How Microsoft Does Social Recruiting

How does Microsoft find the talent to do cool things like develop a gaming platform, or perhaps make that platform operate without a controller like Project Natal? Marvin Smith, Talent Community Evangelist, talked with a group of approximately 80 recruiters in eastern Washington in an event organized by Rob Dromgoole at Pacific Northwest National Laboratories in Richland, Washington.

In his presentation, Smith, true to his job title, spoke highly of being part of the recruiting community. He emphasized the growing complexity of recruiting, the importance of community, and the importance of being a leader. Smith also spoke of times when recruiters never talked to one another. “We didn’t trust each other,” he said.

When Smith got into the meat of his presentation, he talked about some key things Microsoft has done in order to really push forward on social recruiting. He highlighted five things Microsoft was doing in this area:

1. Collaboration with other marketing groups in the company (and in the community)

Microsoft has a social media minds group that meets that features people from all of their marketing groups (including the staffing group). This group is able to share results of different campaigns and brainstorm effective strategies for getting the most out of the technology. Smith also mentioned local communities of recruiters and sourcers that he works with to have similar brainstorming and collaborative sessions. He said all of these have helped accelerate the success of social recruiting programs.

2. Tying recruiting efforts to the bigger project

One of the things Microsoft did with Project Natal was tie in their recruitment efforts to the project itself. Candidates that came in through social media advertising, coverage, and tailored landing pages. He mentioned that one of their top hires came from a blog post about the targeted recruiting around Project Natal. It also emphasized to him the importance of robust source tracking within ATS systems.

3. Working with targeted events and conferences

Smith mentioned Microsoft’s alliance with the Game Developers Conference for increasing exposure for their positions. He said they have also used these venues to push diversity hiring. The association with the right conferences and events has helped Microsoft also attain a positive image. When you invest correctly, there is quite a bit of payoff in terms of long term relationships you can build based on even a single event.

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4. Using LinkedIn groups (both generic and company specific)

Smith showed two examples of LinkedIn groups they created for game developers (one was Microsoft specific and one wasn’t). What was interesting is that they started the groups based on a sourcing list they generated for game developer searches. Even though these candidates weren’t advanced through the process, they were invited to be a part of the LinkedIn group, and both have grown significantly and organically. He also told the group how to feed relevant news and content into the group using RSS feeds from industry publications.

5. Reaching out to military candidates

Lastly, he previewed a site that is still in progress, targeting retired or inactive military men and women, called We Still Serve. Smith said people didn’t think of Microsoft when thinking about opportunities to transition to after active military service. They wanted to change it so they enlisted a group of people who could help answer questions from their perspective and a community of people who were like-minded. He was impressed how quickly management embraced the concept and got behind it 100%.

In the end, Smith spoke of the results which indicated a three-fold increase in hires over the beginning of 2010 and is expecting more as the techniques and tools get more sophisticated.

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