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Using social media to find top recruits Add to ...

Canadian businesses face a paradox. While unemployment remains high, employers can't find the skilled people they need. Can technology turn the tide?

Entrepreneurs who know how to use social media — or are willing to learn — will find that interactive Internet technologies are good for much more than telling the world what you had for lunch. Interactive communications tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook and even Twitter can help you identify great people sooner, become a talent magnet, and weed out people who don't fit your workplace culture.

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Business-focused sites such as LinkedIn and Plaxo, as well as industry-specific online forums, can connect you to potential candidates whose intelligence, drive and experience make them likely to succeed in your organization. How do you identify these people?

  • Join industry forums and regional business discussion groups. Follow online discussions, or start conversations of your own, and you’ll connect with many smart, outgoing people who you can then arrange to meet offline.
  • Many of these sites contain detailed resumes or descriptions of current activities. Use these data bases as your own HR search engines. Want a CFO with big-firm experience, or a programmer who knows Apple apps? Instead of posting ads or hiring recruiters, you can now find and pitch these experts directly.
  • Even ads are more effective with social media. Social sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn let you reach the market you’re targeting, whether it’s accountants, geological engineers or sales managers in Winnipeg. By purchasing specific demographics or keywords, you can target qualified candidates for a fraction of the cost of a traditional search. Using LinkedIn ads, one Montreal entrepreneur recently hired two hard-to-find technicians for about $500, one-20th of what he usually spends on a specialist recruiter.

Filter out bad candidates

You can also use social media to help to weed out unsuitable candidates. Employers have always complained about candidates who interview well, but don't have the underlying character they need. A recent study showed that 45 per cent of North American employers are now using social media tools such as Facebook to learn more about promising candidates.

With more than 500 million active users, there’s a good chance many of your candidates are on Facebook — and as the site relaxes its default privacy settings, it’s becoming easier to follow what members are doing and saying. Reviewing messages that candidates post to their Facebook friends can give you a better idea of what they're like “off-stage.” Many employers have found this a useful way to filter out immature candidates who lack a professional work ethic or communication skills.

You can also look up individuals on Twitter, LinkedIn and other sites to get additional insight into their “candid” character.

Once you find good people, you still have to sell them on joining your company. So use social media to position your business as the place to be. Encourage staff to blog about their work, and why your company is so cool. Create Twitter streams for your company or products that let customers, suppliers, employees and potential employees know about your market-leading initiatives, and what makes it a fulfilling place at which to work. Ask a staffer to put up a company page (a mini-website) on Facebook as a place for employees and customers to share their ideas and enthusiasms.

How do you find the content to fill those channels? You can announce new products, introduce new employees, report on company events or comment on industry trends. Just make sure that all your communications consistently represent the company as you want it to be seen: a market leader, a positive member of the community and a satisfying place to work. Because great employees want nothing less — while you're Facebooking them, they're Googling you.

Content in this section is provided in partnership with the Business Development Bank of Canada. BDC provides entrepreneurs with financing, venture capital and consulting services. To find out more go to BDC.ca.

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