How tech employers are using social recruiting to discover untapped talent online

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Social recruiting – where employers proactively use social media to seek out and assess talent – is becoming a science in itself. Companies are aggregating data from across social media networks to create in-depth profiles of potential recruits, using predictive tools to deduce from online behaviour if they’re a good fit for a role.

Any sensible jobseeker should be aware by now of the dangers of mixing business with pleasure on their social media accounts. When social networks first emerged, it wasn’t unusual to see examples made of candidates who posted videos of themselves dancing on a table drunk, or engaging in the type of unruly behaviour that would see a potential employer strike them off its books.

While hopefully those days have passed, a person’s online presence, which today is typically made up of profiles across a number of different sites, still needs to be carefully managed. Coined ‘social recruiting’, highly skilled sourcers are using a range of techniques to seek out top talent, including so-called passive candidates who may not currently be looking for a job. Savvy jobseekers, therefore, are maximising their use of social media to get noticed by potential employers.

First off, it is important to keep all your social profiles up to date and it’s better to be active on two or three networks or communities than spread yourself too thinly, leaving some profiles languishing with no updates or postings for several months, if not years. Just because you don’t visit that profile any more, it doesn’t mean other people won’t.

Bear in mind, there are a number of websites that aggregate data from a range of social media sites and put them together in one profile to provide a recruiter with a more holistic view of a potential candidate.

Dice.com’s Open Web, for example, gathers data from over 180 social sites to build a rich profile of a tech professional. It claims to give employers access to millions of professionals that otherwise might be impossible to find (it claims to currently have details of 18 million tech professionals). Other sites that gather profile data from across the web include Monster’s TalentBin.com, Entelo.com and TrendyCoders.com.

These sites have evolved to help recruiters find the best talent from the vast online landscape that now exists, and they will likely use predictive analytics and other tools to further help them in the future.

For instance, predictive tools can deduce from a person’s online behaviour if they are ready for their next career move. Tools also exist to tell employers what a person’s ‘social authority’ or influence is in a sector, based on factors such as how many Twitter followers they may have.

This may be less relevant for those at the start/early stages of their career, but it is something to bear in mind as you build your social presence. Of more immediate importance are activities such as sharing ideas and work on sites such as Instagram and Pinterest, taking part in LinkedIn groups and forums and sharing articles and videos that might be of interest to your community. The engineering and tech profession is also lucky in that it has some great online hangouts, such as StackOverflow.com and GitHub.com where you can engage with like-minded people. These have also become extremely fertile recruiting grounds for employers.

Alexa Scordato, vice president of marketing at Stack Overflow, explains that it partners with companies of various sizes across all industries to help them build their engineering teams.

“Employers view it as a trusted platform to reach and attract candidates from a site that is visited by more than 50 million programmers who view it each month,” she says. “Most programmers aren’t visiting job boards every day, but nearly every developer in the world comes to Stack Overflow on average seven times per month. Having access to this community enables employers to source talent from a trusted community and also gives them insight into the type of work they’re doing, what technologies they like or dislike, where their areas of expertise lie, and what they’re looking for in a future employer (for example, remote work or flexible work hours).  

She advises engaging with the Stack Overflow community by not only asking the questions you need answered, but also sharing your knowledge with less experienced developers. “The more helpful insights you can offer, the higher your reputation rating will be, which will help position you as a developer who really knows your stuff,” she says.

Scordato adds it is important to fill out your profile in as much detail as possible, “so anything you’d want a recruiter to know is easily visible”.

“Even if you don’t consider yourself to be an expert or have limited work experience, filling out your Developer Story on your Stack Overflow profile gives you the ability to showcase open source projects, essays you’ve written, technologies you like/dislike, and more. It’s a comprehensive way to share who you are as a programmer in a way that most traditional CVs can’t.”  

Also bear in mind that individual companies are finding new ways to discover people online. The enterprise application and software company SAP, whose technology is already playing a vital part in the fourth industrial revolution, is one of the most advanced when it comes to innovative sourcing techniques. Its tools include the Facebook Perfect Match app that uses a person’s profile data and behaviours to match individuals to job roles at SAP and which also returns a personality profile in seconds.

One of the reasons SAP is investing heavily in such tools is because it wants to find the latent talent that exists wherever it resides, which may not be at the usual universities or colleges. Matthew Jeffery, vice president global head of sourcing and employment brand at SAP, points out that A levels and a degree are far less of a differentiator than they were so candidates must find ways of making themselves stand out.

“At A Level, 25 per cent get A* & A grades. For degrees, over 70 per cent get a First or 2.1. Plus the university studied at is not the most reliable indicator. Hence job applicants need to put themselves in the shoes of recruiters and think of ways to stand out and shine,” he says.

In the future, apps such as SAP’s Facebook Perfect Match may mean that you don’t even have to apply to an advert for your dream job as an employer will find you first. To make sure they do, however, you need to invest time in your social profile and cultivating your online reputation today.

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