Are social media influencers a gateway to hiring young talent?

How can traditional firms stay competitive in the race for young talent? A new trend suggests that career influencers on social media could play a critical role in reaching newer demographics

As the race for attracting talent becomes more competitive, many organisations are turning to social media influencers to promote their brand to young potential employees.

With the core catchment demographic of Gen Z, social media can be a hotbed to demonstrate to young recruits the values and benefits of joining a particular company. But how influential are influencers?

Research by Glassdoor suggests that social media can be very influential, particularly for younger job seekers in the first 10 years of their careers. The research found the 86 per cent of younger workers use social media in their job search, and 87 per cent of companies use social media for recruitment. Now, companies are working with their existing workers who have a large digital following to further promote the company.

Who are the influencers?

Influencers are people who have a large digital following on social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. Career influencers use their platform to create a permeable, open dialogue with their followers about their lives, their roles and their employers. This growing trend of career influencers is changing the tone of our workplaces and offering a glimpse inside what are often thought of as exclusive and traditional firms.

Organisations are increasingly encouraging staff to carry out brand diplomacy on the side of their core job roles. Even the most traditional industries are actively seeking employees who have an influential platform. Magic circle law firms are pitching to new recruits with large social media followings to partner with them to share positive messages about the company.

‘What happens when the influencer has a bad day at work? Will they tell the truth?’

But once the partnership is forged, the parameters of the deal can be fuzzy at best. The ideal scenario is that a ‘career influencer’ has high levels of job satisfaction and organically tells their following that the company they work for offers the best opportunities and experiences.

But what happens when the influencer has a bad day at work? Will they tell the truth, or are they incentivised to tell a more positive story? How much influence should a company have over their influencers?

The pitfalls of influencer partnerships

Partnering with career influencers can be a powerful tool for organisations to promote a positive story of their brand. But it’s a two-way street – and the message can easily be reversed if values do not align.

Amazon learnt the hard way when it used paid ‘fulfilment centre ambassadors’ to polish its image on social media and defend its criticism of poor working conditions in warehouses. However, these ambassadors had to publicly label themselves as influencers for Amazon; instead of being a platform for workers to organically and truthfully comment on their experiences within Amazon fulfilment centres, Amazon was ridiculed for pushing its employees to share positive stories about their roles and the conditions they worked in.

Career influencers are only beneficial to an organisation’s brand if they are allowed to be authentic on their platform and they are genuinely satisfied with their role. Many companies try to ensure their staff draw on common talking points and values for their online posts. Amazon’s attempt to dive on the influencer bandwagon fell short because it came across as insincere.

The upside to influencing

If the line of sincerity is so thin, why are organisations increasingly taking the risk of partnering with career influencers? In recognising that it is best to allow online chat to emerge naturally and to only loosely manage the conversation, some brands have experienced great success with influencers. Walmart, for example, has enjoyed success prompting volunteer ‘micro-influencers’ to promote local stores via Facebook and TikTok channels.

‘Some employers have experienced great success with influencers by allowing online chat to emerge naturally…’

In the UK, the law firm Linklaters partnered with an internal ‘lawfluencer’ who had a social media following of hundreds of thousands of young aspiring lawyers who were all potential new recruits for the law firm. This presents a big opportunity for the industry to open its traditionally impenetrable gates and facilitate inclusive conversations with potential talent.

The benefits of the partnership can be mutual for both parties if the guidelines are set out clearly. Career influencers can build their profile online and their associated organisation can benefit from accessing an entire cohort of new hires.

For traditional industries, such as law and finance, which have been veiled in mystique with only a  privileged few have access, partnering with career influencers could be a powerful move in winning the race for emerging talent.

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