Toronto-based entrepreneur Razor Suleman needs to hire 17 people over the next month.
He could have chosen traditional methods –from newspaper ads to online job boards or head hunters – to fill the IT, sales and marketing positions at his rewards and recognition business.
Yet in a soft job market, he and a growing number of employers are favouring an option they say is faster, more efficient and a whole lot cheaper: social media sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn. The shift marks a sea change for the world of recruiting as the use of employee and customer networks to find candidates becomes the new normal.
"The world has changed – it will never go back," said Mr. Suleman, who runs I Love Rewards Inc., which advises companies on employee incentive and recognition programs.
His approach is simple: distribute job postings to his employees, who then place them on their Facebook status updates, tweet them to friends who re-tweet them, and share them through LinkedIn networks. He sent out word about the jobs last Friday; this week, his company expects 1,000 people will show up at its two open houses.
Mr. Suleman underlines the potential savings with a comparison. The average cost of a newspaper ad is $5,000, while an online job board (which he still uses for niche positions) costs $700. Recruiting firms charge a percentage a new hire's salary; the price tag of using one to fill all 17 jobs would be $260,000, he figures.
Instead, he's paying a total of $1,800 for wine and cheese at the open house.
Across Canada, hiring remains tentative as employers wait for more signs of a recovery. But as demand increases, many companies are thinking about recruiting again – in the most cost-efficient way possible.
Interest in using free social media to recruit employees is surging. When the Toronto-based Human Resources Professionals Association organized a presentation on the topic last month, the room was overflowing.
An expert in social media and recruiting is Arieh Singer, director of digital strategy company TMP Worldwide; he now gives public speeches two to three times a month on the topic to human resources workers. The traditional approach to recruiting has changed to methods that can better measure where applicants are coming from. Essentially, employers want to more closely track their cost of hires.
Canada has one of the highest rates of social media usage in the world, he says, so employers must "fish where the fish are."
Building these channels – even before hiring plans are in place – also allows a company to quickly find candidates if demand suddenly surges. "If demand turns and you need to ramp up, it gives you more flexibility – social media allows for broader broadcast of that," Mr. Singer case.
That's the case for Future Shop. The Burnaby, B.C.-based company is planning to hire 5,000 people for the holiday season and, this year, is relying much more on Facebook, Twitter and its own community website to do so. It has advertised the jobs on its Facebook page, which has more than 17,000 followers, and also put the word out on its website and Twitter page.
"It's certainly playing a larger role in our recruitment process," spokesman Elliott Chun said. "It's definitively something that's cost-effective. But most importantly, we know that's where a lot of Canadians are looking [for jobs] and we want to be right there with them."
Fitness firm Best Body Bootcamp is another example. It runs fitness programs at 10 locations in Toronto, and plans to expand throughout Ontario and the rest of Canada, hiring more than 40 people by next March. And it aims to do all of its recruiting by e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.
"It's brought our recruiting costs down to effectively nil," founder Roger Nahas said.
The big online job boards that charge for ads, meanwhile, have seen a steep slide in postings. Workopolis job ads fell 36 per cent in October from the same month last year. At Monster Canada, online postings were 26 per cent lower in the third quarter than last year.
Robert Waghorn, Montreal-based spokesman for Monster, pegged the drop to both recession-era cost controls and a more permanent shift into social media. "It's fair to say it could be both," he said. "There's no doubt there's a shift in the industry."
That shift comes amid Monster's longer-term decision to diversify from an online job site into offering a range of career management services.
Social networking isn't suitable for all jobs, of course. High-end, niche positions will require a different approach, such as the help of corporate head hunters. Jobs in industries where people are less connected, such as trucking and transportation, will need other channels. And a tightening labour market may well cause employers to open their wallets to find good candidates again.
But for reach, speed and recruitment branding, experts say social media is here to stay. Just on Wednesday, for example, more than 400 Canadian job postings appeared on tweetmyjobs.com from employers ranging from Rio Tinto, to TSX Group, Bombardier, Suncor and Mercedes-Benz Canada.