How to Recruit and Source on Sites Like Reddit

In a crowded job market with high demand for employees, especially employees with specialized skills, sourcing candidates can be extremely difficult. A 2018 Recruiter Nation Survey from Jobvite demonstrates the difficulties of attracting and hiring talent in a candidate-driven job market. Of the 800 recruiters responding to the survey, 74 percent of them believe hiring will become more competitive in 2019.. A majority of respondents (67 percent) said their biggest challenge in hiring is the lack of skilled, high-quality candidates.

We can optimize our career sites, improve our employer brand, raise the stakes when it comes to benefits and perks, improve our candidate experience. But none of these things will make sourcing new candidates easier. According to recent data from The Bureau of Labor Statistics,  the total number of job openings has been above the March 2007 pre-recession peak since December 2014. In March 2019, there were 7.5 million job openings. Also in March 2019, the unemployment rate was 3.8 percent and the job openings rate was 4.7 percent.

Sourcing involves a great deal of research, parsing information on search engines, browsing social media profiles, and searching for specific candidate skill sets on LinkedIn. It’s a continuous loop for talent sourcers, as the search for top talent is never put on hold.

Search Engines and Boolean Strings

As HR leaders, we’ve had to get creative in our sourcing methods as the unemployment rate has declined and the job market has shifted in favor of candidates. Many of us already use some form of boolean search, which has been an internet sourcing and recruiting staple for years, allowing recruiters search for databases, member lists and candidate profiles. If you’re not familiar with boolean searches, Google X-Ray is a great place to start.

A search engine X-ray (Google or Bing) effectively allows you to search web pages for specific keyword combinations and information. Recruiting and sourcing with Google X-Ray is the most basic of boolean logic and is a great sourcing strategy. By using boolean, you can target your results without having to comb through thousands of pages of search results. It is an effective way to source for candidates who have specialized skills and keywords listed on social networks, websites and online databases. See a step-by-step guide on how to use boolean searches here.

Consider that every recruiter searching for candidates already knows how to use Google X-Ray. What’s your secret weapon when it comes to sourcing? For this, we’re going to look at the lesser-known tactics used by a smaller percentage of creative sourcers. I like to compare this to my own sourcing efforts in 2001. As store HR leader for a large big-box chain, I used dating websites to source, recruit and hire candidates.

Sourcing & Recruiting Candidates on Reddit

You may know the popular online forum Reddit.com as a place to get answers to your questions or find news stories. And memes (see r/gameofthrones for some laughs). You might not know that it’s the fourth largest website online today. Just as I used what was popular online in 2001 (dating sites) to find candidates, reddit can be a secret weapon in your sourcing toolbelt.  

If you haven’t used reddit before, you can start by setting up an account. If you plan on using reddit for recruiting, it’s a good idea to be transparent about it in your bio (by identifying your job title, company or agency). Next, you’ll want to read the reddit faq. Reddit is different from other platforms in a lot of ways, so you will want to make sure you are using it properly. Additionally, the acronyms might be confusing, and there’s an extensive glossary here.

Then take a look at subreddits (these are “folders” on reddit by topic) like r/forhire to see what is currently being posted for job openings. For example, a subreddit called r/recruitinghell might initially seem like an interesting place to share stories with fellow recruiters, It’s not. It might, however, be a great place to learn what not to do as a recruiter. The subreddit description: This subreddit is for all of those recruiters and candidates who really don’t get it. Post your horror stories and show us those amazing job offers!

There are subreddits for you, like r/humanresources, described as: A subreddit for Human Resources professionals: answering difficult questions, plugging you into appropriate resources, and monitoring your own development. Feel free to hop on there and share or respond.

When you’re using reddit for recruiting and sourcing, it’s important to be familiar with the site and understand how its users communicate. User profiles vary widely and each subreddit has its own rules (and if you don’t follow them, you can get banned quickly), which makes searching for user profile information difficult. There are over 400,000 subreddits, and each one is governed by its own set of moderators who volunteer their time to remove spam, create community guidelines, interact with users, and answer questions.

The communities (subreddits) are going to be key to finding talent and understand the profile of the type of candidate you’re trying to find. For example, if you’re looking for specific tech talent like developers, there are hundreds of developer subreddits, but it’s important to get familiar with how they’re used, what the purpose is, and whether or not the redditors in that subreddit might be receptive to outreach from a recruiter.

One thing that’s consistent on reddit with other social media channels, no-one likes to be spammed and they hate clickbait (or deceptive advertising).

Knowledge sharing is important for engagement. You can participate in industry-specific subreddit threads on topics where you are genuinely able to offer advice or assistance. For example, if you’re sourcing for front-end web developers, but you don’t speak the language, stick to the hiring or resume subreddits, not the tech threads. Look for career guidance subreddits, resume subreddits, city-specific subreddits, or subreddits that are topical for you and what you do in your work life.

Note: Every post or comment you create will be available on your profile page and redditors will check the profile pages of other users to see if they’re legitimate and have the experience they claim to have. It’s important to provide value to the reddit community in a consistent and sincere way so that when you do reach out to potential candidates, you will already have established credibility.

Finally, I mentioned boolean strings and x-ray search earlier in this post. You can use the same techniques to find what you’re looking for on reddit:

Reddit search supports the boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT (case sensitive) as well as parenthesis. A quick guide:

  • By default, search queries use the AND operator.
    (For example, hedgehogs AND porcupines and hedgehogs porcupines are equivalent)
  • You can use the OR operator when you want to match submissions that contain either term.
    (For example, hedgehogs OR porcupines)
  • You can exclude terms with NOT.
    (For example, hedgehogs NOT porcupines)
  • You can use parentheses ( ) to group parts of a search together.
    (For example, (hedgehogs OR porcupines) NOT sonic)

You can search for subreddits from the subreddits page at r/subreddits/search. Subreddit results also appear at the top of the main search page at r/search.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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