Over time, social media has expanded its user base from a small group of early adopters into what now can only be described as the online user. Today, there are 277 million LinkedIn members from more than 200 countries and territories.
Facebook recently celebrated its 10th birthday and reported more than 1.23 billion monthly users. Twitter, which recently reported its first ever IPO earnings, has 241 million active users each month. In other words, it’s safe to say social media is now mainstream.
It is only natural that recruiters who are in the business of people will want to tap into these rich sources of data when searching for a new candidate. Having said that, candidate information gained through social media must be handled with care to avoid being perceived as creepy.
Recruiters spend four to five hours a day on LinkedIn, according to a Wired.com article. According to a recent 2013 Jobvite Social Recruiting Survey, social recruiting is now used by 94 per cent of recruiters across all industries. Still, not all candidates live on LinkedIn and they do not always view their social media participation as work-related.
Understand your objective
Why are you utilising social media to learn more about your candidate? What is the appropriate medium to meet that objective? Are you looking to understand a candidate’s background or writing style, or are you assessing their cultural fit?
Understand the context
- What forms of social media are applicable to your company and/or the role you are recruiting for? Match this to the social media you are accessing to learn about your candidate.
- If you are researching candidates for a top marketing role, you probably want to understand the various tools they use to speak with customers today, and in this case, tapping into multiple social media sites makes sense.
Social media footprint
Just because you have found a candidate’s LinkedIn profile does not mean he or she is an active user or even understands the current privacy settings. Given the changes in privacy settings over the years, some LinkedIn users may not even know you can see their profile in the first instance.
Social media conversations
- Ease into the social media conversation. We all know speaking live with a person, or better yet looking at the whites of their eyes, is more valuable than the information on all social media sites put together.
- When you do speak with candidates, particularly when you are reaching for inactive candidates, ease into the conversation to feel out their view on how much information you should know about them.
- It may be tempting to launch into the killer question – “why did you move from Perth to Sydney in 2009 in the midst of the recession?” – but hold off for a bit and allow the conversation to develop.
The golden rule
When in doubt, do unto others as you would have others do unto you. The simple rule of social graces going back centuries is always a good default position. Put yourself in their shoes. If you are still uncertain, ask colleagues or friends their opinion on the creepiness factor. It is best to proceed carefully rather than risk alienating the perfect candidate you took the time to research.