Virtually Engineer Top Talent

Problem: A123 Systems’ Energy Solutions Group had to quickly create an influx of fresh engineering candidates to support an expansion.

Solution: The company implemented a digital recruitment advertising campaign to drive qualified candidates to an onsite career fair and created a communication loop for candidates and recruiters to engage before, during and after the event.

In February, A123 Systems, a lithium-ion battery and energy storage systems developer, planned and publicized its first career fair at its facility in Westborough, Mass., where its Energy Solutions Group (ESG) operates. The company’s objective was twofold: quickly recruit a large pool of engineering candidates who matched the attributes of a dozen hard-to-fill positions, and try new recruitment marketing methods using the most current online marketing channels.

A123 Systems’ products call for highly skilled employees with specific work experience and skills. This year, the ESG is rapidly expanding as demand for its products in the electric grid, telecommunications, IT, military and other markets grows based on the country’s increased interest and investment in environmentally friendly power choices.

The division is also expanding its portfolio of grid storage products, which help integrate renewable power sources such as wind and solar into the existing electric grid infrastructure. Thus the company was seeking more talented engineers to develop products and bring them to market. Its human resources team needed to engage experienced technical engineers and build its pipeline of recent graduates for entry-level positions.

Attracting Better Candidates
Career fairs and open houses are old-fashioned, but they are still effective sourcing and hiring tools because they showcase a company’s most valuable hiring assets — its people and its culture. In the past recruiters relied on newspaper and radio advertising to drive career fair attendance. These one-way marketing channels did not allow recruiters and candidates to communicate before the event.

Now, using the most current online marketing channels available, recruiters can reinvigorate in-house career fairs. After deciding to host an onsite career fair, A123 Systems asked HireClix (Editor’s note: The author works for this company), a digital recruitment marketing agency, to help promote and market the event.

“We were looking for a focused approach that targeted specific candidates — primarily engineers who graduated from a technical school, have 10 to 15 years of work history and power supply experience,” said David Pantano, vice president of human resources for A123 Systems.

“We have dabbled in social media, but we don’t use it to the best of its ability. We don’t have the expertise within our in-house HR department.”

HireClix developed and executed a recruitment marketing campaign using online digital marketing channels. Using Facebook, LinkedIn, Google and targeted banner advertising on websites, the team was able to target passive and active job seekers as well as recent college graduates and experienced professionals. This digital approach had a number of advantages:

• With a $20,000 budget, a recruitment advertising campaign targeted candidates with the education and work history A123 Systems wanted.

• Because attendees registered online, recruiters could screen candidates pre-event to prioritize onsite interviews, schedule pre-event phone interviews and anticipate attendance.

• Flexible online advertising allowed the team to increase spending in top-performing channels.

• Stepping outside the boundaries of an online job board and direct sourcing, the campaign attracted new candidates, rather than the same people who show up through direct sourcing.

The Right Education and Work History
To start, the team created an online registration page using Eventbrite, an online service where people can post, share and join events for free. The page allowed candidates to RSVP in advance for the career fair and A123 to collect contact information for candidates.

The registration page also encouraged candidates to submit their resumes through the A123 career site in advance so recruiters could review their experience and prioritize them for onsite interviews.

Facebook’s more than 800 million global users make it a valuable platform with which to target recent college grads and experienced engineers.

A123 reached both types of candidates by sponsoring pay-per-click Facebook ads that started promoting the on-site career fair six weeks before the event. The Facebook ad featured A123 branding, information about the career fair and a link to the Eventbrite page where candidates could RSVP.

Pay-per-click ads were displayed on Facebook profiles of students majoring in engineering at six universities with strong engineering programs. For example, students from the class of 2012-2015, studying an engineering discipline at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, University of Massachusetts and Cornell saw the ads.

To recruit more experienced engineers, ads were placed on Facebook profiles where people listed professional engineering associations, engineering job titles or engineering sub-specialties as interests or in the academic and work history. These ads were targeted to attract engineers in states where other large battery technology companies have offices or headquarters, with the hope of luring talent with battery experience to new opportunities at A123 Systems. In total, the Facebook advertising campaigns for A123 Systems generated more than 10 million impressions for the company brand and delivered 3,000 visits to the A123 career fair page.

Similar advertising campaigns ran on LinkedIn to identify more senior engineering talent because a majority of LinkedIn users are older than those with Facebook profiles and more advanced in their careers. The LinkedIn campaigns generated a total of 500,000 impressions and 1,000 visits to the career fair page.

“The beauty of the marketing campaigns was that we were sure to get qualified candidates to the career fair, and we did,” Pantano said. “The ads drove candidates to pre-register; our recruiters were able to identify the most qualified candidates before they arrived at the event.

“That allowed us to triage the job seekers to the appropriate hiring managers and interviewers, which made the event run very smoothly and efficiently. We were able to devote more one-on-one time to the most qualified candidates and get a sense for the people we couldn’t hire immediately, but who would potentially be a fit for future job opportunities.”

Registration Provides Predictability
In total, the online marketing campaign motivated candidates to visit the career fair registration page on Eventbrite 4,500 times. Thanks to online registrations, by the time the career fair began, 160 candidates had registered to attend at A123 Systems headquarters.

Members of the A123 human resources team from each of its three Massachusetts offices were on hand to work the event. As candidates arrived, they were paired with one of four technical recruiters, 12 hiring managers and engineering team members for interviews or conversations over food and beverages.

Sixty-five potential candidates were interviewed at the fair, and an additional 25 interviews were conducted after the event. Two offers were subsequently made that resulted in one hire. Three candidates who attended the career fair are still actively in the interview process.

“The most unique aspect of the digital marketing campaign was the ability it gave us to prescreen and pre-qualify candidates,” Pantano said. “But the event also helped with employee morale. Once you get employees talking about the company — the programs we have, the growth in the business, and what A123 Systems is doing for the environment — they get reinvigorated as to why they work here and what they like about the company.”

Get Started
To begin targeting passive job candidates on Facebook or LinkedIn, companies need three things:

• Something to promote, such as a corporate career page, job openings or a career fair and a landing page to communicate the details.

• A description of who they want to reach by job title, geography and skills.

• A social recruitment ad budget. Online advertising channels provide flexibility so advertisers can spend from $10 to $1,000 per day. There are many options, and the point of entry is low.

Certain sites have a tool to help employers build social media ads.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/business/ads/.

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/ads/.

These walk the employer through a step-by-step process to build an ad and identify which profile pages to display the ad on based on the desired location, demographic and candidate’s interest.

The company controls the cost it pays for each ad by bidding on the maximum cost to pay per click and setting a cap on the daily budget it’s willing to spend. — Neil Costa