Q&A With Paul Jacobs

Paul wears many hats – entrepreneur, social media evangelist, employment branding consultant, community DJ and conversation stirrer – but a common denominator in his work is a passion for, in his own words, “helping employers become stars“. A perennial experimenter, and blessed with an acute eye to spot new trends, Paul is one the most influential recruitment voices in the ANZ region. We caught up with Paul to discuss his current projects and upcoming talk at the Sourcing Summit.

Q. Can you tell us a bit about your background and current role?
I’m in the business of helping employers become stars on the social web. I’m fortunate to work with some very progressive organisations, who desire to be leaders in the areas of recruitment, employment communications, and sourcing. I’ve worked with Deloitte NZ for nearly two years on their successful social recruiting initiatives, which won the 2010 SOCRA award in the United States for excellence in social media and recruiting. We were also finalists in the 2010 NZ Marketing Awards, recognised as one of the world’s Top 40 Facebook fan pages, and featured in blogs locally and globally as an example of leading practice. We pioneered a range of social media initiatives, including live streaming shows on our grad recruitment Facebook page, an approach which is now being adopted by other employers in NZ and Australia.

I have an Organisational Psychology background, so enjoy applying motivational and behavioural theory to HR and social media projects. I’m passionate about building talent communities online and promoting the great initiatives which are happening in our part of the world. Four years ago I became the Community DJ for Recruitment Asia Pacific, an online community of professionals in the Asia Pacific region interested in networking, recruitment innovations, recruitment technologies, and social media. Over the past couple of years I attended social recruiting events at Google and Best Buy in the USA. I enjoy keeping up with innovations and trends happening on the social web, such as social gaming and mobile technologies, and looking for ways to apply these to a recruitment and talent sourcing perspective.

Q. You have done significant work on Facebook, what do you think works or doesn’t work on Facebook?
It’s important that employers have an end in mind – what do they want to achieve? Many employers and recruitment firms don’t work through this step. They set up shop on the platform just because they believe they need to be there or their competitors have already established a presence. With no purpose in mind, firms’ efforts tend to become sporadic and directionless, and often peter out. A Facebook presence is most successful when a firm has a genuine interest in making it a success, and this requires strategic direction from a senior level.

Recruiters also need to understand that Facebook is a social platform. It supports conversation, rather than just broadcasting one-way messages. A common scenario is recruiters who merely ‘vomit’ job listings and expect jobseekers to magically engage emotionally with their brand and employee value propositions. Recruiters often have a ‘campaign’ mentality and miss the opportunity Facebook presents to take a broader focus on building an engaged talent community. What works is an authentic, honest and responsive communication style. Also, beware of false assumptions – firms often have the wrong idea about the Facebook demographic and both the overt and covert intentions of their jobseeker community.

Lastly, firms should not be afraid to experiment and look for inspiration outside the recruitment and sourcing profession. I’ve had success on Facebook by studying the gaming industry and how celebrities are utilising social media.

Q. You talk a lot about the importance of ‘emotional branding’ can you explain its place in the sourcing stable/tool box?
Sourcing is often perceived in a very technical light. But as part of the talent identification process, sourcers need to be marketers who can understand, engage and build trust with different talent audiences.

Relationships typically take time to develop and nurture, sometimes over a period of years with potential talent. To be effective, sourcers need to be clear how to reach the talent and then immerse themselves in their world. Sourcers also need to be able to establish and build community and understand the emotional and motivational requirements of their members.

The sourcer’s job is often made difficult, as employers don’t always define their brand and employment opportunities in a clear and differentiating light. Many employer value propositions are similar. They also tend to appeal at a cognitive rather than emotional level. For example, an employer might say they offer the opportunity to work within a team. But what’s important to a jobseeker may be the opportunity for their contribution to be valued. To stand out in the market, sourcers need to identify, understand and tap into the emotional and motivational drivers of jobseekers, and sell opportunities at a deeper level that is more meaningful, particularly to the passive jobseeker who may be relatively content with their current role.

Q. What, in your opinion, is a successful source of talent in NZ? What trends are you witnessing that’s different from Australia or the rest of the world?
When I’ve attended recruitment related conferences and events in NZ, Australia and in the USA I’m always amazed at the love affair sourcers and recruiters have with LinkedIn. I’m doubly amazed when I later discover that some of the most passionate advocates aren’t using the platform in the most effective ways. Sourcers need to be where the talent resides and if they have a strong preference for one or two sources then they may be missing out on a whole raft of talent. While for some they may be successful sources of talent they are not necessarily the best or only sources. I believe we need to explore and conquer other frontiers. I’ve been enjoying having a play with Google+ and some of the professional networking apps on Facebook and would expect sourcing professionals to be doing the same.

Job boards and recruitment agencies that follow a traditional advertising model are often touted to be successful sources of talent, but then there’s the whole “post and pray” and active versus passive jobseeker considerations that come into play. In saying all this, we need to be cognisant of the many different ways in which people make career decisions. For example, they may see a vacancy in a newspaper or job board, then see a posting on a social networking site, hear some info about an employer from a colleague, and finally get a phone call from a recruiter etc.

A totally underutilised source of talent in NZ and Australia is employee and candidate referrals. We need to lift the game. Australia is possibly a bit more advanced in using mobile in a recruitment context, but the gap is quickly narrowing.

Q. What subject and issues will you tackle at the Sourcing Summit?
I’m running a Winning on Facebook workshop (sounds very Charlie Sheen-esque doesn’t it?!) and presenting on the topic of Emotional Branding in Sourcing (bring your Kleenex!). I hope to draw on my own experiences and leading practices in the Asia Pacific region and overseas. The common theme in both sessions will be around humanising recruitment and exploring ways to improve the sourcing experience. I’ll be drawing upon some of my thinking on the social gaming industry and seeing how it sits in a sourcing context.