The Love Boat

from Starpulse.comThe Role of Recruiters in Social Media

Recruiters often struggle with social media because the medium does not lend itself well to traditional recruiting practices. Recruiting is typically a highly transactional process — the recruiter collects information from a candidates, decides if there is a fit, and moves on to the next step. It’s essentially a one-way street, running from the candidate to the recruiter with little or nothing going the other way. Social media requires two-way communication (the “social” part): conversations, sharing, and engagement. This is how talent communities are created, and the same makes it difficult for recruiters who are accustomed to being gatekeepers and in-control of the process.

The difference between traditional recruiting and using social media is akin to being the captain of a navy ship compared to that of a cruise ship. In the former case, the captain is king. She decides where the ship goes and who does what. The passengers have no say. On a cruise ship the captain has much more limited power and has to behave very differently.

The Cruise Director

Fans of The Love Boat will remember Gavin MacLeod in the role of Captain Stubing. But the more interesting role was that played by Lauren Tewes — the Cruise Director Julie McCoy. She was the one who had to keep everyone happy and having a good time — i.e., engaged.

This is the role the recruiter needs to play when using social media. You can’t act like the captain on a navy ship. The passengers are not going to stay with you for the voyage if you don’t keep them happy. The members of a talent community are largely there because they’re interested in what the community has to offer in terms of content, not because it’s the shortest path to a job. That may happen but it’s not the primary reason that someone joins a talent community. Talent communities are designed to attract the vast majority of people who are not active candidates. If there’s a high level of engagement they will stay there and may be persuaded to consider the jobs you have to offer.

In this situation a recruiter can’t succeed with a transactional approach. A recruiter has to be social — facilitating conversations and fostering interest in the community. It works best if the members interact with each other, since it’s physically impossible for a recruiter to meaningfully interact with all. The pace can’t be forced — it has to be allowed to develop. You can’t very well order people to have conversations and build engagement.

Again, it’s like being the cruise director, not the Captain.

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The Cruise Director vs. The Captain

Watch The Love Boat and you’ll see that the job of a Captain is highly structured — the ship’s destination and path to it are predetermined and well travelled. There’s a lot to do to get the ship there, but there’s not much chance it won’t get there. It’s rare that much goes wrong and aside from the occasional iceberg there are few obstacles in the way. It’s Groundhog day most of the time. One has to be exceedingly incompetent to fail.

Compare that to the job of the Cruise Director where every day is a new day. Julie was dealing with a constantly changing collection of colorful characters. Beyond knowing that the job requires keeping the passengers entertained, there are few rules about what to do. Getting it wrong is easy — book the wrong act and you can bet that the passengers are going to be writing disparaging remarks on their Facebook pages and tweeting about it before their next turn at the buffet.

That’s how it works for recruiters trying to use social media. We know that success requires engaging with candidates but things get fuzzy after that. Despite what some claim, there aren’t any templates for success. Often you have to make it up as you go along.

It Takes Two

The Love Boat was based on a book written by a former Cruise Director — Jeraldine Saunders, who was also the main writer for the series. Her description of what makes for a successful voyage was that it required both the Captain and the Cruise Director. The same is true for recruiting with social media: to be successful means managing both the unstructured components. This is why recruiters find it challenging to use social media while also managing traditional processes. The two require fundamentally different skills. You can’t be the Cruise Director and the Captain.

Raghav Singh, director of analytics at Korn Ferry Futurestep, has developed and launched multiple software products and held leadership positions at several major recruiting technology vendors. His career has included work as a consultant on enterprise HR systems and as a recruiting and HRIT leader at several Fortune 500 companies. Opinions expressed here are his own.


5 Comments on “The Love Boat

  1. Good tips for recruiters, but also for other sales people. They’re also transferable to trade association functions. Show up and solicit your job opportunities, and see people run from you as if you just soiled your pants.

    Instead, try learning about the individuals, and showing interest in them. It’s a much better way to develop relationships, and become more successful long-term.

  2. Thanks again, Raghav. As “marketing” is to “sales”, so “whatever this is called” is to “recruiting”. Trying to create groups of varying sizes and levels of interest in the hope that some members of them may one day want to work for you seems a grossly inefficient and time-consuming way of putting qualified butts in chairs quickly and affordably, which (despite the protestations of a number of other writers here on ERE) is the purpose of recruiting….ISTM that if your company has the luxury of being able to devote the resources to build a candidate pipeline, it would do much better in using advanced sourcing and datamining techniques to precisely locate the individuals with the skills and background that are clearly sought and develop relationships with them, as opposed to creating what are basically glorified corporate fan clubs. As Raghav points out, the skills needed to cultivate and maintain relationships with candidates are not what the vast majority of recruiters are trained to do (with the exception of a section of niche-contingency and retained recruiters). In summary:
    Don’t waste your time with this *crap, and if you absolutely, positively have to do this because some clueless-but-powerful exec picked this idea up at some convention/meeting,(for Heaven’s sake) don’t waste your existing recruiters’ time having them try to do it while they’re trying to fill immediate needs!

    Keith “First Spend Your Money on What Has Been Shown to Work Well” Halperin

    * You show me neutral studies that show this leads to putting substantial numbers of qualified butts in chairs quickly and affordably and I’ll change my tune so quickly your head will spin!

  3. Creative way of presenting an important topic. Being a recruiter requires multiple hats these days. This last year has been extremely successful for my boutique firm by juggling those hats on a daily basis. As the owner/captain, I need to keep us on track and on the right course. However, as the cruise director/recruiter it is equally important that I am keeping contact with potential candidates on a consistent basis and in the ways that best meet their needs. I have found that this is possible. Sure it takes a lot of work and at times I can feel like I have multiple personalities, not just multiple hats, but in the end we have a successful firm.

    Thanks for a great article.
    Ken C. Schmitt

  4. Raghav–cool way of discussing the tension between social and recruiting. In addition to the skills required, the lack of time or money or both also enters the conversation around this topic. I am curious what you are thinking around the solutions to this challenge.

  5. I agree and would take it a step further. The reality is that there are two completely different skills involved.

    Knowing what is effective in social media is it’s own skill. Depending on the size and resources of the company, there could be a designated person within the recruiting department that only focuses on this. Knowing how to leverage and promote the employer brand in social media can be a full time job. If there are not resources available to designate a full time person to this function, then the company should designate a recruiter to be in charge of it, and that recruiter should partner with the digital marketing department to learn as much as they can about what works and what doesn’t in social media. This recruiter’s requisition load should be reduced in order to devote time to this additional function and the company should designate resources for this recruiter to develop (ie, pay for training). The other option is for recruiting to partner with marketing and have marketing handle the recruiting social media, along with the standard company social media.

    The other recruiters are the ones doing the day to day work, which requires the standard knowledge and skill set, separate from social media. These people are usually too busy meeting with hiring managers, reviewing resumes and job descriptings, and talking to candidates to really give social media the right amount of attention.

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