Just when you thought it was safe to start reading the Facebook for recruiting blog posts again, the debate reignites over at ERE over whether job seekers want to be friends with recruiters, and that personal messaging is intrusive. I’m a big fan of ERE. The contributors are well informed, and they provoke great debate from the community, (Who could forget Autodesks Matthew Jeffery’s Recruiters 3.0,4.0,5.0 and subsequent instalments.) The post that caught my attention because it was e-mailed to me by reader Jacob Madsen for comment is titled: “Facebook Recruiting Is All The Rage,” by Howard Adamsky.

The post makes some very good points raised around the danger of making candidate judgments around the content on a candidates personal feed. The really interesting discussion though comes in the comments which range from the hugely passionate Facebook recruiters through to the usual “I hardly ever use the channel for personal use but it deffinitely won’t work for recruiting.” The latter is always a dangerous position to take.I’m all for people saying they don’t “think” it will work, but you really need to have been involved in trying something before you are in a position to say this doesn’t work.

One of the comments that really stood out for me was from the author Adamsky, who posted in response to a comment around Facebook being the place for forming meaningful dialogue with candidates. Adamsky replies:

“@ Michelle: I think you might be wrong. I see FB as struggling, I do not see it as a place for serious recruiting and you will have to define “meaningful conversations” for me. Sadly, I might be missing the boat but I can’t even I imagine how FB would build a brand. “

I’m not going to get in to the health, or not, of Facebook as a channel, but I can say from experience that meaningful conversations start on Facebook every day. I say start because any conversation needs to move from the on-line to the off-line to be truly meaningful. When you run an effective fan page then there is plenty of meaningful dialogue between recruiters and employees and potential candidates. This is harder for third party recruiters to achieve because the desired relationship is often shorter term and job based, but there are plenty of corporate recruiters who are connecting and attracting candidates to apply for opportunities. Facebook is the perfect channel for displaying employer brand content in pictures, updates and video. The length of time people stay connected with brand pages like Careers at Oracle, Hard Rock Cafe Firenze or Salesforce.com I’m happy to accept that these are huge brands, but I also know that Facebook applications are driving much of their hiring because I have been closely involved in the launch of 2 of the 3. One of the notable things about these and other fan pages is that the content is seen as humanising the brand. Can you build a brand on Facebook? There are 1000′s of examples of companies in the B2B sector who have done just that, as well as many others who already had a great brand, (like the 3 listed), but enhanced their employer brand through Facebook.

The important point here is that the connection is as a FAN and not a friend. I think this is the biggest area people jump to the wrong conclusions when talking recruiting in this channel. Recruiters don’t want or need to be your friend. They don’t need to see your pictures or look at your updates to make judgments on your political views. They want to make applying and displaying employer brand content accesible, and to make it easy for interested partys to connect with recruiters as fans, not as friends. When you are weighing up the value of facebook as as a recruiting channel you need to think this way, and understand that this seperates the personal from the professional.

I was speaking this evening with Ohio Recruiter Meredith Soleau, who recruits for the automotive industry, and is hiring candidates that will almost definitely not be on LinkedIn, or many other places on the web. Meredith uses the BranchOut enterprise application on Facebook to find people who meet her criteria, and she does it very successfully. Interestingly, and related to Howard;s original post, Meredith does not use Branchout or Facebook to message the candidates unless there is no other option, but it is the place where she can find people who can’t be found anywhere else. The BranchOut Recruiter Connect, has reach across the whole of the network for finding people. Once Merredith finds the right people she contacts them by phone to sell the opportunity, and she is making hires. If you can use Facebook for finding the right people, you don’t have to message them as an unconnected contact, there are other ways to speak that might be better received. Twitter is the place for talking to strangers, Facebook probably isn’t, but it could be one of the best places for finding strangers and identifying what they do in some sectors.

In conclusion, stop thinking that the need to be friends or access to personal updates, pictures etc. There are fan pages, applications that don’t require access to anything other than employment detail. There are referral applications, and get referred applications that build pipeline. Facebook should only be part of the recruitment mix, but it is an error to leave it out because you are thinking of Facebook as a personal channel, think fan not friend!

Thanks to Howard and ERE for prompting this post. It is a discussion I have often.