Notes from the Social Recruiting Summit

I love being part of industry conferences outside my field. I learn so much from the sessions and the conversations, and I meet all sorts of amazing people I might not otherwise have come across.

Yesterday, I participated in the first Social Recruiting Summit, where recruiters shared questions, ideas and tips on how to use social media to connect companies and candidates. I gave a presentation on The Awesomest Job Search Ever.

Reid Hoffman (co-founder of LinkedIn) gave the keynote address, demonstrating LinkedIn Recruiter. Listening to the conversations afterwards, I got the feeling that people had hoped to have more exciting news about where Reid saw the industry going in the next five years, or some other insights and information not available on LinkedIn’s website. Note to self: When you keynote a conference, focus on the big picture and give people something special.

The summit had an unconference portion. I like unconferences because they let people bring out fresh perspectives, late-breaking news, and more conversation. I proposed a session for sharing success stories and war stories, which I removed when I saw that other sessions could fulfill that quite nicely. Ryan Caldwell and Dion Lim had proposed separate sessions around social media and ROI. When I saw what Dion had written, I called Ryan over, introduced the two of them, and convinced them to merge their sessions. Ryan said he thought I should be in mergers and acquisitions instead. ;) It became a four-person panel with some interesting points, although I think they were counting on a more experienced audience with success stories and war stories of their own. In the future, providing unconference sessions with whiteboards or easels would be a great idea because the facilitators can then capture and express more complex ideas.

There were lots of other interesting sessions and conversations at the summit. During my presentation on “Awesomest Job Search Ever”, I encountered some difficulties hooking my laptop up to the projector, so I just went slide-free. I told people the story about how I got to know IBM, how IBM got to know me, and how that led to just the right position being created for me. We took almost 40 minutes for questions and answers, I think. I learned a lot and I had tons of fun. Others did too! The key messages that emerged were:

  • Social media allows employers to learn about candidates and candidates to learn about employers to an unprecedented extent, and this can help form strong personal connections.
  • Those connections make it easier for new employees to hit the ground running.
  • Recruiters can be ambassadors who help their companies and candidates learn more about making the most of social media.

Lots of good stuff, but I better get these notes out before they become stale!

Dinner

It was difficult to extract one of our companions for dinner, so I suggested that we all go. There were about 16 of us. Chandra Bodapati took us to a terrific Indian restaurant. (Yay local guides!)

I had a terrific conversation with John Sumser, who opened by saying, “You must have amazing mentors.” He explained his company name (Two Color Hat) by telling me the African teaching tale about a man with a two-color hat who walked down a street and asked people what they saw. He likes bringing together different perspectives. He’s also very interested in the demographic shapes of companies and labour markets.

John gave me tips on storytelling and emotional modulation. He encouraged me to find ways to develop my technical skills in parallel with softer skills like presentation and influence. He suggested checking out things like The Quantified Self, The Technium, Kevin Kelly (kk.org), cybernetics, and other complex things. This reminds of what Michael Nielsen told be about Lion Kimbro, who found that the practice of writing down his every thought made him think much more clearly. Must see if John knows about him.

On the way to the airport

I hitched a ride with Eric Jaquith and Geoff Peterson in a SuperShuttle, which worked out to be a very cost-effective and hassle-free way to get from Embassy Suites to the SFO airport. Along the way, they shared even more insights about recruiting, technology companies, leadership, life, and other good things. I’m really so lucky that people are so generous with their insights!

Debriefing

I arrived at 11:00 at the San Francisco International Airport. Since I had a few hours to spare before my 3:05 flight, I connected to the wireless network and started working. Jennifer Okimoto (enterprise adaptability consultant) sent me an instant message asking me about the summit. She said,

so… I’ve received a request to respond to a media relations request ABOUT SOCIAL RECRUITING and you appear to be the current IBM expert!

Jen had been reading my tweets, and she wanted to pick my brain about emerging trends in social recruiting. I spent 20 minutes braindumping the ideas and stories I’d picked up from the one-day summit. Here are some bits:

  • Applicant tracking systems are starting to incorporate data from social networks so that they can track that someone came in from Twitter, Facebook, or somewhere else.
  • Progressive companies are interested in using social networks to find out who their employees know, so that when candidates come in, they can figure out who knows that person in the company (or who has some affiliation).
  • Social recruiting right now tends to be ad-hoc, based on people’s individual social networks. This is a problem when a recruiter leaves a company. People are looking at using groups on LinkedIn and other services so that they can keep the networks even if individual recruiters leave. Contact relationship managements are useful, too.
  • Everyone’s interested in how to approach and build relationships with passive candidates. Blogs and social networks seem to be a good way to reach out, get people interested in you or following you, and build the relationship from there.
  • Some companies are turning to rich media (video, podcasts, etc) to give the companies or recruiters faces, a personal connection. Recruiters who have public video interviews get more job leads and resumes at job fairs.
  • People are still trying to figure out social media. Many people still think about it like a job board, broadcasting information. Some people are starting to get into it as a conversation: reading, commenting, posting stuff about their company or useful things that might help people, and only posting the occasional job-related update.
  • Mobile is really interesting. The recording for the session on mobile recruiting should be on the socialrecruitingsummit.com site shortly.
  • The economic climate mean that people aren’t hopping about like crazy trying to fill slates, because hiring has slowed down. But companies like Microsoft are starting to bring in new metrics– not just time-to-hire but also how quickly they can put a slate of candidates together when they get a request (which encourages them to develop a pool of interesting people).
  • LinkedIn Recruiter has lots of interesting faceted search features. (I liked how they walked through that scenario from the IBM ad.)
  • Very few people do real metrics. They try all these things, but they don’t know if they work, or how well. There are some companies working on this space.
  • About 20% of the summit participants have a blog. Most of them have commented on a blog.
  • They think community managers and social media marketers are going to be hot positions in a short while.
  • Many of their companies frown on social networks or blogging, but some are taking the opposite tack and trying to get everyone in the company on LinkedIn.
  • Some companies are building employee job ads / referral widgets on Facebook.
  • V Australia (energy drink) set up a site to help Gen Yers find jobs at other companies. They got great ROI in terms of marketing and exposure.
  • You know that Southwest rapper flight attendant video? Turns out he had been working as a ramp agent for 6 months before that, and he was unhappy with his work. He took one of their personal development courses to figure out if his values lined up with his job’s, and realized that being a flight attendant was a much better fit. He gave it a shot and really enjoyed it. A customer captured his rap on video and uploaded it to YouTube after asking. The video went viral, and the guy has made the rounds of the usual talk shows. Good story about people development and about social media.

So that’s the braindump from the conference. I’ve asked an assistant to transcribe my talk, and I’ll post that after I clean it up. =)

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