Five Recruiting Plays for Social Technologies

Microsoft actively cultivates talent communities through technical briefings, virtual education events and affinity group gatherings to create a “TalentStream” of prospects from its communities.

Intel receives 20,000 paper resumes per year in the U.S. By equipping its recruiters with an iPad application, it was able to reduce response time to candidates by 25 times, with a goal to email the applicant back the same day.

Identifying, attracting and hiring new talent today is an organizational competition. Highly qualified candidates increasingly leverage their social networks to discover and critically evaluate a greater variety of opportunities.

Yet according to Bersin & Associates’ 2010 High-Impact Talent Acquisition survey, companies are not keeping up with where these candidates are. While 71 percent of companies use job boards to post or search for candidates, only 30 percent use social networking sites to post or source jobs. Companies need an effective social networking recruiting strategy to reach both passive and active candidates, such as LinkedIn’s more than 130 million registered users. That strategy will incorporate both established and emerging approaches for talent managers to better source, evangelize and close candidates, and then ensure that they retain them.

Social media-savvy talent leaders employ professional networking sites such as LinkedIn and BranchOut in a variety of ways. Corporate recruiters reach out via their wide-ranging networks of professional contacts to target and source highly qualified candidates. Increasingly, this means working not only with active job seekers but also passive candidates whose skills and specialization areas make them close matches for specific and potentially difficult-to-source opportunities.

Along the same lines, hiring managers employ social networks to evaluate candidates in ways that were not feasible in the past. This may include perusing a candidate’s professional history on LinkedIn; identifying and reaching out to shared connections to provide “back-door” references to supplement a candidate’s formal references; following candidates on Twitter to learn about their opinions and passions; and reading blog entries or open-source contributions to evaluate writing or programming skills.

On the flip side, candidates also find it much easier to get insight into companies by studying what the company tweets, what is being tweeted about the company, what feedback is posted to its Facebook page, and the employee makeup and typical background using tools such as LinkedIn company statistics.

These examples help to illustrate why, just as social media has become an ingrained part of people’s personal online activities, it naturally extends to serve increasingly mission-critical functions in the business environment. Organizations that want to win the war for talent need a playbook that takes full advantage of social technologies.

Play One: Use the Extended Social

Network to Recruit
For talent leaders, the first play is to design a recruiting strategy that fully leverages the benefits of the enterprise’s extended social network. This extended network aggregates the individual connections of all the participants in the company’s activities. It includes those connections within an organization and those crossing corporate boundaries. According to Direct Recruiters Inc., there are about 150 million employed professionals in the United States, and estimates state that between 20 to 25 percent of them change jobs every year. As these individuals move from company to company, the breadth and depth of connections they have made combine into a valuable asset for the organizations that have the tools to exploit it.

Sodexo, a food services and facilities management company with 380,000 employees, has been recognized for leveraging its extended social network. ERE named it the 2010 Recruiting Department of the Year for an internal sourcing program that resulted in a 50 percent increase in employee referral hires.

A sophisticated enterprise social network will manage both the “nodes” and the “arcs” of the social graph. The nodes comprise the individuals and the competencies, achievements and interests they hold, and the arcs make up the variety of connections between them, some of which are personal, some of which are professional, and all of which have a variety of strengths in different contexts. Such a network will allow not just wide-ranging but also smart sharing of job requisitions. It will support the targeted dissemination of postings, not only directly to the active and passive seekers who are strong matches, but also to people who are most qualified who can share and pass on the posting. Further, these “job sharers” will do it because they have the most connections in a given industry, the strongest professional network in a specialized skill or the best track record in making successful introductions.

Play Two: Engage Candidates

With a Compelling Corporate Brand
The recruiting strategy must incorporate deep brand awareness and close management of how a company is perceived by candidates. This means using social media to share news and entice candidates, such as actively managing a Twitter feed, publishing a compelling Facebook page for the company or brand and crafting a deep and insightful LinkedIn Company Page. But it also means providing more visibility to prospective candidates. Organizations can increase their openness by provisioning guest access to internal corporate discussion groups and networks for promising candidates. Further, they can engage these candidates by letting them see the issues and challenges under discussion, and expose them to the company’s culture via leaders and key individuals’ profiles and contributions.

Companies also can excite candidates by publishing the key skills and responsibilities for a role, and directing their attention to the available training and mentors to help new hires grow into their roles. Learning-centric organizations that actively encourage training and skill development can publicize this aspect of their culture and in turn attract the candidates who seek out and thrive in these environments.

For example, Microsoft actively cultivates talent communities through technical briefings, virtual education events and affinity group gatherings to create a “TalentStream” of prospects from its communities. Cisco uses social media outlets such as Facebook extensively for its graduate recruitment program. In 2010, Cisco used its Facebook community to address the issue of not being able to attract enough female graduates into IT careers. The company was able to educate prospective graduates on the importance of diversity to its culture and increase hiring of female graduates by 40 percent.

Play Three: Make Recruiting a Two-Way Process

Reciprocal communication from the candidate to the corporation is just as important as effective outward communication. Not only should organizations provide candidates with feedback about how they did during the interview process, they should solicit candidates’ feedback with surveys where they evaluate their interview experiences and questionnaires that gauge the perceived competitiveness of the company — not just in terms of the offer package, but also in terms of people and work environment. Candidates who are engaged to this degree and feel that their feedback is valuable are more likely to retain a positive view of their experience with the company, regardless of the outcome of their interview. Further, these forms of social feedback provide insights into how well the recruiting process is working and what can be improved.

Intel receives 20,000 paper resumes per year in the U.S. By equipping its recruiters with an iPad application, it was able to reduce response time to candidates by 25 times, with a goal to email the applicant back the same day. It is also introducing a mobile app for candidates to improve their job search experience and engagement with the company.

Play Four: Bridge Gaps Between

Recruiting and Retention
The flip side of an effective recruiting strategy is an effective retention strategy. According to consulting company Global Novations, in many companies, up to 25 percent of new hires quit within the first year. Reducing this attrition is an obvious way to improve long-term recruiting success rates. An on-boarding plan that quickly acclimates and trains new hires helps create a smooth initial experience and affects both their initial and long-term satisfaction. An effective on-boarding plan addresses not only new hire training and initial goals, but also integration into the company’s social fabric. A corporate social network that is widely adopted and core to the company’s day-to-day operations makes it possible for an on-boarding plan to list the important collaboration groups to join, promote knowledge sharing with key individuals and suggest experts to serve as tutors and mentors.

Further, a recruiting approach that has given the candidate enough insight into the company, team and his or her specific role helps establish the “no surprises” principle, avoids mismatches between expectations and reality, and improves satisfaction and fit from the start of employment.
Even after a new employee has been successfully on-boarded, ongoing access to the appropriate tools to track the relationship between individual and corporate goals, locating and taking key training, and connecting to relevant experts all help ensure day-to-day job success and satisfaction.

Play Five: Identify and Leverage Star Performers

The final level of sophistication in a recruiting strategy is to incorporate feedback on successful hires. Once hired and retained, if companies can identify their best performers and describe the behaviors and activities that contribute to their success, they can feed these profiles back into the recruiting process.

Using holistic and social feedback measures such as real-time impressions and rating of contributions, and social incentives such as badges and leaderboards, captures feedback more rapidly and frequently than the traditional annual review cycle, and serves as the basis for more precise, evidence-based job descriptions based on key competencies and demonstrated behaviors. Once identified, engaging star performers in the interviewing process shines a light on candidates with the qualities needed for success and provides compelling examples of the high caliber of existing talent the candidate will be working with should he or she come on board.

Social media can radically transform how a company recruits and retains its talent. The most successful companies will adapt or plan to adapt to this change using the full playbook of social technologies. With these core capabilities in place, organizations will have the social-centric tools and processes they need to stand out among the competition as they identify, attract and retain top-tier talent.

Daniel Lipkin is vice president of technology at Saba, a talent management services provider. He can be reached at

To find out how social media gives recruiters a head start, click here.