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The Future of Recruiting

New research finds that professional and social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook are increasingly becoming the place where recruiters are focusing their energy -- and budgets -- to find talent for their organizations. But are reports of the job boards' demise being exaggerated?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012
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It's no secret that your organization's next great hire is out there somewhere in cyberspace; it's just a matter of where your recruiters need to be looking to find him or her.

Increasingly, that place is on professional and social networks -- such as LinkedIn and Facebook -- a trend that could eventually lead to the obsolescence of the job board, according to a report from Oakland, Calif.-based Bersin & Associates.

Built upon responses from more than 400 organizations, the firm's first-ever Talent Acquisition Factbook 2011: Benchmarks and Trends of Spending, Staffing and Key Talent Metrics finds that U.S. spending on talent acquisition rose to about $124 billion in 2011, six percent higher than the year before.

And more of that spending was focused on professional networks, social media and CRM technology, at the expense of both job boards and agencies, according to the report.

"We estimate that U.S. companies are spending an average of $3,500 for every new hire brought into the organization -- about three times the amount spent on training per employee," says Josh Bersin, the firm's chief executive officer and president.

"This large expense is primarily going to agencies and job boards today, but companies increasingly are turning to professional and social networks for their recruiting needs," he says.

The report finds that, while 10 percent of open positions are currently filled using professional networking sites, this percentage is expected to rise rapidly as both recruiters and job seekers become more adept at using these sites.

"With dramatic changes in the talent-acquisition market, job boards risk becoming obsolete. After all," Bersin says, "the social network is a job board, in a sense."

In order for organizations to get the most bang out of their recruiting buck, he says, recruiters need to become familiar with using such sites for advertising as well as branding purposes -- although he notes the terminology has shifted to "employment marketing."

"The money that's invested in marketing is really small compared to the money in recruiting," he says, referring to the $3,500-per-hire figure. "But really good recruiters need to work with the heads of marketing to make sure their brands are consistent and relevant to the candidates they want to attract."

He says a "family of tools that produce job listings" on Facebook and LinkedIn are available to recruiters, adding that "the tools are very inexpensive and are easy to use."

Mid-to-large-sized companies could also benefit, he says, by buying into LinkedIn's database of users "in order to do really strategic sourcing, along the lines of what a professional recruiting organization does, because companies are beginning to build their sourcing expertise internally."

Bersin says the most important thing HR can do before making the move to greater use of social networks is to "develop a clear agreement on the characteristics, culture and demographics of the people you want to hire."

"If you don't know that," he says, "you'll just be flooded with resumes."

Indeed, the Bersin Factbook notes that firms already receive an average of 144 applications for every entry level/hourly opening, and an average of 89 applications for each professional position.

"The time spent up-front being very clear about this is going to save you a lot of money and give you much better candidates," he says.

Greg Simpson, leader of the career-transition practice at Lee Hecht Harrison, a Woodcliff Lake, N.J.-based talent-management provider, says recent research by his firm only lends further credence to the increasing importance of social networks for recruiting.

Only 11 percent of job seekers are finding new jobs on "passive job sites," he says.

Simpson says the company arrived at that figure "from looking at ... the ways individuals are looking at jobs," and adds that "that number is pushing down from 15 to 13 percent" over the past few years.

"What's happening with social recruiting," he says, "is that it's expanding the ability to use referrals to find candidates."

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The most forward-thinking recruiting organizations, Simpson says, allow their HR leaders to have more input into the overall content of the organization's professional networking sites.

"We're seeing examples of HR having more input within the social-media sites regarding the company's cultures and values," he says. And that allows the company to have better luck in finding "fans" or brand advocates who may be potential sources of talent.

"That's where they're really staring to zero in," he says. "It's an opportunity to build relationships prior to the talent need."

But Gerry Crispin, co-founder of CareerXroads, a staffing-strategy consultancy based in Kendall Park, N.J., says the reports of the death of the job board are greatly exaggerated.

"I accept the [Bersin] data but have formed a different conclusion," he says. "Job boards are not dying. There are too many examples where [organizations] are adding to their services to become more like the networking/social media/communication application that every expert is touting."

In fact, Crispin says, the last two years has seen an upturn in the percentage of openings filled or attributed, at least in part, to job boards.

"Bersin's own study, for example, points out that 19 percent of their respondents' openings were filled through job boards in 2010," he says. "That's neither dead nor dying!" 

Crispin adds that recruiters have been declaring for the past five years -- in his own surveys -- that they will be spending less on job boards in the upcoming year.

"And they do [spend less], but for traditional postings," he says. "Mostly because the price has come down and, as the lower cost of posting lots of jobs becomes more and more automated, postings fall out of view and become background noise to the recruiting process, until they have to determine where the hires came from."

He notes that a combination of factors influence the source of hire, "not just the one that is recorded as 'primary'."

"Publishing an open job is a start," Crispin says, "but it's not sufficient to get the job [filled]. Social media, referrals, groups, affinity circles -- they all play an increasingly valuable role in the channel of influences that is fast becoming the playing field where people and company opportunities meet."

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