Cold connections into receptive candidates: Social recruitment

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Social media channels are rapidly becoming the go-to tools for candidate networking and sourcing, yet an age-old problem persists: how to turn cold connections into receptive potential candidates.

Ben Fuller, from Australia-based Bullhorn , told HRM’s sister publication, HC, that social networks were ideal environments for recruiter branding, but followers needed to trust that recruiters would not abuse their time. “To really build their brand on social networks, recruiters need to take the time to check in, create or share interesting content, and respond to developments in their contacts’ lives,” he said.

Social media posts from recruiters should follow this breakdown: 70% interesting and engaging content, 30% job postings, Fuller recommended. “The first step in building a brand is gaining the trust and loyalty of your followers by offering them something of value.”

Fuller said he is not an advocate of over-planning when it came to the use of social media in recruitment – as part of its effectiveness came from its spontaneity. “Leveraging social media for recruiting should not involve a rigid structure or days of planning.”

He added that an advantage for social recruiting, as opposed to job boards, was the ability to experiment, make personal connections, and discover the right mix of ‘value in’ and ‘value out’. “You should be on social media regularly, but not mechanically. Also, you cannot manage what you cannot measure. Measure to see where you’re getting good engagement as it varies between industries and geographical locations.”  

The 2012 Bullhorn Social Recruiting research found that, although LinkedIn grows at 18.1 connections a week, Twitter, which grows at only 3.1 connections per week, delivered three times the return. “LinkedIn is still the mainstay of recruiters looking to build broad networks; however, Twitter represents a huge opportunity for those willing to spend the time developing networks on this platform,” Fuller said.

So how can HR professionals and recruiters get the most from social media tools? Fuller provided the following snapshot guide:

Twitter has the advantage of allowing concise updates. You can repost your job listings on Twitter more often than on other social networks because there’s not as much room for detail and therefore you reduce the risk of overwhelming your contacts with redundancy. People are desensitised to seeing repeated messages on Twitter, whereas they would react negatively to such behaviour on Facebook or LinkedIn, where the conversations are much more interactive. Sharing content is also exceptionally easy via Twitter, since you can follow any number of influencers and retweet interesting articles or facts. Twitter affords recruiters a great opportunity to reach a very diverse audience; it’s much easier to justify following a total stranger on Twitter compared with LinkedIn or Facebook, where you are expected to personally know your connections. And you can use hashtags on Twitter to target your tweets to specific interest groups, for instance #jobsinSydney.

Facebook is by far the largest social network in the world, with 800 million active users. Two-thirds of online adults use social media, and the vast majority of those adults have a Facebook account. You can’t beat that in terms of reach. The major concern recruiters have with Facebook is the fear of all of one’s personal connections seeing job posts, although recruiters such as Bullhorn are providing tools to get around that by allowing them to select exactly which groups of friends (work acquaintances, people in the local area, college friends, etc.) will see their posts. One thing to note about Facebook is that while it has the largest collective reach of any social network, it was originally designed around personal connections and has controls around how often one can repost a job. Also, because it’s predicated upon engagement and interaction, recruiters must be cognisant of the proportion of job posts they are sharing in relation to interesting, targeted content such as news articles and blog posts. Content should always represent a greater percentage of posts than open jobs. To make the most out of Facebook, create a ‘business’ page so you can share posts and content related to your company instead of relying solely on your personal profile. Choose your profile picture wisely – it should represent your brand in an approachable but professional light. No one will take you seriously if your profile picture is of Justin Bieber.

LinkedIn is the largest professional social network in existence with more than 135 million members, 80% of whom are decision-makers. LinkedIn essentially puts millions of resumes online, and provides an enticing mix of active and passive job seekers. As a recruiter, you don’t just want to find candidates – you want candidates to find you. Be sure to optimise every field in your LinkedIn profile, providing links that direct candidates back to your blogs and corporate site. Be sure to use relevant keywords in your job titles for current and previous positions. This will help strengthen your brand’s visibility in search engines. Your LinkedIn profile represents your personal brand, so be sure it’s complete, includes a professional picture, and offers jobseekers and partners information from which they can benefit. Participate in LinkedIn groups related to your field and contribute to the discussion, and be sure to share content – not just posts – with your network. Leverage LinkedIn tools like InMail to connect with jobseekers and search for candidates using LinkedIn’s Advanced People Search feature. You can also filter your results and save your search parameters if you’d like LinkedIn to run the searches again and email you the new results.

Fuller also said it was important to keep in mind that each social network was used differently by job seekers:


  • On Twitter, a big chunk of traffic is likely coming from searching, which can unearth old jobs (as said above). Unlike LinkedIn and Facebook, Twitter’s search of users’ updates is extremely powerful, aided by built-in search language – namely, hashtags.
  • Though it’s the channel most known for being a “professional network,” people just aren’t following LinkedIn updates as frequently as they are on either Facebook or Twitter. However, those who are following are more likely to be receptive to job-related postings in a recruiter’s feed. They’re not expecting personal musings or fun photos on LinkedIn.
  • On Facebook, people are applying based on what they see in their feeds, not by searching (as they do on Twitter). As a result, Facebook updates tend to be caught up in a flurry of social activity. So, chances are that any job applications you receive through Facebook are driven by relatively recent postings.


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