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BW Businessworld

Search Vs Social

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You only get candidates’ profiles on LinkedIn or Facebook. You still need an interface to sift the grain from the chaff.”
“Candidates tend to  exaggerate about themselves on social media.”

“Social platforms are nothing but passive databases.”

These dismissive comments on social hiring are from executive search firms that are suddenly facing a threat, thanks to the growing use of LinkedIn, Facebook and other platforms by companies for hiring. The enthusiastic adoption of internal referrals too has hit executive search firms hard.

So how are they coping?

“Punarjanmam. Rebirth,” says K. Pandia Rajan, chairman and MD of MaFoi Strategic Consultants, who sold off his staffing business and is now into analytics and education.  “Search firms have to reinvent themselves and climb up the value chain in response to the marketplace,” says Dony Kuriakose of Edge, an executive search firm. He explains how 75 per cent of recruitment agencies in the old days were just traffic cops. Now the term “search firms” might itself become obsolete as search is a very small part of what placement companies do.

Look at the way Damien O’Brien, chairman of Egon Zehnder, projects his company. “We actually don’t define ourselves as a hiring firm,” he says. “We see ourselves very much as advising our clients on leadership decisions which may involve hiring — they often do. But, increasingly, the best leadership decisions are on identifying and developing internal candidates and growing them into leadership positions.”

Indeed, that has also posed a challenge to traditional search firms. Whether it is a Lupin, Starwood, Abbott, or Maruti, most companies BW spoke to said their focus had shifted to retention and growing the pipeline in-house. Clearly, recruitment firms need to start offering different expertise.

The reality also is that more firms are thinking like Adobe, an aggressive user of LinkedIn and other social platforms for hiring. Says Adobe’s Abdul Jameel, who heads people resources for Japan and APAC region, “Our view is social hiring is the future. It’s not just a database, it’s a social theatre where a lot of action takes place all the time. Given that it’s also a transparent platform, value attribution and trust quotient between the brand and the candidate are much higher.”
According to Nabomita Mazumdar of citeHR, “Hiring on WhatsApp and social networks is the order of the day. The closer one is to the talent pool, the faster the position gets closed. Imagine using that allows you to find the exact resume from six social sites at the click of a button, that too for free. Using social graph on Facebook further simplifies search for the exact match.”

Moorthy K. Uppaluri, CEO of Randstad, says search firms don’t see social platforms as an enemy, but as an ally and collaborate with them. “We actively use all the tools and use them to our advantage,” he says.  Joseph Devasia, managing director, Antal International Network India, says there is no threat to search firms. “But the pace at which hiring happens is hit. The number of search assignments that would otherwise have come out seems to be lesser but as a percentage of total hiring, it remains the same,” he says.

Irfan Abdulla
Director, LinkedIn Talent Solutions
On the job-seeker’s side, how many people have opted for Premium accounts from India?
LinkedIn has more than 313 million members globally and 27 million in India, of which a majority are free users of the platform.

We hear from search firms that social media just offers a passive database. How can companies go beyond just getting candidate profiles?
We encourage companies and organisations which are looking for new talent to create, maintain and nurture ‘an employer brand’ on LinkedIn. Our experience shows that a number of professionals are increasingly following company profiles on platforms such as LinkedIn while hunting for a job, thereby giving recruiting teams a  chance to have relevant conversations with their prospects and build their talent pipelines faster.

What are the new tools and solutions for recruiters and job-seekers that you have introduced in recent months?
Talent Pipeline is one of our tools; it allows recruiters to keep track of all potential candidates at one place, even before they enter the formal application process. To cater to LinkedIn members who are on the go, we launched the Recruiter Mobile app, which facilitates access to the 313 million member profiles and offers recruiters the chance to provide feedback or respond to job queries via phone, text, email, or InMail directly from the app. We recently launched our LinkedIn Job Search app that gives our members all the tools they need to find and land their next dream job.

Typically, one hears that LinkedIn is good for finding mid-level candidates, but for entry level, companies still prefer other channels. Is there a skew?
LinkedIn supports recruitment at all levels. There are over 39 million students and recent college graduates on LinkedIn and are its fastest-growing demographic. We have recently launched the University pages and Alumni tool, which is enabling the student community on LinkedIn to connect with their peers and find the right first job.

Adds Kuriakose: “Earlier, companies looked to us for speed.  Now they seek us out for exclusivity.  Who is where and who is available is all public knowledge now.”

Well, the good news for search firms is that for every Adobe, there is also an Abbott. Says Ajay Bhatt, regional human resources director, Abbott India: “At Abbott, we continue to engage with executive search firms for specific hiring requirements. Good talent takes time to find. Executive search firms with their depth of experience and network are invaluable partners.”

Be that as it may, as Kuriakose points out, for search firms, the work is cut out now. “We have to be nimble enough to learn and adapt,” he says. 

[email protected]
twitter: @ndcnn

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 22-09-2014)