Reflections on the Social Recruiting Summit, May 2010

This is a very belated post. Last month I dragged my exhausted jet-lagged ass to the Social Recruiting Summit in Minneapolis, USA. It took me 5 flights to get to Minneapolis and over 20 hours of flying time - it was partly my fault as I decided to travel the less direct route from New Zealand via Australia to the USA. I just want to confirm that NZ is nowhere near France or England or somewhere in the USA - I had to point this out to a few summit attendees. This is the third Social Recruiting Summit. I attended the first summit at the Googleplex in the Silicon Valley last year, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The tweet-up prior to the conference took place at a bar / restaurant inside the crazily super-sized Mall of America - take a right past the indoor theme park, then a left past the wedding chapel, go up to the third floor, and then walk for a thousand miles to the meeting point. The night ended with beers, margaritas, and an array of Mexican fare at a Karaoke joint inside the Mall. I’m slowly recovering my hearing.

The next morning I shared a cab with the other foreign alien, UK’s Matt Alder to Best Buy’s corporate HQ.  For those of you outside of the US, Best Buy is a leading retailer of consumer electronics in North America, with a strong online presence. On entering the modern building I wondered if I had come to the wrong place. Was I on a university campus or at an airport? How many reception areas have a mobile popcorn stand?

We all congregated in the auditorium and the first session kicked off, not with a presentation, but with a 4-member, social media savvy panel from Best Buy. 

I picked up that Best Buy has a genuine interest in being “social” - they weren’t so bothered with the tools or the media, but with how to leverage the social web to engage with consumers and jobseekers. Best Buy has already done some interesting things in the social recruiting space (eg crowdsourcing job description design; webinars on their finance recruitment blog) and it was interesting to hear of some of their success stories and where they plan to take things. They are currently scoping up a job description for a store-level role titled Social Media Concierge. I’m picturing a future world of store-specific Twitter accounts, localized Facebook fan pages, and Foursquare customer loyalty campaigns.

Throughout the rest of the day I attended a variety of presentations, and had some great one-on-one chats between sessions, like with Richard Cho, lead recruiter at Facebook (who later gave a very insightful presentation). I also had an opportunity to mix with and learn from recruitment leaders from companies like AT&T, Microsoft, Google, Starbucks etc. I took heaps of notes during the day and hijacked my followers’ personal twitter streams with many sweet morsels. Below are some of the many quotes I scribbled down:

  • “Don’t vomit your jobs all over the place” (referring mainly to Twitter)
  • “Find a lawyer with a Twitter account to remove social media roadblocks”
  • “Return on Emotion” (not used in a Daniel Pink or employer branding context, but certainly could be)
  • “Why am I going to spend 55 minutes on a site, Facebook page etc?” (referring to increasing site / platform user stickiness)
  • “We don’t buy friends with discounts, we buy friends with value”
  • “Tell message to people who have the strongest influence”
  • “Referrals to website increased by  910% in 2 months”
  • “Facebook’s fastest growing demographic is female, 35 years and over” (must be all the addicted FarmVille players contributing to this me thinks).

Though the Americans are grappling with many of the same issues as we are in the Asia Pacific region, I get a sense that social recruiting is fast becoming mainstream in the US.  Some employers were reporting mind-blowing results. Listening to the discussions challenged my thinking around who should manage things like Facebook fan pages. I can sense there will be some very innovative and quite different approaches to social recruiting and employment branding, and how it is managed, in the not too distant future. Many of the small to medium businesses were definitely keen to follow the large corporates, but were hungry for guidance on how to best lobby internally. 

Though I gained lots from the summit, I felt the event could have been more cohesive overall. This may just be a personal preference, but some of the sessions seemed a bit out of place to me and were more about personal branding than social recruiting per se. I would have liked to have heard about topics such as social gaming and mobile recruiting, and some of the social media innovations outside of the recruitment industry and how these could be applied to recruitment. There still seems to be differing views on what social recruiting actually is, and I feel this needs to be sorted somewhat. We often hear the same messages coming from the same presenters, and I don’t know if that is necessarily a good thing for the recruitment industry. I feel some of the excitement and enthusiasm that I sensed at the initial summit at Google has faded. Many attendees have since been to numerous social recruiting related conferences and unconferences in their own city, state, or industry sector in which they recruit. Then there is the group of attendees who attend pretty much everything that’s on. With pretty much every conference and unconference touching on social recruiting, the Social Recruiting Summit could potentially lose its significance. I would have liked the summit to have painted more of a picture of the overall current state or landscape of social recruiting.

After the summit I played tourist and met up with some great people like Gerry Crispin in Hoboken, New Jersey. Gerry is passionate about HR and recruitment outside of the US and we came up with an idea around shared learning between NZ and the US - stay tuned for details. Now, see that cannon above? Gerry in his student days, with some of his uni mates, took this historically significant cannon at the Stevens Institute of Technology, on a sojourn to outside City Hall in Manhattan, across the Hudson River and all. Luckily Gerry escaped getting into trouble. What a legend though. The cannon is now cemented down. Love this man’s renegade roots.

I’m now back in a wintery NZ. Thankfully, I piled on an extra layer of insulating fat in the US, eating enormous portions. NB: a “short stack” of pancakes can feed a family. I enjoyed my trip to the US and have come back with some great ideas, some of which I’ve been putting into practice with clients.

Paul Jacobs

19 Responses to “Reflections on the Social Recruiting Summit, May 2010”

  1. Jonathan Moy Says:

    Sounds like it was an interesting conference. Social media is impacting business quite strongly at the moment. It’s good to get some advice to clients about not abusing or misusing it!

  2. Jobscan NZ Says:

    Social recruiting is increasingly playing an important role in online recruiting. LinkedIn is the ultimate social platform for recruitment and job searching these days, and it looks like many new job sites are following in their footsteps.

    Interesting read, good job!

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