Hiring Without Secrets

The Internet and social media have heavily influenced recruiting. At least, that’s what some pundits would have us think. According to many “experts,” Facebook, LinkedIn and even Twitter are the wave of recruiting’s future given candidates’ online search behaviors and the importance of an online/social presence today. But how does that translate into actual recruiting practices? John Sullivan, management professor at San Francisco State University, tells Talent Management magazine what it all means.

What do candidates want from the recruitment process?

The recruitment process hasn’t changed that much. Candidates want respect, they want feedback. The new term we use is the candidate experience. We found that many candidates are also customers. If we offend them, not only will they not apply again, they won’t buy the product. With social media, if they’re angry, they can tell literally thousands of people about their bad experience. They want a good candidate experience, and the company needs to give a good candidate experience because otherwise the negative message will be spread everywhere. There are now sites like glassdoor.com where people enter the information they get from an interview or the hiring process, so thousands of applicants might go there and say, “I thought I wanted to work there. Now that I see these comments from other applicants, I think I’ll go someplace else.”

Why does using social media for recruiting create a better candidate experience?

We can be found easier. Normally you have to go to a company, apply and they can respond, but with social media, we can find you. We can seek out and look through employees’ networks and find people. Once we find you, we can respond in numerous ways. You have social media on your mobile phone, computer, in lots of places. It’s easier to communicate. We can send video messages; we can send all types of messages. The communication is better; it’s more transparent. One of the best things is I can send you a message in multiple ways. It’s cheap, so I don’t have to mail or put in newspaper ads. Communicating jobs is relatively cheap, relatively fast. You only have to push a few buttons to respond. In most cases candidates prefer the online responses better than the normal process of waiting weeks for a written letter.

How is it more transparent?

Transparency is a two-way street. It means you can see in, see what we’re doing. Obviously when you’re on social media, people can see who you are as an applicant. But it used to be we had a corporate website or careers website and that was the primary way you found out about our company. Now you can find out about our company through a corporate blog, employee blogs, former employee blogs, you can look at videos on YouTube, you can go to glassdoor.com and sites like that. There’s dozens of ways to find out what a company is doing. There are no secrets. The same with potential applicants. I can go to your Facebook page and see the drinking binge you went on two weeks ago. For a large company, what they do is now visible. What employees have done in their lives is visible. It goes beyond the resume; there’s so much more information available about both parties. It’s easier not to get fooled.

What are the most important changes that have come about as a result of online recruiting?

Online recruiting using social media is not a fad, it’s a transformation. It has changed the game. In the “olden days” we would wait for applicants to apply on our job site or job board. We would sort and call people in for an interview. Now with social media we can do what we call direct source. Instead of waiting for someone to apply — people who are actively looking for a job called active candidates — we can now look for people who are not looking for a job. In the total workforce, 80 percent of people are working and not looking for a job. If you place an ad, people wouldn’t see it because they’re not looking for a job. Now we can direct source, which means we can go out and proactively find candidates, or we can go on Facebook, or we can go on LinkedIn, and we can find you. Not just your name, resume or CV, we can find your work. By proactively going out, we can find individuals who are already working, probably across the street at one of our competitors, who are probably well trained, harder to land because they have a job, but they’re more experienced and probably better performers.

You can now be found without doing anything. If you wrote a great article, blog or put something on the Web that’s something we’re interested in as a company, we will contact you. That’s the major change. If you win an award, we’ll hear about it; if you’re a speaker at a conference, we’ll hear about it.

Last, you used to be able to manage your employer brand. If you had an oil spill or did something wrong in the manufacturing process or supply chain, people would say, “Oh, that’s a bad firm.” You used to manage that by winning awards and putting a great website up. Now, our customers, applicants, employees and former employees own that brand. What you are as a company is now what thousands of people say about you on social media. Now if somebody wants to say something bad about a company, they take a video, they put it on YouTube or something equivalent. We can’t control that; we can’t ask YouTube to take it down. Our image as a company — which is critical when you’re trying to attract the best people — really matters and relies on applicants, employees and strangers.

What do today’s recruiters absolutely need to know as they source the best talent?

You need to know the best source if you’re a recruiter, and your best source is always your top performers’ referrals. Not any employee — Homer Simpson knows people too — a top performer is the best source to identify a great candidate because they’ve worked with the employee base, seen their work. You need to know that by volume and quality, referrals are No. 1.

Next, the focus on non-lookers, people not looking for a job, is critical. People looking for a job will find you; it’s so easy on the Internet to find companies that are hiring. It’s difficult to find superstar employees this way. Let’s talk basketball. Jeremy Lin is a superstar on the New York Knicks. He was unknown, cut by a couple of teams. If you can find someone with that talent level through social media, you can win a lot of games. The key is finding hidden talent. Most of those are working but not looking for jobs, so their resumes aren’t readily available in your database. The new recruiting focus is not just looking for average or top performers; it’s using social media to find innovators, game changers. Those are the people you need to focus on. They make so much money and such a difference for the corporation.

Ladan Nikravan is associate editor of Talent Management magazine. She can be reached at lnikravan@TalentMgt.com.