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TikTok as a Search Engine: Why Recruiters Should be on TikTok

tiktok as a search engine

As a 24-year-old barely millennial, barely Gen Z (alternatively, a Zillennial), TikTok has been my guilty pleasure ever since COVID-19 shut down the world. Amidst all the dance routines, resume tutorials and easy-bake train wreck of pasta recipes that would give an Italian grandmother a heart attack, TikTok has easily replaced Google as the go-to search engine for Gen Zers.  

When it comes to my own behavior, I'm shamelessly admitting I use TikTok to search for just about anything, whether it's the latest skincare brand, recipes or local restaurants. Just last month, when I vacationed in NYC, I found myself deep in the TikTok algorithm looking for the best boba tea in Chinatown. While at the airport, I scoured BookTok again for a good read to buy for my flight. And it's true across the board for younger audiences.  

So, what does this mean for your recruiting brand, and how can you take advantage of this? 

Google's Monopoly: Jail Card 

TikTok threatens Google's (and YouTube's) monopoly of the almighty search engine. In a recent study, researchers discovered that 40 percent of Gen Z prefer using TikTok and Instagram for search capabilities over Google, taking a big bite out of maps, search and ads. 

Today, your digital storefront isn't just your Google My Business Page but also your social channels—and short-form video content reigns king. Now, you might be wondering why as a recruiter you even need to be on TikTok (or posting Instagram reels or YouTube shorts). Surely short-form video content is just meme-marketing at its finest. But you're missing the point—it's about branding. 

Pushing Authentic Content 

The appeal of using TikTok—and its copycats—is that there are no “exact” matches. Rather, TikTok offers the appeal of discovery. Put simply, younger audiences enjoy engaging with authentic content rather than reading it.  

Anyone who's tried searching on Google knows what I'm talking about. You type in “How to Make a Resume” or “Resumes for X Industry” and you're left skimming a 3,000-word essay about how a candidate nailed a job with their crazy-looking resume. With TikTok, you turn a 10-minute blog read into an all-encompassing minute-long video without the lengthy, irrelevant parts.  

But the most important aspect of the content is the ability to engage with the content rather than at the content. Users on TikTok not only click, like, share and comment but can also duet, a function where you can record side-by-side with the content as a form of commentary, which lends more to its authenticity. Career experts might record a video where they advise people how to be an attractive candidate, then I might have the opportunity to watch someone just like me duet said video with questions I might have myself.  

TikTok as a Search Engine 

So, how are younger audiences (ages 18-24) using TikTok? Well, the multimedia marketing funnel and journey may not start with Google anymore. Google's data shows that 55 percent of product searches now start with queries on Amazon, surprisingly. And another chunk is now being stolen by TikTok.  

TikTok's search engine function pushes culturally relevant content rather than exact matches, filtering content through comments, likes and views. This creates a different set of search results that audiences not only relate to but genuinely like.  

Our Sage Advice 

Even if you're not using TikTok as a part of your marketing strategy, there are plenty of tactics you can apply to your content.  

Make your content visually-appealing.  

Younger audiences want their content to be visually rich. With mini-computers in our hands and cameras that can outclass even compact cameras, Gen Z doesn't want to watch grainy, blurry videos with poor lighting.  

See through a consumer's lens.  

Think less like a marketer and think more like a consumer. TikTok's unpredictable algorithm is what makes users trust it more, despite being more challenging for brands to capitalize on. Consider using hashtags and SEO keywords to target specific industries or find your niche demographic.  

Be relatable.   

TikTok is a creative space. It was made without the intention of being a space for brands but rather for consumers of media. That said, you should humanize your brand with the right voice for your business. Duolingo has its green owl mascot, Chipotle has its burritos, the corn kid has, well, his corn…  

Humanizing your brand, being relatable and authentic is what will make your firm stand out against competitors.  

It might be confirmation bias when I say Gen Z is using TikTok as a search engine, but if you want to stay ahead of the curve and target a younger, digitally robust audience, it might be time to switch things up.

Natalia Navarro

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