Social Recruitment Delivers Results for UPS

Problem: Realizing candidates are embracing social and mobile technologies, UPS sought to bring similar techniques to its talent acquisition function.

Solution: UPS Workforce Planning entered the social space on Facebook, Twitter, text messaging and a mobile-friendly website, creating greater awareness of UPS as an employer, providing easy access to employment opportunities and driving hires in a cost-effective and targeted way.

Prior to 2007, UPS’ recruiting efforts were decentralized. Brand guidelines were standardized, but how jobs were described on job boards and other online channels was not. This created confusion among job seekers.

Similarly, job seeker behavior was changing. Consumers were interacting and spending more time on social networks. UPS recognized that job seekers were embracing social media and wanted to connect with them in a manner that they were most comfortable with, via technology they were already using.

“We knew we needed to move from paper, print, cable and radio to the online world, but in 2009 it was hard to convince leadership that social recruiting would return the best investment and meet our hiring goals,” said Matthew Lavery, director of talent acquisition at UPS. “At the time it wasn’t proven in the industry that you could use social tools effectively. We needed data to show that social and mobile recruiting could drive strong applicant flow and build the business case for social recruiting.”

Cognizant that job seekers’ needs are different than employees or customers, UPS sought to create a separate identity for its recruiting profile. Lavery’s team launched UPSjobs, an employment-specific social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, and later expanded to other platforms such as Google Plus, Pinterest and LinkedIn. The process commenced by determining the platforms candidates were using most and implementing strategies for creative brand communication.

While social media is difficult to track due to its non-linear nature, all recruitment-related posts included trackable links, enabling UPS to determine the applicant flow that came through when individuals clicked on a link. This provided visibility from created applications to completed applications through hire, showed the number of people who responded to employment opportunities and refined the type of content that worked best to meet recruiters’ goals.

TMP Worldwide, a recruitment advertising agency, worked with UPS’ applicant tracking system (ATS) to generate source codes that were specific to various aspects of the UPSjobs social and mobile strategy. The agency was responsible for appending those source codes to the end of the links that were used so they could be tracked within the ATS automatically without the candidate or the recruiter self-selecting the sources.

Activity was measured from paid, owned and earned sources. For example, a paid source would be a Facebook ad or promoted tweet. Owned sources would be the UPSjobs mobile-friendly website or Facebook and Twitter pages. Earned sources would be the activity generated by someone who is part of a UPSjobs social community.

Beyond tracking the click-throughs, created applications, interviews and hires, UPS also looked at the growth of the UPSjobs communities, number of posts and tweets, and tracked metrics to show levels of influence, engagement, virality, sentiment and action. Facebook Insight Analytics, Twitter Analytics, Klout scores, Google Analytics — all available free of charge — as well as weekly ATS sourcing reports provided the data needed to ensure KPIs were on track.

“As soon as we started changing our methodology to a broader social focus, we gained access to a new applicant pool,” Lavery said. “For example, millennials are inclined to visit Google first and use the search engine to find open opportunities. We needed to be where they are, and that’s what we did. [We] adapted to the changing demographics of the workforce we were trying to attract and committed to expanding our social presence.”

A content creation strategy was critical to UPSjobs’ success. The intent was never to have social media properties be only a place for jobs. Most of the content was not specifically related to a current job opening. Instead, it was an opportunity for people to experience work at UPS and to engage more deeply with the employment brand. Because many UPS associates are part of the UPSjobs social media community, meaningful conversations could take place between job seekers and employees about the UPS employment experience.

Photos and videos of employees and on-location shots were initially shared by UPSjobs, but soon candidates were engaging with the brand, sharing opportunities with followers or engaging in conversations with UPS recruiters. Unscripted videos of associates featured candid accounts of a day in the life at UPS, giving insight into careers, the culture and people. Some of the videos included senior managers being interviewed by new associates who were in roles that those senior managers had been in when they first started with UPS. The new associates asked senior managers questions about opportunities for training, career-pathing and tips on how to advance within the organization.

“We understood from the beginning that this would be a build process,” Lavery said. “The first year we had fewer than 25 hires. But by the end of our second year, more than 1,000 individuals were hired through social channels.”

‘Like’ the Candidate Flow
Social media for recruitment is a marathon, not a sprint. It is not free. To do it right takes time, resources and labor; it also requires alignment with short-term and long-term hiring needs.

Segmentation into separate social media employment communities within a company needs to be carefully considered and probably should not be done unless there is a compelling business reason to do so and appropriate resources assigned.

“We have learned over time, especially within the last two years, that mobile technology plays a huge role in helping to support the growth of social media communities,” Lavery said. “We have also seen firsthand the benefits from leveraging this platform that encourages communication among job seekers, recruiters and other UPS employees. By having this in place UPS has gone a long way to shed light on the infamous black hole experience that job seekers experience when applying to employers that do not have a strong social media recruitment presence.

“Many organizations have internal discussions of who owns social media, but our strategy was to lead with recruiting and create an identity separate from Branding UPSjobs enabled us to create a targeted channel for people who are interested in openings at UPS.”

In its first year, UPS hired 12 employees through Facebook and seven via Twitter. In 2012, social and mobile recruiting channels accounted for more than 14,000 hires.

As UPSjobs social media communities grew and the level of engagement deepened from the conversations taking place, people within those communities increasingly referred opportunities to their friends. Those friends either applied for the jobs themselves or referred them to others. UPS has continually refined its candidate experience because now many people use Facebook and Twitter via a handheld device. In September the company mobilized the candidate application process so candidates can not only view videos of UPS associates and search for jobs, they can start and complete an application from a phone or tablet.

UPS’ ability to engage through social media created a steady base of followers and fans.
In 2012, its Facebook and Twitter communities increased to 56,000 and 17,000 members respectively, nearly doubling in size from the previous year.

Entering the social space requires a mindset shift and cultural change for many companies. With nearly half of all candidates carrying a mobile device and engaged on social networks, Lavery said other organizations should develop social content and a mobile strategy or be left behind.

“Social media will continue to create a seismic shift over the next five to 10 years, and organizations need to move away from broadcasting to having a conversation and engaging with candidates,” said Lavery. “It may require the transition of dollars to partners to maintain the organization’s voice on social platforms or reallocation of internal resources to individuals with the skill set to engage through social media. But we’ve found that embracing these newer technologies has enabled us to engage with candidates and have personal interactions even in a high-volume setting.”

Mike Vangel is vice president of talent acquisition strategy at recruitment advertising agency TMP Worldwide. He can be reached at