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The Futility of Measuring ROI in Social Recruiting

By June 23, 20112 Comments

Several things pointed to the fact that this month’s HRINZ “Recruitment Special Interest Group” evening was going to be a little different from the usual offering.

Over one hundred of Auckland’s recruitment and HR community arrived expectantly and excited at the Vero Centre, a much larger turn out than usual.  Perhaps it was this swell in numbers that necessitated a change of rooms, meaning the early arrivals were left dithering and flapping around the lobby area like stranded penguins (topical, eh) waiting for the room to be set up.  Then onto the room itself, with the usual wide, open areas providing lush networking territory, now crammed with plastic seating.  The drinks and food buffet visibly blushing and buckling with the weight of unforseen attention, causing a near mutiny-inducing scenario of all the wine being consumed before the presentation had even begun.

What was going on?  It was social media of course or, more to the point, social recruiting.  The presenter Richard Long, Manager of Talent Acquisition at Deloitte New Zealand, was here to talk about social recruiting.  And his was a voice worth listening to, since Deloitte New Zealand’s amazing underdog victory at the 2010 SOCRA awards which honour excellence in social media and recruiting, awarded for Deloitte’s Facebook page.

There is little doubting that social media in recruitment is grabbing recruiters’ attention like nothing else since the advent of e-mail.  An interesting presentation was concluded with a flourish by Paul Jacobs, the social media navigator and leader who helped build Deloitte’s social blueprint, a man who puts the guru into garrulous (and also a pleasure to meet in person after so long interacting just through Twitter ;)).

And then the questions at the end.  This is when our HR community tends to clam up, cast furtive glances, perhaps hum quietly while shuffling feet in anticipation of revisiting the buffet bar.  But not this time, oh no.  You know when you were at school and you had something really important you needed to tell the teacher?  You would keep putting your hand in the air, look imploringly at said teacher, possibly even make those faint guttural noises of effort to make it abundantly clear you were stretching your arm as high as you possibly could?  But somehow the teacher would keep answering the questions of everyone else around you and never address your urgent need to talk?  Well it became kind of like that for me on Tuesday evening (although without the guttural noises, I hope).

But here we are on The whiteboard on Friday and now it is my time to talk, oh yes, and I’m not even going to put my hand up.  So this is the question I was so keen to ask:


“Is there really any point in measuring social media Return on Investment?”


You see, Richard works for a large global corporation.  He had to passionately campaign to win the hearts and minds of the Executive Management to even allow staff access to Facebook and You Tube, never mind undertaking a pioneering crusade into the corporate Facebook arena.  But in a large corporate that kind of concession comes at a price, and that price is that ROI will always have to be measured.  For everything.  And most definitely for something that is anecdotally “free”, but can actually end up costing many thousands in social media consulting fees, web development and, most of all, time spent.

But here’s the thing: Social media, and the effect it might have on your brand, your connectivity, your business performance, your quality of hire, is so intangible, so ethereal, that it would be like trying to catch the wind.  The thing is to just do it.  Get involved.  Have a go.

When I started getting more active in the social media space I would agonise over whether I should be spending my time elsewhere.  Maybe I should, I don’t know, but a cursory look over some recent recruitment activity reveals that:

  • I placed a candidate who came through to me after she read a comment I made on someone else’s blog (The Savage Truth, I think – cheers Greg)
  • I placed a candidate who approached me after reading one of my Linked In status updates
  • I have a candidate interviewing next week with an overseas client who I have met through Twitter

There are doubtless more examples but I just believe it is counter-productive to spend too much time digging in and dwelling on it.  For me it is just all about connecting, participating, engaging and having fun along the way.

This blog post which was highlighted by Rebecca Clarke from Drake, who was also there on Tuesday night, is a wonderfully simple and straight-forward guide to succeeding with social recruiting.

And if you really, absolutely, positively, we-are-a-big-corporate-and-this-is-how-we-operate, must measure the ROI on social recruiting efforts then this blog on using Google Analytics will be a good starting point for you.

But really, don’t bother.  Just do it.  Or else pretty soon we’ll all be discussing the ROI of measuring ROI.

And nobody wants that.


Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • paul jacobs says:

    Thanks for the mention Jonathan, “garrulous” eh 😉 I enjoyed meeting lots of the Auckland HR and recruitment community at the event. It would’ve been good to have had more time for contributions from the audience, but there were a lot of hands in the air and we had limited time. 

    In many ways, it has taken the rise of social media to bring the discussion around to ROI and measurement in recruitment & HR. Do most employers currently know the ROI of their current spend and initiatives? The term ROE is sometimes used in social recruiting – Return on Engagement, Return on Emotion, Return on Experience.  We should always keep Quality of Hire as the prize. In terms of cost, social recruiting if done properly is often considerably more cost-effective than traditional means – though we shouldn’t just dismiss traditional means if they are still applicable.

    The one thing which struck me was talking to students visiting the Deloitte stand at a uni careers fair. Many wanted to speak directly to the Deloitte grads who they saw via Facebook (either on video, blog posts, live shows) – they wanted to talk to the people who they recognised and could relate to behind the corporate brand. This to me was a major ROI in itself. I’m not a big fan of things like fan and follower numbers, likes on posts etc as determinants of success. It’s better to have people in your community who are emotionally engaged with your brand and can relate to your values than playing the numbers game.

    We’re all learning in this space, and it’s great to have avenues to discuss these important things. Also, there are so many opportunities to do some great stuff for those willing to play in the social recruiting sandpit.

  • Thank you so much for reassuring us that ROI does not matter ALL of the time, especially in the new world of social media.

    We’ve been on Twitter for 3 weeks and have already made 2 successful placements for positions that were not advertised anywhere else. That’s all the proof we need!