Here’s How Recruiters are Evolving Alongside Social Media

It would be a mistake to think that social media is about to eliminate or reduce the need for professional executive search services. To take best advantage of the available tools, however, recruiters must continue to evolve with social media, says Brussels-based search firm Hightech Partners. Let’s go inside the latest thinking.

May 30, 2018 – Over the last 50 years, technology has fundamentally changed the way people live. With every new medium, the scope and impact of technology becomes broader and more pervasive than before.

Today, the combined effect of mobile communications and the availability of the internet have made it so that we feel an urgency to be connected anytime and anywhere.

Along the way, the degree of separation between people has been largely reduced despite a substantial growth in the world’s population.

For hiring managers, the access to potential future leaders through social networks, and in particular to professional ones like LinkedIn, Viadeo (mainly in French-speaking countries), Xing (mainly in German-speaking countries), Zoominfo (mainly in the U.K.), Experteer, Spoke, Naymz and others provides a tremendous opportunity for companies to find candidates. Some people, in fact, wonder if such networks stand to eliminate or reduce the need for professional executive search firms altogether.

Not so fast, according to Hightech Partners, an executive recruitment firm based in Brussels. Even with social media, executive search firms perform any number of invaluable services that such networks could never deliver. “The common thinking is that these systems simplify the search activity which was performed by headhunters through their internal databases, sourcing and word of mouth,” said Hightech Partners in a recent report. “As a repository of executives, they do constitute a precious source of information. However, in actual fact, identifying people can still prove to be quite challenging. There is still the need to screen and qualify the substantial number of leads that can surface from such a vast population, and there are several pitfalls in identifying the right candidates.”

Profile Pitfalls

Among those shortcomings, public profiles vary in the level of details provided, either from a career history standpoint and/or from a content description perspective, said the search firm. Titles in many profiles, for example, are often misleading. And the profiles themselves are frequently out of date.

What’s more, few would-be prospects provide compensation information, a major factor in qualifying the level of potential interest an individual might have in considering a new job, said Hightech Partners. And though some networks do indicate the candidate’s willingness to consider a career move, this can be misleading. An individual might very well have simply forgotten to tick the box. Nor should one forget that the best candidates often tend to be those who are happy in their current role.

Another shortcoming of social networks like LinkedIn is that very few individuals highlight their soft skills or areas of expertise in their profile, said the search firm. And while recommendations are normally a good way of cross referencing, most of the time such recommendations are reciprocal, and it’s unlikely that one would fail to recommend someone that is offering to reference them. As a result, further checking is required. What’s more, social networks provide no indication of psychometric assessment, making it difficult to judge whether the candidate has a personality profile that matches the requirements.

Confidentiality and Privacy

“As usual, the excess of information poses the same problem that search engines have to address – the relevance of the search criteria – with the difference that when it comes to human beings and professionals, there are confidentiality and privacy issues that come into play,” said Hightech Partners. This has recently caused major problems for Google, which had to change its privacy policy, and to Facebook, which had a major data leak that put CEO Mark Zuckerberg on the hot seat with Congress. The introduction of the E.U.’s General Data Protection Regulation (commonly known as GDPR) will have further impact.


Social Media Continues to Play Big Role in Recruiting
New research from Totaljobs Group has revealed that 74% of interviewers will check candidates’ social media as part of their interview preparation. This is in contrast to the expectations of candidates, however, as only 36% expect their social media to be screened, meaning many could be caught short online.


Once candidates have been identified, the challenge of contacting them begins. The easiest and cheapest approach is to ask for a connection on one of the social media websites, said the search firm. But most sites won’t allow such communication unless one already has some type of link to the individual being targeted – a former colleague, a schoolmate, etc.

“Having a broad real – and virtual – network will also help to acquire introductions to an even larger network,” said Hightech Partners. “Once you have acquired the virtual link to the individuals you are targeting, one can use, at a price, the messaging capability of the social network system to communicate with the candidates. But at this point, confidentiality is lost, and one can be perceived as poaching competitors and/or partners if you are a corporate recruiter.”

Real World Experience

To use social networking tools to one’s best advantage, it is necessary to be well acquainted with the industry of the targeted candidate and to have a track record and network in the real world, said Hightech Partners. Although corporate recruiters tend to be smart and well educated, they can lack the specialized business knowledge and understanding to make sound decisions about the candidates they are meeting.

Related: Expanding Role of Social Media In Finding Talent to Rise Sharply

An efficient and specialized executive search firm, on the other hand, is well prepared to meet the challenges that social media presents, said Hightech Partners. First, consultants will have the network and therefore have access to broader populations than corporate recruiters on social media. What’s more, executive recruiters can guarantee confidentiality both to the firm and to potential candidates.

They can also create an intimacy with the candidate that can be key to the success of the search. “The consultant is most of the time perceived by the candidate as an objective career counsel who has an interest to help both him and the client to take the right decision,” said the search firm.

Selling the Job

Further, consultants can assess the value of the candidates according to their level of business or functional experience, assessing personalities, required competences and skills.

Related: What Candidates Want. Shifting Priorities for Job Seekers

“One of the most relevant tasks of the headhunter is in fact ‘selling’ the job to a candidate, especially when he or she is perfectly happy in the current position and not willing to consider a move,” said Hightech Partners. “From this standpoint, using an external consultant offers a crucial advantage: The company doesn’t have to cope with a refusal, while a candidate feels comfortable in being open and express his standpoint, as he or she is in generally interested in remaining on the radar screen of the search firm in case of a more compelling job with another client or changing circumstances.”


How Job Seekers Can Cultivate a Social Media Presence and Win Big Opportunities
A growing number of employers are using social media and Internet searches to screen candidates before hiring, according to a recent poll. But that doesn’t mean job seekers should abandon their Facebook and Instagram accounts.


Also important are the seniority and subject matter expertise that executive search firms bring to the process. Nor should it be forgotten how many time-consuming tasks an executive search firm performs: identifying candidates, contacting them, developing them, following up on meetings, thorough independent evaluation, providing meeting feedback, reference checking and more. “The use of social networks doesn’t change that,” said Hightech Partners.

A Need to Evolve

For all its strengths, the executive search industry must continue to evolve with the further development of social media usage, said Hightech Partners. It is essential, for instance, to continually improve the tools used in order to reduce the response time in introducing a shortlist. “Except for a few very highly specialized jobs, a turn-around time of more than six weeks is no longer acceptable,” said the search firm. “Interviewing tools will continue to evolve: The quality of online video communications will likely enable more interviews to take place over the internet versus in person, saving time and money.”

Related: More Companies Using Social Media to Reject Job Candidates

The quality and content of status reports, candidate shortlists, candidate reports, have to enable the hiring manager to effectively use his time and be in the position to take an informed decision as quickly as possible, given the speed to which the companies have to adapt to an ever-changing competitive environment. “Reports have to be to the point and precise,” said Hightech Partners. “Clients might wish to monitor the advancement of the search process in real-time, in which case a reserved access to the Search Firm Cloud Based Information System can be granted. Easy recording capabilities may enrich the way to introduce candidates to clients.”

It is also essential that recruiters develop a competence in the specific customer industry in order to better qualify the candidates’ network and perform effective and thorough reference checking, which is difficult for most companies’ internal recruitment departments.

Executive search firms should further focus on quality rather than volume. “For middle management positions, hiring managers will continue to tap into their own networks to approach candidates directly without even involving HR in the identification phase,” said Hightech Partners. “Therefore, either search firms will on one hand, only be involved for roles which are particularly strategic, or confidential, or, on the other become business process outsourcers.”

Related: Social Media Making New Inroads In Hiring Process

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Will Schatz, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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