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Q-and-A with Lars Schmidt: How NPR uses social media for recruiting

8 min read

Brands & Campaigns

Lars Schmidt is the director of talent acquisition at NPR.

NPR has a very strong consumer brand. How do you integrate that with the employer brand, particularly in social media?

We’re fortunate to have a great consumer brand, active and established channels in social media, and many engaged followers and fans. To me, that was the perfect foundation upon which to begin building our employment branding strategy and social media will play a huge part in that. We started with launching @NPRjobs on Twitter as I felt that would be a good platform for building community. The intent of the feed covers several areas: sharing NPR job opportunities, providing a “behind the scenes” look at life at NPR, curating and sharing career advice and job search resources, and using our reach to create more awareness of career opportunities across public media.

The actual job sharing is less than 20% of the content that comes from that account. That’s by design. I think it’s really important for companies to look beyond job broadcasting. Job broadcasting alone is not community. If you really want to build a community, you need to share useful information and resources that your followers value. Jobs should be a part of that of course, but it shouldn’t be the sole focus.

We recently launched the Twitter hashtag #PubJobs to help drive awareness for careers in public media. This is a collaborative effort to help those interested in careers in this industry find jobs. Member stations across the country are participating, as is American Public Media, PBS and producers and distributors. It’s a great example of how we can leverage social media and the collective reach of our platforms to shine a bright light on careers across public media. It’s only a few weeks old, but has tremendous potential.

What role does social media play in your approach to recruiting?

Social media is a very important tool in my own approach to recruiting. LinkedIn is probably the best example for most recruiters. I use it regularly to find talent and grow my network. Most recruiters do.

While LinkedIn may be the most well known, there is an abundance of other platforms that also help recruiters identify and engage talent. Twitter is a great resource. Facebook has a lot of potential as a recruiting platform. Tools like Branch Out and Monster’s Be Known have great potential for providing more useful ways to leverage your Facebook network. There are other sites like Quora, Namesake and Focus that are really valuable places to find subject matter experts. Good recruiters are using these platforms every day to identify, engage and begin building relationships with candidates — before they even consider working for your company.

I’m fortunate that NPR’s Chief People Officer and executive leadership team support our efforts to leverage social media for recruiting in new ways at NPR. We’re really just getting started in terms of introducing new social platforms to engage with people and help us identify and attract talent.

What is the hardest job you have ever had to fill? How did you do it?

I’ve been recruiting for over 14 years and have hired a lot of people, so I had to think about this. I would say the most difficult position I’ve ever filled was Ticketmaster’s Chief Financial Officer overseeing the ticketing of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, a new joint venture between Ticketmaster and two Chinese government agencies. This was to be our first hire of a brand new team. There were a lot of complexities, timing and logistical challenges associated with this position. We had no established presence in Asia Pacific region and no prospects or leads on the outset, so we really started from scratch.

The first thing I did was tap into my peer network in Los Angeles and have conversations with several friends who ran global recruiting functions to learn from their experiences in China. Those conversations helped me to understand the fundamentals of the Asian talent market; I learned what worked and didn’t work for them. We then began building a talent pipeline of potential candidates and aggressively networked with our teams in the United States, Europe and Australia. Working against an extremely tight deadline, we elected to partner with a search firm based in Hong Kong that was referred to me through my networking.

We filled the position on time and within budget, so it was a big win for us. It was a whirlwind process, but I really enjoyed the challenge of the search and doing something completely new.

How do you see the relational aspects of recruiting translating easily into social recruiting?

Successful recruiting will always be based in building solid relationships. That was the case before the Internet came along, and will be the case whenever the next paradigm shift occurs. Social media is a really valuable tool to extend a recruiter’s reach. It allows you to network, build and maintain relationships with candidates in new ways. It provides a forum to engage a much broader audience. This doesn’t replace traditional relational recruiting, but rather enhances by allowing recruiters to extend their reach in a very cost effective way.

It’s interesting, I recently posted a job description for a News Recruiting Manager to lead recruiting for all of NPR News. I wrote the job as if I was talking directly to the person I wanted to hire, so it’s definitely not a cookie cutter HR job description (includes references to unicorns and cat videos). I promoted this broadly through my social channels, but also reached out to friends and peers I had relationships with, who in turn helped promote to their newtworks. This blended approach of combining traditional relationships with social media’s reach has allowed me to really broaden the pool of prospects who will see this job and produced some great candidates. On that note  – I’m still actively looking so if there are any great Recruiters out there interested in journalism, news and social media ping me at @ThisIsLars.

In what ways does the current plethora of social tools help recruiters? Hurt them?

There are fewer walls to hide behind in today’s social world. If you run a poor interview process, if you don’t treat all applicants and prospects with respect or interact with them on a professional level, if your candidate experience is sloppy — people will know. There are so many platforms for people to get their message out: Glassdoor, blogs, social platforms and other outlets. They all make it very easy for candidates to broadcast their experience with your company, good or bad.

That’s terrifying to many companies and recruiters. But, for recruiting leaders and companies that really focus on candidate experience, it’s a great way to build and grow your employment brand by putting the time and effort into doing all of those things well. That’s why candidate experience is such an important component to employment brand.

If a recruiter comes to you, expressing interesting in exploring social media, what would be your one piece of advice for them?

With hundreds of social platforms and products, it can be overwhelming for recruiters to keep up, and I understand the fear or hesitation about where or how to start many of them have. My recommendation would be to start slow and absorb as much information as you can. Resist the urge to throw together a corporate Twitter account, Facebook page or YouTube channel just to say your company has one. Spend time on the sidelines learning for as long as you need.

If you’re considering starting corporate recruiting accounts on these platforms, first build a list of top corporate Twitter feeds, or follow top employers on Facebook and then watch. See what they post, observe how they interact with their communities on each platform, gauge the percentage of posts that are job broadcasts versus others posts, and what type of messaging they use.

When you’re ready to launch the platform of your choice, don’t just use it as a way to broadcast job openings. Share content, pictures and videos. Interact with your followers; give them reasons to come to your community even if they’re not looking to work at your company.

Twitter is an incredible learning platform for recruiters and HR professionals. Many brilliant thought leaders in the industry are actively engaged and use Twitter to share knowledge and information. It’s really helping to foster and encourage innovation within HR. I really feel the ease of dialogue, engagement and idea sharing within the HR community is moving our profession forward. This is the beauty of social media: It strips geographic and functional barriers and serves as a platform to connect those with like interests and passions.

Image credit: alexsl, via iStockphoto