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Mobile career apps heat up the war for talent

Tom Connor, Special to CNBC.com
Tuesday, 18 Feb 2014 | 10:09 AM ET

In the global "war for top talent," companies are finding that they must live in the world in which prospective employees live. Right now that world is not only online, it's mobile, engaging both young and middle-aged candidates and companies of all sizes across all industries.

The widely-referenced 2013 Social Recruiting Survey, conducted by Jobvite, a recruiting platform for the social web, found that 78 percent of recruiters made a hire through social media, and 94 percent said they use or plan to use social media in recruiting talent for business this year.

Now the next frontier for employers is integrating mobile into their social media recruiting strategy. Demand is sparking change. According to a Glassdoor.com survey, 3 out of 5 job seekers have searched for jobs on their mobile device in the past year, and 89 percent plan to use their mobile device in their job search in 2014; "Jobvite Job Seeker Nation Study 2014" cites millennials and younger workers as the majority of mobile job seekers.

But they're not just scanning for job openings. They are also using their smartphones to read company reviews and research salary information.

The fast pace of change is prodding employers to rank up development. One challenge companies face is developing a mobile app candidates can access easily and quickly to gauge the corporate culture and apply for a position. According to Glassdoor.com, while 43 percent of candidates report researching prospective employers en route to job interviews, just 20 percent of Fortune 500 companies have mobile app career sites. Among them: GE, PepsiCo and Intel.

(Read more: Mobile start-ups grabbed more VC money in 2013)

LinkedIn Recruiter Mobile is an app for mobile devices designed to help its 240 million members.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
LinkedIn Recruiter Mobile is an app for mobile devices designed to help its 240 million members.

Career sites like Careerbuilder.com and social media giant LinkedIn have been quick to develop easy-to-use tools. Last October, LinkedIn introduced LinkedIn Recruiter Mobile, a mobile app designed to help access its more than 240 million member profiles and let recruiters respond to job queries via phone call, text, email or InMail directly from the app. Roughly 33 percent of LinkedIn members access the social network via mobile channel, and more than 30 percent of LinkedIn job views also stem from mobile.

Driving the trend is the demand for highly-skilled workers—in areas like programming and biotechnology—whether candidates are actively looking for employment in those fields or not. "Forward-looking companies recognize that they have to go online to hunt for talent, and especially 'passive talent'," said Jeanne Meister, founding partner of Future Workplace, an executive development and consulting firm, and co-author of "The 2020 Workplace."

HR and professional recruiters believe social media channels present a huge audience of potential professional-level candidates who are not actively seeking a job but who might be interested if the right opportunity came along. For a client company looking for a specialized scientist-technician, Kenexa, a recruitment, training and performance assessment subsidiary of IBM, found "where they hung out together online," said CMO Tim Geisert. "It was a little blog post in a narrow field, a treasure trove of talent, where you could post jobs and streamline to the right kind of talent."

(Read more: 4 social media strategies to boost your business)

"Forward-looking companies recognize that they have to go online to hunt for talent." -Jeanne Meister, partner, Future Workplace

That kind of profiling and streamlining saves time and money. It's also a way to find candidates who will fit the company's culture, especially when they're referred by employees who are sharing their job experiences on company websites or on sites like LinkedIn and Twitter. And that helps ensure engagement and retentions.

One Kenexa client that has synced its career site to the world in which mobile job seekers live is Regeneron, a biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Tarrytown, N.Y. The site, which is accessible from laptops, PCs, iPads and mobile phones, lists job openings by category, location and job group. It also features "Hot Job Openings," an infographic on working and succeeding in the company, links to LinkedIn and Facebook, and a sign-up for job alerts and company news.

Another challenge for companies is making sure they're delivering an authentic message on career sites and job boards that accurately reflects what it's like to work there.

While one study reported that young candidates resented companies invading their privacy online by searching their profiles and posts, recruiters have an obvious response. "There's so much information about them," said Meister, "because they've profiled themselves!"

Added Kimberley Kasper, CMO at Jobvite, "As someone with a social profile, it's my responsibility to set the privacy settings. You should only allow people to see what you want them to see—to make sure that what you put out there is representative of who you are." That's because somewhere, somehow, an employer is going to find your social profile.

Companies that gain the most from social media recruiting, experts maintain, share five best practices. These, they say, apply to companies of all sizes.

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1. Use apps that deliver. Speed and ease of use in applying for a job via a mobile device are key to recruiting talent today. "If you're the company that succeeds in getting top talent in the door faster," noted Dyke DeBrie, a marketing manager at Smart Workforce, an IBM initiative, "then the outcomes of getting the right people in the right jobs are obvious and exponential: higher customer satisfaction score, higher revenue, higher profit."

2. Know your talent. "The best practice in using social media to recruit is to use it where it can be the most effective, and that's first by knowing the types of job candidates you're looking for," said Kenexa's Geisert. Beyond the right skills and fit for the job and the right attitude for the culture, social media literacy should also be considered.


3. Sell your company to prospective talent. "As a marketing person, I'm responsible for positioning the company to a prospect so they buy our product," said Kasper. "If you're a recruiter, you're doing the same thing, but the person buying into the company is a prospective employee." This means having an accessible, authentic, interactive company career site for candidates who are probably better at profiling you than you are them. It should contain a strong message and a sense of the corporate culture that rings true no matter how the company site is accessed.

4. Make it easy for candidates to find you. "It's an app generation," noted Meister. "If you're not online and mobile, they're never going to find you."

It is also, DeBrie added, "a multitiered approach on paths of least resistance to jobs. If applicants happen to be on their mobile devices, give them a way to apply mobile-y. If they happen to be on Facebook or LinkedIn, give them a way to do that there, using the same profile they were just on. If they happen to be on a career site, great, have them apply there."

5. Set the bar high, and look at the whole candidate. Talent today not only has to have the right technical skills and attitude, recruiters say; they also have to demonstrate social media literacy. "Candidates' social media presence is an indication of how literate they are," Meister said. "It's going to be as important to companies as ethical and diversity training are."

—By Tom Connor, Special to CNBC.com

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