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Recruiting via social media - The pros and cons

Recruiting on Social Media

Wondering whether you should add Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social networking tools to your recruiting process? While the jury may still be out on their efficacy, enough employers are turning to social media that failing to do so may put you behind your competition.


Early adopter

International law firm Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle was an early adopter of social media for recruiting. Andrea Stimmel, director of business development, says the firm made the decision in early summer 2008 while planning its upcoming recruiting season. It was the first member of the top 200 law firms in the United States to incorporate social media into its talent search.

"After surveying our summer class last year and our younger associates, we recognized the need for it. If that's where the people are that we want than that's where we need to go," Stimmel says. Using social media has helped brand the firm as a good place to work. "Our potential new hires are used to communicating and researching via Facebook. They want to know that there are people like them at the firm and that they will fit in."

Stimmel says one difference between her firm and other employers that have since incorporated social media is the robustness of the effort. "We've completely integrated. Our website feeds our Facebook page, we have RSS feeds that feed the wall on our Facebook page, we Twitter and it goes back to the Facebook page."

In addition, the firm links itself to other groups and communities with similar interests on Facebook and other sites. "We seek to link ourselves with other like groups, such as law schools. We appear on their pages as a fan and they appear on ours. It's branding reinforcement. Even if we don't end up interviewing or hiring someone from one of the groups, we want them to know our name and understand who we are," Stimmel says.

Fostering relationships

Kara Nickels, general manager of the Chicago office of Hudson Legal, a legal recruiting and talent management firm, says her use of social media has enhanced the relationships she has with potential contractors. Through Twitter, Nickels regularly provides information on industry trends, job activity and available positions. "I felt I could give more to the relationship than just telling potential temps or contractors what was available during periodic phone calls. I wanted to stay in touch with candidates on a more regular basis, letting people know things that are relevant to the market and the types of job opportunities that are available," Nickels explains.

"I sent a tweet about an opportunity from the train on my way into the office. Within 10 minutes, I had 10-12 qualified people responding"

Twitter also appealed because it allows quick dissemination of vacancies to a broad audience. "Through Twitter, I can get information out quickly when I need staff assignments. Recently, I sent a tweet about an opportunity from the train on my way into the office. Within 10 minutes, I had 10-12 qualified people responding they were ready to go," Nickels says.

Adding, not replacing

Despite their positive experiences, neither Stimmel nor Nickels view social media as a replacement for other recruiting processes. "It's a channel, but not the only channel," Stimmel says. "So far there have also been too many other variables such as the economy to say we're getting different people than we would through other channels." Nickels agrees. "We see it as an enhancement, not a replacement. It's another tool in the toolbelt."

Strategy suggestions

Simply throwing together a Facebook page or conducting a few searches on LinkedIn doesn't really qualify as using social media for recruiting. Instead, employers interested in incorporating social media should define goals and messages at the outset. "In the beginning, it takes a lot of thought about strategy and what you want to communicate. Approach it just as you would any other recruiting or communication campaign," Stimmel says.

"Make sure whatever you put out is relevant to your goals," Nickels says. Tweeting about a new industry trend and how your organization is leveraging it is meaningful; using Twitter to announce the victor of the intracompany softball game is not.

Be active

Social media tools are only as good as the effort you put into them. "You have to really participate and take the time to develop and become part of communities," Stimmel says. Nickels agrees. "You really have to be consistent. A lot of people only go half way with it. You have to give something to get a return on it." Be cautious. Just because someone was found through a social networking community doesn't mean they are necessarily qualified or accurately representing their skills/backgrounds. "Prudent HR professionals are using social media as an initial screening tool, but still conducting face-to-face interviews and traditional background checks," says Mark Spognardi, a partner at Arnstein & Lehr in Chicago.

Don't forget your legal obligations. "Social media are such new phenomena that we don't really know breadth of legal pitfalls," Spognardi says. One given is that federal and state laws banning discrimination still apply so employers should ensure they do not use social media to favor or exclude candidates based on protected characteristics. Prepare for high volumes. Reaching out through social media can increase the number of inquiries you receive from potential candidates so ensure there is a system in place to quickly and easily separate high potential contacts from low and no potential contacts. Targeting social media participation to specific industry groups or people with particular skill sets is one way to reduce the workload.

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