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Making Snap decisions: Firms warm up to social media as recruitment tool

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Social media sites are becoming a key part of looking for work, especially among younger, digital-savvy people who are already tied to their mobile devices.

However, many employers are still figuring out how to use popular platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat to recruit new hires. Longstanding sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn remain the primary tools for most companies that want to share information about new positions and projects, community service activities or short videos about products and services they are selling.

But a few midstate companies have dipped their toe in the water with Instagram, Snapchat and newer sites. Others say they are about to try these visually focused sites as the labor market has tightened up in many industries.

“Using video with social media is what is paying off the most,” said Brandy Shope, corporate director of human resources at Harrisburg-based H.B. McClure Co., a company that has been ramping up its social media presence.

Over the last quarter, the growing mechanical services company, which employs 530 people, has recruited 20 to 30 people. About half have come through employee referrals and people who have viewed the company’s recent YouTube recruitment video.

Shope expects traditional word-of mouth-referrals and trade school connections will continue deliver a big share of new recruits for the company. But with nearly one-third of the company’s workforce representing the millennial generation and with a generation of younger people entering the workforce behind them, H.B. McClure plans to emphasize more innovative ways to find people, she said.

At H.B. McClure, innovation will mean more short videos. Company officials have been discussing the use of Vine and Snapchat to broaden their reach.

Screen time

Just as companies are using video to reach customers, they are increasingly using it to talk to employees.

Videos allow companies to strike an emotional chord, but also to reach staff members who may be geographically scattered, said Jessica Walter, an account strategist for internal communication at JPL, a marketing and communications firm in Swatara Township, Dauphin County.

And thanks to advancements in technology, videos are easier than ever to produce, she said.

“Video is accessible to companies of all sizes,” she said. “Gone are the days where you need to set aside a large budget.”

Still, there are three common mistakes companies make in using video, she said:

1) Failing to integrate it with other communication tools, such as meetings, text messages and social media;

2) Producing poor-quality videos that may be boring, out of focus or hard to hear;

3) Not understanding what will resonate with employees.

Companies also should pay attention to what happens to videos after they run: Clear policies should govern the storing and disposing of video files, said Adam L. Santucci, an attorney in the labor and employment group at the law firm McNees Wallace & Nurick in Harrisburg.

In addition, executives should think twice about what they say while cameras are rolling, Santucci said. Off-the-cuff remarks might find second life in a lawsuit, or in a spoof produced by disgruntled employees.

“I’d say the biggest risk is because these videos are often viewed as more informal, that someone in a leadership position might be more likely to say something that they may later regret,” Santucci said.

Companies that invest time in maintaining strong social media accounts are always recruiting, even when they aren’t posting job openings, Shope said.

“Recruiting comes with the branding,” she said, adding: “The challenge is making sure you’re creative.”

Getting current employees to buy in and be involved in the social engagement through fun pictures and videos is equally important, said Jim Carchidi, CEO of Camp Hill-based JFC Staffing Cos. “We want to express authentically. That’s important with Instagram. It’s usually a younger population (on there) and they are not going to want to see ads or stock photos. They want to see the real deal and people doing something goofy and having fun.”

The problem many companies have is being concise and trying to tell stories through pictures and other visual elements, and using hashtags that people follow, he said.

It can be tough for some human resources departments to “trust and empower employees” over fear they may do something online that offends someone and hurts their company’s reputation, he said. Plus, to truly be effective, he said, companies have to use all of their employees, not just one person, to tell their stories and spread their culture.

Slowly but surely

Many companies are slow to take advantage of social media because they fear that once they master one tool something new will come along, Carchidi said. And many owners are leery of the time spent on these new tools and are unsure whether they can measure the impact of using them.

It took companies a long time to adopt Facebook, but it’s become a default digital option for most brands.

Newer sites will slowly catch on, said Jill Helsel Gingrich, director of strategic communications at Harrisburg-based La Torre Communications.

“I do think as we evolve as a culture with technology and as younger employees come into the workforce, they are on these channels and to reach them employers will have to think outside of the box,” she said.

The public relations and public affairs firm has helped a few clients recently with social media recruitment efforts, though the focus was paid posts on Facebook and LinkedIn.

“It’s what makes sense for the organization,” she said. “If you’re looking for a president and CEO, Facebook and Snapchat probably are not the place to go. LinkedIn comes into play.”

On the other hand, a company looking for seasonal or summer hires could try other options. McDonald’s recently announced it was partnering with Snapchat. The chain’s goal is to hire roughly 250,000 workers this summer through a “Snaplication” process during which users can see short video ads featuring current employees talking about working for the fast-food chain and then swipe to visit a company career page.

Closer to home, Benchmark Construction Co. Inc. used Facebook to advertise for its recent carpenter job fair, which helped spark interest in the fair. Sponsored content on Facebook is the most cost effective way to reach people, said Kristen Troxell, marketing coordinator for West Earl Township-based company.

The company also is on Instagram, but not as a way to actively recruit people. Like many contractors, Benchmark relies on the site to highlight the company’s projects.

However, she said she does see social media use picking up in the future as a way to recruit.

“It all just depends on the clientele we’re trying to hit,” Troxell said.

The key for many industries, namely the blue-collar hands-on fields, will be making them sound attractive and pitching messages that relate to younger audiences.

H.B. McClure, for example, has 127 different job titles. So there are plenty of career paths that might attract applicants. The company is also employee-owned, which could draw people who want to have skin in the game.

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Jason Scott

Jason Scott

Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin County. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jscott@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal. Circle Jason Scott on .

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