On the Search for Star Candidates

Savvy recruiters don’t wait for the talent to find them. They go to where the candidates are.

After nine years at audit, tax, and advisory firm KPMG, Sanjaye Thomas wanted to spread her wings. “My experience there was enjoyable, but I knew it was time to leave the firm,” she says. Shortly after she made that decision, she received a message via LinkedIn from a recruiter with financial services company Prudential Financial. The recruiter asked her if she would be attending the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) Convention, and if she would be interested in meeting with Prudential while she was there. “I knew about Prudential because I’d seen them at previous NABA conventions,” she says, “so I thought, why not, I’ll give it a shot.”

The shot turned into a home run. In August 2013, Thomas started at Prudential as a director in the financial service company’s annuities business. The commitment to diversity that Prudential had shown by attending the NABA Convention impressed her, but the connection the recruiter made with her via LinkedIn made an even greater impact.

“If it weren’t for that LinkedIn message, I probably wouldn’t be at Prudential today,” she says.

The Death of the Online Job Board
There was a time when online job boards were the recruitment tool of choice. “Job boards were where you needed to be to get a robust slate of candidates coming in,” recalls Toni McDaniel, director of diversity recruiting for Prudential. Today, that’s no longer the case.

For one thing, it’s easy for anyone to simply shoot off an electronic résumé or respond to an online application, often leaving recruiters sorting through hundreds of unqualified candidates. On top of that, it’s difficult to know from that online application whom you’re talking to and whether your recruitment efforts are meeting the diversity goals of your company.

“More people are realizing that the online application system is a black hole,” says Lisa C. Bonner, senior vice president and principal consultant at change management firm Roberts Golden Consulting.

As a result, companies are realizing that they have to look in new places to find the greatest talent. “Our everyday recruiting practices have changed,” McDaniel says. “Before, diversity may have been an add-on or afterthought, but today diversity is very much built into our process.”

When Prudential has a job opening, it automatically goes to a number of sites that focus on diverse communities. For example, one of the groups that the company targets is veterans, so a job might be advertised on sites like Recruitmilitary.com or Hireahero.com. “We do that for all groups,” McDaniel says. “Our process ensures that we’re hitting all communities.”


Leveraging theCompany Network
Another way Prudential has expanded how it sources its talent is by tapping into the networks of its employees.
In the past, employee resource groups were like social clubs, says Bonner. But smart human resources departments are turning them into business partners. “They use employee resource groups for community outreach and professional development,” she says. “If employees are happy, engaged, and believe that their careers are advancing, they’re more apt to recommend the company to their colleagues.”

An African American employee resource group, for example, can host a networking event for graduates of historically black colleges and universities and share information on succeeding in Corporate America while cultivating leads for future job openings. When one of Prudential’s business resource groups hosts a public event such as a professional development conference or a job fair, recruiters are on hand to meet the participants, McDaniel says. Likewise, the company calls on members of its business resource groups to represent Prudential at certain career events so potential job candidates can get a better taste for the company’s inclusive environment.

Another strategy is to engage in what Bonner calls niche marketing, in which recruiters attend events frequented by the talent that they are interested in, such as industry conferences, professional development seminars, and networking sessions.

However, “you have to be authentic when you do it,” Bonner says. It’s not enough for a recruiter to show up one year at a conference and expect to have talent knocking down the company’s doors. “I remember one time I was with a company and they were having some money issues, so they went one year, skipped two years, and then they went back. Even the other recruiters wondered, ‘Where have you been? Are you really committed to diversity?’”

The same goes for the colleges at which companies recruit. Increasing the number of schools you recruit at is a good idea only if you’re going to commit to multiple years. “You have to say, ‘We are going to fund this for the next three years, and develop relationships on campus,’” Bonner says. “You have to really be very thoughtful about it.”

Managing the MobileLandscape
Perhaps the biggest change to the recruitment landscape is the use of mobile technologies and social media. People increasingly use their mobile device as their all-in-one device, points out Jessica Miller-Merrell, who provides mobile and social media consulting to human resources and recruiting teams through her company, Xceptional HR.

Some minority groups are more likely than Caucasians to get their information via smartphone. For example, 76 percent of Latino Internet users and 73 percent of African American Internet users go online with their smartphones compared with 60 percent of Caucasian Internet users, according to the Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project.

Companies should make sure the careers and recruitment pages on their website are easily viewed via smartphones. If not, “you’ll have to rely on a job seeker to go back to a desktop and then reconnect with your company,” Miller-Merrell says. Not a good proposition.

Before launching any social media recruitment strategy, ask your recent hires how they last searched for a job, Miller-Merrell suggests. Did they use their mobile device? Did they use Twitter or Facebook? The answers you get will provide a good place to start.

Different social media platforms offer different advantages:

Twitter is a great place to distribute jobs and engage job seekers in real time.

LinkedIn is good for posting jobs and searching for recruits via skill set.

Facebook is a great tool for branding and letting potential employees get a glimpse of the company culture. You can post a video that shows current employees and the diversity that already exists. Facebook is also a source for collecting more information about potential recruits, which can aid in hiring decisions. For example, a survey of more than 7,000 recruitment companies, human resources managers, and recruiters in the United States by oil and gas jobs board Oilandgaspeople.com found that 64 percent have rejected a job candidate after viewing his or her social media profile.

In certain competitive fields, recruiters must take care not to overuse social media platforms to connect with potential employees, Miller-Merrell cautions. For example, “in Silicon Valley, I’m seeing great engineers deleting their profiles because they are tired of being bombarded by recruiters.”

It’s also important to develop a long-term social media strategy. “You’re not just going to set up a Facebook page and instantly have 5,000 people like it,” Miller-Merrell adds.

Rather than spamming potential recruits with information they don’t want, recruiters should create content that adds value for their target audience and can be shared. That could be anything from an employment video about the company to blog posts about career development to a free downloadable e-book with salary negotiation tips, Miller-Merrell says. In doing so you begin a conversation with talented professionals who can later help fill your company’s ranks.

One of the best things about using social media to recruit is the ability to connect with people who aren’t necessarily searching for a job.

Back in 2011, Samantha Lambert was poking around LinkedIn when a job description for the director of human resources for Blue Fountain Media, a digital branding company in New York, caught her eye. “Little did I know that would be my next career move,” the 30-year-old says. “I wasn’t unhappy where I was, so I wasn’t looking for a new place to work.”

Lambert turns to social media in her recruitment strategies at Blue Fountain Media. She uses LinkedIn to post jobs and job descriptions, as well as to reach out to potential job candidates. She also responds to all posts and tweets about the company, because “I’m able to build relationships with future prospective employees and keep in touch.”

While some might assume that recruitment by social media gives younger employees an advantage, “I have a lot of older candidates who are able to navigate social media just as well if not better,” Lambert says.

Social media also allows companies to showcase their diverse culture. Blue Fountain Media uses Instagram as a forum for company employees to post pictures taken during the workday or after work. Those pictures are posted on a recruitment website called Krow.com along with Blue Fountain Media’s job listings, so interested applicants can “get a glimpse of what life at Blue Fountain is like,” Lambert says.

Looking to the Next Frontier

While it’s good to know where other recruiters are going to find diverse talent, you can’t be afraid to chart new waters.

With social media–savvy recruiters turning to LinkedIn 93 percent of the time, according to social web recruiting site Jobvite.com, get a jump on your competition by sourcing talent elsewhere.

For example, Miller-Merrell at one time used dating websites to recruit “because it was a database of candidates that typically put their employment information and location in their profiles,” she says. She would gather potential candidates and contact them to see if they were interested in learning about suitable opportunities. “It was a place that the competition wasn’t spending any time on,” she says.

It’s also important to plant seeds for tomorrow.

Prudential hosts Prudential Peak Leadership Conference, a program designed to expose first- and second-year college students to opportunities in the financial services industry. The effort fulfills one of every company’s most important recruitment goals. As McDaniel says, “We want to fill the open jobs of today while also focusing on the future.” DW

Tamara E. Holmes has written on business and health for Essence, Black Enterprise, Real Simple, and Working Mother.

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