Social Selling & How a Recruitment Agency Goes 10 Years, No Sales Calls

I recently joined Alan Hiddleston from the brilliant Firefish Software as part of their Predictive Recruitment Podcasts, to talk about Social Selling, and how to integrate Social Media into a recruitment agency’s business development efforts.

dusty phoneI guess the headline is that I ran a recruitment agency that never made a sales call in 10 years (a recruiter’s dream, right?!) , yet worked with some of the leading brands in the UK and beyond because of the reputation we built through our social recognition & visibility.

I focus a lot on the dynamic shift of the quality of the relationship with the market when you shift from the Push to the Pull effect of market communication and attraction.

Key points to look out for:

  • Being multi-dimensional in your market presence and sales approach
  • The change in the relationship dynamic when the client chooses you because of word of mouth
  • Listen to the plethora of content & discussion in your market to know where to get involved on social media 
  • Start with who you know, join in warm industry discussion and build network 
  • Make every interaction count 
  • It’s probably a good business tactic to be a nice person
  • What makes good content 


Thanks to Firefish for having me, this is only the beginning of this subject and we could have covered so many points. I hope you enjoy this snapshot, and I look forward to your thoughts.

Rule 1 of Social Selling: Make Every Interaction Count

I’ve posted a couple of times recently on Social Selling, or more broadly, how Social Media helps your recruitment agency, or organisation in general; win new business.

I’m communicating a lot at the moment, about the rules of how Social Selling works best. Hopefully they are things that can most naturally apply to the recruitment agency world, and business as a whole.

The theme of this article, and the most simple rule, is:

Make Every Interaction Matter. 

If we are going to make Social Media work for us, we need to successfully and authentically feed a reputation driven environment. Social Selling is less about outbound sales, it’s about inbound marketing and driving word-of-mouth behaviours.

boy flowerThe only way anyone is going to recommend you, or your business – is by you leaving an impression that inspires people to want to do so. Every ‘candidate’, ‘client’ or contact – online or offline – written or spoken.

At CloudNine, it was a mantra of how we operated. We prioritised no-one, and placed equal importance on the newest graduate as we did any industry leader. Most importantly; we strived never to categorise ‘client’ or ‘candidate’ and treated both as the same. The avenues of ‘influence’ are often not dictated by a job title. 

I haven’t made a sales call for 10 years. This is because the measurement of whether we deserved work, was placed in the hands of the people we served. If they were to recommend us, then we were worthy. If they didn’t, then we would miss out.

90-100% of our business was recommendation or visibility driven – the big chunk of that, that was recommendation driven was because we treated people well. Here’s the key rules:

  • Be Nice. It takes nothing to be polite, amiable, generous and warm. People recommend people – but usually they recommend good people.
  • Be Interesting. Recruiters can be so boring sometimes, saving their personality for the pub, and letting their existence be personified & dictated by a serious of droning and onerous sales calls or job pitches. Have more layers to your business credibility – look like you mean it.
  • Be Knowledgable. It helps if you *understand* what your industry is talking about. Be on the pulse, be in the conversation, be revered for it and respected as a true industry component. Lead, don’t follow.
  • Be Generous. Sometimes recruitment can be contentious. Does the client deserve a fee? Did you go outside your terms? Are we going to court? – stop and think about it. Sit down with the client, and see if you can form a resolution. It’s an economic model, that sometimes you have to lose a little up front, to gain a lot. Sometimes making concessions open doors that build relationships – those heels get awfully worn down by constantly digging them in.
  • Be Advisors. I am constantly irked by recruiters who say “It’s not my job to give career advice”. Rubbish. For god sake, help the person who is sat in front of you, or on the phone. If you can’t help them with a job, then help them help themselves to get a job. That person with no experience that you helped onto the first rung, will sing your praises as they are working their way up the ladder.
  • Be A Mentor. This is something you don’t offer. It’s something you earn, by having the credibility and gravitas to be asked. Helping develop and empower raw talent into their careers and through each stage, whether it involves a fee or not, is valuable contribution to the ecosystem in which you serve. Never stop buying the coffees, providing the encouragement and support to those who ask it. These people chose you. You left your mark. You should be proud.

I have sat in recruitment companies that talk about maximising every moment. In this they mean steering clear of ‘time-wasters’. This is good advice. The bad execution of this advice, is misunderstanding what a time-waster is, and cutting off the wrong people.

The people we interacted with were our greatest sales people at CloudNine. And now, after 6 months of not being CloudNineI still get the inbound traffic. In the 30 minutes or so I have been writing this blog; my phone has 5 new notifications of people emailing or messaging me with something akin to “I hear you are the person to talk to about…”

On at least 6 occasions I have been presented with variations of the comment“You are nice bloke… for a recruiter”. In this social media driven world, that means a lot.

Nice guys do alright, you know. Try it.

Your Recruitment Agency CEO Should be on Social Media

Recently, I was judging the ‘Best Entrepreneur’ category for a leading recruitment publication’s annual awards. Some terrific people with very worthy and successful businesses. Some people who are awesome at selling themselves, and their impact on their company, team, the local community, charity efforts, integration into their industry, and CSR endeavours.

child leader blog headerSo me being me, I then looked at their social media profiles.

And looked…

And looked…

Of the 12, only eight had well presented LinkedIn profiles. One didn’t even have a LinkedIn profile. 4 were excellent profiles. 

9 of the 12 had a twitter profile; but only 2 or 3 were using it regularly, or for business profile benefit. 

Only 2 had ever written articles on LinkedIn, and none of the 12 had a personal voice on a blog, or their own website. 

Yet in their award submissions they had so, so much to tell us all – about how fantastic they and their businesses are. In fact the guy (yes, they were ALL men) with the greatest stories of all – was the one with no online presence whatsoever.

But they are hugely successful individuals. So really, does it matter whether they are actively on social media or not? 

I say yes. I say that they have a duty as figureheads in their business, their local/industry community, and to their employees; to have a position of vocal authority to aspire to. We call it a Professional Personal Brand. It accentuates the profile and credibility of the individual, but carries their work and business with them. People by people, and what they represent.

The maligned phrase ‘thought leader’ comes to mind – but what we see here, in most cases are fantastic leaders. But genuine thought leaders in the market? – well actually yes, some of them are – but they are not telling the story to the wider world how much they are, and in doing so, enhancing the profile of their business to the most widely accessible sources of readership – social media audiences.

If I gave you the list of names, you wouldn’t be able to read anywhere very easily, how significant their partnerships are with local and national charities. And in only 2 cases, will you see any stand-out content on their online profile, that tells you you’d want to work for their organisation.

What we must remember, is that the culture and character of an organisation starts at the top. In a tough working environment and a tough industry, people want to be inspired by their leader. When the chips are down, they need to see that their leaders are influential, heading the charge to raising the company profile in all the right places, and giving them the opportunity to sell with pride.

We also have to consider the wider industry and the aspirations for good recruitment and better perception; and each leader’s contribution to that.

In my opinion, Recruitment Agency leaders should be:

1. Leading their industry as an influential figure 

2. Having an authority and opinion on their industry’s news 

3. Contributing to the eco-system and development of the industry 

And I’m talking about their client/candidate industry; not the recruitment industry, by the way. They should be recognisable faces that have the ear of leading figures within the industry their serve – and positioning their recruitment business as chest-deep in the developments and trends of the industry they operate in, in order to have the credibility to assess talent correctly.

Social Media is an easy route to inbound business. But you have to be highly engaged and credible. You could give that to an intern or graduate, as so many limp-wristedly do – or you could head up the content strategy from the leaders.

Everybody wants to hear from the leader. Credibility starts at the top.



Steve Ward has just completed a 22 year career as a hands-on recruiter in the recruitment industry, and as an award-winning social strategist, is now an advisor to agency and in-house recruitment teams on using social presence to attract talent, win business and develop reputation management. Connect and drop me a message if you’d like to chat how I can help you. 

5 Basics To Make Social Media Work For Recruitment

So many blogs. So many opinions. So many failed attempts, but also some awesome case studies. Yes Social Media & Recruitment is a minefield of confusion, misdirection, and advice from folk who ain’t never done it.

child fiveHere’s 5 useful little guiding lights, from a bloke who’s been doing it hands-on since 2009; that remind you, and encourage you, that you don’t need to tip your recruitment agency/team upside down.

1. Start with your CRM

Well, you’ve been dying to get some proper use out of that damn thing for months and years. Well it’s the perfect place to try and do something with clients and candidates who refuse to pick the phone up to you. The confusion of social media so often stems from not knowing who to target. So, if you chose to populate your CRM with seemingly relevant people, then do the same with your social prospects. Candidates, clients, contacts – take the journey from CRM, to LinkedIn, to beyond. Hopefully you have chosen a modern day CRM, that allows you to integrate social media naturally anyway; then your social media communications can sit on a level playing field, with your telephone call activity. In fact, done well – it outshines it.

2. Think Brand

Please no, not Russell Brand. The scary bit about branding on social media is that it is marketing. Let’s be honest, most recruitment entities don’t like or understand marketing. It’s ok to admit it. You weren’t made that way. Actually, the branding bit is pretty easy – but I would suggest you need advice. (I can do that bit, if you need) But what you are doing in building your brand well, is in essence increasing the potential for people to say nice things about you. That’s good – it gets you business, gets you people, and increases inbound enquiries, profile and kudos. Now branding does *not* mean, your logo. Nobody buys logos. It means the substance of your people, your service, your interaction with your community, your stories, your original content, your thought leadership, your value and credibility within your marketplace. People buy from good people; we all know that. You can’t share those stories on the phone, and your brochure is out-of-date as soon as it’s printed. Social Media gives you platforms to keep rolling news and content alive and current.

3. The Best People For The Job – It’s Not For Everyone  

Ok, so let me start with this. If you are the CEO, MD, Founder, Head of Talent Acquisition, or whatever you want to call yourself; then YOU should be on social media. Not as your company brand, but as you. You’ve gone this far to create a good agency or team – now go stand out proud from the front. But aside of that, if we haven’t the budget to hire a social media specialist; then we have a habit of asking our sales people to manage social media channels. Invariably, your best sales people hate change in method, they like tried and tested methods; and they are great already. Don’t screw them up, by trying to make them write tweets 5 times a day then. They’re not going to stop and listen to the conversation they might create; and their work will be outbound. Bad social media. Find the unsung superstar in your team, that everyone loves – who you hired because they have awesome people potential, can select well, gets the industry you serve; but it turns out is utter pants at sales. I bet they’d be great at social media. Given they they no doubt want to succeed proactively, they will more likely *want* to be great at social media. If I come to train your recruiters to integrate social media, I will ask them at the end of the first session who actually wants to do it. Anyone that is honest, and would rather go back and continue make sales or headhunting calls, I would willingly set them free – they will *never* want to embrace it. Pointless for me, pointless for you. Find your superstars who can run with it, don’t crowbar in the nay-sayers. The other people to choose, are people already highly conversant and technically aware of your industry. Difficult to do ‘social’ with a .Net developer on a social channel, if your best shot at conversation is “How the devil are you?”.  

4. Social Media is for Business Development, not just Sourcing

Everyone talks about sourcing, finding hard-to-reach talent, etc – when we hear about Social Recruiting. For the recruitment agency out there, and for the executive hiring team; the need is for business development. Wins, not just Finds. At CloudNine, 100% of business came from social media potency and visibility, or recommendation from the reputation we created through that visibility. (see 2. Think Brand). B2B is about building relevance, relationship and trust – and where sales calls fail, is that they are, well… salesy. By targeting prospects expertly through social media, with conversation, market integration, relevant content and offline purpose,  the entrance to the relationship is more human and mutual than the pressure cooker of an unplanned sales call.

5. Choose Platforms & Emerging Technology With Care

Most social media platforms, are probably not for you. The problem with social media integration is that some bright spark will say “XYZ did this thing on Snapchat – you could do it too!!”, and then we all think we can do it. Stick initially to sound and solid bases; based on where you already have a hunch your industry is. Use existing specialist communities, conversations and groups as your catalyst for identifying socially active connections; and where relevant – use ‘dark social’, i.e. niche forums and specialist discussion areas – to find relevancy in your communications. Your inbox will also be full of apps, extensions and tech-wet-dreams that will promise to make you a better recruiter. Choose these carefully, and from good neutral advice. Too many will complicate what is a perfectly human process we’ve been doing for years; but people would have us believe that it’s a mystery online.

And that’s the point, it’s a human process that you are already probably pretty good at. If I could have added a sixth, I would say don’t fear online and business. (I could add more too, naturally…) It’s what your competitors are doing, and large and progressive brands are already leading the way and have been for years. Don’t get left behind, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. (I can do that too) 


Steve Ward is an early-adopter of hands-on social recruiting and following 22 years as an agency recruiter; is now independently helping recruitment teams and agencies improve the perception of the way they work, by helping integrate social media & digital transformation into hiring methods; to enhance inbound traffic. Still recruiting, but also available for training, mentoring and advisory roles. Connect & message me if you’d like to chat. 

#SocialRecruiting 1976-present day. About People Not Technology.

What is ‘Social Recruiting’?, I asked,  in 2010 one of my first ever blogs. As I read it today, I could write the same words in most part – with the same consistency of thought. In fact I utter many of the same words now. I also refer to the start of my recruitment career in 1994, and claim fairly, that I was a ‘social recruiter’ then too. I also hat tip Angela Mortimer, who was also doing the same in 1976. She was absolutely a social recruiter. And I bet there are more before her.

child laptop blog

The reason? Well, because only one thing has changed. (besides my 1994 hairline & waistline). That thing is technology. And because of technology, we have turned social recruiting into a circus of misdirection.

The thing that has never changed, is people. Recruitment is about People. By nature, Social Recruiting is even more so, about people. 

So when I read a blog or watch a talk or seminar on Social Recruiting, where the words ‘Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram’ etc, dominate the content – I am frustrated. You’ll see that I very rarely talk about platforms. Platforms are vehicles, different modes of transport, avenues of access, and providers of increasingly helpful analytics for website & applicant traffic measurement.

But social recruiting isn’t about Twitter, etc. It’s about people. Yet we recruiters seem to be entrenched in a technology fog, where our natural instinct to develop potent relationships, trust and gain face to face credibility; is shrouded by the need to consider technology & platforms first, and thus instils fear in the many who fail to see the point of social media channels and the like at first sight; or conversely it all provides opportunities for others to make recruitment a short-cut process where relationships and human interaction are no longer necessary.

I would much rather hear from people who talk about human behaviour, understanding audiences, how the digital age has changed our inclinations and actions in job seeking, networking, social media use, and human interaction; and how we can apply that to the way attract talent. Off the back of *that* we can choose our technology carefully, and consider the channels in which we need to operate – and how. Not based on a cut-and-paste ‘How To…’ guide, but tailored in correlation with our specific audiences, talent markets and influencer & advocate networks.

So recruiters, please don’t get caught up in the confusion around social recruiting being about multiple sources of tech, and a time drainer. Instead, it’s a terrific opportunity and network enabler – and why it should compliment what you do already, with many of the skills you already have and employ.

There’s a reason the word ‘Social’ exists in Social Recruiting. It needs people to be social. Technology is optional.

Welcome thoughts.


Steve Ward is an award-winning Social Recruiting Strategist, who as well as continuing to partly be a front-line digital recruiter; is now an advisor, mentor, trainer to recruitment teams on using social media effectively in talent attraction and recruitment marketing. Contact me if I can help your business. 

Measuring Word-of-Mouth in Recruitment: Source of Source of Hire.

When I led a discussion last week on social media in recruitment – one of the challenges that marketers and directors within recruitment organisations experience – is putting a measure on social media activity. I wrote about Social Selling recently, but what is the effect of good social media marketing and business presence?

kids whispering








You see it cannot be a blunt measurement like ‘we got this hire through Twitter’, and tick a box. That’s too basic. We advise that organisations should have content and presence across all relevant channels; and that social media is not a post & pray environment, but one where you build a profile of credibility and visibility. There’s a degree of consistent and subliminal marketing to it; rather like why brands still spend large portions of budget on billboard advertising. Pretty un-measurable stuff, that has a combination of variable speeds of impact across different channels.

But of ‘Source of Hire’ is a phrase we hear about. When we collect data on the candidate’s way in, we often ask “where did you hear about the job?”; or indeed track the link of where the application came from. Easy measurement.

However, I’m not convinced this sufficiently tells the story.

“Your website” is sufficient for your website manager to be proud; but insufficiently accurate to denote the actual source of hire. What directed someone to the website? Equally, when someone quotes “recommendation”, well great, that’s awesome for company profile stats – but, from where and why did that recommendation come? Are tracking this.?

The actual source of hire, therefore is the SOURCE of the source of hire.

To get a good one-dimensional idea of how effective our marketing is – we can measure direct source to apply/hire. But in doing so, we merely support our website portals and basic application behaviours. If we really want understand how our marketing, especially across social media marketing; is working, then we need to consider how word-of-mouth behaviour takes place and where the key activators are.

So who is sending people to our jobs? The reality is, that the source of source of hire, is rarely a platform – which most metrics would ask us to measure impact from – but instead it is a series of people. Social Media marketing is not so much about platforms – it’s about the people who use those platforms and working out their behaviours, and attempting to influence their decisions.

Taking that a step further then, identifying the people whose behaviour on platforms is sending people to our jobs, or to our website to raise a query; is pretty important right?

These, ladies & gentlemen, are called your advocates. Yes, if you have strong brand and word-of-mouth working for you in this way, then you have advocates. Offline and Online. Sounds nice. But we will never know who these people are, unless we start to look at asking for the source of the source of hire.

So what of them? What of these ‘advocates’ I speak of, or ‘activators’ – that places like McKinsey call them. Well there could be many of them, but they are pretty special people. They willingly, without reward or intent of thanks, recommend you as an organisation or recruiter – maybe because they have had a good experience, maybe they support your online presence, maybe they can just see you are a credible player in their field. They are a channel of leads, candidates and also quite likely, new business. And, they have influence – they influence the behaviours of others to act. Yet, more often than not, recruitment teams rarely venture to find out who these people are.

Well, I propose that when you get working on your Social Media presence; you start to understand these people.  Start asking questions beyond the obvious, and recognise who ignited the relationship.

Then what? – Well don’t ignore the people who have been recommended– they deserve a dose of VIP treatment whether you can place them or not. And start to spend some more time appreciating your advocates – they are your non-paid, all-willing external sales people. We always schmooze our clients and key candidates; but never think to understand or reward the people who deliver us both. They are often your Source of the Source of Hire, and can become a part lifeblood to your business without even trying. 


Steve Ward has just ended a 21 year career in the recruitment agency industry, and is a Social Recruiting Strategist, Trainer & Retained Consultant. Integrating Social Media into actual and natural day to day processes within agencies and in-house to impact inbound business & candidate flow is his specialism. Please do drop a line to request how he could work with your recruitment team or marketing function.