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What every agency needs in a social media recruitment plan

Upgrade your agency’s social media game and use it to recruit women and diverse applicants

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This photo shows a still frame from a New Zealand Police recruitment video.

Photo/New Zealand Police

By Suzie Ziegler

Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives. For most, it’s as constant as breathing – but not everyone finds it as easy. In a webinar earlier this month, Anne Li Kringen, PhD, discussed how law enforcement agencies can flex their social media muscles to recruit officers online.


To start, everyone is doing it. According to Kringen, 94% of recruiters currently use or are planning to use social media for recruiting. Here’s why:

Social media increases and improves your candidate pool. Employers who use social media found a 49% improvement in applicant quality, while 73% of employees aged 18-34 found their last job through a social network, Kringen says.

Social media is cheap. It’s not necessary to pay for advertising, which means reduced recruiting costs.

Social media is interactive. This is a key weapon traditional marketing cannot offer. With direct messaging and post comments, recruits and recruiters are able to have two-way, real-time conversations. Having an employee on hand to answer questions in a timely fashion can help break down barriers to the application process that would otherwise dissuade an applicant. Overall, social media can make the communication process easier on both sides.

Social media is where your potential applicants are. At the most basic level, the goal of recruiting is to fill vacancies. To do that, you need to search in places that are hotbeds for your target audience. A survey of 361 police cadets in a major metropolitan area found that 86.3% of cadets use social media and 68% follow the department on social media. Meanwhile, a survey of 344 police applicants found that 93.8% of applicants use social media and 28% thought that social media was the most important tool for advertising positions.


Follow these four steps to develop an effective online recruitment strategy:

Create a separate recruiting-focused account distinct from your agency’s main social media. This allows more interaction between the recruiter and the potential applicant. It also gives the agency more room to focus on targeted recruiting, such as recruiting more women and people of color.

Get on Instagram. A survey of 344 applicants found that 84.3% use Instagram, according to Kringen. Moreover, surveys of 361 cadets and 344 applicants showed that women are more likely to use Instagram than men.

Publish posts that focus on diversity. In an analysis of Instagram posts from 70 agencies across 420 posts, Kringen says only two posts contained explicit messages of diversity. Kringen suggests agencies show images of diverse applicants.

Use humor. Humor worked well for the New Zealand Police after one of its recruitment videos went viral in 2017, getting nearly 1.8 million views on YouTube. The high-end production shows 70 real cops who make quips and share recruit information while engaged in a parkour-filled foot pursuit (spoiler – the perpetrator is furry and has four legs). Not every agency can afford a production costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they can incorporate humor into social media posts. According to Australian-based AdNews, the video led to an 800% increase in traffic to the agency’s New Cops recruitment website. The agency also reported the largest number of female recruits ever to start its police college. Officials directly attributed this spike to the campaign video, which showed an even mix of women and men, reported AdNews.


Surveys of 361 cadets and 344 applicants showed that women are more likely than men to:

  • Use Instagram
  • Be aware of the agency’s social media
  • Follow the agency on social media

Female applicants were also more likely than men to learn about training prep classes through social media, Kringen said.

Advertise the thrill of the job and benefits, not service. In targeting women, Kringen says agencies should make sure social media messaging reflects what women are actually more likely to respond to – not what the agency thinks they’ll respond to. In practice, this means agencies should focus on advertising benefits and the excitement of the job – not just service.

However, that doesn’t mean all social media posts need to be women in the gym or at the shooting range. Kringen says agencies should make sure it’s not all “run and gun.” It’s important to show other exciting aspects of corrections work that aren’t “paramilitary,” Kringen says.

Agencies don’t usually market themselves as “taking care of the family,” says Kringen, but the reality for many people is that benefits are an important incentive. Kringen says there are ways to highlight monetary benefits in a way that is genuine. And, for those women who want to start a family, it’s important to let them know it’s possible to have a career and children.

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