Using Blogs as a Strategic Recruiting Tool

Blogs represent an emerging and rapidly growing communication vehicle. Today, there are over 14 million blogs, and this number is increasing fast — over 80,000 are added each day. The applications for recruiting have been fairly limited (Microsoft’s brilliant marketing/finance and technical blogs aside). Yet there is a very real and powerful place for blogs in a recruiting strategy. Done well, blogging can save you time and money, inexpensively generate brand awareness and word of mouth, and do a more effective job at employer branding than your employment website.

Blogs as a Marketing Tool

In the excellent book, Creating Customer Evangelists, authors Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell demonstrate with real-world examples how “buzz marketing” has started to level the playing field between large, advertising-driven companies and small companies with limited budgets. Rather than spending huge sums of money on media and advertising plans, companies that embrace buzz marketing know how to have more personal dialogues with their customers and prospects. In our increasingly connected world, word of this approach has the potential to spread quickly. Another suggested reading on the topic of word of mouth and buzz marketing is The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell. Blogs are becoming a de facto tool in the buzz marketing arsenal for emerging companies. They allow these companies to rapidly communicate information, get customer feedback, and create a community of potential customers that are more likely to purchase their products or services and spread positive word of mouth. Done well, a blog reduces the need for a big marketing budget to generate brand awareness. This is exactly why some CEOs, who are quite busy running the day-to-day operations of their companies, choose to spend their valuable time blogging. Even a company mascot has joined in the fray.

The Microsoft Recruitment Blogging Strategy

Microsoft has an interesting, love-them-or-hate-them employer brand challenge. They employ some of the most brilliant developers and business minds in the world, yet there is an entire population of their colleagues that would never work there. It is no secret that the reactions from candidates are often virulent. So how do you make Microsoft seem less like a slow-moving, bad-intentioned giant and more like a nimble innovator with a policy of open communication? Enter the Microsoft recruiting blogs, which now include an Australian entry. Add to this a host of blogs from Microsoft employees (over 3,500 of them in all), and you’ve got a phenomenon that has started to create a human face for the company. The Microsoft recruitment blog approach gives the company a competitive advantage for semi-active candidates by providing a level of personal interaction with candidates even some of the smallest companies don’t offer. If you post a comment, you’re almost guaranteed to be answered by the Microsoft recruiting gods and goddesses. In contrast, most candidates refer to employment websites as either “black holes” or “resume vortexes.” Posts are not always about recruiting or the Microsoft culture, which is exactly the point: create content that interests your target audience, and you can create a community of passive job seekers. In Microsoft’s case, there are literally thousands of readers of the recruiting blogs. Anyone researching a technical, marketing, or finance career will likely stumble upon one of the easily indexed blogs through a major search engine. This is low-cost, high-impact buzz marketing for recruiting. Microsoft has set a trailblazing example for the rest of the recruiting industry.

Blogging Strategies You Should Take Advantage Of

Article Continues Below

Today, blogs are a competitive differentiator used by an elite group of pioneering recruiting departments. As more companies realize their power, they may soon be an integral part of every recruiting department’s strategy. I’ve spoken with quite a few companies about incorporating blogs into their strategies. The most common reasons I hear that they don’t blog today (with my usual responses) are:

  • “We don’t have the resources.” My response: Focus your resources on a better way to connect with passive candidates and you will see a return on investment.
  • “Nobody in recruiting has time to blog.” My response: Compare your 30 requisitions to the thousands of employees and initiatives blogger CEO’s manage. Twenty to thirty minutes every other day of one person’s time is time well spent.
  • “We’re not sure where to start.” My response: Blogging is amazingly easy. Blogger.com is probably the easiest to use of them all with a step-by-step wizard. (If you have questions on how to get one started or tips and tricks, please email me at davel@jobster.com.)

Here are a few recruitment blogging strategies for you to consider:

  • Replace employee testimonials. Employee testimonials are approaching ubiquity. Almost every company has them on their career website, and they all sound eerily similar. Candidates are bound to have a hard time telling an employee testimonial from one company apart from another. Highlight employees from time to time in your own blog postings. Link to employee blogs from your career website.
  • Augment your culture section with more dynamic content. Another dated approach to career websites is the standard “culture” section. Once again, there is very little differentiation from one website to the next. If you want to give people a real taste of your corporate culture, link to existing employee blogs from your career website. Think about approaching employees at the company about creating a culture-related blog and rewarding them for employee referrals that are generated through their efforts.
  • Create a talent magnet blog. Do you have employees or recruiters that can create content of interest to potential employees? Destination blogs are a great way to easily publish information that is relevant and interesting to passive candidates, while selling them on considering a career at your organization. John Sullivan has advocated answer guy sites for years, and blogs are a very simple way to accomplish this. Once again, reward employees that participate with employee referral bonuses when they drive hires from the site.
  • Create a dialogue with candidates. Is something preventing people from wanting to work at your company? Blogging can be an instant feedback mechanism that is less time-consuming to administer than an online survey, helping you make more rapid decisions.

Blogs have the potential to take communicating with candidates to an entirely new level while driving business results. They can be one of the most effective tools in your recruiting arsenal.

Dave Lefkow is currently the CEO of talentspark (www.talentsparkconsulting.com), a consulting firm that helps companies use technology to gain a competitive advantage for talent, and a regular contributor to ERE on human capital, technology, and branding related subjects. He is also an international speaker on human capital trends and best practices, having spoken in countries as close as Canada and as far away as Malaysia and Australia. His consulting work has spanned a wide variety of industries and recruiting challenges with companies like Starbucks, Boeing, HP, Microsoft, Expedia, Washington Mutual, Nike and Swedish Medical Center.

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12 Comments on “Using Blogs as a Strategic Recruiting Tool

  1. OK, Christopher’s comment wasn’t posted when I replied to the first comment. So I do want to respond to him. I don’t think anyone is espousing the use of blogs as THE primary means of recruiting. I have to disagree on the point that advertising is required for people to find blogs. Not true. No advertising was done to drive people to my blog. Everyone online is using search engines. People don’t have to be looking for a blog to find one, they just have to be searching using keywords. People who find my blog search things like ‘marketing AND microsoft’. I also don’t agree that you get what you pay for. I’ve run print ads and I know that not to be true.

    You can be the judge of whether I am a credible source on career info, but frankly, I believe a blogger just needs to be able to point to credible sources in order to provide relevant content for readers. I’ll try not to take your comment personally since we haven’t met ; )

    I don’t think anyone is saying replace advertising (and I differentiate between brand ads and job ads). I’m not using my blog to build a new employment brand, just augment the ones we’ve got.

  2. Great article to get the brain into action conceptualising future recruitment techniques, tools, strategies, etc. Exciting really.

    Blogs are quite interesting. There certainly are plenty (going by your stats) and I would say a very large percentage possibly never get read by anyone other than the creator, or by very small numbers of people. So does that mean people should stop writing or putting the effort in – NO. Whether you use it as a work or personal diary or attempt to SPIN one into a disguised sales, marketing, recruitment drive, etc – they can be valuable for a variety of reasons. Maybe I should start one?

    I would however question the reference to LOW COST. This is a typical statement we often hear from government employees in Australia – they only measure expenditure ($) and rarely (and have difficulty understanding) take into account Salary costs, productivity losses, priorities, job function, etc. Large companies can (and do) make the same mistake. ‘boss aren’t you happy, have a look at this blog, it hasn’t cost us a cent, fantastic isn’t it?’
    Not mentioning that X hours per week (or day) of a senior employees time is spent writing it, and who knows how many other staff involved in reading, commenting, checking, editing, etc.

    If a CEO is spending time writing a BLOG in their own time (leisure time)- then fine. If a CEO was working for me, I’d certainly want to make damn sure the ROI was proven. Maybe it’s a good stress management tool.

    Microsoft can use it – why not. After all they’re a technology company. They also generate an incredible amount of hits (by being Microsoft) equating to great ranking, etc. So they have a higher chance of someone in the world finding the blogs or searching for them. Microsoft should do it. eg. If I owned a Fishing Tackle shop I’d encourage my staff to go fishing pretty regularly.

    Anyway, the point to this reply is that Blogs ARE an interesting tool and have a potential use in many circumstances, however you would want to be very clear about the ROI. Writing effective articles does take a reasonable amount of time.

    Not only HOW many people are reading them, but WHO is reading them and where are they LOCATED.

    I still wonder HOW people have the time to read blogs. Must be better time managers than I??

  3. Blogs seem to be the lastest fad in marketing. As an old ad man myself, there is one small fact that most probloggers are failing to report:The number of people that are reading the blog.

    Anyone in advertising will tell you that the advertising vehicle is only as good as the audience. If you are willing to spend your time and money using a blog as a one-to-one marketing tool, then good for you. But, if you are aiming to build a brand and attract new prospects, then you need to mass market to your target audiences.

    How many people in your target audience are reading your blog? How many people in your target audience will be attracted to, and read your blog? How many new readers will join each month. I think if the pro blog enthusiasts use the same kind of metrics that advertisers use with other media, then the true nature of blogs for marketing will be revealed.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think blogs are cool and companies are using them to do some marketing. But, the buzz is really small when compared to what traditional mass marketing can do.

    Mass marketing does not mean spending millions of dollars. Marketing can easily be done on a mass scale using email.

    Whoa!, you say. That’s spam. No it is not! We send out over 25,000 emails every month to our candidate lists. We provide a free jobs list for the pharma and biotech clinical research marketplace. Typically our monthly email jobs list has over 150 open positions. Recepients of our emails often write us back and thank us for the list.

    This is just one example on how you can mass market with email. Unless I can get 25,000 of my target audience to read a blog, I am much better off promoting my jobs list.

    When you read the next ‘Blogs are Great’ article, see if you can find the numbers of readers there.

  4. I think that blogging has a very real place in an organizations recruiting strategy and Microsoft does this well. However candidates have to be able to find the blog in the first place and somehow a mass audience must become aware of a recruiting blog for the process to produce real results. Advertising is a must.

    Buzz marketing is great for building awareness among a relatively small audience in a limited geographic area. On a broader scale in a global marketplace, a buzz is far less effective than an ongoing dialogue through an established credible communication brand.

    Experienced, qualified, business professionals who consider themselves passive job seekers seek career information through sources they consider credible. Great employment brands are like great product and service brands, it’s takes time and money to build a great brand and there’s no way around it. Microsoft didn’t build their brand on buzz marketing and know that when recruiting experienced, qualified professionals they get what they pay for.

    The blog is and should be an element in a recruiting strategy but should not be viewed as replacement for advertising when attempting to build an employment brand. By their very nature blogs do not normally reach a mass audience of professionals to function as THE primary means of recruiting.

  5. It’s difficult to track regular readers because many of them read via aggregators (which hit the blog once and don’t represent the number of people reading via that particular aggregator). We can track ‘views’ (not necessarily unique) for our blogs and let’s just say the number is significant (as in hundreds of thousands of views per month for each of the blogs).

    I guess I take a non-traditionalist approach to marketing. I care less about the number of eyeballs on the medium and more about what it compels them to do (yeah, click through rates are great and all, but if you don’t have any sales, nobody cares). Results driven from the blogs have been hires, media attention (WSJ, NYT, Fast Company), coverage by business influentials, employment brand enhancement (good luck measuring that without a huge budget…I’m content to say that we are enhancing it without having to quantify it). Yesterday, I got a call from a new hire that was responsible for making systems recommendations at her last employer (and the choice was Linux, by the way..ugh). She now works here obviously, and told me the reason is Gretchen’s and my blogs…the content changed her perception of our company. That’s worth more than some marketing stats (especially because we hear this all the time).

    I will say that blogging isn’t for everyone, but I’m not comfortable throwing out a whole medium (or dismissing it as a ‘fad’) just because it’s hard to measure. Journalists would like to have you believe it’s a fad too. I always tell people that if you blog, you need to be comfortable with squishy metrics. I obviously am, and our team budget for ‘traditional marketing’ like print ads can now be applied elsewhere. ; )

    By the way, thanks for the coverage Dave (and for changing the subject!) ; )

  6. I can say from my own experience that every time I go to a conference, I have at least 2 or 3 people come up to me and say that they are a loyal reader of my blog. It has helped our company inexpensively build brand awareness.

    It is no replacement for a high readership site like ERE, it is just one tool in the marketer’s arsenal – as it should be for recruiters.

  7. I’ve been looking seriously at the ideas and challenges of using blogging as a metric based recruiting tool, tracking readers through various RSS technologies is something that can be done and there are several variety of tracking methods that can be used for recruiting through the blogosphere. In fact, the technology that Jobster uses has the ability to assist in tracking blog based referrals and candidate sourcing.

    The tools are out there. They just have to be customized and implemented. The problem being that few if any companies have someone on staff to play with all the bells and whistles.

    Rand (at seomoz.org) posted an interesting article about the untrustworthiness of blogs as a misconception, that indeed many visitors trust the sites they visit. One of the key benefits to a recruiter is not going to be sourcing immediate openings, but to establish trusted relations with the readership. This is a long-term pay-off rather than a short-term one.

  8. Excellent Tool.. Heather and Shally You have both done a remarkable job at it by the way!

  9. Blogging is about building a community online, practicing your voice, and pushing ideas and stories that need to be told out to the world.

    They can be used as a recruiting tool, but so can a guy standing on the street holding a sign.

    One thing is sure – if you aren’t at least reading blogs online, then you won’t understand what is happening online.

    You have to put skin in the game – and the only way to learn blogging, is to blog.

    http://www.stlrecruiting.com
    http://www.recruiting.com

  10. I have been with Allen Recruitment for four months and I have been using blogging to drive more applicants to our jobs through the blog http://allenrecruitmentjobs.ie/ .
    Like anything the results do not happen overnight but we are beginning to see an increase in direct applicants.
    The blog is set up using WordPress and the jobs are listed on a Bullhorn reach job board. The trick has been to get clicks to our jobs board from the blog but this is gaining traction.
    I have used bitly’s on various parts of the site to see which click through s work best.

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  12. Thanks for the tips, you can also use a video conference tool such as Vis.io which is made for recruiters. They can gain time and save money by interviewing people in live.

    Vis.io is the simplest way to easily schedule and securely perform video calls with your candidates. It helps recruiters by allowing them to easily schedule and perform video interviews in a matter of clicks. It’s also confidential, there is no data storage and it’s free for a limited time only. Recruiters should try it ! 🙂

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