Employers are catching onto a new Slack trend: hiring workers from Slack-specific networking groups in the still unending war for talent.

Slack is a business communication platform best known for its instant collaboration capabilities. Much has changed since the platform launched in August 2013: Slack, which was Inc.'s company of the year in 2015, now counts more than 12 million daily users. That made the company a compelling acquisition for Salesforce, which scooped it up in July 2021 for $27.7 billion.

But another use case is emerging: Those on the prowl for their next job have turned to exclusive networking forums on Slack where they can swap advice or chat about current job openings. Group members are reportedly putting one another in touch with hiring managers as well.

It's a trend that employers are also latching on to. Anaplan chief diversity and inclusion officer Sherika Ekpo is exploring the potential of integrating Slack into the San Francisco-based business planning software company's hiring approach. Ekpo, a former senior leader at Google, says she was first introduced to Slack while working in the federal government and throughout the years has seen how useful Slack can be in building communities. Now, she's interested in exploring the platform's potential in increasing representation at Anaplan.

"Slack is revolutionary in this space in that it allows for instant messaging," she says, adding that "it allows us to target groups and intersectional groups that share a common goal of value."

Rolling out the approach is still a case study for Anaplan, but Ekpo anticipates the company's recruiters will enter some of these forums, build relationships, and check in on the activity of certain users so that they can find opportunities to connect with candidates on a different level. 

One thing Ekpo enjoys about Slack? Its informal feel, which provides an opportunity for companies to share more about "the employee experience and the lived experiences of people who work at their respective companies," she says. This could make it a better way to connect with candidates, and there's a big need for that -- although job openings dipped in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were still 11.3 million openings to fill.

Slack has created a way for employers to directly connect with potential candidates that aligns with what they're looking for. Ekpo mapped out one of Anaplan's potential visions for using the platform: "Once the recruiter takes a first pass at résumés for a specific role, they can invite the top five candidates to a private Slack channel to ensure the candidates have a safe space to ask questions about the role and recruiting process," Ekpo says. "We can also invite employee resource group [ERG] leaders to a channel to answer questions from candidates about Anaplan culture." ERGs are groups of workers who come together over things they have in common -- there can be ERGs for young employees, new parents, women, and so on.

This usage of Slack can, in part, be attributed to the pandemic, which has changed the landscape of the job market, says Diane Taylor, associate director of career services at Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College. In the earlier days of the Great Resignation, an influx of job postings overwhelmed recruiters, and Slack "really has been able to fill that void," Taylor says. And there can be some real cost savings as well, not to mention time savings, since Slack allows for instant communication.

Slack has its limits, though. One downside, Taylor explains, is that you're casting a smaller net since a majority of job seekers are scouring more traditional job boards, such as LinkedIn or Indeed. "Those recruiters who are going to Slack to recruit candidates are maybe missing out on other talented candidates that don't know that Slack is sort of a haven for recruiting at this point," Taylor says. But this is an easy fix: Just diversify your recruiting approach.

The other uphill battle is the obvious: Slack wasn't built for recruitment in the first place, says Dan Logan, a senior director of global hiring at Beamery. The London-based recruiting software company also hires in the U.S., serving clients including Amazon, Verizon, and Uber. "Slack is an addition to your toolkit," Logan says, adding that it likely won't become his go-to resource "because of the time it takes, the reason it's set up, and ultimately, it's growing but it's not a super well-known place for going to recruit regularly."

That's why Logan relies mainly on the classic applicant tracking system. Still, he sees a benefit with Slack in tapping into the senior talent market, especially since, in his view, it may not be as easy to engage with senior talent on LinkedIn or through e-mail since those candidates typically don't spend as much time on those outlets. 

Slack may ultimately shave time off the overall recruitment process, but it may be time-consuming at first, as recruiters and employers try out a new approach. Logan points out that recruiters will need to do their homework to understand the code of conduct within specific Slack communities -- these forums may not necessarily want to be overrun by recruiters in the first place. As Anaplan's Ekpo sees it, recruiters need to ensure that they're interacting with these groups appropriately.

If you're considering joining one of these Slack communities, Ekpo advises that you don't spam them with your job listings and avoid being promotional. She also urges companies to use some form of training, such as cultural-competence training, since many of these groups are set up for affinity and connection points for certain communities. "We need to make sure that the groups themselves aren't abused and that people respect the reasons why they were created in the first place," she says. "I see this evolving in a way that can revolutionize the way that recruiting is done, if done well."