They say if you’re not online, you’re behind. And it’s not so hard to get on board, with recruiting and branding tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter at your fingertips. But there are some things to keep in mind, such as being conscientious of the brand image, effectively engaging candidates and sticking to a plan.

Controlling online image

Employers identify recruiting top talent as one of their biggest concerns. With so many people going online to find and apply for positions, they need to keep in mind the image they are creating when using social media.

Often, the application process itself turns off candidates. Research analyst for HR research and consulting firm Bersin & Associates and social media expert Sarah White says, “An unwieldy application process can discourage the exact talent your company needs for its future. It can also leave a lasting impression regarding the company’s brand.”

Jennica P. W. Kalbaugh, lead recruiter for the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States says that Kaiser recruiters make it a goal to respond to employment queries within 24 hours. “I make time to review resumes and provide feedback. Candidates value this as a form of career development coaching,” she says. She says this is time-consuming, but it’s critical that candidates find the experience applying with Kaiser to be smooth and easy to navigate. This, Kalbaugh says, expands the pool of prospects.

Kenneth C. Wisnefski, founder and CEO of WebiMax, an online marketing company specializing in social media, says that companies need to establish a reputable name to get people interested in applying. For example, a company in need of high talent should “highlight their accomplishments to look more attractive to candidates,” he said.

Recruitment strategies

White says that while social media recruitment is a great tool, some employers still have a long way to go. Citing Bersin data from an upcoming study, she says that while 31 percent of companies said they have social media sites in place, companies rank themselves poorly on implementing an actual social media strategy, rating themselves only 2.37 on a scale from 1 to 5.  

But by using specific tools, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and the right content, you can target the right clients and the right candidates.

Susan M. Heathfield, a management and organization development consultant specializing in human resources issues, says that human resources staff need to be using social media for recruitment.

In her about.com blog, Heathfield writes, “We’re receiving top applicants from employee networks on LinkedIn and Facebook; you can do the same. This is also one of the top ways to find passive candidates, people who may not currently be actively seeking work.”

Kalbaugh says that when Web recruiting using social media, it’s important to “keep to a short-term plan and to communicate from a helpful, customer service perspective, not a sales or marketing perspective.”

Kaiser has built its online recruiting by posting job openings, offering health care news and spacing out relevant information.

“This makes relationships with our talent pool more direct and engaging,” she says.

“I have had numerous social media conversations that have led to interviews,” Kalbaugh says.

White stresses the importance of engagement as well. “Human resources using social media for recruitment need to make sure they are engaging the candidate, and not just pushing out information,” she said.

Joel Capperella, vice president at Yoh, an industry staffing firm, says that online recruiting is all about the conversation being created, to identify addressable candidates. It’s important to engage the community or candidate you are trying to reach, he says.

“This could be a silly casual story [asking candidates to share] ‘your worst interview story ever’ or something more altruistic such as ‘how you spend time working in the community,’” he said.

LinkedIn is critical Kaiser’s online recruiting outcome.

“Though the platform is small, given my specific needs, the site is still resource. Highly specialized areas of interest gain conversation momentum,” she says.

Christina Stovall, director of the Human Resource Service Center for HR outsourcing company Odyssey One Source, says that they primarily use LinkedIn for recruiting, and that it has been a very useful tool. Stovall says they usually scout candidates on LinkedIn before even posting a job position.

There is another way employers can use social media to their advantage: screening. Stovall says Google is a good tool to simply do a search on a candidate and see what comes up.

Wisnefski says that HR professionals will actually “follow” potential candidates online, on sites such as Facebook, to see what pictures are posted, and what activities they participate in.

Employee use and compliance issues

Stovall says that “there is still so much panning out,” in regards to social media compliance issues. If employees are using social media at work, whether for personal or business use, it’s crucial that they know their company’s policy.

“It’s important to make sure that policies are clear cut, and not too broad,” says Stovall.

She mentions the recent National Labor Board case, settled against an employer who fired an employee who had criticized her boss on Facebook. The problem in the case was that the employer’s policy was too broad, Stovall says.