How a Technology Company Built a Social Media Recruiting Strategy [CASE STUDY]

Ever heard of Thunderhead? It’s a UK-headquartered fast-growing technology company with 35% profit growth year on year and 60% headcount growth last year. The company supplies communication services on all channels and helps its clients communicate more effectively and in a personalised way with their customers.

We recently had the pleasure to meet with Bronwyn Hall, the global HR director at the London offices for an interview regarding Thunderhead’s social media strategy in terms of recruitment.

Recruitment at Thunderhead: goals and challenges

The fast changing environment in which Thunderhead operates comes with a need of finding new top talent. The internal recruitment team consists of two people, one recruiter and one HR administrator. It didn’t always look like this though.

12 months ago, when Bronwyn arrived at Thunderhead, £500,000 were spent on recruiting fees, from external recruitment agencies only. There was no HR function, managers were using any agency and the company was still struggling to fill technical support and quality assurance roles.

The challenge for Thunderhead was to to reduce the half million pound spend but also to get everyone involved in a big recruitment drive, with a view to hire 66 new people over the following 12 months.

Recruiting Strategy

Thunderhead tested the waters by first putting an interim recruiter in place, this person started using LinkedIn and its Recruiter product heavily and got great results. After 6 months, the return on investment was demonstrated and recruitment license value was shown during the period.

The first 6-9 months were about getting jobs posted and managing response to that. A first step into using job boards was made along with a more developed career page. Jobs were also posted on the LinkedIn company page (15 slots are available to them in order to do it) and a more proactive recruitment started to grow.

In terms of social recruiting, Thunderhead has limited itself mostly to LinkedIn as it is where they find most candidates and they don’t have resources to us more channels at the moment. Different Job boards are used for 6 different geographies where they recruit, in the UK they use JobServe, in the US it’s Dice (gives fantastic results), Craigslist works in New York (2 hires from there). Thunderhead have found that free trials of job boards is a good approach. In terms of other online recruitment channels that did not work for Thunderhead, 37Signals was said to be quite disappointing.

As for the success on LinkedIn, the tactic with the most impact has been to share job as job discussions in multiple groups. This is where passive candidates can be reached and most of the click-backs to the Thunderhead website come from groups on LinkedIn. They never spam though, jobs are only posted in specific groups and in the career tabs.

On LinkedIn, a combination of postings and shares, sourcing passive candidates, and expanding personal networks were the keys to the recruiting strategy.

Also, employee referral is still a massive source of hire, with a reasonable payment up to £2,000 depending on the location and the seniority of the role.

Online Employer Branding

Online Employer Branding is Thunderhead’s focus right now, down to resources internally.  As the company background in terms of recruitment was mainly using agencies, the online employer branding concept is quite new. The challenge is to build a real brand, by expanding every employee’s online network in order to let everyone see their posts and shares.

The career page has been built with a great participation coming from Thunderhead’s employees: many stories were written to share how it really is to work there. Employees communicate individually via their email signatures – and “we’re hiring” button is included in there. Thunderhead also has a blog, purely about products and what’s going on in the business.

We notice candidates are much more aware of Thunderhead the awards we have won, and when you’re a developer, you want to work with great products“, says Bronwyn.

Next up will be to integrate the Marketing department with the HR on those employer branding projects. This remains a big focus for the future.

In terms of results, 25% traffic to Thunderhead website originated from the careers pages. Facebook has produced some results from recruiters personal account as well.

Results & Future Challenges

102 hires were made last year, 25% through referrals, 25% via LinkedIn, 35% via agencies and the rest through job boards. Agency spend were reduced by 50% (now down to £250,000k), cost of hire has come down by 50%, and overall recruitment spend by 25%. Bronwyn’s last two jobs were found though LinkedIn and most of her team was hired through LinkedIn as well – they are all advocates of maximising LinkedIn.

Moreover, time to hire was reduced substantially, based on better briefs from managers. For instance, development team roles used to take 5-6 months to close down, now it’s gone down to 120 days to most recent ones 40 days!

The next challenge on LinkedIn is to encourage managers to share jobs into their groups, and maybe to even open their very own group. The idea is to get every employee within Thunderhead to utilise their personal LinkedIn and other social media accounts to fish for talent.

The next 12 months will also be focused on what can be done with Facebook and Twitter in terms of social recruitment and employer branding.

With less agency recruitment, “quality of hire has gone up: we’re not competing with Google, HP, we get the cream of the crop, candidates are not shopping around“, explains Bronwyn.

Bronwyn’s top 3 tips for social recruiting success

- To quickly demonstrate ROI, run a trial project for a 3 month period where you implement a a direct hire strategy. You will need an in-house recruiter, a good social media setup and you’ll see a reduced agency spend almost immediately.

- Make sure your brand and culture comes through in advertising! “We have a great proposition and we make the most of it, we stand out and we tell a compelling story about why to join us and why this particular job“, adds Bronwyn.

- Use LinkedIn cleverly. Set up projects, try direct approaches to candidates, automated searches, quickly-built candidate pipelines. “Most people we hire are on LinkedIn: if they aren’t, we just won’t hire as they have the wrong mindset“, says Bronwyn.

What’s next

The company is about to be rebranded, subsequently launching new products. From on-premise company to Saas model, the challenge will be to define how to make this transition from a recruitment perspective.

The company will continue to gain experience on understanding the places to hunt for talent, but also on developing the promotion of their enterprise culture with its teams, roles and benefits.

The recruitment strategy will be wider and Thunderhead will look at using other social media tools alongside LinkedIn.

And finally, about that name…

It’s Thunderhead. No, it’s not Thunderball, Thunderbirds or Thunder cats. And certainlynot Thunderpants which a candidate said in an interview. Most people seem to get it wrong, which is a great ice-breaker. “Getting our name wrong is not a showstopper but it’s funny!” says Bronwyn.

  • http://twitter.com/calvinjhun Calvin_at_Identified

    Very Cool. I’ve never heard of the company Thunderhead, but at this rate, I’m sure a lot of people will within the next year or two.

    Check out how HP uses Facebook to recruit: http://employers.identified.com/blog/bid/83625/Facebook-Recruiting-How-HP-Does-It

  • Pingback: THUNDERHEAD – Recruiting Employees Using LinkedIn – Example 5 « Social Media Unleashed()

  • http://twitter.com/WoteStreet Maxine Hart

    Good stuff! As a Recruitment business it may not seem in our interest to back ways of recruiting without us lol. HOWEVER, it should be about our Clients getting the right person, for the right reasons – that’s why we’re building our social recruitment strategy to genuinely help get people the right job. We’re not social workers, but we feel the responsibility of finding someone the right job. The reverse of that doesn’t bear thinking about, we all spend far too much time at work not to enjoy it.

    • http://linkhumans.com/ Jorgen Sundberg

      I like that mentality Maxine, when you really care about the people you’re helping that will enhance your reputation online/offline and lead to repeat business. And candidates become clients over time as well all know…