Top tips from HR chiefs on where to start with social media recruitment...
If you have vacancies that you're struggling to fill, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn could be the missing ingredient in your recruitment strategy. But how should you go about implementing a social media recruitment campaign? Bethan Jones finds out.
As recruitment freezes begin to thaw and the economy starts to pull itself out of recession, HR managers are looking for new avenues to reach the candidates they need.
The use of social media as a recruitment tool has taken off in recent years with a number of high-profile companies turning to social sites when they're hiring. Among the multinationals using various social media to hunt for new recruits are Burger King, consumer goods company Reckitt Benckiser, and brewing and bottling firm SABMiller.
Consultancy Accenture has also been experimenting with social sites. According to Suzy Style, Accenture's UK recruitment director, the professional services company turned to social media including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to adopt a more aggressive recruitment strategy to find talent.
"There is a global war for talent and we believe that to [gain an advantage companies need to] develop long-term relationships with candidates. Social networking sites are one of the key enablers in achieving this," Style says.
But it's not just the big names using social sites to access a new talent pool. According to LinkedIn, smaller companies are using the professional networking site's tools to recruit new talent, along with more than 25 per cent of the FTSE 100 in the UK and 50 per cent of the Fortune 100 in the US.
"In terms of company size, we have everything from companies with £100bn valuations to agencies and clients that have two or three people," says Ariel Eckstein, LinkedIn's MD of hiring solutions Europe.
Vic Okezie, founder of social media recruiting consultancy Social Recruiter, says it's often easier for smaller, younger companies to test the social media waters as they have fewer company HR policies in place to battle with. "Obviously in small companies it's very easy to make decisions, especially for the founders of these start-ups who are the early adopters of technology, who use a lot of these applications, who are the iPod generation - they get into it very quickly," he says.
Just for attracting the sheep throwers?
With social media typically most popular among younger workers, using such sites can offer companies a shortcut to getting in touch with graduates on the hunt for their first job.
According to Accenture's Style, the popularity of social networks among graduates is one of the reasons the company started to test social media in the recruitment process. "It has become part of...
...our overall recruitment strategy so there continues to be a mix of utilising more traditional channels but there's also a shift to utilising channels that resonate better with Generation Y."
Car hire company Enterprise Rent-A-Car has also been experimenting with social media recruitment over the past year, using social networking site Facebook to hire graduate staff through the use of a dedicated app on the site.
"We mainly recruit for the one role within Enterprise which is the graduate management training programme - we recruit about 700 employees a year across the UK for that role - but we're also seeing some success with our business support, which is more administration roles," says Enterprise HR manager Ashley Hever.
However, while social tools undoubtedly offer up a useful talent pool for graduate employers, HR managers on the hunt for experienced candidates shouldn't write off social sites.
"We're advertising all our roles through social networking and particularly in experienced-hire recruiting on sites such as LinkedIn and what we're finding is [LinkedIn] particularly plays to the strengths of some groups," Accenture's Style says.
"We're actively involved with some groups - SAP professionals for example - and we're seeing an increasing number of people using it as part of their strategy to find jobs."
Michelle Flynn, EMC Consulting's internal recruitment manager, is a big advocate of using Twitter in a recruitment strategy - and not just for communicating with Gen Y either.
"If I look internally here at the people who use Twitter, it's everybody at all levels from the graduates up to the directors. So I think you have the potential to reach the much more senior people [on Twitter] who you might not necessarily find on a job board," she says.
EMC Consulting is also making extensive use of LinkedIn to recruit workers, and now finds 20 per cent of its new staff through social media.
The bottom line
Even social media virgins will probably know that accounts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are all free to set up, so an obvious advantage of social media is its potential to lower recruitment costs. HR managers therefore are unlikely to face any grumblings from the CFO when planning a social media recruitment campaign.
Drinks company SABMiller, for example, saved £1.2m over the course of one year using LinkedIn compared with the cost of using recruitment agencies, while EMC no longer uses recruitment agencies at all.
Despite the need to keep the CFO happy and...
...a firm grip on the purse strings in the current economic times, for many, low cost isn't the main driver for recruiting through social media.
Time to get passive
A huge benefit of social media recruitment cited by companies is the ability to reach a wide audience, and in particular passive jobseekers.
According to LinkedIn's Eckstein, only 10 to 20 per cent of professionals are actively looking for new employment at any one time. That leaves 80 per cent of professionals not seeking a job yet potentially perfect for the role you're trying to fill - and who might be tempted to apply if only they knew you had a vacancy.
By making use of Twitter, Facebook et al, companies are more likely to get their vacancy in front of passive job hunters, thereby opening up the pool of potential recruits they can draw from.
The retention factor
Of course, the recruitment process doesn't end when you've made your hire: a measure of its success is how long new recruits remain at the company.
So ensuring long-term employee retention is an important element in any recruitment strategy and it's another area where social networking recruitment can help.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car's Hever says staff recruited through social media tend to stay longer as "they know more about the company because they've been referred by one of our current employees [via the Facebook app]".
The use of social media throughout the recruitment process also allows potential recruits to get a feel for what the company is like before they join.
By encouraging potential recruits to get to know the culture of a company before they make the decision to apply or, indeed, accept a position, social media should help in making sure the candidate is the right fit for the company - and vice versa.
One reason why EMC Consulting began using social media in HR was to enable potential candidates to become familiar with the company identity: "As well as people being able to see a technical overview of what we do they could also see a cultural overview," EMC's Flynn said.
As a result, Flynn believes Twitter should be used for more than simply tweeting vacancies: "[Twitter] is not necessarily [just for advertising jobs] but also about getting it out there about what type of company we are, what sort of person is going to fit in.
"People can read a job spec that says, 'we want five years' experience' but that doesn't tell them what the company's like."
Of course, the open nature of social media also has its downsides. While it allows companies to build their brand and broadcast their message widely, it also opens them up to public criticism.
HR managers must remember if...
...they decide to get active on social media as a way to recruit and create an open dialogue between the company and potential candidates, not all this dialogue will be positive.
Social Recruiter's Okezie warns: "With social media you are not in control of what people are talking about and what people are writing about. You can control what's written on your website, but you can't control social media. Anyone can write something publicly about your recruitment process."
Before proceeding with a social media recruitment campaign businesses must ensure they have the resources in place to deal with feedback - especially negative feedback, said Okezie.
"When people ask questions, do you reply to them quickly and if people make suggestions, can you say OK, we'll listen and we'll fix that'? People like to be heard," he added.
How to implement a social media recruitment strategy
For those considering diving into social media, it's important to be aware that not all social sites are created equal: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs are all separate tools that may warrant different approaches.
One way to determine what tools are right for you is to decide who it is you are trying to attract and tailor your strategy to that particular group.
Accenture's Style says: "You might find that a graduate is more likely to be using Facebook for example and an experienced hire might be more likely to be using LinkedIn, so it's ensuring that you look at the channels for the best way to reach the people that you need."
Of course, that's not to say that these avenues cannot be combined. Once you have considered the benefits of them and how to make them work for you, also consider if two different tools can complement each other. EMC Consulting's Flynn suggests using the quick format of a tweet to point a large group of people to a new blog post, where more information can then be given.
With all these tools, if you're expecting instant results then you're going to be sorely disappointed: it does take time and resources to build a social media presence.
Using Twitter in your recruitment
For the first steps into social media as a recruitment tools, Flynn offers this advice: "If I was starting today I'd set up an account with my name, my photo, and a few little interesting tweets on there as a bit of a taster for people and then I would start following [others]. You have to invest the time to think about what you're tweeting because if you don't have any followers, no one is going to read what you're writing."
Should you then just follow every Tom, Dick and Harry out there in the hopes that your followers will grow?
While there are advantages to having lots and lots of followers - your company brand will grow, for example - it is worthwhile...
...targeting people to follow who work in the industry, people who may have the skills you need - or who may be linked to those people.
"I will pick up that there's an event happening so I'll look at the hashtags for the event. I will then go and follow people who are talking at the event so I'm following people who are within my specialist area. The hope is that they will then follow me back and then I'm building my following list," says EMC's Flynn.
"If you're using the right hashtags I know I can reach people I've struggled to reach out to before - you can do that in very quickly."
Using LinkedIn in your recruitment
LinkedIn bills itself as a professional networking tool, so it's already geared up to help companies connect with potential employees.
First, HR managers should check their company profile on LinkedIn to see the first impression candidates are receiving of the company when they land on the page. Company pages list current employees, past employees, new hires and promotions and changes to staff. New job postings can be also be advertised there, as well as information on the company to help potential recruits.
If there isn't a company profile already listed, set one up by going to the companies homepage on LinkedIn and clicking the 'Add a company' button on the right-hand side. Once your company profile has been created, make sure you keep it up to date and edit regularly with job postings and updates on the company. Like Twitter and Facebook, LinkedIn can be used not only to hire candidates directly but also to build a company brand.
Encouraging employees to be on LinkedIn is another good way to build the company brand and make use of the connections and contacts staff have already built in their previous careers.
Making use of groups on LinkedIn is a good way to attract staff, and especially useful for finding employees with specialist skills that you might otherwise have trouble finding. This is something Accenture uses: "We can join industry or skillset groups on LinkedIn, we advertise our roles with specific groups we might contact people individually if they're somebody we'd like to build a relationship with, [and] people contact us directly," says Accenture's Style
Using Facebook in your recruitment
Similar to LinkedIn and Twitter, having a Facebook presence is a mechanism for conveying your company culture to potential recruits and attracting new staff.
If a candidate is looking to find information about a company, one place they may turn to is...
...Facebook, so make sure your company is represented and the page looks loved. There is no point having a Facebook page that was updated three years ago with one sad, lonely wall post and no 'likes'.
Again, make sure you have the resources in the company to cope with the demand of having a Facebook page. If your page is open to the public, anyone can post comments or links on the page - so you need to keep an eye on any bad publicity you may receive and respond to people if necessary. As noted earlier, people like to feel they are being listened to, so if a comment is made on Facebook - good or bad - you must make sure your company is responding.
You can choose to keep your company page private - and people must request to 'Join' before they can make comments or participate in the group. This option has the benefit of cutting down on people who are not really interested in the company and who might post unsuitable remarks on the group. However, some may argue that keeping it closed goes against the fundamental open nature of social networking - which some may read as negative.
If you decide to keep your Facebook page open, instead of joining a group, people can 'Like' your page. Once users like a page, they will be notified of any updates posted to the group.
Encourage your employees to post comments and be active on Facebook, which will give potential recruits an idea of the type of employees and company culture. Don't just use your wall to advertise job vacancies - use it to keep people interested, so when a job arises more people will be active on the page and will see the job post.
An evolution not a revolution
Ensure you treat social media recruitment as part of your overall hiring strategy. It is not a complete replacement and should be combined with other methods, says Social Recruiter's Okezie: "Social media recruiting is still relatively new, probably three or four years old. So for now it's an enhancement, it's not going to push away traditional methods, but along the way, probably five or 10 years' time there will be a marked shift towards social.
"Companies that are dipping their toes in it now will start seeing a return on investment, perhaps start cutting back on agencies, cancel contracts with job boards. Eventually social will grow, but for now it's an enhancement."