Should You Be Using Facebook For Recruiting?

Editor’s Note: This week, TLNT is counting down the most popular posts of 2010. This is No. 20 in our Top 25. We’ll continue to do this through New Year’s Eve. Our regular content will return on Monday January 3, 2011.

One of the interesting things I’ve heard over the last few months as I’ve talked to different people and companies is how they couldn’t imagine using Facebook for recruiting.

LinkedIn they got. In fact, give it up to HR and recruiting folks. Most of the people I talked to had either made a connection that led to a hire or made a hire directly off LinkedIn. Many organizations, even smaller ones, didn’t seem to mind forking over money for it.

Twitter was a little less clear. Most of the crowds I talked to weren’t super engaged with Twitter as a recruiting tool (or as an anything tool). But once explained, there seemed to be some connections made that it could be useful.

So why the push back on Facebook?

Personal, Personal, Personal

The initial objection is that it is a personal platform. People use it to get away from work (sometimes explicitly). They want to share picture of grandkids or give their friends the latest on what they may be doing. If they are looking for work, they are going to look on a job board or on LinkedIn, if they are going to pick a social network.

All of that is fair, but what if you weren’t looking for work? Where would you be?

Probably on Facebook. With over 100 million users in the U.S. and being one of the top sites on the Internet, there’s a good chance that if you spend any significant time online, you’ll be there. And that’s what makes it an attractive place to go after potential candidates.

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An application called Work For Us

I was recently able to talk to the folks of a Facebook application called Work For Us. What it does is add a way for people to see jobs and apply from a company’s Facebook fan page. The example they gave me is American Apparel (who has quite a sizable fan base). Their target demographic is also quite a good match for Facebook’s primary demographic but it can give you an idea of what’s possible. With over 300,000 fans, they were able to generate 6.5 million views on the 123 jobs they posted using Work For Us. That’s about 20 views per fan.

There’s potential there, especially if you do some pay-per-click advertising with Facebook. The assumption would be that staying within the Facebook interface is ultimately better for converting potential candidates into actual leads.

Now is that going to get you the same results for every company? Absolutely not. And while Work For Us has done well in all kinds of sectors, let’s not pretend that if you’re targeting mechanical engineers with 30 years of experience that you might not be trying to put a square peg through a round hole.

Privacy concerns

One thing I always hear about Facebook is about privacy concerns. And certainly the well publicized hiccups don’t do the platform any favors. Work For Us let me know that their app doesn’t take any information from a Facebook profile and many of their clients choose to direct the job ads directly to their ATS or career site. In fact, they don’t even require you like a page to look at or apply for a job.

The problem, of course, is that they are fighting every other shady Facebook app developer that does reveal sensitive information. I can’t imagine that many folks who are already pretty paranoid about their online presence aren’t at least a little leery about submitting information.

Bottom line

Assuming Facebook is able to put privacy concerns behind them, it isn’t a bad idea to reconsider the idea of reaching out to passive candidates using Facebook. The Work For Us app seemed to get the job done in an easy manner, but there are other options from using a Facebook page to distribute jobs and advertising using the Facebook platform.

Lance Haun is the practice director of strategy and insights for The Starr Conspiracy, where he focuses on researching and writing about work technology. He is also a former editor for ERE Media, broadly covering the world of human resources, recruiting, and sourcing. 
He has been featured as a work expert in publications like the Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, MSNBC, Fast Company, and other HR and business websites.
He's based in his Vancouver, Wash., home office with his wife and adorable daughter. You can reach him by email or find him off-topic on Twitter.