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Businessman with binoculars (Stockbyte/(c) Stockbyte)
Businessman with binoculars (Stockbyte/(c) Stockbyte)

PART ONE: HIRING

How to use social media as a recruiting tool Add to ...

Recruiting quality staff is no longer a matter of placing an ad in the newspaper and then wading through a mountain of (horror of horrors) paper resumés. Today's tech-savvy candidates expect to find jobs the same way they do much of their social interacting - online.

Smart recruiters are going with the flow, using all manner of techniques and media to find and reel in the candidates they need. In this four part series, we're taking a look at how recruiting works in the online world.

More related to this story

First up: the place of social networking in business recruiting.

Jennifer Ricci, vice president of employee experience at Toronto-based Kobo Inc., knows the value of social networking in recruiting only too well. She was recruited for her previous job purely because of her LinkedIn profile; no resumé was provided or requested. Today, social media is a key component of her recruiting strategy.

"To segment and attract the attention of qualified talent to your organization you need to get in front of them with your value proposition," she says. "More than likely, the most desired candidates are not searching job boards or reading job ads. They are networking with their colleagues, reading industry news and contributing to online industry discussions. Social media is the vehicle by which we can reach the top tier candidates by influencing them through their trusted networks."

Those trusted networks usually include Facebook and Twitter as well as the aforementioned LinkedIn, and a lot of companies are taking advantage of them to promote their openings. Prove it to yourself by, for example, doing a Twitter search for hashtags such as "#jobs" and "#career"; dozens of opportunities will pop up.

For Ian Buck, vice president of High Road Communications, using social media was a no-brainer. "It really wasn't much of a decision for us because everything we do in our work life - for our clients and for our own company - goes through the social media filter and recruitment is a natural fit."

Both Kobo and High Road also promote openings on their company blogs, and encourage staff to do so on their personal social networks. Ms. Ricci points out, "We believe that employees who are referred by their friends are easier to assimilate to the organization and retain." And that goes for all positions - even if an employee is not, for example, a software developer, he or she may have developers in personal networks.

Adds Mr. Buck, "Who isn't out there on some social network or another? We like to use social media tools for all positions because it's an effective way to spread the word and get a quick response to postings no matter what level."

High Road also puts its own playful spin on good old fashioned person-to-person networking. At the 2010 Mesh Marketing conference, the company sent in a recruiting ninja, who somersaulted around the halls stealthily setting his sights on Digital Ninja recruits and handing them High Road branded Ninja Stars. It worked, according to Mr. Buck, resulting in what he calls "an amazing hire we never would have achieved via career websites."

Applicant quality from social media leads tends to be higher, notes Ms. Ricci. "Social media allows us to target and deliver almost a custom value proposition message to each talent segment. Often job boards flood a lot of quantity and it takes a lot of resources and hours to sort through to find the quality. Who has the time?"

Mr. Buck agrees. "We've found that social media actually gets a much higher quality of applicant versus job boards and career websites," he says. "By starting with our own network and that of our employees, it's a quick way of attracting candidates with the right skills, experience and background. Even a three- or four-times removed connection on a social network is already a better qualified lead in general."

Checking applicant credentials is easier too. High Road checks all of the major social networks and search engines for information on candidates and, perhaps most importantly, connections to current employees who can provide a sense of the candidate and whether he or she would fit in. Kobo, too, looks for connections to its staff and partners, as well as additional information about publications or other extracurricular activities that round out their picture of the potential employee.

One huge plus to social networking as a recruitment tool is its low cost, which makes it ideal for a small business. Ms. Ricci advises small businesses to define their own value proposition before attempting to recruit via social media, and to try to align with their consumer brand. "Social Media is viral and you don't have a lot of control over the message once it goes out so the clearer you are the better," she says. "The process of recruiting talent and customers can feed off of each other - driving both candidates and sales to your organization through word of mouth."

"The only concern for a small business would be ensuring there's a healthy starting network to kick things off; the smaller the starting network, the harder it is to drive scale," adds Mr. Buck. "That said, the low barrier to entry means that no matter how many followers or friends you might have, it's always worth putting it out there."

And, added bonus, unsuccessful candidates can be added to your network so they're part of the talent pool for future opportunities.

Other Stories can be found on the Web Strategy section of the Small Business website.

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