How NPR Saves $100K Annually by Introducing New Candidates to #NPRlife

Lars Schmidt joined NPR at a time of modernization.  On the talent side, it was a lean team with a limited budget, and a traditional recruiting model in place.  Moving into the digital era, the team knew it needed to do more to attract technical talent and compete against the likes of Twitter, Google, Amazon, and Facebook.

On the creative side, they had a narrative.  Everyone in the journalism and news industry knew the legacy of NPR.  But now there was more to that story. As a digital media company, it was also a rapidly evolving workplace, increasingly relying on cutting-edge technical talent to drive innovation. Unfortunately, that was all happening behind the scenes — for the majority of the public, the perception of NPR was still tied to things like All Things Considered, tote bags, and pledge drives.

On the technology side, the team needed to get out there, shape the narrative of who they really were, and tell those stories.

“The employer branding efforts really became finding ways to shine a spotlight on the employee experience and letting our talent be the best recruiter for us,” Schmidt says. “Because in recruiting, talent is drawn to talent. People want to work with smart people that they can learn from and collaborate with. We had a lot of that….but we needed to find a way to activate our employees, get them involved in helping to share the story.”

So that’s what he did. Schmidt and his team set about recruiting the help of employees throughout the company — from product managers to software designers to journalists — to tell their stories about life in their roles at NPR. The result would be real stories from real employees — an authentic and engaging window into a new side of NPR that was less familiar, but rapidly growing, and absolutely critical to moving the company forward.

Flipping the traditional recruiting model on it’s head, the team decided to find new ways to convey the NPR culture, people, and brand, leveraging it as an avenue to attract the right type of talent who could thrive in the NPR environment.

A Show, Don’t Tell Approach to Employer Branding

#NPRlife employer branding company culture

“There was never any kind of HR mandate or us asking, ‘Hey, do this.’ People saw their peers doing it and their friends doing it and then they started doing it, too.”

— Lars Schmidt, Founder of Amplify Talent

As an organization, NPR was already very active on Twitter, and Schmidt’s team saw it as a perfect platform to build employer branding and awareness. In April 2011, they launched the @NPRJobs handle, but it quickly became apparent that prospective candidates wanted to see a perspective beyond how the recruiting team positioned the organization. They wanted to learn about the company from an employee’s point of view.

“They wanted to see what people who were doing the kind of job that they’re doing had to say,” Schmidt explains.

That’s when Schmidt came up with the idea for using the hashtag #NPRlife, and with the help of a viral tweet from Peter Sagal, host of Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me, the hashtag gained full steam. Never formally announced as a program, Schmidt believes one of the keys to the initiative’s success was that it was allowed to spread organically.

“There was never any kind of HR mandate or us asking, ‘Hey, do this.’” Schmidt says. “People saw their peers doing it and their friends doing it and then they started doing it, too.”

Fast forward to today and #NPRlife has taken on a life of its own. As simple as the idea was, with over 15K tweets and 4K Instagram photos, the hashtag has had huge results.

Now, instead of fielding the standard “tell me about your culture” question with a typical answer, hiring managers and recruiters can say, “Let me show you,” instead. “People considering a job or considering applying to a job get a really good sense of what the culture is like, what the people are like, and make a more informed decision about whether to apply or whether to accept an offer,” Schmidt says. “That was a huge payoff that we saw.”

Twitter became the number four source of hiring for NPR (behind internal hires, referrals, and the career site). Due to the success, NPR was also able to drop all but one traditional job board, saving over $100K per year.

With outcomes like that, it’s easy to see why NPR has continued to invest in innovative approaches to employer branding.

“Employer branding really is storytelling,” Schmidt says. “It’s finding ways to convey employee stories that can really help prospects see themselves in the organization and really relate to the environment.”

Outbound recruiting efforts are still essential in helping introduce candidates to a new story, but it’s efforts like #NPRlife that can help motivate them to turn the page in their careers.

Photo courtesy of NPRinterns

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Carlie Smith
Carlie Smith
Director of Talent

Carlie Smith was the Senior Talent Manager, Sales & Marketing at OpenView. She worked directly with hiring managers and key stakeholders within OpenView and its portfolio to lead vital searches and provided process guidance on recruitment strategy, including talent identification, strategic sourcing, relationship building, and competitive intelligence. Currently, Carlie is the Director of Circle.
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