· Features

Recruitment of talent: Social media – friend or foe?

Online social networks have grown to be one of the most powerful recruiting tools available to HR professionals. However, while many businesses are adept at using social networking for brand-building purposes, relatively few have embraced these channels for recruitment, and as a result, they are missing out on a huge opportunity to gain access to top talent.

Integrating social networking sites into the traditional recruitment process is key not only to reaching potential candidates, but to building relationships and communities that will enhance the candidate experience and provide a window into your company's culture. It can also provide hiring managers with unparalleled insight into future employees.

Social networking is a holistic process, focussed on interaction with potential candidates rather than just gaining access to their CVs. For example, it can be used to alert future candidates to your company and build a relationship with them before they have even decided to apply for jobs - by interacting through the relevant channels, you can ensure that you are front of mind when they do decide to look for a new role.

The critical thing to consider when using social media is to interact with candidates at all stages of the recruitment process. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many people get in touch online and then never receive a response, and this is where relationships are damaged before they have even begun. Social media is all about the personal touch - ensure that responses are prompt, all online applications are read by a real person, and send non-automated acknowledgements. Above all, provide fluid and responsive interaction at all stages of social media recruitment, and you will reap the rewards.

The objectives you choose for your social media plan, and the audience you wish to target, will lead you to a decision about which channels are most appropriate for you. Each media channel offers different opportunities and challenges, and these may differ from industry to industry, and from country to country. It's important to recognise the strengths and weaknesses of each channel and how they complement each other, and to tailor your strategy accordingly.

LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are currently the major social media channels, gaining the most column inches, but depending on your needs, it is also worth exploring newer channels such as Google+ or the relaunched MySpace. YouTube has been used by Oxfam as a way to raise awareness of the jobs it has available, and what skills are needed to apply for each one, and has received a strong response. Many graduate training schemes target new candidates with in-depth blogs which provide a window into the company culture and day-to-day work involved in such a role.

Twitter and LinkedIn are particularly valuable to recruiters as they give access to a wide network of contacts, and allow communication with targeted groups of people. Getting involved in groups, debates and scheduled discussions across all these channels can help raise the profile of a company and build relationships with potential future candidates.

Social media has the potential to revolutionise the way in which companies recruit. It's essential that HR departments endeavour to move with the times and shift their focus from the straightforward collection of CVs to a more personal, developmental form of recruitment. Failure to embrace this trend could mean that top talent are building relationships with your competitors, rather than you.

It's more of a long term view than some recruiters may be used to, but engage in the right way and you will find social media becomes an essential tool in the hunt for new employees.

Author: Faye Holland (pictured), Managing Director for SharedXpertise, owner of HRO Today Forum Europe