Using Facebook and LinkedIn Ads to Intelligently “Poach” Employees

September 18, 2012

Recruiting top talent for your startup is a huge challenge. In fact, it’s probably the biggest challenge for most companies. There are only so many awesome people to hire and Craigslist postings and referral bonuses only go so far. So you have to be creative to get above all of the noise. One really cool example is Full Contact’s paid paid vacation policy. It got them tons of press and probably caught the attention of a bunch of talented people¬†they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to get in front of. Another clever technique is to go to LinkedIn and send a message to talented people who are currently employed. Putting aside the questionability of poaching employees of other companies, since you are contacting people who aren’t necessarily actively looking for a job, your conversion rate (interested candidates) will probably be pretty low and it doesn’t scale very well so you might not end up with a sufficient pool of candidates. A good marketer knows conversion rate and conversion volume are inversely related, and the cold message approach doesn’t lend itself to either.

What would be better is if you could target many relevant people working at specific companies (competitors, companies that only hire top talent, etc.) who might entertain a new career opportunity should they see something that interests them. And you can do just this using Facebook ads and LinkedIn ads. Both of these ad platforms allow you to target at the company level, so you can setup a campaigns and show ads only to people who work at specific companies. This allows you to get much more reach than individually contacting people, and interest is initiated by the potential employee so your conversion rate will be higher.

Here’s a real world example: we were recently looking to hire an Account Executive to join us at Circl. We posted on Craigslist and we tapped our networks and we got a lot of talented candidates. But let’s say we wanted to expand our candidate pool even further and we knew there were a lot of companies in our space that might have relevant candidates. I could have created an ad campaign on Facebook that might look something like this:

Facebook has a huge reach and people use it very regularly so your potential audience pool is in the hundreds of millions. But as you can see, the number of users this ad targets is very small (340). Granular targeting is the key to facebook advertising (and any advertising really) so you can create relevant ads that lead to relevant products/services/destinations for a specific audience. Since this audience is so targeted, you would want to bid to the higher end of the suggested bid range and potentially 2-3x the highest suggested bid. The reason being you want your ad to show as often as possible since your campaign is so targeted and you want to reach as many of these 340 people as possible.

We could have also launched a LinkedIn ad campaign. LinkedIn users tend to be more business oriented and in a professional state of mind than users on Facebook. That’s why you see most advertisers on LinkedIn advertising business-related products/services. Seems like a great place to advertise an open position, right? So we could have created a campaign with targeting that might look something like this:

One thing you have to be mindful of when advertising on LinkedIn is that if your target audience has less than 1,000 people, they won’t let you continue setting up your campaign. This is to ensure sure enough people see/click on your ad so you get some results (and they make their money). Fair enough, but this affects the ability to target at a super granular level so keep it in mind if you start targeting smaller companies and/or specific job functions.

I hope this recruiting hack helps you land a new employee or twelve.


  1. Steve G - September 18, 2012 6:41 pm

    I’m curious about your age range target. Do you have any concerns that it’s discriminatory? Do you think it’s right (and/or smart) to limit the candidate pool like that?

    As an older guy it makes me a little uncomfortable to see that people my age are apparently less appealing for certain tech jobs.

    And get off my lawn!

    • Soso - September 18, 2012 7:08 pm

      We were looking for someone with a couple of years of experience. If we were looking to fill a more senior position (no pun intended), we would have skewed the target age range on the ads upward instead.


Leave a Reply