Andrew Hyland
Recruitment and Resourcing Manager at Macmillan Cancer Support

What are the uses of online social media in hiring?

Social media can be used in various ways. Employers are using sites such as LinkedIn to identify talent, but some are also attracting talent through targeted and innovative social media campaigns to engage and challenge candidates and find the right fit for the organisation. Social media is also an important promotional tool. For example, the right company profile on Facebook is a powerful asset when attracting graduates and shaping first impressions of company culture.

However, the role of social media doesn’t stop at hiring, it also has a role in helping people begin a new job and in internal communications, keeping individuals engaged once recruited.

What are the downsides?

There will always be an element of risk for any organisation when opening up social media communication channels for recruitment. Use is still in its infancy and return on investment is not yet really known.

However, the greater risk is to “dip a toe” in the water, rather than make the commitment needed. Social media by its very nature is an immediate and constant channel of communication and failing to maintain a presence can be more detrimental than never getting started. Similarly, if the channel just broadcasts messages without “engaging” with its audience, it risks losing followers and discouraging candidates.

How should hirers use social media?

It is important that organisations do not simply view social media channels as an extended job board to advertise vacancies. Instead, there needs to be an element of engagement and personalisation in order to attract the best talent. The boundaries between traditional recruitment practices and online engagement are now blurred, and how organisations use these channels is an important part of the candidate experience.

Organisations should be using social media to highlight positive contributions, interesting projects and industry-leading work, and encourage feedback and interaction from interested individuals.

Websites such as YouTube can give potential job applicants an authentic insight into the people and its culture, offering the insider knowledge that was once lacking in traditional recruitment processes.

Only for the young

Social media is very popular among younger generations, but that does not mean it is neglected by everyone else. It is the way social media is used and viewed by different age groups that matters.

The blurring of personal and private lives is emphasised through social media and we have found that most senior directors use social media primarily for professional networking while graduates tend to use it more for socialising. This makes sites such as LinkedIn good for highlighting senior positions, while Facebook is a better platform for posting graduate and intern positions.

Is it a targeted hiring tool – or does it produce a mass of responses?

To get the most out of social media, messages need to be targeted and directed at the audiences from which organisations want to hire.

Failing to do this can result in applications that are unsuitable and might alienate potential candidates who might suit future roles.

What role does it play when people start a new job?

Social media is beginning to play a bigger role in the on boarding process, particularly for large organisations that operate an annual graduate recruitment process.

Many organisations have set up closed groups and active communities on social media sites where new recruits can continue a dialogue with the organisation and their future colleagues before taking up the role.

And beyond the initial starting period?

Using company blogs to showcase best work and highlighting expertise among employees to the wider organisation allows social media to become a source of knowledge sharing and engagement and a way to find brand ambassadors who will have a far greater impact than any external marketing and advertising.