Social media tactics for recruiting and staffing

Tonight I presented to the Capital Region Recruiters’ Network, a local organization of HR and staffing professionals. They asked me to share some advanced techniques for using social media to help identify candidates and fill positions.

The topic was timely, as I’m currently trying to fill a key role on the readMedia team (anyone know of standout Community Manager who wants to live in upstate New York?). While I don’t have an HR or recruiting background, I tried to present a few concrete tactics that attendees could take  away and implement immediately.

Tonight was also my first time using Prezi instead of PowerPoint. I saw a fair number of Prezis on the higher ed conference circuit last year, and my buddy Arik Hanson also gave Prezi a ringing endorsement. It certainly is a more unique and interesting presentation of material than straight-up slides tend to be, but as someone who is used to thinking linearly, it takes me a lot longer to build and structure a presentation in Prezi.

Below is what I shared with the CRRN:

Luring ‘Specialized’ candidates through social HR

I’m really fortunate to be in a job that I love at a company that’s a great fit for me. But so many people in a variety of industries and careers are struggling right now to find a job — and they also want to make sure it’s the right job. Likewise, companies want to hire the best candidates who can get the work done but who also fit in with the company culture. Often this matchmaking is difficult because each side doesn’t effectively articulate what it’s looking for — especially on the company side.

Sure, plenty of corporate sites have dry and bland “Careers” sections that give a few paragraphs on the company environment with (sometimes stock) photos of happy looking people in generic conference rooms. Then they dump the job seeker into a dizzying maze of job search queries (function, business unit, department, location, etc.).

If finding the right talent is so important to companies, why are so few taking advantage of social media and other avenues to help them communicate to job seekers what they’re looking for? It’s fairly quick and easy these days to add context to a careers Web site and give candidates a lot more information about what to expect.

One company that is doing it right is Specialized (Disclaimer 1: I’m a loyal Jamis rider. But the Tarmac is one sexy bike. Disclaimer 2: Team Saxo Bank rides Specialized and I love Frank Schleck). The most prominent feature on the Careers section of its Web site? Videos. Embedded from YouTube, these videos interview employees and describe some of the interesting benefits Specialized employees receive. You get a nice sense of not only what the company offers, but also what the people who work there are like.

What’s most impressive is this video interview with Specialized’s director of HR. She tells candidates exactly what the company is looking for and what job seekers need to do to land a gig there:

She answers the real questions that most job seekers want to know. What kind of people are you looking for? What do you want to see in a cover letter? What are the steps in the hiring process? How can I impress you in the interview?

Specialized could have easily listed out this information on its site, but the video interview makes a much greater impact. What’s more, the videos on the site can be easily shared and linked to. Maybe a job seeker realizes that the company isn’t a good fit for him or her, but knows of someone who would be great at Specialized. A few clicks and that person can post a link to the YouTube video to a friend’s Facebook page.

Companies don’t have to dive headlong into a social media strategy before they’re ready, but quick hits like this are a relatively easy way to connect with an audience in a more personal and engaging way.

3 reasons even “social media types” still need a resume

Remember Elle Woods and her scented, pink-paper resume in Legally Blonde? She’d be an anomoly today, as most people don’t print paper resumes anymore. But despite lamentations that “Google is the new resume” or “Resumes are useless in the Internet age,” you still need one if you plan to apply for a position at a large company. Even a social media position.

While those of us who blog, tweet, post, message and tag each other all day long would like to think that our online presence is enough to stand on its own as a testament to how smart and savvy we are, the human resources department is still going to want you to submit a formal application, which often includes uploading a resume. If you’re trying to land a job with a funky little start-up or a tiny shop with a handful of employees, then the resume matters less and all of your other online work will likely be a bigger factor. But if you’re looking for a job with a big brand or company, have it ready.

I’ve worked very closely with the HR department in some of my previous jobs, so I’ve had the chance to observe some of the machinations that go along with trying to hire someone at a large company. Here are three reasons why, no matter how sexy your blog, Posterous, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile or “personal brand’ might be, you still need to have a resume:

1. Your blog can’t be entered into a corporate resume database

There are several reasons big corporations use resume database-systems like BrassRing or HireGround. Probably the most important one is compliance. In order to be in compliance with myraid hiring laws with acronyms like OFCCP, EEO, and FLSA, companies with more than 100 employees need to show ratios of applicants to interviewees to hires, show that they have consistent hiring practices across the company, and show that they actively sought out diverse candidates.

Making each candidate go through an online hiring system, which usually includes a resume upload and screening questions, allows for easy data collection for compliance purposes. Companies can’t run your blog or Google profile through its screening processes when it comes time to file compliance reports each year.

2. The first cut of candidates may be made by someone who doesn’t know what a blog is

Often an HR associate sorts through the company resume database– sometimes arbitrarily, sometimes by keyword– to find an initial group of candidates to screen. This is where networking is huge. If you submit your resume online, it can be a total crapshoot whether it even gets viewed. But if you know the hiring manager or someone who can pass your resume along and help it move to the top of the pile, you’re in a much better position.

In all likelihood, however, the HR associate probably isn’t going to find and read your blog. It would be extremely time consuming to do that for each candidate in an initial screen. They may check you out on Google or LinkedIn in a cursory manner, but their goal is to fill the role as quickly as possible. That’s their metric. So unless someone tells them to flag your resume, you’re at the mercy of whether or not you appear in the database search results (so make sure you have the appropriate keywords in your resume).

3. Many companies still aren’t comfortable with social media for the hiring process

The mere fact that a company would hire for a social media position is a step in the right direction, but if they’re looking for someone with expertise in the area, it’s because they lack it. The hiring manager may not know where or how to start screening candidates based on their social presence. Should they be looking for quantity or quality of blog posts? Does number of Twitter followers matter? How many LinkedIn connections should the candidate have? Why aren’t they on FriendFeed? What is FriendFeed? Corporate HR and hiring managers are used to resumes, comfortable with resumes, and still expect resumes. They’re not quite sure yet how to integrate social media into established hiring practices.

Even a company like BestBuy, ahead of the curve on social media adoption, didn’t quite know how to structure a traditional job posting for its Emerging Media Manager role. Kudos to them for reaching out to the community and crowdsourcing ideas for key skills and requirements for the position. But anyone who applies  for the role must do so by submitting an application and uploading a resume via BestBuy’s corporate career site.

Yes, it would be great if someday we could all just let our work stand on its on merit wherever it happens to live online and not have to put together verbose and formal resumes. You certainly should mention and even highlight your online outposts on your resume (at least your blog and LinkedIn profile), and as you move further along in the hiring process there’s a greater chance that someone in the hiring process will take the time to look at your work. Just don’t expect the traditional resume to disappear any time soon.

Answer Honestly: Communications conundrums

At my recent ski trip out to Lake Tahoe with good pals, we ended up with a case of Molson Canadian beer one night. The bottles contained labels with the phrase “Answer Honestly” and then presented an either/or question: Would you prefer to be rich or good looking; would you prefer to be a vampire or a werewolf; etc. It led to some pretty heated debates among some slightly tipsy people about the relative merits and ethical implications of flying vs. being invisible, for example.

Last week Steve Crescenzo even asked his own “Answer Honestly” –  tweet:


Communicators are often faced with situations that feature unappealing options and we have to make the best decision we can based on our constraints, resources, and the needs of our organizations or clients. We don’t have a choice –  we are called upon to handle whatever situation lies before us. But wouldn’t it be fun to pick and choose? Here’s a communicator’s version of “Answer Honestly” :

Answer Honestly: Would you rather have to communicate a layoff of 10 percent of your workforce or a 20 percent pay cut for all of your workforce?

This one’s tough, and both of these scenarios are happening at a lot of companies today. On the one hand, a pay cut seems to appear more equitable: everyone takes a little bit of pain to save the jobs of some of their co-workers. But it also means that everyone’s left unhappy. A layoff affects fewer people more profoundly. From a communications standpoint, a layoff is more of an “event” that happens and is over relatively quickly. I know there’s plenty of research about “survivor’s guilt” among remaining workers, and communicators need to be extremely sensitive to how the news is delivered not only to departing employees but also remaining ones. How will their jobs change now that staff reductions have been made? How will the organization continue to meet its goals with fewer people? Is this all or will there be more layoffs to come? But I still think I’d rather have to communicate a lay off than across-the-board pay cuts. The pay cuts mean that everyone remains in the organization, but everyone now has something to complain about. And they will complain – here is some pretty solid evidence of that. While across-the-board pay cuts are often communicated with a “we’re all in this together” mentality, it’s tough to get people to focus on the needs of group/organization versus their own personal situation. It depends so much on the culture of the organization and its leadership.

Answer Honestly: Would you rather have to communicate a product recall or a financial/ethical scandal?

Hmm. Both of these scenarios can be red flags for endemic corruption within an organization. A product recall can be difficult if the source or reason hasn’t been identified. But at least in that situation there’s a chance it was an accident or honest mistake that led to the quality issues. There are plenty of great examples known throughout communications-land as best practices for how to handle this type of event: Lexus, Tylenol = good, Ford/Firestone, Peanut Butter = not so good. If handled correctly, the damage to an organization’s reputation can be minimal, and in some cases it’s an opportunity to provide outstanding customer service. With a financial or ethical scandal, however, the root of the problem is usually shady people doing shady things. There’s not much you can do to overcome that, and it typically indicates that a culture existed within an organization that allowed it to happen – management either participated, encouraged, or looked the other way (do I even need to say Enron? Didn’t think so). There’s typically great distrust of an organization after a scandal, and often attempts to repair the reputation are immediately labeled as disingenuous spin. I’d have to go for a product recall here (and hope that the recall is not due to some sort of deliberate malicious behavior – which I guess would make it an ethical scandal, right?).

Answer Honestly: Would you rather duke it out with Human Resources or Legal over your communications strategies and wording?

Shoot me now. Obviously communicators have to work with all involved stakeholders when communicating internally or externally. There are certainly laws regarding employee privacy, forward-looking financial statements, and competitive/proprietary information. But a communicator’s quest for transparency is often foiled by one or both of these functions. They are business partners, however, and deserve the same respect that we seek as communicators. Working with them is not optional and often these functions to provide a different viewpoint that can enhance communications. If I could choose to only work with one, though, I’d have to go with HR. Often times the run-ins I’ve had with legal come down to, “It’s the law. We can’t say it your way. End of story.” With HR, there can be a little more wiggle-room and with some good supporting arguments, you can often win them over– or at least meet in the middle.

Answer Honestly – what would you choose?