Social networks – and the internet in general – have changed the nature of many lines of business: large media have started viewing internet-based information as a legitimate source in their codes of ethics while travel agencies have been forced to seek new offerings since two mouse clicks are enough for anyone with basic computer literacy to book a room in a holiday resort. Some observers are questioning the market fundamentals of the HR business and examining how the business is likely to change with the advent of sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. But HR agencies say their services will not be replaced by any kind of online social network even though they are also tapping into the networks for various kinds of information about jobseekers.
Over 2.3 million Slovaks were regular users of the internet in September 2010, according to statistics from the Association of Internet Media (AIM). Two-thirds of these Slovaks are members of Facebook as this most popular social networking site reported that it currently has around 1.5 million Slovak members, according to the Sme daily. This obviously makes Facebook a significant communication tool in many areas. HR experts agree that social networks allow a firm seeking employees to reach a large number of potential job candidates without incurring significant costs.
“On the other hand, social networks still are prevailingly of a leisure-time character and, as such, don’t give employers enough information about the professional skills of potential employees,” said Lívia Franková, the director of the communication division of the Trenkwalder personnel and recruitment agency. She said the only social network with such a capability is LinkedIn, which allows HR managers to search for references about a candidate as well as to search for appropriate candidates for a specific vacant job in a more direct way. But Franková added that the Slovak labour market has not fully discovered the LinkedIn site yet.
Peter Peregrim, area manager of the Manpower personnel and recruitment agency, sees social networks as useful in that they are popular among an increasingly large number of people and for that reason they provide an interesting portfolio of potential job candidates. But he added that drawbacks include questions about privacy and personal data protection as well as a high degree of untrustworthiness of information posted on the sites.
Facebook instead of an agency?
Despite the boom of Facebook in many kinds of communication, including those of a business nature, personnel agencies do not believe their work can be replaced by an online social network.
“Personnel agencies provide many more services than just giving simple tips for potential employees or publishing a job advertisement,” Franková said, emphasising that social networks cannot replace the personal skills of agencies in fulfilling the specific needs of an employer through appropriate recruiting, developing the selection system or dispatching agency employees for vacant job positions.
According to Peregrim, social networks can only serve as a complementary source of candidates.
“They bring no break-through in the workings of a [recruitment] agency,” Peregrim stated.
“Nevertheless, every agency that wants to be successful cannot afford to ignore or underestimate these sources.”
HR experts admit that the social networks serve as a helping hand when they are searching for job candidates.
Trenkwalder uses its Facebook fan page to give advice to jobseekers, such as how to handle a job interview, and the firm also uses its fan page to promote some job vacancies, mainly part-time positions for students, Franková said.
Peregrim said his agency uses several social networks, most often Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, as a source for potential candidates when they are seeking to fill jobs for their clients.
“But we verify all the information very carefully as we also do when we find candidates from other sources,” Peregrim said.
Slovak Telekom is a company that is extensively using social networks for communication with its customers, with a Facebook fan page with general information about the company as well as fan pages for individual product lines and its CSR activities. In addition, Slovak Telekom’s press centre has its own Twitter profile for journalists to access and since autumn 2010 Telekom’s HR department has its own fan page called ‘Kariéra v Telekome’.
Telekom’s Facebook fan page features numerous posts from Facebook members who describe their education and work experience and ask whether there is a suitable job for them at the firm. The HR department most often advises the jobseekers to send their CV directly to the company by e-mail.
“We consider social networks as one of the important communication channels nowadays and as a modern company we have followed this trend also in our communications in the HR area,” Petra Berecová, Slovak Telekom’s executive director for HR, told The Slovak Spectator.
According to Berecová, its fan page on Facebook allows the HR department to have more personal, direct and fast communication with anyone interested in news about the firm and its human resources activities. The company also uses its fan page to promote its current projects and the opportunities for students or graduates in pursuing a career with Slovak Telekom.
“The social network allows for more personal and more interactive communication compared with, for example, the company’s website or a job portal,” Berecová said, adding that the HR department can more easily and more effectively publish information on its fan page about projects and then answer questions directly on the page.
“The risk for the HR department in using public forums for communication is negative feedback from unsuccessful job applicants,” Berecová said. But she added that the Facebook fan page about careers with her company has been active for three months and no negative feedback has appeared so far.
Take a peek on Facebook
Franková said that social networks are used in a limited way in filling vacant job positions in comparison with the traditional methods used by personnel agencies, adding that companies tend to use their fan pages on Facebook in a way similar to their websites while agreeing that Facebook pages provide a more interactive way of communication.
“Companies don’t use [social networks] to search actively for new employees, it is rather a tool for publishing information about currently vacant job positions, for instance on the fan pages companies have on Facebook,” Franková told The Slovak Spectator.
Franková agreed, however, that employers may be interested in the information that a job candidate has published on Facebook so that they can get a more personal picture of the employee than is possible from a CV.
“Ignoring social networks as a tool that can be used within the comprehensive framework of the operation of a company is a short-sighted approach,” Peregrim of Manpower told The Slovak Spectator.
Peregrim added that employers which are under pressure from coping with problems related to the global economic crisis and a lack of qualified labour should always seek new means to find good-quality employees and save resources at the same time.
14. Mar 2011 at 0:00 | Michaela Terenzani