How to Use Social Media to Recruit C-Level Execs

October 2, 2014

As a a recruiter, you’re not just looking for talent; you’re looking for very specific kinds of talent. Especially that rarified kind that accompanies the individuals who are so successful, they’re never even looking for a job.

Such is the case with recruiter Howard Reed, who works for Vistage, an elite executive coaching company that seeks to engage former or current CEO’s and C-level executives.

“We do a lot of passive recruiting,” says Reed, “and it can be challenging to locate the right candidates.” But after several years of mining social media for talent, he’s discovered how to turn it into a powerful advantage.

Here’s a few highly-effective things Reed does to help uncover the C-level needle in the haystack:

1. Do your research and figure out what social platforms your target audience prefers

Your first step should be to tap into data intelligence sources to find out exactly where your target audience spends their time.

By finding information like Domo’s2014 Social CEO Report, Reed determined that 30% of Fortune 500 CEO’s do have a social media presence. And after further poking around online, he discovered that the majority of CEOs spend their time on LinkedIn.

“A lot of executives today are getting pretty savvy with connecting their social media sites with their LinkedIn profile,” Reed says. “So, when you look under their contact information you’ll find some additional information to cross reference this profile with their Twitter or Facebook page which can help you verify if this is the same person.”

CEOs that are active on Twitter for example, and tweeting themselves, will often have their twitter profile connected to their LinkedIn profile.

2. Monitor movement with Google Alerts

Reed keeps tabs on possible candidates by establishing Google Alerts to let him know when there is movement by a CEO or a merger to indicate that a CEO may be stepping down from a company.

He recommends crafting your Google Alerts very broadly at first, and then once you see the results you get, narrowing your search terms down with more specific keywords. He uses a variety of search phrases like “retired CEO,” “CEO leaving” or “new CEO coming,” and multiple titles for CEO, such as “chief executive” and “President.”

In addition to Google alerts, Reed also recommends businesswire.com for establishing specific industry alerts found under the “news” section of the site.

3. Let them know you’re there

Once you find a candidate who’s active on social media and also meets your criteria, Reed recommends that you let them know you’re there. “You don’t want to be too aggressive,” says Reed. But if they’re tweeting, for example, you might start following them for a while, and then commenting on their tweets, or sending a direct tweet with something relevant to their specific business.

“My goal is to be more passive,” he shares, “and let candidates come to us. I don’t want to throw Vistage around too much with in-your-face marketing, “Hey, we want your background.” We want to let them know we’re here and hopefully if they’re interested they will come to us.”

It’s not always the case that someone is going to follow through and look and see who has commented on their posts, Reed shares. “Everyone’s got so much other stuff going on, but hopefully if they do click onto my comment, they’ll eventually stumble into the full profile of Vistage, and they may think, ‘Oh, wow, that’s kind of interesting. Let me learn a little bit more about that’.”

4. Engage with content that adds value

Once you determine where your candidates are and you’re following them, or even commenting on their posts, you’ve also got to be sure that you’ve got content that positively represents what it is you’re doing, says Reed, so that if the candidate does click on your profile, they’re going to become engaged.

Reed likes to use LinkedIn to post content related toleadership development and other C-level topics, which are common areas of interest between Vistage and the candidates he’s searching for. “After I’ve posted material I can then see who is liking and sharing my material.” Anyone who has shared his content becomes a possible contact to reach out and connect with.

Typically he’ll reach out to these people in one of two ways. “Do you know someone who could be interested in Vistage and what we do?” Or for a direct recruit, he’ll say: “’Hey, I don’t know if you’ve heard of Vistage? Love your background etc’, and send them content about our company. That way whenever it’s time for them to transition or retire, they have Vistage in the back of their mind.”

5. Use social recruiting tools to make search easier

Reed also had success just approaching ideal candidates directly using InMails. In order to identify appropriate candidates he’s become very adept at using many of the tools available through LinkedIn Recruiter.

“The ‘Company Followers’ filter is very helpful,” he says, “in order to find candidates that already have an interest in our company.” He also likes to use the ‘Custom Filters’ feature that saves his filter preferences. But the newest feature he likes the most is the ‘People You May Want to Hire’ option. “LinkedIn gives me a stream of candidates that closely resembles the types of candidates I’d consider based on my previous searches and messages. I love it! It’s a tremendous time saver and the candidate profiles are spot on,” he shares.

 6. Keep it simple

The best strategy I can give to recruiters venturing into social media, Reed says, is not to get too distracted by all the bells and whistles. “I think a lot of times people get lost with so many cool tools out there,” he says. “They want to try something new.”

“I think you’ve got to go back to knowing where your audience is,” he says. You might want to put content on all the social platforms, which is fine, he says, but when it comes to actually focusing your strategy, it helps to concentrate on the audience that you’re trying to attract as candidates.

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