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L’Oréal promotes its Brandstorm social recruitment contest on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (pictured).

Last week, Pew Research Center reported that 2015 is the year Millenials (ages 18-34) will officially overtake Baby Boomers as the most populous generation in the U.S.

Last year, market research firm GlobalWebIndex found that while Baby Boomers are increasingly social (70 percent have Facebook accounts), Millenials are by far the most connected generation.

Those facts combined means business leaders have to think differently about the way they market themselves to potential hires. So how can companies develop recruitment strategies that attract and retain the brightest talent of the youngest cohort?

Don’t just act social, be social

A survey conducted by content marketing agency Enveritas Group looked at how high school graduates search for post-secondary education and found that more than half (57 percent) of respondents relied on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and university blogs.

Since popular platforms like Facebook and Twitter are already being used by younger audiences as search and research tools on their career paths, the challenge for businesses lies in harnessing those networks in service of recruitment (beyond the paid LinkedIn post, that is).

First off, “Liking” a Facebook comment or favouriting a tweet is fine in certain contexts, but when it comes to finding the perfect recruit, companies can get way better results by giving potential hires a means of self-expression and letting audiences steer the conversation.

MasterCard Canada took this approach to heart with its #internswanted campaign. Using the #internswanted hashtag, the company gave college students the chance to compete for an internship, using social as the channel to do it.

The challenge: Submit an idea for a product, app or technique that could be used to replace cash in the future. Contestants were judged on the amount of “Likes” and retweets their ideas received.

MasterCard promoted the campaign with a video series on YouTube and by publishing a special blog series, Millenials at MasterCard, about, well, just that.

The outcome: MasterCard received 532 submissions. The number of quality candidates was so high that the company expanded the program to allow for an additional intern hire and launched programs in China, Singapore, Italy and Turkey.

Put your culture on display

In 2011, PricewaterhouseCoopers conducted a survey [PDF] to find out what young workers take into consideration when selecting an employer. Nearly 60 percent responded that “an employer’s provision of state-of-the-art technology was important to them when considering a job.”

Offering a corporate career site that is up-to-date, interactive and engaging can go a long way towards demonstrating commitment to cutting-edge technology.

Qualcomm is a semiconductor company that focuses on telecommunications products and services. The company is famous in the tech space but it isn’t consumer-facing, which is what makes the recruitment page on their website such a standout.

Besides the awesome site design and experience, their intern page offers plenty of detailed information while using copy that packs an emotional punch that motivates people to apply.

Showcasing their dedication to innovation? Check.

Copy that inspires as much as it informs? Check.

Comprehensive enrolment data organized in a natural search flow? Check.

Small wonder that Qualcomm was named the “Best Gen Y” employer by salary information company PayScale, and earned third spot on Glassdoor’s ranking of 2014 internships.

By focusing on their website, Qualcomm demonstrates its commitment to state-of-the-art technology.

Qualcomm subtly displays its commitment to cutting edge technology via its intuitive and responsive website.

Turn your recruitment campaign into a legacy

Whether Generation Y is values-driven remains up for debate. However, a 2014 Gallup study revealed that, “ensuring employees have opportunity to do what they do best every day and emphasizing mission and purpose are the two strongest factors for retaining Millenials, Generation Xers, and Baby Boomers.”

This means companies need to find ways to communicate their work culture and values to potential hires.

Young people also tend to be motivated by praise and public recognition, as the recent spike in workplace rewards programs testifies.

Global cosmetics company L’Oréal has been putting corporate culture storytelling and public recognition into practice for more than 20 years with Brandstorm, its annual international marketing competition.

The recruitment event, promoted widely on Facebook, Youtube, Instagram and Twitter, challenges undergrads around the world to create a product idea and develop a marketing plan for one of the L’Oréal’s brands.

Finalists get a trip to Paris and a chance to present in front of L’Oréal executives. Last year the contest received more than 13,000 submissions from students, with finalists coming from 44 countries.

L’Oréal has also experimented with social gaming for recruitment. In 2010 it launched Reveal, an online recruitment game in the vein of Second Life that lets people assume the role of L’Oréal employees across departments.

The brand’s social recruiting games and contests have resulted in hundreds of successful hires, reports Fast Company’s Louis Carter, with many of those hires going on to assume managerial roles.

Hiring strategies are always a work in progress but businesses shouldn’t feel limited to the classic recruiting format when wooing young talent. As the above examples show, there has never been a better time to #experiment.