Online Hiring: To Tweet or not to Tweet


by Ananya Mukherjee

In a not-so- distant past, social media was a cutting edge recruitment tool for hiring managers in only a few selected organisations; today, it is mainstream. From an experimental initiative to being at the peripheral part of a recruitment strategy, it has come a long way. In fact, social media is gradually beginning to be identified as an integral component of a well –laid, broad and concrete recruitment planning across all industries and business territories. This shift in business operation and recruitment strategy is obvious and almost inescapable.

British Telecomm for instance, has driven recruitments through traditional recruitment tools in the past but from an industry standpoint there has been a huge shift to recruiting through social media now, admits a British Telecomm spokesperson. The shift has been due to the rise of social media as a reliable, authentic and cost effective tool, he says.

Also, the popularity stems from some other factors. Social media allows you to show pictures, present videos to simulate the work setting and interview current employees about what is good about working for a given organisation. “These are major advantages,” William J Rothwell, professor of Workforce Education and Development in the Department of Learning and Performance Systems on the University Park campus of The Pennsylvania State University, remarks.

Interestingly, the trend is catching up fast in Singapore. According to Robert Half ’s latest Workplace Survey, 50% of hiring managers indicate that they check candidates’ Facebook profiles before offering them jobs while 36% admit tapping into social networking platforms as part of their recruitment process.

Social media as a tool for hiring

Noteworthy, many organisations like BT have already begun to make their presence felt by means of an aggressive and ongoing thrust on large and popular social networking sites and few smaller but more targeted sites. One popular trend is to post top positions on a corporate blog with a link to the company’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages. The key, HR pundits, outline is not to limit to one network. Effective networking, they say, is about networking the networks. This allows organisations the opportunity to plant content seeds within these sites to attract applicants across communities and provides recruiters a platform to target pools of potential talent with greater precision.

For instance, organisations like The Hoffman Agency practically live and breathe social media, Lydia Lau, vice president, finance and administration, The Hoffman Agency Asia-Pacific, shares. “Our employees must be social media savvy; hence, it is almost natural for us to tap on these tools for recruitment purposes,” she claims. To this end, the company uses LinkedIn to buy and post job ads. Additionally, it posts job vacancy messages on its individual corporate sites, as well as get its teams to spread the words by posting on their own Facebook and Twitter accounts.

That said, traditional recruitment methods and testimonials from former employers, market insights and media reports are still essential for Lau to assess a job candidate, she confirms. “Ultimately, we blend social media (use it at the early stage of a recruitment programme) with traditional recruitment methods to reach out to and assess our candidates,” she says.

New tools versus old ones

Undoubtedly, HR must understand that in favour of a strict social media diet, one cannot simply ignore or eliminate the other existing recruitment channels. The more prudent way for hiring managers to go ahead is to compare results with other recruitment strategies based on things like viable applicants, response rates and quality of potential candidates. At the end of the day, social media and traditional recruitment tools are not mutually exclusive as they do complement each other well. “We usually use social media as a stepping stone to reach out to the talents from all over the world, while providing them with a direct platform to understand the business and corporate cultures of our consultancy. In the social sphere, public information of job applicants would be readily accessible online so it provides us into a ‘true-to-life’ glimpse into a potential candidate’s experiences. The truth is, since the talents that we are looking for are the potential PR experts in the social media space, we will look at their level of social media engagement as our part of our short listing process before interviewing the candidates,” Lau rationalises.

Needless to say, social media recruitment holds great benefit versus cost advantages for most employers. This is the case particularly with high volume recruitment where initial setup costs can be spread so as to make individual hires highly cost effective.“Savings achieved in this way, can then be utilised to fund internal programmes helping to ensure we truly deliver on our employment value proposition and of course can aid the financial bottom line,“ Suzie Ahmad, Talent Acquisition Manager, Datacraft Asia, points out. Datacraft currently utilises sites such as LinkedIn, Jobvite, Facebook, Twitter and major online job portals in the APAC region and is monitoring the environment for new and innovative ways of reaching out to talent. YouTube and iPhone apps are amongst these new opportunities, she highlights.

However, it is important to note that there will always be a role for recruitment intermediaries and staffing partners. Recruiting via social media may only help organisations avoid an over-reliance on third party providers from both an overall service and candidate engagement perspective. But then one has to also remember that often recruitment agencies are good at weeding out poor candidates. Furthermore, social media allows organisations to consistently project its employment brand while also accessing certain talent segments on a much more targeted basis. “These segmentation opportunities include specific capability categories, locations and/or experience. Social media engagement is particularly appealing to “digitally native Gen Yers” many of whom practically live in the social media world,” Ahmad adds.

Dos and Don’ts in social media hiring

Is this strategy foolproof? No, the risk of crossing social and professional boundaries and violating corporate ethics is very high and companies that fail to fine-tune the process risk or lay down very strict guidelines for HR simply call for trouble.

Therefore, it is vital to create an engagement process before launching any networks. Ideally, HR must create a job-applicant process that directs the right people seamlessly from a Twitter thread to a Facebook page to your corporate website in order to make a direct application. This way, you prevent qualified applicants from slipping through the cracks. The other thing is to be mindful that whilst an applicant’s social media savvy trait may be an indicator in your search, it must not be the sole criterion. Assessing a candidate solely on his or her activity within the virtual space is myopic and may cause you to overlook real talent.

You can only gauge a prospective hire based on his/her historical tendencies and job-seeking patterns and use this knowledge to design targeted candidate sourcing strategies. For instance, you may post questions in LinkedIn groups that only a truly qualified candidate could answer and then contact the relevant source for further interviews. However, using all this information ethically is a task that needs to be addressed by HR.

“Social media is a very transparent and visible vehicle which individuals need to use sensibly as an avenue for promoting and showcase their own capabilities. When undertaking social media searches, scanning the market and engaging with talent as a part of the recruitment process, we obviously see a lot of information that is shared in virtual public spaces.

However, we focus on information relevant to job requirements. While undertaking candidate selections, we conduct background and reference checks in ways that comply with prevailing legislation and we respect common courtesies. Our background checks focus on the areas and past behaviours relevant to the vacancies in question and we are concerned with the candidate’s potential ability to succeed in those vacancies. We do not seek out or use information which does not specifically relate to job requirements,” says Ahmad.

Above all, you have to respect your candidates’ privacy. “One of my colleagues came across a candidate who posted his “interesting” personal (outside work) pictures on Facebook. However, this candidate turned out to be a decent employee so we hired him finally. This reinforces my belief that we should not only look at the surface but also dig in deep and be open-minded,” Lau shares.

Measuring ROI

It is crucial to measure the ROI of your social media hiring initiative to test its longevity, relevance and effectiveness. “We have just begun to track the effectiveness of social media as a recruitment tool, and the preliminary findings indicate that it has helped to lower the cost of identifying and screening potential applicants,” says Michi Kutsukake, Recruiter, Burson- Marsteller, Asia-Pacific.

Most of the costs of social media use are quantifiable as are the cost of more traditional intermediary partner based staffing, making cost comparisons possible. There are various other harder to quantify cost savings such as cycle time savings and the positive image impact which social media can create even amongst talented individuals who have not yet joined us as employees. Simply put, social media vastly increases HR’s access channels whilst also producing a number very positive cost and ancillary benefits.

“Social media offers various opportunities for creating and nurturing long-term relations with talent and entering into conversations with such talent. This also assists us with developing market insights and fresh ideas. It offers opportunities for promoting not only our employer brand but also our overall commercial brand,” Ahmad shares.

Furthermore, you can use measuring tools to see how it is all working. Twitter influence is measurable using tools like Twinfluence or Twitter Grader, while corporate Facebook pages can be tracked with beta tools such as Facebook Grader. These tools are becoming particularly useful in tracking online ‘reputation’ and sentiment.

Conclusion: Blend the hiring methods

Recruitment experts and businesses have only begun to understand how to use social media effectively, and the landscape of social media is changing rapidly and radically. It may not be as effective in one particular market or industry. For example, social media tools are generally less effective than referrals in Japan and Korea. In key Asian markets such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing, social media tools are very useful in generating leads. But, it is just the first step during the hiring process. In fact, it is more of a long-term relationship building exercise, industry watchers remark.

Most importantly, it is only an element of a broader hiring strategy, and traditional media still form the core of the recruitment exercise. As Lau concludes: “We advertise in very targeted regional marketing and media trade magazines which are widely read by communications professionals from the marketing, PR, advertising and digital agencies. Based on our experience, the leads generated from industry trades are more relevant than those from the job advertisements posted in mainstream recruitment media. Yet, these leads are often already in our network or are being referred through the grapevine.”

Popular social media hiring tools:




-Corporate Blog & Website


-Mobile Applications

Points to ponder:

Cost: Social media is cheaper to use as compared to traditional media.

Commitment: Using social media recruitments tools without proper protocols/commitment in place may harm the company more than benefit it.

Reach: Broader reach. Targets mainly Gen Y executives and jobseekers at a junior level. Senior management may not be intuned/ comfortable with using online tools.

Usage: Social media should be used in tandem with existing channels and not used on a standalone basis.

Quality: As the roles are available online globally, it may attract a larger pool of candidate but possibly include more unqualified candidates.

Social network checklist:

-Do not cross social and professional boundaries

-Do develop a HR protocol on “if and how” social networking background checks should be used

-Do apply it consistently throughout the organisation

-Do ensure that such background checks comply with legislations

-Do not discriminate based on information obtained from such background checks.

-Ensure all candidates are subject to the same social media checks at the same point during the process

-If you reject a candidate based on what you have found in his social network profile, remember to document your finding

Where do traditional media stand?

-Passive Job Seekers: Attracts passive job seekers who do not actively use online job portals or social networking sites like Linkedin.

-Perception: Owing to the higher cost of traditional media like print, candidates may perceive that the roles are active vis-à-vis to online jobs where some of them are listed to test the market.

-Usage: Should be used in tandem with online job boards and social media as it broadens the employer’s reach.

-Confidentiality: There is a concern that the level of confidentiality is lower if you apply for jobs online.

-Quality: Online ads/internet tend to attract lower quality or more junior candidates.

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