In recent times, recruitment specialist Hays has seen many organisations diving into the online networking space to incorporate social media in their recruitment process before developing a proper strategy or thinking about what they want to achieve.

With the rise in popularity of Web 2.0 tools and technologies like Facebook, wikis and blogs, all the talk has been about how these online spaces could help firms find those elusive passive candidates.

Here was a medium that provided free access to thousands of potential candidates. But without thinking ahead, the increasing use of these mediums means employers no longer totally own their brand.

Clear usage policy

Employers have to accept that allowing employees to blog and discuss matters on social forums isn’t without its risks and employees must remember that they are representing the company.

This is where a clear strategy and policy around what employees can and cannot do comes into play.

When incorporating social media into the recruitment process, there is more to consider than simply broadening your search base. Quality — not quantity — matters.

If companies want to be active in online communities, their image and reputation have to be carefully managed and monitored, and they need to act quickly to address any issues because they can become widespread and have a significant impact on attracting candidates.

That is not to say we should steer away from using social media. Technology has an important part to play in the recruitment process but it should not be wholly at the expense of proven communication methods like face-to-face interviews.

With many candidates now being much more strategic in their approach to online networking, taking advantage of the sites linked to career-related groups and forums is a sensible move.

At Hays, our social media starting point was the recognition that social media itself is very broad and its use required careful consideration.

We use LinkedIn to network with our candidates and  also tweet some of our jobs. But underpinning our actions is the belief that while technology and social media must be used to add value to the recruiting process, face-to-face methods must still play a central  role in hiring talent.

Recruitment is a people industry. Taking the time to get to know someone is still crucial in identifying the right role for them. Picking up the phone to talk to candidates or meeting them in person just can’t be substituted.  

Used at the right time and in the right way, social media offers a highly effective way of communicating. Used exclusively, at the expense of speaking to people, it becomes counter-productive.

Social media strategy

For any organisation considering incorporating social media into the recruitment process, here is some advice:

* Find out what is being said online about your organisation, and where it is being said.

* Continue to listen to what is said about your organisation. You can also use the information as the basis for your future conversations with potential recruits.

* Identify potential audiences.

* Develop a strategy.

* Involve the business. Do not restrict your social media efforts to the HR department; candidates want to have peer-to-peer conversations with those in the areas of the business they could work in.

* Select your social media ambassadors well. Provide training on appropriate content that will engage potential recruits.

* Be alert to change. Do not become preoccupied with a single area of technology. Social media changes rapidly.