It’s known best for dance challenges and wacky filter trends, but how else is TikTok being used? Isolation and at-home boredom are both factors that contributed to tremendous growth in the past two years, with the app seeing an 87% jump in users since the onset of the pandemic. Many marketers minimized its influence, describing it as a “teen fad”, but the platform has proven to be incredibly powerful. 

Curious to explore TikTok impacts and growth, we’re launching a series that will take us deep inside the frenetic social media space to better understand how it is being used effectively and what societal shifts it is inspiring.

Emily Durham is a senior recruiter at Intuit, and has been using TikTok as a search tool to seek out tech talent. “I joke that it’s the less stuffy LinkedIn,” she says, but in truth, she shares that using hashtags is an excellent way to start a search. “If you are looking for engineers in Toronto, start your search with typing in #womeninSTEMToronto. It’s easy and you’ll find so many women posting about the work they do, and events they go to.”

@emily.the.recruiterMistakes I made in my early 20s ##millenialsoftiktok ##careeradvice ##lifeadvice ##GalentinesDay♬ Summer – Instrumental – Devinney

Conversely, Emily has been using the space to create her own videos on her account, @emily.the.recruiter, to help coach new grads (or anyone seeking employment) by sharing tips on how to best get noticed and land their dream job. “I have a series called ‘Questions To Ask At The End Of Your Interview’, and those always blow up. Candidates never ask questions at the end of an interview, and it’s such a missed opportunity to build a relationship, but also to interview the employer.”

If TikTok is an agenda item that often surfaces at your weekly status meeting but you aren’t sure how your company can wade in, Emily has advice: “The first thing is creating your own brand voice, whether it’s for the company that you are working for or empowering your employees or recruiters to have a voice of their own online. You talk about your experience, whatever it is for you.” The brands and companies succeeding on the platform are the ones who know exactly who they are, and aren’t afraid to experiment and be playful. 

Emily uses Canadian shoe company Vessi as an example of a brand using TikTok in a remarkable way. “They’re a small business and they do really amazing stuff! They are intelligent about how they market their products on TikTok. They challenge people to try and get their shoes wet, because Vessi shoes are waterproof and that’s their whole platform.”

@vessiOur hometown of Vancouver is rainy central but this week we found puddles in Utah! Is your city rainy? ##rainycity ##vancouverbc ##rainyseason ##utah♬ original sound – 🐑ARIUS💃🏼

For job searchers, watching how companies are using TikTok can also provide good insight into company culture. “In my humble opinion, the companies that are having fun right now on social media, those are the cultures you want to dig into. Those are the ones where they’ve got that sense of innovation, they’ve got a sense of community,” says Emily, who much prefers TikTok to LinkedIn for the purposes of sharing the vibe at Inuit. “LinkedIn is great but it can feel kind of stuffy and unapproachable; that’s not my style, that’s not my company’s style. That’s not what my hiring managers want to see. When I am on TikTok talking to a group about how cool this new sales role is that I’m recruiting for, I am building real relationships. It cuts out all the fluff.”

“Authenticity” is often a buzzword tossed around by companies who want to improve their image, but for Gen Z it’s at the core of their search, and plays an important role in how they present themselves. “What’s really interesting about Gen Z, and I think this has a lot to do with the last year and a half, is that these lines between 9 to 5 life and other life are super blurred. So people are much more open to showing up as their authentic selves and sharing personal anecdotes when they are applying,” says Emily, who has noticed a change in resumes. “Candidates are sharing their favourite baking recipes as a hyperlink on their LinkedIn files. You know, all these more personal touches that they are adding to the process.”

If you are currently seeking work and have zero presence on TikTok, Emily reassures that it’s not necessary to build a massive following to get noticed. “It’s fine to use social media as a nice compliment. You don’t have to have a big platform to make an impact. It’s not about winning or perfecting your content. What I’m looking for is that you love what you do.” 

Through its strong storytelling capabilities, TikTok has changed how talent is being discovered and allowed for a kind of transparency into company life that we haven’t seen before. It’s arguably also shifting work culture as a whole, for the better.