Should social media have a big role in recruitment?

Employers could be missing out on top talent because of their reluctance to use social media for hiring purposes.

Only 7 per cent of companies are turning to social media to recruit, with many still preferring to use traditional methods such as word of mouth or personal recommendations, according to the UKCES Employer Perspectives Survey 2014.

Considering that 49 per cent of the companies surveyed did recruit in the last 12 months, with 66 per cent taking on young employees (those under 25), this reluctance to embrace channels such as LinkedIn could mean employers are harming themselves long term.

"Word of mouth is still commonly used to hire staff, ¬but this risks missing out on a huge talent pool just because people don't happen to be plugged into the right professional networks," said UKCES chief executive Michael Davis.
He added employers should not become "over-dependent on one form of recruitment". But does this mean that social media is the way forward?

The human touch

The study underlines the fact that regardless of the technological advancements made in the past decade, companies still favour the human touch when it comes to making a decision on a candidate's suitability.

For example, 30 per cent rely on word of mouth, although this drops to 23 per cent when looking for young workers. It's clear that personal recommendations still have an important role to play, as recruiters will always want to speak to someone who has dealt directly with the applicant.

While general secretary of the Scottish TUC Grahame Smith acknowledged that digital skills have their place, he believes there is much more to becoming a well rounded candidate.

"Getting out there and speaking with people is just as important as being online, but it's more difficult for the digital generation," he stated.

Striking a balance

If companies want to attract the very best talent - which let's face it, should be their goal - spreading their recruitment net far and wide is logical. But cultivating a strong online profile should not be to the detriment of engaging in face-to-face conversations, and vice-versa.

So how can companies use social media successfully?

One of the ways channels such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can be useful is to give a more personal view of a candidate. By looking at their activity online, companies can make an informed decision on whether or not they would be a good personality and organisational fit.

On top of this, profiles can also give clues about a person's creativity, level of relevant industry knowledge and communication skills. The key here is to treat social media as being a ratifier of certain assumptions you've already made about a candidate.

Considering that by 2020, people currently aged between 18 and 32 are expected to make up half of the global workforce, it's clear that social media is going to have a role to play. But this type of monitoring should only ever be part of the recruitment process, rather than the main aspect.