When Avery Block joined Taco Bell Corp. as a human resources social media expert in early 2011, one of her first goals was jump-starting the restaurant chain's social recruiting efforts. That meant enhancing its presence online, especially on Facebook, the preferred hangout for the millennials who comprise most of Taco Bell's in-store employees.
Block revived a Facebook page dedicated to Taco Bell careers and built it up to 61,000 fans, but didn't stop there. In late September, she introduced a dozen of the company's HR staff and recruiters to BeKnown, a software application that works inside Facebook. In addition to helping Taco Bell share job openings, BeKnown lets Facebook members build a professional network and search for jobs they might be interested in.
The application hasn't resulted in any direct hires for Taco Bell yet. But Block is confident it will pay off. "I definitely see a place for it in the future," she says. "Our target demographic is on Facebook all day long, and now they can look for jobs and connect with recruiters all within Facebook."
As Facebook consumes an ever-larger chunk of the time millennials and everyone else spends online, more companies like Taco Bell are using it to prospect for new hires. In turn, that's creating a raft of Facebook apps for recruiting.
BeKnown, which Monster Worldwide Inc. introduced in June, is one of more than a half-dozen Facebook apps for recruiters or job seekers unveiled in the past 18 months. Other HR, recruiting or job-board software vendors with Facebook apps include BranchOut Inc., CareerBuilder.com, Glassdoor, Jobvite Inc., Taleo Corp. and TweetMyJobs.com. More apps are coming in 2012, including one from Cornerstone OnDemand that officials there expect to unveil in the first quarter.
The apps are emblematic of companies' increased use of social networks for recruiting. Today, companies fill 10 percent of their open positions using professional networking sites, according to a just-released talent acquisition trends report from Bersin & Associates. According to the report, that ratio should increase rapidly as recruiters and job seekers become more adept at using these sites.
Apps could spell salvation for job boards such as Monster and CareerBuilder. According to the Bersin & Associates report, job boards remain the leading source for external hires but "risk becoming obsolete." As fewer people go to the websites to look for work, job board-makers can now push out information from their job-listing databases to where people do go, namely Facebook.
Still, it's too soon to tell how successful a particular Facebook recruiting app will be, or whether any of them will help Facebook overtake LinkedIn as the social network of choice for the world of work. Based on anecdotal evidence, though, more companies of all sizes are starting to use them, including Chiquita Brands, TiVo Inc. and NEW Corp.
Not all recruiting apps work the same. Some such as BeKnown or BranchOut ask users to fill out detailed profiles of their work history or agree to have that data extracted from their existing Facebook profiles. The apps then match the information against a database of available jobs and suggest openings the user might be interested in.
Apps from Jobvite and CareerBuilder, which introduced a Facebook recruiting app called Work@ a year ago, allow employees to share information about job openings at their companies with their Facebook friends. When they do, they can get virtual rewards to display on their Facebook page or perks from an existing employee referral program. Another tool, Glassdoor, shares reviews written by employees or job seekers of what it's like to work or interview with a particular company, a kind of TripAdvisor or Yelp for the job market.
Facebook apps for job hunters are free, while programs for hiring managers or recruiters charge a flat fee or by the user or employee. Some vendors build them into their applicant tracking system or recruiter sourcing software or make them available as free add-ons.
Though Facebook has 800 million members, only a fraction of them have begun using recruiting or job-hunting apps, according to executives at app developers. One reason: job seekers are still grasping the fact that there's a way to look for a new job on Facebook without letting all their connections know, says Block, the Taco Bell HR executive.
Ongoing questions about Facebook's privacy policies could dampen job seekers' enthusiasm even further. Facebook has come under fire recently for violating users' privacy by sharing too much of their personal information and for acknowledging that it uses online "cookies" to track websites its members visit. "The issue of data privacy is going to become much more important," says Jason Corsello, a former HR industry analyst and now vice president of business development and strategy at Cornerstone OnDemand.
At BeKnown, trust is "the No. 1, 2 and 3 issues we need to focus on to grow the network," says Tom Chevalier, BeKnown product manager at Monster. Since people still aren't sure if Facebook is the place to do professional networking, "we want to make sure we're not surprising anyone," he says. To that end, BeKnown is structured so Facebook users create a professional network that's invisible to any Facebook friends they don't invite to join them. "You can even have a Facebook photo that's different from your BeKnown photo," he says.
On the positive side, because of Facebook's size, recruiting apps that work inside the network have an advantage over LinkedIn. "We're looking at audiences that have never been on a professional network, like nurses or employees of public utilities," Chevalier says. "I think we can win that battle."
But companies like Taco Bell aren't putting all their eggs in one social network basket. The company's recruiters might be using Facebook to find store managers and employees, but they still rely on LinkedIn to help fill corporate jobs. "People are quick to jump on all the social platforms and lose sight of who they're marketing their jobs to," Block says. "We take a holistic approach and use all the platforms, but not all for all positions."
Michelle V. Rafter is a Workforce Management contributing editor based in Portland, Oregon. To comment, email email@example.com.