Building a Recruiter Brand: ‘Would You Call You?’

By Roy Maurer Oct 14, 2016
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Recruiters can stand out from the pack and improve their results by working on their professional brand. 

Talent acquisition pros may be sourcing ninjas, Boolean masters and experts at candidate outreach, but lacking name recognition or a social media profile can hurt in a competitive talent market. Recognition through social media, in a particular market or industry, or from networking events, will give recruiters an edge with those candidates receiving multiple offers. 

"I want recruiters to think about this—if you're the candidate and found your LinkedIn or Twitter profile, would you call you?," asked Paul DeBettignies, an IT recruiter and principal of Minnesota Headhunter, a Minneapolis IT search firm.

DeBettignies stressed that having a recruiter brand does not mean you have to be Internet famous. "Having a recruiter brand means candidates are more likely to e-mail or call you back. It also means if they are proactively searching for you they can find you," he said. After building relationships in the Minneapolis tech community and authoring the Minnesota Headhunter blog since 2005, DeBettignies is confident that when IT workers come off a contract and are looking for a new job in his area, they'll think of him.

"In this day and age, we Google anyone and everyone we are about to speak or meet with," said Celinda Appleby, digital and social media manager for talent acquisition at Nike. "Using LinkedIn, Twitter or blogs to tell your story in your way enhances the chances that potential hires reply to you and, even more importantly, relate to you," she said. "Candidates for high-demand roles get contacted a ton, so being able to identify with a smiley picture and learn that you are the recruiter for XYZ will make relationship building so much easier."

Amy Miller, a recruiter for Microsoft based in Seattle, cautioned against letting brand-building morph into chasing a viral post and added that some of the best recruiters work "completely under the radar."

She made a distinction between organically gaining reputation and building brand. "Being known and respected by peers, clients and candidates should come first, and if that develops into a positive brand, well that's awesome," she said. "I often have excellent candidates reaching out to me directly because they've heard of me or read an article I wrote. On the other hand, some of the articles I've read recently by so-called experts in my field are so disingenuous I have to wonder at their purpose."

Get Out There

DeBettignies advised fellow recruiters to find ways to be more active in their company, city, region and industry. "Attend events, speak, write and generally engage with people more than just the high-volume, copy and paste e-mail you've been sending," he said.

Miller has conducted internal training for Microsoft, spoken at recruiting conferences Talent42 and RecruitDC this year, and will be speaking at SourceCon in 2017. She reiterated that she puts herself out there not to craft a brand but for her own professional development and to provide others with recruiting insights. "I'm far more interested in how a job seeker nailed an interview because of an article I wrote or a recruiter got a promotion because they drove better client engagement due to what they learned at one of my webinars," she said.

Appleby, now one of the most popular speakers on the talent acquisition circuit, said that public presenting didn't come naturally at first. She dipped her toe in the water by speaking on panels. "They require less work and there is no need to have to create a PowerPoint."

Blogging is an easy way to garner attention, Appleby said. "If something is happening in your industry, and you have an opinion, share it. LinkedIn provides an excellent platform. Another good one is Facebook groups. If you are able to share your opinion or best practice on a subject you will gain friends and presence quickly."

Miller had been a semi-regular blogger and infrequent tweeter when she was invited to be a guest on the Recruiting Animal Show, an online radio program. "Things really took off from there, resulting in several online connections which have developed into true real-life friendships," she said. She's now a featured blogger for Recruiting Daily, an online media site.

When DeBettignies began writing the Minnesota headhunter blog, "very few people were writing from a recruiter's perspective about a region or city or state," he said.

He credits the blog with sustaining his career during tough economic times when recruiting is more difficult. "Writing the blog and putting thoughts out was key to people getting to know me," he said. "If you do a search for Minnesota headhunter on Google, I am the first three search results after paid ads. That means if IT job seekers or clients are searching for a Minnesota recruiter, they find me."

Social Media Tips

DeBettignies urged recruiters to put some work into their social media profiles.

"On LinkedIn, be specific about your location and industry, include what you are looking for, and add a professional photo," he said. "I would have what you are recruiting for in the first lines of your summary."

He advised against just tweeting out jobs and instead suggested pinning job requisition posts to the top of your Twitter stream. "If you're just tweeting your jobs, you're kind of spamming people, and you're not doing anything different than posting jobs on a career page or on a job board," he said. 

Other than using paid Facebook ads to promote open jobs, DeBettignies says he doesn't use the platform as much for recruiting compared with LinkedIn and Twitter. Instead, he follows applicable company pages, joins and participates in relevant groups, and engages with his network. "It's about interacting with people that isn't just job or company-related. Try to use these tools to show potential leads who you are and what you do," he said.

"The best social media channels are the ones that you're comfortable with," Miller said. "It took me a long time to allow the professional to blend with the personal on Facebook, and it's now easily the forum I spend the most time on."

DeBettignies is also an adherent of cross-posting content across channels and strongly recommended tracking social metrics with Google and Twitter analytics. "I keep track of who visits the blog site and clicks on posts. I check volume by time of day and day of week," he said.

Ultimately, however, he warned against recruiters relying on social media as a crutch. "To be a successful recruiter, and get your brand across, you still have to talk to people. My best three tools are still the phone, shaking hands and my business card."

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