I’m often asked if the rise of social media and professional networking sites like LinkedIn and such has impacted my job as a recruiter.

My answer is “Certainly!” But not negatively, nor in the way that the person asking might have thought.

Socially Savvy

In many ways, the rise of social media has made my life easier and made the value of a recruiter even greater. The thing that many saw as a threat has actually become a very powerful tool for me. Social media has not changed the fundamentals of recruiting. It has provided a powerful new information and communications channel that effective recruiters must master in order to continue to deliver value to clients. To put it bluntly, recruiters who are not savvy in social media are like accountants who couldn’t use a ten key adding machine back in the 70s – inefficient, ineffective anachronisms.  In recruiting, that will result in employers paying higher fees and laboring through longer times to hire.

Conventional Wisdom

Many thought that through LinkedIn, and similar professional networking sites, employers could easily search online for individuals with the skill sets that they needed and approach them directly. They also expected that candidates could find jobs they wanted online and apply directly. Through sites like Facebook and others, candidates could learn about the company culture and find out who they knew that could introduce them and help them get a better read on fit as well as a leg up on the competition.  Reviews online could provide them with insights into how the company works and what the history is for the role. No need for a recruiter in those scenarios, right?

Not so fast!

Don’t Be Deceived

As is often the case, looks can be deceiving. LinkedIn is a giant repository of resumes uploaded by the candidates with their own recommendations and endorsements. None of it is fact-checked and many of the recommendations are “cooked”. Individuals can paint whatever picture they want on these sites. It takes more than looking at user-generated lists of past accomplishments and praise shared on an internet site – whether factual or embellished – to determine if a candidate is well suited for the role. Most of the employers I speak with recognize that the person with the most recommendations and endorsements isn’t always the best candidate for the job and a great list of accomplishments doesn’t always tell the whole story.

Information Sharing

Social media does spread information more rapidly than was ever possible before. The problem is that it does so indiscriminately, whether it is good or bad news, or true or fabricated information. Just ask any celebrity. While employers have access to more information and direct access to candidates, they have to wade through a lot more muck to get to the facts. Having more data doesn’t mean you have more useful information. Recruiters take the time to wade through all the data and speak directly with candidates and their references to get the whole story and mine it into useable information. They also rely upon their own professional networks to obtain confidential, unfiltered insights into the candidate. By the time an employer receives a recruiter vetted candidate, they can be sure that that person has been properly checked out and is worth their time.

Cultural Fit Is Critical

Cultural fit is important for candidates and it is critically important for employers. As much as we think we can determine what it would be like to work someplace by reading about it and seeing photos of happy, smiling employees playing foosball on Facebook, there are hundreds of factors that can’t and won’t be addressed on social media sites. It’s not likely that the very boss you are interviewing with and working for has been reviewed on any of the social media sites, and so you won’t know how to assess if there is a personality fit. Even if they are discussed on a site, a review won’t be likely to cover what you need to know. It takes numerous in-person conversations, back-and-forth phone calls and various dialogues to understand each individual’s wants and needs on both sides of the table. In many ways, recruiters act like matchmakers. The chemistry isn’t something that you can determine through algorithms or one-off reviews. From the employer side the worst outcome is to hire a technically competent candidate who cannot get along with co-workers.  For the candidate, joining a company that doesn’t share the same values can be soul-crushing. A recruiter  has more insights and information that can help to find that optimal match between employer and employee.

It Takes Time

At the Executive level, the need for a recruiter is double. Employers can’t afford to make a bad hire at that level and it takes more vetting to find the right person for a role. With Executive recruiting, you need an extensive network of people to expose you to potential candidates. Fit is even more difficult in that you need to assess industry-related capabilities, leadership and management skills, personality fit as well as temperament and energy levels. A good database of Executive-level relationships isn’t developed overnight and it requires constant care and feeding. Having a relationship with a candidate and knowing his career objectives will enable the recruiter to recognize a situation where a candidate is altering his path just to get a job that he will quickly leave when something better comes along. The recruiter with this knowledge can hold the candidate accountable for this detour and avoid an embarrassing and costly situation for the employer who has to re-hire for a position because a candidate was not authentic in his desire to obtain a position.

A recruiter is in it for the long-haul for both the candidate’s and the employers’ sake and focuses on a very specific task that requires dedication. What it comes down to is that these sites help and in many ways support the recruiter in making the matches, but the best fit comes as a result of activities that take place outside of the digital world. Social media has made my professional recruiting life more interesting, that’s for sure. It’s provided access to different sides of people that they often don’t even think of bringing up or see as relevant in a search. I learn of interests and areas of expertise that I know, from doing this for years, can make a difference either to the hiring manager, or the group culture or to the candidate in determining fit. It takes an experienced eye and passionate dedication to find the hidden gems among the many candidates that turn up on social media sites and I get great satisfaction from connecting amazing candidates with worthy companies.

It’s what recruiters do.