Does social media play the starring role asks Lorraine Thomas, MD of Metzger Search & Selection

Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Increased access
Social media has left its mark in most aspects of our private and professional lives. It has made a significant impact on how recruiters and candidates seek each other out in the UK job market; social media also gives wider access to search and selection on an international platform, which was previously a much lengthier process. 
Before we were afforded the vast repository provided by the internet, companies would advertise opportunities in the local press, use their own network of contacts, or post jobs on the company website or on popular job boards.
However, most employers realise that to attract the best talent for their business, a passive approach to hiring simply isn’t enough. Now, both HR managers and recruiters realise that they need to be much more proactive in their approach if they want to attract quality candidates – this applies across all levels of seniority and sectors. This means engaging with talent across a range of social networking platforms to cast a wide net and attract interest. Nowadays, it equates to companies and recruiters understanding their audience and where they ‘convene’ to be able to engage them in the recruitment process. Increasingly, this means using networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
I have seen the evolution of recruitment practices over several years in the business as a specialist search and selection consultant. Across the cleaning and FM sectors, I appreciate that social media ultimately supports the service that recruiters provide. It has significantly expanded the visible talent pool with which we can engage and ultimately, where we find candidates. Myself and my team use certain channels and platforms when we are carrying out our rigorous research processes and drafting targeted shortlists.

Better but not complete
However, social networking does not solve all recruitment issues and it’s important to highlight a few points in this regard. 
As seasoned recruiters, we firmly believe that engaging and securing quality talent for any business is founded on building good relationships. Finding candidates with the right qualifications and experience is important, but so too is the right chemistry and cultural ‘fit’ between the two parties, the client and candidate. Hiring via social media alone simply doesn’t offer that depth of choice in the way that an experienced recruiter, with years of knowledge in an industry sector and an enviable contact list, can. 
Social media also falls short when it comes to the robust selection and assessment of individuals, which, if overlooked, can undermine the whole process. Unfortunately, recruiters do have to question the reliability of candidate details that are posted online. People often only display what they want you to see! 

Not all the answers are online
It’s also worth considering that not every suitable candidate is actively and visibly looking for a job. A potential candidate might consider a move if there is an attractive offer and a compelling package on the table, but they’re not necessarily looking at job adverts or making themselves obviously searchable. Employers won’t find these potential candidates just by looking on social media. This is where the services of a recruiter become invaluable, to undertake the search for a candidate in less obvious places. Many ideal candidates have been ‘discovered’ in this way by recruiters – investigating talented people who didn’t know they wanted to be ‘found’ until the right opportunity presented itself.
In our view, social media can certainly offer some quick gains for employers – especially when attracting job seekers who are actively looking for a new role. However, the chances of a long-term successful hire are likely to be boosted when it is supported by more traditional recruitment methods.
Thanks to valuable feedback from our long-term cleaning and FM clients, we have discovered that employers realise that they need to work more closely with the experts to get their hiring right first time. Social media is not a finite recruitment solution, but merely a tool to assist the process. If employers rely on it solely, then costly recruitment mistakes can happen and they are painful for all parties involved.
The other consideration is how to adapt when it comes to engaging and attracting senior level candidates; opinion is still divided as to whether reliance on social media channels is sufficient to reach the top level. Success with senior appointments often relies upon having a robust network of contacts and having an experienced consultant who can steer both the employer and candidate through delicate or difficult package negotiations, or an exit from a current role. Equally, an experienced search and selection consultancy should be able to think ‘outside the box’, bringing a diverse range of candidates from other markets or industries who can bring a fresh approach to the hiring company. Relying on existing contacts within an online networking sphere may not be adequate for filling a multi-faceted role. In fact, it could be quite limiting.
Social media may not a perfect and ultimate solution to all the challenges associated with recruitment. There is no doubt that it has improved the recruitment process by increasing the visible talent pool and making it more transparent. However, this is merely a matter of access to basic information. To gain a meaningful understanding of somebody’s capabilities, or knowing the best person for a role, can only be achieved through personal knowledge of an individual and of an industry sector.
With this in mind, social media has a long way to evolve before it acquires the intelligence, creativity and sensitivity that traditional recruitment methods employ. To get the best, you might start with social media, but you finish with good, old fashioned, social interaction.
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