Recruiting in a Snap

By Sarah Fister Gale

Aug. 21, 2017

Big-name companies such as McDonald’s and Goldman Sachs have tested using Snapchat to recruit millennials.

In April, McDonald’s Corp. showed surprising social media edge when it took its recruiting campaign to Snapchat, the mobile app that lets users exchange videos and images that self-destruct after a few seconds. The initial campaign began in Australia, where they encouraged candidates to use a Snapchat filter to try on virtual uniforms, then upload their own 10-second pitch in lieu of filling out a job application.

In June, McDonald’s launched the campaign in the United States on a simpler scale. Instead of uploading videos, potential candidates could watch current employees talking for 10 seconds about how much they love their jobs, and they can swipe to see local job openings at the company’s career page.

Even without the uniform filter and video application, it was a fun use of a social media platform that hasn’t gotten much attention from the recruiting world, said Ray Wang of Constellation Research Inc. It also makes a lot of sense for a company like McDonald’s. “They want to hire the 16- to 24-year-old demographic that uses Snapchat,” he said. “It is a great way to reach them.”

Whether this is the start of a new recruiting trend or just a gimmick remains to be seen. McDonald’s had a lot of things going for it to make this campaign a hit, said Jody Ordioni, president and chief branding officer for Brandemix, a brand marketing agency. It’s already a huge brand that is popular among the very people they are trying to hire — millennials and Generation Z. And because it was a novel recruiting strategy, it was buzzworthy. “McDonald’s generated a lot of momentum by being first,” she said.

McDonald’s isn’t the only big company that has tried to figure out whether Snapchat is a viable recruiting tool and how to use it. In fact, they weren’t even the first.

In 2016, Cisco took to Snapchat with its #WeAreCisco social media campaign, encouraging brand ambassadors from across the company to post content about life at Cisco directly to the channel — without any reviews or attempts to edit. Cisco’s Talent Brand Team knew that the only way it would work was if the content was authentic, according to Social Media Manager Carmen Shirkey Collins. “We didn’t want to be ‘marketers,’ we wanted to be ‘co-workers,’ ” she wrote in a blog about the project. The employees loved the idea, and not only created content for Snapchat but promoted it on their own social networks via other platforms. Collins reported a 600 percent follower increase week over week in the first three months of launching.

Possibly the most surprising early adopter was financial giant Goldman Sachs, which ran its own recruiting campaign on Snapchat’s Campus Story platform in 2015 with a series of 10-second recruitment videos seeking “campus environmental leaders,” “youth sports coaches” and “crowd-funding champions.” The snaps were only accessible to people in and around 60 targeted campuses and was part of the financial firm’s broader efforts to appeal to a younger, hipper candidate pool. The nine-day campaign accrued more than 2.1 million views and the company reported a significant increase in traffic to the Careers webpage.

None of these companies released data around whether the campaigns actually translated into new hires, and because snaps only exist for a short time, users can’t go looking for these ads or use them to drive long-term results.

That’s part of the problem, said Wang. “If you can’t generate viral activity around the campaign, it won’t work.”

The Novelty Factor

Snapchat presents many obstacles that make it tricky as a recruiting tool. Potential candidates have to already follow the brand to see the snaps, and they need to respond in real time for it to have an effect. And while using filters and videos can be a fun way to engage candidates, companies need to decide if they can judge someone by a 10-second video, or whether they can deliver a powerful enough recruiting message in that time to drive career-age traffic.

That’s not to say Snapchat can’t be useful for recruiting if it’s used as part of the broader social media engagement effort and not a strategy unto itself. “You can’t rely on any single social media outlet to drive brand awareness,” Ordioni said. “It’s just one piece of the process.”

For companies interested in expanding their social reach via Snapchat, Ordioni suggests campaigns be linked to a broader recruiting effort or event and designed to engage the largely younger demographic with genuine stories that will grab their attention.

It also can’t be a one-off effort. As with any social media platform, followers expect a steady stream of original content — not just the occasional self-promotional post — so companies shouldn’t focus on Snapchat unless they have the bandwidth to generate that kind of continuous content, she said. “If you ask people to follow you on Snapchat, it has to be a long-term commitment.”

Sarah Fister Gale is a writer in Chicago. Comment below or email

Sarah Fister Gale is a writer in Chicago.

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