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Trends in social recruitment: Highlights from the Australasian Talent Conference

Trends in social recruitment: Social sites

Melbourne was host to a couple of conferences last week focused on social media in recruitment, mobile recruitment and the future of talent.  The events brought some world-class speakers and personalities into town.  We had a great time, and learnt a huge amount. This is our first wrap-up of highlights from the first event.

Australasian Talent Conference – Social Media.

1 December 2011 @ the Melbourne Convention Centre

We picked up a few big themes across all the sessions. Rather than bore you with the gory details, we’ve highlighted our takeaways on some of the major trends in social recruitment.

1. Large companies are aggressively building talent networks

Traditional methods of sourcing candidates are becoming increasingly irrelevant for large companies. By traditional, we mean ‘job advertisements’. It’s not to say job boards don’t work (although many people claim ‘they are dead‘). Just that many companies are finding more efficient, fast and sustainable ways to connect with candidates.

Companies are building proprietary ‘talent communities’ (or talent networks) to connect directly with potential candidates. What’s a talent community?  A large pool of people who have expressed interest in working for a company, but may not currently be actively looking for opportunities. For most companies, the community is simply a channel to build engagement.

Many speakers were quick to note the difference between a talent community (which requires 2- or 3-way communications), and simply a talent network (which is one-way communication from companies to candidates).

We heard a few big examples of how the world’s biggest companies are using talent networks to bypass traditional methods.

AT&T has 1.5M people enrolled in its talent network.  This number is staggering. Granted, AT&T has more employees than some small countries. However, they seem to have adopted very targeted marketing to connect directly with potential candidates (eg by skills and geography). Also, and perhaps in keeping with their stereotype, AT&T doesn’t get caught up in the ‘cool factor’. For them, the ‘talent network’ is simply a mechanism to drive candidates directly to their careers pages. Interestingly, they claim an unsubscribe rate of 0.5%!

Sears obtains access to 98% of applicants’ Facebook accounts.  At every touchpoint with a candidate, Sears requests permission to access professional data from candidates’ social networks. Creepy? Maybe, but it means they have a ‘living database’ of candidates in their talent network. This compares to the ‘dead’ profiles in most company’s (and recruitment agency’s) legacy databases.

Large retailers have developed an ‘alliance’ to share qualified candidates.  Many large companies identify qualified candidates, but do not have an open role. In a surprisingly co-operative move, many have joined an ‘open talent network’ called AllianceQ, to submit and share good applicants. This completely bypasses traditional candidate databases such as CareerBuilder and Monster. Another nail in the coffin?

2. Social networks (not just LinkedIn) are now critical tools for recruitment

Trends in social recruitment: Social sitesSurprisingly, LinkedIn was perceived by many in the audience as the ‘poor cousin’ in social recruitment. I suspect this is because it is less ‘new and shiny’ than the other consumer-grade networks. But we did takeaway a relevant point:  the ratio of ‘recruiters to candidates’ is much higher on LinkedIn, therefore the competition is much greater. Many of the more socially-minded employers and recruiters see more ‘blue ocean’ amongst Facebook and Twitter.

We heard of two particularly timely examples of how the ‘truly social’ networks are starting to impact recruitment.

Facebook wants you recruited as a person, not a job title.  We heard a bunch of interesting insights from Richard Cho, a Recruitment Manger (of Product Engineers – the most important people) at Facebook.  We’ll follow up the best in a separate post. In short, Facebook wants to become the defacto operating system for your internet experience, capturing more and more of your personal (and professional life). Facebook is already the platform for 2 major recruitment networks – Branchout and BeKnown (like LinkedIn, but on Facebook). They want to own this space.

The big takeways from Facebook?  Mobile recruitment is critical, and will be a gamechanger. And he imagines a future where people are recruited based on who they are as a person (based, of course, on information shared in their Facebook timeline), rather than a job title.  More on this interesting (controversial?) concept in future posts.

Candidates are increasingly relying on social networks to access job opportunities.  Candidates today (GenY?) are a social and proactive bunch. We heard from a number of people who’d used social media to help their own job search. In a few cases, this was after they had been rejected through traditional channels.

The lesson for employers? You better be watching all channels if you want to attract the best talent. Fewer and fewer good candidates are hanging out on job boards applying directly to advertised roles. They’re blogging, tweeting, active in online communities and professional groups. Employers that don’t go out looking for these candidates will be left behind.

3. Companies ‘ignoring’ social will be left behind

Trends in social recruitment: Companies will be left behindThis point was made both for recruitment, but also in general – because in the ‘new social world’ they are one and the same. Employer branding was used as a concept to bring home this point. Companies no longer have control over their employer brand, if they ever did. They are branded by their people.

A big implication for companies when thinking about social media strategy — your first target audience is your employees. Employees are your most important ambassadors in the world of social media. They are also the most powerful ‘tool’ for any company trying to make progress in social recruitment, as they provide reach into social networks.

So, the key message for the day:  Companies that ignore social will be left behind. It’s already happening in many industries. Can you see it happening in your’s?

An obvious next question is ‘where to start’? For many companies, social media can be a scary concept, particularly if it’s a new area.

The good news, according to experts on the day:  Building a social company is 90% psychology, and 10% technology.  Reading articles and ideas like this is an important start. We’ll be following up with other links, ideas and suggestions on how to build social into your business – particularly related to recruitment.

Next up… our reflections on the first Recruiting Unconference in Australia (#tru Australia). ‘What the hell is an unconference’??  Don’t worry, we asked the same thing!


Michael Overell

Cofounder and CEO at RecruitLoop. Previously with McKinsey. Passionate about startups, health and technology. Surf when I can; ride a bike most days. Follow me @mboverell.

  • Nice post. You make a good point to distinguish between networks and communities, to understand that makes a big difference in the strategy, resources and effort focused on the task of building and maintaining one.

    While I also agree with the truism that “Building a social company is 90% psychology, and 10% technology” it’s actually not a very useful truism. Let me give you some reasons:

    1. The 10% technology may well only be 10% but if it is the wrong 10% then most likely the whole endeavour will fail;
    2. The technology not only has to do the job properly in it’s own right, but has to integrate into the workflow and enterprise architecture of the whole firm, AND, into the Social Architecture. If content in the talent community is isolated, disjointed, hard to access across all offices, duplicated etc etc then it cause frustration and cost a lot of $$$ and effort to retro-fix; and more….
    3. Moving to the 90% being “psychology” – that’s a little like saying changing the culture, behaviour and engagement with our employees and customers and potential employees and customers is “just psychology”. It’s obviously a huge huge cultural change task, and even begs the question of what talent and employee engagement is – do we think that the whole leadership team might have clarity in thought and execution about that one point? Not likely.

    I wrote this piece just on engagement, for example: 
    360 Social Business Engagement – consumer *and* employee 

    You’re on the right track and I’m keen to see your follow-up posts.

    Walter @adamson:twitter 
    @igo2 Group

    • Thanks for the comments Walter.

      I think we’re saying *roughly* the same thing, but you’ve rightly pointed out the complexity in developing a truly ‘social enterprise’.

      Rather than the 90/10 ratio being a hard and fast rule on how to implement these ideas, it was more a point made about just how important the psychological/cultural/behavioural aspects actually are. 

      Many people, I suspect, assume the reverse is true. ‘Get the technology right, and the rest will follow’. It sounds like you may have experienced this attitude the hard way from from some of your clients?

      Great discussion. We’ll hope to see around here again..

  • A very helpful post about social recruitment. Thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks for this article about social recruitment. The insights are indeed informative. Cheers!

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