Role of Social Media in Hiring & Recruitment

A variation of this appeared on Careerizma :

Social media recruitment is the buzzword in recruitment circles. It essentially refers to using social media channels to hire employees instead of more conventional ones. Advantages typically include a wider and a more organic reach, direct contact with prospective candidates and lower costs. You can read more about this in these posts:
How recruitment works
Referral recruitment

So as a prospective job seeker, Social Media Recruitment (or Recruitment 2.0 as they like to call it) is potentially beneficial to you. It allows you to get in touch with organizations directly and let’s you find out about opportunities through your connections if you leverage it properly – as many have. However at the end of the day – as long as you eventually get the job you want, it doesn’t really matter how you got it – does it?

But the use of Social Media in Recruitment is a different ball game altogether. And this is one which today does impact probably almost all job seekers and candidates. The difference in terminology may be slight but it is one which permeates all levels and sources of hiring. More importantly, it is probably something you as a job seeker can control.

So what does the use of social media in recruitment broadly encompass?

It involves organizations – and that includes recruiters, managers and leaders – using social media channels to:

  • Understand better the candidates whom they will be interviewing, meeting and hiring
  • Attempt to validate various hypotheses formed during interviews and the hiring process
  • Do surreptitious background checks in a more convenient manner

Is it ethical to use social networking sites for recruitment?

Before the how, the why. The morality and ethics of using social media for recruitment are still up for debate. There are probably three major issues here for us as candidates:

1) Using personal social media information without consent

Background checks have been used by organizations as a pre-recruitment screening technique since ages. Social Media has just made this much easier.

While the nature may have changed from whispers in the Old Boys’ Club to more formal consultants who’re paid to verify objective details of background – these background checks have probably always existed in some form. A lot of jobs and educational opportunities require you to formally share references whom they can call up and speak to – and these are about as unbiased as a mother would be while talking up her kid.

Most recruiters and managers ‘use their networks’ i.e. call up people whom they know who would have worked previously with a prospective candidate – and see absolutely nothing wrong in it. Also there is an inherent subjectivity in this exercise, depending on whom you speak to the feedback you receive may be starkly different.

If you were hiring someone and had an alternative between picking someone who’d worked with a friend and was strongly recommended, versus picking someone completely unknown – most of us would side with the known one, which is pretty similar to this.

The only difference now is, that the modern recruiter doesn’t even need to speak to anyone and can avoid any biases. A simple Google search can give you the information you need and let you form your own opinions.

2) Information Asymmetry

The point made here is essentially – look it would be fine to use social media for recruitment if you use it for all candidates in the same manner. However, information available for everyone is in differing levels of details – the continuum may extend from no information at all, to professional information only, to a mix of personal and professional information in varying levels of details. Ergo, drawing any inferences from such information is not fair.

This is however a choice made by every individual – you may choose to share your life on social media or you may not. Just like you may choose to share your personal details when asked in an interview while someone else may not be comfortable doing so.

And yes, if you share details it may tell the interviewer more about you, give him or her more data points which may or may not be beneficial; while on the other hand revealing nothing may not hurt you but also cannot help you. Once again, this is a standard real life issue being magnified thanks to technology and social media.

3) Demarcation between our personal and professional lives

This is probably the part which most candidates find the scariest. Yes, it is creepy in a way and difficult to accept that a stranger whom you may never have met before knows everything about you. However we’re well on the way to this becoming more and more valid in every facet of life.

The boundaries between personal and professional lives are blurring and will probably continue to do so even further in the near future. Persona building is an expected science in sales and a good salesperson is expected to do his homework about a potential client – right from which IPL team he supports to what kind of music he likes. This is written off as being able to strike a chord, make conversation or build a relationship.

Hiring a candidate is probably no different. And we’re already seeing that this will only increase as we go ahead and our lives coalesce. We already have applications and websites which allow us to login with our Facebook IDs, even a call from another number on Truecaller has a photograph from a Facebook profile.

As the era of switching on at 9.30 am and switching off at 6.30 PM goes, so will the ability to be one person at work and another in reality. Organizations hire you more and more for ‘more than just a job’ and would not want potential candidates to wear a mask while at work and turn into someone else after that.

I’m sure there is enough research and philosophical quotes on pretty images available on the internet to say that the best work happens when work doesn’t seem like work – or life in fact.

Thus the desire to know the real ‘person’ behind every candidate – how does someone look after 8 straight hours of work on an MS Excel sheet which get corrupted and isn’t saved? Or how does he or she react when forced to use Internet Explorer on a slow internet connection. These are the moments of truth an interviewer seeks to find!

What can job hunting candidates do about social media?

Unless you decide to become the Monk who sells his Ferrari and abstains from all of social media activity, this is one beast which probably can’t be fought. So the way to go is to probably embrace it the way that best suits you.

Figuring out your outlook and approach towards how you use social media is probably the most important and introspective step of them all. To what extent are you okay with parts of your life being public? Would you rather that you share a picture of what you’re like yourself than it coming from someone else? Are you or are you not comfortable sharing personal details, your opinions and beliefs (even at the cost of them being unpopular or politically incorrect) with complete strangers?

There is no right answer to this – we all know people who’re intimately private, people whose life is an open book and then there are those who fall somewhere in between. It is just important to understand the ramifications of these in every aspect of your life, and any recruitment process you are or would be involved in is just one of those.

Different platforms approach privacy in different ways. For the more professional ones like LinkedIn for example, everything is fair game. For others such as the ubiquitous Facebook, there are complex and disputably effective ways of restricting who can see what.

Finally, for all the Twitters, Reddits and Pinterests of the world, you may always choose to use a pseudonym if you would like to keep that persona of yours distinct.

Unlike what a lot of candidates tend to suspect, most judicious recruiters and rational hiring managers would not be concerned about views which differ from theirs – as long as they do not directly affect the kind of job you do or are contrary to the organizations public stance on the same (journalism, PR and roles in the C-suite may be areas where they do matter!). For everyone else, as long as you make sense and seem well reasoned out it’s healthy to be opinionated.

What you may want to refrain from is something like disparaging or maligning your employers and bosses, even after a very frustrating day – most recruiters will believe in the past is an indicator of future behaviour. And if you do want to watch something, watch your grammar!

Managing your activity on social networking sites

This is not necessarily the same as ‘managing’ your profile – it just means understanding that an interviewer, or any individual you have a planned formal meeting with has probably looked you up before you actually meet. So it’s a good idea to have a general awareness of what they may already know about you.

Considering the number of platforms most of us are present on, it may be a good idea to actually look through all of them to see what you’ve posted or said, to at least rejig your memory. And remember, in an interview, on such matters – don’t bluff or change your stance basis the way the wind is blowing. Stick to your stand.

Also don’t conceal or distort details about previous jobs, roles and work you’ve done – finding out references, connections and mutual contacts has never been easier

In a good way perhaps – social media may at least be making us a little more honest!


How Recruitment works: The other side of the fence

This piece was first posted on Careerizma

For every job-hunter out there, there is but one sworn enemy. The thorn in your side, your nemesis who stands between you and that dream job. The devil incarnate who stands between you and the salary you deserve, the designation you are suited for and the wonderful perks that come with it.

Yes, it’s your not-so-friendly neighborhood recruiter from the organization you’re trying to join, also known‘that HR person’, ‘hiring manager’ and ‘talent acquisition fellow’ amongst others. The Kancha Cheema to your honest Vijay Dinanath Chauhan or the Joker to your Batman depending on how you like your movies. But there is no escaping the recruiter and dealing with them is a crucial step in succeeding in your quest, so let us take a look at the other side of the fence!

The Hiring Process

Stage 1: Open Position!

Typically, on any working morning (and on many non-working mornings as well), a recruiter at any organization will be pulled in whenever there is a ‘manpower requirement’. This is HR jargon 101 for what the rest of the world terms as a ‘vacancy’ or an open position. This may arise due to multiple reasons such as:

  • The previous employee finally cracking his dream job at the bigger, fancier office down the street and exiting.
  • The job incumbent being given, what HR teams after watching too many Hollywood movies like to call, the ‘Pink Slip’ – even though there’s no concept like this in India! Essentially terminated or asked to leave.
  • Someone getting promoted, moving internally to a new location or role or just finally giving up and retiring.
  • A geographical or business expansion where even by organizational standards, it is not possible to give the existing employees any more ‘additional challenging work’ and more people or people with a very specific skill set need to be hired.

The rules of this piece do not apply for walk-ins, job fairs and campus hiring, which are separate ball games in themselves to be played another day!

Stage 2: Need Identification

In an ideal world, the recruiter’s first step will be to understand as much as he/she can about the position that is to be filled up. This involves getting expectations from managers and leaders about the kind of work which is to be done, the skills & experience the role-holder must possess and the qualifications and the background candidate should ideally have.

Also the all-important input on how quickly they need the replacement or new hire to be on board.

Now this may not seem very difficult. However if you have any experience in a corporate environment you will know every manager worth his salt will claim that almost every position is extremely critical and urgent and as important to the success of the organization as Tendulkar once was to India’s cricket fortunes!

Of course, every replacement must be a ‘potential future leader’, with every skill from the ability to crunch numbers on excel sheets to picking out the perfect set of flowers when the boss forgets his anniversary. Such is the expectation from the modern worker.

Scene 3: Sourcing

Armed with these inputs, the Recruiter now moves to what is commonly known as Sourcing. As the name may suggest, sourcing is identifying the right channels to procure the profiles of candidates with relevant skills and backgrounds.Typical sourcing channels today include:

Recruitment Consultants

These are independent third party organizations who work with multiple organizations – and will if one were to put it crudely – sell the candidate to the highest bidder. They maintain databases of job-seekers and when contacted by any organization, supply a pool of candidates who may have even remotely have similar profiles.

Earn revenue from organizations on a commission basis – either a fixed amount basis the level of the candidate or as a percentage of the offered CTC. This is therefore expensive, however recruiters always resort to consultants because they hope to get a shorter and more relevant list of candidates, since they have a reputation to uphold.

Their real advantage is that over the years, they have built their databases and hence also have links to passive candidates who may not otherwise be in the job market.

Official websites

Most organizations have a dedicated careers section on their website where they put up open positions which are in public knowledge (sometimes hiring happens on a hush-hush basis due to which openings can’t be shared openly).

Interested candidates can directly apply here with the other couple of thousand candidates who think their profile is a perfect fit for the role!

Along with filling up the CV there is also a complicated form which needs to be filled which will make you respect the entire IT returns process and the tatkal railway booking process amongst others.

This is generally linked to an even more complex recruitment system, known as Applicant Tracking Systems which thankfully as a job seeker you probably don’t have to see.

Social Media

Today, whether they use it effectively or not, every organization will have a careers page on social media. By social media of course, we refer to the Holy Trinity or Big 3 of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter.

Recruiters believe this is an excellent way to communicate or spread the word free of cost using crowd-sourcing and appear hep and new age at the same time.

It has the advantage of going beyond the active job-seekers to the passive ones as well since people can share this, tag relevant potential candidates and basically bring to use a phrase – Muhammed to the Mountain.

It also however brings everyone else from Ali to Zaheer to the mountain as well, so doesn’t solve anything for the recruiter.

Job Portals

This is the modern equivalent of advertisements in newspapers from a generation ago. Today portals such as Naukri, Monster, BabaJobs are the first place recruiters run towards to put in a job-posting.

These have the advantage of a huge pool of potential candidates, and the equivalent disadvantage of allowing anyone to apply to anything they want to.

Just like matrimonial websites, these are now diversifying into more niche target audiences from iimjobs to iipmjobs, however the anyone-can-apply-for-anything rule still remains!


Organizations look at employee referrals as a way of leveraging their existing employee base to get a pool of vetted candidates, without a significant expense.

Employees however look at this as an opportunity to finally send the CV of their neighbor’s son and that annoying second cousin who keep hounding you to help in their job hunt.

Stage 4 : Screening

From sourcing we move to screening. For reasons which may now be obvious, sourcing does not always provide a quick list of suitable candidates. Whatever the requirements are, a job-hunters always have the nothing-to-lose or let-me-at-least-apply tendency which leads to a huge number of original applications anyways.

Most job portals and applicant tracking systems shortlist or suggest relevant profiles on the basis of certain keywords, which an experienced candidate has ways of including in his CV whether relevant or not.

The end result is more often than not a mountain of 50 ‘excellent’ candidates from the consultants, around 200 notifications on Facebook and maybe even a 1000 applications on Naukri – a good deal of which are unsuitable.

Thus despite technology, most recruiters eventually fold up their sleeves and end up screening candidate applications manually.

The first stage is to weed out the extremely irrelevant applications based on their profiles and CVs. This pruned list would then be screened by quick telephone calls to establish genuine interest and broad compatibility with the location, salary and designation offered.

The end result of this is a finally a short-list or a shorter long-list from the original set of profiles.

Stage 5: Evaluating

For most recruiters, scheduling an interview is often more difficult than conducting the interview! Organizations use multiple modes along with interviews such case-studies, psychometric or aptitude tests or other activities in the hope that candidates either do something exceptionally good or exceptionally bad to help them narrow down the pool.

These may or may not be elimination rounds depending upon the nature of the role as well as the level the candidate is applying to.

Interviews however (when they are finally scheduled at the convenience of both the interviewer and the candidate!) remain the most common method of doing so.

As a rule most organizations will look to check your technical skills or suitability for a job through a Functional Interview and then evaluate how well you will fit into the role and the organization through a competency based or behavioral interview (also known as an HR interview for the rest of the world’s population).

Interviews come in many forms and sizes – so these may be combined or scheduled independently, conducted by individuals or panels, all scheduled in a day or spread out over weeks, be telephonic, over web-cam or in person. There is only one rule for interviews – Murphy’s Law will prove its existence.

Stage 6: Closing

Once a candidate is deemed suitable, clears all the basic requirements and receives a go-ahead from all the stakeholders starts the process of offer-negotiation. Sometimes, organizations prefer to do this stage as part of the HR interview itself to save time.They don’t really, but that’s another story.

This is essentially where the candidate and the recruiter channelize their internal bargaining skills honed over the years in the bazaars and fish-markets. They go back and forth on the exact salary which will be offered, various bonuses, allowances and benefits which can be squeezed in, the exact role title and level and the all-important question of ‘how quickly can you join?’.

The process of arriving at a salary figure to be offered is more a science than an art taking in inputs from external market benchmarks, salary structures of internal employees etc.

Most recruiters expect candidates to negotiate and hence there is every chance the original offer would be 5-10% below what is the maximum that can be offered, however there is not much of a bank to pay with.

Organizations try to therefore throw in sweeteners such as joining bonuses and buy-outs of notice period which are one time payments without a long term impact!

Stage 7: Pre-joining

Once the offer is closed, the next stage of the recruitment process typically involves the recruiter waiting with a bated breath, chewing on finger-nails and hoping that the candidate actually does join on the agreed upon date!

A fun fact: most recruiters are more worried than candidates in the lead up to the date of joining.

Candidates do not join due to 2 major reasons – either they are retained by their current employers (many employees use an external offer as a bargaining chip internally) or by using the interim time and available job offer they look for a new better one.

Also most such candidates will not inform the recruiter of the decision either so it is only when they refuse to take any phone calls or respond to emails on the day of joining that the penny finally drops.

This illustrates where the power centers in these relationships, which is a good opportunity to segue into the nature of the Job Market.

The Job Market

Candidates typically look as the organization (and therefore, the recruiters) as always having the upper hand in a hiring relationship. However this is generally not true. Let us equate the job market to a marketplace, once again considering campus hiring and walk-ins as different markets in every way.

The recruiter is equivalent to the ‘seller’ selling a job while a job-applicant is the ‘buyer’ who is looking for a job. Every day a position is vacant is a set-back to the seller, it is a product or inventory which remains unsold and is not earning a profit.

Consider, yourself to be a job-seeker. Depending on your situation – you may be a very active or a passive one. And whichever end of the continuum you are at – with a few exceptional situations such as where you are out of a job because your previous company closed down, or you just happened to get the boot – you will definitely have a set series of expectations before you accept any new job-offer.

These may typically be the role offered, the organization brand, the salary, benefits, team, office location, feedback about culture etc. and how all of these things compare to your current job offer. The list may vary for every Amar, Akbar and Anthony -however there will be that minimum threshold expectation for each one of them before they accept an offer.

We all know of friends and colleagues who crib and complain around the clock on how bad their job is. Yet don’t take up any of the million referrals and opportunities which are passed on to them. In most of these cases, it is because they cannot say with certainty that the opportunity is meeting their expectations or is better than where they currently are placed.

The recruiter at any organization rarely has that luxury. He/she has a position which is open and for which someone needs to be hired. And whatever the reason for this may be, there is an urgency or definite need which cannot be postponed indefinitely.

Hence contrary to the popular perception of cowboy recruiters who throw their weight around with a swagger to boot, it will very rarely happen that a recruiter will reject a candidate because his he didn’t like the shirt he wore or she didn’t like the perfume she used. It’s too much of a risk to take. What if they couldn’t find another candidate?

Most existing candidates will serve a notice period (which may vary from 1 month to 3 months) before moving on. In an ideal situation, the New Hire should thus join before the existing candidate exits, and even that with a good buffer to get the all-important ‘handover’.

No pressure, especially when this is happening for multiple candidates with multiple open positions. So job-seekers be aware that you share the driving seat just as much as the recruiter. Now go get that job opportunity which is knocking on the door!