Social Media Gives Recruiters a Head Start

Not so long ago, all the insight you had into potential job candidates before the interview was a black-and-white resume outlining their qualifications — and, in some cases, their interests or hobbies.

Then employers discovered social media.

“The Internet, and especially Facebook, has really opened up people’s identities beyond what you’d see on a resume,” said Rick Marini, founder and CEO of BranchOut, the largest professional network on Facebook. “Any good recruiter can search your identity beyond places like LinkedIn — they can search you on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or other sources that would give them a broader sense of who you are.”

In fact, more than 90 percent of recruiters admit to checking social media before making a hire, according to a 2011 survey by Reppler, a social media monitoring service.

The survey also found that while 68 percent of respondents said they’ve made a hire after surveying a candidate’s presence on social networks, 69 percent of them said they didn’t offer positions to certain candidates after unearthing information about them on social networking sites that served as red flags.

Use It Wisely
Amidst the plethora of available candidate information, companies can strategically leverage social networks in the following ways:

Get to know the candidate and assess cultural fit. Social networks can be a rich resource for employers and recruiters, Marini said. Following a potential candidate on sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook — or, depending on privacy settings, even viewing something as harmless as people’s interests on Facebook or groups they’ve joined on LinkedIn — can provide a more comprehensive picture of the individual and help determine cultural fit.

Use it as an ice-breaker. Tracking potential candidates on social networks can also be useful in terms of serving as an ice-breaker, Marini said. “If you go on Facebook and you see that I’m a fan of the Red Sox or that I’ve joined a social media group on LinkedIn, someone can call me and say, ‘Hey Rick, I’m also from Boston’ or ‘I also went to Harvard,’ ‘I’m also a Red Sox fan,’” he said.

Solicit candid reference checks. In order to vet candidates, some sites allow companies to go beyond the normal reference checks the candidates themselves provide — whose feedback tends to be flattering.

“Let’s say you’re trying to recruit someone from Microsoft. [BranchOut] shows you all of your friends who have ever worked at Microsoft plus everyone they’ve ever known that has worked at Microsoft,” Marini said. “You can contact the inside connections to say, ‘Hey Mary, I’m thinking about interviewing this guy Joe. Looks like you guys worked together at Microsoft — can you give me your honest opinion, the inside scoop? What’s this guy really like?’”

Meanwhile, the candidate remains unaware that this exchange is taking place — prompting Mary to be as candid as possible in her assessment of Joe.

The Future of Recruiting?
“The sheer size of people who are engaged in those social networks … makes it a very large and important channel for practically any employer to leverage in their recruiting processes,” said Jindrich Liska, CEO of Jobmagic, a social media recruiting platform.

Consider that more than 22 million Americans said they found their current jobs through social networks, according to a survey released in November 2011 by Jobvite, a recruiting platform for the social web. The breakdown is as follows: 18.4 million found employment through Facebook; 10.2 million through LinkedIn; and 8 million through Twitter. (Since respondents could choose more than one option, the numbers don’t add up to 22 million.)

Social networking has also proven to be a more cost effective way to for companies to advertise for positions they may have otherwise found prohibitive, Liska said.

“We’re seeing more activity on both sides — [from] both job seeker and employers — because all of a sudden there’s more content, more jobs, more happening on social networks compared to the general Web,” he said.

With the soaring popularity of social media as a recruiting tool, it remains to be seen whether this vehicle will someday dominate the recruiting space. Marini, for one, said he undoubtedly sees social recruiting as the future of recruiting.

Deanna Hartley is an associate editor at Talent Management magazine. She can be reached at