Social Media: The Cure for Common HR and Candidate Apathy?

The more I work with both HR and young careerists, the more often I wonder how anyone gets hired.

By now, job seekers have had plenty of time to figure out what it takes to be considered employable in our new economy; yet few put in the work necessary to be considered a top candidate. At the same time, HR knows exactly what needs to be done to recruit top talent; yet far too many recruiters are using the same tools and techniques they used in the 1980s.

As a result of this apathy (or at the very least a refusal to change) the job seeking/hiring process has reached the point of ridiculous. It is almost as if we’re saying, “We each have something the other person needs, desperately… but we refuse to work together.”

Both Sides Have Excuses (Uh, “Reasons”)

Clearly, those on both sides of the interview table have solid excuses for not being motivated enough to change the existing process.

Few job seekers, whether a young careerist or a workforce veteran, have been taught the contemporary best practices that lead to job offers. While primarily well intended, our education system is of little help. Parents routinely provide more stress than valuable career advice. Our government-run employment centers (for good reason, more often called “the unemployment office”) are of little real help. And, the mentorship that used to help new talent ascend into the workforce seems nearly non-existent today.

HR professionals, even while enjoying a buyer’s market with no sense of urgency to cause change, are saddled with a “compliance over creativity” recruiting process. Their departments are seen as overhead – a loss center – so few are funded or trained as well as they should be. The rhetoric-heavy C-level executives routinely state, “Our employees are our greatest asset” – yet rarely focus on doing what it actually takes to hire innovative talent. HR is so busy following the Department of Labor, state and corporate rules they forget that in order to create amazing work teams and build enviable company culture… sometimes we must break the rules.

So the job seeker and the recruiter, respectively, do what they’ve done for the past 15 years:

  • Without ever talking to a recruiter, the job seeker hits the ‘Apply Now’ button on a job board 200+ times every month hoping the “spray and pray” method helps something stick to the proverbial wall
  • With gatekeepers firmly in place and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) weeding out everyone but the most compliant (read: “safe”) applicants, HR hides behind their self-serving firewalls

This is where the collision of apathy causes a less-than-satisfying, yet deserving, result. With almost no one changing how they go about either their job search or hiring strategy… nobody talks. Mutually-beneficial relationships are not built. Rather than building teams through innovation, collaboration and based on culture… positions are filled by following stale processes, far-too-safe hires and creativity-killing compliance.

Social Media as the Human Solution?

Fortunately, for the future of the HR profession and for job seekers, there are some employers and careerists that “get it”. These early adopters more effectively present their personal and employer brands, leaving behind their comfort zones – as well as the archaic techniques they’ve been taught. Instead, they are using social media to re-humanize “human” resources.

Amazing recruiters like TripAdvisor and Planit and successful careerists like Ben Paul and Emily Hankinson are using social media to move well ahead of their competition. They understand what is working now to get top talent and top employers in the same room, talking. And… they realize that hitting the ‘Apply’ button and hiding behind an ATS only extends our dysfunction. Highly emulate-able… we can learn from their success.

We must, however, also keep in mind that social media is primarily a method of connecting; a digital handshake. LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook (and the hundreds of Social HR start-ups out there) certainly make us more accessible and brazen… but Social media won’t do the work for us. That comes from us – and our ability to rebuild our work ethic and rethink our strategy  (as Nick Kellet says: “Do the Work. Social Media is Work.” ).

Since social media shows much early promise in helping us solve our hiring and job seeking problems; both candidates and HR are well-advised to take advantage.

Most important…

We must work much harder, together. We must tear down the cubicle walls that keep recruiters and job seekers from communicating. While throwing apathy aside, we must make our hiring and job hunt strategies human again.


About the Author: CEO and Founder of YouTern, Mark Babbitt is a serial entrepreneur and mentor. Mark has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Forbes and regarding job search, career development, internships and higher education’s role in preparing emerging talent for the workforce. A keynote speaker and blogger, Mark’s contributions include Huffington Post,, The Daily Muse, Alltop, and Intern Advocate.

Mark has been honored to be named to GenJuice’s list of “Top 100 Most Desirable Mentors” and was recently featured on HR Examiner’s “Top 25 Trendspotters in HR” and several top blogger lists, including JobMob’s “Top Career Bloggers of 2011”. Contact Mark via email or on Twitter!




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