The Big Lie about Social Recruiting

Posted by Alexandre Douzet

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November 28, 2012

As the premier online job-matching service for career-driven professionals, TheLadders collects a lot of data. In fact, on an ongoing basis, we conduct primary user-experience research and analyze quantitative data provided by our more than five million members to gauge current behavioral trends in the job-search process. We then use this research to improve the customer experience and provide expert advice to the marketplace.

For the past five years, we have been hearing about the power of social media for recruiting, not only disrupting the traditional job-board model (i.e. Monster, Dice, CareerBuilder), but also changing the way that recruiters find talent and communicate with candidates.

As Jim Barksdale, former president and CEO of Netscape, said: “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have is opinions, let’s go with mine.” For the past nine years at TheLadders, we always have encouraged opinions, but we especially love data because it cannot lie. So, what does our data reveal about social recruiting?

With our recently announced free model for recruiters, we have the unique ability to collect behavioral data. Currently, TheLadders has more than 28,000 recruiters using our job-matching service to fill their job openings – free of charge.

This month, we decided to analyze a sample of 1,000 of our network’s most-engaged recruiters over 90 days. Before we started our research, our hypothesis was that if these members are the most-engaged recruiters on the nation’s largest job-matching network, they are likely to be the most-engaged recruiters with social media. However, their behavior on LinkedIn and Twitter revealed startling results.

While we were not surprised that 93% of our recruiters also used LinkedIn (about 80% of U.S. professionals are on LinkedIn), the distribution of recruiters’ connections revealed that one-third of recruiters have less than 500 connections. This lack of social engagement equates with them connecting with only one candidate per week over the past nine years!

LinkedIn Connection Distribution

Twitter reveals an even less glorifying picture: only 35% of our-most engaged recruiters use Twitter. That is a tremendous contrast to the 93% for LinkedIn.

What is even more surprising is that their distribution of followers is the opposite of LinkedIn. See chart below.

twitter follow distribution1

More than 67% of corporate recruiters have less than 100 followers on Twitter. Agency recruiters, who tend to be more engaged than corporate recruiters, fare better with only 50% of them having less than 100 followers.

As a result, approximately 2% of recruiters (~7% of the 35% of Twitter-using recruiters) have more than 1,000 followers and, therefore, are truly engaged with a social network.

Below are other key learnings we extracted from our research regarding Twitter.

The average recruiter:

  • has 976 tweets
  • follows 429 people on Twitter
  • and has 411 followers

However, with such a radical distribution the average is misleading, so we must look at the median (50% of the population falls below and 50% falls above these):

  • Median number of tweets is 228 (vs. 976)
  • Median number of people they follow is 74 (vs. 429)
  • Median number of followers is 82 (vs. 411)

What does this mean?

Except for a small minority, the large population of recruiters (both agency and corporate) does not use Twitter. Although we cannot confirm the exact reason, we certainly can provide educated speculations:

  1. Twitter is a community of passive users as per the 90/9/1 Rule
  2. Recruiters are not marketers. Social Media marketing is complex.
  3. Unless you are a brand, a celebrity, or have a brand elevating your profile, it is challenging for the average user to build a large number (1,000+) of Twitter followers.

Despite all the media buzz over the past several years, our recent research, combined with our previous eye-tracking study, indicates that Twitter and Facebook are not useful to recruiters. Facebook lacks the six data points required for determining a fit/no-fit analysis and one-third of recruiters using LinkedIn are disengaged with the network.

Did you agree with our hypothesis and share our surprise over the results? Despite our findings, do you consider yourself highly connected compared to your industry colleagues? Let us know!


Alex Douzet

Alex Douzet is CEO and Co-Founder of TheLadders. A competitive athlete, Alex finished the 2012 Ironman U.S. Championship in 12 hours, 12 minutes and 21 seconds.