with them.
  • Differentiate from the competition - tangibly.
The main pitfall to avoid has certainly got to be underestimating the time commitment this will require. For some people the ability to write engagingly comes more easily than for others, but either way once you’ve started any such activity then you have to keep it up, otherwise that can often be perceived more negatively than not starting out at all (stagnant blogs or poorly updated social media groups can speak louder of your organisation than the outdated content). Another pitfall is not being prepared. If you haven’t listened then you won’t know what you might come up against, you won’t add any value and worst of all, you might not have anything interesting to say (in the target audiences eyes at least). And finally it’s important to remember that nowadays people “trust peers over marketers”, so be ready to take the rough with the smooth as people will look to openly validate your messages against other (sometimes disgruntled, often highly cynical) commentary. If your company isn’t willing for you to be open and honest, perhaps your Employer Brand is actually as much fiction as fact, then maybe it’s best to get that right first before opening yourselves up to the full frankness of the web. How do you see social media and Web 2.0 developing and influencing the recruitment industry in the future? What will be the next big change? I think that web will increasingly force the transparency of employer propositions’, certainly within key skills markets. Companies will begin to understand the tangible business value of being THE “Employer of Choice” and invest in managing their Employer Brand more fastidiously, doing so from the inside-out, also realising the benefits of actively encouraging an open culture to further enhance the external Employer Brand. Potential candidates on the other hand will increasingly hear about jobs through any number of web touch points, peer to peer networks being increasingly ubiquitous, but will also have more and more sophisticated “search agent” type tools that will scour the web on their behalf, sifting through information and collating “must read” lists that will include appropriate job opportunities and articles/comments about previously flagged target prospective employers, all bundled together with their other daily news and active interest subjects feeds. And what this will all mean is a significant shift in the balance of recruitment spend from what is still overwhelmingly focussed on attraction based activity to a far greater investment in long-term Employer Brand management and broad reach digital engagement activity. Why? Because companies will grow to realise that the new web paradigm is more a technology underpinned attitudinal one than a new medium to be controlled, so getting someone’s attention becomes a (still) crucial but fundamentally relatively smaller part of the overall business picture. And the next big change? Joe Public and the Corporate World have a long way to go to get up to speed with what is possible today. The vast majority still barely get Web1.0, so there has to be a period of catch up and consolidation as the technology already here gets converged and simplified – and that’s actually what is going to be the big change: a massive swell of new and existing internet users switching from just accessing 2 or 3 elements of the web resource to becoming immersed in the complete social web. The systems, technology and downright mindboggling cleverness underpinning the web will continue to evolve at a lightning pace too (not least in pursuit of the next next big change – The Intelligent Web), but I believe a large part of the focus will switch from “what” can be done to “how” it’s done – most importantly delivering the user experience that enables the greatest number of people to engage with each other as efficiently as possible. And with the Internet increasingly being where we store our information and where the software we use runs from (as opposed to on our local hard drives) so barriers to access will continue to diminish and remote functioning capability improve, all furthering the swell of immersed users – welcome to the age of Cloud Computing.