Back in January 2011, Jorgen attended the SMART conference and I read a couple of articles about David Mason, the head of talent acquisition for CH2M HILL. And what they did with Social Media to find talent and recruit is really impressive.
It is a good example of a big corporation using Social Media and especially Linkedin to engage with candidates and develop new ways of hiring.
Welcome to the world of Social Media in recruitment!

CH2M HILL, an international company with recruitment issues

David Mason first explained that as an engineering and consulting company in the construction industry, CH2M HILL has to recruit globally. But when posting ads on Job Boards or using Recruitment agencies, they realized that they were flooded with candidates…coming from all over the world. The quality of the average candidate used to be really low.
As an ex recruitment consultant in the construction industry for positions in the Middle-east and Australia, I can tell you that it was the case, you had to rely on a few niche job boards.
So the big challenge for CH2M HILL was to generate less volume (less work) and more quality.
To do this his team focuses its efforts on social media, internet networking, developing its own website and research-based techniques.

CH2M HILL is an employee-owned company with 25.000 employees across the global and they only have 70 internal recruiters so they had to be efficient as well!!!
As David explained, “Job boards generate too much noise, social media allows us to target and source the right people”.

The other idea was to reduce the cost per hire by reducing the number of assignments to agencies and address directly the task of finding highly critical roles (structural engineers…).

The initial Recruitment strategy

1) Harness social media to attract candidates: test and try different social media platforms
2) Targeting Candidates effectively: using the right tools and ways to target candidates
3) Using social media to attract new geographical audiences: attract local candidates vs expatriates and develop a diversified pool of talents

But over time, the strategy slightly changed as we will see later on…

The key to success: a great landing and career page

The 1st step in the strategy that they developed consisted in creating an efficient and well-designed careers page.
The main goal is to enhance and maximise the candidate experience with no time wasted.

1) entertaining pages with videos and pictures
2) great design, neat and clear and I especially love the way they organized the sections with pictures
3) simple: there are no banners and nothing fancy
4) they integrated the social media buttons directly on the vacancy page

An easy and quick way for an applicant to find a job and to apply…they just needed to drive traffic and applicants to this website…
And they started using social media platforms….with different results.

CH2M HILL and Facebook

As a direct recruiting tool, Facebook did not work so well (which means just posting jobs and having good quality applicants)…however as a community building tool, Facebook seems to be one of the best options.

If you look at the Facebook page for CH2M HILL, there are a couple of interactions between members sharing pictures and mentioning awards and specific projects that employees do (charity project…) or develop.
And this page is “liked” by 2049 people which is the biggest community on social networks for CH2M HILL.

Twitter = inefficient?

For CH2M HILL, Twitter is, so far, the least efficient network. They have been using it as a way to push their jobs forward…but no interactions whatsoever. Twitter is a conversation tool but probably not suited for a company like CH2M HILL. To be fair, I am not a big fan of twitter accounts just pushing jobs…I don’t see the value in using Twitter. I would need to know how many applicants and the quality of the applications are coming through Twitter!

The Linkedin strategy, the one that worked better!

They have had significant success with LinkedIn as a direct recruitment tool but also as a way to raise their employer brand and engage with specific targets.
They used a wide spectrum of tools and tactics on Linkedin…

1) Linkedin corporate recruitment solutions

They bought licenses for the recruitment solutions and so they have access to the 90 million members of Linkedin with 50 inmails per month and per license. And as David Mason explained, because of the access to all the profiles on Linkedin, they can solve their recruitment issues quicker.
He gave a specific example of when they needed to hire a very specialised civil engineering post in Korea. They had had no luck using the normal routes but with Linkedin they were able to produce a long list of 100 targets in 30 minutes. This was soon pared down to make a short list of 10 candidates. They then entered into conversation with these 10 and were able to match one of them to the post – all without the use of an expensive agency or third party.

2) Company profile on Linkedin and Careers page

The company profile on Linkedin is fully customised with banners on the side driving traffic to the careers page of the corporate website but also there is a video of employees presenting the company.
The careers page on Linkedin goes a step further as there is a huge banner at the top redirecting to the careers page on the website.
And they have a widget integrated with their careers site that allows searching of their ATS for jobs within Linkedin.

But the better is to come…With Linkedin career page, when members come to the page they are only given information relevant to their profile…which means that if you are an engineer or a marketing person, the information displayed on the career page will be tailored to your profile!!

And finally they seed all the jobs they posted on Linkedin on their company page, careers page (customised according to your location and profile) and to their followers.
With the recruitment solutions, they have a number of postings per month and CH2M HILL is clearly maximising the number of the job board option…they have currently 22 jobs posted on Linkedin!

3) Groups and the way they use it

That is probably one of the weak points of their strategy on Linkedin. They have currently 3 groups on Linkedin: CH2M HILL Alumni (1013 members), CH2M Alumni association (285) and CH2M HILL Jobs (317).
Obviously these numbers don’t reflect the size of the company neither the interactions and on the jobs group, there are not many interactions.
But once again community building on Linkedin is still a grey area and a difficult topic, and clearly CH2M HILL has not overcome the obstacles.

4) Customised ads on every CH2M HILL recruiter Linkedin profile

Look at this image below…
The service is quite impressive, on Lacy profile you can see a banner for CH2M HILL and it is the case for all the profiles of CH2M HILL employees on Linkedin…a great way to drive traffic to your careers website…and qualified traffic, friends or contacts of your employees!

Part of strategy and part of the Linkedin service, CH2M HILL used campaigns with very targeted adverts as the ones you can see on the right side of the screen.

5) Recruiter’s profiles

Here is another weak point of the strategy of CH2M HILL. A couple of profiles look alike but over all it is more a patchwork. You can argue that they want to keep the personality of each profile but there is not so much coherence…for example David Mason kept the slides of his ex job on his profile (when he was at AXA)…ok it shows that they want  their recruiters to be autonomous and free to manage their Linkedin profiles…but overall, if they use Linkedin heavily, I really think that they should be a little bit more coherent and consistent especially in the summary of the profiles and as another way to drive traffic to their careers website (with customised URL for example).

Why CH2M HILL succeeded on Linkedin and had mixed results elsewhere

1) They discovered that the demographic of the user base on Linkedin is aligned with the current type of professionals they target ie 43 years old and the level of qualifications they look for
2) They put their careers page on the corporate website at the center of their strategy with many banners coming from Linkedin careers page and all the employees profiles directing to the website
3) They just tried, did it and learnt on the job. They clearly realised that Facebook and Twitter were not the ideal tools to recruit directly
4) They focused on the candidate experience by using a great design, customising career pages, and exchanging as much personal information as they could (videos, career paths, pictures, usability…)
5) They always tried to provide content and exchange with current employees and candidates, they did real efforts to engage even if the results were mixed
6) This is a great company to work for as they have received awards and their strong selling point is that it is employee-owned, with 14,000 of the company’s 25,000 employees owning shares that are not tradable outside the company.
If you provide a bad experience to your employees, social media won’t change anything…and employees won’t participate in any social media activity…(look at Zappos case!)


1) 98% of hires in the US are directly sourced
2) 95% of all hires outside of the US are also the result of direct recruitment activities
3) they reduced significantly the cost and time to hire
4) it is one of the only construction company to be among the 100 best companies to work for


1) Linkedin leveraged their global strategy by providing a professional image, enhancing their reputation and driving traffic to their careers page
2) Linkedin is the best tool for direct recruitment
3) Facebook seems to be better for nurturing a community
4) You need to know your target and where they are to be sure to use the proper platform (Twitter has yet to prove its efficiency for CH2M HILL)

If you read  this business case until the end, well done…it took me hours of work and research to get there but I am quite proud because a company with a 4 year strategy plan using internet and social media is something rare especially in the recruitment field…so well done CH2M HILL and David Mason. And thanks to Jean-Paul Smalls for his article that provided ideas and good insights about this business case.

And by the way, I run a Linkedin training on the 22nd of March and we run an open Linkedin Taining for Recruiters workshop in April.