In a tight labor market employers must use every tool at their disposal to land the best talent. Social media, in particular, provide effective platforms for reaching the “passive candidate,” who is not looking for a new position but might be lured by an attractive offer. But first, employers need to lay the groundwork for their social recruiting efforts by creating a brand presence that will attract top talent. Following are some strategies that will help you harness your online network to find qualified candidates who will complement your existing staff.
“The nation is short workers,” says Mel Kleiman, director of Houston-based Humetrics, an employment consulting firm. “With unemployment hovering around 4 percent, basically anyone who wants a job can get one.”
The solution for employers: Be more proactive in your recruiting. “A lot of people are not unhappy enough with their current positions to search out new ones,” says Kleiman. “But they might well be interested if jobs came looking.”
The best way to reach those potential applicants is to “go where they congregate,” says Orlando, Florida-based management consultant Terry Brock. “And today people congregate on social media.”
Network for Success
On one level, the use of social media for recruiting represents a dramatic shift away from the use of print and online help wanted ads. On another, it is just the latest version of the tried-and-true networking paradigm. “Twenty years ago, the value of recruiters was often determined by the quality of their personal networks,” says Toronto-based management consultant Randall Craig. “What’s different with social media is the potential reach and degree of visibility.”
Unlike online job boards, such as CareerBuilder, Monster and ZipRecruiter, you can get your message in front of people who aren’t actively seeking new positions without hiring a recruiter. “If you post a notice on the job boards, you only reach people who are actively looking for new positions,” says Nate Riggs, CEO of NR Media Group, a consulting firm in Columbus, Ohio. “But if you reach out on a social network, you can attract the attention of top-performing people who might not be looking to move on, but who are intrigued by an unexpected opportunity. This can greatly expand your candidate pool.” And there are plenty of social media to choose from, including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest.
How do you know which social media to use? Your first thought is probably LinkedIn, which pioneered the concept of social recruiting some 15 years ago, and that’s not a bad thought. While the platform once catered exclusively to professionals, it has recently expanded its reach to include employees at pretty much any level. “LinkedIn remains one of the top go-to social media sites for recruiting,” says Rebecca Mazin, a co-founder of the Tarrytown, New York-based human resources firm Recruit Right. “You can find everyone from interns and administrative candidates, all the way up to vice presidents and CEOs.”
But is LinkedIn the best platform for you? The people who can best answer that question are sitting a few feet away from you. Ask your employees where they spend time in cyberspace, because your most promising job candidates are likely populating the same venues. (For tips on how to use these different sites most effectively, see “Pick Your Platform” below.)
Social media helps you leverage another proven tool in attracting the best candidates: referrals. Most employers already realize the value of asking current employees for leads. Social media sites allow you to leverage that dynamic substantially. “Facebook, Twitter and other platforms let you invite your customers to help you in your recruiting efforts,” says Mazin. “You might post a comment that says, ‘We are looking for an individual with the following skills. Do you know anyone like this who might like working for us?’”
Lay the Groundwork
Before you begin using your social media pages to search for new staff members, you do need to be an active social media player. That’s because recruiting today is a two-way street: It’s not just you looking for a new employee; it’s a whole group of potential employees getting to know your business as a quality place to work. “It is not only you finding candidates but candidates finding you,” says Craig. “And they perform their due diligence also.”
Candidates will be looking at the posts you make over time on your practice pages to get a sense of whether it might be a good fit for their talents, personalities and career goals. “Establishing a long-term presence will give potential candidates a lot to see and digest,” says Riggs. “It helps answer the question, “Would I enjoy working with these people?’”
If your social media is professional and highlights staff accomplishments and appreciation, it will help you attract professional candidates. “Also, you can assess the seriousness of each candidate by finding out how closely each has studied your social media presence,” says Riggs. “Try asking a question such as this: ‘Tell me one thing on our Facebook page that you thought was interesting or made you want to talk with us?’ Anyone who can’t give a good answer may not be a promising enough contender.”
Build Your Presence
One way to improve your online presence is to tie together all your Internet activities. Your social media posts can invite people to visit your practice website, for example. Once there, prospective candidates should be able to view employment opportunities. “There should be an easy way for visitors to find out where the career information is,” says Mazin. “This can be as simple as a tab labeled ‘Join Our Team’ that takes visitors to your employment page.”
You can also connect with promising candidates by becoming active in your alumni and industry groups that are hosted by LinkedIn, Facebook and other platforms. “Regularly post items about new activities, locations, launches or whatever else is newsworthy about your business,” says Mazin.
You can then post messages in those same group forums about your need for people with specific expertise. This gives everyone the chance to get involved with your success. “Everyone likes to receive a job invitation,” says Craig. “And people will appreciate the opportunity to help their friends by suggesting them for available positions.”
Pay To Play
Informal messaging isn’t the only way to mine social media for new talent. You can also pay for employment ads. This is especially effective when you are in a hurry to fill an opening. “Sometimes ads are successful and sometimes not,” says Mazin. “It doesn’t cost a fortune to try—maybe a few hundred dollars, and it is another good way to reach candidates who are not actively looking for new positions.”
The key to success here is to pinpoint your efforts. “You can target your social media ads to your specific markets and demographics,” says Kleiman. For example, you may want your ad to be seen only by people who live in nearby zip codes, work at certain employers or have experience in a specific job category. Ordering your ad this way will give you the most bang for your buck, or in modern day terms, the best candidate for your “pay per click.”
“You can link your ad to a video or to a web page that talks about the benefits of working with your practice,” says Brock.
The successful recruiting effort begins by understanding how your current employees use social media, then designing your interactions accordingly. The key word there is interactions. “Social media recruiting is not about blasting out a message to people,” says Craig. “It’s about interacting with your social network in a way that builds your brand and encourages them to share your message with people in their own networks who would be a good fit for your business.”
Pick Your Platform
There are numerous social media outlets on the internet today, and each offers unique tools that can help you get the word out about current job openings. Following are some tips on how to use today’s most popular sites.
LinkedIn now has 560 million users happily connecting with colleagues while getting a leg up on new job openings.
- Participate in groups. LinkedIn groups, including professional and alumni groups, help you establish your business presence and are a good place to post job openings.
- Use “LinkedIn recruiter” to find passive candidates. The system recommends the best search filters to find the candidates you need.
Facebook is the world’s biggest social network with 2.2 billion monthly users. The atmosphere is a bit more informal than the more professionally minded LinkedIn.
- Chat with your current and prospective clients. Invite them to assist in your recruiting efforts with posts such as, “Do you happen to know anyone with the following skills who might like working for us?”
- Place paid Facebook ads customized for display only to users with specific demographics such as zip code, current job position or title, current employer or degree obtained.
Twitter boasts 330 million monthly users posting about everything imaginable. Twitter has a more open communications environment, meaning you can reach out to people in your target employment pool without seeming too intrusive.
- Use Twitter hashtags such as #hiring or #jobs to help people quickly find your job postings.
Instagram is a video- and photos-only social network. If your current employees and customers utilize it to share images, you may want to establish a presence as well.
- Establish brand awareness by sharing “behind the scenes” pictures of your workplace.
Snapchat is another photo network, but the difference is that the images of its 330 million users disappear after a set period of time. Like Instagram, Snapchat is a vehicle for showing off your business brand to potential job candidates.
- Use “snaps” to tell stories about your company events and staff interactions.
- Close each story with an invitation to visit your website or to participate in your other social media activities.
Phillip M. Perry is a freelance writer based in New York City.
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