Facebook’s Hiring Strategies

photo by webmission09This Friday, a movie called The Social Network will hit theaters. This movie is a depiction of The Accidental Billionaires author’s view of the events that led to the founding of Facebook, which has risen to become the world’s 4th largest website. But, as all of us who work in the world of recruiting know, a company does not achieve this kind of success without some pretty awesome employees. So, we decided to check out how Facebook has staffed itself to reach this kind of online domination. We caught up with Richard Cho, one of the Recruiting Leads at Facebook, to find out what they’ve been doing to attract talent there and grow with some pretty impressive numbers.

Cho has been with Facebook for two years. When he started in 2008, there were around fifteen employees who were working in recruiting. Today, there are just over 100 Facebook recruiters worldwide. And if you think that’s something, consider that when Cho started in 2008, there were between 600-700 total employees, and in just two years, Facebook has grown to over 1,700 employees worldwide. While most of these folks are based in the company headquarters in Palo Alto, CA, there are offices domestically in Chicago, Austin, New York City, and a brand new office in Seattle (more on that office later). As well, there are international offices in Hyderabad, India and Dublin, Ireland (where Cho says is a good central place for European talent and support).

What’s more – all of Facebook’s offices have recruiters; they are not centralized in one location. Cho said, “Recruiting has become more complex, now that we have a specific strategy to grow in geographic regions where there was previously no office.” The recruiting teams are broken out based on job function – the largest being the Engineering and Product Team where Cho is one of 3 Recruiting Leads. This team consists of approximately 35 recruiting professionals.

One of the nice things about this structure is that each of the recruitment teams has the flexibility to operate independently of the others when it comes to lead generation. There is no centralized policy on how things must be done. As each team has different needs, naturally they will utilize different resources and strategies to reach their target audiences. Here’s where sourcing comes into play…

Naturally, we wanted to know about sourcing – and Facebook does have dedicated sourcers that work with the recruiting teams. The ratio of sourcers to recruiters depends on the unique needs of the recruitment teams. For Cho’s team, the ratio is almost a 1:1 – one sourcer for every recruiter with the occasional full-cycle recruiter in the mix. The sourcers are responsible for lead generation as well as pre-screening potential candidates. They are the front-line folks – they engage with potential candidates and qualify them before handing off to the recruiters. The recruiters get involved once the candidates are brought on-site for an interview.

The big question is: how does Facebook use its own product for recruiting? Cho said that they do not necessarily have a specific Facebook ‘sourcing campaign’ – it’s more  about distributing the culture and employment brand. From a tactical standpont, Facebook uses its website’s communication tools much in the same way that any of us might use them to reach out to potential candidates. They do not abuse the fact that they have administrator access to the databases that store user’s personal information, as it is is a HUGE company violation to abuse user’s privacy. Most of the Facebook employees do not have ‘special privileges’ to look into people’s non-public information.

From am employment brand standpoint, Cho says they are proud of what they are accomplishing and use Facebook tools to show it. Outreach naturally occurs just by sharing the cool stuff that they’re doing – as evidenced in the video below that has generated a lot of interest from people inquiring about working at Facebook. There is a noticeable culture of community and creativity. As Jonathan Heiliger, VP of Technical Operations mentions in the video, “We don’t depend on an architecture team that sits in an ivory tower and dictates out strategy; instead we depend on the collective.”

Incidentally, you’ll see in Heiliger’s LinkedIn profile that he is on the lookout for “clever people who want to change the world.” So the thought at Facebook, as Cho mentioned in his recent presentation at the Social Recruiting Summit, is that every employee is a recruiter to some extent. To quote Cho, “Every employee has a fiduciary responsibility to help bring people into the company to make the company better.” You can check out some of the other videos on the Facebook Careers page. (on Facebook, of course)

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Remember the new Seattle office mentioned earlier? This new location opened just last month, out of the desire of a new hire to not relocate to California. Facebook figured it was time to open a location in the Pacific Northwest and decided to capitalize on this event by having a party for its grand opening. But there was a catch: the new office location had limited space (it can hold about 60 employees comfortably), so due to the need to limit the guest list, they put forth a contest – a puzzle for people to solve in order to ‘earn’ a ticket to come to the party.

The contest would serve multiple purposes: it would give people who solved the puzzle an ‘ice breaker’ of sorts at the gathering as well as ensure that attendees would be like-minded individuals, all but guaranteeing a good time to be had by all. But additionally, it would give people the opportunity to exhibit problem solving skills, which aligns with Facebook’s philosophy – they value these types of skills in all areas of the company. So this would also be an opportunity for Facebook to check out some of the local talent. While there are no official numbers of hires resulting from this effort that are yet available, the office opening was an all-around success.

Incidentally, if you look at the Facebook Careers page, there is a tab for Puzzles. Since we too love puzzles, we decided to check it out. Unfortunately for us, these are engineering and programming puzzles; not really SourceCon-type puzzles. They were designed just for fun, but Facebook has a box in the lower right part of each puzzle page showcasing hires that have been made from those who’ve solved them.

It’s not easy to get hired into Facebook, according to Cho. But from what we can tell, the rewards are worth the effort. As mentioned earlier, no company can achieve any level of success without a talented, well-balanced workforce. And with Facebook, their focus on providing a culture of community, international growth and diversity, balancing work and play, and developing smart, creative ways of reaching target audiences leads us to believe that they’ve got a good thing going on with their hiring efforts.

Amybeth Quinn began her career in sourcing working within the agency world as an Internet Researcher. Since 2002, she has worked in both agency and corporate sourcing and recruiting roles as both individual contributor and manager, and also served previously as the editor of The Fordyce Letter and SourceCon.com with ERE Media. She currently works as Sr. Manager, Technical Talent Sourcing for Walmart eCommerce. You can connect with her on Twitter at @researchgoddess.

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