Microsoft recruiter is a fan of social networking

RICHLAND -- Microsoft is using technology to put the human touch back into employee recruiting, said Marvin Smith, who identifies and recruits potential employees for Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices Division.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory brought Smith to Richland on Thursday to talk to human resource and other business professionals about using social networking media to find the best employees, rather than depending on potential employees to find their companies.

He's a self-proclaimed "talent community evangelist" who sees the job recruiting potential in turning to internet communities at sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, where strong groups of experts form.

Not just large companies like Microsoft can use the approach, but also small companies can gain a recruiting edge, he said. Social networking sites give them a change to build a relationship with potential employees on a long-term basis, he said. Then they have a head start when they win new contracts and quickly have to find more employees.

"The internet has become a very social place and I don't think anyone saw it coming," he said.

Hiring managers may have to get over the digital divide, he said. Kids now seem to be born with a mouse in their hand, but for older people, "the digital refugees," learning technology likely will require effort, he said.

Certain age groups no longer use e-mail; they text, he said.

"You have to go to a platform they are reading," he said, including Facebook. It has more than 400 million users, or more users than people in the United States.

Smith hasn't figured out the best way to use Facebook for recruiting, particularly since so many posters use it for social rather than professional interaction, but it has potential, he said.

Using Twitter, Microsoft has received as many as 9,000 hits on a job posting, he said.

Smith also has had success using LinkedIn, he said. Microsoft starts groups on topics such as gaming, invites people to join and then posts content that's primarily professional but includes job openings. Most of the content comes from leading blog sites, he said. Members of the group also post questions and Microsoft managers respond.

Microsoft also is building an online military community that has yet to go live. It gives members of the U.S. military a chance to call Microsoft volunteers to discuss professions. It also will include a "job decoder" that allows service men and women to put in their military experience and find out how that could translate to Microsoft jobs and what jobs are available.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533;