The benefits of enterprise social networks need no defence – although Microsoft’s $US1 billion purchase of Yammer in 2012 is good enough on its own. The statistics clearly show enterprise social networks increase productivity and reduce the amount of time we spend searching for information.

Most of the networks being used by businesses are third-party products built for specific purposes. Campfire, Yammer and Sharepoint are all designed for collaboration – to bring staff together where they may not have been able to communicate clearly.

This is all beneficial, but the more fascinating changes are being seen elsewhere – where businesses have started incorporating social networks to enhance certain businesses processes, and even making networks of their own.

Pivoting recruitment through social media

Retail group  Zappos recently announced it had completely done away with its traditional hiring techniques. In a post on Linked In, consultant Stacy Donovon Zapar said the company had instead created a new careers site and “officially turned off job posting”.

Instead, Zappos has created its own social network for potential recruits. Called ‘Inside Zappos’, the network extends across platforms such as Linked In, Twitter and Facebook, and allows the company to get to know people before any jobs open up. The theory being when a position does make itself available, the company will already have qualified people on the network who’ll be well-known to the company.

Candidates have been encouraged to send in videos of themselves and talk to employees on Twitter and Facebook. There isn’t any need for cover letters or resumes.

At first glance, this is no different to many other businesses which use relationship-based recruitment in other areas. Plenty of companies offer referral bonuses to staff if they happen to bringing someone in who can do a job, and one business in South Australia even hosts a ‘bring a friend to work day’. Many of its new recruits are found there.

Nestle has a similar system to Zappos, albeit not quite as sophisticated. The company has built two dedicated Facebook pages for careers, with new job opportunities posted regularly. While this system is less robust than the solution offered by Zappos, it is nevertheless indicative of something many other businesses are attempting – to actively engage and speak with potential employees before they even step foot in the door.

The evolution of recruitment

Zappos’ move to create its own social network is simply the natural extension of a practice that has already been emerging among businesses – incorporating social networks to not only empower the hiring process, but take it over completely.

This began with the number of recruiters monitoring social networking profiles before calling candidates in for interviews. While this has led to discussion and warnings about best legal practice (some years ago several employers made headlines after asking applicants for their social networking login details), it nevertheless demonstrates an interest in online personas. The practice is so commonplace nine out of 10 employers check out candidates on social media before calling them in for interviews.

As a result, it’s little wonder a network liked LinkedI n has pushed so many of its resources into hiring and human resources. The network’s sophisticated recruiting structure has been a significant revenue raiser – the site has essentially evolved from an online resume database to a recruitment site in and of itself. Companies not only post ads and accept applications through the site but actively head hunt candidates as well.

Traditional vs. social recruiting – What’s the difference?

It’s easy to dismiss this trend as simply an extension of the current recruitment system. To dismiss ads on social networks and online communication as just a replacement for offline channels – this would be a mistake.

Social recruiting is its own entity, evidenced by the fact the industry has two conferences on the topic. The focus of these networks isn’t to simply replace the practice of finding candidates, but to encourage and foster relationships between the recruiting company and the potential candidate. Ultimately, this is the purpose of social networking – to recreate social communication online.

This is indicative of the larger trend of personalisation in media. More consumers want to see the DNA of a company, to see who works there and what they’re doing. Social recruitment is another element of this process – by opening up your own organisation, more candidates attuned to the culture of an organisations are likely to find their way in.

But the benefits of such a strategy only come into play when organisations are going both ways – the best or most desired applicants will only be attracted by organisations that are open and authentic.

This is a long transition, one that will require more organisations to structurally form themselves around being open and honest. Experiments like Zappos’ are an introduction to a system that values access above all else. With ‘always on’ customers demanding instant access when purchasing, it makes sense they demand the same when looking for a job.



John Riccio

John is PwC’s Global Design & Deploy, Experience Consulting partner.

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