Recruiting and Retention: Marrying the “Wide Net” of Social Media with the Intimacy of Personal Referrals
March 07, 2012

Recruiting has fundamentally changed over the last decade thanks to the rise of social media sites that offer unprecedented capabilities for networking and finding jobs through friends and colleagues. In a world increasingly dominated by computer interaction and data analytics, it seems like everyone is trying to figure out the easy way to identify and manage their talent through technology. However, what some organizations have lost sight of is that finding a job is a very personal interaction and that relationships are the foundation for successful recruiting and retention.

While data and analytics can help identify those who have the right experience and skills for the job, they cannot recognize the soft characteristics.  Are these candidates great communicators?  What motivates them?  Are they respected by their peers?  Do they understand and work well with functions outside of their domains?  Do their personal values fit with the company’s values and culture? These soft questions can typically only be answered by the people who know them best–their friends and close working colleagues.

An effective in-house recruiter can help to marry the soft skills with the hard skills.  They drive consensus around what the hiring needs and priorities are, and the best recruiters will solicit help from their colleagues to provide referrals for open requisitions, which typically results in high-quality candidates.  They also can successfully drive the process so that candidates move quickly through interviews and decisions are made in a timely manner.  Finally—and perhaps most importantly— in-house recruiters develop an innate sense of the values and culture of a company and can quickly assess a candidate’s personality fit with the organization. It’s no accident that hiring people referred by current employees often works out better in the long run than hiring through an outside recruiter or job posting. That’s why many firms pay a finder’s fee to employees who bring their friends in the door.

One thing that has not changed in the 20+ years I’ve been recruiting—particularly for start-ups— is the importance of talent acquisition and management and the pain of failure when they don’t get it right. Many small companies just don’t have the time or resources to focus on recruiting. After all, they are often too swamped to do anything other than focus on building their products, services and business relationships.  Social networking technologies can play a vital role in helping identify and attract top-level candidates in an environment where speed is critical but time is short. The challenge is marrying the wide net of social media with the intimacy of personal referrals.

There are many tools today that can help link organizations to interesting candidates, but even after interviewing and checking references, employers are often uncertain about whether the people they are hiring will be good, long-term fits. BranchOut, an NVP portfolio company, offers an innovative way for recruiters to source their own referrals to find top candidates who will also be strong cultural fits for their company.

BranchOut is the largest professional network built on Facebook. BranchOut’s recruiting solutions allow users to tap into their extended Facebook networks to source candidates for jobs. This gives recruiters the ability to search through the networks of people to whom they are connected. They can simply connect to top employees and find candidates with similar backgrounds and skills in those employees’ networks in an effort to find their own referrals who will be long-term fits for their companies.

BranchOut’s recruiting solutions are unique because they recognize the value in accessing employees’ close networks of friends through their personal networks on Facebook – a website that many people have reserved for friends rather than professional colleagues – for recruiting purposes. These personal connections are essential because Facebook contacts typically know their friends much better than their connections on other social networking websites, such as LinkedIn.

If you are like me, you’ve probably drawn a “wall” between your personal and professional contacts by linking with business acquaintances on LinkedIn and close, personal friends on Facebook.  Because of this wall, I know that I’ve personally linked to many more people with whom I’ve met briefly but don’t know well on LinkedIn.  Have you ever been contacted to be a reference for someone who is a first degree connection in LinkedIn but you can only vaguely recall having met this person?  My guess is that if I asked you for a reference on someone who is a first degree connection on Facebook, you would be able to give a much more detailed recommendation!

This level of personal knowledge is far superior to a simple “skills-and-education” resume because it lets hiring organizations know that they are employing a candidate that will be a good fit beyond the hard skills that a position requires.

New layers of technology continue to emerge that not only enhance a job seeker’s social profile, but have the potential to showcase additional skills not visible on a standard resume. Through social empowerment tools like Twitter, Klout and Pinterest – to name a few – users are able to shape their own spheres of influence, by showcasing their personal brands, illustrating their marketable personality traits, or simply allowing greater insight into the person behind the resume.  Now more than ever, job seekers have the ability to seize control of their own career paths – a topic I will save for a future blog post. Stay tuned!

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