The benefits and challenges of leveraging social media recruitment practices

Thesis (M.A.), 2012
36 Pages, Grade: B



Section 1: The changing nature of recruiting
1.1: Introduction to social recruiting

Section 2: Differentiating features of Social Recruiting
2.1 Active and passive candidates
2.1.2 WWU
2.1.3 JYMBII
2.2 Talent pools vs. Talent communities
2.3 Social matching and referral recruiting

Section 3: The Impact of social recruiting
3.1 Cost per hire
3.2 Quality of hire
3.3 Time to hire

Section 4: Social recruiting concerns
4.1: Disparate impact and disparate treatment
4.2: Online Misrepresentation
4.3: Privacy

Section 5: Mitigating Social recruiting risks

Section 6: Recommended Social recruiting strategy

Section 7: Conclusion



List of Figures

Figure 1: Do you or your company use social networks or social media to support your recruitment efforts?

Figure 2: Most popular social networks being used for recruiting

Figure 3: through which of these networks have you hired?

Figure 4: How connected are social recruiters?

Figure 5: 73% of recruiters have successfully hired a candidate who was identified or introduced through a social network or social media

Figure 6: Rate the quality of candidates from these sources: referrals, job boards, social networks, direct sourcing, 3rd party search firms, campus recruiting, SEO, corporate career site, internal transfers

Figure 7: The labour pool available through social networks does not reflect the demographics of the general population

Figure 8: The Social Recruiting Iceberg

Section 1: The changing nature of recruiting

Recruitment is defined by Barber 1998 (cited in Breaugh and Starke 2000) as the “practices and activities carried on by the Organisation with the primary purpose of identifying and attracting potential employees”. Recruitment “performs the essential function of drawing an important resource - human capital - into the organisation” (Barber 1998, p. 841). Recruitment is a key contributor to any organisation’s success; it has a strategic aim as it focuses on the need to attract high quality people in order to gain a competitive advantage. Kumar and Garg (2010, p.327) describe recruitment as “one of the activities that impact most critically on the performance of an Organisation”. Organisations that have an effective recruitment strategy can gain a distinct competitive advantage; Veger (2006, p.2) states that “attracting an effective workforce contributes to the competitiveness of an organisation and so it is an essential process”.

The old paradigm or “traditional” method of recruitment involved organisations advertising opportunities in the local press; engaging a recruitment agency or, more recently, posting jobs online via the company website or on popular job boards such as Monster, Simply hired or Career builder. These job boards and job search engines are popular, millions of jobs are posted every year on these websites; However these jobs are only viewed by super-active applicants willing to turn to job boards., Research shows that, at any one time, only 20% of professionals are actively looking for work and that, “job boards tend to inundate companies with large volumes of resumes, many from unqualified applicants” (Cappelli 2001, p.141). Organisations have started to find that this “post and pray” method on job boards, as well as the reliance on agencies and print advertising was yielding more and more unqualified candidates and was not cost effective (Madia 2011).

The world of recruitment was forced to change and evolve: “recruitment is changing; this is not a small evolution but a change that will see the recruiting landscape change forever” (Jeffery and McKee 2011, p.12). This change in the recruitment paradigm has largely come about as a result of three concurrent forces:

1) The recession in the global economy has forced organisations to push “talent acquisition teams to recruit and hire more efficiently and effectively” (Jones 2012, p.1) and re-evaluate the traditional methods of recruiting as they were proving ineffective in terms of cost of hire, quality of hire and time to hire.
2) The rise of a new generation of candidates provides a new pipeline of talent that are tech savvy and fans of social media platforms, “A new crop of workers will come to see the Internet as the only way to find a job, and companies that stay on top of these changes will get the cream of that crop” (Cappelli 2001, p.146). According to Clements (2012) organisations must embrace social media or risk not appealing to the next generation of graduates “By moving with the times and embracing the new ear of social networking, SME’s make themselves more appealing to the next generation of graduates” (Clements 2012, p.3).
3) The rise of social networking and Internet technology has forced recruiting teams within organisations to change, “the Internet is bringing radical change to corporate recruiting” (Cappelli 2001, p.139). In recent years a range of social networking platforms and social media tools (e.g. wikis, blogs, micro-blogs, online video sharing) have emerged and grown in strength. The spread of and advances within Internet technology are therefore key factors driving this change; Online social networks have developed from a novelty to one of the most powerful recruiting tools available for HR professionals (Taleo 2010).

Organisations have quickly discovered that social recruiting works, for example, in a survey conducted by Divol et al (2011), 39% of companies already used social media services as their primary digital tool to reach candidates, and this percentage is expected to rise to 47% within the next four years. According to Jones (2012, pg.1) social recruitment has “exploded in popularity and is revamping the recruiting landscape”. As can be seen in figure 1 below, recruiters’ leveraging social media to reach candidates is at an all-time high.

Figure 1: Do you or your company use social networks or social media to support your recruitment efforts? Source: Jobvite social recruiting survey results 2012

illustration not visible in this excerpt

1.1: Introduction to social recruiting

Social recruitment is the concept at the intersection of recruitment and the emergent field of social media (Wirshing 2012). It is a contested term defined by Younan 2009 (cited in Jacobs 2010, para. 2) as “harnessing the evolution of Web 2.0 technologies and social media tools to communicate, engage, inform, and recruit our future talent”. Black (2012) defines social recruitment as a form of head hunting where human resources can leverage social media to tap in the potential recruits, “It's about engaging with users and using social media tools to source and recruit talent” (Black 2012, para.1). Social recruitment is a new era of recruiting:

This new era of recruiting is one that will shake up how recruiters, companies and individuals engage and interact. For those who understand the trends and take advantage of new capabilities, this can be a time of great reward as they find the best talent to propel their companies and clients forward. (Melland 2010, p.5)

Recruiters can use social networking sites to engage and contact an unprecedentedly large and diverse talent pool as there are 1.5 billion social network users globally (McKinsey Global Institute 2012). The use of social networking sites provides socializing outlets and allows members to use their ‘profile’ as a means of self-expression thereby generating that individual’s social sphere (Hoy and Milne 2010). Social network sites are defined as:

Web-based services that allow individuals to construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection and view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system (Boyd and Ellison 2007, p.211).

Social networking is a popular activity, according to the Nielsen report (2009), two-thirds of the world’s Internet population visit social networking or blogging sites, accounting for almost 10% of all Internet time. In 2010, 33% of Internet users said they accessed content such as articles or videos via links on social networking sites, rather than from search engine recommendations (McKinsey Global Institute 2012). The current ‘big three’ social networking sites are Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter, using these sites according to Black (2012) takes recruiting back to its roots of networking but for a digital age.

This paper will focus primarily on Linkedin as a social media hiring tool. Linkedin is a business networking and hiring solutions company that has established the world’s largest and most powerful professional network of over 175 million members as of August 2012 (Morrison 2012). Linkedin takes peoples professional network online, giving members access to people, jobs and opportunities. Linkedin has become ‘the place’ for professionals to network, look for jobs, and ‘be found’ by employers (Bersin 2012). As of 6th September 2012, Linkedin hiring solution sells for $8,000 per recruiter annually and Linkedin currently has over 12,000 enterprise customers (Bort 2012). Empirical evidence shows that Linkedin is by far the most popular social network for recruiting, in the 2012 Jobvite survey, 93% of HR and Recruitment professionals stated that Linkedin was the social network that their company was currently or was planning on using for recruiting (figure 2), moreover 89% of respondents successfully made a hire through Linkedin (figure 3) and the 2012 Bullhorn reach survey found that while 21% of recruiters are connected to all three social networks, the data shows that 48% of recruiters are using Linkedin exclusively and not leveraging Facebook and Twitter for social recruiting (figure 4).

Figure 2: Most popular social networks being used for recruiting. Source: Jobvite social recruiting survey results 2012

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Figure 3: Through which of these networks have you hired? Source: Jobvite social recruiting survey results 2012

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Figure 4: How connected are social recruiters? Source: Bullhorn reach social activity report 2012

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Section 2: Differentiating features of Social Recruiting

2.1 Active and passive candidates

In 1997, McKinsey & Company (cited in Sullivan 2012) coined the term “war for talent” to mean intense competition among recruiters, organisations regularly raiding each other for talent and bidding for top talent is commonplace. According to Sullivan (2012) organisations should begin planning for this next round of talent wars . This is reflected in the 2012 Jobvite survey, where 62% of respondents said they use passive candidate recruiting - above better benefits 53%, flexible hours 47% and faster hiring process 42% - to stay ahead of their competitors. The advent of social professional networks and the rising emphasis on recruiting ‘passive’ instead of ‘active’ talent has rendered the nature of recruiting and the focus on cultivating candidate relationships competitive like never before. Social recruiting undeniably serves an incredible opportunity for recruiters to engage and target active and passive candidates, one of the primary differences between a good and a great recruiting source is the ratio of passive over active prospects that populate it (Sullivan 2012). Active candidates are typically considered to compromise of unemployed demographic of society, however ‘active’ does not necessarily refer to the unemployed, candidates can be employed but unhappy with their current position or nearing the end of a contract and seeking a new employment opportunity. Despite active candidates only making up about 20% of the talent pool, the majority of traditional recruitment products and services were only designed with active candidates in mind and overlooked the ‘passive’ candidate pools. A passive candidate is one who is “currently working but curious about what’s out there” (Joos 2008, p.105). They make up approximately 80% of the fully-employed workforce and they are found the easiest on Linkedin, these employed and not-looking individuals comprise the majority of Linkedin members (Sullivan 2012).

While not initially inclined to put much time or energy into a job search, if the right offer presents itself, passive candidates could be convinced to move to a new job or even a new career (Joos 2008, p.105)

The key to hiring passive candidates is building relationships, the more passive a candidate; the more nurturing recruiters must be to attract and hire that person (Veger 2006). Cappelli (2011) argues that passive candidates need to be approached the same way as prospective customers: carefully identified and targeted, attracted to the company and then sold on the job. It is for this reason that LinkedIn is disrupting the recruitment industry. Traditionally recruiters only have access to candidates who are actively seeking a job. However, on LinkedIn, recruiters can start conversations with professionals who are already in employment, but are amenable to unsolicited approach should the right opportunity present itself. Linkedin have three solutions to target passive candidates 1) InMail, 2) WWU and 3) JYMBII


The first solution is via ‘InMail’, InMail is a private email feature on Linkedin that enables members to send a message directly to any other Linkedin member who they want to contact, but are not currently connected to. InMails are the most credible way to message anyone on Linkedin, its purpose being ‘to reach anyone on Linkedin, no introduction or contact info required…professional, credible outreach – with your Linkedin profile attached’ (Linkedin 2012a). An advantage of InMails over traditional recruiting contact methods (namely cold calls or emails) is that recruiters have the ability to see if you both share any connections already.

InMail is an unbelievable tool, because it isn’t spam; it is a trusted email. The receiver will open that email and make a response. Even if they are not interested themselves, they’ll write and say,’ Thanks, I’m not interested this time, but I do know somebody who is. (Linkedin 2012b, p.2)

2.1.2 WWU

The second solution is via Work with us advertisements (WWU); these are targeted advertisements on employee profiles. The foundation behind this is that employees on Linkedin should be ambassadors for organisations. WWU is an opportunity to leverage the “real estate” of employee’s profiles and direct candidates to an organisations company page, so that the organisation can promote their culture, opportunities and testimonials. “Every time someone clicks on one of our employees profiles and then sees a relevant opportunity, it brings them to the business faster than we can fi­nd them” (Linkedin 2012i p.2)


Excerpt out of 36 pages


The benefits and challenges of leveraging social media recruitment practices
University of Limerick
MA in Business Management
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Patrick Hayes (Author), 2012, The benefits and challenges of leveraging social media recruitment practices, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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