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.