Talent acquisition has become more dynamic thanks to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. “Social media recruiting provides the ability to do more than just put an ad on a billboard and hope that people find you,” says Lorenz Esposito, a social media marketing and employer branding specialist. Instead, social media brings your brand directly to the people.
But different people are on different platforms. Among the younger generations, social media preferences change quickly; yesterday’s social media platform is the digital equivalent of an outdated billboard. Right now, the best place to find young talent is TikTok. Gaining popularity in the US in 2018, the platform became a hub for viral dance memes and silly video-dare challenges. Lately, though, the platform has morphed into a powerful recruiting tool.
Young People Are Flocking to TikTok
In 2020, TikTok became the most downloaded app worldwide, overtaking Facebook, Instagram, and even Zoom. Among TikTok’s 100 million US users, 62% are under age 29 and nearly 80% are under age 39, according to business data site Statista. That means the social media platform is a prime way to reach millennials (born between 1980 and 1995) and Generation Zers (born between 1996 and 2010).
It’s growing in prevalence among the latter group, which is beginning to join the workforce. According to surveys from youth market research firm YPulse, the percentage of 13- to 18-year-olds using TikTok went from 35% to 52% between February and May 2020. In that same period, the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds on TikTok more than doubled, from 22% to 45%.
The platform’s content speaks to young professionals’ values. While older job seekers are focused on salary, insurance, and retirement benefits, younger generations want to know: “Am I going to fit culturally? What is the company’s mission?” “Social media can present the culture and values, and show what it’s really like to work in the company,” says Esposito.
TikTok itself has set the tone for this peek-behind-the-corporate-curtain content. Their “Life At TikTok” account features real employees capturing their responsibilities and workdays in lighthearted ways:
Today’s TikTok Campaigns, Tomorrow’s Talent
Companies are figuring out how to recruit on TikTok in the present, so they can be prepared for the near-future’s social media recruiting landscape, says Torgil Lenning, CEO of Potentialpark, a research firm that helps employers target candidates and build their employer brand on digital media. He says these organizations are thinking, “If we are not on TikTok, following it and learning what’s happening, we will not be ready for when TikTok is one of the major recruiting platforms.”
More motivation to seek talent on TikTok: If the pandemic has caused your company to slow down or stop hiring, now is a great time to test a new channel. “Do those experiments today to be prepared when recruiting and the economy pick up again,” says Lenning.
Esposito recognizes that many TikTok users may be young or inexperienced. But, he points out, they won’t be forever—and eventually they will be looking for jobs. “A lot of employers are starting to use TikTok for building brand awareness, so that new talent might think, ‘Maybe that really funny company I’ve been following over the last three years is hiring,’” says Esposito.
Chipotle was one of the first companies to use TikTok to attract talent. A viral video of an employee expertly landing a lid on a food container led to a lid-flip challenge that generated more than 110,000 video submissions. The restaurant now has 1.4 million TikTok followers and has been lauded by the Shorty Awards, which recognizes the best social media content each year. Once Chipotle recognized TikTok’s impact on brand awareness, they tailored a recruiting strategy specific to the platform.
How to Build a TikTok Recruiting Strategy
1. Set goals for the campaign. Is the aim to enhance your employer brand? Are you hoping to increase applications? Do you want to diversify your candidate pool?
Chipotle’s talent acquisition and creative teams collaborated in summer 2020 around the goal of hiring 10,000 new food service employees. They determined TikTok was an ideal platform for driving applications because “our TikTok demographic is a reflection of both the guests who come to our restaurants and also our employee base,” says Candice Beck, Senior Manager of Social and Digital at Chipotle.
2. Choose where your budget goes. There are two main avenues for spending money on TikTok campaigns: advertising or paying influencers to tout your brand in a seemingly organic way.
TikTok advertising allows companies to target their content by gender, age, location, and interests (e.g., electronics, travel, design, or automobiles). “With ads, you can bring people to you who didn’t know about you. Then, if you create amazing, captivating content on your feeds, people will come back,” says Esposito. Eventually, you may not need to advertise at all.
Advertising on TikTok can also encourage applications in industries struggling to appeal to young talent, says Lenning. “Engineers and developers want to work in entertainment or the electric car industry. But if you belong to a less attractive industry, for example, manufacturing, you need to make sure that future talent sees you as a potential employer,” he says.
Companies can include influencers instead of or in addition to advertising. “Our No. 1 rule when working with influencers,” Beck says, “is you have to be a fan of the brand.” It’s good advice for your company, too: Paying an authentic cheerleader will yield better results than working with any random influencer. Just make sure their following is engaging with the influencer’s posts and aligned with your target demographic.
3. Post the right content. The most successful videos on TikTok are approachable, says Grant Wenzlau, VP of Story at Day One Agency—but what followers consider to be approachable varies from brand to brand. “If your company is all about transparent practices, then genuine, lo-fi, behind-the-scenes videos will resonate. If your brand’s voice and POV are humorous and you’re looking for funny people to join your team, creating comedic TikTok videos is a great way to capture their attention.”
Plus, the messaging should match the platform, says Lenning. For TikTok, that means lighthearted and easy to consume. “Videos need to be fast, preferably put a smile on your face, and give you a feeling of belonging.” If you include any text, Lenning says to stick to a few words or a short phrase.
Additionally, “never underestimate the power of the hashtag to get your videos in front of more eyes,” says Wenzlau. Day One Agency launched its own recruiting campaign across social media platforms, including on TikTok, to hire two creative apprentices. They used the hashtag #CreativeSinceDayOne and received more than 700 applications. Indeed, the two winning applications came through TikTok.
TikTok Recruiting Is for All Industries
TikTok is more than a digital gathering ground for bored teens; it’s a way to reach a new generation of talent. Not only has Day One used it to recruit video-savvy creatives, electronics company ASUS North America used it to source top tech talent. Even The Washington Post has enticed budding journalists to apply from the platform.
The range of brands using TikTok to attract job seekers illustrates the platform’s viability as a recruiting tool. As long as TikTok has millions of active accounts, employers shouldn’t be shy about using the platform to engage with talent—no matter the industry.