Peter Weddle takes a swipe at recruiter trainers who dare to teach social media yesterday at his Workstrong column. Actually it's more than a swipe - he calls it a recruiting SCAM. Now I'm not sure what exactly would cause someone to post SCAM in capital letters, especially on a blog (which is social media), but Peter's intention is clear - he's calling social media trainers out as snake oil salesman.
I've never met Peter, and hold no grudge against him. I do know he's a big name in the industry, and am the first to say that there are a lot of people in the social media world who jumped on the bandwagon. Some have proven themselves, some haven't, but the methods for social media recruiting work, both for the candidate, and for the recruiter. So what compelled Peter to say it's a SCAM?
I would like to note that he doesn't call anyone out by name. He instead lumps everyone involved as part of the SCAM, which would include names like Shally Steckerl, Glenn Gutmacher, Kennedy Information, Hireability, ERE, Mark Berger, Jason Alba, Jim Stroud, Paul DeBettignies, Michael Marlatt, and me, the Social Media Headhunter. In one small column, he calls us all frauds. His proof is a series of surveys taken on the expectations of job-seekers, which he then confuses with the hunting approach of recruiters. I'm not sure how training recruiters to use social media sites to find candidates translates to candidate expectations, but Peter doesn't bother to make that clear.
Now I posted a comment on his site, but it has yet to be approved. We'll see what he says, but let me show you the most egregious passages of his column.
"Successful recruiting depends upon our ability to tap the talent market efficiently, and social media sites can’t do that because most people use them in a different context. These sites are popular because they are viewed as helpful in finding a date and keeping up with friends, but not, at this point at least, in connecting with employers and recruiters. In other words, the social market has not yet become a talent market … and no amount of expert hyperbole will change that fact."
He's wrong about that. His second statement doesn't take into account LinkedIn, Plaxo, or even of the successful uses of Facebook, Twitter and MySpace by recruiters. It ignores the possibility of setting expectations with candidates (which is what I train on). Jobseekers are on these sites. It's a great place to reach them. It's no different than striking up a conversation with a person at a Starbucks, and then converting them into a candidate when you find out they are the right fit. They didn't go to Starbucks to get recruited, but they don't mind if you approach them correctly (They also don't have their resume posted to their chest at Starbucks, unlike on social networks).
The basis of his statements are two non-scientific surveys - one by a entry-level and job intern site called AfterCollege, and the other from his own respondents. The first problem is selection bias in these sample populations. The populations on AfterCollege (no links provided) and at Weddle's site are a tiny subset of the job-seeking population who are looking for help in their job search. How can people who haven't been successful finding a job be expected to think of social media as a way to solve that problem? They can't. To make it worse, Weddle makes the mistake of thinking Millennials are social media experts in job seeking, which is impossible as they aren't experts in job-seeking. The second is methodology, as questions in online surveys are suspect data points (people tend to pick the first answer). How were the questions asked? Was there a control group? How does this group compare against others in surveys?
I can cherry pick sample data as well. Jeremiah Owyang, a researcher for Forrester, compiled a survey from his respondents on job-seeking strategies. The number one result was increase social networking. It's a bad sample, because it's a group of people heavily involved in social media, but it has more validity than Weddle's survey examples. Heavy users of social media report that the best way to find a job is to use more social media. This would suggest that if you put the time and effort into social media, it can help you find a job. It doesn't say that with hard data points, but it's at least as valid as the survey Peter uses. You don't find us claiming his Career portal is a scam. If I did a survey of my readers, and only 1% of them said they planned to buy Peter's book, does that mean his book is worthless? Of course not. It could mean that the other 99% need to buy his book to be better prepared.
This lack of scientific data doesn't stop Weddle from twice calling all social media training a SCAM. It's unconscionable, and we all deserve an apology. That someone so widely read and so widely admired would descend to character assassination of people he doesn't know is a shame. That he writes such a column when the very people he attacks are linkedon his website is even worse. This column might have been hastily written, but it's no excuse.
The beauty of social media is if you're willing to apologize, you can, and you'll be forgiven. He needs to apologize. This could have been an decent discussion topic on the best uses of time, or most effective uses of time. Instead, it's a hit job, from a leading industry voice.
Peter should remember that newspapers said the same things about blogs not too long ago. Instead of calling us scammers, perhaps he ought to try to learn what we know that he hasn't yet grasped.