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Social media recruitment must be engaging, attractive to candidates

Social media recruitment is rapidly growing, and to stay competitive, recruiters have to be social, engaging and attractive to potential candidates.

Misty Sutton used to make cold calls; now she makes Harlem Shake videos.

Sutton, the current director of global recruiting for Cloud Sherpas, a cloud services brokerage headquartered in Atlanta, used to sit at her desk dialing the phone, but recently she found herself organizing a contest to see which team -- Atlanta, Mumbai or Boston -- could produce the video that gave potential job candidates the best inside look at the company's corporate culture.

"We wanted to show that we're a fun company to work for," Sutton said. "We're not all business all the time."

The use of an ever-growing number of social platforms -- including YouTube, in Sutton's case -- has transformed the way recruiters, hiring managers and even current employees leverage social connections to broadcast job opportunities, source quality referrals and market their brands like never before.

But to get the most out of social recruiting, experts say, recruiters must be engaged, authentic and must begin with a strategy -- it also doesn't hurt to show candidates the company is a fun place to work.

Before you do anything else, Sutton said, build a strategy: "Know which channels you're going to use and why you want to use them. Don't just throw things out there and see if it sticks."

In addition, Sutton said, know your candidate pool. Knowing what kind of candidate you're looking for will dictate your strategy, she said. "You're not going to find your next vice president of global delivery on Facebook, for example; this isn't where they're connecting to recruiters."

"Social media is the number one activity on the Internet," said Jessica Miller-Merrell, CEO of Oklahoma City-based Xceptional HR. It's where people are spending all of their time, she said. "Recruiters need to engage these candidates where they are."

How does a recruiter know where candidates are? "Talk to the people you know who are already doing that job," said Miller-Merrell. "Ask them where they are on social media."

Social media recruitment: Put the social in social media

Connecting with people requires engaged recruiters, the experts said. "You've got to have people on the recruiting team that are listening, engaging and responding," said Jason Webster, founder of Ongig, a San Francisco-based firm that helps companies use social tools to acquire talent.

Just putting content online or tweeting out job listings doesn't do a thing for your company, Webster said. "And just because you have a Facebook page doesn't mean it's going to move the needle."

Employees must be engaged and interact with posts, comments and shares. "You can't just do social, you need to be social," he added.

And the engagement must be authentic.

"You see recruiting agencies blasting whole pools of software engineers with generic job descriptions that aren't going to get anyone's attention," Sutton said. "Social recruiting is social. This is a people business."

But even social media can become automated and lose the human element. With tools like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, recruiters can schedule posts weeks in advance, but by that time content could be stale. "And candidates know you're no longer talking to them," Sutton said. "When you're reaching out to candidates, know that there is a human on the other end."

Another key component of an effective social recruiting strategy is to continuously drive candidates back to the company's website. "Your website should be the center of your universe," Miller-Merrell said.

People invest a lot of money in recruiting technology, but many times their social efforts end up sending candidates to job aggregator sites like SimplyHired, Glassdoor or Indeed, Webster said.

"It doesn't make sense to drive your potential talent into the arms of your competitors," Webster said. But if you're going to drive candidates to your website, the site better be great, he added.

"The content itself has to be real," Webster said. "You need an authentic story to tell." Big companies can put together expensive videos and fancy career pages. Those things may get a candidate's attention, but they don't seal the deal, he said.

For Sutton at Cloud Sherpas, so much of closing the deal depends on good employer branding.

The idea behind social recruiting is not just to find candidates through social channels, she said. "It's not just posting a job on Twitter or Facebook and hoping someone is going to see it."

"For me it's about showing the culture of your company, and showing what a job at the company is really like," Sutton said.

What you see is what you get: Social media recruitment via video

One of the best ways to do that, Sutton said, is by using video; hence, the Harlem Shake competition.

"Video is huge," Sutton said. Through video, younger candidates can see that a company has a fun culture and also learn about career development from interviews with employees who have been promoted throughout the company, she explained.

"Being visual is the key. Video can be more social and create more interaction," Webster said. He recently surveyed a candidate who had been hired through the Ongig platform. The candidate said a video helped her understand the company culture and management style. "She was able to see what people at the company were like before even applying for the job," he said.

Recruiters told Webster that candidates who viewed the video were much more prepared for their interviews and made better overall impressions.

"People are visual, and increasingly so," Webster said. "Just look at Snapchat, Vine and Instagram. This is where things are headed."

A true measure of success, added Sutton, is having candidates come to you because you've conveyed the company's culture through social media.

That's why Sutton thought the Harlem Shake videos were such a good idea. Videos of costumed employees dancing wildly may not have candidates knocking down the doors at every company, but the Cloud Sherpas videos make clear the kind of culture the company cultivates and what kind of talent it wants to attract.

Whether using one social platform or many, forward-thinking recruiters need a solid social media strategy. "At the end of the day you just have to do it," Webster said. "You've just got to get out there, because if you don't, your competition will."

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