Culture Shock: Recruiters Rely Too Much on Social Media

This season – a time of goodwill and the desire to do better in the world – I find myself a man in culture shock. Because I live on the other side of recruiting – knowing and respecting the industry for its hard work but also knowing the vacuum that candidates have lived in since the recruiter revolution took hold as a means of accelerating company-to-employee matches – I have to share that culture shock.

The vibrations that set it all in motion occurred in posts from two of my fellow Recruiter Today writers: "Five Reasons Why Social Proof Matters to Recruiters" by Mark Anthony Dyson and "How Do We Bring Charisma to Social Networking?" by David Harder.

These are my fellow writers, and this is not a case of criticism. Rather, I'd like to respectfully challenge their priorities. My question is, at what point had social media profiles begun to outweigh strong skills and abilities, and how much weight should social media profiles carry against certified, documented skill sets?

Dyson does a great job of listing five elements that qualify social media as a primary source in making hiring/interview decisions. I get the value of "caring," but there was also the statement that "[w]hen we hear people telling stories about how others have helped them, we are assured and comforted more than we are by lists of certifications and degrees." This is romantic, but when did employers stop wanting people who could come to their office with a problem and a solution to that problem formulated through channels of degree knowledge and certification trainings?

Harder's personal and expressive analysis of charisma corroborated this sense of caring. He tells the story of someone who went the extra mile in helping a member of his family and who, in his words, "remembered everything." Harder goes on to point out a key lesson for recruiters and candidates alike: "If we shower people with high-quality attention, interest, and fascination, they will almost always want to know more about us."

We can call it "charisma," but it is really just the basic premise of good listening skills – two eyes, two ears, one mouth. We should see and listen at least twice as much as we talk.

Yet many job seekers see the exact opposite happening with recruiters. Recruiters request piles of information and insist that their instructions are followed, but the candidates can say nothing. There is no correspondence, no room for questions to help both the candidate and the recruiter do their job – nothing but no-response emails and the high likelihood that the candidate will never even hear from a recruiter when they are rejected.

Social charisma has to be a two-way street.

Collectively, this move to prioritize social media would suggest, for example, that my medical doctor's performance status, degrees, and post-training were irrelevant. If people love them on social media, they must be a great doctor. This is a logical fallacy, called a "non-sequitur," which means "does not follow." In this case, it does not follow that someone is a great physician because their online profile demonstrates that they care.

I am respectfully challenging recruiters to rethink their tendency to value pretty profiles over certifications and degrees. To do so is to tell candidates that their academic experience is irrelevant as long as they have deleted all their party pictures and recruited a number of friends and colleagues to sing their praises. I haven't seen evidence that recruiters can find the best candidates by letting social media play such a big role – because we can all make our profiles as real or as artificial as we want.

The nontraditional part of me looks at new recruiting techniques and wants to tell people of my age and skill to not bother with recruiters, thanks to their myopic view of screening systems and the glitter of social pages. We have the skills to communicate with hometown companies that want what we know, so why not go old school and communicate at a grassroots level?

The part of me that understands the new way of doing business – the incredible workload that recruiters face and the demands for "that perfect candidate" they must meet – wants to encourage recruiters to not devalue skills, certifications, and communication in favor of the artificial chirping on social networks. Social profiles should be the least of influence in a world demanding the highest level of skills and self-discipline necessary for day-to-day shop success.

No one loves a critic, and criticism is not my message. My message is a question: Would you choose your medical doctor because social media said they were 'caring' – without knowing if they even graduated medical school?

If so, then the recently passed holiday season left coal in my job stocking.

But there is always next Christmas.

Dr. Thomas Eaton serves as a project coordinator and lead writing associate for Empathinc: A Public Writing Center.