Date: 05/10/21 | Duration: 00:28:34

There is little doubt that social media use can prove valuable for engaging customers and enhancing brand image. But, as the ongoing impact of the pandemic and challenges presented by choppy Brexit waters intensify the competition for talent, can leveraging social media platforms for creative and innovative recruitment practices give your organisation the edge? 

Join our podcast presenter Nigel Cassidy, Cassandra Hoermann, People Experience Lead at Personio and David D’Souza, Director of Membership at CIPD, as we explore how you can make social media an effective tool to tackle your recruitment challenges.

Nigel Cassidy: With UK job vacancies over a million and rising, how can you win the war on talent? Here’s our take on recruiting in the social media age.

With choppy Brexit waters whipping up a perfect storm of skill shortages, it’s no wonder that as many as nine out of ten recruiters have turned to social media for at least some of their new workers. It makes sense because new skills are needed, the pandemic is changing the job market and these are places where the tech savvy talent can be found. But how can you manage recruitment drives for best results? I mean, it is such a public place, so what are the risks or the pitfalls? Cassandra Hoermann joins us from Germany, she’s the People Experience Lead at Personio, a Europe wide company that specialises in automated HR software for small and medium size enterprises. Hello.

Cassandra Hoermann: Hi, thanks for having me.

NC: And from the home team, David D’Souza, the CIPD’s Membership Director, whose own social media blog was listed as one of the ten HR leaders should follow. Hello.

David D’Souza: Hello, I didn’t know that so that’s quite exciting news, so, morning all.

NC: I’ll send you the link. Before we go any further, David, I suppose it might be helpful to be crystal clear about what we mean by recruiting through social media. I mean of course commercial job sites and boards have long moved online and you can apply just by pressing a button, but I suppose using social to fill jobs kind of goes beyond that, doesn’t it? So maybe if you would, just a bit of a quick survey of this whole kind of landscape of social media recruitment?

DDS: Yeah, it’s a really interesting one because I think different people would have differing considerations as to what fits in it. You’ve got your platforms like LinkedIn, where professional groups gather. You’ve got conversational platforms like Twitter where people might go to discuss and there might be professional conversations on there, but increasingly, you’re tripping into areas such as Instagram where people are promoting their brands, TikTok, if you’re going to get even funkier, and then you’ve got sort of in between spaces, things like WhatsApp groups that might be used by professionals, where actually you might want to insert a presence in there, you might share a job. So I think we’ve got a range of communication tools, some of which would be classed as traditional social media, some of which are just technology that are allowing people to connect, and actually, understanding your presence in each of those across different channels is an incredibly important part of understanding actually how you’re going to show up in terms of your brand and how you’re going to access different candidates and talent. 

NC: I’m sure we’ll talk about kind of bias in how you advertise for people and what you see about them, but just on the purely superficial level, Cassandra, this is probably showing my own bias, but I mean if you have to do a dance on TikTok to attract an employee, that might not be right, might it?

CH: I think it depends on the people you’re looking for. So the better you know your target audience and who you want to attract, you can also tailor the channels and the initiatives that you’re doing. So for example, if you’re looking for a lot of interns and working students joining your company, then maybe a dance on TikTok could be the right opportunity to attract them.

NC: And of course, Cassandra, this really makes sense, doesn’t it? Because I read that most people, the average person, has five or six social media accounts and I bet they look at them a lot more than they do job adverts.

CH: Yeah, I think so, and I think what happens nowadays is that there’s also like a mix happening between the usage of business networks like LinkedIn, also for kind of entertainment and reading news, and also more private channels like Instagram, Facebook or TikTok, so I think there’s a huge opportunity for us also to promote our brand and also specific jobs, right? So just to get in touch with new potential talent and also engage with them.

NC: OK, well, David, before we go into the sort of nitty gritty of using social media, let’s just sort of talk more generally how it helps in trying to sort of get to this very limited pool of potential candidates now we’ve got this skill shortage. Why is social media coming more into play?

DDS: I think it’s coming more into play because organisations when the market’s tight will look for different ways to access talent to how they’ve done before. The challenge is making sure, and I think Cassandra’s already brought it up, making sure that they’re the right channels with the right people at the end of it that you’re trying to attract. So one of the things that doesn’t help is a kind of spray and pray approach to recruiting, where you just try and get into as many channels as possible for as many applicants as possible. What you need is to be accessing the talent that’s going to work for your business and deliver, so that could be one really hard to fill specialist role, and that requires a certain type of approach, or it could be volume but you need a certain type of skills. So you used the words kind of war for talent when we open, I’d never describe it in that way, that’s quite adversarial, but you’re trying to find the best place to match opportunities that you have with potential talent. So it’s natural when the market constricts that organisations start to get more creative, but what they need to do is actually make sure they’re marshalling their resources and their time in the right way to get the best results.

NC: OK, so Cassandra, what are the range of things that you can do? I mean, we’ve already mentioned sort of traditional advertising, job boards. What’s the kind of range of ways that you can reach out to people using social media? Because I’m assuming that some of this is kind of messaging about companies and what they’re like to work for and what they do, as much as saying come and apply for this job.

CH: So I think again here it really depends on what your goal is and what you’re trying to reach with your initiatives, right? So you could use different channels just to advertise a job, or as David already mentioned, high volume roles, hard to fill roles and really promote and lead the people towards specific areas because you’re picking up on their interests or their motivators. So then, then you’re going to lead them to this specific job field, but you can also showcase your culture, for example, and the way that you work, or the benefits that you have, right? So you can really position your company the way that you feel you want talent to see you also on social, right? So I think there the, it’s not limited, and it’s really up to your creativity, what kind of ideas you have, and how you want to share insights about your company throughout the different channels, and then it’s also totally fine, and I think also necessary, that you use a specific voice or language on the channels that you talk, right? So that you also differ your content for the different channels so that also someone who’s following you on LinkedIn, Instagram and TikTok and wherever, that you make sure that he or she does not see the three, the same post three times on all channels, right? So that you really also tailor what you’re talking about to the different channels.

NC: I mean, this does seem to raise some immediate issues. David, if you’re going public with your recruitment, this rather exposes your organisation, doesn’t it and how it presents itself? I mean how, I hate that word authentic, but I mean, I think it’s relevant here, isn’t it? Does it actually look like an enticing place to work? So if you go social with your recruitment, you might need to fix quite a lot of things. I was reading, for example, a little while ago, about Intel, and how candidates had said it looked like a rather closed place, so they had to completely change how they talked about themselves, to the point where they also made a policy where they said that anybody who asked any question would get an answer.

DDS: There’s a huge part around brand risk but also opportunity in this space, and you need to balance those two things off. So it’s an opportunity to tell people what you’re about as an organisation. It’s an opportunity to explain to people, to show people, ideally through using real life employees, what it’s like to work there, but equally, you need to have a good story to tell, so you need the substance of the organisation to be a good one in the first place. So if you look at a site like Glassdoor, what it does is it casts a degree of transparency around the experience for everyone. That’s beneficial to organisations that work well and it’s detrimental to organisations where actually, it becomes more well known amongst the people that might be looking for jobs that they might not be a good place to work. 

So absolutely, there is a risk, I think, Cassandra’s absolutely right. You need to decide on your tone of voice, you need to decide on your responsiveness, and you need to decide if you are sitting there in the hope that you will attract candidates who notice you, whether you’re intending to be proactive and go and find candidates and engage with them. All of those things are perfectly fine, but you’ve got choices within there, around the context of your business and what you’re trying to achieve, and that will need to match with your resourcing, the resource you have available and also the technology you have available at the time as well. So some organisations will benefit from a single channel in quite a passive way, just showing we’re a good place to work. Other organisations will want to be actively tracking down talent through very specific channels. So particularly in tech, for instance, there are places that you would want to go to make sure that you’re fishing for the talent in the right place.

CH: I think I agree to all of what David just said, so I think what is also great about social that the organic social is free, right? So everyone can do it and you just, yeah, you need to think of, OK, how do you want to showcase your culture, your open roles, your teams? And you can really become creative there, and it’s also up to you how in depth you want to share something, or maybe also how shallow, right? So, and this usage of social, and specifically organic social then, can help you also creating a feeling of empowerment and ownership for your employees because they’re going to be the ones that are involved and so they automatically act as your ambassadors for your brand and they’re also spreading the word, so you can highlight them in blogs and so they can engage in your postings, and so they’re your real ambassadors and they’re your real power on social. So I think of course there’s some pitfalls also but there is a huge opportunity for any kind of company who knows who their target group is and where to reach them.

NC: David, we know that recruitment is pretty expensive. Is it actually quicker, is it more streamlined doing the whole process online?

DDS: It depends what metrics you’re focusing on, so yeah, yes, there’s definitely an opportunity there, and not just social media but actually leveraging informal networks as well. That has a cost at times in terms of diversity, so you need to think about actually whether you’re reaching out beyond your traditional talent pools. It can be far less expensive but there’s an element around cost to hire and then there’s an element actually around the value of the person once they’re in role, so it’s never just about filling a role, you know, it’s about filling a role with the right person. 

Social media, if it helps you reach different people that you wouldn’t have been able to prior, increases your talent pool and allows you to select and does that in a cheaper, far more cost effective way, can be brilliant for an organisation. That won’t work for every organisation. So if you are a newsagent attempting to fill a vacancy, that’s a really different proposition to being a large tech organisation trying to fill a vacancy, or a retailer trying to fill a vacancy. So it’s understanding your channel mix across the piece and where you want to utilise that and put the time and effort in. But certainly for many organisations, social media will be 1), a cost effective way of doing things but 2), also has the benefit of a constant presence rather than just being a single campaign. 

CH: Yeah, maybe I just also add this to what you just said, like to have a constant presence, and I think this is also key, right? So like really relying on consistency and coming up with a plan what to post, when and also aligning on continuously posting schedule so that you don’t start doing something, somewhere and then people start following you but then nothing else happens, right? So this is also something to have in mind then.

NC: And Cassandra, writing that content might not suit people used to doing traditional job descriptions, for example.

CH: Yes, definitely not so, and also, I’d say not every recruiter is a born social media marketeer, right? So for example, when we look at our team, we have people on the team with a marketing background, with a copywriting background to really focus on what they are really good at, and then of course we work very closely together with the talent acquisition managers to get the information, and with the departments, what we really need to highlight in order to attract new talent. But at least in our team, neither of the talent acquisition managers nor the HR managers are writing our teasers and creating the content.

DDS: If recruiting 20 or 30 years ago was the equivalent of putting a poster up on the wall and trying to get people to see that poster, this is about being in a conversation at times, and being able to interact in a way that makes sense in terms of your brand but also allows people to find out about the organisation, and that comes to the point we made earlier. There are opportunities in that, in being able to engage more fully, and there are risks, because if you do things out in the open, if you have flaws in your process, if you don’t get back to candidates, those things are going to end up in the open too. So the benefit of a poster was that it was passive and quite safe, you’re stepping into a much more vibrant, much more engaging, much more transparent world, and that brings with it potential pitfalls but it also brings with it masses of potential.

NC: So for example, David, do you think that you have to give feedback to every applicant? I mean, I was speaking to a young would be lawyer the other day and she was bemoaning out of like 20, 30 applications she’d made, she had like one company actually give her feedback.

DDS: If there is one problem that still has to be resolved by the recruiting industry as a whole, it’s the quality of feedback to candidates and the quality of that experience.

NC: But has social moved the goalpost here? Because in many ways, social communication is more democratic, isn’t it? That it puts more power in everybody’s hands, and doesn’t going social bring with it some responsibility to, to respond better to people?

DDS: My honest answer is no, it hasn’t moved the goalposts enough. I think we’ve seen that because it’s been around for a while and you still have that problem. What might shift the goalposts actually is the recent changes in the economy which drive organisations to try and look after those candidates better, give them a better experience as they move through the candidate journey, and not risk their brand model. So I’m hoping that will be the driver for better candidate experience, will be candidates being slightly rarer and being treated as a finite resource rather than quite disposable in some organisations. 

CH: And I also think it starts with the company recruiting itself, right? So for us, one of our values is customer empathy, and for us in recruiting our customers are our applicants and later on our employees, right? So everything that we do, we do customer centric. So what our goal is that each applicant is valued throughout the process, no matter if this person is going to get an offer at the end and starting with us or we’re going to reject them. But we have certain KPIs where we say, OK, we want to answer all candidates within a specific timeframe so that that every candidate gets feedback, and any candidate can also book another feedback call if the feedback was not suitable or not 100% understandable, right? And I think as David also said, so we have a wealth of talent and it’s also, it’s not the employers choosing the employees, right? It’s the employees choosing the employer also, and the power has changed and I think it’s not only the applicant selling themselves to get the position, it’s also the company selling the positions in order to get the best candidate, and I think their candidate communication and very outstanding candidate experience is key in order to attract the talent that you want. 

NC: Well, you’re talking a bit about the process, here, Cassandra, so I’ll just stay with you for a moment. Just thinking about a company that has recruited very traditionally, is finding it difficult to find the right candidate so they want to use more social, just very briefly talk us through the steps that they might take, and does this inevitably involve using software of some kind?

CH: So I think there are two parts, right? So the one is the attraction part where you need to think beyond using a strategy, maybe, in your recruiting process because it will be two different softwares or two different areas where you’re going to act. So if you want to use social media to attract new talent, you should definitely think of who’s your target group? What is your longer term company strategy? How many people do you want to hire? Where do you want to hire them? And then also exchange with your target group to know OK, where do you meet them, online or offline? And then also, what are their motivators? Why do they join a company? And then based on all this information you can come up with your, with your own strategy and the strategy that works for your company doesn’t need to work for another company.

So it’s a very, very individual approach, and then, I always suggest starting small but consistent and then you can always go bigger, and then I think on the other side, of course it helps to use software for the whole recruiting process, right? So people can apply online and in the back end the recruiters can directly see, OK, how many applicants do we have in screening? Which of those I’d like to send to the HR interview? Or which of those I’d like to reject? And there you can directly use templates just to answer your candidates. So this saves the recruiters, of course, a lot of time, and also you can make sure that you follow up on each of them because if you get a lot of applications and you have some interviews scheduled somewhere, how, how on earth are you, do you want to be diligent there, to have the best overview where your candidates are at currently, and this also helps you get a lot of data out of your whole process, right? And yes, maybe also tools like Personio can help you manage your candidates better throughout the funnel.

NC: So David, I mean, we’re talking here about a sifting process. How do you think that’s changed when you’re using social?

DDS: I think it’s not just a sifting process, I think you need to look at attraction and sourcing as well. So I think there’s a few things going on here. My favourite story recently being someone who was tracked down on social media and were, reached out to by a recruitment team saying we’d love for you to come and work here, you’ve got a good fit for the skills profile we’re looking for, and they already worked at that company. So there’s a kind of, you know, dropped ball there, so you’ve got that piece, then as Cassandra says you move through to the kind of, it might be broader attraction pieces. Brands, you know, for instance, Timpson, does that really well here. You know what that organisation is about if you follow them on social, you know what their values are, you know who they would like to recruit, and then you move through to the sifting process, but the sifting process should be multichannel. So I think that’s a really important point from a D&I perspective, that by they time you get to the point that you’re making selection choices, that has to be a more consistent piece that doesn’t prioritise applicants from one channel over another. 

So there’s a few things going on there, but is recruitment a sifting process? I like to think it more of a matching process. I think that’s possibly a more positive way of doing it. We need to appreciate that for many organisations there’s a massive difference between volume and non volume in the way that you go about this. So I need to replace my CFO is a really different challenge to actually, we’ve got 3,000 vacancies for, you know, retail hospitality staff. So very different experiences, managed in different ways, but as I say, it, you have to reach a point where you’re consistent in your process, particularly when it comes down to that selection piece.

NC: You just have to do a different dance on TikTok, David?

DDS: Definitely. I mean, if your senior team at the moment can’t, you know, follow Strictly every week and replicate those movements, then you’ve got no chance whatsoever. But it is, it is about understanding who shows up in those different spaces, and how you want to access them, but it’s also about understanding how you ensure that you have a breadth of talent pool, because one of the risks of social media is that there are quite tight demographics actually associated with each of the platforms that you might go to, and so you need to make sure that actually you aren’t favouring one group of people over another. And that’s why it’s important to have it as part of a broader, multichannel approach, rather than just honing in one area which brings inherent risk.

NC: David, when recruiting, I mean, I thought you could usually use information that somebody puts on a jobs website or a social networking site such as LinkedIn about themselves, and indeed, I was looking at a business site the other day, it was recommending monitoring your candidates on Facebook or Instagram to see how they like to spend their free time and all of that. But then I saw a warning yesterday on the Acas site about avoiding using information that’s on somebody’s profile to decide whether to interview them or hire them. It said you might be breaking the law if they didn’t agree to you using the information in this way, or for example, if you looked at some applicant’s social media profiles and not others. I mean, they quoted the example of somebody applying to be a personal assistant who was pictured on Facebook with two toddlers in a pushchair, and you might think, well, she looks a bit too young to be a mum, and Acas says that you’ve already started making a judgement about whether she’s the best applicant, and if you decided not to interview her and she saw that you’d seen her profile, if she found out, she could argue that you were discriminating. 

DDS: It’s a really interesting one, and I think it continues to develop in terms of how organisations do use those profiles. I absolutely understand that there are some jobs that are so sensitive, either in terms of media presence or the purpose of the roles that actually social media checks might be appropriate. For most roles, going beyond the things that people obviously put in their work domain, and it’s quite clear at times that those things blur, but there is a fundamental difference between looking at someone’s LinkedIn profile, where they’re attempting to showcase their skills and aptitudes to the world around their work, and trawling through their Instagram feed to see what they get up to at the weekend, and I think organisations absolutely need to show restraint there. I mean, if you think on the one hand we’ve got a, you know, a movement campaign at times towards things like blind CVs, to try and make sure that actually you can’t see the candidates, don’t know anything about them in terms of their names beyond their capabilities to ensure a fair process, and on the other hand you’ve got people reaching into people’s backgrounds and what they do at the weekend to try and find out more about them as people. Organisations absolutely have to show restraint. This isn’t just a legal matter, this is an ethical matter. 

So there may be some cases where it’s justified, so I wouldn’t out rule it as a practice completely. Certainly in the sphere of politics, for example, you’d probably want to know if people are doing things that might be incongruent or risk to the organisation, but for the most part, you need to give people the ability to have a life and a presence outside of work. Once they work for you it is, you know, if they can be connected back to your organisation there’s a brand or reputational risk, that’s a slightly different thing, but the idea of organisations, when someone’s applying for a job, attempting to essentially do private detective work on them is distasteful, unethical, and actually will probably lead to, to the point that you made, a degree of prejudice and discrimination in process.

NC: Cassandra, you talked earlier about the tools that you can use, both software and I suppose AI as well. How do you actually measure your success at using social media? I mean, either compared to how you used to recruit or indeed in general as to whether you are finding the best people for the job?

CH: Also here we’re using two different things and also two different metrics so I think, and when we start again on the attraction part and when we really look on social and on our post performance, most likely on how our content performs. So for example, checking our metrics like (inaudible) the growth, CTR engagement rates when it comes to the content that we are posting, and tracking monthly the post performance and then to see if we want to make adjustments based on this. And I think this, those are parts that we, that we track with usual marketing tools, and then, on the other part, we also use Personio to track our channel performance, right? So we track how many applicants do we get through all the social channels or through active sourcing or through different job boards? And we do not stop with applications, we also go further down the funnel, so when it comes to quality applications, and then also in the end, of course, hires, because this is the most important one for us, with all our initiatives, and of course here it also helps, the easier you can get those numbers the easier you can also prove that it’s effective, what we are doing.

NC: OK, and of course I feel duty bound to say that other software is available but obviously you’re going to speak about the one you work with. Coming to the end of our time, so just quickly from both of you, a sort of tip really to get organisations on the right road with this. David?

DDS: I think it’s just reflecting on the context of your organisation and seeing what value you can get from different channels, and also, I think about the limitations of what you can do in those channels. So for most organisations, there will probably be some advantage to being there if you aren’t already but making sure you show up in the right way, treat candidates in the right way is absolutely imperative to avoid doing damage and making sure that you’re in fact enhancing your brand’s reputation and ability to fill vacancies rather than moving in the other direction. So proceed with care and absolutely make sure that what you’re doing is to the quality that would make you proud. So Cassandra’s, you know, absolutely, right, it’s about the candidate experience at the heart of it, and you are trying to get them into a place where they understand what you are, they understand why you’re a great match and they’d love to join, and if you can achieve that through using social then yes, it’s absolutely a way to help your organisation thrive in a really competitive environment.

CH: Yeah, definitely, I could not agree more. So definitely, knowing who you want to attract and then maybe when it comes further on the how you’re going to do it, I think, my biggest tip is be authentic and show who you are. I mean there’s, there’s nothing worse than selling something on social and then someone gets in touch with you or joins your company and it’s nothing like you’ve showcased there and this is then really leading to a lot of frustration and time waste on both sides, so really being authentic. Involve your employees to generate content and use them as ambassadors and multipliers so that you can spread the word outside, and then also being consistent with what you do, and I think then you, yeah. If you take everything into consideration, what David and I said, then I think you can start, start small with social and then going big after some time. 

NC: Thank you both very much indeed. I’m sure we’ve experienced that in the real world. Cassandra Hoermann and David D’Souza, thank you, that’s a great insight into harnessing social media, and do let us know your experience recruiting on social via LinkedIn or the podcast site, and talking of which, I must just get a plug in for our next edition. 

Do you remember the boss of Octopus Energy who said he’d no room for an HR department in his company? Well, he’s Greg Jackson, he’s on the next podcast in debate with our own chief, Peter Cheese, and I can’t wait for that. I’ll be here, so please subscribe where you get your podcast so you don’t miss that or any other subsequent edition, but meanwhile from me and all of us here at the CIPD, it’s goodbye.