Social media is revolutionizing recruitment – are you ready?

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SSON's Barbara Hodge interviews LinkedIn's Director for Asian markets, Simon Kelly. Simon is a key speaker at SSON's HR Delivery Models and Outsourcing Summit in Singapore next year.

Over two thirds of companies today are using some form of social media for marketing/recruiting. In a nutshell, what does social media offer beyond what’s offered by the more traditional approaches?

Social media channels like LinkedIn give brands entirely new ways to reach their audiences, and companies new means to find the best talent. In LinkedIn’s case, with the over 187 million professionals on the network, we have a huge pool which our customers can tap into very cost-effectively.

In terms of recruiting, what’s key for a professional social network like LinkedIn is that over 80% of our members are ‘passive’, that is, they are not actively looking for work. Before LinkedIn came along, the only way to communicate with a passive audience was to use head-hunters. Now, employers can use LinkedIn’s advanced search capabilities to ‘fish where the fish are’.

They can also use LinkedIn to screen and engage with potential candidates and feed them into a talent pipeline. Given that this talent pipeline lives online, it serves as a real-time record updated by professionals themselves, providing recruiters with better insights into a person’s talents, interests, career history, achievements and experience than a resume, which stays static. Furthermore, recruiters won’t just hear it from the candidates themselves; they can also see mutual connections and recommendations made by other professionals.

We believe reasons like this are why LinkedIn’s corporate talent solutions are used by 85 of the Fortune 100 companies - including Wal-Mart, who recruited their entire Asian e-commerce leadership team in just six weeks with the help of LinkedIn Recruiter.

Social media also offers a rich value proposition to marketers. Think about the information most people post about themselves on social networks – age, sex, location, and education, for instance. A professional social network like LinkedIn offers even richer member profiles - nowhere else can marketers accurately target audiences based on industry, title and functional area. The result is that there are no wasted ads and the message is put in front of the right audience.

Furthermore, when on LinkedIn, people are typically in a "work" state of mind – they’re not casually surfing the web (meaning they’re typically more receptive to relevant advertising). According to a recent study from Hootsuite, in a B2B context, LinkedIn delivered four times the conversion of other social network sites.

Privacy and vulnerability to public scrutiny are important issues when it comes to using social media. What can you suggest to HR teams that are drafting rules regarding social platform use?

With any new and disruptive technology like social media, there will always be questions about appropriate usage policies – especially for something like social media, which has its roots in consumer rather than enterprise usage. HR teams can consider having a social media policy for all its employees, a bit like an employment contract. A good rule of thumb for any employee, though, is to always consider what anything you post online in the context of your online brand. With people using search to find out more about others, you wouldn’t want anyone – much less a potential employer – finding an ill-judged social media post on top of the search results.

How can social media be used internally, as well as externally?

Social media offers organisations and their employees a new way of communicating. There are many possibilities for using social media internally, but the sweet spot really depends on their business objectives. For instance, social media technologies can help workers become more productive by helping them communicate and collaborate with each other more quickly and easily. At LinkedIn, for example, we have an internal wiki which we use for robust knowledge sharing. Some of our clients also use social media to encourage internal mobility, by making internal job vacancies more accessible.

The external possibilities are huge too. I’ve talked a little earlier about how recruiters can fish where the fish are, and how marketers can target large audiences with precision. Individual professionals, meanwhile, can use LinkedIn to glean insights and opportunities from the millions of professional discussions and communities on the network.

As companies are increasingly looking at data analytics, how can they monitor, gather, and analyze all this unstructured data available on social media platforms? In other words: how to harness it most effectively?

Data analytics can help businesses make better decisions, and this is something we see making a huge impact. We’re uniquely positioned to help our customers in this respect, given all the data from our more than 187 million members, the content they create, and the information they share.

For instance, one of our customers used LinkedIn to analyse the supply of talent available in a certain city when considering whether to open a new office there. Using LinkedIn, HR teams now have some very powerful analytics with which they can add incredibly valuable insight to the business. We can tell our customers what companies our members come from, what professional skills and qualifications they have, where they studied, and more – in a matter of seconds.

Another example is of our recently launched Talent Brand Index, which allows our Talent Solutions customers to measure and benchmark the strength of their employer brand, and offers new insights into how they can improve their ability to attract top talent.

Where is LinkedIn focusing its efforts today? Where will the value-add come from?

We remain focused on creating the best, most valuable experience for our members around the world, the brand marketers who want to reach them, and the recruiters who are looking to hire the best talent.

We’ve always believed in focusing on our members first. We provide the majority of our solutions to our members at no cost – and we will continue to do this. We think this is the best way to keep building that critical mass of members, which will in turn result in network effects that promote greater utilization of our solutions, higher levels of engagement and increased value for all of our members.

We also want LinkedIn to work wherever our members work. We are constantly adding new features to LinkedIn which will continue to make our members more productive and successful, both on and across the web.

Based on your experiences as LinkedIn’s first Sales Director outside the US, and your work in developing the FTSE client accounts, what are you hoping to do for the Asian marketplace?

These are exciting times to work in HR, with the opportunities social media channels are opening for recruitment professionals to find and engage the best talent, in ways which have never been previously possible.

The most impressive HR teams I have met are characterised by how they innovate and bring value to the business – and now social media is making it easier for them to do it. It’s a great opportunity for a quick win, given that using social media does not require major organisational changes or IT transformation.

The HR function in Asia tends to be more conservative and transactional in its approach – this is a golden chance now to add business value at a more strategic level.