Canadian recruiters eye social nets to catch the right talent

The runaway popularity of sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, especially among young Canadian graduates, is having a noticeable impact on workplace recruitment.

A growing number of Canadian recruiters are now trolling social networking sites for potential candidates, according to recent survey.

More than 65 per cent of Canadian companies have either implemented social networking-based hiring strategies or are looking to do so very soon, according to Careerify Corp., a Toronto-based professional social network.

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In August, the company polled more than 300 human resource (HR) professionals countrywide to identify talent search patterns in Canada.

About 43.7 per cent of respondents had not implemented any social networking for recruitment but plan to do so by next year.

Some 21.7 per cent of companies are using at least one social networking strategy, while 31 per cent are using more than one social networking tool.

Of those interviewed, 85.1 per cent indicated they need more information on social networking from an HR and recruitment perspective.

There’s “a shift away from conventional hiring methods such as print ads and placements in static online job boards,” according to Harpaul Sambhi, CEO of Careerify.

Online job boards, which have been around for a little over a decade, have two main shortcomings, he said.

“For one, these sites are largely static – job seekers and employers can’t communicate freely within them.” Secondly, he said, the real talent isn’t on these sites. “It’s all on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.”

Sambhi said many job hunters want greater more flexibility from a job site. Job seekers, he noted, often want to talk to someone from the firm to discover if a post is suitable for them before putting in an application.

At other times, they want to communicate and network with professionals in their field but these features aren’t available on many sites.

Also, as senior HR practitioners move beyond conventional job boards, the industry seems to be trying to reduce third-party recruitment costs, the Careerify CEO said.

While companies typically pay the equivalent of 20 to 30 per cent of a candidate’s salary to a headhunting firm, Web-based job sites and social nets charge a minimal monthly fee for posting an unlimited number of positions and don’t claim commissions, he said.

Careerify bills itself as a professional social networking-based firm.

The company’s site has features that would be familiar to Facebook users such as: tools for making friends or community-building; recommendation tools; career manager tools; and even a points accumulation system tied to a rewards program.

For a monthly $800 fee, companies can subscribe to the site and post their openings. Job seekers can register for free. Careerify’s employer partners include GE; Shell Canada; Husky Energy; and SAS Institute – among others.

Job seekers also benefit from an incentive program that rewards them with points when they recommend positions to their friends. The accumulated points can be redeemed to purchase various items and services from Careerify’s rewards partners including: Petro Canada; BestBuy; Air Canada; Starbucks; Red Lobster; and others.

“We’re a career site, social networking site and rewards site all rolled into one,” said Careerify’s Sambhi.

Many North American firms are building a presence on popular social networking sites to prop up their profile and attract talent, according to Morgan Chmara, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group based in London, Ont.

Chmara rattles off a few Canadian and American organizations with a presence on Facebook and Twitter: law firm Ernst & Young; the Vancouver Police Department; E-Bay; Oracle, SAP, the CIA and Info-Tech Research itself.

“These companies are there, because that’s where the tech-literate Gen Y population is,” Chmara said.

Ernst & Young, which hires at least 5,500 interns and entry level employees a year, has more than 1,600 people on its fans list on Facebook.

The firm’s page contains photos of company buildings, activities and involvement in socially responsible causes, as well a discussion board covering a variety of topics, including employment opportunities.

Social networking sites enable companies to reach out to prospective candidates in a way traditional job ads and online sites can’t, says Chmara: “There’s more interaction and opportunity for feedback, which young people want.”

Print job ads and online job sites won’t become extinct anytime soon, she said. But as corporate presence on existing social sites increase, the need for more career-centered social networking sites like LinkedIn will continue to grow.

Chmara also expects job placement firms to set up independent social networking sites.

She offers the following caveats to firms seeking to build a social networking presence:

  • Be careful about information you release to the site. Social nets are viral. There’s always the risk of sensitive data being released to the public
  • Respect individual privacy rights. Resist the temptation to use social nets as a tool for delving into candidates private lives
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