Gone are the old days of placing “Want” ads in the Classifieds section of a newspaper to find new employees—today’s recruiters in government contracting are tapping technology to find the best and the brightest to join their corporations.
Before the advent of the Internet, recruiting efforts often consisted of posting ads in local and national newspapers, sifting through piles of stale resumes and using outdated applicant tracking systems. Nowadays, recruiters have realized that to attract new, top talent, they have to cater to a more digitally advanced generation, whether it is by approaching or reaching potential new employees via social networking sites, micro blogs, virtual worlds, blogs, podcasts or video-sharing sites.
With the soon-to-come exodus of retiring Baby Boomers of the 1950s and 1960s, the up-and-coming Millennial Generation born between mid-1980s and early 2000 is sliding into the workspace. However, a cohort born into an era of technological advancement and innovation amid the death of traditional media also means that conventional ways of recruiting are no longer relevant tools for grabbing the attention of these so-called digital natives.
Although Millennials appear to be the prominent user group of new technologies, social networks remain the most widely used Web 2.0 tool across all ages. A 2009 study by NAS Recruitment Communications showed that within the next two years, the number of people reading blogs, at least once monthly, is expected to jump to 145 million. The study also predicted the number of people who visit social networks at least once a month will rise to 115 million by 2013; the podcast audience will grow 251 percent by 2012; and online-video consumers will include 88 percent of all Internet users by 2012.
And it is not just the younger generation that has grasped the importance and value of web-based collaborative tools: A January 2010 survey of more than 4,300 professionals worldwide noted both job seekers and those looking to advance in their professions perceive social media and online-collaboration tools as invaluable technologies.
“Although global markets have stabilized and some indicators point to improving economic conditions, we are seeing a largely jobless recovery. People need to give themselves every career advantage,” said George Krautzel, co-founder and president of Toolbox.com, which conducted the research in collaboration with advertising agency PJA.
In this new, evolving field, what are companies doing to find the next generation of brainpower? According to the NAS study, almost half of the surveyed organizations said they plan to up the use of technologies that link to social networks, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, during the recruitment process, something with which Reston, Va.-based technology services company High Performance Technologies, Inc. already has experience.
“To this end, HPTi has been using social networking sites to find and recruit passive candidates,” said Robert S. Jones, Jr., senior vice president of corporate development. “Recruiters can do searches or set up ‘robots’ to find candidates by their profiles or by subscribed groups. Additionally, at HPTi we encourage our employees to highlight open positions at HPTi on their Facebook or LinkedIn accounts in order to generate employee-referral bonuses.”
Kim Gordon, recruiting manager at CGI Federal human resources, an IT and business process services company with more than 40 offices nationwide, said her company is using TalentHook, resume-search software that is a one-stop shop to sourcing candidates through multiple online job boards and social-media sites. In addition, CGI conducts targeted email campaigns through some of its major job boards, she said.
“We also use a passive-candidate compiler tool through our reference-checking vendor, SkillSurvey, which puts together names/contact information of references given by potential candidates,” Gordon said. “In addition, we leverage Web 2.0 technologies by launching various Twitter pages, Facebook page, a YouTube Channel and aggregator sites like Indeed.com.”
As echoed by Jones and Gordon, web-based recruiting has one major advantage to any other method: It is typically very cost effective. Online career sites often offer free or low-cost recruiting services for employers who want to advertise job openings or search resumes. LinkedIn, for example, only charges for sending emails to candidates. While headhunters and recruiting firms charge a percentage for finding and placing the right candidates, ad-supported Facebook and Twitter are free to use and often provide a better grasp of a candidate’s character than a resume and a cover letter alone.
With social-networking sites, the candidate pool seems infinite. Because of its viral nature, a Facebook message about someone trying to find a job or an employer seeking a new candidate can spread quickly and reach a significant number of people. Also, newsfeeds, which is one of the first things users see when logging into their Facebook accounts, provide updates and news if someone is a “fan” of a certain company, including new job opportunities.
Other more career-specific sites offer a mutually beneficial opportunity for candidates and recruiters alike to interact with each other before having to pick up the phone or meet in an office. Social job board Jobirn is one example of how Web 2.0 technologies and hiring come together. A referral network that bridges applicants with employees inside the company where they would like to work, Jobirn has features such as video conferencing and chat — in addition to thousands of jobs. The site helps job seekers get a referral to their ideal job, and company insiders find the right candidate.
The age-old frustration with not hearing back from a hiring manager does not happen here: Candidates can send instant messages to recruiters and get immediate answers. The site also makes that first, potentially awkward, phone interview obsolete by offering candidates the opportunity to interview with a hiring manager face-to-face via webcam.
A study by Birkman International confirms that recruiters are fully aware of the potential of social media and overwhelmingly agree that these technologies can improve communication, bring greater efficiency to the workplace and provide great insight about people’s interests and motivations, something Gordon reverberated. She said another advantage is the ability to reach a wider talent pool and tap into passive candidates — professionals who are employed, but possess skills hiring managers desire.
“Secondly, it’s an opportunity to effectively brand your organization and increase traffic to your website and make people aware of what we do as an organization— marketing platform,” she said.
Jones said he sees some of the benefits with these new technologies entailing the minimal or no cost involved, as well as their being a great avenue to network and build contact lists. Agreeing with Gordon’s sentiment to look for already gainfully employed individuals, Jones said the benefit with reaching out to passive candidates is that they are not actively seeking employment and therefore do not have multiple offers to compare against.
Moreover, Jones said HPTi uses social networking sites as a tool to give interested job seekers a behind-the-scenes look to its corporate environment.
“HPTi uses Facebook to brand itself to perspective candidates and clients — this allows them to see inside HPTi’s culture,” he said.
To provide better insight to a workplace, as well as to distribute their brand, many top U.S. businesses have chosen to take advantage of broadcast media. A powerful recruiting tool, videos can be embedded in blogs or placed on corporate websites, social networking sites or news sites, or posted on video-sharing sites like YouTube, as seen with Google. The Internet giant, which has injected an array of Web 2.0 tools into its recruiting strategy, has taken a bold approach with using YouTube as a hiring and branding tool. Its YouTube Channel has a selection of video clips offering a peek into the enterprise and giving advice on interview tactics and how to be a recruiting standout.
Presenting itself as a young, fun company highly focused on tapping individuals’ unique talents, Google is just one of many businesses that has discovered the power of Recruiting 2.0. With the approach that work and play are not mutually exclusive, the videos rely on enthusiastic “Googlers” sharing why their company, year after year, remains one of the world’s most popular workplaces. It is the right solution on how a company can offer a glimpse into its inner workings via video without it coming across as a PR team-manufactured production.
Although Web 2.0 tools are easily implemented and maintained, Jones acknowledged there are some downfalls with using new technologies, including the extra energy it takes to maintain them.
“Disadvantages are that it is still somewhat labor intensive but we have supporting recruiting metrics to support that the benefits listed above far outweigh the disadvantages,” he said.
To find the best new emerging technologies, Jones said in addition to talking to other companies and young new talent, he keeps up with recruiting blogs, conferences and online information.
“For college recruiting, the recruiting department meets with recent grad hires each year to see why they chose HPTi and what tools they used to find a new position,” he said. “This information gathered is then researched for possible use in the next season of college recruiting.
Gordon said the best way to learn about up-and-coming tools is through networking with senior recruiting leaders, partnerships and relationships with current vendors, “and other articles/white papers/blogs (through ERE, Adler Concepts, etc.).”
As the talent pool seems to diminish every year, Jones said it is important for recruiters to keep up with technology to attract new employees.
“Innovation is key to getting to candidates before our competitors — we are constantly researching new and emerging technologies to see what the next Facebook or LinkedIn sourcing tool is going to be,” he said. “Additionally, we strive to ensure that we are taking full advantage of these sources and leveraging the recruiting opportunities the tools offer.”
With the popularity of new technologies, some companies have decided to phase out traditional recruiting completely and instead employ Web 2.0 tools as the main source of hiring. Last year, San Francisco-based digital marketing agency Organic began incorporating Twitter into its social-media recruiting strategy and held a “Twitter Twaining” to teach recruiters how to search for key talent on the micro-blogging site.
In a short time, 75 percent of available jobs were placed solely on social-media sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Only a quarter of job postings remained on traditional job boards such as Mediabistro, Monster and TalentZoo.
“Why are we weaning ourselves from traditional job boards? Simple: We get results from social-networking tools — with no expense,” Organic’s Tracy Cote and Traci Armstrong wrote in Advertising Age. “Every day, we discover new and innovative ways to use social media for our recruiting efforts.”
As evidenced, technology allows job seekers and hiring managers to connect in the 21st century in an unprecedented way, and staying abreast of trends is vital in surviving and progressing as a business. According to Gordon, to be a successful company, one has to continuously look to advance technologically; staying stagnant while others are moving forward will hurt a business.
“Management likes to see that the recruiting organization is keeping up with technology trends and aren’t satisfied with maintaining the status quo especially when you are in a professional services industry where our greatest asset is our people,” she said. “As a growing organization, we constantly need to look at process improvements, efficiencies and ways to differentiate ourselves from our competitors and one of the best ways to do that is through the use of intelligent technologies.”