Social Media's Effect on Hiring Remains a Question Mark

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While social media outlets appear to be changing the way employers identify and recruit job applicants, the impact and long-range implications of social media on staffing functions remain unclear. According to the 10th Annual Sources of Hire Study released by CareerXroads on March 17, 2011, more than 88 percent of employers responding to a survey reported that they consider social media to be a part of their overall direct-sourcing efforts.

The question seems to be just how integral social media sites are to employers’ recruiting functions. And the answer to that question appears to be: All over the board, according to Gerry Crispin, principal and chief navigator for CareerXroads, a recruiting and staffing consulting firm in Kendall Park, N.J.

In the Sources of Hire survey, respondents were asked to list the percentage of new hires who were identified by or who used social media in some way to get their new jobs. The survey responses varied widely, indicating that most employers are still trying to understand how social media outlets are used in recruiting and hiring efforts, Crispin said.

“Some of the respondents stated that social media played a part in only 2 or 3 percent of their new hires, and other respondents reported that social media sites were used in some way in 50 to 60 percent of their hiring decisions,” he said. “When you have numbers that widely divergent, I think it clearly shows that employers are struggling to understand the real impact of social media.”

Crispin and other staffing professionals say social media is here to stay and will have a major impact on the way employers identify, recruit and hire job applicants.

“We are just starting to understand the effect of social media, and I believe social media has the potential to fundamentally change the way everyone communicates, not just as individuals but also the communications of business,” Crispin said. “Look at it this way: If you asked hiring managers or recruiters now if they use a telephone or e-mail in their hiring decisions, they’d probably think you’re crazy for asking such a dumb question. But ask the same question 60 or 70 years ago about phones, or 20 years ago about e-mail, and you would get a much different answer. I think the same applies to social media and the impact on the way we communicate.”

Crispin said that staffing experts and businesses have only begun to understand how to use social media effectively, and that the landscape of social media is changing just as rapidly and radically as the technology that supports and makes social media outlets possible. He advised recruiters and HR managers to be wary of anyone who claims to be an expert on how to use social media in recruiting and hiring efforts.

“We are all students here and are just beginning to learn how it will work,” Crispin said. “Someone who claims to have all the answers most likely won’t.”

Other results of the Sources of Hire study include that almost two-thirds of job openings are filled through internal hires and referrals. Referrals were the No. 1 source of hires; 27.5 percent of jobs were filled through referrals made by co-workers and colleagues. The study revealed that employment websites and job boards account for nearly one-quarter of all external hires made by the survey respondents.

“Some experts and news articles have claimed that job boards are dead or dying. I think our study’s results clearly dispute that claim,” Crispin said.

Crispin said that the study shows clearly that there is not just one source of hire for employers. Employers must use all or some of these sources to identify and recruit the best job applicants. But the combination of these sources and how employers use them depends on the organization, he said.

“What might work for one company won’t fit well with another, so employers need to find what works best for them,” Crispin said. “The purpose of our study is to help point employers in the right direction so that they can make educated choices when developing their hiring plans.”

Bill Leonard is a senior writer for SHRM.