Small Role of Social Media in Hiring to Grow


During the Arab Spring wave of protests, social networking sites helped citizens to organize demonstrations and overthrow rulers in several countries. Social media are also sparking change in how people do business in industries like recruitment. Even in social-media-savvy Russia, however, networking sites have not been able to overthrow traditional recruiting methods — yet.

Personal connections are crucial in career development, and social and professional networking sites in particular have given us the ability to connect with anyone, anywhere.

The potential to exploit this connectivity for career gain has led to speculation that the future of hiring and job hunting lies in online social domains. One question concerns the role of recruiting agencies in a world where social networks are connecting employers directly to job seekers.

Despite the growth of professional networking sites, however, few Russians find work through social media. Surveys of professionals in Russia show that while it's possible to find work through social networking sites, most jobs come about the old-fashioned way. Nonetheless, recruiters expect growth in online job-hunting and are including social media in their search tools.

Battle of the Networks

The social media landscape is highly competitive in Russia. In terms of professional networking sites, world leader LinkedIn faces the domestic competitors MoiKrug, which is owned by Yandex, and On the social end of the spectrum, Facebook seeks to compete with the two most popular social networking sites in Russia, Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki.

That many social platforms are able to flourish in Russia suggests an obvious truth: The country loves social media. Digital intelligence provider eMarketer estimates that Russia has 57.9 million social network users, placing the country fifth globally. According to a February survey by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center, 82 percent of Internet users in Russia regularly visit social networks.

But does this proclivity for digital connections in Russia mean landing your dream job through social networks is now a reality? The answer is yes, it's possible, but don't get your hopes up.

—, a website focused on young jobseekers, conducted a poll in August of nearly 3,000 young professionals who use social networks. According to the poll, 6 percent of respondents said they had been offered full-time employment through such sites. Only 8 percent of these went on to accept a position, citing unfavorable conditions as the main reason for rejecting offers. †

A 2011 global survey by recruiting agency Kelly Services showed even lower usage of social networks for finding job opportunities.

"The role of social networks in the job market is minimal," Yekaterina Gorokhova, chief executive of Kelly Services CIS, said by e-mail. "Only 1 percent of respondents said they found their current position through social networks. This isn't just in Russia. Our survey was conducted in 30 countries, and nowhere was this figure greater than 2 percent."

The Role of Recruiters

In light of these statistics, recruitment agencies still have an important role to play in the labor market, Gorokhova said.

"Agencies' traditional methods — direct search, establishing relationships and database consultations — are simpler, quicker and more effective," she said.

This sentiment is shared by Yevgenia Markova, public relations and marketing director at recruiting agency Cornerstone.

"Social networks are not a panacea. The main resource recruiters use is their database, which is built up over years, as well as colleague recommendations," Markova said by e-mail.

A major problem that deters big companies from recruiting directly from social networks is that not everyone uses them.

"Not all specialists in Russia publish their profiles on social networks like LinkedIn," Olga Molina, human resources director at pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, said by e-mail.

"Besides, the value of external recruiters is in their quick processing of information and in their accumulated expertise in certain industries or sectors of the labor market," she added.

The disconnect between qualified talent and social media presence becomes more acute when hiring for high-level positions, Alf Harris, director at recruiting agency Michael Page, said by e-mail.

"The results of our annual survey 'Global CFO Barometer 2012' show that in Europe 41 percent of [chief financial officers] do not use these new media at all. In Russia, this figure is 70 percent," Harris said.

Social media usage among CFOs also depends highly on their age, he added.

"Twenty-two percent of CFOs under 30 surveyed said they used social media to look for new employees. But they still use the sites primarily for their own career purposes and networking," he said.

While social networking sites draw most of the attention, some see greater value in relatively old-fashioned Internet job portals, such as HeadHunter in Russia.

"Social networks already are tools to search for employees and work, but working with them is very time-consuming. A site like [HeadHunter] is a convenient tool of professional recruiters and a way for people to comfortably separate their personal lives from their professional," Olga Manannikova, marketing director of HeadHunter, said by e-mail.

Keeping personal and professional lives separate is an often-cited reason people avoid job-hunting through social networks. According to the August poll, only 22 percent of respondents had no objection to potential employers contacting them through their social media pages. Fifty-eight percent said it was "impossible" to form an opinion of their professional competencies based only on their pages.

Connections Now, Jobs Later

Anton Zabannykh, head of the personal communications services group at Yandex, said social media can mainly facilitate professional connections rather than contact between employees and job seekers regarding a certain vacancy. Make the connections and the jobs will come later, he said.

"Our task is to help people find each other and make professional connections. 1.5 million people visit MoiKrug each month, so you could say the service is in demand and carrying out its role," Zabannykh said.

"Nonetheless, one advantage of social networks like MoiKrug from an employer's perspective is that they allow a fuller picture of potential candidates," he added.

Browsing pages on non-Russian social media also gives employers an idea of a candidate's English language competencies, said Svetlana Smirnova, human resources director at professional services company Ernst & Young. †

"When looking for professionals, we check LinkedIn," Smirnova said by e-mail. "Ernst & Young is an international company, and LinkedIn profiles are English-only. Perusing them, we can tell whether their owners have a good command of the language."

Employers are also using social networking sites to cultivate up-and-coming talent. Smirnova's company maintains a recruiting presence on social networking sites that it tailors to university graduates.

"Ernst & Young has created a group on Vkontakte where anyone can ask questions either by posting them on the group wall or by messaging directly to the recruiter," Smirnova said. "The main pro is that the group avoids all kinds of official barriers."

Rival professional services company PricewaterhouseCoopers also runs an official group on Vkontakte, in addition to a Vkontakte group for its youth outreach initiative Junior Club.

"Members of the club — students — meet once a month at PricewaterhouseCoopers offices to learn something new about the world of business, hold discussions and work through mock business scenarios," Anna Slavnova, human capital leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers Russia, said by e-mail. "The rest of the time, members are on Vkontakte working on assignments for the next meeting and reading advice posted by professionals."

In companies where the staff is dominated by young employees, Slavnova said, "employers have started to think seriously about the use of social networking and collaborative tools to attract, train, manage and retain staff."

Wave of the Future

When it comes to making actual hires though social media, however, recruiting firms are leading the way. To tap into the rabbit-hole reserve of information stored in social media — and to try to co-opt the possible threat the availability of this information poses to their business — most recruiters have now adopted social media as a tool in their search processes.

"Recruiters understand that thanks to social networks, especially business-oriented ones like ours, the recruitment market will be dramatically changing over the next few years. They don't want to be left behind," Dmitry Shchelkunov, product manager at, said by e-mail.

"About 7 percent of applicants placed through our firm were found through social media. And the figure is growing," Irina Nikulina, general director of recruitment agency ProfiStaff, said by e-mail.

Markova, of Cornerstone, estimated that about 15 to 20 percent of her firm's search methods involve social networks.

Markova's colleague Anna Solovyova is one of the few who found employment through a social networking site.

"I suppose it's more accurate to say a job found me," Solovyova said by e-mail.

"I was first approached by Cornerstone through MoiKrug," she said. "I was interested, but since I'd recently given birth I asked for my resume to be put in their database for future consideration. In the end, the database didn't matter. Half a year later, I took the Cornerstone offer, and I've been here for 1.5 years now."

The odds of finding work through social media also depend on your profession, Zabannykh said. Graphic arts is one area in which social networking sites are especially handy for vetting candidates, and Zabannykh said it is almost a requirement that designers provide an Internet link to their portfolios.

"My online portfolio was essential in securing my current position," said Marina Khalchenko, a trainee at a tattoo salon in Beijing.

"I applied for the position by e-mail from Vladivostok," Khalchenko said. "The chief tattoo artist asked me to come in with some of my designs. I said I was overseas and directed him to my portfolio on [the multimedia social networking site] Tumblr."

After looking at the portfolio, the tattoo artist promised Khalchenko a position once she had made the move to China.

"Now I'm almost ready to do my first tattoo," she said. "I just need to find a volunteer — and I'm looking on Vkontakte."