Social Recruiting: A How To Guide

Social Recruiting has the potential to dramatically transform your hiring approaches - and your hiring effectiveness. But it also confuses and alarms recruiters like nothing before, not least because what constitutes "Social Recruiting" is so vague and loosely defined.

Social Recruiting: A How To Guide

What we'll cover in this How To Guide

I've spent several years advising companies on adopting an effective social recruiting strategy - often then implementing that strategy for them and seeing the results that flow from these approaches. So this post is my way of sharing many of the insights I've gained with anyone wanting to strengthen their social recruiting credentials.

I'm going to share proven ways that you can:


If you or your team would like to discuss any of these topics in more depth, please feel free to book in a time for a chat with one of our team. You can pick a time slot from our calender here:

Schedule a social recruiting call

The Elephant in the Room!

Before going any further though, I feel I must address the elephant in the room! What exactly is Social Recruiting I hear you ask? And you're right to be puzzled.

Most aspects of recruiting are clearly defined. If you say you're going to try and fill a role through job board advertising, everyone in the industry pretty much knows how you'll be going about doing that and the challenges you'll need to overcome to be successful. The same is true of applicant tracking systems, candidate experience, onboarding, the list goes on...

So let's clear this up from the outset. There is a huge array of recruiting approaches and sourcing techniques that the industry broadly refers to as "Social Recruiting". I don't know of anyone who's an expert across the whole spectrum of social recruiting methodologies - and probably you yourself will decide that some elements of #socialrecruiting are more value-adding for you and your team than others.

What is #SocialRecruiting ?

Here's how I think about the catch-all notion of Social Recruiting, maybe it'll help your own thinking on the subject too:


1. Social media - and the tools that allow you to leverage social media - have made it possible for you to research candidates, advertise to candidates and engage with candidates in ways that weren't previously possible.

2. Any approach to recruiting that leverages the candidate data, advertising or engagement opportunities made possible by the existence of social media can be classed as Social Recruiting.

3. But consequently, not all Social Recruiting is necessarily social! Advertising jobs in the Facebook streams of your ideal candidates is undoubtedly highly effective, but unless the advert encourages people to engage with members of your team there's nothing inherently "social" about it. But I'd certainly class it as Social Recruiting.

4. Someone is either talented at job board advertising or they are not. Whereas with Social Recruiting, it's perfectly possible to be expert at some elements (eg. sourcing candidates using social tools) and a complete novice at others (eg. building a recruiting brand on social media).

5. The skills required to master Social Recruiting in its entirety are highly diverse - and for most recruiters it'll be a wise decision to become masters of one or two of these rather than trying to understand and leverage the full range of options. In our business I'm very much the expert at reaching a candidate audience on social media, whereas sourcing candidates is something I leave to others! Don't feel you have to master everything, indeed if you try you'll probably end up mastering none of the elements of Social Recruiting!


Use social recruiting techniques to boost your recruiting brand + attract hires

Having a strong recruiting or employer brand on social media is important in two key respects. Firstly, being a name that candidates know and respect improves the returns you get from every other recruiting activity you undertake. Whether it's the response rate you get on your job board advertising or the LinkedIn InMail reply rate you achieve or the acceptance rate you achieve on your job offers. If yours is a company that candidates feel an affinity for, the results you achieve are improved at every turn.

But as well as improving the ROI of everything else your recruiting team does, a strong recruiting brand on social media can actually be a new means of attracting candidate interest in its own right. Think of your social media followers as your talent pool and your advocate network. A company that wins a large following for its recruiting team's social media profiles has a ready-made audience of potential candidates that can be enticed to submit their resumes in the future. It also increasingly has a network of people who believe in the business and who will become more and more willing to share your openings to reach their networks too.

There are four key steps in building your social recruiting brand presence in this way. Below I provide an overview of those steps, for a more detailed explanation please see


The first key step is being very clear within your team about the audience you want to reach with your social media presence - and what your business objectives are for building your presence on social media. What do the people you come into contact with on social media need to have done in the coming weeks and months that will mean your social media investment has produced a return for you? (You'll be amazed how often we hear recruitment teams saying they need a stronger social media presence, but not having thought through what they actually want candidates or recruiter clients to do as the next step in their hiring or business development funnel). Defining this at the outset is key so that all your social media activities are undertaken with this end goal in mind.

The second step is breaking the mould and addressing what will make your profiles exceedingly valuable, entertaining and insightful to your target audience. All too often recruitment businesses and recruiting teams are guilty of their social streams being focused on self-promotion. Check out our jobs, visit our new website, can you recommend someone who... None of this looks valuable to a potential follower visiting your profile for the first time - and so the conversion rate of your social media profile page is decimated as a result.

If you want to become a magnet in your industry then you need to become an invaluable resource in your niche market, one that people will come to view as indispensable and whose updates they will want to share with others in their network. Get this right and your message reach could easily be multiplied twenty or thirtyfold as you build word of mouth recommendations and reshares of your updates.

However steps 1 and 2 alone give you a social media presence that looks professional when people click to your profiles from your website. But you will not yet be growing an ever larger audience of candidates or clients. That’s where Step 3 is key.

Step 3 involves understanding each of the social platforms where you have built a presence and then learning the unique steps that are needed to get your profiles seen by more and more of your target audience on that particular platform. This will involve lots of testing - or learning from others who know how to get results on each site. Then once you have found approaches that work, your team need to apply these consistently across your social networks in order that your follower and fan base grows month on month.

By no means last is step 4, which centres on engaging with your target audience on social media. This may mean reviewing the profiles of everyone who has interacted with your company on social media and following up accordingly. Or it may mean discovering conversations taking place in your industry and jumping in and participating in those conversations. For most recruiting teams, it’s this engagement that is central to driving business value from your social media recruiting presence. It's also the element that is most often abandoned when teams find themselves short on time and unable to do everything.


Engage with influencers to multiply the reach of your messages

For most of our clients, this step will form part of their strategy to have a stronger recruiting brand presence on social media. But it can be used in isolation and so I've split it out in this article.

The core idea here is that there are already lots of people and organisations out there on social media who have massive followings of the exact types of people your business would like to reach. For example sales software vendors and sales trainers both will have sizeable followings of sales people on their social profiles.

As a recruiting team, what you want to be doing is finding the influencers in your industry who also regularly reshare content and updates from other businesses. An influencer who will not share your messages to their audience is of limited value to your team, so this willingness to reshare is a key element to being successful. By using tools such as BuzzSumo, you can identify many of the influencers in your industry who are most likely to help multiply the reach of your brand by sharing your updates.

Once identified, the key skill then is to be social! Don't launch straight in with a request that they help you. Instead, invest some time in forging a relationship. Share and comment on a few of their updates. Follow them, favourite or like something they've just published, ask a question that encourages them to share more information about themselves or their business on social media.

Generally speaking, a small effort on your part will usually go a very long way! Whilst many recruiters we speak with tend to be focused on the followers they are able to win for their recruiting team, we encourage them to think much more about the total reach that their profiles are able to achieve. If your brand could start reaching 20 or 30 times as many people as your own follower number suggests is possible, that could have a very significant impact on your visibility in the market couldn't it? Well that's the reason for investing your time in cultivating influencer relationships...

Use targeted social media advertising to attract your ideal hires

Job boards have played a massive role in the recruiting industry for much of the last 20 years. Recruiters came to love how easy they made it to generate candidate applicants, but sometimes despaired at the volume of inappropriate applicants generated or the feeling that the job board wasn't tapping into the much broader passive candidate pool that the recruiting team wanted to reach.

That's the beauty of advertising jobs via social media.

Novices pump jobs out in their Twitter streams or on their Facebook pages, not realising that this is simply making them look desperate - and harming their prospects of ever attracting a loyal and engaged following of prospective future hires.

Pros realise that social media provides a means of defining the exact audience (passive and active candidates) that the business needs to reach - and then paying to have the job listing displayed just to that highly targeted audience.

Here's a quick overview of how you would go about doing this, for a more detailed look at these steps see 5 Reasons You're Not Attracting Candidates on Social Media.

1) Run hyper-targeted advertising campaigns on social media

Pushing out jobs on your own social media accounts is futile. It barely scratches the surface in terms of reaching your target candidate audience - and also risks alienating your network if you are continuously sharing roles that are not a great fit for many of the people seeing them. Ask yourself - did professional businesspeople really connect with you on LinkedIn or follow you on Twitter to get nothing but a barrage of job posts appearing from you in their feeds? Not likely - and chances are they'll only tolerate this for so long.

Instead we want to tightly define the target audience who would be most interested in each of our vacancies and then target adverts to appear only in the streams of those people most likely to be interested in them.

There's some work to be done here in understanding the advertising solutions that each social site offers. Each advertising platform has specific things to focus on perfecting in order to get the maximum results. But if done properly, your job adverts and hiring campaigns can be put in front of a sizeable proportion of the entire candidate market that you'd like your employer brand and hiring message to be reaching.

The over-riding concept to understand is that each social site has a bidding system of sorts for advertisers. The worse your adverts perform in terms of attracting interest, the more you will be charged for each click or engagement that they do generate. So a recruiting team that masters how to get results can outperform their lesser rivals several fold. They outperform both in terms of the total candidate market reached with a campaign and also in terms of the amount of budget required to make each hiring campaign a success.

To reach this pinnacle, always be testing to uncover what works best and what messages and ad formats produce the greatest response. Then tweak and refine accordingly (or ask us to do this for you)

2) Not targeting your recruiting campaigns to the right devices

If you want to attract candidates via social media, you need to be attuned to the fact that most social media usage takes place on mobile devices. It stands to reason then that if you offer a terrible mobile experience for candidates then the chances of your campaigns being successful are decimated.

The first question to ask yourself is whether the job advert you are going to direct people to is optimised for mobile? If you don't have a mobile optimised job advert then you need to either i) invest in getting this fixed or ii) restrict your social media advertising campaigns so that they are shown only to people using desktop computers rather than mobile devices (which obviously undermines your efforts to reach as many target hires as possible but for some recruiting teams may seem like the only option).

Just as important is the next step in the hiring process - how you are asking candidates to apply. Is the application process you'll be asking candidates to complete mobile-friendly? If it's not then you're going to frustrate a lot of candidates who were interested in the opening but who find it almost impossible to apply from their mobiles (hopefully I don't need to stress that many of the best candidates will simply abandon the process rather than battle through).

If you don't have a mobile-friendly apply option then you need to either i) invest in getting one (feel free to turn to us for help) or ii) limit your social media advertising campaigns such that they are only being shown to people using desktop computers rather than mobile devices (accepting that this means you've turned your back on over half of the candidate audience you could be reaching).

To reinforce this point, data now shows that candidates are several times less likely to apply from a mobile device than from a desktop computer, unless you've ensured that your process allows them to do so with just a click or two whilst browsing on their smartphones:


The attitude that says "the best candidates will find a way of applying to us" simply doesn't cut it in today's buoyant hiring market. The best candidates will have plenty of other options - and probably don't need to change jobs at all - so anything that harms the application rates you achieve needs to be addressed.

3) Not having a laser-focus on reaching the right candidate demographics on social media

Your shortlist of candidates will only ever be as good as the pool of candidates who saw the role advertised in the first place. Taking the time to carefully target who will see your job adverts is a key step in getting results via social media.

There are two compelling reasons for investing time in getting this right. Firstly, the likelihood of enough of the right people seeing your advert is greatly increased - and so your shortlist is strengthened. But secondly, what you'll be charged for generating interest will also come down in price if your advert is more effective at converting views into clicks.

4) Being lazy with your advertising copy

This one's simple. Using images in your social campaigns dramatically increases response rates. Visually appealing social media adverts are more likely to be clicked on. And job listings that are visually appealing - even going so far as to incorporate video - are also far more likely to convert.

So a key part of successful Social Recruiting is ensuring you throw out the dull adverts derived from monotone job descriptions. Instead opt for something that excites your target audience and makes them want to take action. Why do people choose to work at your company, what are some of the exciting things that await a successful candidate, what does your ideal hire look like? Connect with candidates on a personal level and in an engaging manner and your job listings are far more likely to convert candidates you've attracted using social media.

Implement a social referral programme to drive more employee referrals

Whether you use one of the many social referral platforms out there, or go it alone with your own internal project, the upsides from engaging staff to provide referrals are threefold. Firstly, by tapping into the networks of all your existing staff you can potentially reach a lot of your target candidate audience, in a way that's more personal than simply advertising to that same audience.

Secondly because candidates will receive an invitation to consider a vacancy from someone they know, the chances of the candidate looking at the message and clicking to check out the vacancy are greatly enhanced when compared with eg. a cold InMail from a recruiter that the candidate doesn't know. The likelihood of them warming to the company - and ultimately succeeding in the role - is also improved if they already know people in the organisation.

Last but not least, paying existing staff - rather than external suppliers - to generate candidate leads clearly improves the remuneration of your staff, whilst bringing on board staff members that the team are more likely to bond with. So there's the added benefit that your own staff retention rates are likely to be strengthened and the pressure to actually make additional hires is relieved.

Overall you need to have processes and technology in place that make it fast and easy for employees to get involved in the referral programme and to start sharing vacancies with appropriate candidates. You also need to have the buy-in of senior management, who you'll want to champion the project from the outset to maximise the number of staff who buy into the idea and become active participants in the initiative.

Ensure your efforts are not undermined by the rise of #mobile

Whilst mobile recruiting and social recruiting are in some ways distinct, they are also highly complementary. Once you consider that most social media users are accessing their social accounts from a mobile device, it should clearly follow that no attempts to secure candidate applications via social media can ever be successful unless the steps that candidates need to follow in order to apply have been mobile optimised.

Mobile recruiting of course covers more than just this. Your careers site needs to be mobile optimised. Your ATS needs to be mobile friendly. Your email communications with candidates, interview invites, video interviewing platform... all need to be considered with the mobile-candidate in mind. It's beyond our social recruiting scope to cover mobile recruiting in more detail. But do keep in mind that the two are complimentary and an investment in social media strengthens your mobile recruiting efforts - and vice versa.

Research your ideal candidates on social media and approach them direct

I alluded to this above and certainly will come clean here before I proceed further. Sourcing candidates via social media is the element of social recruiting that I'm least well versed in. We offer a candidate sourcing service here on Social-Hire, but I very much leave others to deliver on this service.

That being said, I can certainly comment on the overall importance of this aspect of social recruiting - I'll just defer to others when it comes to the How To aspect of doing this yourself.

Given how closely LinkedIn is associated with this aspect of Social Recruiting, it's quite possibly the element that you'll be most familiar with yourself. The principle is simple. Today there are vast "Resume databases" available to anyone who wants to start working as a recruiter, where only ten years ago they'd have been proprietary assets of a recruitment business. So the barriers to entry for an inhouse recruitment team to find and approach candidates directly have been massively reduced. Similarly the barriers to entry for someone leaving a recruitment business to go and set up their own competitor.

How to effectively mine LinkedIn for talent, how to find tech candidates on GitHub when you find they've deserted LinkedIn, how to tap into the more sizeable profile databases that Facebook and Google+ provide, how to find the in-depth social profiles of candidates who've caught your interest on Twitter. All this and more is the realm of the social sourcing specialist.

There are various tools you can use to find talent across social platforms: TalentBin (by Monster), Entelo, Open Web (from Dice), Connect6, 3Sourcing and lots of training courses you can attend to bolster your skills. I'll point you to the team at Social Talent if this is an element of Social Recruiting that you're keen to develop further.

Improve the candidate experience and solidify candidates' decision to join your company

Last but not least is the impact that all your social media activities can have on Candidate Experience. At multiple points during the research, application, interview and offer acceptance stages, it's now highly probable that your candidates will have interactions (or a lack of interactions) that influence whether they ultimately go on to be hired by you.

Whether candidates ever research the possibility of joining your company will in part be influenced by the exposure they've had to your brand in the months preceding their decision to change jobs. Whether they go on to apply to one of your openings will be influenced by what others are saying about you on social media and on sites like Glassdoor. It will also be influenced by whether they've seen the relevant vacancies you have for them, the chances of which can be significantly boosted with the right social recruiting strategy.

Once they are invited in for interview, what interactions are happening with people in your business on social media that could be influencing their opinion of the business. What interactions could you proactively manufacture in order to make that impression be more favourable and to provide a means of answering any concerns or questions the candidate might have? Once candidates have been made an offer, what contact are they having with their future colleagues that could shape their decision to accept. All these touch points contribute to the overall Candidate Experience that you offer - and therefore to the acceptance rates that your whole recruiting operation is able to achieve.


Concluding Remarks

One of the things I love about Social media for recruiting is the fact that it is constantly evolving. As new features are rolled out on social media, the scope to experiment with new approaches to recruitment are multiplied. So too is the potential to gain a competitive advantage in your industry by uncovering social recruiting tactics that work better than anything your competitors are currently doing.

This of course is a very good case for specialising in certain realms of social recruiting so that you're always in tune with developments in the area of social recruiting that benefits your company most directly. But it also means a good case can be made to always be experimenting. Every month we're talking to new recruiting technology platforms who are bringing exciting new approaches to market. Of course not all will succeed, but when I think about the array of new recruiting approaches they are making possible, I'm left in no doubt that what constitutes Social Recruiting will continue to evolve at a remarkable pace.

All the best in your Social Recruiting endeavours this year and beyond and I hope this How To guide has been helpful. If you'd like to learn how to be more effective on social media then do book yourself in a place on one of our free training sessions for recruiters:

#SocialRecruiting - Free Webinars


Tony Restell is the Founder of and helps candidates and recruiters leverage social media. Having spent the last 15 years serving the recruitment industry, Tony is a frequent guest speaker on the ever-changing jobs market and how both candidates and recruiters must adapt in order to thrive. A published author and Cambridge graduate, you’re welcome to reach out to Tony on @tonyrestell