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Facebook's Bold Move

With its new job posting service, the social networking giant moves into territory that's been dominated by LinkedIn. Will it succeed?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017
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Facebook's recently announced job posting service is attracting a lot of attention. Many pundits have said it's a threat to LinkedIn, given the sheer number of Facebook users (nearly 2 billion worldwide) compared to LinkedIn's 467 million users. Soon it will be Facebook, not Microsoft-owned LinkedIn, that recruiters will turn to first when it comes to finding talent, they predict. Facebook's deep pockets (it had $10 billion in net income on total 2016 revenue of $27 billion, for example) along with the sheer size of its membership make it a formidable potential competitor to LinkedIn, although LinkedIn will also have access to its new parent company's vast resources. 

A significant chunk of the population relies on social media for finding a job: Approximately 14.4 million Americans say they have used social media to find employment, according to a recent survey by ADP. The same survey finds that 73 percent of companies said they had successfully hired employees using social media.

Facebook's service will better enable companies to find sought-after passive candidates, the company says.

"Two-thirds of job seekers are already employed," Andrew Bosworth, Facebook's vice president of ads and business platform, told TechCrunch. "They're not spending their days and nights out there canvassing for jobs. They're open to a job if a job comes."

Or are they? Talent-management expert Dr. John Sullivan, professor of management at San Francisco State University, is skeptical as to whether Facebook will emerge as a major new recruitment platform.

Sullivan, who describes Facebook's new service as "children playing in an adult's space," says the social-media network simply isn't taken seriously enough by most people as a place to find a job and most likely never will be.

"My guess is that Facebook's service is going to end up in also-ran land," he says. "When people look for a job, they want to do so on a serious platform."

Furthermore, recruiters may find little value in the information that's available on Facebook, says Sullivan.

"Most people don't put much information on Facebook that a recruiter would want to see," he says. "Facebook's job application form only gathers your Facebook information and many people don't put any career details in that -- it's too basic, whereas with LinkedIn, you get tons and tons of information on a candidate."

Sullivan says he doesn't see Facebook emerging as a major competitor to LinkedIn and other career-related sites such as Glassdoor.

"Generally, LinkedIn and Glassdoor work because they're job specific -- if I'm a jobseeker, LinkedIn gives me tons of information while Glassdoor gives me company reviews, interview information and salaries, so they have much more value than just a job posting," he says.

Although many companies have created their own Facebook pages, most jobseekers see little value in them, says Sullivan.

"Most career pages are dead because no one believes what you say -- it's corporate and written by PR people and no one takes it seriously," he says. "Something like 50 percent of the information people get about a company is from a source other than the company itself. So a Facebook company page is like a corporate careers page and people just don't believe the information that's been posted there. People want to hear the real story, from real people."

However, Shally Steckerl, a sourcing expert and founder of The Sourcing Institute, says Facebook will be a strong competitor to LinkedIn. He disagrees with Sullivan that the network's profiles don't include enough information that recruiters would find useful.

"When you create a Facebook account, one of the first questions it asks you is about your employer and your job, and even if a smaller percentage of users include that information than on LinkedIn, Facebook is also a much bigger pie than LinkedIn," says Steckerl. "When someone else joins Facebook or changes their 'about' page, they're asked whether they know or have worked with this person and if they say yes, it gets tagged in Facebook's database, and you can advertise against that and the person will see your ad."

Steckerl also takes issue with Sullivan's assertion that company pages on Facebook hold little value for candidates. "I have a company page on Facebook and it's pretty active," he says, adding that he uses Facebook for recruiting employees. "I talk to candidates every day, and it used to be that part of a recruiter's job was to sell the company, and while that's not entirely gone away, before I even get on the phone with candidates -- between the time I've reached out to them and they've accepted the invitation -- they've already gone out and researched the company. The places they go to for that are Facebook and Glassdoor."

Furthermore, discussion groups on Facebook are more active than similar groups on LinkedIn, which can engage potential candidates in conversations about a company or a related industry, says Steckerl.

"There are a lot of active groups on particular subjects that are academic and professional, and they're much more active on Facebook than on LinkedIn because groups on Facebook are more user-friendly and organic," he says.

The drawback to using Facebook for recruiting, says Steckerl, is its search function. "Facebook is awesome for search, but you have to know how to use it -- it's not intuitive," he says.

Facebook's emergence as a recruiting platform has sparked a lot of interest in the recruiter community, says Leela Srinivasan, chief marketing officer at Lever, a recruitment technology vendor.

"Facebook has been quite a hot topic in the various recruiting groups I’m part of," says Srinivasan, who agrees that discussion groups on Facebook are more active than those on LinkedIn.

"I'm a member of 20 different recruiting groups on LinkedIn and four or five on Facebook, and the four or five Facebook groups are extremely active in terms of discussions and engagement, more so than the ones on LinkedIn," says Srinivasan, who spent four and a half years working at LinkedIn. "I think LinkedIn has decided to de-prioritize groups, but the result has been that what was once a vibrant product is now generating a lot less engagement than before. LinkedIn has done a great job on content with their publishing platform and I think its value has only increased with all the rich content there, but Facebook is a very powerful consumer platform and they've invested in making it sticky and engaging."

Facebook's value as a recruitment platform will probably be in its ability to engage candidates for hourly and blue-collar positions -- a market that LinkedIn (which is geared toward white-collar workers) has overlooked, she says.

"The higher the skill set, the harder it becomes to target the right folks on Facebook," says Srinivasan, adding that most of the jobs she's seen advertised on Facebook so far have been for hourly positions at small retail establishments. 

Steckerl agrees that Facebook is effective for reaching hourly and blue-collar workers.

"This is a population that's been pretty forgotten on LinkedIn, which is geared more toward white collar, degreed people," he says.

As for other players in the recruitment space, Steckerl doesn't think Facebook will be a threat to Indeed, which aggregates jobs. Monster will probably remain attractive to jobseekers who want their job search to remain confidential, he says. Advertising is another question, as Indeed has taken a significant bite out of the job-advertising market, he says. "Facebook offering this free job posting service simply erodes more of Monster's marketplace as well as Dice's and CareerBuilder's."

Facebook's ability to emerge as a serious contender in the recruiting space will depend on its ability to deliver value, not volume, says Srinivasan.

"People aren’t looking for a higher volume of applicants -- instead, they want higher-quality applicants," she says. "Higher volume is not useful unless it's coupled with higher quality -- otherwise, it's just noise.

"The ability to integrate with the right applicant tracking system is also important," she adds. "Right now, job applications on Facebook are delivered by Facebook Messenger, which is certainly instant, but the value of an ATS is that it gives the team visibility into who's applying or marrying up information with candidates who may have applied in the past -- I don't see Facebook moving into that territory."

However, Facebook has already become an important social hub for recruiters, says Srinivasan.

"Between Messenger and Notifications and the ease with which people have been able to dive into conversations on Facebook, the interface has made it a natural place for the recruiting industry to start to congregate," she says. "Recruiters are a special breed -- they're very prone to sharing, and it's a very social profession." 


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