Social Recruiting: Throwing Open the Little Black Book?

Published: 1 August 2013

Amidst the throng of discussion about the future of recruitment is a view that the internet is enabling clients to do it for themselves. Let’s not hide from this. It is, and will continue to do so. There is undoubtedly a squeeze afoot.

This direct hiring and social recruitment ‘gospel’ might seem like a strange sermon from a retained recruiter. So where is this going? At the heart of this movement is LinkedIn, and they know it! As the worlds 377302nd LinkedIn member I was an early adopter and a major fan of its power. But with a portfolio of offerings for hiring managers of every denomination, you might easily be seduced into the view that the recruitment industry is fast facing its very own ice age.

I am firm in the belief that in a perfect world, with perfect visibility of labour, clients don’t need recruiters. LinkedIn recruiter packs and other social channels move us ever closer to this reality. ‘Social Recruiting’ offers direct access to every skill set at every level, through structured campaigns and serendipitous encounters. The cost benefits to the employer are obvious. So there it is; the head hunters little black book laid open for all to read?

Those at the commodity edges of the recruitment market should rightly look hard at themselves. The internet removes barriers between direct access for candidate and hiring managers alike, and limits the days of simple CV brokering. This has always been a nimble segment of the market, so adaption should be fine. Retained providers do need to be mindful, but not fearful, of this.

Hard as it may be to believe in this digital age, there remains a substantive segment of senior managers and leaders who wish to remain off the social media radar. One might argue that here and now in 2013, the aware and alert ought to have a strong appropriate professional social media profile. Perhaps we ought to be suspicious of those who do not? But clearly having a social media profile does not in its own right confer greatness, nor does social media offer the recruiting panacea.

Irrespective of how they are sourced, covering the hard yards in identifying talent is only the beginning of successful hiring. I believe that real value comes more from knowing and understanding talent; knowing what will excite, motivate, challenge and capture the attention of key candidates. Specialist recruiters speak the language of their sector, advise clients on the market, and advise them on their proposition relative to the rest of the market. RPO’s and in-house teams know their client intimately, but cannot fully offer the breadth of coverage of a collective of specialists. Scale and economies simply don’t allow them to develop deep specialisms reflecting the external market. Internal resources of every design need to serve the 80 not the 20.

‘Social Recruiting’ has shifted the ratio a little, opening the doors a little wider on identifying where talent might lie. The digital age is enhancing communications immeasurably. Social recruiting is enabling a deeply constructive direct dialogue between company, consumer, employer and employee.

At the thin end of the wedge Social Recruiting allows for structured serendipity; giving the opportunity for chance and coincidence to bring the right person to the right role at the right time, directly. Advanced adopters utilise social recruitment as a channel to create a market wide awareness of their employee proposition, and build talent pipelines – pools of latent resource ready to engage as and when a suitable opportunity arises. In a more mature state this allows companies to focus recruit upon talent alone, not simple job slots.

Using Social Recruitment well gives a tremendous platform to promote and exploit ever stronger internal and external communications. Those who use it poorly risk simply creating a broadcast platform for bad news; a hot line for the waifs and strays of the employment market. So, knowing where to find talent really is just an entry ticket to the show.

The critical differential is in really knowing and understanding the needs of key talent groups. With investment from HR and sponsorship by business stakeholders Social Recruiting can certainly make good ground for the corporate recruiter. Otherwise it’s really time to look at the owner of the Little Black Book and how they fill it! Specialists recruiters embrace all routes to finding and knowing the very best candidates. For us it’s all about managing our knowledge pool and acknowledging that in this market the ‘Little Black Book’ is a simple and effective starting point, but rarely the complete answer. So, as the saying goes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but a lot of knowledge and an appetite for more defines a specialist. We firmly believe it’s the age of the specialist.

As a retained Search & Selection business Berwick Partners focus upon holding deep and narrow specialist skills. We align these to the corporate functions (IT, Finance, HR, Procurement) and market sectors (Retail, Consumer, Energy & Utilities, Manufacturing, Infrastructure, Government, Not for Profit) of our clients. This enables us to place our cross hairs directly upon the best mix of talent for each assignment. We engage candidates utilising deep and narrow knowledge of the drivers, aspirations, and career needs of specialist within each market sector and function– all with a sharp focus upon the objectives of our clients.

Matt Cockbill is a Partner, and Head of Technology, and Energy, Manufacturing & Infrastructure Practices for Berwick Partners.

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