Social and Mobile Recruiting Deliver for UPS

By Kathy Gurchiek Sep 3, 2014
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​​​Social and mobile media are delivering big hiring results for UPS, one of the largest shipment and logistics companies in the world.

UPS, with 395,000 employees, recruits about 75 percent of its annual hires—primarily entry-level workers—between October and December for its busy holiday season. In 2009, it hired 19 job candidates using social and mobile media; in 2013, it hired 24,475 candidates through these methods. By the end of 2014, the company expects to exceed 30,000 hires using these tools.

“We started looking at the target audience we wanted to attract,” said Matt Lavery, the company’s director of talent acquisition. That demographic: Millennials, such as college students on holiday break.

“We saw Millennials adopting social media at such a high rate,” he said. “They were living on social media,” favoring search engines over job boards to find job openings. At the time, UPS was using search engine optimization, search engine marketing, online job boards and job board aggregators, but it had not gravitated to social and mobile platforms—and also wasn’t making the recruitment inroads that it sought.

“We felt we weren’t having conversations with them to tell our story,” Lavery said of Millennials and even members of Generation Z as they become eligible to work for UPS.

So in 2009, the company launched a mobile recruitment strategy. Its career website,, which the company introduced in 1999, became mobile-friendly in 2010, allowing job seekers to use handheld devices to search the site and watch videos. The entire application process was made mobile-friendly in 2012.

What UPS learned about social and mobile media, Lavery said, is that “it’s not one without the other. I think they’re synonymous.”

For example, if online videos are among a company’s recruitment tools, they must be easily accessible on mobile devices too, because Millennials “would rather watch a 90-second video than scroll through a page-and-a-half of text,” he observed.

UPS’s mobile strategy also widened accessibility to job openings to minority and low-income candidates. In 2014, 81 percent of Hispanic Americans, 83 percent of black Americans and 87 percent of white Americans access the Internet or e-mail via a mobile device, according to findings from the Pew Research 2014 Internet Project.

By making its application process mobile-friendly, Lavery said UPS saw a higher conversion rate of potential candidates completing the application process and coming in for an interview.

“The majority of people who access Facebook access it through a handheld [device] or tablet,” he said. What his organization found is that “it’s more convenient to apply [for a job] through a handheld device, because so many candidates for those jobs couldn’t afford Internet at home.”

Many people may not have a personal computer, but they might have a smartphone with which to access company websites.

Relationship Building

Ninety percent of job candidates researches jobs from mobile devices, Will Staney, head talent warrior at job and career site Glassdoor, told attendees at the 2014 Society for Human Resource Management Annual Conference & Exposition. Citing an article featured in that event’s conference newspaper, he reported that by 2025, 75 percent of the workplace will be from the social media generation.

“If your company isn’t doing anything now to match their expectations, it will eventually fall behind mainstream business practices,” he said at the time. “These people really see [social and mobile media] as business tools as much as personal tools.”

Social media is more than just job postings, according to Lavery, and UPS’s social media presence includes LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google Plus. “[It’s] a way to tell your story as an organization, as a person” by using videos, photos and text. “You don’t just advertise your openings on social media.”

A company’s Facebook page, for example, can showcase an organization’s recent events and news, as well as job openings, application and contact information, and also provide a glimpse of life at that company.

UPS has a library of videos that include 60- to 90-second “day in the life” segments about some of the organization’s more common jobs, company culture, and clips of senior leaders talking about jobs they held when they started at the company. UPS emphasizes its commitment to sustainability in a YouTube video that includes a 29-year employee boasting of driving a liquefied natural gas-powered vehicle—instead of a diesel-powered truck— during his daily route, and a spokesperson talking about the company’s efforts to reduce its carbon emissions.

“Essentially, companies and workers are building relationships long before there is a real job opportunity,” noted Aldo Delli Paoli in a discussion started on SHRM's LinkedIn group page about using social media as a recruitment tool. Paoli, a lawyer and management consultant, is a frequent contributor to the official SHRM discussion group.

Organizations derive two benefits from social media strategies, he wrote.

“It allows them to manage one of the main pitfalls of the traditional recruitment process—the lack of connection between job seekers and those who offer [job openings]—and also gives HR departments and recruiters, indirectly, the opportunity to communicate the company’s brand,” Paoli said.

UPS still uses traditional recruiting channels, Lavery said, but finds social and mobile strategies to be more robust, successful strategies that also are more cost-effective. It finds its largest number of hires through social and mobile strategies, which the HR department oversees.

“We control the messaging as well as the monitoring [of those messages] on our UPS jobs handles,” and also measure associated metrics. “We measure every tweet, every post, when our audience is active with tweets and posts,” Lavery said, recommending other employers do the same.

The company has found, for example, that Tuesday afternoons are a popular time when its followers check the company’s social/mobile messaging, and that text accompanied by pictures gets more clicks than text without visuals.

Lavery also advised against overexposure.

“You don’t want to give your audience too many messages; if too many [go out] on a given day or given week, you may see people ‘unliking’ you,” he cautioned.

But the biggest lesson UPS has learned about social media, Lavery said: “It’s not just a place for job postings.”

Kathy Gurchiek is the associate editor at HR News.​

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