Do recruiters have still a role in recruitment ? And which one ?

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Summary : recruiters still struggle to measure the actual performance of social networks for recruiting. Surely underestimated, obviously underexploited, certainly misused. If we try to digg a little further, two things are clear. First, candidates don’t make a good use of these tools, what does not help to get any added-value and raises a question that has nothing to do with tools but with education. Second, the logical difficulty or recruiters to adopt an engagement strategy instead of a mass-targeting and selection one. What raises one question : what if, in a desintermediatized world, recruitment was the manager’s call, recruiters being only in charge of a final conformity check ?

In june I was invited by the APEC (a french leading organization dedicated to managers employment and recruitment) to discuss the best practices in digital recruitment with a bunch of their in-house experts and some practitioners, based on a study they were just issuing.

Some interesting facts to note. Even if publishing a job offer is the prefered way to source candidates, the use of social networks has doubled in one year. A godd news that comes with a question : the ratio of people hired through social networks in France is still stagnating, what should lead to the conclusion that the yield of this media is dramatically falling. But numbers can be read differently : the recruiter can get an answer from a traditional job offering and score the person through social networks. Maybe the candidate has used his own network to decide whether to apply or not. In the end the importance of the social channel is diluted and not perceived.

Another thing worth being noticed : networks are still often used as a job boards and not as engagement or employer branding tools. This misuse certainly caused by a poor understanding of tools and usages has certainly much to do with the results of the study.

That inspires me a couple of thoughts…

As for the use of social networks by recruiters, it seems obvious that they still use it as one more channel to do recruitment as usual instead of a specific one for a new kind of relationship. They’re looking for CVs instead of adopting an engagement approach. But profiles on social networks like Linkedin (or Viadeo in France) are cold contents. That’s the reason why these platforms progressively allowed their users to publish and share hot contents “a la facebook” around their profile. Hence a question to which I have no answer : if the users that are active outside of these platforms on blogs and twitter find it easy to notify their updates on their profile, will those who aren’t find the time, the desire and even the skills to make their linkedin profile “live” ? I don’t think so. And what’s the impact for those who do ? Still to be demonstrated.

It reminds me of the 2005-2006 period, when these platforms began to gain traction. Someone told me “it’s useful to stay in touch with your network and contact its members but in terms of personal branding, these tools are made for those who are incapable of having a blog and write interesting things”. What brings the debate on the ability for candidates to share a passion or, at least, tell a story that makes him and the recruiter understand and imagine a common future. We already saw this story 7 years ago with the difference between those who were real blog writers and those who put their CV in their first post, told they were looking for a job in the second, said how desperate they were in the third and….never wrote the fourth. Is this the limit of social media ? In no way. This shows the limit of job seeking strategies and the lack of ability to manage one’s personal brand and raises many questions about what should be improved at school or in job seeking workshops.

With Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter, blogs lost traction to become the tools of those who have something to say in more than 140 characters. Not being the last trendy thing anymore, it’s always forgotten in job seeking strategies or poorly used. Here’s the result. On the other hand, if I can see less new blogs coming to life than before, I still can see excellent ones that shares a passion and a good professional standpoint, what demonstrates that there’s still hope and that even students or recently graduated people have things to say, contrary to what they often think themselves. The people who own these blogs have another thing in common : their primary goal is not to find a job but share about their passion with a professional approach. The job often follows even if it’s not what they’re looking for. This is why these blogs last, no matter their owner is looking for a job or not : it takes time to gain audience, credibility and build a network so starting a social media strategy only to find a job is a too short-term approach to be successful.

A very good example I discover this year is the young aviation blogger Sophie Figenwald (very good interview here…but in French). She’s studying marketing and is a fan of aviation. She started on twitter but realized it was not enough to share her passion so she started a blog. She became visible from other industry bloggers and by airlines and now she has lots of very good contacts for her future…while just writing about her passion. The key point she clearly understood is that being active on social media gives her something much more powerful that the contact with recruiters : the direct contact with business managers. That adds to what “old” bloggers whose blogs have helped with their career will tell you : passion first, relationships and conversations happen on blogs and on twitter, the whole crystallizes on Linkedin.

But, let’s get back to recruiters. How could a recruiter have an engagement approach with a business ecosystem to, finally, be successful at what I’ve heard from Danone HR people and find being the best strategy ever : “recruitment should be a matter of bringing like-minded people together, not selecting them”. Let’s be clear : no recruiter can do that. They can’t be everywhere at the same time, be relevant in tens or hundreds of communities that represent all the profiles they could possibly hire. So, is it nothing more than a wishful thinking ? Not at all, but it’s more likely to become the manager’s call. Due to the fast evolution of the needs, of the needed skills and competences, it’s getting harder and harder for recruiters to formalize the right job description. If you add the “personal” dimension of recruitment that makes that, in the end, it’s up to the manager to feel whether he wants to work with a person or not, he should be the one who has to dive into an ecosystem of peers that will help him to stay up-to-date and will give him access to a network of people, to people who are not looking for a job but are alive and accessible on these networks. By the way it was clearly state in Sophie’s interview : the value of her approach was to get noticed by managers, not recruiters.

But doing so will make managers lose an incredible amount of time, won’t it ? Not necessarily. Considering the time wasted in interviews with irrelevant candidates that were selected for him, the risk of having to re-start a recruitment process because “it was not the person”, the fact that, in the end, having a coherent team where all people work well together is his responsibility…being socially active is more likely to be an investment that helps to save time and money in the future.

In the end, in a desintermediatized world (because that’s what’s “2.0” means), managers will have to involve into ecosystems of peers in order to make themselves a short list of candidates and the job of the recruiter will only be a validation one, performing a kind of conformity check at the end of the process.