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social media recruitment (social media recruiting)

What is social media recruitment (social media recruiting)?

Social media recruitment, or social media recruiting, is the process of using social media platforms to identify, engage and vet people the organization might want to hire.

This human resource (HR) practice, which is also sometimes called social hiring or simply social recruiting, uses social media sites and other internet options, such as blogs, to reach potential job candidates.

The ubiquity of social media has prompted HR departments to develop social media recruiting strategies and include them as a formal part of their organization's human capital management strategies.

Employers can use social media recruiting to reach a wider pool of candidates and target them more effectively than is possible using traditional recruiting efforts. Recruiting via social media can also be more cost-effective than conventional recruitment methods, such as on-campus events and in-person job fairs, which often require travel, several hours to set up and staff.

An employer's talent acquisition strategy and the number and types of platforms it uses in its recruitment efforts affect how effectively an organization can find the right mix of potential candidates. Many social media sites let HR professionals easily tailor messages to each candidate group.

To pursue social media recruiting, organizations create a presence on social media sites as a way to bolster their brand, showcase their corporate culture and, ultimately, interest people in applying for jobs. They launch paid media campaigns in which social media networks target ads to people identified as being most interested in the messaging -- using an organic or nonpaid approach or a combination of the two.

HR leaders consider such tactics a way to more effectively and efficiently attract both active and passive job candidates. Active candidates are looking for work; passive candidates aren't trying to find new jobs, but are receptive to opportunities.

The emergence of social media recruiting in the first two decades of the 21st century tracks with the rise of social media itself. Employers quickly recognized that vast numbers of working-age individuals -- particularly those in the millennial generation and later Generation Z as that cohort entered the workforce -- spend significant time on social media sites. Sprout Social estimates there are 5.17 billion total users of social media worldwide, and these users spend approximately 143 minutes per day on social media.

Top social media platforms and the number of users.
Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp continue to be three of the most popular social media platforms, but there are other platforms people regularly use.

The growth of both social media and social media recruiting has similarly given rise to HR professionals who specialize in this area. The symbiotic relationship between social media and enterprise recruiting efforts also means that social media platforms now make recruitment features and tools available to organizations. Additionally, HR professionals can use third-party software to manage, enhance and support their social media recruitment activities.

Why use social media for recruitment?

Individuals looking for jobs might follow companies on social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, search for job postings on websites such as Indeed, or use review sites like Glassdoor to find employer and salary information and learn more about what it's like to work at a specific company.

Many job candidates today use social media to look for employment opportunities, giving many organizations an additional avenue to include social media in their recruitment strategies.

Organizations, whether currently actively hiring or anticipating it in the future, can increase their visibility and brand awareness by using different social media channels.

Doing so enables enterprise leaders, recruiters and HR managers to position their organizations as positive places to work. Organizations can use their social media platforms to highlight, for example, their corporate culture, great benefits or a strong promote-from-within policy -- which might further entice job candidates to apply.

Using social media platforms also increases the chance of reaching passive job candidates. Posting on social media frequently helps make an organization more visible to passive candidates. Social media also lets organizations create easy channels for prospective candidates and job seekers to interact with them, thereby smoothing the recruitment process.

Because social media platforms have such a wide reach, organizations can use them to find potential candidates for more niche positions that might be traditionally hard to fill. Hiring organizations can also boost their posts so that more people see them, and control some of the metrics to influence who sees them.

However, social media recruiting hasn't fully replaced job boards, advertising on corporate websites and other conventional recruitment methods. For example, the job search engine Indeed also doubles as a job board. As opposed to replacing these methods, social media recruiting is supplementing them.

HR leaders must acknowledge that they need to meet workers where they are if they hope to reach the broadest and best pool of potential employees.

Benefits of using social media over traditional recruiting

Recruiting using social media platforms offers the following benefits when compared to traditional recruiting methods:

  • Reaches a wider talent pool. Social media lets recruiters reach more people and increases the likelihood they will pinpoint the right candidates who have the exact credentials they're seeking. The vast reach of the internet means a strategic social media recruitment effort can reach millions, and theoretically, it can do so nearly instantaneously.
  • Offers more features. Social media platforms generally offer advanced search capabilities, filters, boosts to posts and automated suggestions that organizations can use to broaden or narrow their search.
  • Gathers active and passive candidates. Social media lets recruiters spread information about job openings and the organization to both passive and active candidates. Traditional recruiting methods, such as online job boards or advertisements, most often engage only active candidates who are looking for that information.
  • Increases recruiters' reach through employees. Social media lets recruiters use other people -- namely, fellow employees, professional connections and associations -- to amplify their messages through online networking. Contrast those capabilities with traditional recruitment methods, such as cold-calling potential candidates and employee referrals, that rely on the time-consuming process of making one-on-one connections.
  • Lower cost per hire. Social media enables these broad yet targeted capabilities at a lower cost than conventional methods such as job fairs and generic advertising campaigns.
  • Increases employer brand awareness. Social media lets an organization share its company culture and job postings, building more positive brand awareness.

How social media recruiting works

A generalized process for using social media for recruitment purposes might follow these steps:

  1. Identify the organization's recruitment goals. Outline what positions need to be filled, as well as what metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) the organization wishes to record. Set recruitment goals such as increasing a job posting's reach, engagement or number of applicants.
  2. Choose the most relevant social media platforms. Each social media platform has its own advantages, disadvantages, communication methods and audience. An organization would be less likely to fill senior-level positions when using a platform with a statistically younger audience like TikTok, for example.
  3. Build a social media presence. An organization should have a social media presence before reaching out to potential candidates. This can give individuals a sense of what the organization's culture is like, and whether it's a place they would like to apply. An organization must also decide on a brand voice and its messaging to ensure it's consistent across other platforms.
  4. Outline the application process. When an open position needs to be filled, recruiters can create posts on their respective social media accounts -- customized to fit each platform -- to inform their followers of an open position. Recruiters should also provide clear guidelines for how interested parties should apply. Outlining the application process can help accelerate the overall hiring process. For example, a post about an open position could also request that interested applicants email a hiring manager and include a resume.

Organizations also have a variety of tools available to help them further expand or narrow their search, to keep track of KPIs or to keep track of applicants.

The tools needed to navigate the vast social media universe range from rudimentary to advanced. Some products do little more than help users discover a candidate's contact information. But there are also platforms that have incorporated machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to narrow searches, target messages and generate leads.

Some vendors specialize in locating passive candidates. Their software takes relevant candidate data collected from multiple sources and creates a single profile view that can be integrated into a recruiter's applicant tracking system.

AI can use job descriptions to find people on social media who might meet requirements and then rank them. It's then up to the employer to reach out to these passive candidates to see if they want to talk about jobs.

Contacting passive candidates via social media recruiting can require some finessing. One capability that many vendors offer is automated checks of current employees to see if anyone has a connection to a candidate -- for example, if they once worked in the same organization. Such an approach can be coupled with an employee referral program.

LinkedIn, for example, offers tools for identifying passive candidates. Its Talent Insights analytics can help companies identify potential targets for talent poaching. The tool can also estimate attrition rates and the demand for employees with certain skill sets by measuring the volume of LinkedIn InMail.

Other social media sites have also developed tools to help employers. Facebook, for example, developed a business strategy to help companies create recruiting sites. It worked with Marriott International, a hospitality company that was using Facebook in its social media recruiting strategy, to create a careers chatbot that worked with Facebook Messenger. This virtual assistant for job seekers converses with and guides people to jobs they might find interesting. A job seeker could ask the chatbot: "Do you have event manager job openings in Chicago?" and the bot would provide a response and direct the person to applicable ads.

Which social media platforms to use and how

For many recruiters, LinkedIn remains the center of their social media universe. According to the web service Jobscan, 87% of recruiters use LinkedIn for sourcing and vetting job candidates.

However, that statistic doesn't mean all job seekers use LinkedIn. It only means that recruiters value LinkedIn as a resource. Job seekers -- in particular, younger people -- use a variety of social media platforms. This means that recruiters must have a way to reach them.

Examples of social media platforms to recruit on include the following:

  • Facebook. As a social media site, Facebook lets recruiters and employers post job openings. Posts usually include text, images and video. Although a mix of generations use Facebook, demographics tend to skew to older audiences.
  • Instagram. Similar to Facebook, recruiters can post jobs on Instagram. Features like regular image posts, Reels and Stories can be used to build a sense of the company's culture or brand. Content posted on Instagram mostly centers around images and short-form videos. Even though a mix of generations use Instagram, it's used more by younger audiences.
  • LinkedIn. LinkedIn is designed primarily for professional networking. It has a mix of older and younger generations, and its posts include mainly text and images.
  • Snapchat. Snapchat lets users engage with posts with hashtags. Organizations can use Snapchat to build their brand image or to share details about recruitment. Content on this platform focuses on images and video, with a typically younger target demographic.
  • TikTok. This platform enables targeted campaigns and includes features such as #TikTok Resumes, which encourages users to post video resumes for prospective employers. Posts on TikTok focus on short video content. This platform has a younger demographic audience.
  • X (formerly Twitter). Advanced search functions on this platform are more limited; however, recruiters can use hashtags to find relevant parties. Content posted on this platform includes text, images and videos. X users belong to different age demographics but it typically has a younger audience.

These large social media sites aren't the only worthwhile targets. There are talented people who are more engaged on sites that fill both social media and professional needs. This includes Dribbble, a community for designers, and the software development platform GitHub.

It's important to note, too, that people tend to group online based on personal affinities or shared interests and gravitate to social media platforms that cater or appeal to their particular interests. For example, X and Reddit tend to draw users who want to engage in dialogue -- or at least share their ideas -- on current happenings, while Pinterest tends to bring in more visually-minded people who create communities around shared ideas.

Successful social media recruiters understand that such distinctions between sites can help them develop messaging that matches the types of engagements typical to each platform, which is key to generating interest and discussion. They also know when to limit or avoid recruiting on platforms where the activities are contrary to the organization's brand, image or values.

Good recruiters also know how to take advantage of the different sites' tools to engage potential candidates most effectively. They cultivate a positive presence for their organizations on social media sites so professionals can learn about and engage with the organization beyond the online recruitment activities.

Moreover, successful recruiters monitor the social media market to identify emerging platforms that could become important additions to their recruitment marketing strategy, as well as watch for shifts in use that could affect the usefulness of social media as a recruitment vehicle.

Metrics and measuring social recruiting

Recruiters can determine the effectiveness of their work by using KPIs and other metrics, including the following:

  • Profile views. This metric shows how many individual people have viewed a profile.
  • Connections and followers. These are the people who are likely to see and respond to posts.
  • Mentions and tags. This is when someone tags an account by their name in a post, comment or reply.
  • Click-through rate. This measures how much traffic the social media activity drives to the organization's online employment page or other linked content.
  • Impressions. This is the number of people who see a post in their feed.
  • Reach. This is the total number of people who have seen a post.
  • Engagement. This is the amount of people interacting with posted content. This includes comments, likes, mentions and shares.
  • Endorsements and recommendations. These are LinkedIn features that can help candidates stand out.
  • Brand sentiment. This is the main attitude people have about a brand. This can be measured using sentiment analysis tools. A negative sentiment means it will be harder to hire individuals.
  • Audience growth rate. This measures how quickly a profile's follower count rises.

Common social recruiting challenges

Although people often take a casual approach to using social media sites, recruiters must be strategic about using such platforms. But that's easier said than done.

Common challenges include the following:

  • Finding and retaining recruiters who are experienced or skilled in using social media platforms to attract candidates.
  • Developing and funding a comprehensive strategy where online recruiting efforts align and work well with the organization's overall branding effort.
  • Maintaining ongoing engagement with professional communities and potential candidates at the right level without draining or diverting resources from more fruitful recruiting work.
  • Using employee networks and other professional networks fully and effectively with the organization's traditional HR recruitment.
  • Boosting posts might become too cost-intensive over time.
  • Organizations need to be creative to stand out from other companies.

Social recruiting mistakes: What not to do

Recruiters who use social media should be mindful of actions that can backfire and lead to poor online engagement with potential candidates or, worse, the loss of promising leads.

The following are some social media recruiting mistakes to avoid:

  • Bombarding potential candidates with messages.
  • Only posting job openings.
  • Not using the right hashtags.
  • Failing to monitor brand sentiment.
  • Failing to encourage the sharing of posts.
  • Creating inconsistent or even contradictory messages in the information posted on the organization's website and social media platforms.
  • Posting the same content on different platforms instead of customizing posts to fit each platform.
  • Being overly active or inactive with engagement efforts.
  • Misunderstanding or overlooking the attributes of ideal candidates, as well as where and how best to reach them on social media.
  • Failing to provide user-friendly pathways to move from social media platforms to the application process.

Effective social media recruitment strategies

HR leaders agree that there's no single formula for effectively finding job candidates through social media. However, several recruiters cited similar ideas on how to succeed in this endeavor, saying effective social media strategies include the following actions:

  • Setting specific goals for each social media campaign, such as building awareness of the company and its workplace culture in anticipation of future hiring, filling open positions as quickly as possible or both.
  • Choosing a list of social media channels to use to reach the right audience.
  • Creating posts that position the information an organization wants to convey in a format that fits the platform's overall flow yet also stands out enough to be noticed.
  • Implementing a multichannel approach.
  • Customizing and personalizing where possible and appropriate.
  • Providing clear, concise and direct information, as well as easy follow-up options.
  • Encouraging the organization's employees to get involved, as strong candidates are commonly found through referrals.
  • Optimizing social profiles for searches to increase the chance of finding passive candidates.
  • Recording metrics to measure the effectiveness of social media use based on the organization's objectives. For example, monitoring click-through rates can be an effective metric for a campaign meant to bolster awareness of the organization and company culture, but conversions and cost per applicant might be more meaningful metrics for recruitment campaigns launched to bring in applicants for open positions.
  • Focusing on building networks, followers and professional relationships -- even when there are no open positions to fill. These can help raise the company's profile, amplify recruitment efforts and connect potential applicants to the company.
  • Creating a plan to deal with trolls and other negative reactions to posts and online activity.
List of 10 strategies for creating a social media recruiting program.
A successful social media recruiting strategy includes these steps.

Examples of notable social media recruitment strategies

Various organizations, such as HR, recruiting associations and software vendors recognize effective social media recruitment campaigns. Examples of notable social media recruitment efforts include the following:

  • ADP won the 2021 Rally Award for best social careers channel in part for its 12% increase in application clicks from organic social posts.
  • U.K.-based recruitment agency Zenopa won the 2022 award for innovative use of social media in the recruitment process from Onrec, a daily recruitment and HR news business. Zenopa won for an apprenticeship video.
  • UPS has been recognized as an early adopter of social media use in recruiting, promoting its own stories on various channels, as well as its own website.

There are many current social media recruitment trends, such as the use of AI, boosting employee well-being and taking remote work into account. Learn about these social media recruitment trends.

This was last updated in March 2024

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