Enr Social Media

27 Oct, 2011

Social Media Reshape Job Hunting, Recruitment at Smith Group, CH2M Hill

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kate-erdy_headshot.jpgLooking back on the past year spent working in marketing for Smith Group in Washington, D.C., Kate Erdy, 27, remembers the uncertainty she felt when she had to decide whether to take the job last November, leaving a secure position at a smaller design company for the unknown at the larger firm.

“That was a scary move, kind of risky at the time to change when I already had a job,” she says. “I had managed to survive two rounds of layoffs.”

But the uncertainty for Erdy, who is a senior marketing coordinator at Smith Group, an A/E based in Detroit, was limited somewhat because she had been communicating with her future colleagues over a long period of time on Twitter.

“It helped so much coming in and already knowing people,” she says.

The uncertainty about using social media is quickly evaporating on both ends of the hiring process.

hardhat_3.jpgWhile higher-level executive posts still are filled mostly by recruitment firms, with most other jobs social media allow employers to focus in precisely on skill sets and take in fewer, higher-quality resumes than when using Monster.com or CareerBuilder.com.

Costs are lower, too. Corporate subscriptions that provide access to thousands of candidates on Monster and CareerBuilder can cost $1,000 or more per month.

How Many Hours of Effort?

About the only unsettled matter is how much time employees and employers must devote to social media in order to exploit their potential.

For employees, it can seem like an overwhelming number of hours are needed to keep current on social media. On the other hand, the networking achieved by mingling and messaging on social media can pay off.

“It’s worth the time,” says Erdy, who says when she’s not on a hard deadline or pressed, she is monitoring social media.

Carol Hagen, a social media strategist based in Chandler, Ariz., warns against employed people neglecting their LinkedIn accounts. “I’ve seen people with LinkedIn accounts that haven’t been used in six months, and they’ve forgotten the passwords,” she says. If they do lose their jobs, they end up having to “scurry at the last second.”

Hagen advises students to get in the habit of networking while they are still in college. She recommends using LinkedIn features for adding slide shows, blogs and videos to profiles and building “work, school and volunteer experience story lines using these tools to attract potential employers.”

In the past year, Smith Group’s Washington, D.C., office has hired 15 new employees. Of that total, three came through social media, one each via LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, says Mike Kohn, a human-resources representative for Smith Group’s Washington, D.C., office.

Erdy didn’t exactly tweet her way into Smith Group, but Twitter was the way she initially began talking to other Smith Group staffers, first through Twitter discussions involving Washington, D.C.-based A/E firms and, later, through direct messages.

For employers that devote the attention to social media, the savings in time and money can be significant.

Amy Cadriel, human-resources director of Satterfield & Pontikes Construction Inc., a Dallas-based general contractor, sees only advantages to using social media.

For a subscription fee of $49 a month paid to Linkedin, says Cadriel, she is able to perform a keyword search and zero in on job titles and locations. And when a job is posted, LinkedIn automatically informs Cadriel when 80 matched profiles have been found.

The issue for employers is how much time and effort is needed to get from 80 or 100 candidates to a more manageable pool of three to five.

Cadriel says she used LinkedIn to fill an accounting position. She first turned up 80 matches; after that, she drilled down to key words or to specific experiences and “eliminated a few dozen right off the bat.”

“It really hasn’t been that time-consuming for me. I can get five top candidates and hire from those candidates with LinkedIn versus CareerBuilder and Monster. One click in and I can see more details of their experience. The last three to four positions filled with LinkedIn, I spend only one and a half hours for each one.”

Success and Skepticism

How CH2M Hill cut down on the time it spent finding recruits with social media is an interesting example, but it has also produced some skepticism.

David Mason, CH2M Hill's London-based international talent acquisition director, made a presentation on June 11 at a conference in London held by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

In his presentation, Mason said the company posted jobs on job boards and tried to use Twitter. But that tactic flooded CH2M Hill with too many unqualified applicants.

“Simply tweeting the job posting isn’t enough,” notes Eric Weissman, president of Onwebmarketing Inc., which develops social media technologies.

One possible strategy is to create an incentive for someone to tweet a recommendation to an employer that they hire a particular talent. In contrast to simply pushing out news of a job opening, “that’s a powerful use of Twitter,” says Weissman.

CH2M Hill found it was better off using a LinkedIn license, which gave the company access to tens of millions of members and messages per month and per license.

Equipped with its LinkedIn license, CH2M Hill was able to pinpoint its searches.

When it needed a specialized civil engineer for a job in Korea, according to an account of the presentation on LinkHumans.com, CH2M Hill used its LinkedIn tool to gather 100 potential candidates in 30 minutes. Then the company pared that number down to a short list of 10. After exchanging information with the 10, CH2M Hill was able to match one to the post—“all without the use of an expensive agency or third party,” according to LinkHumans.com.

Skeptics reading about the presentation on ENR.com raised doubts about how fast CH2M Hill completed all the work related to that recruit.

“One wonders about the extreme difficulty CH2M had in filling the position. I wonder how many of the requirements were not really germane and, worse, what were the requirements that were not recognized,” wrote a ENR.com poster who did not wish to be identified.

“I find it pretty unlikely that ‘narrowing down’ from 100 to 10 happened overnight,” wrote another anonymous poster to ENR.com. “In my experience, professionals with genuine quality backgrounds are reluctant to jump and make a move with one phone call,” especially agreeing in a short amount of time to go work in Korea.

“Someone needs to pave the way,” the poster continued. “Make multiple contacts to build rapport and trust before you get the quality candidates that are ready to make a major change. They don’t get where they are by jumping at every opportunity.”

Mason couldn't be reached in time to respond on the comments. But a spokeswoman for CH2M Hill did forward additonal comments he made about which social media sites are most promising given the ages for which CH2M Hill recruits.

Facebook wasn't well suited for the "slightly stuffy" engineering sector, Mason said. Most of CH2M Hill's audience isn't from the "younger generation." With an average age of 39, LinkedIn better fit the company's profile.

By: Richard Korman from ENR.com Click here to see ENR's special report on social media.