Social media key in employment marketing

Lines blurring between human resources and marketing as companies turn proactive to reach people not actively searching for other job openings, and social media vital in such initiatives, expert says.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

Make use of social media to connect and build an engaging relationship with potential hires, particularly those that are currently gainfully employed and not looking for job openings just yet, an industry expert urged.

Ben Bars, head of agency at Brighter, a Sydney-based employment marketing agency, said this advice is essentially the concept of employment marketing--which combines both human resources and marketing functionalities.

"HR is starting to act and behave like marketing. Everyone knows what HSBC and McDonald's do as businesses, but what do they think of [these companies] as employers? That's where word of mouth comes in…because the individual's voice is real and authentic. It doesn't matter what the corporate site says," he elaborated during a one-on-one interview with ZDNet Asia.

Organizations tend to think of branding products where marketing is involved, and employment marketing is also about tapping into a brand, Bars noted. The difference, he pointed out, is that the brand is the company's reputation.

Reaching passive talent pool
The importance of such marketing efforts can be seen from research conducted by Brighter, in which only 21 percent of people in fulltime jobs in Asia-Pacific are looking for a job while the remaining 79 percent are not actively searching for alternative employment, Bars stated.

That said, among those with fulltime jobs, 84 percent indicated that they are open to other job offers, he added.

Therefore, creating and implementing a relationship marketing strategy is necessary to reach this bigger pool of potential hires and more companies are now waking up to this fact, Bars stressed.

Social media comes into play when it helps companies proactively seek out potential future employees and build relationships with them through online interactions. This, in turn, motivates people to find out more about a particular company and its work culture even though they are not looking to leave their jobs yet, he explained.

"[The reason] you put things out there is to drive a call to action. Here, it's to drive people to your career site or to check out your company or career Web site other than looking for a job…and you want them to say "I'm interested in you as an employer"," Bars said.

Mindset shift needed
Asked to what extent social media is used in employment marketing and recruitment, Bars replied that, in general, all companies are exploring social media but it is "nowhere at the level it should be".

This could be because there is some hesitation as recruiters are worried about the implications in that there is no defined strategy or formula or companies afraid that people will say "bad things" about them, he surmised.

However, avoiding the use of social media is not a viable option as people are already having online conservations about their employers, the executive pointed out.

Companies should at least conduct a "listening exercise" in which they look at the various online conversations on social media, forums and job sites to see what jobseekers, employees and ex-employees are talking about regarding the company, he suggested.

Social media can also help ensure a company always has an up-to-date database of job candidates, Bars pointed out. Software such as Find.ly can be used to trawl the social platforms that passive jobseekers are active on to find out what sort of job experience and skills they possess. With this knowledge, companies can respond more quickly to hire the right people when the opening arises as they have a ready shortlist of suitable candidates to refer to, he elaborated.

Bars did acknowledge that making a case for utilizing social media for employment marketing is challenging. This is because such strategies are round-the-clock commitments and not every company has the "luxury of resources" to maintain these initiatives, he noted.

He also called on recruiters to change their mindsets. Instead of being approached by potential employees, the role is now reversed and they have to be active in pursuing passive jobseekers, he said.

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