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Can Online Social Networks Boost Your Recruiting Success? Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit

Mark Swartz
Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The world of online recruiting continues to evolve. Social networking sites like LinkedIn and Ryze are the latest entry in the game. Can they genuinely help increase your hiring efficiencies?

You've likely heard the buzz by now: Online social networks are the newest wave in recruiting, a hi-tech way to find and connect directly with 'passive' candidates -- you know, those sought after folks who already have good jobs and aren't really looking, though the right offer might just lure them to your firm.

According to the hype, websites such as,, and are all the rage. People from various walks of life sign up there to network with one another virtually. They create a personalized profile, search for interesting contacts and develop a broadened circle of associates. Think of it as MySpace or Friendster for grown ups.

The big difference is that employers are starting to take these sites seriously as part of their recruiting efforts. Particularly in the U.S., where start-ups like and have surged in popularity. The underlying premise is simply this: The candidates who are referred to you by your colleagues, your staff or the people they know and trust are worth exploring. Now you can start managing this referral process online.

Here's how a typical networking site works from a recruiter's perspective. Let's say you have a job to fill and you begin with, which claims to have more than 7 million users (mainly in the States for now, though it's quickly expanding in Canada and other countries). Once you've registered and completed your profile, these are the steps you would follow:
  • Link yourself to your network of contacts who are registered users themselves
  • Distribute your job posting to members of your network, and ask each person to pass on your listing to people in their respective networks who might be interested in applying
  • Receive applications that indicate each candidate's relationship to the referrer, along with reference and reputation details
  • Check with trusted independent references to validate comments
  • Search the site for additional viable candidates using key words.

All of this is fee-based when recruiting, of course. You can buy individual postings, package deals or monthly subscriptions.

There is definitely something percolating here. It really would be great to access whole new cadres of fresh candidates, in addition to those you can search for on job boards, and those who are sent your way by headhunters. Who wouldn't want to reach qualified, gainfully employed people who are recommended by their peers? Especially if you trust the opinions of these peers. And if the people they refer your way are open to your pitch.

But it's premature to shift large chunks of your recruiting budget away from established online hiring methods. There are still several unknowns at this stage. For instance, are the people who enrol on these sites of any higher quality than those you locate via other means? Or are they mainly the same ones who already have their resumes posted to job banks; who are being presented to you by recruiters; and who are cold calling you about job openings?

Another thing: Are these sites more cost effective and timely in securing top notch candidates than by using other methods? And are the results reliable?

The jury's still out on these and related considerations. In the meantime, you may decide to experiment a little. If you do incorporate a networking site or two as part of your overall recruiting campaign, I'd like to hear whether it helps you or not. You can reach me at

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