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Recruiting 2.0: Using On-line Social Networking to Attract Top Talent

In the nonprofit sector, an estimated 60 percent of open positions are filled through referrals and networking. For this reason, nonprofit organizations benefit from building wide professional networks. Thanks to the proliferation of social networking Web sites, nonprofits can go on-line to grow their networks, promote their "employer brand," and connect with prospective employees.

As there are more than 200 social networking Web sites, the following article discusses the most effective options for nonprofit organizations to market to and recruit top talent.

What Is On-line Social Networking?

We have all donned "Hello my name is ..." stickers and mingled with colleagues at after-work networking events. Now imagine accomplishing a similar end while sitting at your laptop with a cup of coffee. That's the gist of on-line social networking. Though establishing relationships with fellow nonprofiteers through face-to-face, real-life introductions is still far more genuine than electronic communication, maintaining these ties on-line can deepen relationships on a regular basis while extending your networking reach to a much broader audience.

Since appearing on the cyber-scene in 1995, on-line social networking sites have evolved into Web-based communities of millions of people connecting based on shared interests and affiliations. Many nonprofit organizations are establishing a presence beyond their home pages and are utilizing social networking sites to recruit talent and spread the word of social change. Because setting up and managing on-line networks merely require an investment of time, nonprofits can greatly benefit from this low-effort, no-cost, and high-touch means of expanding their inner circles and reaching passive job candidates. Below are a few examples of the most effective social networking sites for recruitment.


Founded in 2004 by a Harvard undergrad, Facebook allows users to create personal profiles and join networks of like-minded individuals. Networks can be constructed around affiliations such as universities, geographic regions, and organizations/companies. Today, Facebook touts 67 million members.

On Facebook, individuals or organizations create personal profiles to which other Facebook members can then connect. As a nonprofit organization that operates a person-to-person micro-lending program, Kiva has greatly benefited from having a Facebook profile. Kiva's page includes basic information about the organization, such as its mission, logo, and URL. On its page, Kiva invites Facebook members to add themselves as "fans." In May, I became Kiva's 3,927th Facebook fan (by the end of the week Kiva's total fans numbered 4,912 members). By doing so, I was then able to invite my personal Facebook contacts to view Kiva's page. This viral networking spreads the word about Kiva's work through like-minded networks.

As demonstrated by Kiva, organizations can significantly grow their networks by using Facebook. Having a Facebook profile communicates to today's job seekers that an organization is current, nimble, and responsive to current trends. Additionally, extending an organization's network using Facebook can help when hiring. For example, an organization can post its open positions on a page that is instantly viewable to literally millions of users. Furthermore, an organization can search member profiles to identify and reach out to prospective candidates or to glean more information about those that have already applied to a position at their organization.

Though Facebook is a phenomenon that originated in the college-aged world, students make up only half of its active users. Facebook cites that users over the age of 25 are its fastest-growing demographic. This trend is encouraging for organizations that are seeking more seasoned employees.

Finally, Facebook's traffic is staggering. It currently is the fifth-most visited Web site in the world. Its 67 million users spend an average of 25 minutes on the site a day pursuing the profiles of their personal connections. These are engaged users that share information, including job leads.


One of the most widely used social networking Web sites for nonprofit professionals is LinkedIn. Members create profiles that summarize their professional accomplishments, which can then be used to find and be found by "connections," such as current and former colleagues, clients, partners, and schoolmates. Your network consists of your connections, your connections' connections, and the people they know, linking you to thousands of other professionals. The site also features a job board where members post open jobs at their organizations as well as LinkedIn For Good, a section promoting positive social change.

For recruiting and sourcing, Commongood Careers uses LinkedIn regularly. When launching a new search for a client, we often post job descriptions on LinkedIn as well as browse our personal connections to identify strong candidates. To date, we have found hundreds of candidates and new connections through LinkedIn. As a result, we have been able to maximize our ability to connect with people within our spheres of association.

Think of LinkedIn as your classic rolodex meets the theory of seven degrees of separation. Prior to LinkedIn, people's second- and third-degree connections were often undiscovered. Knowledge of these indirect connections can be extremely valuable when hiring and sourcing new candidates. Instead of applicant pools of complete strangers, hiring organizations can first tap their colleagues' networks for potential job seekers. These job seekers can then be recommended through trusted colleagues. Organizations that are hiring can also post open positions, allowing LinkedIn members to review positions and refer their colleagues to openings.


Founded by two alumni from Stanford and MIT who wanted an easy way for their friends to share job information, Doostang is an invitation-only on-line career community of more than 400,000 members. Members use Doostang to share relevant career opportunities as well as to interact through groups and forums. Describing itself as an "exclusive online career community that brings together the world's most talented minds and the world's leading employers," Doostang's greatest asset is its membership of individuals from prestigious universities, companies, and other affiliations.

Doostang can be a highly effective tool for advertising new positions and sourcing candidates. Individuals from hiring organizations can create a personal profile and/or a special practice group on Doostang. By creating a group, users can post open positions as well as invite other Doostang members to join the group.

Remember, Doostang is invitation only. Commongood Careers, however, has created a special practice group on Doostang, entitled Careers in the Social Sector. If you are interested in joining, send an e-mail with the subject "Request to join" to


On-line social networking is all about connecting people in dynamic and new ways. A small investment of time in on-line social networking can yield big results for an organization's ability to reach new audiences with information about job opportunities and cultivate a broader and more diverse talent pool.

Kevin Kovaleski, Commongood Careers
© 2008, Commongood Careers

Kevin Kovaleski is a service manager at Commongood Careers, a national nonprofit search firm dedicated to helping today's most effective social entrepreneurs hire the best talent. Founded by nonprofit professionals, Commongood Careers offers personalized, engaged services to job seekers and organizations throughout the hiring process as well as access to a wealth of knowledge about careers in the social sector.
Topics: Nonprofit Leadership and Practice