Amateur Hour Guide To: Recruiting on Instagram

Written by Carrie Callaghan

Carrie owns Love Monday, a socially responsible recruitment agency in Auckland. As well as being Regional Editor for ANZ at #ChatTalent, she loves her F-Bombs as much as her truth bombs and will rarely say no to a beer.

If you’re reading this, then you either know how to use Instagram in recruitment – and you’re here to throw shit at me for my amateur guidance, or you know you maybe can, but don’t know how.

To the first lot, feel free to share any points I miss/am not aware of for the benefit of the community in the comments. This isn’t a dick measuring competition over who knows more. People have been asking me about how I use Instagram and why I rate it as a recruitment tool, so this is an article about how my brain works with it, and what has worked for me in the past.

First, a disclaimer.

I don’t want anyone believing that Instagram is a new job board – cos it’s not. Don’t get all virusy and weird about it.

What it is, is a nifty marketing tool to add to your compendium, to attract the right kind of people to you and your client’s brands. It won’t necessarily work well for all roles, but when you look at the logic behind what I’m about to say – you should be able to apply some of the principles to your own area for the greater good.


Some numbers

To start with, let’s look at some numbers based around potential candidates and their mobile devices.

  • 45% of job seekers search for jobs daily on their mobile device
  • 89% of job seekers think mobile devices play a critical role in the job hunting process
  • 79% of job seekers are likely to use social media for their job search
  • For younger job seekers who are in the first 10 years of their career, that number goes up to 86%. And they used it not just to look for positions, but also to learn more about the company.

Now Instagram was started back in 2010, and for those of you who don’t know, it’s a mobile device led platform. By that, I mean users can only upload content from their mobile. In 2012, Facebook bought Instagram – at the time it had 30 million monthly users. Fast forward to today and that number has grown to a whopping 1 billion. Over 60% of their users log in daily, making it the second most engaged platform after Facebook.

Although it introduced advertising for select businesses in 2013, it’s only been a possibility for all users since late 2015, and it’s still a very good time to start getting involved.

According to Brandwatch engagement with brands on Instagram is 10 times higher than Facebook, 54 times higher than Pinterest, and 84 times higher than Twitter.

So, to demonstrate how to go about making it work in recruitment? Let’s break this down into sections…

  • Building your agency brand to be visible and appealing…(note this one HARD – not the usual beige recruitment shit…I said appealing)
  • Paid advertising


Build it and they will come

Everything about recruitment as we know it right now is beige in the extreme. We’re seen as a necessary evil, and a bit like how we all ‘fell into’ recruitment, very few people (or no people??) from day one, say their dream company is ANY recruitment agency. We don’t present or engage well on social, and if we can’t attract people to our own brand – how can we possibly lead a client to believe we can do it for them?

Once again for those in the back, Instagram isn’t a quick win where you post a bunch of jobs, get applications and make placements. It’s not a job board, it’s a long game based around candidate attraction.

Think like a marketer (this is how you should be positioning your job ads too BTW).

  • Who is your ideal candidate
  • What questions are they looking to have answered
  • What things engage them online
  • What can they gain from following you
  • What appeals to them about the kind of jobs you recruit for and the clients you work with?

This is so easy to do – just look at and analyse your historic placements. Mine, for example are people aged 21-35, leaning more towards being female (say a 70/30 split). It’s time to stop generically marketing yourself to the whole world, and to focus more on THOSE people. Less applications, more relevance.


What are you doing?

First off, let’s look at what I know you’re currently posting on there.

  • Jenny posing with the office dog
  • The cakes you had delivered for Valentine’s Day
  • Cringefest team photos of your BYO chow mein during Chinese New Year
  • The flowers someone sent Sarah
  • James standing beside the logo in your reception after his first placement

Why on earth would you think a potential candidate would want their social media feed jacked up with this nonsense? Why does your marketing team? It’s lazy, unimaginative content and it belongs on your intranet, if anywhere.

Now, instead of the above, try stuff like:

  • How to create a LinkedIn profile or use the platform to your advantage
  • Talking about how recruiters spy on your social media and how you can work around that (don’t say we don’t)
  • Information about cultural fit, or reasons why their current one isn’t working for them
  • How to manage a video interview

You’ll want to create engaging images of your own to go with these (try Canva for that) or have access to decent stock images. I’m even hesitant to use the work ‘stock image’ here, cos so many people use the same old crap – especially recruiters. There are so many sites with alternative takes on these, and they’re free.

Hint – They don’t have to have smiling people in headsets. They can have…. *gasp* NO people in.

Here’s a head start. Thank me later.

You want that grid looking *fire emoji*. Consistent quality, uniform brand identity, and generally prrrrty to look at. The images should be fresh, represent a consistent style, and project your brand. I, for example, use black and white images and find some way to accent/filter them with pink – because that’s my brand colours.


How much effort to stop a thumb?

Do you see the difference in this content as a very basic starting point? The effort and psychology behind it?

For anyone to follow you or want to engage with your posts, you’re going to have to have thumb stopping power from your images, and the captions need to be of some use to them – unlike the corporate drivel that’s gotten your current followers to 83 (all of whom being staff or former staff who haven’t unfollowed you, yet).

Get yourselves up to date. And before you start posting ANY jobs ads, grow your following with real people, who might need your services.

If you’re struggling – because it won’t happen overnight… run a paid ad. It costs like $20/£10 to run a half decent campaign to grow your following. You just need to know how to target the right people.


Speculate to accumulate

Us recruiters are pretty good at advertising. After all, that’s how we made all those placements this year, eh? WRONG.

Job board ads (most of which are horrendous, and you know it) are nothing like how you’re going to work on Instagram. Sponsored/promoted/whatever you know them as, an Instagram ad is targeted. Not just the wording, but every piece of information you load in there is what’s going to see you succeed or fail with your efforts. Be that raising brand awareness to grow your following, or whether it’s to advertise an actual position.

To start, you’re going to need some of those epic images again. Remember, thumb stopping, Instagram is all about the aesthetics.

Repeat – ‘Instagram is all about aesthetics’.

I won’t go into too much detail on this right now, but you can actually run the same ad with two images and use the built-in analytics to see which is performing better. As a general rule, Instagram doesn’t like text heavy images and they don’t perform well as ads. Same goes for Facebook actually. So, either choose a stand out image, or if you want to chuck one in Canva and add some text to it then make sure the word count stays low. I’m talking like, a short sentence, or a couple of keywords, max.

Now, your caption. Here’s a new mantra for you:

‘Instagram is not the place for a corporate voice’

Choose your words like a human being, tailor the tone to your audience, make it fun and engaging – using language that they do. Except swearing, it won’t let you post with ANY variation/asterisk/combo that looks like you’re trying to get around that. Believe me, I have tried…

Here is an example of a recent one I posted which got pretty good interest and got me a candidate to client interview for a role they’ve found difficult – and the insights.


This ad cost me $30/ £15 to run for 10 days. If this results in a placement, my fee will be $7000.

I recently ran one which saw me receive a $5500 fee for a total spend of $1.87/96p. I didn’t get 250 applications for either. I probably got 5-10 max for each, but the quality of them and conversion to shortlist/placement was insane. It generates the interest but reduces the fallout – cos, targeting. Not to mention, have a serious look at that ROI.

Getting specific

First off, something you’ll want to be made aware of in the terms of Facebook and Instagram advertising.

Section 3. Discriminatory Practices


Adverts must not engage in predatory advertising practices or contain content that discriminates against, harasses, provokes or disparages people who use Facebook or Instagram.

What this means is, although I’m about to go into targeting, you cannot be saying you want heterosexual females between 25-30 for your job. You’ll have to sign a disclaimer confirming just that, and if you try to discriminate, they will pick up what you’re doing and stop your ad from running. So, don’t be a dick about it…. You can target without discrimination.

When you click on ‘Promote’ next to the post you want to run as an ad, or when you’re loading the details into Ads Manager, the first thing they’ll ask is where you want to direct traffic – use your common sense on this.

  • Your profile
  • Your website
  • Your shop front
  • Your direct messages

Really, for the purposes of what I’ve been doing, I typically send them to my website, or profile. All this does is change the button that will be visible on your ad and direct people accordingly.

Next, you’ll be selecting your target audience.

You can run with ‘Automatic’ here for growing your follower numbers only – if you have a sizeable and relevant enough following to begin with. Most of us don’t, and if it’s for a specific job, you’re going to want to manually select your audience by selecting ‘Create your Own’.

Then, you’ll choose a name. I usually make these initials of client and job title, or something like ‘LM February’ for campaigns I’ve run. The good thing about this is you can save them, so when they work well, and you have more of the same job you can run with the same level of effectiveness but without having to reenter all the details.

Next, Location. Obviously with this you want this to be specific, but not overly specific. You can select the location of your office, or your client’s and alter this to be within whichever radius seems feasible to travel.

After that, you’ll be prompted to choose Interests. This is the bit I like best. The reason being, here is where you can use your creativity and your brain to create a persona of that ideal candidate. Which TV shows do they watch, what hobbies do they have, where do they shop, where do they socialise (music venues/bars/restaurants?) you can really go to town on this. Here is a partial example of one of my recent ones, where the client was a surf and lifestyle retailer, this isn’t even the full list – the possibilities are endless and that will only make your ad work harder:

Once you’ve chosen all this, you will see your projected reach and be able to opt between your daily/campaign spend and duration. If I’m aiming to grow my followers, I keep the spend low and run it for longer, and for a job, push up to a higher overall budget for around 7-10 days. You can always re-run these if needs be.

When you’re done, click to submit, and after review (which takes about 30-60 mins) your ad will go live and work its magic.

And there you go… a very rough guide to how and why you should be using Instagram in your recruitment strategy. Hope you found it useful.


Brain dump

Before I wrap up, here are some other things I didn’t touch on which are worth looking into:

  • Instagram stories. I’m definitely not leveraging those to my advantage yet, work in progress
  • When you run ads, you can simultaneously run them on Facebook too, personally, I don’t
  • Hashtags – do use them, but don’t expect them to turn you into recruitment’s Kim Kardashian. I use a lot of local ones on my job posts, and they do work, but so does geo tagging your posts to where you are… This blog is really helpful in terms of #hashtags.
  • My success has come from retail/eCommerce/Marketing/Account Management candidates – which are my overall demographic. I don’t see it necessarily being as effective for C-Suite professionals. Use your own judgement, and tailor the style to your ideal persona.
  • Instagram shouldn’t be being used exclusively for jobs you have on. It should be used to supplement the other methods you use and increase your relevant general registrations.
  • I do OK on there for an Indie Rec who’s been in business for a year – if you want any amateur inspo my handle is @LoveMondayNZ

Instagram is an amazing tool to catch both passive and active job seekers. You’re not relying on people proactively hitting up a job board, you can encourage them to tag friends to spread the word, they can ask questions on the role right there and then, and most importantly you can have actual fun doing it.

Have you used Instagram for any of the above? I’d be keen to hear how and any successes you’ve had with it. Likewise, if you have any questions, drop them in the comments.

Go forth and amateurly conquer.


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