Traditional recruiting methods have served well in the past to deliver the resources companies need to achieve their business goals. Social media recruitment is increasingly becoming the space where companies turn to source the best talent, very much as an extension of the traditional referral programs. Additionally, social media today is heavily used by companies and recruitment professionals to promote their brands.

The most common social media portals are LinkedIn, Xing, Experteer, although there are plenty others that are focused on niche profiles. An Adecco study in 2014 reports that 5 out of 10 job seekers use social media for job search purposes and 7 out of 10 recruiters use social media for their daily HR activities.

Companies and professional recruiters  need to be where candidates are in order to engage them in the recruitment process. Initial contact with candidates through Social media can be fast, efficient and cost effective. Using this method alone however, takes the personal note out of relationship building and candidate identification. It is therefore unlikely to completely replace the traditional recruitment methods in the near future.

Initial contact with candidates through social media can be fast, efficient and cost effective.

The Landscape Before Social Media Recruitment

In the past, to recruit employees, companies would simply advertise jobs in the local press; engage a professional recruitment consultant or, more recently, post jobs online via the company website or on popular job boards. This passive approach of recruiting will no longer be actively used. Today hiring managers and professional recruiters find that they need to be more proactive in their approach, by engaging with talent across a wide range of social networking platforms. Essentially, companies and professional recruiters need to be where their candidates are in order to engage them in the recruitment process.

Recruitment Transformed Today

Recruiting today is proactive. Some sources report a large  increase in the time spent on social media sites. More than half of UK job seekers use social media sites in their job search, including Facebook and LinkedIn.

A major differentiator here is the way professional recruiters communicate with candidates and the level of trust they are able to create in this digital world.

Another question arising is this – if all of these candidates are online waiting to be approached, why do companies need to engage a professional recruitment consultant to find them? The candidate database in effect becomes public, and some would argue, the recruiter becomes obsolete.

Although there are some claims that social networking might replace the CV, candidates and employees are constantly being advised to be selective in which information they place online. Online profiles don’t necessarily present an accurate picture of the individual. Both candidates and employers have to be cautious about the content of online profiles. There is always a need for personal communication to bridge the gaps. Candidates therefore might feel more secure if they are being represented by a professional recruiter, and are willing to share relevant information in a confidential transaction.

The employer’s perspective is different. Not all employees are activity looking for a new role and these individuals are also usually the most sought after candidates. Employers are aware of this and therefore, in some cases, are urging employees not to promote themselves too effectively online, as they can essentially become vulnerable to be excessively approached. Furthermore, it doesn’t factor the importance of  candidate referrals into the recruitment process. There is also a hidden cost in the time you have to invest to get results.

However, even with all these opportunities in social media, it’s all about building real personal relationships.

However, even with all these opportunities in social media, it’s all about building real personal relationships. The relationships shared between consultants and senior executives are, however, no longer exclusive to those two parties. With the arrival of social media, professional relationships have been democratized. Recruitment firms, many argue, will have to add real value in order to survive.

What Social Media Recruitment Means for Recruitment Professionals

The recruiter therefore has a key role to play. Value can be added by becoming an expert in using social media to source the right candidates. This can be achieved by going beyond a simple database search and developing search strategies across many different interactive platforms (blogs, webinars, and social networking sites) and engage appropriately with the desired individuals.

It is most likely that traditional recruitment methods will continue to be complemented by  technology based recruitment methods. Ultimately, however, success will be measured by the quality of the shortlist. This is only achieved after a robust identification, interview and evaluation process.

As social media technology continues to evolve and become more widespread, it presents an exciting opportunity for the recruitment industry over the next decade. Recent research (by Jobvite 2010) highlights that LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are the most popular sites used by hiring professionals. Others include Xing and Experteer. These sites can generally be used in three ways – to search for candidates, to post jobs and for employer branding.

This phenomena has been extremely accelerated by  the wider adoption of Smartphones. The number of smartphones in use globally was 2 billion in 2016 and expected to be 3 billion in 2020 ( Recruiters are beginning to look at ways in which to extend their services to the mobile device through the development of apps, or taking advantage of popular location based tools such as Four Square as another recruitment channel: posting jobs and seeking referrals through a specific location network.

With the advent of social media, the world of work and jobs has changed forever. Social media is here to stay and employers can gain a significant advantage by adopting hiring methods that have a social media element.

Limitations of Social Media Recruitment

Social media, however, isn’t for everyone. There are a number of limitations associated with its use within a recruitment context. Although, as an employer, some quick gains can be achieved; using this method exclusively for recruitment, particularly at the executive level, misses out the relationship building and the robust selection and assessment  of individuals, which, if overlooked, undermine the process overall.

No one is more aware and engaged in social media than a recruitment consultant – the advantages are obvious

No one is more aware and engaged in social media than a recruitment consultant – the advantages are obvious. Rather than recognising social media as a recruitment solution (where the recruiter becomes obsolete) employers are instead realizing that they need to work more closely with the experts in order to get their hiring right first time – not making the mistake of investing a significant amount of time and resource into social media and not getting a return on their investment.

There is no doubt that social media has improved the recruitment process by making it more open and democratic; increasing the visible talent pool from which to engage and recruit. Having an intimate knowledge of someone’s capabilities or knowing who the best person for a role is, however, can only be gained through personal knowledge of an individual and of a particular industry sector. You can’t simply rely on who may or may not have an online profile and also that the information contained on it is true.

It is unlikely therefore, that social media will replace the traditional recruitment methods in the near future. As a conclusion we can state:

  • Recruiting agencies and executive search firms will benefit from social media as they can operate faster and base their search on much more relialable information.
  • However social media will never substititute recruiting agencies and executive search firms.
  • Recruiting agencies and executive search firms have to focus on their core competencies and improve them by adding value to the recruiting process

Recruiting agencies and executive search firms that are able to add value will be able to survive in the war for talent acquisition. Social media is just one of the tools to be used for this in the next decade.

There is a strong need for professional recruiting agencies and executive search firms to focus on core competencies and quality and to add value to the recruiting process for their customers (the employers) by taking into consideration the following topics:

  • Recruiting is complex and there is no easy way to solve difficult problems. Therefore we can’t reduce the recruiting process to a simple automizable matching process of features and functions of candidates whilst using social media or other techniques. There is still a strong need for a deeper understanding of business processes and challenges of employers where candidates to be hired have to perfectly fit in. This can only be provided by high quality recruiting agencies and executive search firms.
  • To engage with individuals to be hired (candidates) there is a strong need for building personal and serious relationships with mutual benefits to candidates. Those relationships are either initial or long term in nature.  If a candidate is alredy part of a multi year grown personal network of the recruiter those candidates can be easily approached in an atmosphere of personal aquaintance and trust. If a candiate is not yet known to the recruiter then social media might be helpul to setup initial contacts. However in a world where everybody can approch candidates that way, the quality of the intial contact is key, to get in contact and to keep candidates  engaged during a multiple year relationship of trust. This role can only be carried out by recruiting agencies and executive search firms who provide a neutral and objective coaching role for their candidates.
  • First impression of candiates by their future employers is important. Recuiters can play an important role as a moderator or facilitator in thie process. Recruiters can help candidates to create a best first impression in the presentation phase by helping them to provide transparent and professional application documents and help them to be optimally prepared for interviews.
  • The big advantange for the employer is to receive prequalified candidates from the recuiter that perfectly fit his requirements. So no need to screen hundreds of CV´s but to really focus on a handful of preselected candidates for the first interview.
  • In the interview process, the first interview will be followed by one or more interviews with respective feedback process. This will lead to an optimized process with qualified feedback loops. And in the end the company will hire the ideal candidates and expensive personal fluctuation will be reduced.

So the answer to the question “What is the impact of social media on traditional recruiting?” is not easy to be given in one sentence as this article demonstrates. It will definitively change the process of the initial contact and engagment between individulals. However, social media will not be able to substitute the personal contact and the ability to establish a level of trust between individuals and to provide coaching between them. This will remain the domain of professional high quality recruiters that provide this value proposition to their customers.


Written by Dr. Peter Dienst
January 2017 – Stuttgart, Germany.

Managing Director, IT-Personalberatung Dr. Dienst & Wenzel GmbH & Co. KG

CSA Germany

Headquarter: Curiestr. 2 | 70563 Stuttgart | Germany

Locations in Germany: Hamburg, Dortmund, Köln, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, München