A very short time ago, jobs were advertised in the local or national newspaper, at significant expense, and a candidate would post his or her completed application form and curriculum vitae (CV) hoping that the Royal Mail would deliver this paper copy before the deadline. Every stage of this process has changed significantly and remarkably quickly. The question, asks Gudrun Limbrick, is are employers keeping up with the myriad ways in which potential candidates now communicate about important matters such as jobs?

Having recently conducted a few recruitment campaigns, it has become clear that many people like to hear about job vacancies through their usual media outlets and, if those media outlets are social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and the like, presenting recruitment information to them in that format is more likely to generate a response from them. Furthermore, once communication has begun about recruitment in that medium, further contact is often then expected in that manner — so Facebook messages, Tweets, etc, — rather than picking up the phone to ask for further details or to chat about the post even when website address, phone numbers or email addresses have been provided.

This is perhaps particularly true of local posts, where social media groupings based on particular towns or rural areas make it easy to target local residents, but it seems to be a growing trend in all manner of vacancies. Some vacancies are shared rapidly between people, as individuals share them with other individuals they feel might be interested and organisations share them with their members. In this manner, a large number of people can see the vacancy in a very short period of time at very little cost.

While social media is becoming a preferred vehicle for hearing about posts, it is also, albeit at arguably a slower pace, becoming a preferred vehicle for individuals letting prospective employers know about themselves. Candidates not only want to chat about vacancies online but also submit their CVs through social media and also involve others, perhaps their previous employer or other supporters, in the conversation. They like to point prospective employers to examples of their work online and get commendations from previous customers and colleagues.

Our aim as recruiters is to cast the net, ie advertise the post, as widely as possible, so that we not only have a diversity of people applying but also can assure that we have a sufficient range of good candidates applying so that we can interview to find the best.

It is also far easier for us to compare candidates, and ensure a fair and robust recruitment process, if we can standardise our conversations with prospective employees and the way in which they present their information.

I would argue that, unless a social media “infrastructure” is in place, we are in danger of failing on at least one of these two aims.

Online promotion of recruitment can take a number of different forms.

  • An email/message list. Interested people sign up to hear about vacancies as and when they arise. This is an excellent, targeted way of getting out information to those who have already stated an interest. The one flaw is that the recruitment market changes very quickly. An email/message list can be out of date before it is used as people find jobs.

  • Social media. Facebook, Twitter and so forth can be excellent tools for disseminating news about a job vacancy and providing a link to more information. However, with the appropriate infrastructure in place in the form of 2000– 5000 followers as a minimum, any such news is going to be slow to spread. Without these sorts of numbers, any messages are likely to fall short. Simply putting something on social media is not achieving anything at all unless it is disseminated well by those followers.

  • Online jobs listings. There are now, with perhaps only a small exaggeration, nearly as many online lists of job vacancies as there are vacancies themselves. They have become a popular way of raising advertising revenue and are regularly promoted through social media. Many need to be treated with caution however, as they are as keen to entice users to click on their external advertisements and links as they are for them to click on their actual job vacancy advertisements. They can also frustrate the user as they are tempted on to the site with the promise of perfect local jobs, the vast majority of which turn out to be telesales in Peterborough.

  • Website. As we all by now know, our website is an incredibly useful tool for all sorts of marketing and dissemination. For recruitment, the website is the ideal place to make available all the documentation and information prospective candidates need. They can also be the place where applications are registered and forms are completed. However, they are only the information source, promotion to get people to that website is far more important.

  • LinkedIn. This massive database of people marketing themselves — presenting their online CV in effect — is rarely used by recruiters other than to check a person is who they say they are. Potentially, we could ask people to apply by simply sharing their LinkedIn profile.

Applying for jobs online makes the process very easy for the recruiter. All the information, in the format requested and completely standardised is immediately available to the recruiter and can easily be forwarded to all members of the recruiting team. The one drawback is that only those people who are au fait with computers and working online will excel at the task of applying when these may be skills that are not needed at all in the posts being offered. Any recruitment that only allows for online recruitment is potentially excluding the small but significant proportion of people who do not have those skills or who do not have access to the internet. It is interesting to note, for example, the growing number of people with smart phones who can access social media but who cannot read documents or make online applications.

One problem that is becoming common is those recruiters who, through a very successful social media campaign end up with far more applicants than they were expecting. It is important to plan ahead and know what to do if this is the case.

For many of us, however, we have greater expectations of social media uses in recruitment than we see in practice, largely because of a lack of infrastructure in terms of the numbers of followers, a lack of linkages with appropriate and helpful organisations who can promote our vacancies and the smoothness of the links to our application process. In effect, while our potential applicants are clamouring to be able to use social media for the whole recruitment process, we are still treating social media campaigns like the newspaper advertisements of old — place the advert and hope for the best.

Potentially, recruitment is now much cheaper to carry out, and our ability to reach a far wider range of people is now, literally, at our finger tips. However, it is not enough to rely solely on online methods without a pre-existing mature social media profile twinned with more traditional methods — such as media advertising and recruitment agencies — to ensure genuine diversity of approach.

Last reviewed 28 August 2019