Feb 10, 2012 09:43 PM IST | Source:

Facebook, LinkedIn challenge employers

Technology has changed the game for today's job-seekers.

Technology has changed the game for today's job-seekers: candidates are searching on websites such as Facebook or LinkedIn, and asking employers questions using Twitter or a smartphone application, or app.

Companies, for their part, are turning to new channels to find talent, especially among "passive" candidates - typically experienced professionals who might not be actively involved in seeking a job, but could consider a career move if an interesting opportunity appeared on their screen.

This shift to new ways of finding candidates, and recruiting them, has been studied for several years by Potentialpark, a European recruitment and employer branding consultancy. The firm has surveyed employers' recruitment websites since 2002 and has recently expanded its research to cover Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, mobile devices and apps, as well as companies' career blogs.

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According to Potentialpark's Julian Ziesing, businesses have refined their online careers sites and recruitment processes over the past decade. But even organisations with sophisticated online tools have been taken aback by the rapid development of social networks, such as Facebook.

"Facebook career pages have mushroomed across Europe, the US and Asia," he says. "We had thought employers would need more time to do this, but they have learned to overcome corporate communications restrictions quickly."

But new ways of reaching candidates also present new challenges for employers. Companies need to ensure that the way they approach candidates is consistent across all channels, and complies with any local employment laws or cultural mores. This is no easy task, given the informal and often off-the-cuff nature of many exchanges on sites such as Twitter - and also the global reach of these sites.

"Websites still do the main job, and social media pages are satellites around it," says Mr Ziesing. Career websites have become more interactive, he says, but they are not necessarily social. That is where Facebook and other services come in. "But there is also a difference between social and professional networks, between say Facebook and LinkedIn."

LinkedIn has established itself as useful in some areas, as well as being a venue for job-seekers to demonstrate their experience and expertise. Facebook, for now at least, is more about putting the idea of working for a particular company in front of would-be candidates, especially students and recent graduates.

The Potentialpark research, however, goes further than just examining a company's online presence. The survey, now officially known as the Online Talent Communication study, or OTaC, aims to take a closer look at the way employers, and talent, interact in cyberspace. And it also ranks companies' effectiveness.

Top of the list for 2012 in Europe is Roche, the healthcare company. Accenture, the consultants, ranked second. Insurers Allianz ranked third in Europe, but Potentialpark placed microchip-maker Intel in third place in the UK.

"There is a war for talent, and employer branding, and being known as an attractive employer is a long-term project, and it is not something you can switch on or off, according to the economy," Mr Ziesing warns.

This is also the experience of employers, who have turned to social media channels to improve their "employer brand" and reach new audiences. Companies that are active on social media sites are often drawn there either by a skills shortage, or their own expansion plans.

"We have a very aggressive growth plan, with more than 1,000 hotels in the pipeline," says Laura Frith, vice president of global resourcing and talent solutions at Intercontinental Hotels Group, which owns brands such as Intercontinental, and Holiday Inn. Expansion means hiring significant numbers of managers - a large hotel's management committee can be 80 strong - as well as corporate office staff in sales, finance, marketing, HR and IT. Much of the company's current expansion is in Asia.

But it also means being consistent in the way the company markets itself as an employer and in how it treats candidates, both those it hires, and those it rejects. "This is something we've really taken hold of in the last five years," says Ms Frith. "In the past, resourcing has been seen as detached from the consumer-facing work of the business, but every person we touch through our recruitment channels is a potential customer, whether we hire them or not."

And IHG has also had to balance the need for a consistent global approach with giving its local managers the flexibility they need to use suitable local tools, especially in key markets such as China. "We have a strong IHG brand, but our media and web content does need to be tailored for that market," says Ms Frith.

A consistently good experience across all channels also ranks highly among candidates applying for jobs at L'Or

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