HR Technology: Take an Interest in Pinterest

Employers are using the photo- and video-sharing website to promote their brand and recruit talent.

By Pete Wolfinger Apr 1, 2013
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0413cover.gifYour favorite brand of jeans. That easy-to-make chicken quesadilla recipe. The inspirational haiku that gets you ready to start the day each morning. Oh, yeah, and images of thumbtacks. You can find these and more on Pinterest, the fast-growing and free social pinboard site.

But Pinterest can be used as more than just a social tool. A number of companies are using it as a recruiting platform and branding vehicle to draw in potential talent and improve their workforce.

Worth a Thousand Words

What would you rather look at? A colorful, illustrated page or blocked, black and white text? Many company leaders understand that creating vibrant, visually stimulating content about their workplace can directly benefit the business. People want to feel a connection with their favorite companies, whether through pictures of products, images conveying company culture, historical photos or quotes reflecting the organization's values.

Stuart Thompson, vice president of talent management at Scripps Network Interactive, the parent company of Travel Channel, Cooking Channel, HGTV and Food Network, says his company started looking into Pinterest as a way to "advance the organization's employment value proposition in new and different ways" by sharing what it's like to work at Scripps. Some of the Knoxville, Tenn.-based company's interns have used the site to tell personal stories about their internships by posting pictures of themselves at work with captions about their job responsibilities. When viewers click on a picture, they are directed to the internship page on Scripps' careers site.

"With the incredible growth of Pinterest and high engagement levels of users, it may well prove to be a valuable tool for talent management strategies in the future," Thompson says.

In fact, Pinterest ranks as the fastest-

growing social network, generating more traffic than Google Plus and LinkedIn combined.

Because every picture is a portal to a nearly infinite number of other images, the site is very "sticky." According to 2012 data from statistics portal Statista, U.S. users spend an average of one hour and 17 minutes on the site per month, compared with 36 minutes for Twitter, 17 minutes for LinkedIn and six minutes for Google Plus.

Pinning to Appeal

Recruiters at companies in a variety of industries have come up with effective ways to harness Pinterest's visual appeal for branding and recruiting purposes. Here's a sample:

Flex Jobs.

The company promotes telecommuting, flexible work schedules and jobs that prioritize work/life balance. Its multiple Pinterest boards reflect these themes. Job seekers can peruse the "Resume Tips and Tricks," "Freelancing Jobs" or "Flexible Jobs—We Love 'Em" boards. A "Career Satisfaction" board houses pins of inspirational quotes and motivational articles to keep up job seekers' confidence and optimism.

Sodexo USA. Sodexo USA Careers has a Pinterest page featuring 22 pinboards. Topics include "Job Seeker Advice" and "Meet Our People." There are also links to employees' LinkedIn pages. Job seekers often want to work for a specific company, but their resumes get lost amid the hundreds received by the company's HR department. Sodexo's Pinterest page allows users to make a personal connection via social media with people who work for the company.

There also is a board titled "Culture," which shows pictures of employees participating in an internal Thanksgiving turkey drive, a photo of an employee recognized for her efforts at a local soup kitchen and a trivia question linking users to the Sodexo careers blog.

The New Traditionalists. The luxury home furnishing design company has individual Pinterest pages set up as help-wanted ads for specific positions. The position title, a link to the full job posting and an e-mail address for applying are listed at the top. Below, candidates may click on pictures and captions that play up the desired traits for the position. For example, the phrase "We need someone upbeat" may appear under a picture of a rock star leaping on stage with his guitar.

U.S. Army. Attracting new recruits is a huge investment for the U.S. Army. According to the Department of the Army Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Estimates report, the service spent more than $500 million on recruiting in 2011. The Army's Pinterest site features pins of images of soldiers crossing water obstacles, testing robots for unnavigable terrain and parachuting through the sky. Boards titled "Training" and "Basic Combat Training" give young men and women who are considering joining the military a visual description of things they might encounter.

Candidates pin pictures of the colleges they attended and previous employers as well as photos that represent them as people.

Aon

. The Aon Careers Pinterest page invites users to search for the next job on their career path, meet the company's corporate recruiting team and, if they work at or interview with Aon, describe their experience. The company's "Aon Campus" board has pins of pictures of the work environment. Its job boards are separated into categories such as "Sales jobs at Aon," "Virtual jobs at Aon," "Benefits jobs at Aon" and "Compensation jobs at Aon."

Pizza Hut. Recruiters have fun with their Pinterest page and draw on the power of celebrity to attract potential employees. The page spotlights the chain's philanthropic work with a public-service announcement from Christina Aguilera, global spokesperson for hunger relief effort From Hunger to Hope; a video of Tim Tebow reading Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham; and a koala telling prospective employees to make sure they have the necessary "koalafications" before applying.

Carousel Consultancy. The company's Pinterest page has boards dedicated to "Job Search Infographics" and "Career Inspiration," and it offers advice on new career opportunities. With boards dedicated to practical topics such as "Interview Wear for Men" and "Interview Wear for Women," even if users don't get the job they covet, the site guarantees that proper attire is not going to be an issue.

Career Portfolios

Recruiters also tap Pinterest to search for job seekers who have used the platform to pin their own career portfolios. Candidates pin pictures of the colleges they attended and previous employers as well as photos that represent them as people. Recruiters appreciate looking at pictures and visuals instead of reading a gray resume. Creating this visual career portfolio is also empowering for the applicant. "It's important to showcase yourself as a whole person," says Brie Reynolds, director of content and social media for Flex Jobs.

In 2012, technology blog The Next Web reported a story about Pinterest user Jeanne Hwang, who created a board titled "Jeanne for Pinterest" that was dedicated to her goal of landing a job at Pinterest. While she didn't achieve her goal, Pinterest analytics company Pintics took notice of her outside-the-box way of thinking to separate herself from thousands of candidates and offered her a job.

Despite this success story, there are risks to using an inherently social platform like Pinterest to showcase a career portfolio: Employers may look at the pages and consider whether the candidate represents himself or herself in a manner that would benefit the employer.

"Make sure everything is employer-friendly," Reynolds advises. "It's OK to have boards showing your hobbies, but make sure they are clean and professional. If an employer sees anything questionable, you probably won't be considered."

Branding Tool

What recruiters choose to pin and the boards they create reflect the brand they are trying to convey to potential job candidates. "We use Pinterest as a visual and anecdotal complement to our brand," says Brooks Thomas, emerging media communications specialist at Dallas-based Southwest Airlines. "It's a great place to post about past, present and future, mixed in with some quirky, fun content."

For example, Southwest's Pinterest page contains "41 years of SWAwesome" and "Vintage" boards. The latter shows old pictures from former Southwest employees, planes and offices.

These pins mostly link back to Southwest's home page or the company blog, Nuts About Southwest. The blog takes a fun look at recent company news, whether it's an event at Southwest's sponsored ice rink at Skyline Park in San Diego or the company's latest commercial.

Job seekers can see the legacy of the company and its community involvement, making it seem like an attractive place to work and a good name to have on a resume.

"All of our social efforts are largely interwoven. How and where we post is greatly dependent on the habits of our respective audiences across the digital space," Thomas explains. "Currently, our biggest goals are simply to engage with the community and generate some interest in what we're doing as a brand, from community outreach to great deals to storytelling and company history."

Sodexo's senior marketing manager, Chloe Rada, who manages social media and employment branding initiatives, says anyone can start a Pinterest board. "But you need to ask if you are updating your content so you can have a conversation with a job candidate, rather than just passively sharing boards," she advises.

The author is a freelance writer in Arlington, Va.

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