2017 Trends in Recruiting via Social Media

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When HireRight published its first Employment Screening Benchmark Report ten years ago, we did not survey respondents about their use of social media. It seems odd now, but a decade ago, social media wasn’t even on the hiring map.

That’s changed quite a bit, as we’ve seen in HireRight’s 2017 Employment Screening Benchmark Report. Social media has become part of the fabric of talent management, and a critical one at that. Ignoring it today would be like running job postings exclusively in newspapers, or using only snail mail to correspond with job candidates.

The results from HireRight’s 10th Annual Benchmark report were revealing. We asked nearly 4,000 hiring professionals from 17 industries a variety of questions covering key issues, trends, and underlying business drivers affecting background check programs in U.S. organizations and compared these findings over the last decade. The report examines the latest trends and best practices in improving the candidate experience, compliance concerns, top priorities for hiring professionals, most significant challenges for 2017, and how companies today are utilizing social media in their hiring practices.

Rising Use of Social Media to Reach Candidates

According to Pew Research, 86 percent of 18-29 year-olds – the majority of today’s job market – use at least one social media site. They depend on it for communication, socializing, news, entertainment, and finding jobs. So it’s appropriate that HireRight’s 2017 Benchmark Report found that social networking was the fastest-growing means of recruiting, attracting or finding new hires; engaging prospective candidates via LinkedIn, Twitter and similar social media rose 10 percent in popularity over the previous year. Meanwhile, job boards – the most popular traditional digital means of reaching the job market – actually fell three percent.

In the vast transportation sector, the growing shortage of drivers is triggering companies to implement new tactics including using social media outreach to bolster driver recruitment and to attract a more diverse audience. In fact, HireRight’s 2017 Transportation Employment Screening Benchmark Report elicited surprising and profound results. The use of online job boards to attract new drivers fell a whopping 10 percent from our previous year’s survey, while social media’s utilization rose 13 percent. Use of print media fell six percent from last year. Sixty-three percent of transportation organizations with 500 or more employees engage in social media. It is HireRight’s belief that using social media and SEO to drive traffic to company websites will greatly improve a company’s chances of finding passive candidates.

HireRight’s Transportation Benchmark Report anticipated that likely trends for 2017 and beyond are the continued use of multi-channel social platforms, including the increased use of Snapchat, Instagram. Many companies may even add gamification to entice passive candidates.

Concerns about using Social Media for Background Checks

HireRight’s 2017 Benchmark Report revealed that only 11 percent of non-transportation companies use social media to conduct pre-hire background check. In the Transportation Sector, only nine percent of companies surveyed turn to social media when conducting pre-hire background checks. The decline in the practice is becoming widespread throughout other industries as well.

According to a 2013 survey conducted by industry authority SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management), the practice of using social media when considering a candidate for employment is declining. Twenty-two percent of respondents said they use social media websites such as Facebook and Instagram to review candidates, a drop from 34 percent in 2008. Seventy-four percent sited legal risks for avoiding using social.

The concerns are legitimate. When an employer peruses a candidate’s Facebook page, for example, the individual’s race, gender, age, political and religious views, and other personal information may become immediately apparent. Of course under federal, state and local laws, such information cannot be used to make an employment-based decision. Even so, if the candidate is not hired, he or she could challenge the decision citing the employer’s use of personal information obtained during the examination of the individual’s social media profiles.

Bear in mind that sites such as LinkedIn notify its members when their profile has been viewed and by whom.

More and more companies are deciding that even glancing at a candidate’s social media presence is simply not worth the risk.

Best Practices

Social media is not like older, more conventional forms of recruiting, and requires careful utilization. Best practices when using social media and online recruiting include:

  • Hire a social media expert to handle your outreach.
    • Having someone who consistently uses and fully understands both the various social media as well as the audience you want to reach is vital. Talk the talk and walk the walk.
  • Relate, don’t just recruit.
    • Social media users have become quite knowledgeable and suspicious of pandering. Relationships are important. Respecting their individuality, need for privacy, and interest in more than just “a job” will allow them to feel more comfortable with you interest in them.
  • Let candidates get to know you before they apply.
    • Don’t make your outreach just about the job; tell them about why your company would be a great place to work and the work you’ve done beyond making a profit.
  • Use social media to strengthen relationships with people already on your team, not just to recruit new ones.
    • Have co-workers follow your pages, post photos and engage in the conversation. Candidates will feel more confident if among your “friends” are people who look and act like them. In addition, your employees will see your online, engaging social face.
  • Avoid using a sales pitch.
    • If you really want to generate acceptance and interest in your organization, create compelling content – publish stories, post photos/videos that give prospects an inside look at your company culture, and demonstrate that you know who they are and what drives them. Avoid simply relating how wonderful your company is; discuss its corporate conscience, giving back to the community, efforts to protect the environment, and other facets that may create a more favorable impression.
  • Engage analytics to measure your success.
    • There are a number of means to gauge how well your social media program is doing. Evaluate this information carefully, fine-tuning your program as it evolves. Beyond counting the number of applicants responding to your outreach, see how well your messages are being seen. Are some days or hours more successful than others? Are certain words or types of messages resonating more than others? Social media has become a very rich science with a wealth of information available that, when applied properly, can significantly increase your program’s success.
  • Don’t rely exclusively on social media
    • While social media is extremely popular, no everyone uses it. It may be prudent to use it within a mix of recruitment media.

Further, recruiters will need to actively engage with their marketing departments to effectively brand and craft messages to define their company’s unique value proposition. Sharing compelling content is imperative to attract candidates, such as photos, videos, awards, event, and your company’s charity work.

Today it’s all about the candidate. Mapping out the candidate journey, along with candidate analytics will be used to understand what content influences someone to apply and accept a position.

Using social media to engage and attract qualified candidates continues to gain acceptance and may be preferred for select positions over more traditional recruiting sources. Understanding its potential is becoming universal but learning how best to use it and reach the vast job market depending on social media demands a new and thorough realization of how to best use it for optimal results.

Download: The 2017 Employment Screening Benchmark Report
The 10th Annual HireRight Employment Screening Benchmark Report

The most comprehensive global survey of its kind – providing 10 years of insight on industry best practices.

Get Your Copy Now!


Lewis Lustman

Lewis Lustman is a content marketer who enjoys developing materials that engage, inform, challenge, and hopefully entertain my audience. Lewis is a former journalist for Los Angeles Magazine and the Los Angeles Times, and has worked for a number of leading advertising, marketing, technology, and PR firms over the years. Interested in a topic that he hasn't yet tackled? Drop him a line in the comments section!

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