Social media recruiting has quickly become one of the most effective tools for companies seeking to fill their open positions.
Here's the proof: Fifty-eight percent of North American hiring decision-makers surveyed by Statista, a marketing and consumer data firm, listed social professional networks as the second-best way to get quality hires. It was bested only by referrals, which 62% of hiring managers said was their top avenue for getting good candidates, and it was tied with the 58% who said using their existing pool of resumes was a top strategy for filling jobs.
There are good reasons for that high level of enthusiasm for social media: It's popular. Pew Research Center reported in 2019 that 72% of all Americans use some type of social media. It is even more popular with job seekers. Career site Glassdoor reported that 79% of job seekers use social media as part of their search.
Recruiters like social media, too, saying it allows them to reach more people and a broader pool of candidates -- including passive candidates -- than traditional recruitment strategies. It allows them to do so more quickly and at lower cost than using classified ads or job boards. And, thanks to a host of recruitment tools offered by the platforms themselves, social media enables them to conduct targeted searches efficiently and effectively.
"Social media offers an additional medium by which to interact with candidates who may not be available or active on more traditional sourcing methods," said Dan Young, a consultant at executive search firm WittKieffer. "LinkedIn in particular allows for a quick and easy interface to message with candidates and to get a snapshot of a career. Utilizing social media for me personally ensures that my clients are getting a comprehensive look at the marketplace and that we are meeting candidates where they want to be met."
However, despite the social nature of these platforms, online recruiting takes work. Recruiters must tweak conventional strategies to suit digital platforms, and they must commit to ongoing use of social media to build communities and stay relevant even when they're not actively filling jobs for any particular organization. They need to be extra thoughtful, too, because any missteps online can be quickly amplified, thanks to the very nature of social networks.
To help ensure a successful social media recruitment strategy, experts offered these tips:
- Be strategic.
Social media recruiting isn't an isolated task, nor is it something that should be done casually. Instead, it should be part of an overall talent acquisition strategy that involves hiring managers, human resources professionals and professional recruiters working together to ensure that the social media recruiting efforts are coordinated and effective.
- Know your ideal candidate.
The basics still apply and, in fact, might be even more critical as social media reaches thousands of potential employees in near real time. Advertising an open position could quickly draw in hundreds of applicants, but if you're not clear on what type of applicant you want and how to convey that information, you could be making the hiring process a lot harder than it has to be.
- Pick your platforms.
Looking for a seasoned worker with years of experience for a high-level position? Pew research shows that someone in that demographic is much more likely to use Facebook and LinkedIn rather than Instagram. But if you're looking for a college student to fill an intern slot, you're more likely to find them on Instagram. The Pew survey found that 67% of people ages 18 to 29 are active on Instagram, 79% of them are on Facebook, but only 28% use LinkedIn. Age, though, is just one factor that can influence a candidate's choice of social platform. Education levels, professions and personal interests all play a role and thus influence where you should place your recruiting messages. "There are a lot of different factors that contribute to which platform an organization would want to use," said Matt Deneroff, a branch manager at the technology and IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology.
- Keep niche sites in the mix.
The social sphere extends well beyond the major players to include niche sites that cater to certain groups of professionals, particularly in the technology space. Recruiters might want to include sites such as Dribbble, which caters to designers, and GitHub and Stack Overflow (both popular with software developers) when trying to engage with potential candidates in those professions.
- Tailor the message to the platform.
Recruiters do better when they tweak their pitch to fit the unique environment of each social network. LinkedIn's platform is more professional and polished than most other social sites, so recruitment messages there should mirror that. Messages on Instagram can show a lighter side, while posts on Pinterest should have a creative flair. And, of course, anything on Twitter must include those familiar hashtags.
- Polish your message.
Remember, posts on social media reflect you and your organization. They should be free of spelling and grammar errors, as well as anything offensive or illegal. And don't forget that hiring guidelines and antidiscrimination laws still apply to social media recruiting efforts.
- Partner with the social media team.
Organizations of all types and sizes have a social media presence, frequently managed by the marketing or communications department. Savvy recruiters know to partner with those social media pros, who can help align an online recruitment strategy with the organization's overall public persona and employer brand.
- Keep pace with the social media market.
Facebook and LinkedIn are getting close to 20 years old, TikTok is four, Parler just two. The market is fluid -- and ever growing -- and sites can explode seemingly overnight. Recruiters have to keep pace or they'll be stuck pitching on Myspace even though everyone else has moved on.
- Make it personal.
Social media is all about being social, so personalize your posts to avoid seeming generic or robotic. Add details that distinguish you, your organization, the job openings and your content from others. It's even more important to do this when responding to individual candidates. Craft personalized return responses, addressing each candidate by name and asking questions about their specific experiences to build a better rapport and generate the positive buzz that resonates well with online communities.
- Build a community.
To be successful, a social media recruiting strategy should include building a community of potential candidates to create a ready-made pool for future open positions. You can build this community by writing blogs, sharing relevant career content and posting company news. "It's part of the rapport building that's so important today," Deneroff said.
- Be creative.
"It doesn't hurt to experiment," Deneroff said. "Creativity is ultimately rewarded in the recruiting business."
- Create mobile-friendly posts.
Most professionals are logging into social sites on their mobile phones, so all the material on every post -- the graphics, visuals and text -- and how they all come together must be optimized for mobile devices yet still work well for desktops, laptops and tablets.
- Follow corporate communication guidelines.
Most organizations, particularly midsize and large ones, have detailed communication policies that outline how their information should be presented, with rules addressing everything from how the organization's name should appear to how much detail about the business can be shared. "It might not be best for an individual recruiter to post something without clearing it with the company first," Deneroff said. Recruiters need to lean on their organization's communication teams to help navigate the rules and ensure they're putting out information that aligns with their employer brand.
- Highlight the value proposition.
The best recruitment campaigns weave in why working for a particular company or being hired for a specific open position is worth it. If the company promotes from within, say so. If the open position has flexible hours, then advertise that fact. Such details help differentiate your job from all the others out there.
- Show a day in the life.
A conventional help wanted ad, with its typical list of candidate requirements and job responsibilities, doesn't translate well from newsprint to a social media post. Nor does it say much about the day in, day out of the actual job. Use the features and functions of social media to tell a more compelling story about what an open position offers. If the successful candidate will get an office in a state-of-the-art building, post a picture of it. If new hires get special perks like weekly training sessions, post a clip of the trainer at work. Have a fun office? Add a video stream. Such visuals help build a more complete, and more enticing, case for candidates to apply for the open position.
- Respond to responders.
"If someone is responding, make sure you're acknowledging the response; don't let people go unanswered," Deneroff said. "It can be difficult to follow up with every candidate, depending on the response you get, but it's important for organizations to reach everyone who has applied. You're trying to build engagement."
- Link to the application process.
A great candidate responded to your post. Now what? That candidate should be able to move seamlessly and quickly from whatever platform he or she is using to the actual application phase. "The goal is to get someone into the interview process and move them along, so you should have next steps in mind when you start," Deneroff said.
- Make sure to market your company and its culture.
According to LinkedIn's "Global Talent Trends 2020" report, nearly half of all workers across all age groups cite "inspirational colleagues and culture" as their top factor when considering a job. More specifically, 42% of those in Generation Z, 41% of millennials, 43% of Gen Xers and 45% of baby boomers gave it as their No. 1 determinant. So, it pays off to pay attention to how your company and its culture come across in your social media recruiting efforts. Showcase what defines your culture and market what makes it special. Photos of workers taking part in community volunteer events, posts about employees being promoted thanks to internal training initiatives, and links to stories about company news all help candidates get to know your corporate culture.
- Monitor social networks.
Recruiters should check all comments they get in response to their posts and deal with any negative remarks that appear. "What people say about your brand and organization can affect your ability to attract talent, so don't ignore any bad things," Deneroff said. That goes for all social media activity, not just threads responding to the recruiters' own posts. Here again recruiters would do well to partner with colleagues on the social media, marketing and communication teams to monitor what people are saying about their organization across all platforms.
- Be social, but be selective.
Your social media accounts shouldn't be a livestream of your organization. Selectively share content; engage, but don't spam. "You don't want to be the overposter, sharing every single job you are working on and having your feed filled with job postings. Instead, be strategic about keeping the content fresh and interesting and taking time to actively source and message candidates," Young said.