To recruit the right project talent, companies are joining the social media scene.
BY JENN DANKO
Companies know the drill when they need to hire a project manager: They put up a job posting online and are instantly flooded with résumés—few of which sound even vaguely like a good fit.
Yet the perfect candidate could be just a tweet away.
Although Twitter and other social networking sites have been around for years, companies and recruiters are now learning to harness their potential for talent recruitment. And they're proving particularly adept at targeting the project management crowd.
“Project managers tend to be tech-savvy—and young project managers even more so,” says Lucian Tarnowski, founder of BraveNewTalent Ltd., a social network recruiting service based in London, England. “Using the latest and most engaging social media tools is a good start to attracting the best talent to your company.”
Collaborative Software Initiative (CSI) has used social media to hire most of its employees.
“Project managers are very active in the blogging and Twitter community,” says David Christiansen, PMP, support manager at the Portland, Oregon, USA-based company. “I think tech people and project managers are going to be the ones to break the biggest ground in social media recruitment.”
Companies have to play by new human resources rules, though. Job descriptions, for instance, may sound a bit different. Gone are the days of lengthy, formal postings. Mr. Christiansen, for example, kept it casual when he was in search of an enthusiastic, hard-working developer proficient in the open-source programming platform, Ruby on Rails.
“I tweeted, ‘Looking for a Rails guy who wants to love his job and work like a dog,’” Mr. Christiansen says. “For us, using social media is a very informal process, but it's very effective.”
Another point of appeal is its low price point.
“Companies can directly source project managers through social networking sites and contact them, often without cost,” says Miles Jennings, Hartford, Connecticut, USA-based founder of the networking site ProjectManagers.net and COO of RecruitingBlogs.com, a site for recruiting and human resources professionals.
“The impact social media will have on online recruiting will be huge because the ROI is that much better still, and the process is very engaging,” Mr. Tarnowski says.
TIP Don't worry about being too informal, says Lucian Tarnowski, BraveNewTalent Ltd., London, England. It's the nature of social media—and it doesn't mean your organization won't be taken seriously by job prospects.
A VIRTUAL FOOT IN THE DOOR
It's not all about after-work cocktail hours and lunchtime panel discussions anymore. Project managers looking for career opportunities should also consider heading online to do some networking, says Lucian Tarnowski, BraveNewTalent Ltd., London, England.
“Don't think of networking as just face-to-face interaction. Your online brand is just as important—if not even more,” he says. “Specific to project management, people skills are important, and being able to communicate that over social media is huge. If you can't have a one-on-one relationship with a person, the next best thing you can have is a connection through social media—and who knows which of those connections will end up with a job?”
Online networking can be a great resource for information about company projects and potential career leads, too, says Miles Jennings, ProjectManagers.net, Hartford, Connecticut, USA.
He knows a thing or two about the subject, having started the Project Manager Networking Group on LinkedIn.
Sometimes who you know can help you with what you know. “Social media is a quick path to network in the profession and learn from experts in the field,” Mr. Jennings says. “Use social media to drive real-world connections.”
Beyond establishing initial contact, you can use social media sites to set up in-person meetings when appropriate.
Don't be shy, either—interact with colleagues on message boards and forums.
“If you are passionate about something and want to be a leader in your field, leading debates is important,” Mr. Tarnowski says. “There's a big opportunity online to do so.”
And although it seems everyone is atwitter over Twitter, blogging can be another powerful way to showcase skills and build relationships, advises Jason Davis, PMP, Systems Evolution Inc., Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
“Yes, you have to go out and get solid project experience, but the blogging community is allowing people to interact about their experiences,” he says. “It's allowing people to get involved with other project managers they wouldn't normally have been able to connect with.”
It can also help those just starting out to gain some credibility.
“Young project management talent can not only get a presence that way but can also build their résumé, and ultimately, their careers,” Mr. Davis says.
BraveNewTalent, for example, allows job seekers to indicate which sector or profession they're interested in—including project management—and then follow relevant employers.
“What happens to the employer is that we bring together all of their digital footprints—including their Twitter feed, YouTube videos and latest news stories—all in one place,” Mr. Tarnowski explains. “Then we allow talent that is interested in that employer to follow them so they get daily updates and can ask direct questions. The employer can also recruit directly from the community that is following it.”
Not everyone is sold on using Twitter as a hiring tool, however.
“Primarily, I see the Twitter space as a place to build community within the profession and keep a pulse on the conversation,” says Jason Davis, PMP, principal consultant at Systems Evolution Inc., a project and technology consulting management firm in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
TIP Have an instant messaging option on your organization's website, advises David Christiansen, PMP, Collaborative Software Initiative, Portland, Oregon, USA. It's another means for job candidates to easily connect with you.
“It's a byproduct of staying involved in the conversation and listening to what other project managers are saying,” he says.
A little eavesdropping in social media spaces can also help companies uncover hidden talent in niche subject matters or industries, says Joshua Talreja, talent acquisition lead for software development firm Tata Elxsi Ltd., Bangalore, India.
“LinkedIn is always a preferred source in this sense, as the database of Indians from niche industries such as semiconducting, wireless and telecom has grown considerably over the last couple of years,” he explains.
By engaging in social media recruitment, Mr. Talreja has found that the lively discussions in online forums help reveal subject matter experts who can in turn be recruited.
“Social media allows discussion among a group of people that would normally not be possible,” Mr. Talreja says. “It has given us a window to amazing talent that would otherwise be very difficult to tap into.”
Employers looking to attract the best and brightest of this digitally engaged talent pool can't just climb on the social media bandwagon by signing up for a Twitter account or Facebook fan page. They need to make the most of their online presence.
“Companies should also participate in the online conversation—it's no different than real-life networking,” Mr. Jennings says.
Treating social media as a passive tool won't reap many benefits.
“There are a lot of Twitter accounts that only have followers and don't follow anybody. In that sense, they are using it to do old-school broadcasting,” Mr. Tarnowski says. “Instead, interact with and engage those who are following you. By doing that, you will build and harness a really strong employer brand—and ultimately mine the talent pool you have the ability to create.”
If, for example, your firm boasts a mature project management office (PMO), complete with multiple levels, official handbooks and well-developed methodologies, show it off. Highlighting your selling points will impact the kind of talent you attract.
“One thing a company could do is not only describe the value that it places on a PMO and project management, but also personalize it,” Mr. Jennings advises. “Have team members participate on a social media site by talking about the different methodologies and career paths you have in the company. Encourage them to network and even mentor and offer advice to others. Personalizing your project management office will drive talent to your company and help your overall employment brand.”
But just because organizations recognize the value of social media doesn't mean they're going to attract a following.
“What project manager wants to follow an insurance company on Twitter—unless they are famous for having an inventive platform, I suppose?” asks Mr. Christiansen. “You have to use personal social networks to recruit people—not corporate social networks.”
At CSI, employees blog about subjects like lean software development and exploratory testing. “It catches the attention of like-minded people, and they join our social networks,” he notes.
When it comes to blogs, consider having a hands-off approach. “It's important to note that none of this blogging is official in any way,” Mr. Christiansen says. “It isn't scrubbed by lawyers, managers or public relations people.”
Social media allows discussion among a group of people that would normally not be possible. It has given us a window to amazing talent that would otherwise be very difficult to tap into.
–Joshua Talreja, Tata Elxsi Ltd., Bangalore, India
Businesses trying to create a social network presence to recruit talent can't just post official-sounding sound bites about how great they are to work for. That won't create a lasting presence, Mr. Christiansen warns.
“People don't want ads in their social networking inbox,” he says, “so businesses that want to leverage social networks effectively need to work hard to produce content that has personality and is useful, or it won't stick.”
The face of recruitment is changing, with companies in hot pursuit of candidates—wherever they may be. PM
PM NETWORK JULY 2010 WWW.PMI.ORG
JULY 2010 PM NETWORK