Picture sourcing: How Instagram can help you recruit

Instagram has shown the world the sense of community that can be built largely by sharing pictures and video. Since launching in 2010, the social network has acquired 500m active users per month but what relevance does it have for sourcing?

Thurs, 27 October 2016 | By Sue Weekes


Instagram has shown the world the sense of community that can be built largely by sharing pictures and video. Since launching in 2010, the social network has acquired 500m active users per month but what relevance does it have for sourcing? For some recruiters, Instagram is 

yet to get on to their radar but for others it is an important social recruiting tool. 

“It can be a slower win but you might just uncover someone who you won’t find anywhere else,” says Katrina Collier, founder of The Searchologist and a global social media recruitment trainer and speaker. Andrew Robson-Graham, talent acquisition and training manager at technology recruitment agency Redline Group, agrees: “Even if it gives you a sliver of a person’s capabilities, it can be really valuable.”

Be human

When a recruiter sets up an Instagram account, there can be a tendency to be too formal. To make the most of the medium, Collier recommends adopting a more human approach. It is very different to using LinkedIn. “On Instagram, people might not have the same user name [as their own] so you have to be more creative,” she says. “You need to fill out your bio, have a recognised profile picture and show content from your professional life but also insight into who you are as a person. Give them something to engage with and a reason to follow you.” So along with social recruiting content, Collier also shares photos about her two big loves of travel and dogs. 

Who’s on it?

Instagram has a much bigger demographic than just young people so don’t pre-judge it as only a medium for Millennial talent. Typically, Redline uses it for searching more creative people. “If you can physically see an example of what a person has done it’s always going to be better than just hearing people talk about it,” says Robson-Graham. He adds that if he was looking for high-end chefs, Instagram would be the first place he’d look as many post images of their creations. Collier agrees recruiters should play to Instagram visual strengths but says all types of professions use the platform. “On one of my courses, someone said I’d never find a quant [quantitative] developer, but I did,” she says.

Direct sourcing

Potential talent can be found by using hashtag searches but with 95m photos and videos shared each day, prepare for a lot of posts to be returned, especially on general searches like #chefs or #designers. Applying x-ray searching techniques such as the ‘site:instragram.com’ approach will obviously provide more targeted returns but experiment and invest time in understanding how the medium is used by its community. Collier says as well as searching for talent, she also seeks out content that she can share with her community. “If recruiting nurses, I’ll follow #nurse problems and re-post content that I think is interesting,” she says.

Making contact

Instagram is more likely to form the starting point of tracking down talent rather than where you open a full dialogue. Robson-Graham says that it can be more of a “one-way street” and he tends to search out contact details elsewhere. “It doesn’t have the functionality to enter into a dialogue in great depth. You can post that you like their work but it won’t necessarily be the quickest way to find a person,” he says. “I always tell people that being a recruiter is like being part detective and part diplomat, so you need those skills to come into play.” He adds that Redline finds it particularly valuable for overseas talent, especially in the US, where Instagram is huge, and increasingly, South-East Asia.

Build trust

Bear in mind that Instagram is a community. It may be a valuable social recruiting tool but users are on it to share experiences and stories. “What you really want is for someone to follow you back so you can send them a message over the platform. This can take time and you have to gain trust,” says Collier who stresses that this means being upfront about being a recruiter. “A lot of recruiters follow me on social media but I wouldn’t necessarily know it from their profile. But then I’ll speak at a conference and know they are there because of the conference hashtag,” she says. “This makes them look like they are hiding something. If a person doesn’t know you as a human being, they won’t trust you.”

What's Instagram?

Instagram was launched in 2010 and has made its name as a simple-to-use platform for sharing stories and experiences with photos. It is used by brands, celebrities and organisations of all sizes, as well as individuals, to tell their story visually. Instagram has more than 500m monthly active users and 300m daily ones. More than 95m photos and videos are shared each day and 4.2bn ‘likes’ are clicked.

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