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The relationship between companies and candidates has changed dramatically in recent years. It used to be that the recruitment process lay in the hands of the employer, who would place an advert or brief a recruitment agent and then sit back and wait for the CVs to roll in. The lines of communication were predominantly one-way, with little opportunity for candidates to find out more about the role, the working environment or their potential career progression.

All of that has changed in recent times. Widespread access to high speed internet, the rise of social media and increasingly affordable consumer technology have fundamentally altered the nature and level of interaction between organisations and their stakeholders, whether customers, employees or candidates. Honesty, transparency and accessibility are the order of the day.

Be where your candidates are

Today’s jobseekers expect to be able to find information on what the company stands for and how it operates. Candidates are increasingly picky about where they want to work, and are more inclined to conduct thorough research to ensure they are making the right choices. In fact, research by CareerBuilder shows that the average candidate now consults 16 sources of information before applying for a job. This includes corporate social media channels, which provide valuable insights into the firm’s personality and culture.

You can leverage this trend by ensuring your social feeds are home to relevant recruitment-focused messages. That could be something as simple as posting a job ad on LinkedIn or Facebook, or it could be a series of posts that drive traffic to more detailed content such as a “join us” page on your company website or a “day in the life” blog from an existing employee. If you have interesting content to share, or there’s something you want potential candidates to see, then you need to make sure it’s appearing on your social media pages.

The benefits of paid promotion

You can take this principle a step further by paying to ‘boost’ your social media activity, so it reaches a whole new audience beyond your existing fans and followers. Paid promotion is undertaken on a ‘cost per click’ basis, which means you only pay when someone clicks on your call to action. You can specify exactly who will see the message, either by demographics, such as age or location, or by more sophisticated criteria like profession, interests or behaviours. This is a highly effective way to attract the attention of passive candidates; those people who may not be actively looking for a new role but who could be wooed by the right opportunity at the right time.

Our own research conducted earlier this year revealed the popularity of social media for recruitment purposes. In our Recruitment Marketing Insights 2016 survey, 67% of respondents said they have used social channels to distribute recruitment content, with 73% saying they had done so on Facebook and 67% on LinkedIn. When asked about paid promotion, 31% said they had tried it, with many finding it highly effective. A further 21% said they have plans to try it at some point in the future.

Get personal

The power of social media doesn’t just lie in its ability to deliver communications and content to broad audiences. It also provides a route for contacting people on a personal level. LinkedIn has long been a favourite tool of recruitment agents, who use it to send speculative messages to potential candidates. Unfortunately, it’s fair to say that many recruiters are engaged in a numbers game, so these messages are often untargeted and involve little more than firing off the same message to anyone with a certain job title or skill set.

Cautionary tales abound of people who have responded to such messages only to be met with a wall of silence or feedback that they are not right for the role after all. As such, many professionals have stopped paying attention or taking these approaches seriously. But that all changes when the message comes from the employer.

Companies who get in touch with candidates directly and make it clear why they think that person is right for a specific role are much more likely to generate a positive response than if that contact is outsourced to an external recruiter. If you’re hunting for a specialist or hard to find candidate then it’s worth focusing on quality rather than quantity. That means only contacting people who you believe could be right for the role, and doing so with a personalised, highly targeted messages that makes it clear you have done your research and would like them to come for an assessment or interview. Your targets will be flattered that you have taken the time to approach them personally and more likely to respond positively.

In our survey, almost half of respondents (43%) said they have used social media to communicate directly with potential candidates, with 80% using LinkedIn and 79% using Facebook to make contact. Interestingly, some people reported success in experimenting with newer social channels such as Instagram (13%) and the darling channel of the younger generation, Snapchat (5%) for recruitment purposes. The key here is to select the right social channel for your particular audience, so take some time to work out what platforms your candidates are using and what kind of messages and content are most likely to get their attention, whether that’s images, videos, podcasts or something entirely different.

Test and learn

Social media activity is highly measurable, so it’s possible to try something and have an immediate idea if it’s working or not. Having said that, these things can take time, so don’t be disheartened if your first foray into social recruiting doesn’t quite live up to expectations. Start small, set realistic goals, and keep assessing and adapting your activity as you go along and you will start to see rewards.