Online is where both recruiters and job seekers are increasingly going. But all should know about the various pros and cons. Communicate tells you why
The Middle East job market is bustling with more pings, tweets, follows and likes than ever before. If the social media sphere is where it all happens nowadays, then recruitment professionals moving there makes sense. While this has led to the explosive growth of online recruitment portals, professional networking social platforms and the likes, one cannot help but wonder: does recruitment work – better – online?
No doubt, professional networking online platforms such as LinkedIn are increasingly popular. According to the Arab Social Media Report 2012, produced by the Dubai School of Government’s Governance and Innovation Program, LinkedIn (rumored to be setting up its Dubai office soon) had more than four million active users in the Arab world as of July 2012 compared to 3.01 million in July 2011 – and out of these four million, 1.04 million active profiles are from the UAE, the most “LinkedIn-friendly” country in the region, followed by Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The number of LinkedIn users in the Arab world has grown by no less than 20 percent between February and June 2012.
Professional networking and job search Facebook applications, such as BranchOut and GlassDoor, are also picking up, albeit being no match for LinkedIn just yet. And, on top of making announcements in the form of Facebook posts, many companies in the region have created dedicated tabs on their respective pages allowing direct uploads of CVs. Maybe more importantly, social media is also becoming a crucial factor in making recruiting decisions: according to a study conducted by online job website Bayt.com, more than 57 percent of employers and recruiters in the region research candidates online before hiring. Social media, in turn, makes up a huge portion of its online research, for reference checks, recommendations and even previous work or portfolio perusal. Suhail Masri, VP-sales at Bayt.com, says: “We have included social aspects in the job hunt process, such as the possibility to ask for recom-mendations and references on a candidate on LinkedIn, or by allowing our members to use their Facebook network to see who works where, and leverage that against available job postings.”
Convenient, easy and cheap
Unsurprisingly, potential employers in the communication field emphasize how a job candidate interacts on social media, and on his or her passion for this particular medium.Ricarda Ruecker, VP-leadership and organization development at MCN MENA, says all MCN agencies actively use social media for sourcing candidates and placing vacancies; on the other hand, if they hope to be part of a communication group, potential employees are expected to be
active on all social media platforms, and not only use buzz words such as “social media savvy” as a mere embellishment on their CVs. “The people we look for in media and advertising should be advocates of the latest technologies and [they] need to be digitally savvy. Our entire staff uses social media for personal and/or professional purposes. Hence, using social media for recruitment is a logical consequence of the development of our times, the generation we talk to, the means of communication they use and grew up with. People who actually use platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are the people we look for.” Similarly, Noah Khan, general manager of BPG Social (see page 8), says that as a communications group, BPG won’t hire a candidate who’s not registered on LinkedIn and other social media channels. He says, “Being present on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook is important in a potential candidate for us. If the job seeker claims to be proficient in the use of social media, then we should be able to find him/her there in the first place. Even after we shortlist potential employees, we run checks on Twitter and Facebook to see his/her social media activity, following interactions to gauge their comfort level with social media. It gives us a better feel of their personality and if the person is the right fit for the job – be it in media, PR or creative.”
Moreover, recruiting via social media can prove to be cost effective and technically convenient. Maya AlKury, HR manager at Vivaki, says: “We have recently updated our recruitment policy and I’ve added social media to the mix because, firstly, it’s free of cost. For example, if you connect with potential candidates on LinkedIn, you can build a talent pool that is completely free of cost. Also, I remember eight years ago, I used to sit at a desk and go through piles and piles of CVs and paperwork; but now all I have to do is click the right categories – position, location and skill level – it’s so convenient. It is easy access to information for us and it’s more efficient.”
According to Jonathan Labin, country manager-MENA at Facebook, social media recommendations also come in handy. He says, “Social media recommendations are extremely powerful and are influencing decisions for employers as well as job seekers. These recommendations have incredible value because they come directly from contacts or friends on Facebook and other social media, [people] we know personally and whom we trust; social media recommendations and referrals become important influencers.”
Who to hire where?
According to the Arab Social Media Report 2012, 70 percent of LinkedIn users in the Middle East are aged between 18 and 34, and young people [between 25 and 34] already getting established in their careers interestingly form a much larger share of this total than university students and fresh graduates. The report also shows that in terms of effective hires too, middle to senior level professionals have the upper hand compared to junior executives and fresh graduates. AlKury says, “I’ve recruited people through social media from the executive level to the VP level, in the past five years. It is very easy to reach juniors through job boards, seminars, college placements and so on, but for mid level and higher level management, its best to find them on social networks such as LinkedIn.”
AlKury adds that industry professionals with different levels of experience are found on different social media channels. She says, “Junior executives and fresh graduates can be reached best via Twitter and Facebook, because they follow companies on platforms that they can access easily on their mobile phones and platforms that do not require extensive work on profiles. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is [the best online tool] to reach professionals on a higher level with more experience.”
Indeed, Demis Kyriacou, from consulting firm Morgan McKinley, which extensively uses social media to recruit talent, stresses the importance of using the right social media channel. He says, “Facebook does not work for all companies in terms of recruitment, and we find it less effective. Twitter, on the other hand, is a great referral network for jobs. It is effective, but more as an indirect network for job seekers and recruiters, unlike LinkedIn, which is unanimously considered the most effective platform for direct candidates.”
However, Randa Chehab, talent manager at JWT Levant, argues that Facebook can work as an effective medium for recruitment, if used efficiently. She says, “We are using both Facebook and LinkedIn – in fact, we believe they complement each other. Sometimes we find information missing on one platform, which we find on the other. It gives us a wider vision on the applicant’s resume, experience and hobbies, along with all the information we need. These social media channels help us target a specific relevant pool of talent. Whatever we need to know, we get easily and immediately from these two platforms.”
LinkedIn and Facebook appear to be the online spaces where to best find PR and corporate communications professionals, followed by digital media marketers. Khan adds that advertising account managers and digital art professionals are also among the top talent being recruited via social media. He says, “It’s becoming easier to identify the right talent for agencies, especially with portfolio work made accessible via blogs, for example. So apart from PR and digital marketers, advertising executives, graphic designers and creative directors are also increasingly being hired through social media.”
Dos and dont’s
Thanks to social media, the talent pool of professionals in the regional communications industry becomes easier to tap; on the downside, though, the process also becomes increasingly time-consuming for employers and recruiters who need to screen and sort through the mass of candidates that social media attracts. Masri says, “The main disadvantage [of using social media for recruitment] is the fact that the job postings are usually not targeted; so that invites a lot of clutter and irrelevant profiles to sort through. This can make the whole process a lot more time-consuming and inaccurate.” According to Kyriacou, the problem lies in the enthusiasm from fans and followers of brands on social media. He says, “People on social media are very passionate about certain brands they follow or like or engage on Twitter with. Now, when their favorite brand, or company, posts a job on social media pages, they lose sight of what their own capabilities are and apply blindly, just because they admire the company and hope to work with them some day. This attracts a lot of candidates with the wrong skill set, and ends up being a huge problem for recruiters and employers because the right candidates get lost in the deluge.”
AlKury adds that making the process increasingly difficult, candidates do not properly separate their personal and professional social media profiles and, more importantly, do not keep their online and off-line profiles consistent. She says, “People tend not to be careful about aligning their social media job profiles with their physical CVs and their profiles on job boards. We have found instances where the same person has different profile details on social media, job boards and CVs with recruiters. People have to be very careful about that sort of a thing and maintain consistency, because we do cross-check.” Moreover, job seekers applying via social media should be careful to keep their entire social media presence clean and free of controversial elements. Bayt.com’s survey, “Hiring Management in the MENA 2012” revealed that more than eight out of ten employers in the MENA region are taking the time to search the Internet to find out more about their potential hires, and they do pay attention to such aspects. Ruecker says that “On Facebook, be careful what kind of pictures you place or what kind of comments or wall posts you make. There is no such thing as ‘private space’ anymore.”
Also, “Job seekers should put relevant keywords in their social media profiles and on LinkedIn, to maximize visibility to local employers. The use of basic search engine optimization (SEO) principles is important to get the maximum benefit out of social media,” adds Kyriacou. Last, job seekers should always keep in mind that social media can backfire, as Philippa Clayre, head of corporate communications at JWT MENA explains: “People can be very aggressive in their blog posts sometimes, yet present themselves differently on their resumes; and with search engines, we, as employers, can find out quite a lot about a candidate. Talent can use social media as a tool to be able to show a potential employer exactly what they’re about, without having to write it down on a resume. But, for example, if you’re going to blast off on the [new Lebanese] anti-smoking law, you can’t expect to get hired by a tobacco account. People have their opinions and they have to express them, but if they are doing so in the public space of social media, they should be careful. Nowadays, if you’ve made a mistake, it’ll turn up; and even if you didn’t post it, someone else will.”