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Social Media, Tech and Fierce Competition have radically changed how we find, inform and engage the best candidates.

By Melissa Campeau


Most areas of business have been through seismic shakeups in the last decade or so. The rise of social media, for example, has forced a complete redesign of marketing strategy.

Internal messaging systems are hosted on platforms that didn’t even exist all that long ago. And hot desking, remote work and international teams are now commonplace in many organizations.

When it comes to recruiting, however, it can often seem like time has stood still. “It’s amazing, but the majority of Canadian companies are still using the ‘post and pray’ method of recruiting; as in, post your job and pray some good candidates apply,” said Simon Parkin, president and senior partner with The Talent Company and author of Hiring Right: How to Turn Talent into a Competitive Advantage.

In the current economy, says Parkin, that’s far too passive an approach to consistently secure top candidates. And given the rise of social media, niche job boards, big data and storytelling – all effective means of reaching potential employees, organizations have the tools at their fingertips to recruit much more strategically, if they chose to.

In many circles, the competition for those candidates is fierce: Statistics Canada reported that in 2016, for every two people who retired from the workforce, only one person was poised to join it.

How employers capture a candidate’s interest, promote an organization’s brand and values, engage with candidates through the hiring process and make the most of data can make or break an effort to secure the best talent. So, if an organization hasn’t made the leap to modern recruiting, right now is an ideal time for a rethink.

Beyond the job posting

There’s no question LinkedIn is a great place to post a job opening. But it’s not the only spot. Aside from the other major career sites (including Monster, Workopolis and so on) there are also plenty of niche networks to consider; where you’re likely to find highly specialized candidates. StackOverflow, for example, is a community hub for developers. Canadian PR professionals, writers and content editors are likely to check and people passionate about working for green companies probably regularly check listings at

More proactively, organizations can make better use of sites like LinkedIn to track down ideal candidates, rather than waiting for candidates to stumble upon an opening. For example, an HR pro can post a status update to inform a personal network about the posting and the candidate it’s looking for. Or post an update to the company’s thread to alert any potential candidates who follow the organization. Review your company followers’ profiles and make the most of the ‘advanced people search’ function using keywords, job titles and fields.

Consider less obvious sites like Quora, for example, where an organization’s next great leader may have just posted a fantastic response to a user’s question. Plenty of companies have found creative and successful ways to leverage Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media sites to recruit, as well. Organizations choosing to skip that potential pool of candidates do so at their own peril: A recent survey by Global Web Inc. found that the average internet user has more than five social media accounts.

The rise of branding and storytelling

Using social media for recruiting goes hand in hand with having strong brand presence online, and that involves asking key questions. Are the values and the culture of the organization conveyed through the corporate website, for example? Are social media posts engaging and frequent and do they accurately represent the company?

It’s important to have a strong identity online because candidates will do their homework. A survey found 64 per cent of candidates said they spend time researching a company after reading a job description. More than a third (37 per cent) said they move on to the next job listing if they aren’t able to find the information they want online.

What they do find during that research can make or break an organization’s success at recruitment. A recent Glassdoor survey found 69 per cent of candidates are likely to apply to a job if the employer actively manages its employer brand (responding to reviews, sharing updates on culture and work environment). More than three quarters (76 per cent) say they want details on what makes the company an attractive place to work. A full 70 per cent said they would not take a job with a company that had a bad reputation, even if they were unemployed at the time of the offer.

The importance of the employee experience

Job seekers are looking for a sense of what the employee experience would be like if they joined the organization. Sites like Glassdoor, for better or worse, offer front-line stories, from candidates’ most trusted source – other employees.

“I’m still shocked when I speak at conferences [and] ask how many HR people visit Glassdoor to see what people are saying about their organizations,” said Parkin. “I’d say it’s less than one third. All those people are missing out on valuable insight into their own organizations and what the market actually thinks about them.”

Parkin said, “If there are problems spelled out on sites like Glassdoor, really you just have to be receptive to the feedback.” The same is true for customer complaints on social media or other review sites. Whether the concerns are from customers or employees, those issues, and more importantly how an organization deals with them publicly, demonstrate the company culture, values and responsiveness. Complaints and problems are inevitable and dealing with them is simply good business. The Glassdoor survey found 62 per cent of respondents had an improved perception of an organization after seeing them respond to a review.

With social media, there’s no escaping transparency. “When I started my career, I worked for a large company and we hired actors to be in a video depicting what we thought our corporate culture should be,” said Parkin. “That would never fly, today. Now it has to be authentic and realistic.” That could take any number of forms and might include unscripted video testimonials from current employees posted to the company site, tweets and photos from sponsored charity events or Facebook posts of employee awards and recognition – nearly anything goes as long as its genuine.

“Everyone who works for an organization is an ambassador,” said Parkin. “These days, with LinkedIn and Facebook, chances are everyone knows someone who knows someone who works at the organization. So that employee is going to say what it’s really like working there and it’s going to be authentic.”

The total rewards package

A recent survey by Canadian site CareerBuilder looked into some of the details candidates want to find out when they see a job posting. Well over half (61 per cent) wanted to know details of the company’s total rewards package.

“A lot of Millennial and Gen Z candidates are really focused on mental and physical health and wellness, and we’re seeing a lot of employers taking that message to heart and integrating it into the perk offerings,” said Monica Haberl, senior research associate and executive network manager with the Conference Board of Canada. She said, “In terms of health and wellness, there’s growth when it comes to providing gym memberships or even on-site gyms, for example.”

Candidates are also looking for perks that support a work-life balance. “That’s a big concern for potential employees,” said Haberl. “We’re seeing growth when it comes to offering flexible workplaces, child care offerings and things like that.”

The CareerBuilder survey found 39 per cent of candidates wanted to know about work from home options and 35 per cent were interested in finding out more about how the company provides a work-life balance.

Today’s potential employees are also looking to understand how an organization might support them in reaching their future goals. “Candidates are looking for perks that can benefit them in terms of learning and development,” said Haberl. “That might include employee education grants, sabbaticals or professional membership reimbursements.” To a candidate, perks like these demonstrate the organization is invested in them. Haberl adds, “It’s a two-fold benefit. The employee gets to build their skills and the employer gets a more qualified and better-educated employee out of it.”

Making and maintaining contact

When an organization reaches out for an interview, it’s a chance to share, and even demonstrate in a limited way, the employee experience.

Not every organization is taking advantage of that opportunity, however. “We still go into organizations and find they’re interviewing the same way they did 20 years ago,” said Parkin. “It’s a very one-sided approach, very ‘Why should we hire you?’ instead of ‘Here’s why you should want to consider joining us.’

“That’s an approach that leaves many candidates with a negative impression,” said Parkin. “You’re always going to be able to attract the lower tier candidates to your organization, but the top-tier candidates need to be sold.”

What’s more, says Parkin, candidates are likely to come armed with a list of questions; HR and hiring managers need to be prepared to answer those questions honestly and directly. “The amount of research candidates have access to is unprecedented,” said Parkin. “We’re seeing candidates come to meetings more prepared than ever.”

If the interview itself is important, so is making contact before and after the meeting. Applications should be acknowledged, says Parkin, even if it’s just an automated response. Working quickly, wherever possible, can help keep candidates engaged, as well.

The Careerbuilder survey found an inefficient, slow-moving hiring process can kill recruiting efforts. Two thirds (66 per cent) of job seekers said they would wait less than two weeks to hear back from an employer before considering the opportunity a lost cause and moving on to another.

Candidates who aren’t hired, or even interviewed, are still potential brand ambassadors, too, so it’s worth considering their experience during the process, as well. “About 60 per cent of candidates never hear back from an organization at all – not even an automated email saying, ‘Thank you for your resume,’” said Parkin. “That’s completely at odds with what candidates want.”

He adds, if an organization anticipates the process will be lengthy, then they should share that information with candidates. “Setting expectations with candidates is critical,” said Parkin. “Share next steps, tell them who they’ll be meeting with and what to expect.”

Making the most of tech and big data

There are pieces of technology than can help streamline the process so hiring managers can stay on top of communication more easily. Applicant tracking systems, for example, are growing in popularity. And candidate management systems take more of a sales and marketing approach, which allows HR to put candidates into pipelines for consideration as positions open in the future.

“On the whole, the tools are meant to help recruitment be less reactive and a little more proactive,” said Parkin.

One such tool, aimed at helping organizations make smarter decisions when recruiting, is made by a company called InMoment. “What our employee experience software does is try to understand what engages and motivates employees from when they start at an organization to when they leave,” said Paul Warner, vice-president, customer and employee experience strategy, InMoment.

By using the software to gather data and understand the experiences of current employees, the technology can then help companies pinpoint the kind of attributes, competencies and characteristics to look for in potential new hires.

“As we start to see themes, we know that if someone is telling this story then that means they’re going to be more successful within the organization,” said Warner. “So, then we can apply that to the recruiting process and use that information to predict who’s going to stay with the organization, who’s going to be most productive, most engaged.”

Data analysis of that nature could also help candidates take on new – and creative – recruitment strategies. Warner says that in this competitive market he’s seen many organizations look beyond the typical talent verticals. “The war for talent means people are searching across industries,” said Warner. Seeing exact matches in terms of specific skills or experience might be difficult in those cases, so it can be invaluable to have an analysis of markers to look for that would suggest a particular candidate could be a good employee in the long run.

Time to level up

When it comes to modern recruiting, whether it’s using data to understand what drives current employees, sharing snapshots of corporate culture online or seeing the hiring process from the employee’s point of view, the common thread is in the perspective shift.

“The focus is on the employee experience; to me that’s where the recruitment process has changed the most,” said Parkin. From sophisticated technology to transparent online branding, upping an organization’s recruiting game is the best way to attract the candidates needed for success into the future.




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