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The social recruitment revolution 05/10/2010

The mass of motivated hopefuls out there using Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and a host of less ubiquitous platforms to promote themselves and connect with potential employers don’t feel the need to label what they’re doing as social media recruitment.

The social recruitment revolution

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  1. WOM has landed. Start with the big networks
  2. Recruiters need to investigate the wider web
  3. Be strategic in your choice of social media tools
  4. Remember that recruiters are on trial too
  5. Empower your candidates
  6. Integrate offline & online recruitment strategies

WOM has landed. Start with the big networks

Word of mouth isn’t the next big thing in HR; it has already transformed recruitment beyond recognition. The divide between our personal and professional selves is dissolving as we conduct our business and social lives on the same platforms, in increasingly casual and conversational ways. And, as is often the case, big business is way behind the individuals themselves.

LinkedIn is the best-known social recruitment success, and for good reason. During the recession, it has been one of few ventures that has thrived, as candidates tried to find more a personal point of access into the sluggish jobs market. More than 40% of Fortune 100 companies now pay LinkedIn to cream the talent from its 46 million members, but it’s still possible to find relevant people by navigating through the network if you have a few good initial leads.

However, Facebook is catching up, as companies find the platform helps them to target a younger audience and provide a more rounded picture of potential employees, especially now that the Facebook Connect application allows opted-in users to share their profile information with third parties. Again, firms such as CareerBuilder offer the creation of complex Facebook community hubs, and developers such as Jobvite and Appirio sell software that helps drive invitations and referrals through employees’ social networks, but a simple DIY brand page can be very effective too. Although their page only has 745 fans, US technology firm EMC are happy with the added visibility; as Polly Pearson, their VP of employment brand and strategy engagement, puts it: “Many college grads aren’t on LinkedIn. We’re going where target market is. We have to have a huge pipeline”.

To many, Twitter has come to seem more of an irritation than an opportunity, as brands try and appropriate the platform as a broadcasting tool and marketers play collect-the-followers. But it’s still an invaluable place to find likeminded people if you have the time and commitment to get a real sense of the community and who are the authorities and aspiring bright young things within your industry.

Recruiters need to investigate the wider web

However, it’s increasingly important that recruiters venture outside these spaces and into the wider web. For example, industry-specific (i.e. engineering) or passion-based (i.e. art and design) forums can be good places to see promising practitioners display their knowledge and expertise. And many people use their blogs to display their work portfolios and showcase their professional thoughts and ideas, so when you find an interesting blogger it’s worth clicking through their blogroll, or reading the comments below their posts, to identify who else is part of their network. Someone is likely to be higher calibre of employee if they’re savvy and passionate enough to start building a professional reputation for themselves independently.

Why not try and develop a relationship with the moderators in graduate forums? Offer their members exclusive training days? By giving value back to these communities, you’re raising your visibility and establishing a good reputation amongst relevant peers.

Be strategic in your choice of social media tools

There’s a temptation for recruiters to jump into social media platforms from fear of being left behind. But that’s all they are: platforms for communication. They require careful choice, clear objectives and consistent, strategic execution, and it’s much better to use one tool really well than to have several half-hearted or stale efforts peppering the web and looking inept.

For example, it’s fine to offer a Twitter stream of available jobs for those interested enough to find you, but make it as specific as possible – a different feed for different sectors or departments, say – so you don’t fill followers’ feeds with irrelevant updates. It’s even more effective to have one staff member or recruiter personally tweet and enter into dialogue with followers, so they can answer questions and build more of a relationship with prospective candidates. However, this requires intense resource and possibly deflection of company critics or customers looking to use the feed for different purposes, all from someone with the right tone of voice and ability to truly integrate themselves into the space.

So establish the true level of commitment you’re willing to give to these presences before you start, and scale accordingly. Of course, the more you put in, the more you’ll get out.

Remember that recruiters are on trial too

A thought-through and joined-up approach is essential because social media isn’t actually a marketing or recruitment tool. It’s designed to spread independent peer-to-peer word of mouth, so companies reaching out into the space are as much under observation and review as the candidates they’re looking for. If you fill platforms with half-hearted, unpersonalised outreach efforts, or don’t target your search effectively enough so you’re intruding where you aren’t wanted, it will be reflected in the conversation about you online.

When entering into dialogue in social media, you have to live up to your own hype. So, be quick to respond, customise your comments to each individual, and find something that makes you that little bit more dynamic or original than your competitors – perhaps a link to a YouTube video from a recent starter in their field. Good word of mouth spreads quickly too.

Empower your candidates

Generation Y are used to calling the shots. They host their own platforms, create their own content, and expect their opinions will be listened to, so it’s a mistake to assume they’ll be awed by your blue chip name or happy to be passively led through a top-down recruitment process.

Whether you put a call out on Flickr for potential marketing applicants to offer up the next great logo for your company, or ask graduates active in social media to design the ultimate social media recruitment strategy (the best winning a place on your team) you’ll show a much greater awareness of how social media works by encouraging users to lead content creation and display their talents online. Moreover, the resulting content will boost positive word of mouth for your company and add a great PR spin.

Integrate offline & online recruitment strategies

Social media users are living and breathing human beings too, and real experiences are still what get us excited and help us establish an emotional connection with a brand. So add an element of reality into your social media mix. Advertise a social media open day on LinkedIn and graduate forums where interested people can come along, interview staff about what it’s like to work in your company and upload their videos, photos and tweets throughout the day. Or look into sponsoring social media meet-ups such as Twestivals and Tuttles, earning you a recruitment stand at the venue.

By integrating your offline and online recruitment strategies as much as possible, you’ll maximise positive word of mouth and get a much more genuine sense of the candidates behind the avatars.

Molly Flatt, WOM Evangelist, 1000heads

Molly Flatt, WOM Evangelist, 1000heads

WOM UK is the independent organisation representing the word of mouth marketing (WOMM) industry in the UK, set up in partnership with the US-based WOMMA to promote by ethical practices, skills development and access to the leading WOM practitioners.