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Recruiters Use 'Geofencing' To Target Potential Hires Where They Live And Work

Jul 7, 2017
Originally published on September 22, 2017 8:49 am

Carol McDaniel has a perennial challenge: Attracting highly specialized acute-care certified neonatal nurse practitioners to come work for Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla.

They are "always in short supply, high demand, and [it is a] very, very small group of people," says McDaniel, the hospital's director of talent acquisition.

So, about six months ago, McDaniel says, the hospital started using a new recruitment tactic: It buys lists of potential candidates culled from online profiles or educational records. It then uses a technology to set up a wireless fence around key areas where the coveted nurses live or work. When a nurse with the relevant credentials enters a geofenced zone, ads inviting them to apply to All Children's appear on their phones.

The system also automatically collects data from the user's cellphone so it can continue to advertise to them, even after they leave the geofenced area.

The result? She's getting responses from three to four job candidates a week; she got almost none before.

As the unemployment rate falls and fewer people are jobless, recruiters are using increasingly aggressive and innovative ways of trying to get the attention of potential job seekers — and mobile phones are becoming a key part of how that is done.

Geofencing uses GPS and radio frequency identification to set up a virtual, wireless perimeter — around an event, a zip code, a neighborhood — so that people in that area receive messages or advertisements on their cellphones. The technology is perhaps best known for its use sending coupons to potential customers passing by stores.

McDaniel says she loves how targeted the technology is. She even tries to poach workers by sending ads to nurses as they go to work at rival hospitals. And because it's so targeted, she says, it's far more cost-effective.

"We have invaded their space in which they live and work, so it's a much better use of our dollars," she says. "We're not just throwing out a wide net and seeing who comes through the pipeline."

McDaniel admits it's a bit creepy and "Big Brotherish," but says people who respond say they're flattered because, unlike a general advertisement, it's directed at them. And, if they don't like it, they can simply opt out.

"A lot of people look at it as a compliment, and it makes them kind of feel good for the day. 'Wow, Johns Hopkins reached out to me,' " she says.

Salt Lake City trucking firm C.R. England has been using the technology for a couple of years, setting up geofences around truck stops and other areas where it needs to recruit more drivers, who are always in short supply.

C.R. England competes with much bigger companies, and drivers might switch employers over a slight increase in pay, or an extra rest day between runs. So reminding drivers of opportunities at the company is key, says Wayne Cederholm III, vice president of driver recruitment.

"There's not a lot that differentiates these carriers, so the smallest thing can make a big difference," he says. Also, because 75 percent of job applications come via mobile phones these days, that has become central to recruitment, Cederholm says.

That is especially true for those recruiting among the younger workers, whose gateways to the world are their phones.

"People really don't spend nearly as much time on the traditional job boards," says Jacob Rhoades, vice president of marketing for Parker Staffing Services in Seattle. The company saw a 40 percent increase in Web traffic and an uptick in resumes after it set up geofences this spring at area college graduations.

"It's tough for a small business, especially in the Seattle hiring market, to get our name out there, considering we compete against companies like Amazon," Rhoades says.

And the price is unbeatable. His latest experiment in geofencing was more effective and cheaper — as little as half a cent per view — than traditional campaigns he's done before.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

We're going to hear about something called geofencing. You might know about it. But if you don't, it's wireless technology that tracks mobile devices entering and exiting a specific area. Up to this point, it's mostly been used by marketers who use it to send coupons to potential customers nearby. NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports some employers are now using it to target and recruit prospective employees.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: It's very hard to find people to fill some of the most specialized jobs at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla. Carol McDaniel, the recruitment director, says that's especially true for acute-care certified neonatal nurse practitioners.

CAROL MCDANIEL: Always in short supply, high-demand and a very, very small group of people.

NOGUCHI: So about six months ago, McDaniel says the hospital started using a new recruitment tactic. It buys lists of potential candidates called from online profiles or educational records. It then sets up geofences at professional conferences or in areas where those people live and work.

MCDANIEL: Facebook, LinkedIn - we can buy ZIP codes. We can look at critical-care certified lists from different colleges and universities who teach these programs.

NOGUCHI: When nurses with credentials enter a geofenced zone, ads inviting them to apply to All Children's appear on their phones. The system also automatically collects data from each user's cellphone so it can continue to advertise to them even after they leave the geofenced area. McDaniel says she even tries to poach workers by sending ads to nurses as they go to work at rival hospitals. The result - she's getting responses from 3 to 4 job candidates a week.

MCDANIEL: That's a huge success because I was getting nothing before.

NOGUCHI: She says it's also far more cost-effective.

MCDANIEL: We have invaded their space in which they live and work. So it's a much better use of our dollars. We're not just throwing out a wide net and seeing who, you know, comes through the pipeline.

NOGUCHI: McDaniel says, yes, it's a bit creepy, but she says people who respond say they're flattered.

MCDANIEL: A lot of people look at it as a compliment. And they - makes them kind of feel good for the day. Wow, you know, Johns Hopkins reached out to me.

NOGUCHI: As employers face a tight labor market, they're having to get more aggressive and innovative to fill critical jobs. Mobile phones are becoming a key part of how that is done. Wayne Cederholm is vice president of driver recruitment for Salt Lake City trucking firm C.R. England. He says mobile recruitment through social media or geofencing has become far more important.

WAYNE CEDERHOLM: Applications are being completed on a mobile 75 percent of the time.

NOGUCHI: He says finding drivers is incredibly competitive. Drivers might defect over a slight increase in pay or an extra day of rest between runs, so reminding drivers of opportunities at his company is very important to his business.

CEDERHOLM: There's not a lot that differentiates these carriers. So the smallest thing can make a big difference.

NOGUCHI: It especially matters to those recruiting among younger workers whose gateway to the world are their phones.

JACOB RHOADES: People really don't spend nearly as much time on the traditional job boards.

NOGUCHI: That's Jacob Rhodes, vice president of marketing for Parker Staffing Services in Seattle. The company saw a 40 percent increase in web traffic and an uptick in resumes after it set up geofences this spring at area college graduations.

RHOADES: It's tough for a small business especially in the Seattle hiring market to get our name out there considering we compete against companies like Amazon.

NOGUCHI: And the price is unbeatable, Rhoades says. His latest experiment in geofencing was more effective and cheaper than traditional campaigns he's done before. Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOEY FEHRENBACH SONG, "INDIGO ROAD") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.