Recruiting may be conceptualized as the “artful marriage” of two processes: the marketing of an organization and the selection of new employees, says security recruitment expert Chris Hertig, CPP. And company leaders should not be waiting until vacancies occur to start doing the first part—marketing the firm.
“You have to have an ongoing strategy. It has to be continuous,” says Hertig, who writes about recruiting in the book Security Supervision and Management: Theory and Practice of Asset Protection.
Moreover, the larger environment within which both marketing and employee selection take place has changed, and it continues to evolve. Foremost among these changes is the rise of social media, which has cut across all industries. In a recent report on recruiting conducted by Jobvite, a company that makes applicant tracking software, roughly 94 percent of recruiters surveyed said they are using social media to support recruiting efforts, with more than half of the respondents reporting that they are using all of the big three—LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
Yet, in this changing environment, many time-tested, best-practice recruiting principles still remain valid. In this sense, recruiting may be thought of as an artful marriage of another sort: a union of the contemporary and the traditional. Companies that are looking for strong new hires—critical to the survival of any organization—must be able to function in the evolving new media landscape. But successful recruiting requires more than mastering social media.
“Social media surely has a place within a company’s recruiting strategy. [But] it’s not the end all and be all; it’s one tool in the recruiting toolbox,” says Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer for iCIMS Hire Expectations, a talent acquisition solutions firm that specializes in social recruiting.
With that in mind, Security Management asked experts to discuss both sides of a successful recruiting program—best practice advice on the human interactions that talent acquisition entails, as well as a look at some current social media trends.
A Mirror of the Culture
Ongoing organizational marketing is a great boon to a company’s recruiting program, and one of the most fundamental ways that a firm can continuously market itself is by having a rich and impeccably functioning website.
“Your website is a reflection of your culture, and your culture is everything in recruitment,” Hertig says.
Having a website that reflects well on the company may seem like a commonsense truism, yet it is violated in a surprisingly high number of cases, experts say. A good website should be checked, audited, and evaluated from the perspective of the customer, Hertig explains; not only should it be visually attractive and intuitive in terms of finding information, but it also should function seamlessly.
This is particularly important if prospective employees are submitting a resume or contact information through the site. Glitches, even small ones, will cause users to bounce away; some of those bounces could be potential candidates now lost to the organization. “If there’s the slightest impediment to somebody looking at your website, you’re done,” Hertig says.
Like its website, a company’s Facebook page and LinkedIn group, as well as its Twitter feed, also reflect the organization’s culture. A company that is active on all three, with a steady stream of lively posts and tweets, is sending an ongoing message that its culture is an energetic and engaged one. Posts and tweets also provide opportunities to share bits of information about the company and illustrate which subjects are important.
This type of exchange is something that security companies should embrace, says Andreas Poppius, a security behavioral science expert and former military intelligence officer in the Swedish Armed Forces who has significant recruitment experience.
“The security business has a lot to gain in exposing itself in every channel possible, and to show that it could keep up with [new] developments,” Poppius says. “We will probably lose—or never reach—many ambitious, presumptive candidates if we don’t adapt, just like any other business.”
And those companies that decide to dive deeper into the social media pool should remember that posts and tweets are a form of company marketing, so they should be done in a manner that reinforces the organization’s brand and does not detract from it. One particularly tone-deaf example of social media marketing occurred immediately after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing: “In honor of Boston,” cooking site Epicurious tweeted links for cranberry scone recipes.
“Social communications must be consistent with the company’s branding, value propositions, and key messages,” Vitale says. “Marketing teams can help by providing guidelines for content to set some standards, as well as provide an arsenal of images, videos, and links to offer on social networks.”
Know What You Want
On the more traditional side of talent acquisition, there is one guideline that may be considered the first principle of successful recruiting: spend the time and effort necessary to make sure you know exactly what you want in a candidate.
In the words of Pete Metzger, a veteran recruiter and vice chair of CTPartners executive search firm, who has experience leading a global security recruiting practice, it’s crucial for hiring leaders to “get a very tight understanding of what their needs are.” Unfortunately, he adds, this is a frequently disregarded principle, with companies moving forward before they have gained that understanding. “Oftentimes, it’s ‘Ready, Fire, Aim,’” he says.
To come to this understanding, it can help to think of what a successful candidate’s profile would look like. And it may also help to bifurcate that profile into must-have skills versus attributes that are desirable but not required. “Define what is needed, and what is nice, for the position,” Poppius says. “This will save you, and the candidates, time.”
When hashing out these required and desired qualifications, an employer can think in terms of skill sets, Hertig says. Some security positions might require more military-style skills, with the ability to work well in high-pressure situations and unstable environments, and a track record of quick and effective responses in a crisis.
Alternatively, some positions may require more emphasis on “soft skills.” Campus security positions may not require SWAT team skills, but do necessitate the ability to talk over problems with young students. Healthcare security positions may call for “humanistic” candidates, with a sympathetic demeanor and precise working style.
John Bernal, a senior staff recruiter for Manta Security Management Recruiters, says he has noticed that communications and customer service skills are now highly regarded by those hiring in the security industry. “That is the doorway into success for any organization,” Bernal says. And one measure of a candidate’s communication skills is how well, or not so well, the applicant has portrayed his or her quantifiable accomplishments within a resume.
Moreover, diverse, nontraditional communication skill sets are becoming broader and broader, Vitale says. Some firms look for candidates who are well-versed in mobile applications, search engine optimization (SEO), video interviewing, and gamification—solving problems by viewing them as games.
“Savvy, innovative organizations realize that they must keep up with evolving trends such as these if they want to lock in desirable talent,” she says. Similarly, knowledge of IT systems and software is an increasingly valued attribute in security, and employers should consider what innovations or possible solutions an ideal candidate might bring to their business, Bernal says.
Other considerations in designing a candidate profile include whether the position will require a foreign language or special certification, such as ASIS’s Certified Protection Professional or (ISC)2’s Certified Information Systems Security Professional. Some positions may come with legal obligations requiring certain credentials or training, so employers should make sure to spell out what the candidate will need before he or she applies.
More companies are also looking for candidates with a proven track record of seeking out new training and skills, experts say. “Experience still does play a critical role, but many organizations have placed equal weight on the candidate developing themselves over their careers with continuing education and certification,” Bernal says.
Finally, there’s a corollary to the best- practice principle of knowing exactly what you are looking for: make sure the compensation you are offering is commensurate with what you want. “Understand what the market will bear,” Metzger says.
Poppius agrees, and adds that distinguishing must-have experience from desirable attributes can help in this regard. “Usually, what you want is more expensive than what you need,” he says.
Once an organization has a clear and detailed understanding of what it is looking for in a candidate, social media can play an important role in locating qualified candidates. “Organizations that are not using social media sites to increase their recruiting efforts are missing the boat,” Bernal says.
Indeed, in the Jobvite survey, a whopping 94 percent of those surveyed said they used LinkedIn for recruiting. The next two most popular social recruiting tools were Facebook, at 66 percent, and Twitter, at 52 percent.
“It’s a very effective way to reach a specific audience that the company may not be connecting with right now,” Vitale says of social recruiting. “And, the activity is not limited to recruiters…every employee can play a role in leveraging their own social networks to reach potential candidates.”
Automated tools can help hiring managers simultaneously post job vacancies to hundreds of social media sites and enable employees to automatically post optimized jobs to their personal networks, according to Vitale. Metrics can also be kept on sources of hires, as a way to monitor social recruiting return on investment.
As the Jobvite survey shows, the leading social media recruiting tool continues to be LinkedIn. The site allows hiring managers to use search functions to drill down into the profiles of potential applicants and seek out qualified candidates, Bernal says.
“It goes without saying that LinkedIn is one of the best tools available for promoting positions and attracting talent,” he adds.
Twitter can also be a multifaceted recruiting tool, experts say. Open positions can be tweeted. Hashtags can be used as a way to help reach job seekers, such as using #securityjob and #NAJ (“Need A Job?” in Twitter-speak).
“Make sure that you are using hashtags with a purpose to best communicate with the appropriate audiences,” Vitale says. “Using too many hashtags, or overly broad terms like #jobs, can create more noise than value.”
Searching on Twitter by using appropriate keywords may yield hundreds or thousands of potential contacts and followers. “Start engaging with talent in this way on Twitter to more carefully build relationships with potential candidates,” she explains.
Similarly, a LinkedIn group that features active discussions on security topics can be an effective community-building device that can also yield potential candidates.
However, companies should be careful not to bite off more than they can chew with a social media campaign. “If you have too many sites to be managed and don’t have a full team to support them, it could lead to a bevy of neglected pages that negatively affect your online brand,” Vitale explains. This is especially true when competing sites cover similar topics. LinkedIn, for example, has scores of groups that pertain to some aspect of security, ranging from ASIS Women in Security to Global Security Pros.
After qualified candidates are located, hiring managers should keep in mind that an organization’s brand is being put to the test during interactions with candidates, experts say. The process must be top-notch and professional at all times.
“Understand that you may only get one pass at a candidate. You have to make effective use of his or her time,” Metzger says.
What does this entail? Hiring managers should go into every conversation with a candidate with a desired outcome in mind. For example, during a phone conversation about the opportunity, the manager should have in mind what he or she plans to propose, such as a lunch meeting at a certain time and date.
Managers should clearly communicate the timeline to a candidate—expectations on when a decision will be made, and when an offer will go out. “You have to lead the process personally. Otherwise, it’s like a balloon floating around and nobody knows when it’s going to come down,” Metzger says.
This top-notch professionalism should extend to the end of the recruiting cycle—to all candidates, not just the one hired. In the marriage of marketing and employee selection, marketing applies to everyone—those selected and those not. A kind, handwritten note from a member of the hiring team, for example, can go a long way towards leaving a positive impression with a candidate who was not selected.
“Your aim is that even the ones you do not hire will still want to work for you,” Poppius says. “And still want to work in the security industry.”