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Talent Communities: Incorporate Social Networking into Your Recruiting Strategy

Original post: Developing a Social Media Strategy, By Ryan Leary, Kenexa

As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. For corporate recruiters, the need to attract qualified talent in an effort to build a talent pipeline is the same. But how recruiters build talent communities and connect with both passive and active candidates is changing. There’s no denying that recruiting is experiencing a powerful paradigm shift powered by Web 2.0 technology. Web 2.0 is a new category of Internet tools and technologies that includes blogs; social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter; and content communities such as YouTube and Flickr that encourage collaboration and communication. According to a recent McKinsey & Company survey on Internet technologies, two-thirds of respondents view Web 2.0 as an important part of maintaining their company’s market position, either to provide a competitive edge, match the competition or address customer demand.

Web 2.0 encompasses social and professional networking platforms. For recruiters, social networking provides an opportunity to connect with a new generation of people and candidates. You may be asking yourself, “Do I really need to incorporate social networking into my recruiting strategy?” Once you realize that it was only 10 years ago when organizations shifted from sourcing candidates through newspaper classifieds to online job boards, you’ll know the answer is an emphatic “yes.’ Building online talent communities through social and professional networking platforms provides more opportunities to communicate with active and passive candidates, build meaningful relationships, strengthen your employment brand and fill open positions quickly.

However, not all social networks are created equal and understanding how to use them to build talent communities and connect with top talent can be tricky. With the proliferation of communities such as LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook, Ning and Twitter, it is important that recruiters and organizations understand the nuances of these networks to build an effective online strategy.

Why do I need a social media strategy?
Although current economic conditions have forced many organizations to curtail hiring, it’s more important than ever for companies to continue recruiting. Whether you have an open position that needs to be filled now or are planning for future needs, a social media strategy is imperative to reducing costs, recruiting quality talent quickly, increasing recruiter effectiveness and gaining competitive advantages.

One reason organizations need to revamp their recruiting strategy is that people have changed the way they look for jobs. According to the most recent National Online Recruitment Audience Survey (NORAS), the number of online job seekers has risen 50 percent over the last 12 months. Yet these job seekers aren’t just looking on or; they’re using search engines such as Google and popular social networks to find their next employment opportunity. Even candidates who aren’t actively looking to make a move are using these sources to keep abreast of forward-thinking companies. After all, joining a talent community fosters relationships and builds connections within industries.

For recruiters, job boards are no longer proving to be the Holy Grail for sourcing candidates. While posting an ad on a job board may result in a large volume of applicants, it doesn’t necessarily yield qualified candidates. Using job boards is a very transactional recruitment method—recruiters post a job and wait for responses. Job boards do not allow recruiters to interact and build relationships with candidates, or be targeted in their search. Social networks deliver a better mechanism to connect and engage with both passive and active candidates.

In the past, recruiters spent their days on the phone reaching out to hundreds of people to find qualified candidates. Today, by leveraging LinkedIn or Facebook, recruiters can instantly learn about a candidate’s background and gain access to the people they are connected with through a contact’s extended network. Candidates using social networks tend to be extremely focused and technically advanced. They’re actively seeking to use Web 2.0 tools and technologies to power their job searches and be at the forefront of their industries. As such, they’re not the candidates that are blasting their resumes out to any job posting. They take the time to conduct research, target specific companies and join groups and networks to learn about what’s going on in a specific company and related industry. Social media is about openness, transparency and “findability,” and organizations taking a creative approach to sourcing qualified candidates need to participate in these same communities to ensure recognition from passive and active job seekers.

To participate successfully in the social media revolution, companies need to establish their brand across communities where qualified candidates “hang out,” drive people to their career site and begin leveraging relationships with their contacts and their contact’s extended network. In the social networking arena, it’s no longer about who you know; it’s about who they know and how you utilize those relationships.

Six aspects of a social media recruiting strategy every company should know
The best way to use social media to build communities and utilize relationships is to create your brand, identify the networks used by your target audience and get involved. LinkedIn has become the de facto standard for business users, while networks such as Facebook and Twitter are seen as consumer services. However, both offer opportunities to build the talent pipeline and raise awareness of a company’s employment brand.

The key to success with social networking is to understand that each tool is used for a different demographic and job family. Companies need to ensure they have a consistent brand across the various networks they participate in, yet still ensure their contribution to the community is relevant. With thousands of professionals joining social networks each day, organizations should know the following when thinking about their social media strategy:

  1. Social media has a low cost of entry. Organizations that use Web 2.0 technologies can choose from a host of low-cost, high impact options to build their brand and connect with candidates online. Starting a blog or creating a Facebook page is simple, requires minimal resources to startup or maintain, and helps an organization build a talent pipeline by establishing company-specific groups and committees.
  2. Building brand equity is driven by social behaviors. Embracing a social media strategy requires a shift in mindset. In the past, recruiters were solely associated with their organization. Today, social networks require organizations to associate themselves with their people. For recruiters, this means demonstrating thought leadership on behalf of the organization, building trust and creating personal connections with members of a targeted community.
  3. Web 2.0 is about “The Four C’s”: Communication, Collaboration, Conversation and Community. Social networks foster communities where people tend to gather around a common goal or shared interest and interact regularly. Join the conversation, but remember that as a member of the community, you need to do a fair share of listening. Engage in conversations with community members, share ideas and actively participate. Recruiters should be transparent about their connection to the employment brand because creating an authentic brand is one of the most crucial pieces to online success. Recruiters on LinkedIn should also have a complete profile that includes their photo, career history and recommendations from peers, colleagues and candidates. Candidates want to know that the recruiter can be trusted in guiding their career to the next step, and as the recruiter becomes active in the community, it encourages candidates to accept further recruitment invitations. While joining communities and participating in groups is valuable to connecting with candidates, creating a group can also help recruiters reach a relevant and defined audience. As a group owner, organizations can take advantage of access to group members and their contact information. Perhaps they’re interested in candidates with a certain set of skills or experience at a particular employer—by creating their own group, companies can develop relationships with people who are likely to fit their recruiting needs.
  4. Different networks appeal to different demographics. Part of a successful recruiting strategy is utilizing the networks that are relevant to your target audience. For example, organizations looking to hire recent college graduates may want to focus more heavily on Facebook, while organizations seeking a pharmacokinetics scientist may have better results using LinkedIn. You need to know where your target market hangs out, establish a profile and facilitate conversations.
  5. Social networking can provide a greater depth of information about candidates and granular insight into target companies. On social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook, users create profiles that include their contact information, employment history, hobbies, association memberships and network connections. This enables recruiters to conduct more targeted searches when looking for a candidate. When recruiters utilize the power of LinkedIn and tools like Capital IQ, an innovative data aggregator, they are able to creatively develop a targeted approach that results in a more authentic dialogue. Understanding who the “movers and shakers” are in a target company, who has received recent promotions, and, even more importantly, the inner makeup of the company’s demographics, will undoubtedly result in a robust strategy to attract top talent.
  6. Targeted searches reduce cycle time. Once companies have created or joined a collaborative community, they’ll be able to gain rapid access to a community of people with the right skills and qualifications. Traditionally, recruiters don’t start the recruiting process until a requisition opens. With social networking, recruiters utilize scalable relationships to quickly meet business demands—creating transparent and proactive recruiting efforts. There’s no denying the current cultural shift happening in recruiting. Web 2.0 is having a serious impact on the business world, and progressive organizations that admire creativity and forward-thinking top talent need to utilize their recruiting teams wisely.

About the Author
Ryan Leary
is an operations recruiter with Kenexa, leveraging knowledge-based recruiting and advanced Web 2.0 technologies. Mr. Leary has been recognized for his expertise in developing priority talent pipelines, strategic/tactical planning, competitive market intelligence and building passive talent relationships. His passion for social networking comes from his identification as a cyber-sleuthing devotee. He has recently been featured as “Ambassador of the Virtual Handshake” from industry thought leader David Mendoza, and has been dubbed as an “Emerging Industry Leader” for his contributions to Recruitment 2.0. Mr. Leary’s work is driven by a passion to overcome the status quo and to become a world class recruiter. In his current role as Kenexa operations recruiter, he also trains recruiters and sourcers on how to utilize Web 2.0 technologies, such as LinkedIn, advanced Google sourcing and Live to build extensive, focused talent pipelines.

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