by Anam Alpenia
British recruiters are less likely to include a social media element in their hiring process than their American counterparts, according to a new report. The U.K. Social Recruitment Survey, by software firm Jobvite, has discovered deep differences in the way U.K. and U.S. firms hire, which could have big consequences for competition in both countries.
In the U.K., 60% of recruiters don’t use social media in their recruitment process. Despite the report finding, too, that 46% of those not using social media are planning to do so in the next year, it still represents a slow-moving industry, that is still reliant on agencies (35% spend £5,000 ($7,580) on them annually) and struggling to find qualified candidates in an increasingly fraught market.
Finding skilled workers is a challenge for all industries worldwide. In the U.K. and U.S., where debates rage about the efficacy and cost of university education, this issue has been magnified in recent years.
“In the U.S. the number one preferred major for students in university today is recreation,” says David Lahey, VP international at Jobvite. “That’s not going to help anyone for engineering and other highly technical skills.” But Lahey also cites changing employer attitudes, with the recent global recession, as a major factor in workforce shortfalls in the west.
“One of the things that’s not in this report that we’ve found, is that if you look at companies going back to the recession of the 1970s, companies did whatever they could to hold onto talent,” he says. “Then if you fast forward to the 2008-09 recession exactly the opposite happened, where execs were flying around on jets and firing people to get others in.
This has created a culture of “disposable workers,” he adds, where there is “no loyalty between employer and employee. Nowadays, 80% of people would entertain a conversation with a recruiter, if he or she reached out to them with a new role.”
This is a big reason why companies should not simply post positions and wait for respondents, claims Lahey, who adds that social media should be playing a far greater role in finding the right talent with less expenditure.
When it comes to social, recruiters are heavily skewed in favor of Facebook, which 75% of respondents said was the most popular channel for their process. That is largely due to the platform’s Timeline function, says Lahey, which allows recruiters to quickly measure basic details of a person’s life and education.
LinkedIn may be looking at a big gap between the two countries: 87% of U.S. recruiters said they planned to use the medium in future efforts, compared to just 34% in the U.K.
Facebook’s domination in this respect will likely continue. But Twitter, which is moving to include more personal data in its own users’ profiles, is becoming a more useful too, says Lahey: “The most popular hashtag I’ve seen is #job. It would be a mistake for companies not to publish their postings to Twitter. It’s a great opportunity for companies to build their employment brand.”
Britain’s conservativeness also translates to different attitudes towards a potential candidate’s social media activity. Many, for example, view selfie-taking as negative – 34% – while 46% will frown on somebody who shares alcohol (46%) or marijuana (65%) consumption.
That is not to say that all personal exposition is bad. Recruiters will look positively at those who share details of volunteer, professional or social engagement work (67%), and those who ‘engage with current events, appropriately (57%).
Much of this can be attributed to deeper, more intrinsic social differences encountered on either side of the Atlantic. Britons are far less likely to speak about themselves than Americans. Only 40% of U.K. recruiters told Jobvite that they expected competition in hiring to become more fierce, compared to 67% of those in the U.S. This, agrees Lahey, could largely be down to the British ‘stiff upper-lip’; the sort of ‘Keep Calm’ attitude that has, to some extent, characterised the country in contrast to its American cousin.
That may be a good thing. But reliance on agencies, and a lack of social, is hurting the U.K.’s hiring market. 21% of British organisations spend between £5,000 and £15,000 ($7,580 – $22,760) on outside agencies per year, compared to just 9% of those in the U.S. In the former there is more competition for fewer roles, with technology being used far less than it should. “The U.K. is simply behind when it comes to using social media for recruitment,” says Lahey.