Best practices for implementing hashtags: The hashtag guide for social media recruiting

What you need to know to make your social media recruiting posts seen

Somewhere in a forest a tree might fall, and theorists will wonder if it made a sound. But when it comes to your social media recruiting posts, the question as to whether or not anyone will notice them is far simpler to answer:

Did you use the right hashtags?

Hashtags are social media’s search tool. Without hashtags, your posts only get seen by your network: your connections and whomever your connections share it with. But with hashtags, the entire world can theoretically find your post. Here’s how it works.

How hashtags work

It works as simply as this:

  1. You add a hashtag to your post. Say, #hiring.
  2. Your network sees your post. (Though probably not your whole network. That’s dependent on algorithms and timing.)
  3. Then, people who either follow or search #hiring scroll through the posts. Some of them find yours.
  4. Boom! You’re reaching people outside your network.

Only, it’s not that simple. Because there’s a lot more to that third step than meets the eye. What if people don’t find your hashtags? What if they do, and they’re not the people you’re looking for? And I’m not just talking about trolls—no one wants those. Normal, respectful, social human beings (a mythological species that apparently only existed in our grandparents’ time)—just not ones who are interested in your content?

In other words: there’s hashtag usage, and there’s hashtag usage for optimized results.

And that’s what this guide covers.

But first, we have to ask:

What’s the big deal with using the wrong hashtags for recruiting?

Look, you get it. Better hashtags mean more optimized results. But let’s face it: everything can be optimized. Is using the wrong hashtags such a big deal?

To answer that, let’s look at what happens when you use the wrong hashtags for recruiting:

  • You see anywhere between suboptimal to no results

Say you’re posting about an open job, and you hashtag #instafamous—one of the top Instagram hashtags that has absolutely nothing to do with open jobs. Or you’re situated in the state of California, and you hashtag #california or #america. Anyone searching for #instafamous or #california is likely not searching for a job. Those aren’t the hashtags jobs are posted under.

Putting the wrong hashtags on your posts is just wasting time.

  • You could potentially tarnish your brand

Sticking with our example of a job post with #instafamous: a job post should never have the hashtag #instafamous. You’re expected to know that. And making that mistake advertises to the world that you don’t know that. Which has the potential of making people think less of your brand.

So in the eternal words of Monty Python: choose wisely.

(There is one exception to this rule where using the wrong hashtags for recruiting can actually be a good idea. But we’ll get to that later.)

Your hashtags need to be specific to your content

First rule of hashtags: they should be specific to your content. And not to be too heavy-handed with this, but I use the word “specific,” well, specifically. It’s more than just relevant. Say you have a job in Brooklyn and you use the hashtag #brooklyn. Technically, that’s relevant—your job is in Brooklyn. But #brooklyn is used for all types of content that’s related to Brooklyn, and you don’t want your post to get lost in those.

If you want to attract a specific audience, you need to be specific about your hashtags.

Of course, the next question is how specific should you be? Is #BrooklynJobs too specific, or not specific enough? And how do you know which parts of your post to focus on? Maybe the Brooklyn part isn’t something that needs to be in a hashtag. Or maybe it does?

That’s where the next hashtag guidelines come in.

When choosing a hashtag for recruiting, consider your audience

To explain this one, let’s pick a commonly used hashtag for job posts:


Great hashtag, right? You’re hiring. Your job post is about the fact that you’re hiring. How much more specific can you get than #hiring?

But picture your audience—or, in this case, your candidates. Say you’re posting a job for graphic designers, so your audience is graphic designers. What are the chances that a graphic designer searches #hiring, scrolls through the 2.5 million posts that use that hashtag, just to find yours?

Unless your candidate is a sadist, they’re probably not looking under #hiring. They’re looking under something way more specific to them. Something like #GraphicDesignJobs.

But remember: everything is relative. #hiring might not be the best way for your candidates to find your jobs, but that doesn’t mean you need to avoid it. It just means it shouldn’t be your only hashtag.

Which leads us to the next guideline.

Vary the popularity of the hashtags you use

Like everything in life, some hashtags are more popular than others. Some have millions of posts under them, while others number in the thousands or even hundreds. And both types have their pros and cons.

The hugely popular hashtags have the potential to be seen by a much larger audience—but each individual post is far more likely to get swallowed up by the sheer volume of posts using that hashtag. Less popular hashtags have a smaller audience, but each post has more of an opportunity to stand out.

So which should you choose: a chance at a large stage or a small audience that will pay attention to you?

The answer is both.

A good strategy is to use a mix of different types of hashtags. Some of those hashtags should be uber-popular, and some should be more niche. That way, you’re covering both ends.

Branded hashtags: a powerful employer brand tool

A lot of brands like to invent their own hashtags. Like Texas Roadhouse’s #ReadyToBeARoadie, or Nike’s #JustDoIt. It’s not simply a vanity thing: having your own branded hashtag has a huge number of brand benefits, like:

  • It’s a hashtag dedicated just to your brand. There’s no competition. Everyone using it is searching for you.
  • It creates an air of community for your followers.
  • It makes your brand feel exclusive.

The downside of branded hashtags is that they can take time to build momentum. As someone who guided several brands in creating their own branded hashtags, I can tell you that the first few weeks when the world doesn’t yet know that your hashtag even exists can be frustrating. But it’s worth it when people start finding you through it.

That said, until you reach the stage where your candidates are looking exclusively for you and not finding you as part of a larger job search, branded hashtags should be considered something extra to add to your hashtag strategy. You need to use regular hashtags as well so your audience has a chance to find you.

Research your hashtags

Now that you know the type of hashtags to use, the next step is to pick them. The search bar of the social media platform you’re using is a powerful tool to both find new hashtags and research the ones you’re already using. Check out what’s popular and what type of content people are posting under that hashtag. (Trust me: you may be surprised by that last one.) Don’t be afraid to follow the rabbit hole a little by checking out the hashtags that other people in your space are using. And remember to check a hashtag’s different types of spelling (e.g. #GraphicDesign, #GraphicDesigner, #GraphicDesigners).

Your goal here is to simultaneously discover good hashtags for recruiting and weed out bad ones. For example, you might be considering #JobsInBrooklyn for your Brooklyn job posts—but then you put it in Instagram’s search bar and see that it has fewer than 100 posts. That’s one hashtag you can likely cross off your list.

You can either do this once every so often to build a hefty list of hashtags to then pull a few from (selecting them according to the content of the post), or you could do this for every post to find the best hashtags for that post. There’s no right or wrong for that. It depends on how you like to work.

How many hashtags to use for each network

Here’s the latest on hashtag research for each brand. Remember: these are suggestions, not rules. Feel free to mix it up and experiment.

What that means practically is that you have a little more flexibility on Instagram to experiment with the types of hashtags you use than you do on other platforms. For Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, you should carefully research the best hashtags to use for recruiting.

Which leads us straight to the next topic: how do you select those hashtags?

Picking the right hashtags for recruiting

Whether you’re using 1 hashtag or 15, the takeaway is the same: you have to use hashtags carefully. We’ve already covered that those hashtags should be specific, and relevant to your audience, and well researched—but even with those guidelines, that might not narrow it down enough. How do you know which hashtags specifically to use for recruiting?

To answer this, I like to use the ancient and renowned AAA system that I definitely didn’t just make up: Assess, Adopt, and Accept.

Assess: assess your post for all the key things you’re covering that could be a hashtag. For example, say you’re looking for a graphic designer. The job’s located in Brooklyn, but the office is on a hybrid schedule—something you think is a big draw, and you’d like to hashtag as well as mention. You’d also like to include your company’s branded hashtag, as well as mention the industry you’re in.

If you’re on Instagram, you might be able to squeeze in enough hashtags to cover all those points. Or you might not. If you’re on a different platform, you almost definitely won’t. So what should you choose to focus on?

To answer that, remember that hashtags are social media’s search tool. Who do you want to find this post the most? People looking for any job in Brooklyn, or graphic designers looking for a job anywhere? If you had to choose, would you rather that people know this job is hybrid, or attract people experienced in the industry you’re in?

Only you can answer those questions.

And with regards to branded hashtags, that’s something that should be discussed in your overall social media strategy. Should they go in every post, or only certain types of posts (for example, posts that affect employer brand and brand awareness)? That’s a global decision every brand will make individually.

Adopt: adopt an overall strategy mindset instead of an individual post mindset. Not every post can have every hashtag in it. If you’re torn between different hashtags for your recruiting posts, remember that you don’t have to get them all in one post. Different posts can target different hashtags and, overall, get that traffic. (And as an aside, you should be varying your hashtags anyway. Using the same hashtags over and over is not a good idea.)

Accept: and lastly, accept that you likely won’t be able to perfect this off the bat. Picking the right hashtags takes a degree of experimentation. Don’t be afraid to try things out, monitor what worked and what didn’t, and learn from your mistakes.

With most platforms, since you’re anyway only using a few hashtags, you can

Where to put your hashtags for recruiting

 just place them in the body of your caption. You can either write it into the actual caption itself as if it were a regular word, like United Pacific Careers did here:

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