On the podcast last week, I was delighted to interview Tony Restell, social recruiting entrepreneur and founder of specialist social media marketing agency Social-hire.com.
The topic was social media and the job search, and I asked Tony how candidates can best position themselves using social media in 2015.
>> How recruiters are sourcing candidates via social media in 2015;
>> How active candidates should best engage with would-be recruiters on social media;
>> How passive candidates should best present their social media profiles;
>> The best social media platforms for candidates to focus their efforts on in 2015;
>> Dos and don’ts for candidates using social media;
>> How candidates can engage on social media whilst keeping their job search under wraps
This interview was such a treat to host, and I’m excited to share Tony’s brilliant insights here via a full transcript of our podcast interview. Enjoy!
LM: Hello, I’m Lis McGuire, and I’m delighted to be here today with Tony Restell, social recruiting entrepreneur and founder of specialist social media marketing agency, social-hire.com. Tony specialises in helping recruiting and career industry businesses to build their brand through social media, positioning them to attract candidates and recruit top talent. As such, Tony and his team are uniquely placed to understand the challenges of recruiting through social media, and to tell us how recruiters anticipate candidates will engage on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus and Facebook. Tony, welcome, thank you so much for joining us today.
TR: Good morning, Lis, thanks very much for inviting me.
LM: Great to have you here. Perhaps first of all you’d like to just give our listeners a bit of an overview about yourself and your career and what you’re doing.
TR: Yeah, certainly. I’ve been in online recruitment and working with recruiters and employers since 2000, actually, so I started my career in management consultancy out of university, and then I set up a specialist job board in 2000, serving the management consultancy sector, sold that business to Jobsite in the Daily Mail two years back, and then stayed within online recruitment with Jobsite as one of their executives for a few years, so I’ve been working in that space for the best part of 15 years. What I obviously saw happening as the years went past were the rise of social platforms, the rise of social tools and approaches that were really being embraced by recruiters and by direct employer brands as a means of attracting and engaging with candidates. That’s what led me to set up Social-Hire within the last years, we could obviously see more and more companies wanting to invest in that as a principle strategy in reaching candidates, attracting candidates, ultimately hiring candidates.
LM: Absolutely, and I was reading the Social-Hire story this week, and it’s just interesting to see how that in itself has evolved.
TR: Yes. I mean, it’s been my experience in all the businesses I’ve been involved with that you go out into the market thinking your business will be one thing, and then as you spend more and more time with people in the market, your idea of what people will want evolves over time and yeah, certainly we’ve been through that journey with Social-Hire. It started out as a networking platform for candidates and recruiters to interact with each other, but actually started getting more and more approaches from recruiting brands, wanting to know how we’d built our presence on social medial to be so significant, compare us alongside someone like LinkedIn or ERE and in a lot of instances on social media, our content is being shared as much as theirs, even though we’re a small business, so we have lots of recruiting teams approaching us saying, how have you achieved this? Could we bring you in as consultants to help us figure out how to do this? Could we outsource this to you or could you come and be trainers in our business? That’s taken us to the position we are today, which is where we actually run a social media presence on behalf of recruiting teams on an outsource basis.
LM: What I really like is the way that you still maintain elements that you’ve brought to the recruitment industry all along, so I mean for candidates, Social-Hire still continues to offer fantastic resources on all aspects of the job search and Social-Hire continues to connect people in relevant spaces, so it’s a really, really useful website to visit.
TR: Thank you, and it’s a part of the business that I really love, and I’m invited a lot by business schools and careers services around Europe to go and present to their MBAs and their undergrads, to give them an understanding of how the hiring market has changed over the last few years, and what that means they need to be doing differently, so although it’s not the main thing that pays the bills in our business, it’s something that I get a lot of pleasure from, so always happy to help there where I can.
LM: Fantastic, and very, very valuable. Okay, so as we mentioned Social-Hire supports recruiters to develop effective social media strategies and helps them to acquire candidates. From the other side of the fence, I wonder if you can tell us – using your insight – if you’re a candidate, how should you best engage with would be recruiters on social media?
TR: Well, I think you have to be aware of the different ways that both employers and recruitment agencies are using social media in order to understand how that can benefit your own job search. I would highlight three key things that candidates need to be aware of. The first is that a lot of businesses now are building up a big audience or readership of their own by having social media profiles for their recruiting teams that have very significant following. So where five, ten years ago, a company would have to go to a job board or to the email newsletter of an industry publication to advertise the fact that they wanted to hire people, today in a lot of instances, those companies have big candidate followings of their own that they can market those positions to, or careers events or careers fairs directly, so it’s very important within whichever industry you operate in to look out the social media profiles of the companies in your sector, especially if they have dedicated recruiting team or careers profiles for their business. That’s one big change.
The second big change is that companies generally are advertising fewer positions and are finding their ideal hires and approaching them directly on social media more and more. You have to have a profile on the major sites, and I’m talking here specifically LinkedIn, but also Google Plus in terms of being able to be found by recruiters and approached directly. It’s important you have a really compelling profile that dovetails and mirrors your CV or your resume, but also that has the right keywords and the right headline that will appeal to recruiters. The third big change which is happening a bit more behind the scenes is that a lot of companies are now investing in social referral technologies which are essentially the employee referral programmes of old where companies love to hire people that are recommended by their existing staff, but the new tools that a lot of companies now have available to them allow their employees to plug in all their social networks and as soon as the company has a new position they want to fill, those platforms will go out and will hunt for candidates that look like a perfect match amongst the networks of any of their existing employees.
Those employees will then be invited to send a message to those candidates inviting them to apply for the role, so again that is driven from what content there is on your social media profiles. Are you going to come up as a match for these types of jobs or aren’t you, and I see a lot of candidates who haven’t thoroughly filled out their LinkedIn profile, for example, but they’re not even aware of the fact that they’re missing out on lots of opportunities in their industry simply because employee referral programmes aren’t finding them, and recruiters who are searching directly on LinkedIn aren’t finding them because they haven’t taken the time to fill that out. Does that help answer the question?
LM: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, even if you’re a passive candidate, even if you’re not thinking, I’m looking for a job in the next six months, 12 months, it’s still important to be ready because your ideal opportunity could actually be checking you out rather than the other way round.
TR: Absolutely, and I’ve seen some studies in the last few months suggesting that over half of executive roles now are being filled without ever being advertised, so they’re all being filled by the kinds of mechanisms that we’ve just been talking about. If you’re a passive candidate, if you’re someone who isn’t desperate to move, but equally you’d like to be approached by really interesting positions in your industry, one of the key things to making that happen is making sure that your profiles are always kept optimised for the types of roles you would like to be considered for.
LM: Absolutely. Touching on another point you mentioned, I guess the fact that recruiters and companies, recruiting teams who have these social media followings, that they can readily market new positions to, I guess for candidates means that the actual whole recruitment timespan is a lot faster. I’m guessing if you’re not engaging and you’re thinking you’re coming to apply for a role which is advertised, you’ve got a lot shorter timeframe to actually do that within.
TR: Yes, I’d agree with that, and also another factor is, go back five or ten years and if you were doing a good job of monitoring all the job boards in your industry, you probably would have been aware of most of the opportunities in your industry, whereas today, the most likely thing is that companies try to approach candidates directly or they market the opportunities on their own social media profiles before they turn to job boards at all. There’ll be a lot of roles even where they are being advertised where the only place the company is mentioning them is on social media, and if you haven’t taken the time to follow those companies’ profiles and you haven’t filled out all of your details on the various social media, you’re simply never going to be aware of them.
Another thing that’s happening is companies are targeting adverts using, for example, Facebook or Twitter, and they’re putting job adverts in front of their ideal candidates, so they’re saying to Facebook, okay, this is the profile of the person that we want this job advert to be shown to, but if your Facebook profile doesn’t have the information on it that’s needed for that company’s targeting to therefore target you, that job advert will never show up in your feed.
LM: So you’re doing yourself out of the opportunity before you’ve even started.
TR: Absolutely, and it’s a really fun part when I’m presenting at business schools and I say, you’ve got to have on your Facebook profile information about where you are based, your age, who you work for and you want to be using Facebook to like and comment on things in your industry, because those are the types of metrics that companies are using to target their adverts at people. The students always say, oh, but Facebook, that’s for me personally, I don’t want recruiters looking at my Facebook profile. Well, they don’t have to look at your Facebook profile, all they need to do is be able to tell Facebook to advertise roles to the types of people they want to reach, and if you haven’t given Facebook that information, you’ll never be considered as someone that company wants to reach.
LM: That’s so interesting. Are there any actual rising stars in terms of the best social media platforms for candidates to focus their efforts on? What are companies focusing their efforts on to attract candidates?
TR: Well, I think there’s a difference between wanting to get noticed and then you proactively going and starting conversation. I think for the purposes of getting noticed, it’s absolutely critical that your LinkedIn profile is perfect, that it’s been keyword optimised so that recruiters are going to find it when they search for the candidates for the types of jobs that you would like to be considered for. I would say once you’ve done that job of perfecting the profile on LinkedIn, it isn’t very much effort to replicate that on Google Plus. There are a lot of smaller businesses out there who don’t have a LinkedIn recruiter licence and who therefore aren’t necessarily using LinkedIn to find and approach candidates, whereas on Google Plus they can find candidates and they can approach them free, so I would suggest you want to have a presence on both of those.
That’s for your profile being found, but I would say if you want to be more proactive in your industry and actually start conversations with hiring managers, with recruiting decision makers, or just more generally be better networked with people in your industry, I would say Twitter is the site that is most often overlooked or discounted as being a business site, but where you can actually generate results the quickest. I always say to people if they’ve got no social media presence today and they want results quickly, I would put your efforts into Twitter before anything else, because I think that’s where you can generate conversations and meetings and calls faster than anywhere else.
LM: Yeah, it’s a great platform to approach people quickly and people tend to respond quickly as well, so it’s kind of got that intimacy about it.
TR: That’s absolutely right, and most people who are active on Twitter will probably be on there every day, whereas on LinkedIn people are on there once or twice a month and recruiters on LinkedIn are approached a lot. The trouble with LinkedIn is – and you know this yourself from your own interactions, I’m sure – when someone contacts you on LinkedIn, it requires a lengthy, thought out response. It takes quite a lot of time to interact with people on LinkedIn because it’s effectively a business email solution, so you can’t just quickly interact with people. That obviously reduces the amount of interactions there can be between people, whereas Twitter, because of the character limits, people respond very quickly. I will very often go from having my first ever interaction with a business on Twitter to having a call or a meeting scheduled 24 hours later, and that’s because of the speed at which you start having conversations and that snowballs into something more significant, it’s just so fast on Twitter.
LM: I definitely agree, that’s really useful insights, so thank you. I wanted to ask you, from your perspective, are there any definite dos and don’ts for using social media if you’re a candidate in a job search scenario?
TR: Yeah, there are a few things I would stress. The first is try to be active on social media before you need it, and what I mean by that is, I see a lot of job seekers who come onto social media and it’s quite clear that they’ve suddenly found themselves in a position where they need to find a job fast. Maybe there’ve been redundancies or maybe they’ve just missed out on a promotion or something’s happened that means they’ve decided they need to move quickly. Often you’ll see candidates reaching out to people on social media and their first interaction is, I’m eager to move, can you help me, something along those lines. The trouble with that approach is it gets a very low conversion rate.
If you’ve got to know someone, you’ve built up a bit of a rapport with them, you’ve had some exchanges on Twitter or Google Plus or wherever, and then two, three, four months down the line, having helped them a bit, having had some interactions, you then turn to them and ask them for help, it’s very likely that they’ll help you, but if they’ve never met you before, they’ve never interacted with you before and the first thing they get from you is a request for help in a job search, it tends to fall on deaf ears. I always recommend to people when I’m presenting on social media from a candidate perspective, get on there today. Come the time that you actually need social media to help you in a job search, you’ve already built up relationships and goodwill, trust and respect within your industry, and you’ve got contacts that you can call on for help, that’s the absolute key thing.
Linked to that is another issue which is don’t appear desperate. There’s a fine line between using social media to start conversations, to get interviews, to have people look at your CV versus actually coming across as desperate to be hired, and I see a lot of candidates also straying over that line and effectively deterring employers from being interested in them by just being that slight bit too desperate in what they’re saying on social media or what the headline of their LinkedIn profile is, or the way that they’re interacting. Does that all make sense?
LM: That’s great advice, thank you, Tony. Referring back to what you said about starting your interactions with recruiters before you’re actually job searching, I think it’s Harvey Mackay who said, dig your well before you’re thirsty, and I think that really applies in this scenario, so have a bit of foresight. So if you’re engaging with recruiters and employers on social media in the ways we’ve discussed, is there a chance that your interaction won’t actually make it up the chain of command to the hiring manager, to the person who’s actually going to see your CV at the end of it all?
TR: I mean, I would stress in terms of job search, one of the biggest challenges is to actually get your CV looked at, or for you as a candidate to be considered in the first place by someone in the company that you want to join, so having anyone in the business act as a referee for you, who’s going to put forward your CV to whoever the decision maker is with a recommendation that this is a candidate worth looking at, that’s already massively increased your chances of being hired. If you think of a typical job advert, whether that’s advertised on LinkedIn or a job board or wherever else, you’re talking about recruiters probably having hundreds of applications to consider for any given position. They’re going to swing through those CVs, they’re going to sift out a lot of them in a short space of time, so anything you can do that gets yours to be one of the CVs that’s looked at more seriously and that propels your chances of getting an interview, is highly worthwhile. You’re right, you’re not always going to be interacting necessarily with the person who has the authority to decide that you should definitely be on the shortlist, but it’s all a numbers game. If you’re striking up enough relationships with enough of the people in the companies you want to join, a good number of those are going to pay dividends for you.
LM: And I guess also, building that rapport will get you to know more about the company culture, to understand more about what’s going on for them and by following their social media activity you can understand what’s relevant now to that company.
TR: Absolutely right. How much stronger a position are you in when you do get to interview if you know a lot of the things that have been key concerns and opportunities and wins for the business over the last few weeks. The more time you spend on social media, the more you realise you can get real insights into what’s happening in companies through the conversations that are going on there.
LM: That’s really valuable advice. Okay, so if you’re a candidate and you’re following these tips that we’ve just been discussing, what about if you’re trying to keep your job search under wraps? Is it possible for you to engage in social media that doesn’t alert your immediate boss or team to your job search?
TR: Yes, absolutely. I mean, there are several things that you might do. Clearly if you’re going to keyword optimise your LinkedIn profile and your Google Plus profile, provided you’ve turned off the notifications on LinkedIn that alert everyone that you’re doing that, then you get the upside from having invested in that without it being obvious to anyone else at all what you’ve been doing. One of the things that I do at business schools is have candidates reverse engineer what recruiters would be doing to search for someone for the types of roles that they want to secure, so we’ll go and find a dozen job adverts out there that are very similar to what they’re aspiring to secure, and then we’ll look through those job adverts and look for all the key skills and experience the recruiters are going to be looking for in their shortlist candidates, and then we’ll go through LinkedIn profiles and make sure that the candidates have included as many of those things as they legitimately can do.
That is then maximising the chance that when recruiters search for their ideal candidate on LinkedIn, you as a candidate are going to pop up as one of the potential matches. That’s something as a passive candidate that you can do that has a big impact on more and more of the right people seeing your profile without it being obvious to anyone else. The second thing I would say is, it’s very valid to be networking within your industry. You might network less aggressively with recruiters than a very active job seeker, but you could certainly network and build up a relationship with lots of the influencers and decision makers in your sector as a genuinely valuable business activity. It doesn’t mean that you’re job hunting, it just means that you take your professional presence and your networking in the industry seriously as part of your ability to deliver on the company goals.
LM: Absolutely, and so if you’re doing this ahead of your job search as well, it kind of gives you an easy way into that period of activity. Finally, I just wanted to ask you about video CVs, because I guess with social media it’s very easy to ping someone a quick video clip showing what you’re all about, so I wanted to ask you whether they’re becoming more prevalent and what the dos and don’ts are.
TR: There are candidates now who are putting together video CVs as a means of differentiating themselves. Actually I think the bigger driving force is more and more companies investing in video interviewing solutions as the first stage of the selection process, and whilst first impressions you might think, that is a live interview being conducted over a video link, actually a lot of these tools are asking pre-determined questions to candidates and candidates then record responses in their own time, so it’s more like a series of little clips that sell the candidate on being a great candidate, rather than a video interview per se. Certainly there are some big companies out there, and in the UK we’ve got Launchpad Recruits and over in the States you’ve got HireVue and various others that do similar things, and they are making big inroads with large corporates and medium sized companies.
I certainly see that video is going to increasingly play a role in the selection process, but whether it’s the right thing to actually create a video CV is a different matter. Some people will do very well, others less so, and in terms of being found from a keyword perspective, I think the most important thing is still to have a great LinkedIn profile and a great CV, that when people search on LinkedIn or people search on CV databases and companies search on their own ATS systems, you’re likely to pop up as a match for the roles they’re looking to fill.
LM: I’d agree, so I’d get those things right, first and foremost, and probably as you said, video will work really well for some and not so well for others. If you’re going to do it, I guess you need to play to your advantage and check it really is going to enhance your candidacy rather than detract from it.
LM: Well, Tony, thank you so much, that’s been so helpful. I wonder if you could just give our listeners an idea of how they can connect with you and what further resources are available on Social-Hire site for candidates who are thinking about embarking on a job search or deep in a job search.
TR: Yes, certainly, so people are very welcome to connect with me. Twitter’s probably the one where you’ll find me most active, so that’s @tonyrestell, so please do connect with me there. If you head over to the Social-Hire website which is social-hire.com, you’ll find links on the home page there to connect with all of our social media, so wherever you’re most active, be that Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, you can connect with us there, and on the home page you’ll see a big button to link through to the candidate blog, and we have there something like 250 or 300 external contributors who are all experts in different elements of the job search and recruiting process who are regularly contributing insights on how to make hires or how to get hired. If you head over there you’ll find a lot of resources that will help you in your job search.
LM: That’s fantastic. Just to add to that, you can also subscribe to the candidate essentials newsletter, I believe, which I get to my inbox, and that’s really got the pick of the crop of those resources that Tony’s mentioned.
TR: Absolutely, yes, you’ll find that in the candidates section on the site.
LM: Okay, well, Tony, thank you so much, that’s been a really insightful Q and A session, so I’m grateful to you for your time and I hope you have a lovely day.
TR: My pleasure, thanks, and same to you too.
LM: Thank you.