Understanding the Available Social Media Recruiting Strategies – Leveraging Your Employees’ Time (Part 2 of 2)

Nov 23, 2009
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

Picture 3Last week I introduced this series by stating that a majority of social recruiting initiatives currently in progress in organizations around the world would fail primarily because they relied solely on the limited resources of the recruiting function to establish visibility online, engage an audience, and service that audience throughout a multi-stage conversion cycle.

This week my attention turns to why the recruiting function cannot — and should not — be the primary executor of social media activities, as well as tips for getting the rest of the organization to help out.

A List of Reasons Why Recruiters Can’t or Shouldn’t Do It All

There are a variety reasons why recruiters shouldn’t be expected to handle most of the day-to-day aspects of social media recruiting and communications.

Some of them include:

  • The volume is unmanageable — given the normal recruiting load, if you need as few as 10 prospects in order to generate a single hire, the total number of contacts and the number of messages that a single recruiter would need to generate a trusted social relationship would quickly become unmanageable. Having the communications load spread across many employees makes the required volume more manageable.
  • Less available time — because recruiters are already stressed and overworked, unless they are released from their regular recruiting duties, they will have very few hours available to lurk on social networks. In direct contrast, many of your employees are likely to be already spending dozens of hours each week on such sites, some of it outside of work hours (thus making it free). By using this already committed time, you can multiply your impact by leveraging the time spent by your employees.
  • Recruiters are less authentic — most candidates don’t find recruiters to be as authentic or credible as those that work in the department where the job is open, because recruiters don’t actually do the job. In addition, everyone knows that recruiters are salespeople and have been known to oversell positions.
  • A recruiter’s job-specific knowledge is limited — the very best prospects will seek specific information about a job. They will ask questions that the average recruiter just can’t adequately or convincingly answer because they don’t actually work in that job. Employees working in that team are well versed in the jargon and they know more about both the good and bad points of the actual job, the manager, and the work team.
  • Recruiters provide a limited learning opportunity — employed individuals who are not actively seeking a job need to justify to themselves and to their boss the time they put into any external professional relationship. One of the justifications for external relationships is the potential to benchmark and learn, in order to do your current job better. Obviously there are more opportunities to learn and to improve when you network with a peer, compared to when you network with a recruiter.
  • Social media efforts must be customized — recruiters can certainly over time learn how to use social networks and social media. Unfortunately, not all professions have equal access to social media or use social media in the same matter. In most cases, a one-size-fits-all approach will have a limited success because the approach that works on Twitter won’t work as effectively on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Because professionals in every job family also approach social networking differently, it may take someone in each individual field to know the best social media approach for that job family.
  • Videos show the passion — videos and pictures are an important way of communicating on social networks. Unfortunately, no recruiter would have the time to create recruiting videos or to take compelling worksite pictures for each individual job opening. In contrast, individuals working in the field would be much more willing to frequently create and post work-related videos. Even though individuals who work in the job might make less professional videos or pictures, they are likely to be more compelling and authentic.
  • Capturing competitive intelligence — although some recruiters understand their role as competitive-intelligence gatherers, many recruiters wouldn’t know what to do with valuable business information if they were to run across it. In contrast, your employees and managers who are well-versed in their fields will know what competitive intelligence questions to ask and what to do with any critical usable competitive intelligence information that they might obtain while social networking.

Tips on Getting Employees Involved

It’s generally not too difficult to get employees to begin social networking or to modify their current social media behavior if you clearly demonstrate to them the impact and the contribution that they can have. Unfortunately, once they agree to participate, the only option that most employees have to learn is through trial and error, which is expensive, time-consuming, and frustrating!

Some of the action steps I recommend to help get employees involved and productive include:

  • Ask them — ask your employees to help the firm in identifying potential candidates, in building relationships, and in strengthening the company’s employer brand image online.
  • Educate them — make them aware of how their participation can be beneficial both to them and to the company’s recruiting effort. Let them know the range of actions and the minimum and the maximum amount of time you want them to contribute each month. You should also educate their managers so that they also see the unique value that they can contribute without distracting from their current job duties. Also provide your employees with examples and stories that illustrate the factors that make your firm a great place to work at.
  • Leverage other business units — coordinate the social media recruiting effort with other business functions that are already advanced major social media users like marketing, product branding, and customer service. Not only can this help to avoid spreading conflicting messaging, but also ensure that all learning relating to effectively using social media is shared.
  • Provide profile templates — every social network requires you to provide a profile of yourself. Rather than making each employee learn on their own the best ways to become visible on social media, instead provide them with tools to guide them. Start with “fill-in” templates of effective profiles that are individually designed for each major site that they can use to get started. Also provide side-by-side samples of great, average, and poor profiles so they can actually see the different factors that differentiate a great one from a weak profile.
  • Provide contact-building approaches — because every different social media site has different capabilities for identifying and making new “friends,” educate your employees about the most effective approaches on each site. Educate them about how to use surveys, post questions, join and form groups, etc. Also help them with sample “first-contact” templates and successful approaches for overcoming resistance. Employees might also have to be educated about the different approaches that are required to contact and recruit in-demand currently employed individuals vs. the approaches that work effectively for active job seekers.
  • Tell them where the best prospects can be found — don’t force them to learn the most populated social media sites and groups for their particular job family through trial and error. Instead, use your recruiters and external vendors to identify the sites where the best in each individual job family can be found. Continually update them as the popularity of different sites change and don’t forget to include live networking events (i.e., university alumni, professional association, and social club and community events) as part of your recruiting strategy.
  • Offer coaching help — compile an experts directory and webpage, so that your employees can seek out and get effective coaching and advice when they run into a problem or an opportunity. External coaches and other vendor services can help both employees and recruiters remain on the leading edge of social media recruiting practices. Develop a process to regularly provide tips to your employees (for example, how they can link the various social media sites together (i.e., Twitter with LinkedIn with Facebook), so that they minimize the number of times they need to shift between the various sites).
  • Use other technology tools and channels — empower your employees to use each of the wide variety of technologies and communications channels that perspective candidates might use. This might include the mobile phone platform, video sites like YouTube, online forums, texting, blogging, RSS feeds, etc.
  • Global opportunities — don’t forget to educate your employees about the unique social media sites (and how to operate on them) that are popular in other regions or countries where your firm is heavily recruiting.
  • Ask them to notify you when they come across negative messages — it’s quite likely that your employees will be among the first to come across negative or brand damaging messages about your firm. Encourage them to notify the manager of employer branding whenever they encounter negative messaging.
  • Inform recruiting when others try to recruit them — encourage employees to help the firm learn how competitors are using social networks to recruit. Ask employees to contact central recruiting whenever they are approached in a recruiting context on social network sites. This has two purposes. The first is so that your firm can learn from the approaches of others. The second is that the retention function can use this information to develop blocking strategies to counter their social networking recruiting moves.

Focus Your Contribution

If you shift the burden of most day-to-day recruiting communications on social network and media sites to your employees, clearly define the remaining strategic role of your recruiters. Briefly, some of the social media related activities that should remain the responsibility of recruiting include:

  • Prioritizing jobs and candidates — recruiting should prioritize key jobs and the ideal candidates, so that your employees will know where to best focus their recruiting related efforts. Employees should also be educated as to which professions and what types of candidates are not likely to be as active on social networking sites.
  • Posting job openings — the posting of open jobs on the most appropriate social media sites should remain a centralized activity. Employees should also be encouraged to repost openings on unique sites that only they might be aware of.
  • Employer brand image — recruiting should maintain control and ownership over developing, managing, and measuring employer brand strength and in identifying and countering negative messages. Recruiting should also monitor employer rating sites like and Vault in order to identify and then effectively bury or counter negative messages on these critical sites.
  • Search engine optimization — corporate efforts to increase your firm’s visibility on search engine results should remain centralized.
  • Developing metrics and the business case — the recruiting function should own social media metrics and the process of building the business case. They should also periodically audit efforts using mystery shoppers, feedback loops, and best-practice sharing processes in order to continually improve social media results.
  • Technologies related to social networking and social media — recruiting leaders should identify and assess emerging technologies, software, and vendor services.
  • Converting prospects into hires — although employees will play a major role in identifying and building relationships with prospects, recruiters should still handle the remaining aspects of the recruiting process that lead to conversion.

Final Thoughts

In my experience, it’s hard to find a single major corporation where the executives and managers are not excited about the prospects of social media recruiting. There are many benefits associated with implementing an effective social media recruiting strategy. Unfortunately, a majority of organizations are progressing without selecting a strategy and are painfully learning through trial and error.

If you want to fast-forward your learning, you need to adopt an employee-centric strategy today.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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