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If there’s one thing that social media technology is great at, it’s finding people.
Whenever you sign up for a social media site, you either enter personal information or (more likely these days) your existing social media graph is taken from other sites you’re registered to. Similarities between your social graph and others automatically put you in a category with them. So if you like chili pepper and someone else likes chili pepper – no matter what else either of you is into, if there’s a society for the appreciation of chili peppers then you’ll both see it pop up on your adverts bar.
With the advent of LinkedIn, a social media for business site, employers and recruitment agencies have started to realise this power could be harnessed to provide likely candidates for open positions. From interests, to past job titles, to industry experience, key points on the social graph of an “ideal” candidate are index-linked to the actual points appearing on the graph of the applicants. In theory the one with the most correlations is best suited to the position.
Further, this technology can be used to actively fish for good candidates. Instead of simply looking at people who’ve come forward for your role, you can identify people who would be ideal for it and offer them the chance to be interviewed for it.
The above techniques can clearly be very beneficial, particularly for roles in which an unusual combination of skill sets would be an advantage. Being able to target your employees in this way means less time wasted on setting up interviews with ultimately unsuitable people; less money spent on advertising that ends up with the wrong people.
Social media streamlines your advertising for people, in other words, in the same way that it streamlines your advertising of your own products.
So what are the dangers? Well for a start not every perfect candidate is quantifiable, and often you’ll find that the best candidates are completely un-quantifiable. It’s the fresh perspective they bring that makes them so good at re-organising the way your company or your department works.
There are people – believe it or not – who don’t pay much attention to social media, who don’t have social media pages, and who have no intention of getting involved even with social media for business. This tends to be the high end sector of the job market, where existing personal contacts and word of mouth (exactly the same things that social media streams embody) have always been good enough to lead into the next position. When you’re looking to hire an experienced MD or a high level executive, you have to ask: is this person likely to be on a social network yet?
Remember too that using social media to find your ideal candidate presupposes your ability to define the perfect candidate. While you are of course well placed to understand your industry and the requirements of your role, you are always at risk of losing good options through tagging demographics the best candidates actually don’t show.