Reflecting on my first experience as a recruiter at the inaugural Southern Placement Exchange in Spring 2002 (I worked in housing at Georgia Southern University at the time), the memory of helping organize materials to mail candidates looms large. Once in Memphis, the onsite experience of going into the candidate room and flipping through huge books to help potential employees find our listing also comes to mind. Back then, the primary methods to answer candidate questions and describe our campus outside of the interview were via mail, the website, or by telephone and email.
Today, potential candidates can examine our campus through social media without ever granting us a conversation. Depending on how in-depth a digital search may go beyond university-produced information, job seekers can explore student content, alumni chatter, and critiques of our institutions from internal and external messengers. Accordingly, it is important to create a social media voice that frames our organization from a balanced point of view. Our social media stories should provide factual and pertinent content to empower and inform our candidate pool, with the added benefit of mitigating unintended artifacts of social media exploration. Here are a few tips:
Amplify an Honest Message
It is important to project an image on social media that is reflective of our organizational reality. Our messages and content should reflect our campus in such a way that when our most desired candidates arrive to interview, there is a sense of familiarity, not a letdown. For example, if our departmental focus on an active student population is mentioned in all of our “elevator stories” and is described in each of our printed documents, but our social media posts do not demonstrate the actualization of these values, candidates will notice. If our claim to have students who are happy and active on campus is contradicted by few supporting images or low use of digital storytelling, we may be at a disadvantage when other institutions are actively posting and sharing stories of students who are sincerely engaged during activities, events, and student affairs programs.
Actively Highlight our Organization
When describing our campus experience to candidates, we are at an advantage if we can point to social media forums such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, Flickr, or blog sites as resource points to learn about our organization. This means that we should have consistent content and information sharing without having to amp up posting during search season. Over the last decade, many candidates have developed an astute ability to digitally explore places they would like to work. Our consistency in digital engagement allows us to answer many questions that we may never be asked directly, and could influence the decision of some candidates to even apply. For example, candidates may search social media to understand how learning outcomes or stories in annual reports are part of the lived experience within a division, department, or university. While the website is often a hub for such content, the stories about our organizations told through social media may differentiate our institutions from others who only rely on university websites that may be difficult to navigate or do not prominently feature student affairs.
Allow Healthy Dialogue
One of the tough aspects of digital storytelling is the occasional competition with one or two students with negative feelings or experiences that chose to be extremely active on social media. In other cases, the campus community may be experiencing a series of events that are very real and quite challenging for students, such as protests against leadership, concern over rising fees, facility issues, or as is happening at a many universities, debates and exchanges related to the racial and diverse climates. While the university may post a single message that is carefully crafted and satisfactory to campus leaders as a response, other non-official posts may run rampant. Campus stakeholders such as alumni, students, faculty, parents, political figures, or local media may each utilize digital spaces to share their opinions. Most important among the campus constituency are the student stories told over social media, which may trump any spin we may offer as it relates to the potential experiences of candidates for employment once they are hired.
When a candidate is deciding if their identity will be a source of connection or contention with a potential employer, social media is viable way to conduct research. With this in mind, we must be prepared to respond to job seekers regarding what they discovered in their digital review. In other cases, we should eschew the tendency to simply ignore prevalent social media conversations by offering candidates insight into what is happening around the campus. This will allow us to share facts, explain trends, and make certain that our applicants are able to access information directly from the university. The likelihood that candidates will value our candor and honesty outweighs any potential concerns and can help build trust during the search, while assuaging concerns about fit in the campus environment.
Our role as hiring managers requires us to be familiar with the myriad of ways that candidates consume information about our campus communities. While we cannot realistically control all of the content on social media (especially Yik Yak), we do have an opportunity to engage our candidates in earnest. While some student affairs professionals have leveraged social media to police and investigate candidates’ backgrounds and behavior over the years, none of us should forget that social media allows applicants to make decisions about our credibility and the type of experience they would have within our communities. Indeed, in some instances, social media can assist us in selecting whom we do or do not interview, or even hire. From another lens, we can be certain that for the digitally astute, our social media presence can help persuade or dissuade some candidates when it is time to consider or choose us.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Danny Malave on New Professional Retrospective on the Job Search