Improving Cisco's Social Recruiting Presence - HR Open Source

Cisco is no longer a “networking” company, it’s a technology company, with a new CEO, a new Executive Leadership Team and a new focus on culture with a newly appointed Chief People Officer. Not even a year-old, Cisco’s People Dealthe employee value proposition that guides our culture was the catalyst for a shift in Talent Brand voice, because not only was there a description of what Cisco expected from employees, but what employees could expect from Cisco.

Most people know of Cisco, but do they really KNOW Cisco? The Talent Brand team had to overcome the image of Cisco as this “stodgy old tech company” image.

We are diverse, we are cutting edge, we are a great place to workand our employees are the ones saying it.

The Talent Brand interpreted Our People Deal as top-down permission to take some risks, make some changes, and breakthrough the status-quo.

One (very big, and very successful) change was how we approached social media. We aimed to do some storytelling – focus on showing, not telling (all about them, less about us) and foster personal connections with current and future employees.


(Adapted from a LinkedIn blog post by Carmen Shirkey Collins – found here)

We did it because we had no choice. Our social voice was about as non-engaging as you can get.

Cisco has its fair share of social media channels. Before the summer of 2015, you’d see a lot of the same posts as the other channels. The Cisco Careers accounts were lined up like little corporate soldiers amplifying Cisco content (that often had little to do with attracting talent) and a steady stream of job postings.

If you wanted to think of Cisco Careers as a social job board, that would best explain it. Here’s a sample post (you’d see 3-5 of these a day):

“#HotJob - Cisco is #hiring an #engineer in #SiliconValley. Join our team. (link here.)”

Engagement was dismal. We would get a couple of likes, maybe a repost or twoall from recruiters. (That is the one thing we had done well as a social teamtraining and incentivizing our recruiters to get social.) However, we weren’t trying to reach recruiters. We were trying to reach the best of the best talent.

No one else was paying much attention (not even our Execs).

It totally makes sense, though, to anyone who is a social media professional. Just look at that tweet. Even if you were an engineer, why would that post make you want to work at Cisco? Recruiters know that if you have any engineering talent worth talking about, you have your pick of opportunities. What about that social media post would incentivize you to click and come to Cisco over any other company?

Our metrics answered that question. Nothing.

The Talent Brand Team entered a season of new management, who asked a talent brand consultant to come in and give some feedback. The feedback was a brutal dose of honesty the social efforts were terrible, and weren’t doing much to move the needle.


We started with a mission statement. For us, the talent brand for Cisco hinged on the idea of “personal connections” amongst our employees, with both future talent AND with our technology. Technology without an impact on people is meaningless.

Especially in social, it’s all about the human element. If you’re going to be in social and be taken seriously, you’d better post like you’re a human being.

This was a perfect match with Our People Deal, which was created a few months earlier. Directed by our Chief People Officer, Fran Katsoudas, Our People Deal was a declaration of putting our employees at the center of everything we do, what Cisco expected from them, but also what they could expect from Cisco. Our talent brand team interpreted that as a people-first philosophy. It was like our mission of personal connections was supported top-down, and that was the inspiration for how we’d revamp our talent brand.



First, we started from scratch and started disrupting. It’s like the score was 0-0 now, and we were going to start playing.

1. We changed our tone and voice in social. We got real. Real human, that is.

What we mean by “real” is that we stopped posting like we were a 70,000+ person company and we started posting like we were 70,000+ people, with distinct voices and motivations located all around the world, working for the company.

What’s the difference? Our voice. It’s not corporate – we call it our “co-worker” tone - and it’s focused on our people. There are real people at Cisco doing real cool stuff with real results, amplified by the real people running the talent brand social media channels. Individuals, with individual stories.

To help illustrate the idea, consider you’re in an elevator. When you get on an elevator with someone else, usually you’d first say “hi.”

Then you’d maybe introduce yourself, but then ask, “What about you?” It’s a conversation, it’s not you getting on an elevator and talking at someone for 30 seconds. That makes you more of a robot, less of a human. It’s broadcast - not conversation.

Always choose human. Always.


2. We put our best advocatesour employeesfirst.

Who is best positioned to tell others why Cisco is a great place to work? The people who work here.

Edelman’s Trust Survey gives us the hard numbers. What makes someone buy (or in this case, “buy in” to an idea) is determined largely by what people in his or her network say. In fact, people are 90% more likely to trust their network than a brand.

This meant that we could post on social until the cows come home about how many awards Cisco wins, how great it is to work here, etc. but it wouldn’t matter without our employees to back us up.

As we shook things up and adopted co-worker voice, we upped our trust barometer readingand took it a step further. We started to post photos of our employees and repost what they saythis way we became an amplifier of their words versus a marketer of what WE wanted to say. (Luckily, our culture is such that what we wanted to say is often what our employees already said.)

There was one more step. Our social channels were named @CiscoCareersa moniker that by it’s nature focused on US, and what WE wanted. If we were going to be a co-worker, we were going to need to focus on our employees, and what THEY were saying. So we became all about our tribe and changed our name to @WeAreCisco

3. We created a recruiting blog focusing on our employees.

Where could we tell our stories? As much fun as it is for social media managers to write in 140 characters, we needed to highlight more of the employee voice, with links and extra information on “why work at Cisco” and how to apply.

Content is the key to any great talent brand, and we thought a blog would be a great place to do this. Plus, we’d be disrupting again – only 9% of the Fortune 500 have a “talent” blog.

We worked with the Cisco blog platform to create a unique instance of a “recruiting blog” where we do talk about career and resume tips, but mostly we let our employees do the talking. Now, we have employee blog contributors who tell their own stories, many of which we find from employee social posts. For instance, a self-identified Cisco employee posted a photo of her trip to Honduras to volunteer at an orphanage onto Instagram. She tagged it #WeAreCisco. What a perfect opportunity for her to share about Cisco’s giving back philosophy to both current employees and future talent.

4. We encouraged the conversation.

There had never been a clear way for employees to come together as a tribe and share their experiences on social media. We started encouraging the usage of a select few company-wide hashtags to encourage and “corral” the conversation.

#WeAreCisco was the strongest “tribal” statement, but we also encouraged #CiscoLife and even created a campaign where we encouraged employee-generated-content around #IChoseCisco and #LoveWhereYouWork.

By partnering with Employee Comms, we were able to raise awareness of our campaign, as well as offering team social trainings about why Cisco needs employees to talk about Cisco as a great place to work, but (back to being about THEM and not US) also, what’s in it for them? We are going to scale those trainings this year through Video on Demand.


5. We showed we could have fun.

While staying true to the Cisco brand voice, we all agreed that the talent brand was a subset brand and needed its own nuances. One nuance that we developed was the idea of fun.

That doesn’t mean that we’re all fun all the time. Our employees do some serious work, but when you spend half of your life with the people you work with, if you can’t have a little fun, what’s the point?

We even got named a “happy workplace” by Career Bliss for 2015 – so we posted a photo of employees laughing, and gave a nod to the master of “Happy” - Pharrell. The social comments were all about the visual – how it looked like we truly were a happy place. Not only did we tell the world about the award (the “all about us” way) we SHOWED it with an authentic photo.



We grew our Twitter followers by 400% in 6 months. Only after such extreme organic growth did we start to supplement that growth with paid, targeted follower campaigns. (And these campaigns are not ads, they are the same human touch posts we put up organically, so we attract the right people to the channels who will continue to engage with us.)

We launched an Instagram account and earned 2K followers with above-industry engagement in those same 6 months. We then followed the same strategy of promoted posts (focusing on posts with the strongest visuals, we don’t think of them as “ads”) and now we have over 5,000 followers with continued strong engagement.

Twitter By the Numbers - @WeAreCisco to Date:

  • 1500 followers in first two years of existence. From May 2105 to date  we have more than 13.5K followers
  • We reach more than 2 million people per month
  • #WeAreCisco trended during our #LoveWhereYouWork campaign in conjunction with our employee meeting
  • Twitter verified our account when we became @WeAreCisco

Life at Cisco Blog:

  • The Life at Cisco blog is the second most viral blog after Cisco Newsroom. (shares per reader)
  • The Life at Cisco blog consistently ranks in the top 10 most-shared articles per month metrics from the blog team

Instagram By the Numbers - @WeAreCisco to date:

  • Launched channel in August 2015 as CiscoCareers
  • From 0 to more than 5K to date
  • Instagram account earns above-industry standard in engagement
  • Instagram verified-account when we became WeAreCisco
  • For all social channels – our Klout score has jumped from below 40 to over 60

Because our social media posts don’t always have a call to action to applybecause we’re operating a lot at the “top of the funnel”we know anecdotally that we are sending job applicants, and we have conversations with talent all the time who see our posts and ask “How can we apply?”



While we have some of our social metrics, what we don’t have is a detailed understanding of how many job applies we’ve sent. That’s because when we tested against our ATS (Applicant Tracking System), any tracking codes dropped when people hit the site from a mobile device.

Social media is a mobile game. 80% of users come from a mobile device. So when someone clicks a link from Twitter or Instagram, that gets clumped in our metrics into the Mobile category. That mobile category as a driver of applies is a pretty high percentage. However, we can’t parse out what’s social (the social team feels like it’s a pretty substantial piece, based on the click data from the social platform insights.)

Because more people read the blog from a computer, we can see that we’ve driven a significant number of job applies from those storiesmore than 1000. However, we’re still missing mobile numbers now.

The solution is a new ATS.


Two social media folks plus five channels plus two blog posts a week is a lot of content. Between training people to be social, how to write, how to tell a story and editing when they do, we’re often actively looking for content. This is time-intensive.

Another piece of scaling this is really internal PR. Letting other teams know that we’re here, we have a voice, and we have a place at the table. Internal stakeholders will go through traditional channels to  create traditional content, but when it comes to asking for promotion in our channels, it doesn’t match the tone, voice and goals. We’ve made progress, but it’s usually us being drawn into the process at the end, rather than at the beginning. We take it team by team.

From Global to Local

There is often a need for hyper-local content, which, without a paid strategy, isn’t feasible. Posting about an event in Houston from a Twitter account is akin to “spray and pray” (how many of our US followers are in Houston and at this event).

Also, in other areas of the globe, the social media audience isn’t as large. If one geography makes up less than 1% of your follower base, it’s hard to support super local content.

Strategy for Job Specific Campaigns

While we attract talent with content and perception, talent acquisition always wants to post job ads. There’s a balance with letting people know that there are openings, and with the content that tells WHY someone would want to work here.

The business hasn’t caught up yet, in the understanding that posting this on their own channels, and building up their brands in social will provide more results. Some individual teams understand that they have to create their own content. Some are resistant and feel like the talent brand team should be doing this for them.

This has created some internal tension when the internal client groups really want is a “typical” job ad posted on Twitter or Instagram, and we push back to develop a more personalized approach. While we have provided lots of training for recruiters on this, there’s still resistance.


The key takeaway number one is that employees are your talent brand. They are your culture. You can be a marketer and put together a plan about how you want employees to talk in public about the work environment. But it actually works the other way around.

Authenticity. Today’s savvy job seekers (really, any consumer) can see “marketing” from a mile away. It’s got to be authentic. It’s got to come from real employees. And if it comes from the brand, it should be in an authentic tone and voice.

You’ve got to show, not tell, future talent why they want to work for your company. Storytelling goes a long way.


Twitter, Instagram, Blog, Career Bliss