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Recruiting using Social Media

I had the pleasure of visiting the Science Gallery in Trinity College Dublin last week for a presentation from Peter Cosgrove of CPL Resources plc on the How to use Social Media in Recruitment for CPL’s in-house clients.
Firstly I want to thank Peter for the invite; CPL are technically a competitor of mine (they are the largest quoted recruitment company in Ireland) but in great social media fashion, Peter has opened the doors to me so that I can see how CPL are embracing social media and encouraging their clients to get involved.

Peter starts by explaining that the session is for the newbies, people who probably don’t actively use social media for recruitment but who are interested in hearing more.

Peter opens with an anecdote about his kids; the message is that social media is a tool, it is not a replacement for something else, it is “as well as”. By 2030, developed countries will have negative population growth: the talent crisis is only going to get worse, even if it doesnt feel that way right now.  Prediction 2: China will soon be the number one English speaking country in the world.  We are living in exponential times; information on the web is increasing at an exponential rate but your time is not exponential, there is too much information.
Forrester research suggests that by banning social media sites you get an average drop in productivity of 9%.  There are loads of social media conferences that talk about branding but there are also an increasing number devoted to social recruiting.  We don’t have them yet in Ireland but they are coming.
Candidates are also responding to social media; seeking out new and creative ways to grab the attention of a prospective employer.
According to Peter, the problem with social media conferences is that experts don’t want to give away the information for free (I don’t personally agree with this statement, although I can understand how one would see it that way.  It is very difficult to properly explain Boolean searching or social media recruiting in one hour, hence the audience often walks away with more questions than answers!)
Google and other search engines are vital to our understanding of social media, in fact in many respects they are also social media.
Peter gives the audience an overview of Boolean starting with the Operators, AND, OR and NOT, which most of use in our everyday searches without even thinking about it.  Quickly moving on, Peter moves on to Modifiers and Field Commands.  He’s not trying to teach the audience but rather give them a taste of the potential of search engines given the right tools.  Next slide is a three line string to find a Business Analyst; the audience is perplexed but Peter takes a step back and explains what is going on in the string.  Sorry to nit-pick Peter but you have errors in your string!  Don’t worry, the point is made and most of the audience won’t notice the error (or won’t care if they do).  The purpose is to illustrate the power of Boolean Searching, not Boolean 101. (BTW for anyone interested, you need to wrap your NOT terms in brackets and also if asking for more than one word in a field command, use parenthesis).
Quickly moving on, Google Alerts; Peter shows his audience the power of automating your results and creating an alert that sends you CVs every day without you having to do anything else.  This is a great tip and I would highly recommend recruiters with even the most basic Boolean knowledge to create an alert for their most common searches.
EgoSurfing: you can plug in someone’s phone number or email address on Google to find out more about them.  Peter gives an example of a candidate’s phone number that he searched for who he found on Rollercoaster.ie under a post saying “Do you think I should tell my employer that I am pregnant” .  Whether you choose to use Google to reference people is your own business but employers and candidates need to know that the ability is out there.
LinkedIn: Peter brings up an Advanced Search on Google and illustrates how recruiters can search within Linked In from Google and get more powerful results.
In Europe there are 75m members on LinkedIn. (22% penetration)  It is a very strong tool, but remember it is just another tool, not the be-all and end-all.  The Netherlands are Europe’s biggest LinkedIn users but the Irish have the 2nd highest level of penetration.
More great social recruiting stats: Only 10-30% of professionals are actively looking for a job (note: this stat changes depending on who you listen to but the point is that active candidates are NOT the whole story).  But what are the differences?  Some of the challenges in engaging Passive Candidates is that they are harder to sell to and may not want to listen to what you are selling.
Peter shows us his LinkedIn profile and suggest that anyone who doesn’t have one yet needs to set one up and should get to “100% profile completeness”.
On his profile page Peter demonstrates the simplest way of using LinkedIn: “Viewers of this profile also viewed…” which often shows you similarly skilled people.  Moving on to Advanced Searching within LinkedIn, Peter warns that the tools available to free users are constantly changing so you need to stay one step ahead (I have personally been “burnt” by such changes, good advice!).
Peter advocates using Discussion Groups upon which you can post Jobs for free. Peer to Peer recommendations work!  The key rule of social media is that you have to give away your best stuff, sharing is the essence of this movement.
You can also set up a Company Profile for your employer and further set up a Company Page allowing prospective candidates to follow your page (Since giving his presentation, LinkedIn have announced much richer Company Page functionality including the ability for users to recommend or reference your company, this could prove to be the great equaliser of recruiters!)
Peter warns us that setting up pages etc and then not actively managing them can do more damage to your brand and business.
This all brings us to whether you should Pay or Not Pay.  LinkedIn is a business and we need to remember that sometimes we walk a fine line between what we expect from it and what you are willing to pay for it. Firstly understand how to use the free version before trying a paid account.

Next on the social media agenda is Facebook (my own personal favorite!). Peter takes a straw poll of the room and establishes that nearly everyone has a Facebook profile but you can sense that the audience does not see it as a business tool.  Peter draws the distinction between LinkedIn and Facebook, likening Facebook to a chat at bbq whereas LinkedIn is more like a business meeting. He moves on to Bing’s recent announcement that they have integrated Facebook “Likes” aka Peer Recommendations into their search results and suggests that if any of us were looking to buy a bike that we would trust the opinions of our peers on Facebook over and above traditional search engine results.  In fact, we can do this today by posting “Can anyone somewhere to buy a bike?” on Facebook and wait for the replies! Next up we get an overview of Facebook advertising and its amazingly powerful demographic segmentation. Peter then shows us a Boolean string that can find Pages on Facebook where Java Developers hang out.  The string is confusing as its a “linkdomain:” field command whereas I would personally suggest a “site:” command incorporating an “inurl:pages” command, but nonetheless Peter shows us a community of Java Developers on Facebook and suggests that if we can tap into this, we’ve struck gold.  He is right but I would personally advise recruiters to build their own communities and make sure you own these great skill-specific pages rather than trying to spam the wall of someone else’s page with your jobs.  Most recruiters I know don’t seem to understand the power of indirect community building on Facebook, they just see Facebook as somewhere else to advertise their jobs.  This is completely missing the boat and missing the real reason that I personally love Facebook so much as a recruitment tool.  It’s a long game but when it pays off, it pays off really well!

Next up is Twitter which Peter concedes is not his favorite social media site (me too!). Peter is a finance and accounting recruiter, like myself, and such candidates are not big Twitter users, so I see his point.  Nonetheless I personally believe that Twitter is a powerful medium to connect with peers and influencers through whom you can tap into traditional networks elsewhere.  Back to the presentation, Peter gives his audience an overview of Twitter and pitches it as a long game whereby you can build up a community of followers, advertise your jobs and find tweeters who could be potential candidates.  To be fair to Peter, I felt the exact same way a year ago but since then my eyes have been opened to the power of using Boolean to search for Twitter profiles, using tools like Klout to identify influencers in your industry and as the most powerful method in the world to syndicate and distribute your content.  Twitter is an amazing branding tool that can position you as a credible expert in your field amongst a powerful audience of serious influencers.  Yes, it is a long game but recruiters need to seek advice from someone who has already felt the return for Twitter before they get stuck in; you need to have a strategy and be able to measure your success (or lack of) as you go along.

Last but not least, Peter discusses blogging and pitches it as a long game.  I know Peter has become a pretty regular blogger in the last year and his articles are well researched, well written and informed.  I personally see two sides to blogging, both of which are essential.  1. You have to want to share.  If you are a quiet, diminutive type, steer clear of blogging, its not for you!.  2. If blogging for business, have a strategy.  This could be to establish yourself as an opinion leader, to create debate, to drive SEO traffic to your website, to provide an insight to your organisation, whatever…… just make sure you know why you are doing it and then find a way to measure your results.

Wrapping up, Peter advises us to pick one thing and master that first; dont try to cover everything at once or we will fail. All of the information you need is on-line and is usually free but be clear on how you are measuring your ROI.  Earlier in the presentation Peter remarked that the amount of information available to recruiters is growing at an exponential rate but the time that we have to filter that information is fixed, hence we are presented with a dilemma!

My personal advice is this: 1) perfect your Boolean searching skills, either by researching and learning as you go (the hard way) or by taking a professional training course  (the smart way) and then perfecting your skills through practice and research (your basic Boolean skills will enable you to find more free information on-line to make yourself a better Boolean sourcer!). 2) Outsource your social media community building and management to a credible provider who understands your industry and your strategy.  Community Building takes time and requires daily, intelligent contribution/ content.  As recruiters, our time may not be best spent on this just as we don’t all need to be software developers to use a recruitment management system.  Over time, you can begin to source all of your volume needs through intelligent, indirect talent communities (i.e. your community serves the needs of its members; your talent sourcing is indirect.  Build the best Facebook Page that any Accountant could ever need and then gently tap that audience for candidates. Facebook is personal, LinkedIn is business but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do business on Facebook!).  Boolean searching enables you to quickly (1-2 weeks!) find specific candidates for very specific roles but it is not as productive for volume recruitment of similar skills.  Leave that to Groups, Pages and Communities.

In conclusion, I have to hand it to Peter, he has brought social media to CPL, Ireland’s largest recruiter yet a company that has to date been slow to deliver on social media recruitment.  Since joining CPL only a few months ago, things are already starting to happen.  Last week’s “customer only” event was a great success in that it left its audience wanting more.  Unfortunately it failed to deliver what Peter set out at the start, i.e. “the social media secrets” but that’s not Peter’s fault, it’s just impossible to do this in an hour long presentation.  I deliver a 7 hour Introductory course on internet sourcing and find that we only get to scratch the surface in this day long, intensive session.  I started internet sourcing nearly 3 years ago (I’m still a newbie in the grand scheme of things), back when there were no courses available in Europe for anyone to take so I had to learn the hard way, through trial and error.  What I wouldn’t have given for someone to sit down with me and teach me the basics three years ago, I could have been twice as productive and a much better sourcer!  Peter’s advice to master one tool first is 100% correct.  I would further add that you should seek help from someone who has already mastered it (although truth be told, you can never be a master as on-line recruiting changes so quickly that we are all in a constant state of learning) and ensure that your building blocks have the right foundations.

I’m looking forward to seeing what CPL do next.  It is the nature of things that smaller businesses adapt to change faster and drive innovation and change ahead of their larger competitors but CPL have a massive client and candidate base so they have the potential to use social media on a scale that few other recruiters in Ireland have.  I for one hope that Peter’s zeal will prove infectious across the organisation and that CPL will adapt some of the great innovation that their smaller competitors have already adopted.  Bring on 2011!

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