Online social media such as LinkedIn and Twitter might be growing in importance for jobseekers, employers and recruiters, but it has made virtually no impact when it comes to applying for a job.
The chances of social media job applications replacing traditional CVs look some way off.
One organisation seeing little change is Hyphen, which specialises in recruitment process outsourcing. It recently published research showing that although social media is popular with those looking for jobs and building networks, it is not an option when it comes to applying.
Candidates still prefer traditional methods because few have any faith in social media as a legitimate application tool.
Nearly a quarter of the professionals surveyed by Hyphen say that even if they did apply for a new role using social media, they would not expect their application to taken seriously.
Zain Wadee, Hyphen’s managing director, says: “Many companies have recently been focusing on creating recruitment and talent sourcing channels on social media.
“Fortunately, most employers are now becoming better at engaging with candidates through these channels.
“But there is still a lack of applications made through social media channels. Candidates prefer to apply using traditional methods for fear of not presenting themselves as a serious candidate.”
Mr Wadee adds: “Developing recruitment and talent-focused channels on social media sites should not be seen as a simple broadcast service to potential talent that offers information about recruitment schemes and new roles.
“Effective use of social media in recruitment should seek to encourage engagement and affinity with the employer brand, and adapt to the needs of the target audience.”
One of the biggest problems, says Mr Wadee, is that most sizeable companies have systems that prefer applications to be made via Word documents. He says applicant tracking systems are used to receive and manage applications and very few accept CVs as anything other than Word documents.
“If other formats are used, this usually results in key information being lost or the application being rejected outright,” he says.
Mr Wadee is also concerned that not every company has embraced a truly mobile-enabled website: “Considering the popularity of smartphones and tablet PCs, having a web page that is not compatible for mobile devices will affect people’s ability to apply via social media and drive them to apply via traditional methods.”
Despite the array of recruitment software available, including Bullhorn, a web-based, cross-platform applicant tracking system; Jobscience, that allows recruiters to match keywords in CVs; and HireVue, that allows candidates to video their interview answers and send them back, systems remain reliant on people.
Stuart Jones, consultant and recruitment trainer with Omni, another recruitment outsourcer, says: “The Utopian recruitment technology just isn’t out there yet that can replace the human resource.
“Plenty of companies are advertising vacancies via social media and contact applicants through these channels.
“However, very few have an effective way of enabling applications via social media channels.
“Of course, there are good versions of third-party apps but in effect they still bring you back into the central corporate careers site. And that’s where the incongruence lies – so much money and effort goes into employer brands, co-ordinated messages and honing the voice and then there’s this horrible lurch when you’re dropped back into a big, grey process-driven website.”
Mr Jones says recruitment technology is beginning to adapt, however, and suspects that in the next decade there will be change. “The next generation of managers are more social-
media savvy,” he adds.
Social media has, however, changed the way in which candidates behave, Mr Jones believes.
“Previously, you would have sent a covering letter and a CV and nobody else other than the company would see it.
“There was more room to embellish. Now, if you’re building a LinkedIn profile and putting your skills and responsibilities on show and it isn’t quite accurate then people can see it. We are certainly starting to see more honest applications,” he says.
While he agrees there is a mismatch between social media job searches and the process of applying, Mr Jones says this is because recruitment remains a fundamentally human process that can never entirely be replaced by social media systems.
Digital strategist Matt Alder is founder of MetaShift, a consultancy, and has been involved in online recruitment for more than a decade. He sees people using social media in the recruitment process but says: “At the senior level social media is being used by employers to source candidates, rather than by candidates as a mechanism to apply for jobs.
“Headhunting and research at this level has become a digitally networked activity and if employees are avoiding social media they could, in effect, be opting out of being found by employers.”
Mr Alder adds: “The growth of social media, and LinkedIn in particular, has unlocked access to people networks and a growing number of companies are taking their executive search in-house on the back of this. Data and networks are only going to become more, rather than less, transparent.”
He says it is no longer good enough to write a CV, let it sit on LinkedIn, and wait for the job offers to pour in. LinkedIn is a living network, not a flat database, he says.
“You should write your profile in a professional manner but the tone should be much more conversational than a formal document such as a CV.”