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How to use Web 2.0 websites to get to know prospects before you make an offer‏

If the only way you’re advertising your job vacancies is to buy space in newspaper career sections, you might as well dig a hole and bury those ads, along with the money you’re spending—because they won’t be found. Today’s job seeker is looking for much more than a help-wanted ad in Saturday’s paper. In fact, they’re probably not looking there at all.

But it’s likely that they’re highly active on at least one of the Web 2.0 websites that are fast replacing the old model of one-way communication with one based on interaction, sharing and collaboration. There are two key reasons it’s high time you started using these Web 2.0 tools in your recruitment efforts. If you don’t, you’ll risk being seen as so behind the times that potential employees might not even consider working for you. And if you do, you’ll be able to tap into the vast and fast-growing talent pool of those who communicate via their social networks on the Web.

But, with so many Web 2.0 recruiting tools out there, from blogs to Facebook to Ning, where should you start? Here’s a look at the fundamentals of this new approach to recruitment, the leading tools and how best to use them.

The basics of Web 2.0 recruiting
Any entrepreneurs’ goal should be to build a pipeline of passive job seekers: people who, although happily employed and not actively seeking a new position, are open to exploring new opportunities. And they have their own goal: to interview you in order to decide if your firm and the job you’re recruiting for are the right fit for them. But before they get to that point they’re looking for a social experience that will engage them with your business and its purpose. Only then will they want to hear from you about that exciting career opportunity.

You can’t just write a blog post and expect the ideal candidate to apply for your job opening. Instead, think of this as dating a variety of people, then narrowing that to a few and then just one before you’re ready to pop the question.

Just like when you’re courting someone, your potential hire is looking for you to keep things lively. You therefore need to keep your content—whether on your blog, the career page of your firm’s website or elsewhere—fresh by regularly updating it. Also as in dating, you have to tailor your approach. You need to speak directly to your potential hire’s specific interests by customizing what you say to them. If I’m an accountant who might be open to a new opportunity, I don’t want to hear about your warehouse vacancy. So set up your site so I can register a passive-candidate profile, then send me regular information about topics relevant to me.

As well, remember that basic business ethics apply. Just as you wouldn’t walk in to a competitor’s lobby and start handing out job postings, you wouldn’t go to their blog and post that “we’re hiring, so please come apply at our site.” Be professional, post engaging content, build your reputation and wow people over to your career page.

Blogs
Find specialized blogs about your industry that you can use to develop relationships with potential candidates. Posting comments on these blogs with links back to your firm’s website can help position you as a leading company and employer.

Another way to achieve this goal is to start a personal or company blog so you and your staff can engage in discussions with external readers. Have your CEO post the latest strategic news, have a team member post about her latest project or have someone in HR write about your workplace culture. Use blogs to establish credibility, build relationships and develop an external pool of potential candidates.

Online video
Whether it’s posted on YouTube, your own site or elsewhere, video is a powerful tool for telling a story and building trust among potential employees. And these days it’s dead easy to create. Use your digital camera to shoot some footage, then edit and upload it, and you’re live on the Net.

For recruiting, you can create a corporate page or post one-off videos. Showcase the latest career vacancies, talk about your workplace culture or show footage from the company picnic to give job seekers a glimpse of life at your firm before they even apply.

Facebook
You can use Facebook Ads, by selecting cities and keywords such as job titles, to get your job postings in front of users who match your search criteria. Next time you receive a great resumé, look up the applicant on Facebook; you might be surprised by what you see. Finally, use Facebook Marketplace to post your jobs by listing minimum requirements and mandatory experience to allow applicants to self-select.

Wink
Think of Wink as the Google of social-networking sites. It’s a single interface that allows you to search hundreds of millions of online profiles from all the major social-networking sites. You can search by name, location, career and interests to compile a list of passive job seekers. Send them a message telling them about yourself, your firm and why you contacted them. Guaranteed applicants for free.

Ning
Can’t find a social network or blog that matches your specific interests or industry? Create your own company page or interest group. With Ning—an online platform for people to create their own social networks—the possibilities are endless.

Ning allows you to set up a branded site with discussion forums, member profiles, event listings, videos or job postings. It even integrates with Facebook so you can invite your friends on that site to join your Ning network. Once you’ve created a social network and built a member base, you’ll have the opportunity to engage those members, create relationships and develop a list of passive applicants waiting for the right career opportunity to come along.

LinkedIn
This online business network boasts more than 30 million professionals from around the world in 150 industries. If you join LinkedIn, you can create a profile that summarizes your professional accomplishments and will help you find and be found by former colleagues, clients and partners (a.k.a. passive job seekers).

As you build your network, you’ll find members who can recommended other professionals, search for great jobs and discover inside connections. As well, you can develop a profile of a target candidate. Then, for a modest US$195 for 30 days, you can have it sent to members who fit that profile and receive lists of matched candidates.

Too busy to surf?
I know what you’re thinking. This all sounds great, but who has time to troll for job candidates on a bunch of websites? With hundreds of social-networking sites out there and new ones popping up every day, it’s easy to get distracted and spread yourself too thin by participating on too many sites.

The key to effectiveness is to limit your search to a handful of carefully chosen sites. To do this, you first need a strategic staffing plan. Ask yourself: which vacancies and new positions will you need to hire for, which sort of person do you hope to hire and where do they work, live and play? Once you know the answers to these questions, select the Web 2.0 sites your candidates visit and the social media you think will best engage them.

The odds are excellent that some of your current employees are social-networking experts—thanks in part to hanging out on Facebook while at work. So why not delegate your Web 2.0 recruitment and sourcing to them?

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