January 15, 2004   view past issues

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Feature: Can Social Networking Help Recruiters?

In case you haven’t heard, the latest craze to hit the Internet is something called social networking. It’s a service offered at such sites at,, and Ryze (

Social networking uses technology to help people make connections with other people who are friends with their friends. If genealogy traces the ancestors you never knew, social networking (at least as it is practiced online) traces the contacts you never knew you had. At, for example, you sign up for the service by filling out a form (with self-descriptive information) and linking that form to all of your friends. They, in turn, do the same thing which brings their friends into your network and your friends into theirs. Do that with 100 friends, Friendster claims, and you’ll have 800,000 people with whom you can connect.

Can social networking help recruiters connect with high quality candidates? Well … sort of. Networking, after all, remains a key component of candidate sourcing, even on the Internet. Indeed, as my long-time readers know, I believe cyber-networking or e-networking is the most underrated aspect on online recruiting and the one with the greatest potential for advancing an organization’s position in the War for the Best Talent.

How does e-networking work? Just as it does in the real world. You connect with prospective candidates and develop relationships with them through personal interactions. In the real world, those interactions are typically one-on-one and face-to-face. On the Internet, they are one-on-many and occur via e-mail. Traditional networking usually takes place around business meetings or at the annual conferences and monthly get-togethers of professional and trade organizations; networking online, in contrast, takes place in the discussion forums and the bulletin boards of association, alumni organization and affinity group Web-sites. In the real world, you’re talking to a single prospect, while in cyberspace you’re writing to and reading posts from all of the participants in the virtual conversation.

In both cases, networking enables you to:

  • find high quality prospects who (a) have not applied for one of your openings, (b) are not familiar with your organization and/or (c) may not even be looking for another opportunity;
  • pre-qualify them or make an initial evaluation of their potential contribution to and fit with your organization; and
  • pre-sell them or begin a private conversation (away from the meeting or online forum) where you endeavor to convince them that it’s in their best interest to consider joining your organization.
  • Traditional networking, however, is both time consuming and limited in scope (after all, there are only so many one-on-one conversations you can have in a single day). By networking online, you can interact with hundreds, even thousands of prospects at one time and do so from the comfort of your office or even at home.

    Now, don’t misunderstand; I’m not saying you should stop your traditional networking. What I am saying is that you should start e-networking. And, that brings me back to and its fellow purveyors of social networking. While those sites can, indeed, put you in touch with other people, the lack of community communication among them essentially eliminates your ability to pre-qualify them. In other words, when prospects are speaking to their peers at association or trade sites, the interaction, itself, enables you to spot prospects and form opinions about their capabilities. Those early impressions need to be validated, of course, but they are infinitely more helpful than reading a couple of paragraphs about a person and peering at a photo (unless your real purpose is to find a date).

    More importantly, why go to some other site to do your networking? Why go to Friendster or to an association or alumni site, for that matter, when you could interact with great prospects right in the comforts of your own Web-site? The answer to that question is the best kept secret in online recruiting. I’ll tell you, but you’ll have to promise not to ell anyone else. Are we agreed?

    O.K., here’s the secret. The single best way to win the War for the Best Talent online is to network at your own corporate career site. That’s right. Create a discussion forum or bulletin board on your own site that stimulates, informs, entertains and educates the best and brightest in key career fields and they will come (and, even better, bring their friends and colleagues) by the hundreds or even thousands.

    Huddle with the hiring managers who most need this talent and ask that they select “A” level performers to moderate the forums and/or bulletin boards you set up on your site. Then, devote the first thirty minutes of your day to reading the posts to see who stands out and to interacting with those prospects privately to pre-qualify and pre-sell them. The return on that 2 ½ hour investment each week will dramatically enhance the quality of the candidates you recruit and lower your cost of doing so.

    Online networking works because top talent shares two unique attributes:

  • They like to hang out with their peers
  • and

  • They like to strut their stuff.
  • Yes, you can put those attributes to work for you at association, trade organization, alumni and certain affinity group sites. Networking at such locations can and does yield great prospects. But, using them means that you are competing with other recruiters who are also networking online. Bringing your networking “in-house,” on the other hand, enables you to acquire its benefits privately and brands your organization as one that uniquely walks the talk when it comes to supporting top talent.

    Thanks for Reading,

    Peter Weddle

    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    HVAC Agent has reintroduced an old idea to online recruiting. Basically, it combines the power of the Web with the savvy of human recruiters to provide employers with a select slate of candidates for openings in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning industries. As the site puts it, “our job is not to find the ‘perfect fit,’ but to eliminate as many people as we can who ‘clearly’ do not.” During the last year, their recruiters evaluated 350,000+ applicants and submitted 145,000 to their clients that had appropriate open positions. Now, I know that this model sounds very much like a “computer-assisted staffing firm” but there is a difference: their rates. At present, the site charges an unlimited posting fee of $85.00 per month within a specified geographic area.

    Society for Human Resource Management released the results of its December poll of C-level executives and senior managers, and the news is … well, good and not-so-good. The findings:

  • The good news-79% of executive respondents agree that managing human capital is “very” important to the success of the enterprise. The not-so-good news-you gotta’ wonder what planet the other 21% are living on.
  • The good news-62% of executive respondents “completely” or “somewhat” acknowledge the contribution of HR in aligning employees with business goals. The not-so-good news-that’s hardly the overwhelming vote of confidence that ensures HR will survive the threat posed by business process outsourcing companies.
  • The good news-79% have an opinion about the most important “human capital strategy” for the success of their organizations. The not-so-good news-all 79% think it should be healthcare cost containment which essentially transforms HR into bean counters with smiley faces.

    Bottom line? As usual, HR leaders face real opportunities and real challenges in the weeks and months ahead.

    Workforce Management Week reported the results of a December poll of 613 readers. It asked participants to identify the best source of job applicants for open positions in their organization. They could select any one of the large general purpose sites (i.e.,, and Yahoo!/HotJobs) or niche sites serving a particular industry or geographic area. The winner? Niche sites with 36% of the vote (23% selected sites specializing in a certain industry; while 13% selected sites that focused on a specific geography). What was the next highest vote getter? None of the Above, which tied with at 26% of respondent votes.

    WEDDLE’s announced the release of its 2004 books just in time to deal with the above challenges.

  • For HR leadership when other corporate executives don’t have a clue, see Generalship: HR Leadership in a Time of War; and
  • For smart job board and career site selection when budgets are tight, see WEDDLE’s 2004 Recruiter’s Guide to Employment Web Sites and WEDDLE’s 2004 Directory of Employment-Related Internet Sites.
  • To read about these and other publications, please click on the appropriate link to your left or click here to reach WEDDLE’s 2004 Online Catalog.

    Section Three: Site Profiles

    Site Insite … how well do you know the Web’s 40,000+ job boards?

    1. If you had to fill a Purchasing Manager position for a facility in Texas, which of the following sites would leave you empty-handed?

  • Institute for Supply Management (
  • 2. If you were looking for a researcher to check individual loan applications for your bank, where would you draw a complete blank online?

  • MortgageJobStore
  • 3. When recruiting diversity candidates for an opening in your IT Department, which of the following URLs would lead you in the wrong direction?

  • (answers below)

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2004 Guides and Directories

    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time, contract and/or consulting jobs: Yes – All

    Distribution of jobs: International

    Fee to post a job: $101-200/posting

    Posting period: 60 days

    Can posting be linked to your site: Yes

    Resume database: Yes

    Number of resumes: 58,000

    Source of resumes: Direct from candidates who are veterans or family members of veterans

    Top occupations among resumes: Engineering, IT, Management

    Other services for employers: Banner advertising, Special area for HR professionals, Status Reports: banners

    Answers to Site Insite

    1., the site of Privacy and American Business, a public privacy think tank

    2., a site for the biotechnology industry

    3., a pornography site