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Understanding the Effectiveness of Social Media as a Recruitment Tool

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Human Resources
Wordcount: 4707 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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Abstract-The volatile business scenario and ever-changing demand for talent hunt emphasizes the need for new recruitment strategies.This literature review was performed to analyse the effectiveness of using social media as a Recruitment tool. The review has been conducted in a global context and it highlights the vast literature available on the topic, paving the path for future research. The need for this study was weighed as the social media is being widely used in the process of Recruitment. Thus this study is an effort to validate the perceived benefits and usage of this tool. The implications drawn from this reviewprovides a platform to the researchers and the HR practitioners to assess the available information and steer the future research.

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Objective: This review is an attempt to measure the perceived effectiveness of using social media in the process of recruitment. This study was also undertaken to assess and summarize the existing literature on the topic and to draw directions for the future research. The purpose of the review is also to validate the perceived advantages of social media as a tool for Recruitment.

Methodology & Results:

The topic was chosen as per the area of interest and the practical application for the author.A need assessment for the review was performed before beginning the literature review. It helped the author in evaluation of the topic and provided direction to the review. The articles for the literature review were carefully selected from the University of Regina library source ABI/INFORM collection using the key words related to the topic and the search brought out vast literature related to it. The exploratory approach was taken for selection of the articles and it is a mix of peer-reviewed and journal articles selected from the different business web sites. The articleswere chosen with diligence, they present both quantitative and qualitative research, are global in context and current (2011-2018), to see the recent trends. This review was conducted adopting an inductive approach while analyzing and presenting the information.


In the words of Chambers et al., 1998, ‘the exponential growth of the need for scarce skills and the resulting fierce competition to attract the best and most competent people has led to the notion of the ‘war for talent’(Koch, Gerber & de Klerke, 2018). The researchers and HR practitioners are keenly interested to explore the tools to excel in the competitive world of talent acquisition and management. The various researches conducted globally and the available literature reiterates the need for attracting and retaining the right talent for the organization.

Recruitment: The organizations adopt specific processes with the objective to identify and attract prospective employees. In the current business world one of the dominant techniques of Recruitment is through the means of technology, called e-recruitment, wherein the recruiters use various web-based and electronic options for effective recruitment.There are two ways to look at the whole recruitment process as mentioned by Harris, 2004 in his research work, the ‘we-find-you approaches’ and ‘you-find-us approaches’ whereby the former refers to the methods through which the recruiter searches for applicants and vice versa. ‘The former approach includes hunt through resumes on a job board, web-event recruitment, relationship recruiting, e-recruiting etc. whereas the latter is performed by participating in online job fairs, and posting CVs on organizational websites’(Ghadeer Mohamed Badr, 2014, pg 40, 41)

Social media: According to a research report by SHRM (2013), the Social media includes the “web- based tools & technologies used to share information and turn communication into interactive dialogues with internal or external audiences eg. Linkedin, Facebook Twitter etc.”      ( Calvasina, Calvasina & Calvasina, 2014, pg 51).This primary Web 2.0 application technology is especially popular from last one decade and is extensively used in the recruitment process for advertising available jobs, talent hunt, screening the candidates (Sameen & Cornelius, 2015) and also for employer branding.

Findings & Discussion:

Impact of Social Media: The usage of social media has brought a breakthrough in the field of recruitment and is gradually replacing the conventional methods of talent hunt; as it comes with novel features like participation, connectedness, openness, conversation, speed, extensive reach and accessibility to both applicants and recruiters(Lam, 2016).The research performed by Koch (2018) states the four key motivations which promotes the use of social media, they are connect, create, consume and control. The current literature affirms the general perception that among the plethora of the available social media platforms the most effective ones for the purpose of recruitment are, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter etc.

It is noteworthy that this tool is being explored globally to enhance the usage of social media analytics in the Corporate world, which provides enough evidence that some social networking sites are proving to be a potent tool for specific businesses (Sinha, Subramanian, Bhattacharya & Chaudhuri, 2012).The emerging trends of social media brings out enviable benefits like providing an option to view the applicant’s network connections, views presented publicly, assess the candidate’s resume vis a vis what is presented in the public profile, which provides an opportunity for the recruiter to assess his hiring decision and assess the fit if the employer favors hiring for fit (Sinha et. al., 2012). The work of Hoek, 2016 conducted on the subject of screening the candidates with the help of social media enunciates the fact that it requires diligence and expertise from the recruiter’s end to perform the process efficiently. It is still debatable and a subject of on-going research that whether or not the employers have gained the required skills and abilities needed to assess the applicants social networking (SNS) profile in a logical and unbiased manner. A research conducted by SHRM (2013) elucidated that although 77 per cent of organizationswere using SNSsfor recruitment, but only 20 per cent used them as a screening tool. Apparently, LinkedIn (92 per cent) was opted as the most common tool for screening followed by Facebook (58 per cent), Twitter(31 per cent) and Google+ (25 per cent). The results of this study highlights that the major reasonsfor the organizations being reluctant to use social media as an applicant screening tool,were legal concerns and gathering extraneous information (SHRM, 2013).The author in his research on questionable fairness of publishing personal information on social media, has added a valuable outlook to the overall literature available; of using social media as an impression management tool. He opines that the positive information which may be garneredfrom viewing a candidate’s SNS profile is less understood and accepted. This particular study postulates the need to establishthe predicative validity of SNSs and the understanding of the importance of bothcontent and predictive validity by the organizations using this information for sourcing. (Hoek, O’Kane, & McCracken, 2016).


The organizational image or the employment brand makesa significant difference in the recruitment outcomes. There is a directly proportional relationship between the job applicants’ attitude towards the recruitment process and the organizational attractiveness (Carrillat, Astrous & Gregoire, 2014). Thus, adopting a ‘brand-focus’ strategy while executing the recruitment process through social media, like job-posting, referrals etc. should yield positive recruitment results for employers which can enhance the brand image and spread positive word of mouth (Carrillat et. al., 2014). It can be extremely disengaging and demoralizing for the applicants if they sense that the employer makes hiring decisions about them, by relying on the information available on social media about their personal conduct outside of work. It would be seen by them as an unethical invasion of their privacy (Blount, Wright, Hall & Biss, 2016). The candidates can also draw valuable information about the organization through the social media tools, like the role and responsibilities to get a realistic preview of the job and the employer. This definitely helps the applicants to have a holistic view and make a decision after assessing their fit within the organization, resulting in reduced turnover (Mehta& Sharma,2016)

Organization’s perspective:The current research by Koch, Gerber & de Klerk states that despite the considerablerise in the use of social media for recruitment, “one should be careful to think that it is the panacea that resolves all recruitment problems; it also has pitfalls” (Koch, Gerber & de Klerk, 2018, pg. 5). In the same study the author presented rationale for preferring the conventional sourcing tools by the recruiters. He attributed this choice to the recruiters’ inadequate grasp of recruiting efficiently using the social networking sites(Koch et al., 2018).

The organizations must utilize the internet technology and social media wisely for performing recruitment and selection and should be cognizant of retaining the human touch that values the attributes of intuition and adaptability (“Recruitment goes virtual”, 2013). A survey conducted by” Jobvite (2014) revealed that 80 percent of recruiters used social media to evaluate a candidate’s cultura lfit” (Mehta & Sharma, 2016). Thus it clarifies that this need for assessing the candidates for the ‘cultural fit’is one of the biggest reasons to drive the recruiters for utilizing social media as a sourcing tool (Mehta & Sharma, 2016). Another less spoken benefit of using social media as a talent hunting tool is that it provides the recruiters with a talent pool of high quality passive job applicants, which can be converted to prospective candidates (Sameen & Cornelius, 2015). On the other hand , the findings of another study presented in the research work by Madera (2012) highlights that a little is known about the reliability and validity of using social networking sites for the purpose of screening and selecting the candidates. This endorses the fact that the organizations need to be diligent and watchful while relying on social networking sites for selection decisions until the reliability and validity of the information from social networking sites is established (Sinha &Thaly, 2013)

With numerous advantages there are few disadvantages also linked to using the social media for recruitment and branding context, as per a study conducted (Deloitte, 2009 in Davison et al., 2011), 74% of employers think it is quite easy to demolish an organisation’s reputation through social media (Sivertzen, Nilsen & Olafsen, 2013).

Overall, multiple studies suggest that for the employers social media platform can not only be beneficial as a recruitment tool but can also be used as a effective branding strategy. The social media tool can be wisely used for building and improving corporate images, resulting in growing brand attractiveness. This can establish an influential employer-candidate relationship and can prove to be a novel platform to create a powerful ‘great place to work’ image among passive, prospective candidate and new hires (Kissel, &Büttgen, 2015).

Measuring the effectiveness/ Return on Investment (ROI):

The financial benefits in terms of cost, efficiency and time of replacing traditional sourcing tools with social media are undebatable and above all its instant and limitless. A survey conducted by Jobvite (2012) projected that 92% of companies were using social media in hiring. However, low cost cannot always be associated to cost effectiveness; due to lack of adequate knowledge the quality time and resources of the recruiters may get wasted in screening the applicants profile (Lam, 2016). In order to make the most of the benefits the social media technology need to be understood first and need to be measured on the parameters linked to the Top and bottom line of the business.


The literature provides metrics and tool to track, manage and understand the cause-and effect relationship between investments in social media recruiting and performance (Stevens-Huffman May, “6 Metrics for Measuring Social Recruiting Wins”, 2016). Tracking the source of hire to identify and focus on the most rewarding source of talent, tracking the share of applicants the organization receives directly from various social media networks and benchmarking with the industry norms. This can help to evaluate the effectiveness of the outreach and whether further investments in staff time or tools are justified. The metrics and tools to measure the ROI are also changing with the times, nowadays metrics are formulated for instance, to draw a comparison against the social applications as a % of total applications across various industries, referrals received etc. In recent trends it is observed that Recruiting Cost Ratio (RCR) is replacing Cost Per Hire (CPH) because the former takes into account both internal cost and extraneous factors which impacts the growth or decline of the business. A cost-benefit analysis that compares the total cost of acquiring an employee and getting them up-to-speed with their long-term impact on the organization’s top and bottom line can provide the true ROI. Its needless to say that it is not a ‘numbers game’ the real effectiveness comes from “the recruiting efforts on social media which can attract high quality, culturally aligned candidates who contribute more, stay longer and who are promotable” (Stevens-Huffman May, 2016). Apart from determining the effectiveness of the recruitment process and the Recruitment metrics is an important tool to measure the quality of the new hires also. Metrics also helps in removing the loop holes in the process and in designing an effective recruiting strategy based on the analysis of the hiring data. This metrics provide critical information to the HR managers to calculate the cost involved at each step of recruiting and decision, resulting in determining the contribution of the recruitment function to the bottom line of the business. The recruitment metrics helps in building competitive advantage for the organization (Sangeetha, 2010)

Ethical & Legal considerations:

There are several dimensions to the usage of social media as a recruitment tool; its pervasive acceptance at various stages of talent hunt is still under scrutiny. In his research work Ornstein (2012) has investigated for pertinent answers to the dubious extent to which it is acceptable to refer to social networking sites while making recruitment and hiring decisions. In spite of the numerous benefits and its widespread utilization the organizations do not have formal policies or established guidelines on social media’s apposite use because the legal landscape with respect to the use of social media in the workplace is still rather unclear.Worldwide, in most jurisdictions, it is approved to refer to social networking sites for hiring processes, an exception to this is Italy.Thus, broadly in absence of clear legal and ethical framework, referring to social network sites for recruitment context would be an infringement of an individual’s right to privacy (Ornstein, 2012).  In relation to these issues, the Netherlands Association for Human Resources Management and Development of Organizations, many recruitment agencies in France have implemented a code of conduct, which stresses that the selection of candidates should be based solely on their professional skills and exclude all elements relating to their private lives (Ornstein, 2012). A latest inclination in the study of business ethics is the psychological phenomenon of “bounded ethicality” which states that our ability to act on our set moral standards is compromised by our own psychology (Blount et.al, 2016). Few research on this subject involves the concept of “implicit discrimination” which presents that “people can discriminate unconsciously or sub-consciously based upon unconscious mental associations” which they may carry for a gender or race (Blount et.al, 2016).

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For instance though Facebook which is highly accepted as amedium of communication and is considered as a cost effective tool for advertising and organizational branding(Sultana, Shahriar, Akter& Rahman, 2018); on the contrary its use as a recruitment tool is questionable on the grounds of augmenting discrimination. Therefore, advertising jobs through social media can be uncertain in the contextof bringing disadvantage or discrimination against the older workersor the visible minority, there could be legal repercussions for discrimination on grounds of age and ethnicity (Lam, 2016)

Limitations of the study: Although the literature assessed for the review was chosen diligently to capture the recent trends, relevant studies in global context, but it presents a limited representation of the vast literature available on the topic. Thus, there still is lot of scope available to delve into further exploration of the topic, especially from the view of practical application from real example of the Corporate World.

Suggestions for future research:

The present literature fails to answer the crucial question of the“locus of control for privacy”, there is an acute need to explore who should be responsible for the privacy of the information, should it be the individual, the government or should the ‘silent industry-promoted policy of self-regulation” be practiced (Karlen, 2014).The fairness of using the social media data in diverse decisions throughout the various stages of employee life-cycle is still a matter of further investigation. It would be beneficial to further study the application of social media HR analytics in HR Processes specifically in hiring, selection, internal branding and talent management. (Sinha, Subramanian, Bhattacharya & Chaudhuri, 2012).The evaluation of effectiveness of social media as a recruitment tool is of significant value to both the researchers and the HR practitioners. But the literature majorly focuses on explaining the benefits connected to its usage, there is clearly a substantial need for research on designing and developing a ‘context-specific metrics’ or a ‘scorecard’ to measure the effectiveness of the social media used as a recruitment tool, as per the business requirements. Further investigations on calculating the ROI and performing comparative studies with other recruitment sources shall be supportive in steering the talent hunting strategies. There is scope for in-depth analysis of the concealed and un quantified drawbacks of using the social media from both the applicant’s and organization’s perspective.

Conclusion and Managerial implications:

From the analysis of the available literature it is apparent that the Social media can be considered as a goldmine for variousinformation, whetherpersonal or professional; but it need to be explored prudently to draw the benefits of it. It’s a boon for the employers as it can aid in formulation of relevant hiring strategies, easing out talent hunt and stabling the employer brand.But if used recklessly it can also become a doubleedgedsword for employer branding and talent management leading to disastrous consequences for the employer. Thus, it is recommended that the employers should assess the in house expertise and skills of using the social media for recruitment purposes (Kaur et. Al, 2015)


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