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HR TECHNOLOGY How Three Companies Went Social with Recruiting

How three companies are using social media to zero in on the candidates they seek.


0914cover.jpgPersonal networks have always been essential to recruiting, and today’s technologies have made it easier than ever to build strong and meaningful connections. Social media tools allow recruiters to focus with laserlike precision on the exact type of candidates they are seeking. While some employers are just dipping their toe in the water with a LinkedIn ad, others, such as online clothing retailer Zappos, have gone all in on social media recruiting.

In May 2014, Zappos announced that it would no longer use traditional job boards or post job notices on the company’s website. Instead, the Las Vegas-based company has invited job seekers to become members of its proprietary social network, called Zappos Insiders, where they can learn about the company and talk to current employees. Zappos promises Insiders top consideration for available openings.

Of course, each enterprise needs to find the best way to use social media to meet its own particular recruiting needs. Here is how three companies are doing so.

Seeking Hourly Workers

Where social media has been particularly effective for The Kroger Co.—the largest U.S. supermarket chain, with more than 300,000 employees—is in its ability to narrowly target recruiting campaigns to reach individuals in ZIP codes near stores that are looking to hire. HR professionals at Kroger primarily use Facebook and Twitter to share job openings and to promote local job fairs, recruiting events and internship opportunities.

“Social recruiting is proving to be a very effective component of our overall recruiting strategy,” says Katy Barclay, senior vice president of human resources at the Cincinnati-based company. It “allows us to reach a demographic of candidates that we may not traditionally reach with other methods, such as Web, in-store advertising and radio.”

Kroger uses social media recruiting for in-store hourly positions and certain hard-to-fill roles, such as those involving facilities management and loss prevention. The company is testing some metrics to assess the impact of its social media efforts, but many of the effects have been obvious.

“When we advertise a few store openings, in many areas you will see people quickly tagging friends or family members looking for a job,” Barclay says. “It is a great word-of-mouth referral program. In addition, it creates a connection with your local market/community as a great place to work.”

Unlike traditional recruiting methods, social media is a two-way street—which means job candidates and others can use the same communication channels to voice their own not-necessarily-flattering opinions about the company and its recruiting process.

“We overcome these pitfalls by ensuring that we actively share our compelling story about our company and the vast career opportunities,” Barclay says. “Social media is an incredibly powerful tool, but one that requires an active support structure in place to properly manage it.”

Experience Required

At The Spitfire Group, the need is for candidates with depth of knowledge and experience in a specific area of expertise, which is partly what steered the company toward the professionally focused LinkedIn site. Located about 30 miles north of downtown Denver, The Spitfire Group provides custom software for large corporations. It currently has 15 full-time employees and requires a minimum of 10 years of experience for all of its new hires.

“We have a very senior-level team that can go in and handle tough problems,” says Amanda Ericson, PHR, director of talent acquisition. “I can’t just go out and find someone who has taken a few classes; I really have to look for someone with that maturity and experience behind them.”

While Ericson mainly relies on LinkedIn to attract talent, she also uses Twitter and Facebook. She coordinates all the social media platforms through FinancialForce HCM, a cloud-based human capital management system on the Salesforce platform. The Spitfire Group doubled the size of its workforce over the last year, and Ericson says she couldn’t have kept pace without the right tools.

“I am a department of one, so being able to do that with ease and efficiency is critical to being successful,” she says.

Unlike Kroger, which posts current job openings, Ericson uses social media to develop a database of tech professionals in the Denver area. She stays in touch and cultivates relationships with people in the network, helping them progress in their careers, and recruiting them when her company has an appropriate opening.

“It has never hurt me to help someone else; there are people I talked to 18 months ago that we are now looking at bringing into our team,” she says. The hiring process “can be very fast-paced when there is an immediate need, but you also need to nurture that relationship through social media.”

Growing Global Pipelines

The social media recruiting strategy of business phone system provider ShoreTel Inc. lies somewhere between that used by Kroger and Spitfire. Headquartered in Sunnyvale, Calif., the company has about $300 million in revenue and about 1,000 employees. But those employees are not just based in California. Of the 105 open positions the company recently listed on its careers webpage, only 19 were in Sunnyvale. The others were spread among 40 other cities, primarily in the U.S. but also in France, India, Singapore and the U.K.

“Social media has helped us build brand awareness in markets and geographic territories that we have not been able to reach before,” says Deborah Baimas, corporate recruiter for ShoreTel. “Social media campaigns enable us to quickly build pipelines of highly skilled candidates across the globe.”

ShoreTel uses LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest and Google Plus. The company also uses Jobvite, which allows HR to send job postings through all of its channels with a single click. Prospective candidates can apply through Jobvite, and recruiters can see where each application stands in the process. Candidates’ messages are sent to Microsoft Outlook, making it easier for recruiters to respond quickly. Jobvite stores copies of all messages, sorts them and places them in the appropriate folder.

HR professionals at ShoreTel use social media for all of the company’s openings. “It’s a cost-effective way to get our jobs in front of a large audience quickly,” Baimas says. Unlike with other forms of advertising, though, it can be difficult to track the direct impact of each media channel since candidates can click from one platform to another when assembling their resume, work samples, references and so on.

Additionally, “Today’s job seekers are very savvy and well-informed, and they use a variety of different mediums to obtain information [about the company and industry] before applying for a position,” she says. “Collectively, all of the major platforms feed off of each other and drive candidate traffic.”

Whatever recruiting strategy a company adopts, social media can play a key role in helping HR to get—and stay—connected to the right people.

Drew Robb is a freelance writer based in the Los Angeles area.

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