Why (UK) recruiters shouldn’t put all their eggs in the social media basket quite yet.
published by , on 18/10/2011

(by Ben PhilipsTRecKnowledgy)

I’m obviously a huge fan of what social media is doing in the world of recruitment. I genuinely am. I’m truly excited by the way digital social platforms are shaking up recruitment & selection as a whole.

The reason for this post is to try and calm some of the sensationalism and general BS doing the rounds. Not that I want to be a downer to anyone’s high but I think some objectivity is required to bring some balance to those who appear to have been inhaling a few too many hits from the social recruiting bong.

When you talk to people about social recruiting they often think of the big three – LinkedIn, Twitter & Facebook. Rightly so. When you look at LinkedIn it’s by far the leading professional online platform (in terms of members) in the western world (when compared to Xing [German based]) and Viadeo [French based]). As of August 2011, they were boasting in excess of a mightily impressive 120,000,000 members. On the surface this is a huge number. Dig a little deeper and you’ll highlight a very respectable 22% (26 million) of it’s members are based in Europe. Dig further though and, in terms of the UK labour market, things start to become slightly more sobering.

If you’re focusing your recruitment within Britain you’ll currently find approximately 5% (6 million) of LinkedIn’s members based here. Something else we need to consider when talking about social platforms is how many of the users are actually “active” i.e. are engaged, frequent users vs. those that are inactive – Set up an account and leave it dormant the majority of the time. In a recruitment context think of it like this. To the untrained ear it sounds very impressive to say your digital recruitment footprint consists of 10,000 new followers & fans on your Facebook / LinkedIn / Twitter careers pages. Your bosses would be more impressed if you told them it consisted of 10,000 new, relevant, regularly active, authentically engaged candidates acquired through your Facebook / LinkedIn / Twitter careers pages.

Descending further into the rabbit’s hole and a bigger picture begins to emerge within the UK market:


According to the Office of National Statistics the labour supply in the UK described as “economically active” (population who are able to work whether currently in employment or not) was 31,759,000 as of June 2011. If you take LinkedIn’s UK members it means approximately only 19% of the UK’s labour supply are on the platform.

Please don’t get me wrong. I totally agree that Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn et al are incredibly powerful recruitment tools. They can be a great source of candidate supply for certain functions in particular sectors. Would I advise you put all your recruitment eggs in the social media basket just yet? No. 81% of the UK labour market isn’t on LinkedIn. Of the 19% that are we also need to consider those that aren’t actively engaged and discoverable on it and the other platforms out there. I appreciate this is only one statistic but if you look a whole employment population in a country it’s got to be quite an important one right? Or am i being overly simplistic? (answers and any other thoughts / opinions in the comments section below please).

This leads me to share my thoughts on some of the other noise being generated out there on the back of the exciting things happening in the social recruiting space. The impending death of the CV? The imminent demise of job boards? The death knell already being sounded for recruitment agencies throughout the land? Oh please. All of these things may happen but not anytime soon. Maybe in some niche sectors where an abnormally high percentage of candidate supply can be found on the social platforms, but definitely not industry / nationwide as some rather evangelical folks would have us believe.

In terms of social recruiting and it’s associated technology adoption I would propose we’re coming up to a quarter / halfway up the “Early Adopters” curve on Everett Rogers’s model (see below):


There are some folks playing in the fields of social recruiting who need to realise we’re still very much in the minority. There’s a hell of a long way to go before social media becomes the silver bullet of recruitment some would want us to believe it already is. I look forward to continuing being one of the “Innovators” / “Early Adopters”, and contributing to blazing the trail but let’s keep grounded folks. Let’s ensure we’re taking people with us on this journey and not disengaging them by running off into the social recruiting woods without taking the blatantly obvious majority with us.

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