How Cars.com Is Driving the Future of Tech Recruiting

Mike Dwyer is a man of many talents. HR leader, improv comedian, and entrepreneur, Mike is known throughout Chicago for his charisma, community engagement and innovative methods. As the Director of Talent Experience for Cars.com, Mike leads a team helping one of Chicago’s proudest brands attract top talent. I had the pleasure of chatting with Mike by phone about employment branding, the evolution of tech recruiting, and how to best find and hire the best people.

Mike’s experience is vast and varied. He spent the early part of his career in staffing, but has worn many hats before and since — including salesperson, marketer, and entrepreneur. These experiences have afforded him a unique perspective on talent acquisition. “Recruiters need to know they are selling something. You are selling an opportunity, your brand, and a culture.” One of the most important things recruiters can do is personalize every interaction with every candidate. Mike’s words ring true in my own experience at Hired, as we’ve found that companies who use personalized messaging when reaching out to candidates are 25% more likely to receive a response.

cars.com tech recruiting
Photo via Glassdoor

In today’s world, one of the biggest challenges talent acquisition professionals face is cutting through the noise barraging job seekers. While there are many ways to connect directly and powerfully with candidates, Mike has found that the best differentiator is an effective employer social media strategy. “When word of mouth marketing erupted, many companies were fundamentally against social media,” Mike explains. “Suddenly, consumers were using the web to talk about products and services and taking control of the message away from the brands. Oftentimes, recruiters want to control the message that goes out to prospective candidates, but the reality is that the company’s employees have the voice of the people and are the real story.”

Mike’s job is focused on, in his words, “scaling employee involvement in content creation/distribution and external perspective.” This is no easy task, especially at an organization of 1,300 + people. Mike is the first to admit that it is a change management process for many organizations, but he is committed to seeing it done through employee engagement activities such as workshops, leveraging technology and personal branding sessions. In fact, Mike’s diverse career includes tenure as a co-founder of QUEsocial a SaaS platform that delivers employee branded content to employees fingertips, so he’s leveraging that experience to teach his team at Cars how to coach employees to build an online social presence.

Mike fondly calls his social media philosophy “working out, fishing, and partying.” “Working out” means posting often — “building the muscle,” as Mike puts it. “Fishing” is all about finding influencers. Influencers are people who will help distribute your message to your larger target audience. The third and final concept of “partying” means creating a social presence that will draw your target audience in. Studies show that you have 5 seconds to hook somebody with your online presence.Winning their initial engagement (first 5 seconds) will earn you an additional 60 seconds of their attention to convey additional relevant information. Mike and his team focus on these core three principles to help employees craft LinkedIn and Twitter profiles to build not only a personal brand but also represent the core values of Cars.com.

Mike believes that recruiting and HR as a whole is undergoing a transformation. Cars’ Chief People Officer, Cynthia Hiskes, recently rebranded the entire HR team to the PXT, or People Xperience Team. Their mission is to cultivate and customize employee experiences, connecting individuals to business results and shaping their unique journey.

Mike aims to build a Talent Acquisition team within PXT that enables hiring managers with scalable, efficient tools, strategies and content to acquire talent through on and offline channels.  His team partners with hiring managers to truly understand their function and their “target audience” (prospective candidates). They acquire a deep understanding of the goals and requirements of a given function and create content specifically for that role. His team is focused on teeing up opportunities for hiring managers to easily recruit and engage with prospects, thus creating an ideal experience for both sides of the process.

In my role working with employers as a Lead Account Executive at Hired, I’ve witnessed strategies similar to Mike’s methodology play out successfully at other companies. For example: candidates like to be contacted directly by the hiring manager (instead of a recruiter, or sourcer, or someone further away from the day-to-day execution of the role). Among technology companies, the hiring manager can often speak their language really well — a necessary and crucial part of landing top talent. Over the last year, my role has greatly evolved, focused on working more closely with talent acquisition professionals to help them improve recruiting processes — in addition to matching them with top talent.

As the recruiting landscape continues to shift, innovative leaders like Mike will pave the way. Innovative technology will enable companies to acquire and retain talent, and those who embrace the change and utilize it to engage employees, build culture and drive efficiencies will be the most successful — not just in hiring, but also in scaling company results, on-the-job happiness, and culture.