Investing: The Net Wisdom of Peers

By Deborah Perelman
Historically, recruiting has not been a particularly transparent process. Organizations looking to hire put a job description out on a Web board such as Monster, CareerBuilder or Dice, and candidates apply on that limited information alone. The vast majority are rejected without ever knowing why. “In effect, corporations are basically screening people out. Candidates don’t feel like they’re being recruited into organizations, or being made to feel wanted,” Zach Thomas, an analyst with Forrester Research, told eWEEK.Though Web 1.0 recruiting technologies such as big job boards and vendor-powered ATS (application tracking systems) on corporate career sites have been effective in increasing efficiency and driving down recruiting costs, in the Web 2.0 world, candidates want more texture in the recruiting process—transparency, unedited content, answers to user-submitted questions and communication that is not only top-down. “It makes the whole process a lot more transparent. It puts the community in control of the information out there, versus the traditional ‘here is the position and we will tell you what it is all about,’ where the candidate can’t ask questions or see for themselves,” Thomas said.Organizations that limit their recruiting efforts to outdated processes will lose out in the long run, Thomas said, as a younger generation of job seekers wants more transparency in the recruiting process. Furthermore, the passive majority of candidates—those who may not even know they are looking until presented with the right offer—are increasingly “out there” in social networks but are not being approached.The answer is for organizations to start taking advantage of social computing, something colleges have long done to meet students where they are, but that has yet to move into corporate culture.

“I get a lot of questions from customers about how to engage with this new work force and what they’re looking for. There’s a lot of room for innovation out there, and innovation tends to start in the consumer market and move into the corporate one,” Thomas said.

The profile of those who use social computing speaks for itself. Forrester found in an Oct. 25 report that the biggest users of social technologies were highly paid professionals, well-educated individuals, and new entrants to the work force. The first group was the most active but also the hardest to recruit. In the latter group—new entrants—70 percent of Generation Y were found to be engaged in social networks and are expected to replace today’s business leaders at a relatively younger age.

“We are also in an environment where people are not working for GE for 25 years and then retiring, but switching jobs at a rapid pace. Learning experiences are very important to them, as is the ability to immediately contribute to the organization and not be weighed down by bureaucratic processes,” Thomas said.

Organizations often don’t know how or where to start using social technologies to recruit. Some may fear the level of transparency that accompanies a two-way conversation, and others have internal policies that prevent the use of social networks.

“I tell organizations to start doing this to the degree they are comfortable, and as they see the results, get it more and more ingrained in their culture,” Thomas said. “But if you express your corporate culture to be something it is not, you’ll get hung.”

While recruiters tend to agree that social technologies can be useful in locating professionals and making an initial contact, most caution against relying on them too heavily.

“Social networking sites and tools represent just one early step in a company’s overall hiring and recruiting process,” John Estes, vice president of Robert Half Technology, in Menlo Park, Calif., told eWEEK.

It still takes recruiters and hiring managers a lot of time to bring someone on board after that initial contact is made.

“There is no substitute for a real-life connection with a job seeker,” said Estes.

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