21 Minute Read

Social Sourcing Strategies for Increased Engagement

More than 8 in 10 online Americans use Facebook and over twice of those users are on Twitter (24%), Pinterest (31%), Instagram (32%) or LinkedIn (29%). Not only are candidates using social on a casual basis, employers now have the ability to meet candidates on their scrolling grounds with job ads on Facebook and even a few have begun advertising availability on Snapchat.

Ready to start using #SocialMedia to source for #Candidates? Here's how to do it: Click To Tweet

As employers, we have the ability to source for the talent we’re interested in on social media, and then cater our job descriptions and recruitment messaging to common values among your target pool. With these actions in place, not only are we meeting candidates where they’re already hanging out, we’re creating messaging that speaks to what they’re sharing online.

What the heck does that even mean? What we’re talking about is using social media to make people want to work for you! Sourcing can either align with recruiting or involve both sourcing and recruiting, it depends on the size of your company. Today, I want to talk about using social media to get your company in the faces of the candidates you want to reach.

Rule #1: Start thinking of them as HUMAN BEINGS

Once you do this, you can remove the barriers we’ve erected via social media. You see, more than 8 in 10 online Americans use Facebook and over twice of those users are on Twitter (24%), Pinterest (31%), Instagram (32%) or LinkedIn (29%).

And while it has made us more connected than ever before, it’s also made it easier to dehumanize one another. We see it in hateful and objectifying comments on YouTube or the political infighting that exists on Facebook, it’s more obvious than ever that Twitter can be a bit of an echo chamber rather than a useful way to have a conversation.

That’s why we need to see our passive candidates, active candidates, applicants, interviewees and employees as PEOPLE. Believe me, it’s easier said than done! Even though most of us are using social in some way, shape or form to recruit and source, we’re likely not doing it as well as we could be. Here’s how to make the best (and worst) of social sourcing work for you.

Rule #2: It’s Not the Size of the Network, It’s How You Use It.

We all have bigger networks than most of our families and friends. Heck, it’s crucial to what we do. But the collecting of candidates like so many butterflies pinned to a board is a tired and sad (Trump “Sad”) way to connect. In fact, it can be difficult to manage all those connections. Anyone else have trouble keeping up with saying Happy Birthday on Facebook or remember to share your bestie’s new Scentsy video? Me too.

In the same way, it’s imperative that you not measure success by the size of your network but rather what you do with it. For example, sending a blast to 300 people with the word “developer” in their title may result in 10 responses, 5 of which are positive, 2 of which are qualified and 1 of which makes it to interview but doesn’t get selected because he prefers to work in an office and this is a remote position.

On the other hand, in the same amount of time you were looking through all those unqualified and uninterested people, you could have been using a people first engagement strategy in order to find, research and personalize your approach to ten solid candidates, of which maybe 7 are interested (because you hit the high notes you found while researching them, maybe they want to bring their dog to work and remote works for them, maybe they have 7 years of experience in a similar technology and you mentioned the company’s generous learning stipend.

How do you know all this? Listen and Learn.

Rule #3: Be a Creeper.

Part of being a sourcer is being a creeper online but before you set out on your quest, I’d like to suggest a pre- first step…step. Try building at least a brief persona for the HUMAN you’re looking for. It should include:

  • A picture to keep in your mind’s eye.
  • What they do and how long they’ve been doing it.
  • What parts of their work they enjoy (and which parts they hate)
  • What keeps them up at night
  • Career goals
  • Motivating factors
  • Where they might go online
  • How long they stay in one place

Once you have this in place, you can compare notes with the hiring manager or simply look at the demographics of the team on which he or she is going to reside to see if you mostly have your ducks in a row. I use LinkedIn to determine educational background and career laddering, in addition to retention and longevity in a role. Usually, their recommendations give insight into what they enjoy doing. However, in some cases, it will be hard to find people on LI due to, well, US. In this case, I look up a social network or association that caters to FILL IN THE BLANK and try to get my info from there, things you can glean from Github.

  • How often and on which days they contribute
  • Where they’re from
  • Their picture and name give you insight into whether they’re more project-oriented. A company name generally means they’re loyal to their company.
  • What kind of issues they’ve posted and code they’ve pushed.
  • If other developers think they’re any good
  • What languages they’re most skilled in.

Rule #4: Reach Out.

LinkedIn is still the largest online source for recruiters, with 89% of them having hired someone through the service, whereas only 26% and 15% use Facebook and Twitter, respectively. Now, I am not telling a bunch of sourcers to try to use LinkedIn (and only LinkedIn) for sourcing, although there are some tricks to make your outreach more, um, palatable. BUT, you may not really need to use them because that’s not even where candidates want to meet you!

Job seekers prefer Facebook with 83% of them looking at Facebook for jobs while only 36% search on LinkedIn. Depending on your reqs, that number could be much higher or much lower but between FB and the other professional networks (or hobby networks, like Behance and StackOverflow) you can put out a general ad on LI if you want and run a few boolean strings but the approach should take into account the candidate’s’ preferences.

Rule of Thumb: If you found them on a certain network, try to approach them on that network. Better yet, use your sourcing and research skills to scrape their email and reach out directly. Recent LI research shows that candidates are especially flattered when the hiring manager reaches out, 56% say so.

Rule #5: Don’t be a Tool.

Lemme ask you a question. How busy are you? Do you have time to respond to every half-assed request you get over LI or even email or Facebook? I know what my answer is. I definitely do NOT. So why do we expect candidates to respond to our boilerplate messaging that we blast without a second thought to who they are, what they do, where they live or how much they’d like to be making?

Yeah, that’s why you’re not getting responses. It’s not because of the talent wars, and it’s not because your company isn’t paying enough. It’s because you don’t personalize your message. Just as I throw away the envelope in my mailbox addressed to resident, candidates don’t care about you if you don’t take the time to care about them.

Things you can reference if you want people to respond to you.

  • Things they are interested in!
  • The fact that they might be looking for a change/more money/position bump/chance to learn new skills
  • Places they like to go
  • Their work and/or projects
  • Their dog/favorite comic/obsession with Firefly/Red Bull addiction


  • Their family
  • What they look like
  • How long you’ve been following their work

Once you’ve hooked them, never let them go! Let’s talk about sourcing for retention. How can you start a new relationship with a long-term thing in mind?

Rule #6: Tell Me More!

We all know who the best candidates are and what they look like. They’re probably employed, they have experience, they have drive and skills. Social media has a way of highlighting those aspects of an individual, and it goes beyond correct grammar. In fact, we’d all take an individual with a potty mouth if their profiles show they’re engaged in their job and have a genuine interest in their field of work.

Candidates are kinda sorta the same. Many will take a position with a company they KNOW is incredible to work for, but may pay on the lower end of the spectrum. Some might forego a swanky benefits package in lieu of a shorter commute or even work from home.

It might seem a little backward, but don’t let what you think employees want you to be influence what you are. It’s like telling a lie. Eventually, you will forget what you claimed to be and just look like a fool. Instead, be brutally honest about your values, and then let it show in your communications.

In other words, if they identify with your brand in a social media atmosphere, they’re going to be able to more easily self-select in or out of your values and environment, increasing the chance for retention. If your company talks about the gender gap and maternity/paternity equality, you’re going to attract people to whom equal rights matter. On the other hand, you might turn away those who hate women.

  • Don’t say competitive compensation when you offer $12 an hour
  • Don’t say “work hard play hard” if work hard is the only part of that statement is true.
  • Don’t say casual dress if you don’t allow shorts.

Rule #7: Ain’t No School Like the Old School.

You get the picture. Another bonus that comes from being honest about your employer brand, is you can easily get your employees to brag about the stuff you’re actually known for.

Sometimes we get so caught up in sourcing for the newest, best talent….we forget the people right under our noses.

At Red Branch, we’ve been known to have applicants come through our system simply because they saw a photo on Instagram. The photo leads them to our account which showed them an accurate portrayal of our culture. They saw an open office, small team, casual dress code, collaboration, celebrations and even employees heads down, completely focused on their work.

For some professionals, that simply wouldn’t work. They would do a bit of research on our company and immediately stop the application to focus their attention on a more corporate atmosphere. This particular candidate LOVED the idea of an open office where people work hard and drink wine.

Your employees know you better than anyone. So why not have them chip in when it comes to Instagram social media, and even recommendations and reviews?

When you combine employee enthusiasm with sourcing what do you get?

  • Employee Mixers where prospects meet the hiring managers
  • Referral programs that reach far beyond just your employees
  • Instant view inside your company (Taco Tuesday, Fancy Friday, Manic Mondays…)

Showing these things, promoting these things on social media channels allows your target HUMANS to see if they align with what you show you’re doing. I’m going to be honest with you: Your candidates, employees, customers, clients don’t care one bit about what you have listed on your site. They don’t care what you say you value. There’s a good chance they’ll read them, and even think they’re nice, but they care far more about seeing your values in action. So the first step in identifying the values that influence candidates begins internally. Then spread those out. People will both opt in and opt out of the process based on whether they identify with the values you are living out via your employees and social media.

Some might even apply for a job you don’t have available. Katherine Minshew at the Muse has a great story about this and we have tons of them at Red Branch Media. Our last five hires (even though we advertised them traditionally) came from people who had expressed interest in working for us even though there were no jobs to apply for. Of course, marketers are extroverts. What about the getting the introverts to reach out?

A company we work with in Toronto had this same issue. We helped them solve it by asking their internal people what mattered to them. We came away with:

  • Working in an agile environment
  • Viewing project highlights and wins
  • A sense of purpose
  • Being able to see or hear the hiring manager before reaching out for a job
  • Salary transparency

They wanted to know if the job would really suit them before applying. By providing a way for them to connect with the HM (a “meet the team” video and “day in the life” blog posts), showing what benefits, work environment and salary would be, they were comfortable enough to proceed.

While sourcers may never be able to convince the higher ups to put salary on the front page of the careers site, you can give a ballpark in your InMail or Facebook DM or ask the HM to describe the position to you on a quick iPhone movie.

Rule #8: Let’s Get Engaged!

Let’s face it. As recruiters, sourcers and marketers, we’ve made social a really crowded place, full of overused platitudes “Congrats!” and “HBD” ring a bell?

In order to reach candidates we have to take a beat, put ourselves in their shoes and then prove that our job is the best job, our company is the best company and our experience will be the best experience. Getting “engagement” should be a little like getting “engaged” or at least it should feel like it is. So…whaaddya say?

The Hidden Engagement:

Just open the ring box and don’t say a word. Hold back some information so they might be compelled to reach back out to fill in the missing details.

You. Complete. Me.

Is this about the job or the candidate? If you answered the former you are incorrect! Show them what they can bring and put them in the role with your words.

I get lost in your eyes proposal…

Wouldn’t work very well if you got the color of his or her eyes wrong. Make sure to get the details about their background and work correctly. And try not talking in generalities so they know you’re sincere.

The Roxanne Engagement

Don’t use someone else’s words to communicate. Above all be yourself! Jargon, slang, and BS job titles do not make a candidate swoon…nor did they ever.

The Banana Pancakes Proposal

Do you both love the same thing? Or even just enjoy NPR? Find common ground with your desired candidate so you can make them feel comfortable. (Maybe they’ll say yes!)

The “As You Wish” Engagement

Sometimes the fewer words, the better. You can’t find out more about a candidate by yapping the entire time.