Don’t Be a Social Recruiting Zombie: Etiquette tips for the savvy recruiter

Screen Shot 2013-08-28 at 12.13.54 PMNobody likes a zombie. Even if it’s a zombie bearing a job opportunity.

But with the rise of social recruiting channels, many recruiters find themselves transitioning from a more formal candidate-recruiter interaction mode to something more akin to the wild, wild, west … where the etiquette and norms haven’t been 100 percent fleshed out yet.

And as such, recruiters find themselves trying to adapt to a new venue with its, own evolving set of norms.

Don’t be a zombie. Be human and thoughtful.

Although it may seem very much a “duh” suggestion, a good rule of thumb for social recruiting is to act like someone at a nice lunch networking event.

Be polite. Be thoughtful. Be humorous. Be yourself. Be human. Don’t be a zombie.

But sometimes this can be difficult when transitioning from a world of formally written, OFCCP-compliant job descriptions that are then broadcast across job boards and aggregators, or mass-emails to a CRM full of candidate resumes, to the emerging social landscape.

Candidates are not hanging out on social media crossing their fingers to have an employment conversation. The idea that recruiters are on social media, posting opportunities, and proactively seeking candidates out is completely foreign to the majority of candidates. Even on sites like LinkedIn, the grand majority of members have no clue that recruiters are paying thousands of dollars for high-powered search and messaging tools to sniff out their profiles, let alone more modern sourcing tools that help recruiters easily search across the entire Internet.

Candidates on social media are hanging out there with a very different thing in mind. Your job posting on Twitter and Facebook will be mixed in between other feed stories of silly cat photos, Instagram selfies, and baby pictures.

This means the conversation starts more subtly and less transactionally. An interest in what the candidate is up to. A recent article they posted on Twitter. A Meetup group that they’re a member of. Some Q&A they answered online, or a forum conversation they participated in.

It means setting some context as to why and how you discovered them on the site or network you found them on — because they certainly weren’t expecting you to show up, let alone reach out.

Just because you, the recruiter, are trying to efficiently put a butt in a seat doesn’t mean that the candidates are in a similar transactional, efficient mindset.

The etiquette of social media recruiting also requires tailoring communication to show candidates that you’ve done your due diligence before contacting them … you’ve read their LinkedIn profile top to bottom, you’ve seen the things they’ve been tweeting, and you can prove it by citing specific examples. Because of this, they are the perfect person you’ve been seeking out for this perfectly tailored opportunity for them.

With all this rich candidate information at our fingertips as recruiters, there’s zero excuse for not taking some extra effort to tease out specific candidate tidbits to show them that they were specially selected for outreach. It will raise your response rates and enhance their candidate experience, ultimately helping your close rates.

And besides, who doesn’t like a little flattery to start things off on the right foot?

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Channels, Tone, and Frequency

Social media recruiting has created the broad availability of direct communication channels to pretty much any candidate you would want to connect with. You can directly InMail, Facebook message, or Tweet nearly any candidate you’re looking to connect with. And with a little elbow grease, you can probably sniff out their personal email address too.

But these newly available communication channels require some different tactics.

Whereas email communication is typically more formal, longer, and paragraph-heavy, the common mode with social media communication is short, frequent, and back and forth. Conversational to the core.

Related to the above comment about candidates not having “jobs on the mind” while on social media, recognize that in the context of your communication — “I bet you weren’t expecting a recruiter to message you on Facebook!” or “Pardon the Twitter interruption, but this’ll only be a second.” can help break the ice.

But don’t underestimate the power of these communication approaches. All these social media accounts are typically tied to the candidate’s primary email address — so when you message someone on Facebook, Twitter, Meetup, LinkedIn, and so forth, it often shows up in the form of a notification in their primary email inbox.

Even better, with the rise of Twitter, Facebook, and other mobile apps, often this message shows up instantaneously as a push notification on their iPhone or Android, which all the more emphasizes the focus on the short, frequent, and conversational approach.

As noted from the start, the most important guidepost is one of being human and, no surprise here, social. While people can differ on the specific tactics, some of the points above will help you prevent the apocalypse of your social recruiting efforts — no zombies involved, just brains.


image from IMDB

Pete Kazanjy is the founder of TalentBin, what might just be the world's coolest talent search engine. Nothing gets him more excited than thinking about how to help recruiters and sourcers make use of all the wonderful professional breadcrumbs candidates trail across the web nowadays. He's got a thing for purple squirrel hunting, and you can follow him at @kazanjy and TalentBin's team at @talentbinhiring


7 Comments on “Don’t Be a Social Recruiting Zombie: Etiquette tips for the savvy recruiter

  1. I’ve come up with few tips of online recruiting etiquette here. Don’t get too enthusiastic trying to fish up personal details hidden to you. Yes, we often get excited having come across the profile of a candidate who has perfect skills set and background to fit in the open position. But it wouldn’t be the brightest idea to begin literally cyber-stalking the candidate. Another piece of advice: don’t ‘friend’ every potential candidate (with only exception of LinkedIn probably). First think, would you ask them out for beer or coffee in the real world like a real friend?

  2. Thanks, Pete. There’s a saying in my contract-recruiting world: “If you have time to build relationships with candidates, you don’t have enough reqs.” While Social Sourcing (IMHO a more accurate name than Social Recruiting) may be a good way to build a candidate pipeline, the vast majority of my colleagues and I work in places where we can’t spend our time and the company’s money going after people who MIGHT be interested in a job in 3, 6, or 12 months- we need to get qualified people who want our job RIGHT NOW. I’d love to have a job where I spend my time going after people like this, as long as I don’t have positions that need to be currently filled, and IMHO, being responsible for both immediate hires AND a long-term pipeline is a one-way ticket to Crazytown.

    There’s another problem with this, and with most recruiting techniques and tools: they can be quite effective until *too many people start using them. It’s like a freeway- a wonderful way of quickly getting from place to place until hundreds of thousands of people want to use it at the same time. Thus, with a recruiting tool or technique: a strong initial competitive advantage for a given user, then a plateauing, then perhaps a decline. My suggestion: if you find a technique/tool that works well for you: DON’T TELL ANYBODY!
    If you hear about a tool/technique that seems to be “taking off” but you’re doing fine without it, TELL EVEYONE TO USE IT!


    *A rule-of-thumb: If you first read about a new tool/technique here on ERE, IT’S PROBABLY TOO LATE.

  3. Keith,

    What if there was a tool that perfectly modeled every single person’s skill set, interests, and other relevant information. Wouldn’t that be THE recruiting tool to use?

    What more could you ask for than that? The only improvement I see from there is having an automated system that does the job of the recruiter by pairing candidates with relevant jobs and contacts the candidates with appropriate messaging.

    TalentBin and other social recruiting tools strive towards both modeling individuals well and automating outreach.



    Using the word ‘cyber-stalking’ makes the action seem more harmful than it is. Don’t see any problem with searching through publicly available information about an individual. More information tends to be helpful.

  4. Thanks, Matt. I’ve discussed this before:
    Let’s say you are a single, available (wo)man looking to date, and on an overall evaluation scale, you’re an 8/10. You and 300,000 other single, available (wo)men have complete backgrounds and direct contact information for all the supermodels in the world. You’re an 8/10, but what do you think the chances are that ANY of the supermodels would:
    1.Ever talk with you,
    2.Ever go out with you, if they did talk to you, no matter how quickly

    Increasingly, any sourcing tool/technique is going to run up against these inherent (and probably unsolvable) problems:
    1) More and more potential candidates of all types will become increasingly easy to find- as John Sumser has said: “Pretty good sourcing gets better and better.”
    2) Any competitive advantage a given tool/technique will lose its value as more and people use it.
    3) I suspect that someone who is hard to find is also hard to get.

    Bottom line:
    I could have totally free access to something which compiles a digital dossier on every person in the world, with data mining and AI affinity-extrapolation components like the NSA will maybe have in 10 years, complete with direct contact info and one click, multi-mode contact features (like “WOOF” on “The Office”) so I theoretically could contact everyone in the world at once, and it STILL wouldn’t be a perfect tool, because even if you can instantly find out everything about everyone at in the world, match them to your needs, and contact them instantly as many at as a time as you want- recruiting will be relying on some few hundred thousand folks like me telling a small group of people that everybody wants to hire who’d never work for our client/company about jobs that have nothing special to offer them…….

    The perfect tool is something which helps greedy, arrogant, fearful, and ignorant/incompetent hiring managers to:
    1) Stop trying to get excellence on the cheap- they’re SO not into your company
    2) Stop getting themselves into situations requiring people who can’t be obtained AT ANY PRICE. Isn’t that a fun corner to have painted yourself into? (You’d think people as intelligent as they claim to be could avoid this VERY STUPID mistake…)


  5. >>> What Keith said, kinda.

    It seems to me that really good product development folks like Pete (his LinkedIn profile indicates he’s got some PD chops) should write posts for product development types to learn from, right? Knowledge sharing, community development and all that?

    But when really smart product development folks write sponsored (or un-sponsored) blog posts and speak at conferences about products their selling to a particular, other community, say Recruiting for example, it gets a bit messy.

    And then when someone else (Matt Pru) from said smart product development persons company decides to chime in to the conversation, well it becomes a bit weird, or a bit commercial, or even a bit “Social Zombie like”. #JustSayin

    But then again, what Keith was saying about recruiting was kinda spot-on.

  6. I also agree with Keith, but for a different reason.
    Running sourcing for our own platform and as a wholesaler to recruiters we have come to appreciate outreach (“social” or otherwise). As a numbers game, ie a W number of people outreached, will yield X (a number less than W) candidates, of which Y (a number less than X) will be a good fit, of which Z (a number less than Y) will end up taking an offer.
    If targeted well mannered social recruiting improves X, ie the number of people who respond back, then it will decrease W, the number of people you can reach out to – b/c you are so targeted, polite, and funny that you are minding your ps and qs and can only write so many email, blog post responses, twitter chime ins, or FB funny ones.

    At the end of the day you want to do the trick that improves all variables at once. Like mass-custom-socially-cool-relevant-timely-unexpensive outreach that can be run at scale AND be personalized. sigh … if only that existed ….

  7. @ Manny: Thank you.
    @ Frank Thank you, too.
    I think such cross-promotion is only a problem if you’re one of the folks who actually are looking for a fair, un-biased platform for the free exchange of (non-commercial) information. I’ve said before: if we kept ERE non-self-promotional and advertorial/infomercial-free, there wouldn’t be much left, and if we further required statements given as facts to have proof attached and opinions to be based on some tenuous connection to the reality of ordinary recruiting, well, there’d be hardly anything to respond to except John Z’s and Todd’s articles, and how fun would that be?


    Keith “As Guilty as the Rest” Halperin

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