Recruiting via social media? Be honest, direct

Strategy, transparency and top performers needed to be successful
By Ian Sullivan
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 10/10/2011

If an employer is not actively using social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to engage an increasingly connected and Internet-savvy pool of candidates, there is a strong likelihood the competition is. More than one-quarter (28 per cent) of Canadian employers use social networking sites to research candidates, according to a 2009 CareerBuilder survey.

Meanwhile, the number of people using social media tools to find and engage with employers continues to grow. Almost one-quarter (24 per cent) of people are using social media sites to search for job openings or promotions, according to a 2011 global survey by Kelly Services, and 28 per cent say it is essential to be active on social media to advance their careers.

Even though only one per cent of people actually secured their most recent job through social networking, 22 per cent are scouring social media sites seeking job openings or promotions, found the survey, most commonly on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Traditional recruitment practices are not effective in this new world of connectivity and connections. Employers need to be active in these forums, building their brand and engaging potential candidates, and to do it right means having a social media recruitment strategy.

Even if an employer has already invested in social media tools and is seeing results, a strategy will help focus those efforts, determine where best to invest the time and resources and establish recruitment goals.

Moreover, with a strategy in place, HR can use the results to refine its social media activity to continuously improve its attraction and retention.

Deciding what social media to use is also crucial. It’s not enough to have a website — employers need a presence in the forums and tools desired candidates are using, such as Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

More presence means more people will discover, connect and interact with an employer through their favourite tools when and how they want, which is the fundamental appeal of social media. This candidate-centric approach will strengthen an employer brand in the eyes of the talent it wants to reach.

Employers also have to constantly create new, unique and relevant content about their organization. If not, the brand will suffer or be virtually invisible when compared to more active organizations. Use a social media presence and channels to go beyond job listings to give candidates insight into what’s new, what the company is looking for and what it’s like to work for the organization.

Employers should also create content that encourages candidates and community members to share it across various channels or make their own contributions. The more an employer engages and encourages participation, the more it advances its brand as an employer of choice that understands social media.

Creating innovative, quality content for social media can be difficult, particularly on an ongoing basis. That’s all the more reason why employers should identify brand advocates who can help out.

These are individuals who are both enthusiastic about working for the company and about social media.

If it seems risky to involve employees, remember the social media strategy will set out clear standards and guidelines and what employees say about their organization will hold more weight with candidates than anything the company can offer.

Admittedly, transparency is a concept many companies are uncomfortable with because of the risks involved. This is particularly true when it comes to the most important aspect of social media: interaction. Candidates expect an employer to respond to their questions — which could put the organization in a negative light.

An employer may be tempted to ignore or dance around such queries or delete unflattering posts. But these evasive actions reflect poorly on the brand, suggesting the employer has something to hide.

It’s best to be direct and honest. Present the facts and encourage top performers to add their perspectives. As a result, jobseekers are more likely to see the organization in a positive light and, thus, join it.

Social media is a powerful, cost-effective tool for building an employer brand and recruiting talent. It gives organizations access to a wide range of tools for communicating and illustrating why they are the place to be. It also helps to onboard potential employees, meaning a smoother integration into the workplace because they know what to expect.

Yet social media is only effective when an employer is strategic, transparent and makes use of the most important resource it has for recruiting new talent: top performers. The more active and engaged an employer is in social media, the more appealing its brand will be to the talent it wants to attract and retain. This will give an organization the edge in an increasingly competitive and evolving recruitment marketplace.

Ian Sullivan is the managing partner of Meridia Recruitment in Halifax, a division of Knightsbridge Robertson Surrette. Meridia focuses on providing high-quality, fast-turnaround recruitment for professional and technical positions in Atlantic Canada.

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