Recruiting on Pinterest, Instagram, and Dribbble to Build Your Innovation Brand

When most recruiters learn about a potential new media channel like Pinterest or Instagram, their initial reaction is often to discount them as a low-volume source. Many recruiters shortsightedly fail to see their value, no matter how many desirable prospects “hang out” on them, simply because the new source is not designed primarily to be a recruiting site. But don’t let those recruiters with a shortsighted “fill the requisitions mentality” steer you away from a strategic opportunity to build your firm’s image as an innovator by being the first to use new approaches.

Including innovative practices and sources in your recruiting is essential because innovators look for signs of innovation in the recruiting process as an indicator that innovation permeates the firm. And if your firm is one of the first users of these hot sites, you further reinforce your employer brand image as a first mover and innovative firm. If you are going to be a strategic recruiting function, you need to look beyond the short-term goal of filling reqs. 

Build Your Image as an Innovative Firm

Unless you have had your head in the sand, it is hard to not have heard about the rapidly growing popularity of the social media sites Pinterest and Instagram (and to a lesser extent Their growth has been exponential and although they are not primarily recruiting sites, they have a great deal of branding and recruiting potential. One of the primary reasons to use one of these new social media channels is that being the first to recruit on it will certainly get you noticed as an innovator. Not only will users recognize that you are leading the way but so will the media and blog writers. The net result of being a first corporate user on these hot sites will be getting you coverage and mention which will have a value well beyond any cost associated with using the tool. And incidentally, if your firm has a current reputation of being conservative or old school, using the new channels will get even more notice.

Why Use Emerging Sites for Recruiting

You might initially think it is strange to use these sites that contain primarily pictures for recruiting, but you would be wrong. Pictures and videos are “worth more than 1,000 words” because they provide the capability of making the excitement of your work environment come alive. Firms have been successfully using YouTube for years to recruit; these two new sites are just an extension of that approach. A second important benefit is that users on these sites post pictures of their actual work, so you can evaluate their design and creative capabilities directly. And last, if your firm is among the first to recruit there, you may initially startle some users but you will impress even more and you will face little recruiting competition.

Pinterest as a Recruiting Tool

Pinterest is a rapidly growing social media community where users pin (i.e. post) pictures related to their interests on their electronic pin “board” (like an electronic version of a cork board bulletin board). Many users use it to show off their work, so recruiters can use it to spot great designers. Users can also view the pins of others (pictures or videos) on their mobile phone to get ideas for travel, decorating, do-it-yourself projects or fashion ideas.

Pinterest is particularly appealing because its demographics are perfect if you are targeting women or young people as recruiting prospects. Southwest Airlines and Work Club have already used Pinterest for brand building and recruiting. Recruiters should encourage employees to post exciting work pictures on their own individual boards. Each department can have its own board where it posts compelling pictures. Recruiters can even post pictures or screen captures of job announcements and they can also subscribe to the pins of individuals.

Make your pictures easy to find by including the most popular keywords and hashtags. You should also include QR codes and links to your careers page or your LinkedIn profile if you want to communicate directly with interesting prospects. And don’t forget the important benefit that your brand image will likely improve because you’re using this hot app.

Instagram as a Recruiting Channel

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Instagram is a photo-sharing mobile app that was recently purchased by Facebook. Instagram certainly has the “cool factor” that draws trend leaders and that also helps to build your employer brand image. Its primary feature is that it provides filters that allow even amateur picture takers to make their average pictures look much more appealing. The app also allows you to post a filtered picture to multiple sites including Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter. And like any picture site, it allows recruiters and employees to post pictures that reveal the fun and excitement of working at your firm. as a Recruiting Channel is a social media site that focuses on designers. And because of the growth of social media, designers are in extremely high demand. The site has two purposes. The first is to allow designers (prospects) to post pictures of their designs (what are you working on?) related to specific topic areas (e.g. the iPhone). But the site is unique in that it allows recruiters (scouts) to join and use the site to identify talented designers. Rather than having to rely on their resume, you instead get a chance to assess their work directly. Apple, Google, and Facebook are all users.

Actions to Take to Build Your Image as an Innovative Firm

When assessing a potential new recruiting site like Instagram, Pinterest, or, be sure and consider the following actions:

  • Accept the role of spreading the innovation message — set as a goal to be among the first to use new innovative Internet and social media sites for recruiting, brand building, and business purposes.
  • Decide to be first — “getting there first” provides a certain amount of street cred and follow up press coverage, so being an early adopter is critical. Your recruiting function must monitor potential sites so that when they begin to grow, you can act quickly to increase your presence. Even if it is only a minor effort, being the first to use the site for recruiting is important if you want your firm to be considered a “first mover.”
  • Market research will tell you “who is using what”— the key deciding factor in any channel selection decision should be “are members of my ideal target audience heavy users?” Rather than guessing, it is better to use a market research approach to identify the user base of any site that you are considering. Start by surveying a sample of your own innovative employees and ask them to identify which social media and Internet sites that they frequent either at home or at work. If your own key innovators use it, the odds are that other innovators are also using it. And if the demographics and the characteristics that you are trying to attract are present in the heavy users of the channel, you must be visible on it. And even if the total number of users is initially small, remember to also assess the “coolness factor” of the site for employer brand building.
  • Seek out the non-job-looker population — most social media sites are not recruiting sites, and that is their great advantage. The people using them include the 80% of the population that is not looking for a job, so they give you an opportunity to reach the large population who are not active job searchers.
  • Forget the volume and focus on quality — many of these new channels will not produce a high volume of recruits, simply because the primary goal of these social media sites is not recruiting. The key is to disregard the volume issue and instead focus on the quality of the prospects who use the site. You are likely to find that the first users of a social media site are also leaders in other areas, and as a result, they are prime recruiting targets.
  • Focus on the employer brand building value — a primary goal is to build your image and to send a message to all that your firm innovates in every area, and recruiting helps to reinforce that message. And remember to include the branding bump that they provide in your ROI calculations.
  • Be patient — these niche social media communities will not ever produce large scale results, but they do reach people who would never look on a career site. So you have to be patient because results might take a little time.
  • Don’t stay forever— once many firms begin using any recruiting channel, it will become saturated. With all the competition, you lose your competitive advantage and you begin to get diminishing returns on your investment. So if the channel is crowded, it might be time to deemphasize the channel and move on to something else that is getting hot but it is still not used by your recruiting competitors.

Final Thoughts

It takes a degree of courage and hard work to make a success out of these hot media sites. Because there not designed for recruiting, it takes some creativity and even trial and error in order to make them produce results. But if your goal is to recruit first movers and innovators, it may be time to move away from Facebook (which is “so last year”) and begin recruiting on these more innovative sites where you can see the actual work of your prospects.

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website and on He lives in Pacifica, California.



28 Comments on “Recruiting on Pinterest, Instagram, and Dribbble to Build Your Innovation Brand

  1. Thanks, Dr. Sullivan. Employee branding is to recruiting what marketing is to sales. Who has time or money to investigate these slow, indirect, passive approaches to getting quality butts in chairs quickly and within budget- which IS the definition of recruiting (IMHO). My question using these additional sites: what useful candidates would you find there that you wouldn’t find more quickly, directly, and actively elsewhere, and how much time and money are you prepared to spend check them out at the expense of the more proven and reliable ones? Why not find out what few methods (like ER Programs) work best for your firm and concentrating your resources on those, instead of wasting valuable resources, indiscriminately jumping around like a flea in a frying pan after every new buzz word or website?



  2. @Keith the same benefit of a Facebook/LinkedIn business page, it may be there and it may be spiffy but it doesn’t mean people really give two sh***s whats on there or really ever look at it.

    The ever increasing “gotta be the spiffiest” or “first to use this or that” reminds me of sports teams, where you see the kid got their parents to buy them the fanciest looking gear out there, top of the line, and they still sucked, they just looked good doing it! lol

  3. Thanks, Jordan. Fundamentally, much more of a problem than sourcing is to establish reasonable expectations from hiring managers as to who they can realistically hire, and also to fix bloated, creaking, dysfunctional hiring processes based on the greed, arrogance, fear, and ignorance/incompetence (GAFI) of the people who think they know how to hire.



  4. Thank you, Dr. Sullivan, for sharing. The determination to continually innovate is something that many recruiters feel is too risky. It’s too bad. They are missing out.

    Early adopters reap significantly greater rewards by accepting and appropriately managing this risk. You could say it is what separates the “good” from the “great”. My friend, Steve Ehrlich @99GR81 is fond of quoting Wayne Gretsky about greatness. He’s not the only one. In 2007, Steve Jobs said, “There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been’.” To me that’s the difference between good and great.

    Through continual innovation we can more effectively recruit where the candidates are going to be rather than only focusing our recruitment strategies upon where they have been. For those of you who are risk-averse to trying anything new, that’s okay. You make it easier for us to have continued first-mover recruitment advantage through risk-managed innovation. Here is a link to a few companies that have used innovation to make their recruiting great

  5. Anytime yet another new sm site comes along or gains buzz as the *it* item, I tend to have the same reaction / question that Keith posted. How / why is this new tool a better location to find talent than those that are far more established and traditionally used for that purpose?

    These days most people use multiple sm sites and have accounts with the mainstream tools, so I find it hard to believe that any one of them is superior to all others related to recruiting. When I see someone claiming that better candidates are here or there, it makes no sense to me, knowing that the same ones are probably in both or all.

    It seems that everyone is trying to use every site as a one stop shop for *everything* rather than allowing some natural differentiation to remain. I don’t think it is about fear of innovation or new gadgets as much as fatigue with already too many choices, too little time and minimal tangible value.

    Trying to cram so many functionality expectations into every sm venue just seems to dilute the core purpose and creates a anything goes Craigslist effect.

    ~KB @TalentTalks

  6. @Kelly: at one time or another there was someone saying the same thing about the greats like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Monster, Careerbuilder, Verizon, AT&T, ect.

    Like Micheal said at one point or another the first to use a new venue normally goes 1 of two ways, richer or poorer for it, its all about managing the risk, companies will always flash the “latest and greatest” to draw attention, but like Micheal said, managing the risk and going with the right choice when it counts is what seperates the pack(unfortunately with the HR world it is often a time warp compared to the rest of the world and takes sometimes decades to turn over, but if you still remember the days of “resume” only, mailing and calling recruiters when “Job boards” were the board with flyers all over it on the college campus, things do change.) With out new competition the market stagnates, and the buyer pays the price, just look at the Airlines.

  7. Hmmm. It’s a lot easier to see what everybody else is doing and when it works, claim you’ve been in favor of it all along. (That’s a good definition of “early adopter”.) Also, how often are substantially new ideas (as opposed to minor, incremental ones) from ordinary recruiting staff encouraged, let alone adopted?
    Come to think of it, when is the last time you heard a major company implement a radically new recruiting practice?


  8. @Keith:
    “The first job board was a nonprofit organization launched in August 1992, by Bill Warren and was called the Online Career Center (OCC). OCC was sold to TMP Worldwide (now Monster Worldwide) in December 1995 when OCC
    was renamed Bill Warren also co-founded another very early job board called E-Span which was started in his basement as “Adnet”.”

    So I would put 1995-96 give or take as one acceptable “last time you heard a major company implement a radically new recruiting practice” As TMP one of the worlds largest recruting firms to take that first plunge. . . .

    I’m sure you could find others, but thats the one that stands out as most notable to me!

  9. @Jordon – my comment wasn’t meant to imply that I don’t appreciate, value and use new tools, technology, and expect continuous evolution, etc. – quite the contrary actually!

    I often find myself in an early adopter, researcher, experimenter, evangelist, brand ambassador / enthusiast role. I completely embrace change and love learning new things!

    That was the case when I was the first person at the company I worked at (way back then) to post a job on monster when it was fairly new.

    Same goes for LinkedIn, for 100s of my connections, I was their 1st connection and I convinced several people to set up profiles (at least half a dozen years ago) that probably otherwise would not have done so.

    Most people I know in real life still think Twitter is stupid and Google+ is pointless, but I’ve been a fan using them for a while and find them beneficial.

    The points I was trying to make is that 1) there is a fatigue factor with all of these *new* sm tools and 2) I don’t believe that each one needs to have a recruiting angle. Fine if that happens too or there’s a particular target niche where that approach makes sense.

    You mentioned airlines… I don’t need United to operate a train and bus service, car rental, hotel, movie theater, clothing line and restaurant chain in addition to an airline. Likewise, I don’t come ERE to get chocolate chip cookie recipes or fashion ideas.

    When I see references to Pinterest (& others) being a recruiting tool, that’s the impression I get. Maybe it can be used beyond pictures of purple pumps, talking pets, inspirational quotes, Kim Kardashian’s plans for her 3rd dream wedding, but (IMHO) it may not be the most logical (or ROI worthy) place to search, source and screen talent…

    ~KB @TalentTalks

  10. @Kelly Hi Kelly, just wanted to add about Pinterest. I agree that there is a fatigue factor for new SM tools, and that each one doesn’t need to have a recruiting angle. However, Pinterest has a huge amount of potential for internal recruiters or those working from an RPO perspective.

    The potential exists in the ability to create a very transparent window into your culture as an employer, working conditions and what a new employee could expect if they joined you. A couple of companies do this very well, mostly in the States so far, and I’d recommend looking at Hershey, Pizza Hut or Aon for great examples. So whilst I doubt it’s abilities as a tool for searching, sourcing or screening, I do perceive a high value in its ability to add to your employer branding.

  11. @ Jordan. OCC- Ah yes, I remember it well, that and CareerMosaic…So, 16-17 years of incremental technical advances being touted as revolutionary. Sounds about right. Lots of money for the well-heeled recruiting snake-oil sellers. BTW, I wonder if statistics show that recruiting (Cost-, Speed-, Quality/Hire, etc.) has improved substantially during this time?

    @Claire: “…a very transparent window into your culture as an employer” Are there companies operating under the premise that potential applicants should trust anything that a company says about itself about itself that can’t be verified independently? Evidently there are. As Barnum said: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”



  12. @Keith – I agree that companies can certainly skew the view they portray – as they can do with any social media for that matter. There are some companies that enable employees to post matter themselves to Pinterest, but it is not for me to comment on the ethics of companies. I simply wanted to refer to one way Pinterest has been used as a part of the recruitment toolbox – as was the thread of this article.

  13. @ Claire: Certainly. A tool is a neutral item: a hammer can help build a house or to bash in someone’s head. However, as the wise person at the plant nursery told me: “We should use our minds and tools to help focus, not ficus.”


  14. Great insights from Dr. Sullivan. Many reasons for using these newly-emerging sites of which one vital advantage is to get away from the clutter of similar messages on sites which do not enhance your overall image corporate image as a prospective employer. Another important advantage is the implied endorsement your company will receive by being associated with the other individual and corporate participants on the sites. One other new general social media site we are watching at Shaker for possible usage for recruitment/employer brand messaging is Diaspora ( Additionally, niche skill-set sites such as, and as well as others for other fields are crucial sites for generating a serious, pragmatic dialogue with prospective company-followers and candidates for employment.

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