The Salesforce Approach to Social Media And University Recruiting

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We hear a lot from college students and recent grads that one of the most frustrating aspects of the job search is the fact that they never hear from employers after they apply, so they’re left in the dark wondering if anyone has ever even seen their application.

This is why we were super impressed by the FutureForce team at Salesforce and their commitment to combining social media and university recruiting. The FutureForce team is very active on social media and even communicates with individual applicants via their Twitter account.

We caught up with Jennifer Baldwin, Director of FutureForce (Salesforce’s University Programs team) to discuss the FutureForce approach to recruiting and developing college students and recent grads. It turns out social media is only one piece of the puzzle.

Jennifer Baldwin

Can you give us a quick description of Salesforce?

We are a little over 13,000 employees and quickly growing, we’re definitely in high-growth mode. Our headquarters are located in San Francisco, where we have several buildings in the downtown area. There’s been a lot of press around Salesforce Tower, which when it’s finished, will be the tallest structure west of the Mississippi. We’re currently building a new structure next to Salesforce Tower and we already occupy a third building on that same corner. We’re trying to create a campus feel, city style, which is really important with our culture and also in the technology industry.

We’ve seen how important it is to have that camaraderie and collaboration and we’re able to pull that off in an urban campus environment, which most other companies simply can’t do. Recent college grads enjoy the atmosphere because they can be right in the middle of the action.

Salesforce.com also believes it’s important to give back to the city where they’re located and this involvement is demonstrated in a number of ways through the Salesforce Foundation.

We also have locations throughout the world. Some of our global locations include Dublin, London, Paris, Munich, and Tokyo.

I think we’re thought of as a sales company, which is true, but we’re also a service and marketing company and fundamentally we are a technology company. We’re doing a lot of work around ensuring that people understand that we’re a company on the cutting edge; we’re doing amazing things on the technology front that aren’t being done anywhere else.

Our focus is really on helping businesses be customer companies. At the core of it, we want to make sure that companies deliver an excellent customer service experience and manage their process throughout the sales cycle with their customers and potential customers.

What is your role as Director of FutureForce Programs? Do you recruit based on geography or types of positions?

My responsibility as the Director of FutureForce Programs covers our global university efforts. Our main focus has been in the US and Canada, but we do also recruit in the other locations I mentioned, throughout Europe (particularly in Dublin and Munich) and Japan. We’re really just getting our program under way in Japan, which is very exciting.

My team recruits for roles throughout the company, anywhere within technology and products, any type of developer role through services (consultant-type roles) to entry-level sales to HR, finance, general and administrative type roles.

The FutureForce Programs team covers the global university efforts, but we also have a professional recruiting team that handles anyone who’s not fresh out of school. They also handle recruiting for all business areas.

FutureForce handles anything university-related, which includes recruiting full-time, interns, apprentice roles, and trainee roles in Europe. All these roles require that students are actively enrolled or alumni of an accredited university. We have specific on-boarding and growth and development programs for our hires to ensure they’re set up for success.

How many graduates do you tend to hire in a typical year?

We don’t have a typical year. We’re in major growth mode, and so our trajectory, if you were to look at it on a graph, it’s very steep. Our “typical” is, ‘How do we scale for growth?’ and we are high growth in all areas and we will continue to increase the percentage of net new additions coming from FutureForce into Salesforce, year over year. I can tell you that our program this year is over 160 percent higher from a hiring perspective than it was last year and I anticipate it growing year over year with high percentage increases.

What type of recruiting schedule do you tend to work on?

Anyone in the university space is bound by college schedules, but we also have other creative strategies in place that work outside of the immediate school schedule to try and make sure that we’re finding the best candidates. We do quite a bit with our internship program and we have a referral program, which is key in making sure employees understand how valuable they are to the organization.

What types of recruiting activities do you participate in during a typical year?

We certainly participate in traditional on-campus activities, such as career fairs and information sessions. We do most of our recruiting activities at our target schools and “big bang” schools. In order to determine those schools, we first look at our hiring numbers from organizations all across the company. From there, we strategize which programs and schools can best fit the roles that we have to fill, and those become our target schools. If the school can fit the needs of multiple business organizations, we refer to those as big bang schools.

Right in our backyard here, UC Berkeley is a great example of a big bang school, because we can recruit salespeople, service people, developers, user interface folks, and even more. It makes for a really great experience for us as a company, and in turn we are willing to invest more in those schools because they have a high return on investment.

Besides traditional career fairs and information sessions at our target schools, we’ll do targeted events with specific programs that fit our roles we need to fill.

Really it depends on our business needs and what we are hiring for, so it’s not that we just say, ‘We’re going to do this year over year.’ We are constantly evaluating and reinventing and changing our approach to make sure it’s keeping up with the demand coming from the business.

Salesforce has a very active social media presence as part of its recruiting efforts. What is your overall social media strategy?

Yes, well I’m quite excited about this area of development. I’m well aware that brand and marketing is very important to a college student because you constantly have to rebrand on campus. The freshmen are coming in and working their way up through their college career.

I understand the importance and value of this, and that’s one of the reasons why we carved out Haley’s role [Haley Wilkerson, Marketing Program Manager of FutureForce]. Haley’s job has a huge social component to it, complete with a Twitter account to ensure that there’s a social element that’s wrapped around all our events and interactions with students. It’s become a core piece of our program.

We won an award through AfterCollege, being named one of your Top 5 University Recruiting Twitter handles, which was really exciting. I think that some of the comments around that were attributed to Haley being specific in responding to individual tweets, which a lot of companies don’t do, or don’t put a focus on. We’re really focused on having that human touch, high-touch experience, even though we’re a large company. We’re offering that and placing a lot of value on that through our social efforts.

Even on our corporate channels, you’ll find that we’re very responsive. For a company of our size, we practice what we preach when it comes to social media. We definitely take that into account in everything we do, and for us it was a no-brainer. We take that brand onto campus knowing this generation is very vocal, they’re native social ambassadors, they’re always on social media, and they’re always going to talk about you, whether you’re listening or not.

Which social media platforms are you most active on?

Instagram and Twitter are the only two accounts that are FutureForce specific, but we do have a corporate Facebook and a LinkedIn page as well. These are used to push out UR content, but they’re not university-specific channels.

Another tool we have is Chatter. It’s part of our everyday life at the company and it’s an integral part of how we do business. We use it to collaborate and communicate with each other. We’ve absolutely pulled that into our recruiting as well as our program side. We’ve utilized Chatter to stay connected with our new hires between offer acceptance and starting, because oftentimes in the university recruiting world, there’s a large lag time between when a student accepts an offer and when they actually come on board. We find Chatter to be very effective and very natural for our FutureForce hires to adopt and use.

What types of content do you share via Chatter with new hires who haven’t started yet?

Well, we could do a whole session on that, but Haley puts together some strategic communications in order to prepare our new hires to start. It could be anything from what you should wear and what to expect from an on-boarding perspective to little tips and tricks to ‘Hey, you might want to read this article.’ We’re trying to educate them and get them prepared—and excited.

What are some of the challenges associated with university recruiting? How do you address them?

I could talk about this forever! I think higher education is heading into a major disruption phase—we’ve seen higher education stay pretty stagnant for decades. We’re seeing changes around high student loans, whether students are getting what they need out of their education—there’s lots of media around this—so with all that floating around, the same applies with university recruiting.

We are formulating our strategies around a lot of these more antiquated practices that universities still use to recruit students. A lot of them are still effective; career fairs are still great to get their brand out there and touch a lot of students in a short amount of time, but with all the technology that’s available, our world is so much smaller. In trying to reach so many people and get our message out there, some of those more traditional methods are not going to be effective going forward.

We’ve really focused as a team on staying disruptive in our thinking so that we are constantly innovating on how to reach a broader audience. For example, how to reach the folks within our talent segment that we’re trying to teach about Salesforce and the opportunities here.

The challenges are a lot around the environment and the traditions that are in place, and the companies that are thinking differently about how to approach that talent segment differently are going to be ahead of the game. I expect a lot of change coming in the higher ed space, coming in a lot of different directions.

Why should companies invest in university recruiting programs?

I’ve done a lot of research and will continue to do so on this topic; that’s why Haley and I are here, that’s why I have this team.

I’ve been in the space for a long time so I’ve really seen what works well when you have a university program and learned a lot along the way.

The huge advantages and real necessities are that our whole workforce (not just at salesforce.com specifically; in general, as a society) is changing drastically, with baby boomers that are retiring at an accelerated rate. That’s putting a lot of pressure on the Gen X population, which is much, much smaller in size. In turn that is going to add pressure to the Gen Ys and millennials that we’re recruiting today.

There’s an emphasis on what Gen Y/millennials bring into the workforce, and how they’re changing the workplace. There’s a lot of really exciting things they bring to the table—they’re native to many technologies that many of us didn’t adopt until later in life and they really bring a different perspective.

I think a couple of top reasons:

1. Our workforce is changing and we need to be aggressive at hiring entry-level and preparing people for those jobs that they are going to have to fill earlier on in their career than a lot of their predecessors.

2. Having a college program that integrates those who are bringing new native technologies to salesforce.com is forcing us to think differently about how we do things, our processes, our approaches. For a company to stay innovative and exciting, it’s really important to bring those new, fresh minds and perspectives into the business and to encourage innovative thinking. If you bring them in and you don’t allow them to flourish, then you’re missing an opportunity.

3. You should never put a university program in place just to say you have one. It will fail. You need to adopt at the core and share those values. I was just sharing because if your leaders don’t understand that, it’s not going to work well, it’s not going to be there for the long-term. At salesforce.com we have that to the core, from Marc [Benioff, CEO], down through our company it is celebrated that we have this program and people understand the value.

What do you wish you’d known about university recruiting when you’d started?

It’s really important to not just put on old practices and say, ‘I’m done’ and keep executing on that same thing. My team knows I push them to be out of their comfort zone because it’s forced us to really look at things differently, and we are better for it.

It’s important to not get comfortable in a space where you’re working with really traditional methods, you could easily settle into a groove where you’re going through the motions, and you could really miss a lot of opportunity if you do that. Our job is really exciting for a lot of different reasons, and one of them is that we get to constantly reinvent, reevaluate, and reassess and look at things differently. Not all jobs and organizations are afforded that creative space.

Is there any aspect of FutureForce we haven’t covered yet that you’d like to describe in more detail?

We talked a lot about the recruiting side, but the other aspect of our programs is around on-boarding, growth, and development. I’m very passionate about that. I truly believe that you cannot have an effective program on the recruiting side without the on-boarding and growth and development sides as well.

We do everything in our power to let our new hires know that we’re invested in FutureForce, and we tell them that from Day One. We’re not just checking a box, we expect you to grow. You’re going to have your #dreamjob now, and the next five after that, and you can do that all within salesforce.com.

The next step: Jennifer mentions the importance of unifying university recruiting with on-boarding and development programs for new hires. Do you currently coordinate with other departments that offer these services? What can you do to make sure that recent grad hires feel welcomed and supported during every step of the application process? Are there ways for you to incorporate some of Salesforce’s customized approach to communicating with applicants?

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3 Responses to “The Salesforce Approach to Social Media And University Recruiting”

  1. Dharmesh Patel

    One good read this was. Would like to see a lot of such articles from campus leads to get insight into the tailored campus recruitment and on-boarding programs for GEN Y.

    Reply
    • Melissa Suzuno

      Thank you! I’m glad to hear you enjoyed this post. We’ve got some other great interviews coming up, so please be sure to stop by again soon.

      Reply

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