Using social media for recruitment: 2013 XpertHR survey

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Our latest research looks at the use of social networking media for recruitment, including how employers use such platforms as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Google+ in their search for suitable candidates.

On this page:
About this survey report
How many employers use social media for recruitment?
What are the most popular social media channels?
Range of recruitment activities where social media is used
Chart 1: How social media is used for recruitment
Effectiveness of using social networking media when filling vacancies
Chart 2: How employers rate the success of social media recruitment
YO! Sushi’s use of social media
Key questions to determine a social media recruitment strategy
Our research
What should I do now?

The current, largely loose, labour market does not necessarily mean that there is less competition for talented recruits, therefore sourcing the best candidates is still a priority for recruiters. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are now growing in popularity as a means of attracting quality candidates.

There are several important questions to consider before adopting a social media recruitment strategy, however, including which platforms are best suited to the vacancy and how the process fits with the organisation’s wider recruitment strategy.

This XpertHR research looks at some of these key issues, as well as the main challenges and benefits of using social media for recruitment.

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How many employers use social media for recruitment?

About this survey report

This summary report covers key findings from the 2013 survey on digital recruitment, and focuses on employers’ use of social networking media.

XpertHR’s benchmarking service has the full data on this survey, which also covers the types of vacancies that employers advertise on their corporate websites according to occupational group and the single type of digital recruitment considered the most effective.

Of the 138 organisations taking part in the 2013 XpertHR survey on using digital recruitment, fewer than half (46%) use social networking media for recruitment. This compares with 89.1% of employers that use their own corporate websites for recruitment and 81.8% that rely on commercial job boards.

Although the use of social media as a recruitment tool is still relatively new, our findings indicate that it is a rapidly increasing feature of many organisations’ recruitment strategies. Since the start of 2011, almost six respondent employers in 10 (59%) have increased the proportion of vacancies that they typically advertise on social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

Of the 63 employers that use social media when hiring staff, the majority (82%) manage this aspect of recruitment themselves, as opposed to the alternative of incorporating social media activities into the organisation’s package with a commercial job board (10%).

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What are the most popular social media channels?

The most popular social media channel that employers use to advertise their vacancies is LinkedIn (used by 78% of employers), followed by:


Just 19% of respondent organisations using social media advertise all of their vacancies using these channels, suggesting that employers are careful about choosing the most suitable candidate-attraction techniques to appeal to the target audience for each particular vacancy.

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Range of recruitment activities where social media is used

Our findings show that employers tend to use social media at the early candidate-attraction stage of recruitment rather than at the subsequent applications-management stage, as chart 1 shows.

However, those recruiting do not generally restrict their use of social media to just one or two recruitment activities; on average, four different ways are used to help fill their vacancies.

The most common way for organisations to use social media is to promote themselves as an employer, either by driving applicants to their own corporate or careers website or by developing the organisation’s corporate page on a social media platform.

It is a simple undertaking to build a business presence on a social media channel such as Facebook. Once registered, it is possible to upload corporate images and information about the organisation and, for a fee, run corporate advertisements on the site.

There are more sophisticated candidate-attraction options on offer through social media sites, such as LinkedIn’s “Recruiter” tool (external website). This enables organisations to “search the widest, most qualified talent pool and get all details to better assess candidates”. The tool uses “an advanced search interface” with refinement filters such as “years at company” to help target the most potentially suitable candidates, and allows recruiters to use up to 50 search alerts per month to spot new talent automatically.

This sophisticated kind of social media approach is less commonly used by our panel of employers when sourcing candidates – for example, just 18% of employers use the social media site’s own search engine to advertise their vacancies.

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    Chart 1: How social media is used for recruitment

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Effectiveness of using social networking media when filling vacancies

We asked employers to rate the performance of social media recruitment in four key areas, and the results are shown in chart 2.

Although the use of social media recruitment is not perceived as reducing the workload of those HR professionals involved, it scores highly in increasing the recruiting organisation’s reach to a wide range of potential candidates.

Respondents are also positive about its effectiveness in reducing recruitment advertising costs and filling vacancies with suitable people.

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Chart 2: How employers rate the success of social media recruitment

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YO! Sushi’s use of social media

Within a six-month period in 2012, the restaurant chain YO! Sushi hired three senior members of staff via a social media channel. This would have cost the chain around £30,000 using traditional recruitment tools but, in this case, it was completely free. 

At the 2012 Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development Recruitment and Resourcing Conference, Suresh Banarse, head of people at Yo! Sushi, explained how social media had transformed candidate attraction and recruitment within the company.

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Key questions to determine a social media recruitment strategy

Banarse had some important advice for organisations wishing to develop a social media recruitment strategy. Key questions the recruiting organisation should ask itself are:

  • Why do we want to use social media for recruitment?
  • What vacancies are we trying to fill?
  • Which platforms are best suited to our needs?
  • What is our budget/resource?
  • How does social media recruitment link with other social media business initiatives in the organisation?
  • How does social media recruitment fit with the employer brand?

The answers to these questions will dictate what kind of social media recruitment strategy an organisation should develop.

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Our research

This report is based on original research carried out online in October and November 2012. Responses were received from 138 organisations, employing more than 575,000 people. The breakdown by economic sector is as follows:

  • 88 (64%) are in private-sector services;
  • 18 (13%) are in manufacturing and production; and
  • 32 (23%) are in the public sector.

Broken down by workforce size, the respondent organisations comprise:

  • 54 (39%) with between one and 249 employees;
  • 37 (27%) employing between 250 and 999; and
  • 47 (34%) with 1,000 or more.

The smallest organisation employs five and the largest employs 140,000 people. The average number employed is 4,183.

This feature was written by Rachel Suff, researcher/writer, employment relations.

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What should I do now?

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