Social recruiting

From providing access to higher quality talent and building brand awareness to encouraging basic conversations about the company and its products and services, social media in recruitment is something HR can no longer afford to ignore. HRM discusses

Dell, Ernst & Young and Unilever are some of the global companies that have been building their employer brand on social media platforms to attract fresh talent into their fold.

The Ernst & Young Careers Page on Facebook has over 124,000 'likes' and encourages potential candidates to asks questions, meet other interns as well find out more about the company and its recruitment activities.

"Social media provides an option for companies to reach out to potential talents in the market proactively, compared to the past where companies could only wait for talents to apply for jobs," says Annie Lim, Associate Director, Charterhouse Partnership.

As the ultimate grassroots sounding board for an organisation's communities, social networks offer powerful new methods to connect talent and opportunity. Crucially, the success of these methods relies on the quality of those connections.

LJ Brock, Vice President - Global Talent Acquisition and Infrastructure, Red Hat, says that ultimately, interaction is the key to using social media to recruit. "People want to forge real relationships and feel a connection to others," he says.


How to 'recruit socially'?

Companies need to take communication via social media seriously and ensure that it is handled by staff who understand it. "Employers need a clear strategy on how they address social media and present their brand - it has to be part of an overall brand strategy and not a free-for-all," says Chris Mead, Regional Director, Hays Singapore and Malaysia.

Companies looking to pursue social media also have to bear in mind that 'content is king'. This means the investment needed to implement an effective and safe social media strategy can be substantial.

"Content must be consistent, high quality and channel-specific to add value and reflect well on a firmÕs brand," Mead explains. "Potential and existing employees will only return to a blog or follow a feed if it is relevant and topical."

The smartest and most influential talents use social media to interact with a community of like-minded individuals, brainstorming topics of their interest, and coming up with some of the most innovative ideas. Companies can therefore use social media to identify these groups and source for the right talent.

"The resulting social buzz that can come from hiring one of these 'influencers' can also be positive for a company," says Brian Cheng, Business Unit Executive of IBM Collaboration Solution. He points to the 2011 decision by Apple to hire a talented hacker as an intern.

Red Hat's recruiters try to be active in their relevant communities both in person and online. This helps them to understand what potential candidates are looking for in an employer, a job, and a way of life. "People interact with our recruiters, see the story we have to tell, and want to be a part of this company," says Brock. "And then we see them bring their friends into the company and it just continues to build."

Social media gives companies access to a much wider audience. That can be incredibly powerful, says Brock, because if it's done well, everyone in the company can act as recruiters. "That's the ultimate goal - enable your people to reinforce the employment brand and grow the company with the right people."

Lim agrees, saying that instead of merely posting jobs on social media, HR should actively look for the best talents and talk to them. "Hiring managers need to speak to these talents and tell them exactly why they should be excited about working for their organisation," she explains. "It is important to be personal and enthusiastic so that the best people will respond to the personal touch and get excited about the company's opportunities."

One of the biggest differences that global foreign exchange trading services provider, OANDA, sees from using social media recruiting is its ability to attract a higher number of pre-qualified candidates. "The candidates are usually very well-informed about the company's history and products - and it has been a great experience to speak with people who are already engaged and enthused about the brand even during the first conversation," says Denise McKinnon-Frew, head recruiter for OANDA.

"In my opinion, maintaining a wide and consistent social media presence, coupled with the provision of a clear and informative website, definitely helps to attract the right talent to your company," she adds.

On the whole, social recruiting needs to be complemented by a very clear strategy that defines the competencies essential for job success and the right screening mechanisms to sift-in the right candidates, says Leong Kok Fann, Managing Director for SHL Singapore in the Southeast Asia region.


Challenges faced

Getting social media right can be hard, and raises questions of message and brand control. An on-going resource is needed to post and monitor content and to interact with a company's followers, says Mead.

Managing resources in-house presents its own hazards, since content is often provided by more than one person and by different departments. "So, heads need to be allocated to manage this process across all channels to ensure content and messaging is aligned to company positioning and to respond consistently to any negative comments," Mead explains.

Also, companies may be looking in the same places as everyone else, thus finding the same candidates as their competitors. "If you constrain yourself to the same two or three popular platforms as most users, chances are, you are looking at the same talent pool as your competitors," says Lim.

Companies may also sometimes find it difficult to ensure the authenticity of candidates' data and information sourced online.

One of OANDA's challenges is to ensure that all social recruiting content is current and up-to-date. "With social media, it is extremely quick and easy for listings to go viral and get reposted on several different channels and sites," says McKinnon-Frew.

"Although we ensure that the posts on our official channels are regularly updated, we cannot control or amend the information on external sites, and this can potentially cause confusion for the jobseeker."

Just as social media has the power to support and drive an employee value proposition, badly handled, it can completely undermine those efforts, Mead cautions. "And worse, the evidence remains online indefinitely."


Measuring the ROI of social recruiting

Social recruiting is still relatively new and there are currently no hard and fast metrics of measurement. Leong advises companies to identify effectiveness indicators and compare these after implementing an integrated hiring strategy that takes social media outreach into account, alongside, definition of essential competencies, and an existing mechanism to measure candidates' potential fit to job.

"I have personally seen a huge uptake in unsolicited applications and a better calibre of candidates since OANDA began to embrace LinkedIn for social recruiting," says McKinnon-Frew. "The channel has become one of our most effective recruitment tools."

While it is challenging to accurately measure the ROI of social recruiting, Royal Plaza on Scotts measures its social media's presence against its employee engagement scores and the interaction that the hotel receives from posts, including the number of responses and 'likes'.

"Being on Facebook since 2010 has helped increase employee engagement scores," says Ong.

Red Hat uses a set of metrics to see the impact of its social media effort, including numbers of re-tweets, shares, and followers, and tracking sources of these. "We also track how people heard about Red Hat, why they applied, and who referred them," says Brock.

"Social recruitment is often coupled with human efforts in talking and selling the job to the candidates. Hence, measuring the ROI on social recruiting may not be as accurate as compared to (measuring) the definite cost of agency fees, internal recruitment, and overhead costs," says Lim.

Companies that use LinkedIn can measure ROI through the channel's 'Talent Brand Index' (TBI), which measures two important elements of an employer brand - reach and engagement - to calculate the ROI of social recruitment.

"The 'Talent Brand Reach' (talent that's familiar with you as an employer) is divided by 'Talent Brand Engagement' (talent that is interested in you as an employer) to give the TBI," Mead explains.

"You can also look at how many people are following your company on LinkedIn," he adds.


Staying ahead

If a company is not recruiting socially, is it losing out? Brock thinks that company would be "way behind the curve".

Companies that are not recruiting on social media platforms tend to miss out on those passive candidates who may not be actively looking for a new opportunity, he says. "Engaging with the array of social media sites that potential jobseekers use gives organisations a means to boost and enhance their reputation as a forward-thinking employer of choice," says Mead.

On the other hand, if you are active on social media but doing a poor job of it, you're even worse off than someone with no presence, Brock adds. "Fortunately, with the speed that everything moves online, you can reverse these effects, but be prepared to have detractors - that's part of the job."

Still, social networking sites are neither replacements not pre-requisites for telephonic or face-to-face communication with a candidate.

"Recruiting will always be about personal relationships and we continue to focus on building those relationships," says Brock. "As an initial part of that, social media is about awareness and sparking interest - starting those relationships."

McKinnon-Frew concurs, saying, "A true recruiter understands the importance of direct contact with a candidate," she explains. "There are subtleties and nuances that can only be felt and understood with personal contact between the recruiter and candidate."

"It is a relationship built on mutual trust and respect," she adds. "Nothing can take the place of relationship building in this instance."


Case study

Royal Plaza on Scotts

Royal Plaza on Scotts uses social media to bring its employer brand and culture closer to its current associates and potential employees. Information that is being disseminated is treated with the utmost importance as it sets the tone for the organisation, says Juliana Ong, Director - HR, Royal Plaza on Scotts.

For instance, the hotel promptly shares information about awards it has won on various social media platforms to show its appreciation for all employees. "This also helps to spread the word to job seekers who visit our Facebook page, which then attracts talents to join us," she says. Personal achievements and milestones of associates such as graduations, marriages, arrivals of new-borns and even successful attempts to quit smoking, are also shared via the Facebook page so fellow associates are able to share the joy.

"Employees can also access photos of the fun we have at the workplace with 'weekly delights' which brings surprises to our employees," says Ong. "This can be a cup of fresh cut fruits hand-delivered to the offices or back of the house area for all associates to indulge in or an additional signature dish on the canteen's menu by chefs from the hotel's award-winning restaurant."

Employees of all levels and the general public are able to comment on, or simply 'like' initiatives that the organisation is rolling out. "Through our engagement efforts, suitable candidates may take on a more proactive role in applying for positions within the hotel after seeing the organisation's culture for themselves through these social media platforms," says Ong.


Jobseekers beware be careful what you put out there!

One in three jobseekers still believe employers will not look at their social media profile, according to a survey by recruiting experts Hays in Singapore. However, 50% said they change their privacy settings when job searching and the remaining 17% un-tag pictures and edit content.

"While there are many advantages to using social media as part of your job search, it can also work against you if you are not careful," says Chris Mead, Regional Director of Hays in Southeast Asia.

ÒA growing number of hiring managers believe that online content (such as a candidate's social media profile) can give a good insight into a candidate's character and likely cultural fit with the organisation," he adds.

Mead advises candidates to assume that all publicly available online content could be used as part of the decision making process. "Change your privacy settings and be sensible in the content you post online," says Mead. "But don't just restrict your focus to pure social sites like Facebook or Twitter - Google your name to make sure all online content is appropriate."


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