The Social Media Search

New tools help job recruiters connect with the right candidates.
By Steve Kaelble

Where do you hear about a great new restaurant in town? Increasingly, through social media. Where do you share that goofy, captioned photo of a cat playing a piano? A social media site, of course. What’s the verdict on the new episode of “Downton Abbey”? Your friends on social media will no doubt have opinions and spoilers for you.

High-Tech Word of Mouth Social media sites help recruiters find just the right IT staffers, engineers and other professionals.

Where can you find the right person to fill that new job opening on your team? You guessed it–social media may be just what you need to make the connection. Those who recruit for a living say they’re turning increasingly to social media sites to get the word out about job openings and catch the eye of potential winning candidates. And why not? If word-of-mouth is a powerful way to get a message across, it makes sense to plug into the fastest and most powerful word-of-mouth mechanism ever invented.

Consider this: As of last year, 56 percent of Americans had created a social media profile, up from 34 percent just three years earlier. That number jumps to 69 percent when you limit the stat to just those who are Internet-connected. Nearly a quarter of Americans checked their social media several times a day last year, up from just 7 percent three years earlier. People over 55 as well as males of all ages were the fastest-growing user segments, and the important 24-and-under segment is engaging less and less via email and instant message, and more and more via social media. No wonder 100 percent of Ad Age’s top advertisers have set up Facebook pages for their brands.

“Social media is becoming increasingly more important to professional recruiting, and recruiting in general,” says Jean Phelps, franchise owner with Express Employment Professionals in Valparaiso. “With such a large audience, it’s easy to see how networks can play an important role in attracting new talent.”

It’s all part of the standard operating procedure when a new opportunity becomes available, according to Tammie Carr, founder and president of Talent Source Staffing in South Bend. “When we enter a job in our database, we have buttons–one puts it on the Web, one puts it on LinkedIn, one puts it on Facebook and one puts it on Twitter.”

Dan Kesic is president of Business Solution Group in Hammond, which provides recruiting services through Staff Source. The company places candidates in professional, IT, clerical and industrial positions, among others, sometimes on a temporary-to-permanent employment basis, sometimes as direct hires. “Social media can be a huge asset to companies like ours that are trying to reach out,” he says.

It’s been an evolution, he notes, and a rapid one. “As with every business, things change in the sense of how you do business and what you need to do to stay competitive,” Kesic observes. It wasn’t long ago that Staff Source found candidates primarily at job fairs, through word of mouth and through help-wanted advertising in the newspaper. “Today ads in the paper don’t go far.”

Job fairs are certainly still part of the mix, Kesic says, but the use of social media really helps word of mouth take off. “The word of mouth spreads more quickly and you get what you’re saying out to a bigger audience,” he points out. The key is networking with the right people–or people who are likely to know the right people.

“Networking and referrals are huge, and these are tools we use for networking,” Carr points out.

So how do social media sites play into the process? “We use social sites like LinkedIn and Facebook as well as blogs,” Phelps explains. “Not only does it help us build relationships with job seekers and associates, but it also allows us to interact with brand advocates who often provide referrals by sharing about our company and the jobs we have available. It gives us an opportunity to share important information about career development and helps us to know what job seekers are really looking for.”

“There are normal channels such as including job postings on boards specific to that industry,” Kesic says. “You can connect through LinkedIn, you can post and share with Twitter and share with Facebook. You can post questions in a specific group and people will give you feedback.”

Carr and Kesic both find LinkedIn to be a good place to start, as it’s a social media site geared specifically toward professional careers, not piano-playing cats. It’s a prime place to do an initial search for potential candidates, Carr notes.

“We will start off with LinkedIn and try to figure out who’s out there,” Kesic agrees. “We’ll move to posting it and sharing that post on Facebook and Twitter.”

Phelps also finds LinkedIn to be an obvious choice, “but with more active users on Facebook, we expect more and more recruiters to utilize Facebook to find candidates in the future,” she adds.

Indeed, says Carr, “I have one recruiter who already does a lot through Facebook. That tool has worked well for her.”

Using social media can cast a net much farther and wider, those in the business observe, and it also can get nibbles a lot more quickly. “We had an internal opening within our group and tried to see if any friends would know of someone interested,” Kesic recalls. “I posted it on Facebook and Twitter, and literally my phone rang in less than five minutes.”

“By nature, some jobs may seem easier to recruit for on social media,” Phelps notes. Carr’s organization often goes after engineers, among other professionals, and has found that to be a good fit for social media recruiting. On the other hand, says Phelps, “with so many people using social sites–a number that is only expected to increase with the rise of smartphone usage–it’s really more about using the right site for the job.”

How can job seekers benefit from the latest tools? Don’t be afraid to use all of them, Carr says. “Anybody who’s looking for a job should have a LinkedIn profile with a professional picture,” she recommends. “They should build their network and try to connect to people they don’t know through people that they do know. Also, solicit recommendations from people. Those testimonials are huge for me.”

And, don’t just wait around for opportunities to filter in, she adds. “They should go to our website. All of our job opportunities are listed there, and they can submit their resume to us.”

Beyond instantly getting the word out about specific job openings, social media services can do for recruiters pretty much the same thing they do for people in general–make friends. “Social networking sites help staffing companies and businesses build relationships with job seekers,” Phelps says.

Jaclyn Garner, branch manager of Sedona Staffing in Portage and Michigan City, agrees that relationship-building is a key in the recruitment business, whether or not social media sites are involved. In fact, she says her company does a lot of work involving manufacturing and warehousing jobs, and social media pitches are not necessarily the best way to find candidates for those jobs. “We don’t find a lot of candidates in these areas who are heavy-duty on computers,” she points out. “We find them through referrals and word of mouth.”

And that’s where the relationship comes in. “We try to really develop a relationship with applicants and candidates, and keep that strong and engaged,” she says. That means taking time for the little things, such as making a personal phone call even to those who don’t end up landing a position. “If you take that extra 45 seconds for a phone call to explain why they were passed over, they appreciate it,” she says. And that can keep them engaged in the word-of-mouth network, so that they’ll be ready to apply for the next appropriate opening or, just as important, to tell a friend about a job lead. “Word of mouth really boils down to providing a service.”

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