Social Recruitment: The New Spy Catcher

When the British Secret Intelligence Service starts using Facebook to find its next James Bond, anyone doubting the power of social recruitment needs to rethink their scepticism.

And that’s exactly what MI6 is doing – hunting for its next generation of spies through a series of Facebook advertisements launched in late September.

One of three pop-up advertisements says: “Time for a career change? MI6 can use your skills. Join us as an operational officer collecting and analysing global intelligence to protect the UK.”

MI6’s strategy is a smart one.  With more than 100 million active users, Facebook has increased by 153 per cent in the last year to become the fourth most trafficked website in the world. 

And with its membership growing at light speed – particularly among those 25 years and older – MI6’s recruiters have recognised that Facebook’s profiling and targeting capabilities can connect them with a vast pool of potential candidates.

MI6 is not alone.  A recent survey from the US revealed that 64 per cent of companies are making contact with potential employees through online social networks, predominantly LinkedIn (80%) and Facebook (36%). 

On the other side of the Atlantic, it’s clear that both employers and job seekers are extracting value from social media.  According to the Aquent Orange Book 2008-2009, a salary survey and industry monitor, candidates in Germany (39 per cent), France (34 per cent), Poland (30 per cent) and the Netherlands (23 per cent) rated social networking sites as their preferred method of job seeking, as did 13 to 18 per cent of employers as a tool for sourcing talent.

Meanwhile, only a handful of employers across Australia and New Zealand are leveraging social networking sites to source new talent.  Why?  Partly because social recruitment is still an untested strategy in Australia, and partly because employers and recruiters don’t know where to begin.

So, how can you integrate social recruitment into your broader recruitment strategy?  Here are six simple ways to get started.

  1. Create a ‘group’ for your company on Facebook.  Call it something like “XYZ Company is Hiring” and post information on how to apply for positions in your company, list your latest jobs and use the growing network as a marketing tool.  And add the ‘My Company’s Hiring’ application to enter currently jobs available in your organisation.  These will be displayed on your company page.
  2. If your company has a Facebook Workplace Network (a closed network for individual companies), use it as a recruitment and retention tool.  To establish one, ask Facebook to add your company to the list.  Only employees with a company sponsored email address can join and participate.
  3. Encourage ex-employees to rejoin your company with a Facebook group for your company’s ‘alumni’.  Promote the group among your current employees, who will soon share the site with their former colleagues.
  4. Use the search function as a sourcing tool.  Try searching for a particular position title in the ‘profile’ section, for example.
  5. Tap into the regional networks, and scour workplace and university groups.  Target these areas by posting jobs and listing job fairs.
  6. Stimulate conversations using ‘Discussion Boards’ and ‘The Wall’ – both features can attract members of your targeted community by showcasing what your company has to offer them.

But will the British Secret Intelligence Service’s recruitment strategy really work?  With a new James Bond movie, Quantum Of Solace, out now, MI6’s attraction problems are undoubtedly over.  But it may well face another recruitment challenge – who will sort all the applications of these would-be spies?

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