How Recruiters Use Social Networks to Make Hiring Decisions Now

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By now, we’ve all heard about how employers scope out the Tweets and Facebook profiles of job seekers to winnow down the field of applicants. But job seekers may be surprised to hear just how many recruiters now use social media throughout the hiring process. Perhaps more surprising still, most recruiters are apparently checking for grammar and spelling on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

A new survey released by Jobvite, a company that provides applicant tracking software, shows that 92% of employers are using or planning to use social networks for recruiting this year. This is up slightly from last year at 89%. The study retrieved insights from over 1,000 companies, mostly based in the U.S., in a wide variety of industries.

Social networks are viewed by corporations as a means to recruit both passive and active candidates in a personal yet professional way. Companies such as Ernst & Young and Sodexo are building employer brands on social networks to position themselves as the best place to work and to interact with potential candidates. Aside from passively marketing their companies, recruiters are messaging prospects directly, getting introduced through connections and posting jobs in groups. They are using these networks to fish where the fish are.

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Even if you don’t supply a recruiter with your social network profiles, 73% of recruiters will check them out anyway. What are they looking for? First off, it’s important that you have profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. If you don’t, you won’t seem as relevant and companies might think that you’re hiding something. Next, companies are inspecting social profiles to weed out candidates and to get a sense of whether a particular applicant is likely to fit into the culture or not.

What you post or Tweet can have positive or negative impact on what recruiters think of you. Four out of five recruiters liked to see memberships and affiliations with professional organizations on a candidate’s profile, and another 66% react positively when a profile mentions volunteerism efforts. On the other hand, references to illicit drugs, posts of a sexual nature, and mentions of alcohol consumption were likely to be viewed negatively by 78%, 67%, and 47% of recruiters. Interestingly enough, poor grammar and spelling mistakes are worse social networking sins than writing about your latest binge-drinking adventure: 54% of recruiters had a negative reaction to grammar and spelling mistakes, compared to 47% of recruiters negative reaction to alcohol references.

Here are some more details regarding how recruiters are using the top three social networks, and how you can best shape your profiles and posts to increase your chances of getting hired.

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1. LinkedIn. Nearly all (93%) of recruiters are using LinkedIn to discover talent. This is up from 87% in 2011 and 78% in 2010. Furthermore, 89% of recruiters have hired through LinkedIn. LinkedIn was made for recruiting, and the site has an entire suite of recruiting solutions. LinkedIn Recruiter allows recruiters to reach passive candidates by expanding the reach of their personal networks, contact candidates directly and manage a pipeline of talent. The smart advice is to fully utilize LinkedIn in your job search. It’s essential to have to have a flawless (and completely filled-out) profile so that recruiters take you seriously. You should also optimize your profile by adding specialty keywords into your headline (for example “eCommerce and Social Media Expert”), summary, and throughout the rest of your profile so that when recruiters search for candidates with certain skills, you come up. I also recommend that you join industry groups to connect with recruiters that are looking for industry-specific candidates.

2. Facebook. Out of the three networks, Facebook saw the biggest gain in overall usage by recruiters to find job candidates, moving from 55% in 2011 and 2010, to 66% today. One in every four recruiters has successfully found a candidate on Facebook. Companies are using Facebook to discover talent and aren’t hiring directly from the site. But they are creating Facebook pages and promoting them, as well as jobs, through the Facebook Ads platform. Recruiters are using Facebook groups, advertising and their corporate Facebook careers page in order to source candidates. For instance, Marriott’s Jobs and Careers page has an application that lets you run your own Marriott Hotel kitchen, which increases their page engagement and attracts more people to “like” the company. As a job seeker, you have to make sure you’ve turned on your privacy settings, are careful what you post regardless, and you’re tapping into your “friend” network to get referrals. You can also use the BranchOut or BeKnown applications to map job openings to your network. If nothing else, you should “like” a company so you can follow updates and comment.

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3. Twitter. More than half of recruiters (54%) now use Twitter as part of their talent search. This is up from 47% in 2011 and 45% in 2010. Only 15% of recruiters surveyed have actually hired a candidate through Twitter. Companies are using Twitter to post job entries through their own accounts (i.e. CitiJobs). They are also using third party companies, such as Tweet My Jobs and Twit Job Search, to promote their listings. Job seekers should follow companies they want to work for on Twitter and watch out for job listings, while also interacting via Twitter with employees who work there. Again, it’s important to have a strong profile and several Tweets under your belt before you start truly utilizing Twitter to help you pursue work.

Dan Schawbel is a Gen Y career expert and the founder of Millennial Branding. He speaks on the topic of personal branding, social media and Gen Y workforce management for companies such as Google, Time Warner, Symantec, CitiGroup and IBM. Subscribe to his updates at