Feature Story

Going Social: Digital Age Ushers New Era Of Recruiting

by Mary Ann Azevedo

A look at the variety of social media tools companies are using to find the best qualified candidates for the job.

The number of organizations using social networking sites for recruiting is climbing and they're going way beyond just combing LinkedIn profiles for qualified candidates.

In places like Silicon Valley where competition for top talent – especially engineering – is fierce, companies are getting creative.

Palo Alto-based VMware Inc. takes recruiting via social media so seriously, it has hired at least a dozen workers dedicated solely to recruiting employees via social networking sites in addition to its traditional recruiting staff. 

Will Staney, now director of recruiting at SuccessFactors, led the initiative at the cloud computing company. One of his ideas was considered pioneering in the recruiting industry -- videotaping hiring managers and employees as they gave potential candidates insight into a particular position and then attaching the videos to job descriptions on VMware's website, Facebook and YouTube. If number of views is any indication, the strategy has been a success -- videos on the company's YouTube "Career Channel" have been viewed nearly 82,000 times since the page was launched in 2010.

Now working remotely out of Austin for SuccessFactors, Staney is taking the practice a step further by creating "Day in the Life of" videos of specific employees.

"We're finding things that are unique about our company and our people and are sharing that with the world," he says. "It's a way of letting people see what it would be like if they were walking through the halls of our company."

(For those who don't know, SuccessFactors is a human capital-management (HCM) company that was acquired by SAP earlier this year for a staggering $3.4 billion.)

The human approach is key to success in recruiting, Staney believes.

" People aren't just interested in how much money they're going to make – they want to know who they'll be working with, what's the environment like?" he adds. "Business is personal. I don't care what people say." 

Jeremy Langhans, head of global brand and talent attraction at Expedia, is no stranger to recruitment through social media. He initiated and led the effort at Starbucks Coffee Company beginning in 2009 when he served as program manager of employment brand and channel.

"There, social media and talent attraction collided in October of 2009 when I set up a Starbucks' Jobs Twitter account," he said. "By the time I left in March of this year, the page had 34,000 engaged followers and since then it's climbed  to 43,000."

Langhans said that prospective employees were thrilled to not be expressing interest in jobs to a black hole.

"When I actually replied to people who sent me tweets and direct messages, it took off like wildfire," he says. "People loved that there was a real person there to address their queries."

In general, Langhans' social media recruitment efforts at Starbucks were so successful that by early 2012, the practice had almost entirely replaced the use of agencies for full-time direct hiring.

"When I looked at the ROI (return on investment) from our different channels such as LinkedIn, our own website and agencies, I realized we were hiring more people through social media than through agencies," Langhans said.

And while the average fee to an agency is about 20 percent of a person's salary, Langhans said he "didn't spend very much on social media."

Now, at Expedia, Langhans is using some of the same practices that he led at Starbucks. With LinkedIn, he's taking things a step further.

In a joint effort with the professional networking site, Langhans has created a careers page that will dynamically change to personalize the experience for each user.

"If you go to the page, you will see jobs that will match your profile based on geography and skills," he said. "The banner, video, jobs and words will all change depending on the profile."

Atlanta-based Jim Stroud is director of sourcing and social strategy for Bernard Hodes Group, a recruiting agency that was founded in 1970. He says he "definitely sees the use of social media increasing" among clients.

 "LinkedIn is the default for most companies, followed by Facebook and Twitter," he says. "However, I have noticed a few innovators on Pinterest and other niche networks."

One of those "innovators" is Aon plc, a global provider of risk management, insurance and reinsurance brokerage, as well as human resources solutions and outsourcing services.

Bryan Chaney works remotely out of Austin as Aon's global social strategy manager. Earlier this year, he helped set up a Pinterest page focusing on Aon careers.

Chaney is using the increasingly popular social photo-sharing service to showcase regions where Aon is hiring.

"If we're hiring in Charlotte, North Carolina, then we do some research on what it's like to live and work there," Chaney says. "I've got links to, and photos of, activities, nightlife and places to eat – pictures of the office."

 Besides creating content, Chaney encourages employees to write blogs about their work experience in an effort to give others insight into the company.

"If we just talked about our job openings, it would get really boring, really quickly," Chaney says.

Video too is big for Aon. The company wants to attract former military so it's launched a series of videos of veterans who now work for Aon that have been pushed out on Facebook and YouTube as well as the Aon website. It's also conducted a Twitter chat focused just on veterans.

"We're trying to let them know that not only is it a great experience to work for us, but that we're actively looking for them," Chaney says.

SuccessFactors' Staney agrees that more targeted recruiting is where the industry's headed.

Traditional job boards such as Monster and CareerBuilder may reach a large number of people but few that are actually really right for, or even that interested, in the job, Staney believes.

"I'm starting to see job postings on our social networking sites being way more impactful than job boards," he says.

Staney's argument is that people who are already paying attention to a company's Facebook or Twitter page are not only already engaged with that company, but "are way more ready, have done more research and apply more readily" than those who stumble across an open position on a general job board.

 "In general, using social is about starting conversations," Chaney says. "If we don't have something that's compelling to start a conversation, then jobs end up being cold and very black and white."



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