Goin’ Mobile

By Michelle Rafter

Feb. 13, 2011

During the three-block walk between his office and parking spot, Macy’s Inc. executive recruiting director Owen Williams routinely uses his BlackBerry and the mobile version of LinkedIn to post job listings and extend invitations to connect to potential candidates. It’s a time saver, and for someone who fills more than 80 store manager and regional buyer positions a year with little help, every minute counts. “It’s amazing what work I can get done in that walk,” he says.

Recruiters like Williams were some of the first human resources staffers to join social networks and switch to smart phones, all in the name of finding top talent. So it’s no surprise that recruiters have been some of the earliest and most ardent adopters of technology that marries the two, recruiting software applications made specifically for smart phones and tablet computers such as the Apple iPad.

It’s a fast-paced world, and recruiting is quickly moving off the desktop and onto mobile devices. “Mobile recruiting is the new frontier for 2011, and a large extension of the social recruiting presence for many organizations,” says Elaine Orler, president of Talent Function Group, a San Diego-based staffing and recruiting consultancy.

In addition to connecting with candidates, recruiters use mobile apps to post jobs, run text message-based recruiting campaigns, create online communities for potential new hires to learn about their companies, monitor social networks for news about industries they hire for, and keep in touch with staff and outside agencies—all things they used to do from a desktop or laptop computer.

The move to mobile recruiting has spawned blogs, webinars, seminars, e-newsletters and online groups devoted to the subject. Recruiters who want to keep up with technology and trends can join the LinkedIn group or read blogs such as, written by Chris Hoyt, talent engagement and marketing leader at PepsiCo Inc. A one-day mRecruitingcamp conference in September will feature speakers from Facebook Inc., Microsoft Corp. and other heavyweights. The conference is organized by Michael Marlatt, a mobile recruiting guru, and will cover such topics as mobile careers site optimization, video in mobile recruiting and mobile app development.

The trickle of mobile recruiting apps that started a few years ago has turned into a steady stream of new offerings. Among the latest apps: Accelerate Learning & Development Inc.’s Interviewer, which includes a suite of tools for before, during and after candidate interviews. There are also offerings from vendors such as Movitas, Mobile Visions Inc.’s Mobivity and SumoText Corp. that help companies create text message-based mobile campaigns; AutoSearch Mobile, a sourcing tool that performs geographically based keyword searches of Jobster, LinkedIn, Twitter, ZoomInfo and online résumés; and the Hire Syndicate, which lets multiple recruiters share the commission from a job placement.

Text-based mobile recruiting is the easiest, cheapest way to get started because text messages work with any cell phone, and texting is so ubiquitous, says Marlatt, who has worked on mobile campaigns for Aon Inc.’s Aon Hewitt division, Microsoft and other clients. Of 5 billion mobile subscribers worldwide, 3.6 billion use text messages, also called short message service, or SMS, he says.

Marlatt used Movitas for an Aon Hewitt campaign that the HR consultant ran at a 2009 National Black MBA Association Inc. career fair. Attendees who sent a text to Hewitt for the opportunity to win a prize were prompted to visit a mobile-enabled website for details. On the site, they also could learn about the company’s diversity program.

For SMS-based mobile recruiting to work, text message numbers should appear throughout a company’s regular marketing and advertising. According to Marlatt, Microsoft used Jobs2Web to create its mobile-optimized careers website. Next up for the tech giant: an SMS-based mobile recruiting campaign that Marlatt is helping the company develop. Though he won’t share specifics, Marlatt says similar SMS campaigns allow job seekers to sign up to receive text messages whenever jobs open up that fit what they’re looking for.

Other recruiters have been content to stick with using mobile versions of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. And Macy’s Williams is one of them.

Using LinkedIn’s mobile app means Williams can act immediately when jobs open up. One Friday afternoon late last year, he was walking to his car at corporate headquarters in Cincinnati when he got an e-mail from a co-worker about a manager resigning from one of the company’s Kansas City stores. “Right there on the walk I posted the job” to the company’s website, he says. “You never know how long a great candidate will be on the market, so you have to capitalize on the moment.” Within a few hours, he’d already gotten a few nibbles.

Williams also uses Twitter’s mobile app to post job openings and to keep up with what’s happening in his industry, which paid off midway through 2010 when a New York-based women’s specialty retailer announced it was closing several locations and laying off merchandise buyers. Williams wasn’t working, but read about the layoffs on the Twitter app on his BlackBerry. After confirming the report, he called and told a Macy’s talent vice president in New York to have company recruiters reach out to the laid-off buyers. Within a month, Williams says, he had recruited a handful of them, a big win considering that New York is an extremely competitive hiring market for experienced merchandise buyers. When people are suddenly out of work, he adds, “to be the first out of the blocks to reach out to them is huge.”

Williams also uses LinkedIn’s mobile app to monitor a Macy’s LinkedIn group he started two years ago called the Retail Executives Career Connection that now numbers about 1,300. Members can network with Macy’s executives and find out about job openings. “It’s not as scary as inviting them to fill out a long application. It’s more casual,” he says.

When it comes to recruiting apps, Facebook is Patrice Rice’s favorite. Rice is president of Patrice and Associates Inc., a Dunkirk, Maryland, hospitality industry recruiter with 41 franchise locations that fill 600 to 700 manager openings a year for clients such as Marriott Corp. and Planet Hollywood International Inc. Rice started a Facebook page last year to supplement LinkedIn and Twitter accounts she’d had for several years. So far, 2,000-plus people “Like” the company’s Facebook page, where they can learn about job openings and get résumé help.

Rice issued her staff BlackBerrys two years ago to make it easier and faster to keep up with such online activities. More recently, she hired a part-time social media account manager to maintain the company’s online presence, partly so recruiters don’t have to, but also to be quicker to respond to queries from potential candidates.

Though mobile versions of Facebook and other social media are free, moving to mobile recruiting isn’t cheap. In 2010, Rice calculates she spent $60,000 on salary, branding, a promotional campaign on Facebook and other costs. Although it’s tough to track the return on her investment, she says it’s worth it. “Goodwill pays off, but you can’t measure it,” she says. “But if someone says good things about you, it has an impact.”
Recruiters’ love affair with mobile is extending to the iPad. Dave Carvajal uses one, along with an iPhone, on his 10-minute train ride to Dave Partners, the New York-based boutique executive search firm he started in 2009. “On the iPad I’m able to go through LinkedIn and e-mail and get a tremendous amount of work done,” he says.

Carvajal, a veteran recruiter who helped start HotJobs and, integrates the mobile recruiting apps he and his employees use with sourcing software from Jigsaw Data Corp. and Inc. Recruiters such as Carvajal rely on mobile apps so much that software vendors who don’t offer them could be in trouble. Right now, Dave Partners also uses recruiting office management software from Bullhorn Inc. for customer relationship management, but the vendor doesn’t have a mobile version of the software that’s optimized for the Mac operating system, “so we’re considering moving away,” Carvajal says. “Bullhorn is behind the curve, and that’s been kind of frustrating.”

Bullhorn product marketing director Jonathan Wall, says that while Bullhorn’s Web-based software is designed to work better on Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser, clients can use virtualization software to run it on Mac devices. He also says Bullhorn has had a mobile optimized website since 2008, and is rolling out software for text-message recruiting campaigns in conjunction with partner Dialogue Communications, a mobile messaging and billing services provider.

Some companies are building their own mobile recruiting apps. One is Last September, it created Work@, an app that shows people which of their Facebook friends would be matches for openings at their company and lets them share the information. In addition to offering it to clients, is using the app internally. In the five months since it went live, more than 75 percent of the company’s employees have used it, and employee referrals are up 40 percent, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Grasz.

Despite all the activity at recruiting firms and early adopters such as, mobile recruiting still holds challenges. HR software vendors and mobile-only developers who initially produced recruiting apps solely for the iPhone now must divide their resources between competing smart phone and tablet computer operating systems.

Though mobile recruiting offers many advantages, finance and information technology executives at some companies continue to question the value of developing their own apps. “In some cases app development is still considered nice to have, but not a requirement for competitive recruiting efforts,” says Orler, the recruiting consultant.

Nevertheless, as recruiting picks up this year, industry watchers expect mobile recruiting to play a larger role in many companies’ hiring efforts. “This has huge implications,” Orler says, “for how we need to improve recruiting relationships, candidate experiences and platform delivery models to compete in 2011 and beyond.”

Workforce Management, February 2011, pgs. 26, 28Subscribe Now!

Michelle Rafter is a Workforce contributing editor.

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