E-ffective? Businesses find recruiting via social media works, often for free

June 11, 2009

The rise of social media think Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube has caught the attention of the business community, which increasingly is using the outlets as online recruiting tools.

Instead of tedious hourly updates about the grindingly dull minutiae of mundane lives, metro Detroit companies and job seekers have discovered that social media allows a focused, cost-effective way of bolstering, and in some cases supplanting, traditional print, broadcast and online recruiting.

Even the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency are using Facebook to recruit.

U.S. Web-based recruiting has grown into a $522 million industry, and it's predicted to grow at a rate of 8 percent a year, based on 2008 Forrester Research data, reported Cobizmag.com, an online Colorado business magazine.

That includes traditional job Web sites, but it's harder to quantify the use of purely social networking sites, which typically are free.

Southfield-based automotive data analysts R.L. Polk & Co. has an interactive career portal (polk.standoutjobs.com) that links to more than 50 social networks.

We also use Twitter, Facebook and MySpace to broadcast our opportunities. I would say social networks are the main way we advertise and generate all of our candidates, said JayMarshall, Polk's manager of talent acquisition.

The company's use of social media for recruiting recently helped it become a winner in the biennial Arbor Awards for Excellence for innovative or best resources in human resources management, sponsored by Northville-based human resources consulting firm The Arbor Consulting Group and Eastern Michigan University.

About 25 percent of Farmington Hills-based design agency Eview 360's job interviewees come from social media contacts, CEO Melissa Centra said.

You can reach a great deal of people through social networking, and you can also gain a lot more referrals that way, she said. In addition, the word about the company hiring spreads rapidly, which generates unsolicited inquiries.Instead of incurring the cost of placing an ad, you can use your network to spread the word and help you identify top talent.

Unlike recruiting-specific online resources, such as Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com, most social networking sites are free. They can be set up in minutes and are relatively easy because they're designed for general use.

Ann Arbor-based McKinley Inc., a national real estate firm, has hired 150 people this year and expects to hire 150 more. Much of the recruiting will be done through the firm's various online tools, including Facebook.

McKinley began using social networking outlets to recruit in February and has discovered that the yield ratio of inquiries to actual interviews is extremely high, about 75 percent, said Karen Andrews, the firm's chief development officer.

The candidates we've seen come though (social media connections) are exactly what we're looking for, she said.

The company is adding short video interviews with current employees to McKinley's social media pages to show prospective candidates what it's like to work there.

We want it to be an authentic feel of what it's like to work with us, Andrews said. The spots are being made with a $200 Flip digital video camera.

The companies using social media to recruit are as varied as those who use it for play.

For example, Troy-based Diversified Industrial Staffing Inc. has been posting job openings on social media Web sites for the past month. The company is a head-hunter for clients seeking to fill skilled jobs, such as machinists and welders, in the construction, manufacturing and logistics industries.

Those looking for jobs are increasingly turning to their social networking in addition to traditional online recruiting sites.

With this job search, I didn't want at all to look on Monster and HotJobs and all the popular sites, said Brenda Meller, who was hired in December as marketing manager for Troy-based Walsh College, thanks to a connection on LinkedIn.com, a networking site that connects people professionally and academically

I didn't want to be lost in the millions of people looking out there.

She made a connection with someone at Walsh on LinkedIn, and hers was the first rsum for the job (of hundreds) that wasn't posted yet. She was able to build a rapport through social media with the recruiter and eventually landed the position.

Meller cautioned that being first and being savvy with social networking is helpful, but being qualified for the job is more important.

LinkedIn got me there, but it was a combination of factors that got me the job at Walsh, she said.

Others remain comfortable with traditional job-search methods.

Farmington resident and certified public accountant Dave Schneider is looking for a job as a staff or senior accountant, or being an assistant controller. He doesn't use social media.

I guess I am not familiar with how the social networking works, he said. I think accountingjobs are found using the traditional approach; however, I could be mistaken.

Bill Shea: (313) 446-1626, bshea@crain.com