As the U.S. economy recovers from the Great Recession, the labor market recovery is being characterized as steady. Unfortunately, the job vacancy rate is higher than would have been predicted given the unemployment rate. This may be in part due to a mismatch of specialized skills needed vs. the ones found in the unemployed labor market, or just plain hiring paralysis: the fear of making a hiring decision in light of the possibility of another economic downturn.
In times of constant change and economic uncertainty, employers are looking more than ever for the best candidates in the market in terms of skills, engagement, and retention. While these characteristics could certainly be found in candidates who are currently unemployed, many companies looking for specialized skills are having trouble finding them. In fact, many companies are resorting to the online world to reach talent with these specialized skills.
According to a 2013 SHRM survey titled Social Networking Websites and Recruiting/Selection, 77% of organizations are using social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook to recruit candidates. This represents a 21% increase from 2011. The main reason cited for using social networking sites is their ability to reach passive candidates who may not apply to job openings. The second and third reasons are the ability to reach candidates with specific skills, and to increase employer brand and recognition.
The uptake of social networking sites and online tools for recruiting purposes will inevitably increase the interactivity between employers and candidates. The question is: will this increase in interactivity help or hurt employers in recruiting talent and increasing their brand recognition?
Let’s consider the lessons learned thus far by e-marketing professionals. In his latest blog post, Anthony Miyazaki lays out several problems with interactivity, which could very well apply to online recruitment efforts.
Miyazaki explains that one of the problems is that interactivity requires a lot of time and thus, money. A company’s followers and their requests could increase to a level where the company’s ability to respond is not effective in addressing each customer. For recruiters, this might entail responding to a higher number of candidate requests and inquiries that otherwise would not have made it to their desks. While this could certainly lead to finding the right talent, the level of interactivity could become unmanageable if the appropriate resources are not in place.
Companies are now building social networking pages on LinkedIn and Facebook to make it easier for candidates to learn and communicate with the employer when desired. For example, HealthSouth, a large conglomerate of healthcare providers specializing in rehabilitation, created Facebook and LinkedIn pages where they do not only post jobs and updates about the organization, but also provide pictures of recruiters and various ways to contact them in their assigned regions. This increased accessibility for candidates has to be matched with increased responsiveness from the employer. Otherwise, the employer’s brand, credibility and reputation might suffer.
Another problem is that customers or even competitors might post negative comments online. For example, if a candidate is dissatisfied with any part of the online communication or interview process, he now has a public platform to make his dissatisfaction known. While this is certainly an opportunity for the company to do service recovery, the negative comment might spread widely and reach a great number of people before the company can respond and resolve the issue effectively.
Miyazaki also explains that it is hard for a company’s brand to stand out in a space where there are many more competitors than found in the physical marketplace. A candidate with an account on LinkedIn might very easily see several online job postings related to her skills and interests as she scrolls down her home page. Candidates could also follow a number of companies on linkedIn and Facebook, or through job board widgets and applications, and thus receive a myriad of information from various companies intended to attract the very same talent.
Increased interactivity might also get the public used to a level of relationship that the company might not be able to maintain over time due to constraints in resources. Miyazaki explains that companies stopped funding interactive marketing initiatives as new ROI metrics started to show unhealthy returns. This led to reduced online interactions with clients and greater potential for customer dissatisfaction to arise.
The same could very well be experienced by recruiters and potential candidates. While good recruiters build a pipeline of candidates who they will contact when needed, many candidates will come back to a company’s social networking site expecting the same level of service they received the first time they interacted with the company. In addition, candidates might also be disappointed if a company purports to have an online presence but does very little to make full use of it. Candidates might not be impressed at all if they find a poorly developed site with few or no updates, postings, and thus very little interactivity.
The lessons e-marketing professionals have learned are invaluable and must be considered when planning an e-recruitment strategy. To do so, consider the following 3 questions:
- What will be your department’s service standards for candidates reached via e-marketing efforts?
You might decide that these standards will not be different than the ones you currently have. However, you must consider the effects of the transparent and viral nature of the internet in how you will interact with candidates who are reached through e-marketing efforts.
- Do you have the human resources and time needed to effectively carry out your e-recruitment strategy and service standards?
You will need to consider your department’s current skills and capacity in order to effectively deploy and sustain your service standards. You might decide to do training for your staff to gain the skills needed for effective online communication; or you might need to review current work processes and assignments to ensure your staff has the time needed to carry out the strategy and to deal with any level of interactivity.
- Is your e-recruitment strategy robust enough to find the talent you want, and to increase your employer brand and recognition in the marketplace?
You might need to find out what your competitors are currently doing: What’s working and not working. Based on this information, make sure your strategy is a step ahead and that you have sound metrics to assess the effectiveness and return on investment or interactivity that you forecasted. We could probably write several blog posts on this subject alone.
As the search for specialized skills becomes more difficult, the use of social media and e-marketing tools in recruitment efforts will be instrumental in finding the talent employers need and increasing employer brand recognition. The resulting employer-candidate interactivity could have both positive and negative effects on these recruiting goals. This type of communication happening in novel channels may very easily pose risks that may require different service standards, new skill sets, and a different capacity depending on the extent of the strategy. Consider the lessons e-marketing professionals have learned and make sure you are incorporating them into the planning and implementation of your company’s e-recruitment strategy. May your strategy succeed!
Look forward to hearing about your experience and observations.
Aleister Avila, SPHR