10 Rules for Success in Social Recruiting

Disruptive IT Trends10 minutes readJan 11th, 2011

A few weeks back I talked about how Unisys uses social networks to recruit new talent, the steps we took to get started, and some of the payback we’ve achieved so far.

We’ve learned a lot from the process, and with the benefit of retrospect, I have distilled our ideas and lessons learned into 10 rules that should help any organization confidently launch a social recruiting effort. These 10 elements are crucial to consider when developing your social media recruiting strategy. And they’re applicable across organizations of any size, in any country.

1. It’s Not Just About You and Your Open Positions

Just dumping a list of your open positions into Twitter or Facebook won’t work. At Unisys, we provide information not only about Unisys and our open positions, but also share helpful job hunting information in general. Whether it’s interviewing techniques, job-seeking techniques, or resume writing, we’re sharing our careers expertise with the people we want to connect with. It’s not just the Unisys story. It’s a career-focused information resource that incorporates Unisys principles.

By engaging candidates in this way, we can provide a better sense of who Unisys is and what we do. Prospective candidates are more likely to share what we talk about through social media outlets with their friends through e-mail and other networks. And that ends up promoting and cross-promoting our brand and employment opportunities, as well as generating employee referrals.

2. Conversations Are the Key to Success

You never know where conversations are going to start from or where they’re going to lead. By listening to your Twitter stream, for example, and by being engaging, and posting information you might think is meaningless, your conversation could turn into something important that ends up delivering a valuable contact. For instance, a conversation that starts out as a plug for a new product could lead you to your next hire.

3. Align Your Career Brand with Your Corporate Brand

Search engines love social media. It’s important to realize that everything you say and do on these forums will contribute to your organization’s online brand, just as much (if not more!) as the official company website.

This is one of the reasons our social recruiting efforts have been so successful. We began working very early on, and very closely, with the Unisys corporate communications department in (1) establishing an overall social media strategy for the entire company, and (2) developing a social media recruiting strategy that aligned with the corporate social media strategy.

We spent a great deal of time and effort ensuring that everything we did with social media was branded and worded correctly. The goal was to establish a workable cadence between our corporate brand and our careers brand that represented Unisys well. It continues to be extremely important to us to align what we’re posting with our overall corporate strategy.

For example, if our corporate efforts are focused on cloud computing, then it’s important for the career side to also reinforce that by talking about different cloud opportunities. Actions speak louder than words. Social media amplifies our actions related to hiring and recruiting, and allows them to play a meaningful role in reinforcing our overall corporate branding.

Don’t try to do social recruiting in a vacuum. Join forces with others in your organization to ensure everyone is well-aligned with the corporate brand and that all external messaging is in sync.

4. Go Where Your Audience Is

It might sound simplistic to say that you should focus your social media efforts where your targeted talent is. Yet I continue to see many recruiters focus on the technology rather than the people side of social media.

It’s much easier to attract a large following on a site that already has a large following or user base. But you also have to remember that you want to reach the right people. Constantly evaluate new sites for their recruiting potential. Go to the sites that cater to and attract the sorts of people you want to connect with. Look for quality, not quantity.

For Unisys, services such as YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter were important, as we wanted to reach several different demographics. It might not be the same for your company, especially if you are not in the U.S. Each of our geographies has sites that are unique and relevant to their region of the world.

5. Remember that Social Recruiting Is Still Evolving

Social media is still a relatively new world for the vast majority of organizations. And it’s also new for most job seekers. There’s a lot of buzz about the use of social media in a job search, but that doesn’t mean everybody is doing it, is comfortable using it, or is effectively using it.

You might not be able to reach your ideal candidate using social networks. And even if they are on a social site, they might not be open to being contacted by a recruiter. Don’t lose faith. That doesn’t mean social media in general isn’t an effective recruiting channel for you. It simply means you need to keep searching and leveraging social media outlets to find the right mix of services and engagement to start networking with your intended audience. The additional effort on the front end might provide you with new effective methods for future searches.

6. Educate Your Team on Best Practices

It is important to educate your team on best practices for using social media, especially in a corporate sense. Authenticity, interactivity, value, and just plain respect can put a human face on your corporate social media efforts. Being too aggressive or insincere in your interactions can doom your efforts. Have your most effective social media users coach your other recruiters and keep track of usage to ensure that you have consistency in your messaging and tone.

7. Involve Management

Social recruiting is not just for the recruiting team. Management can play an important role here. Unisys has a new regional recruiting leader in the Asia Pacific region based in Sydney. One of the first things she did was set up meetings with the local management groups trying to hire for some unique positions. She laid out how these hiring managers could use LinkedIn to their advantage. She worked with them to tune their profiles. She encouraged them to regularly add status updates that announced Unisys was seeking talent for a particular role. Publishing that information out to their network of contacts, it helped make the outreach viral.

Educate management on the benefits of LinkedIn for recruiting. Train management on how to tune their LinkedIn profile for recruiting, and build and manage their professional networks. Use their network updates to keep their contacts aware of job opportunities and business activities. Do the same for each of the social networks that your organization is using (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

8. Recognize the Risks

Using social media is a double-edged sword, especially with regard to LinkedIn. If you’re having managers tune their profiles to attract job candidates, they could just as easily attract recruiters who will try to woo them away, especially if they have a unique skill set.

That said, remember that strong candidates with unique skills are likely targets for recruiters anyway, regardless of the quality of their LinkedIn profile. Candidates make their own career choices. You can’t control whether someone will be found by a recruiter, but you can control whether your own organization capitalizes on the power of social recruiting.

Another risk of social recruiting is the permanence of information on the Internet, and the ability for anything to go viral, for good or bad reasons. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “Unlike love, the Internet is forever.”

Anything you do online is likely to be captured and archived somewhere, free for anyone with access to a search engine to find, even years later. It’s difficult to predict what will make something go viral, but training your people on the best practices for using social media responsibly will minimize the chances that something negative about your company will make the rounds.

9. Use Video, but Don’t Force It

There is great interest in the use of video for social recruiting. Search engines love video, so it can be a great way to gain visibility. Our experience has shown that not everyone is comfortable with video, no matter how enthusiastic they might be about a project. Some people do well on video, and some people don’t.

Don’t force anybody to appear in a video. While it can be a powerful tool, there are other avenues that can deliver similar results. There are also questions about what sort of video is best. Should it be informal and shot from a Flipcam? Should it be done professionally? How much production is too much?

There are implications for choosing one production approach over another, and what that might imply about the style or professionalism of a business. We’ve found a wide difference of opinion throughout the world on what style of video is most appropriate. Align your efforts to these regional preferences.

Video can work well as an element of a social recruiting program, but it needs to be approached judiciously. Try several styles and see what works best in each circumstance. Note the successes, and establish them as your model for future use.

10. Start Small and Grow

Don’t try to do everything at once. Start small, think big, and build on your successes. LinkedIn is a great place to start because it’s accepted as a professional business networking tool, even if someone is not in an active job search. And it’s very easy for recruiters and job seekers to use their LinkedIn account as a first point of contact.

Once you build up to a level of comfort using LinkedIn, begin to expand into other areas of social media. The key is to build trust, add value, and start authentic conversations. It takes time to build trust — about as long as it takes to build a large and active community. The more people who are engaged and interacting on a page, the greater their sense of trust. Scale creates an environment where candidates will seek you out.

The corporate blog has a tremendous ability to build the value and trust essential to social recruiting. Unisys has had great success tying its blogs to its recruiting practice. But blogging is not for everyone, so think carefully before you take it on for your company and have a plan around frequency of posts and line up some back-up posts to fill in any gaps that occur once you begin

If you decide it’s the right move, identify the folks who are open to contributing, because it’s an ongoing and regular commitment. Also, is it right from a strategy perspective to have your own careers blog, or is it better to integrate it along with a corporate strategy? Again, start small with any corporate blogging plan, and expand it as your needs and experience grow.

The End of the Beginning

These are the lessons we learned as we embarked on our social recruiting initiative. The effort continues to deliver results for us and we continue to review and expand our usage of this growing medium. I hope these best practices help you build your social media recruiting strategy. Feel free to comment here or write to me if you have any questions, opinions, ideas, or need more information.