IT Applicants Increased Tenfold During Hawaii's Pilot Partnership With LinkedIn

The island state's Office of Enterprise Technology Services has been struggling to find qualified candidates, so it turned to a professional social networking platform for help, with considerable results.

It’s pretty widely accepted by this point that state and local CIOs are facing an uphill battle when it comes to pulling new talent into their respective agencies. Either they can’t compete with the pay at places like Google or Amazon, or they just don’t have a workplace people are drawn to.

However desperate many will tell you they are, few are in the spot of Hawaii — geographically isolated with a considerable cost of living to contend with. And while it might be hard to feel sorry for anyone living and working in an island paradise, the fact of the matter is that the state has to work twice as hard to bring in qualified people.

The recruiting struggle led CIO Todd Nacapuy and the team at the Office of Enterprise Technology Services (ETS) to think outside the standard methods of hiring and embrace something a little different — a pilot partnership with the professional social network LinkedIn.

“Outside of the geographic challenges obviously that Hawaii has, we are always the No.1 or No.2 most expensive city in the U.S. to live in,” he told Government Technology
. “But the bigger challenge is we don’t have many large industries here in Hawaii to support higher paying salaries like they do in San Francisco or New York. Most of our companies here, the largest ones are about 2,500 to 3,000 people, so we have a very different socio-economic climate …”

But even with the challenges of luring new talent to the public service in a city with a considerable cost of living, the six-month test run — that occured between October 2016 and April 2017 — garnered substantial results for ETS. During the previous year, the state had 29 open positions and was able to fill six of them during the October-April time period, only receiving an average of six applications per position.

“A lot of times it’s called the cost of living in paradise, where you are going to make 20 to 25 percent less than you would in a comparable city on the mainland,” Nacapuy said. “That being said, obviously there are huge challenges, because then there is the state or public sector that is notorious for not being able to pay as much as the commercial sector can. You stack those two things against us, and trying to hire anybody in tech for the state of Hawaii becomes very, very challenging.”

With the LinkedIn pilot, the state agency was able to bring on 13 people and vastly increased the visibility of and application rate for each open spot — an average of 60 applicants per job.

“Through LinkedIn and this marketing campaign, we were able to hire 13 people in six months, which for the state is a lot. We were able to fill basically 42 percent of our vacancies in that six-month period using LinkedIn,” Nacapuy said.

By allowing a designated internal recruiter access to the suite of proprietary, data-driven tools, state officials are able to target talent based on their background and professional experience, sending direct InMail messages when a candidate really fits the ETS bill.

The inversion in the job seeker/employer relationship helped to not only target the right people, but also given the state more power to step away from the passive hiring processes of the past.

In trying to reach the right candidates, ETS also built up what the professional network calls the talent brand index, or what might otherwise be called brand recognition. As it stands after only a short pilot, ETS ranks at 62 percent talent brand index rating, compared to the next closest island-based brand at 19 percent.  

Though the partnership does not come without a price tag — which was not available at the time of the interview — the ETS official said the recruiting tool is far more cost-effective than hiring a consultant to track down qualified applicants.

Rather than pony up the cash to hire a headhunter — which can cost as much as 25 percent of the open position’s salary — Nacapuy said the LinkedIn pilot offered more control and engagement in an environment that is very competitive.

With the trial run complete, Nacapuy said that Gov. David Ige was pleased with the return on investment and that his agency will be recommending the LinkedIn service to other agencies with “hard-to-fill” positions. He hopes to take make the service live with the start of the new fiscal year, July 1.

Eyragon Eidam is the Web editor for Government Technology magazine, after previously serving as assistant news editor and covering such topics as legislation, social media and public safety. He can be reached at