Social Media Goes to Work - Is It An Asset or Liability?

By Michael Palmer

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What Value Do Organizations Truly Receive from Having a Presence on Social Media?

It is a question I am surprised is still brought up, particularly by HR professionals. Considering how candidate behaviours have evolved alongside online technologies, social media has become intrinsic to how candidates explore, identify and express interest (or not) in companies.

Antiquated Mindsets Remain

Yet, the question arose again during a recent presentation to a group of HR professionals. The person asking simply did not see the value in creating and maintaining a presence on the likes of Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. Their view was that since candidates would go to their company’s career site to find out about the company and apply for jobs, the extra work just didn’t seem to have any reasonable return for the time invested. The implication was that they saw little need to take the plunge.

There remains a lingering mindset amongst the HR and business leaders that I speak to that recruiting with social media is nothing more than a new job board. Although positions can be posted on social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, this is still “post and pray.”. If you don’t have an underlying strategy to market and manage your brand, leverage your employee’s referrals, you’re only scratching the surface.

However, whether or not an organization takes the social media plunge is secondary to what even the dissenters have begun to discern—whether we are on social media and managing our presence or not, we are all on social media.

Social Media Impacts Recruitment

The real question is simple—who is managing your presence?

We all know that social media is not a fad; it has changed the way we communicate, and changed the way information is shared and consumed. Have we explored and thought about how social media has changed candidate behaviour, impacted and escalated concepts like employment brand and the candidate experience? 

Candidate Behaviour:  All candidates, whether active or passive, are checking out our organizations before they express interest, apply for a role, or at the very least, before they accept a job. They’re not just checking out the company reviews and corporate websites, they’re asking their networks, friends, and colleagues. Though there are undoubtedly those that don’t research organizations before wading into the recruitment process, it might be argued that perhaps we shouldn’t be hiring those people anyway.

Case in point, I was recently contacted by an unfamiliar organization in Seattle that was recruiting for a director of talent acquisition. Even before returning the call, five minutes of online research had me asking questions. They had no Facebook or LinkedIn page (apart from auto-generated page on LinkedIn with Wikipedia data) and the Twitter commentary was less than complimentary. Glassdoor only had 12 reviews, but all of them were terrible.  While all of the above did not mean it was a terrible place to work necessarily,  their employment brand that turned me from a prospect into a polite decline when I returned the call.

Employment Brand:  It was not that long ago that the idea of “employment brand” meant creating a slick marketing campaign, and speaking to an organization’s awesomeness—i.e. why it was an employer of choice and why a candidate would want give their eye teeth to work there.

In the days before social media itself went viral, brand image was very much invested in one-way communication and marketed very successfully by employment advertising agencies. Companies invested more heavily in communicating their brand than adhering to marketing accuracy, let alone “living” their brand.

Interestingly, it is social media that has changed our concept of employment brand. There has never been a greater need for organizations to “walk the talk” when it comes to the employment experience. Human resources professionals are under intense pressure to guide and shape organizations to become a great place to work—a.k.a. the living brand is the employee experience.

Candidate Experience:  Another hot topic in the recruiting world lately is the candidate experience. Candidates are growing weary of being treated poorly in the hiring process, and though this in itself is nothing new, they now have a vent to release the steam. Yes, social media is that vent.

Viral in the age of social media can prove pandemic if a candidate perceives poor treatment. Treat a candidate badly by not calling them after an interview, or pick any number of ways we can annoy a candidate, and you face the potential wrath of a simple post on Twitter or Facebook—that can easily reach hundreds or thousands. Pull a colossal blunder and the new definition of viral takes root and we’re quickly into the millions.

As a result, more organizations have adopted a higher standard for the candidate experience, even implementing a “Candidate Care Code” or a “Candidate Bill of Rights” as the candidate experience becomes a key focal point for talent acquisition teams.

Whether We Think We’re on Social Media or Not, We Are 

It all boils down to who’s managing the message and how we choose to show up. We’re living and recruiting in a time of limitless pulpits and previously unheard of congruency (what you see is what you get). We can say what we want about our organizations to the world, but if we’re saying that we’re something that we’re not, we’ll get called on it.

William Shakespeare said it best; “Talking isn't doing. It is a kind of good deed to say well, and yet words are not deeds”.

Originally published in PeopleTalk Magazine - HRMA

Michael Palmer helps organizations align and optimize their talent acquisition processes with their overarching business objectives. This includes conducting recruitment audits, implementing processes, systems, tools and teams in order to attract, screen, recruit, select, and onboard engaged employees. Follow him on twitter @hireinsite.


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