Newest Social Medium Has Recruiters All a-Twitter

By Adrienne Fox Jun 24, 2009
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From the triviality of whether Ashton Kutcher would reach 1 million followers before CNN (he did) to the significance of the U.S. State Department asking Twitter.com to delay site maintenance so that it can monitor election protests in Iran (the site complied), the newest social media phenomenon has influenced discourse from pop culture to global politics.

Twitterholics say that’s the beauty of Twitter—the diversity of the conversations and information distributed by the estimated 5 million worldwide users. Savvy recruiters are capturing a piece of that audience by creating a brand in Twitterverse and building a community with thousands of would-be candidates.

“There’s nowhere else in the world that you can eavesdrop on a million conversations at once,” said Mark Stelzner (@stelzner) who started @JobAngels with a single tweet at the end of January 2009 and watched it grow to a community of 20,000 people with no formal marketing.

Twitter can seem overwhelming to a novice, possibly explaining why 55 percent of users have never sent a single tweet, 56 percent are not following anyone and 53 percent have no followers, according to the June 2009 State of the Twittersphereby Hubspot.com. A May 2009 Harvard University studyof more than 300,000 found that 10 percent of tweeters accounted for 90 percent of the month’s tweets.

It seems people are still getting their webbed feet wet when it comes to Twitter. “You can’t just log in and get going,” said Michael Long (@theredrecruiter), a recruiter in San Antonio, Texas. “It takes time to observe Twitter and learn the Twitt-iquette.”

How to Recruit on Twitter

Successful Twitter recruiters said it’s more effective to use your own name when creating a profile, rather than your company’s name, arguing that people follow people, not companies. Recruiters need a picture and a bio, which is limited to 140 characters and should include personal and professional information. You can customize your background to include your contact information and web site URL.

A Twitter Lexicon

Here is a brief glossary of Twitter-related terms:

Tweet—Message with fewer than 140 characters posted on Twitter.

@reply—Public message from one person to another posted in the update field with a @username prefix.

DM or D—Direct message sent privately from one tweeter to another. Direct messages can only be sent to or from a person who follows you on Twitter.

RT—Retweet, or a reposting of someone else's tweet. If you are @replying to someone’s tweet, it may help to RT the original post for context. And it’s good twitt-equette to attribute a message or a link to the person who first tweeted it.

Search.twitter.comUsing the advanced options to search profiles, you can narrow by geography and keywords.

Hash tags—The pound mark # used before keywords. To find people to follow, you can search hash tags of interest.

@Twitter_Tips—A useful tip feed to follow for updates on Twitter

TwictionaryA helpful glossary of Twitter vocabulary http://twictionary.pbworks.com/

API—Application Programming Interface, or all of those tools users have developed to make Twitter user-friendly. Some examples include:

Twellow.comYellow Pages of Twitter

Wefollow.comSite that lets people categorize themselves according to their expertise. Users can search the categories for people to follow.

Twollow.comAllows users to set up an automatic following of users based on keywords.

TweetDeck,TweetGrid or SeesmicInterfaces that organize followers into groups, save searches and tweet single updates for multiple accounts.

UberTwitter or TwitterBerryFor BlackBerry users.

TwitterFon, Twinkle--For iPhone users.

The direct sourcing approach to recruiting on Twitter involves searching bios for keywords and geography. Twitter’s advanced search engine and other user-created tools, such as WeFollow.com and Twollow.com (see sidebar) can find people who have certain skills or are tweeting about those skills. Recruiters can post a job on TwitHire.com or JobShouts.com, tweet about their job opportunities and use a third party, such as @JobAngels, to tweet for them.

Hash tags (adding # in front of a word in your tweet) categorize your updates and allow others to find your updates by searching. For instance, if you are posting a job for a project manager in Atlanta with a certification, you would add the # sign to “job” “Atlanta” and “PMP” certification.A job seeker searching those tags would find your post.

Scott Boren (@scottboren), senior technical recruiter at Compuware in Research Triangle Park, N.C., started using Twitter in early 2009 after mastering LinkedIn and other social media. “Twitter [gives] an immediate response that you don’t get with other social media sites,” he said. “My followers can retweet to their followers. The post can go viral within 24 hours.”

Becky Allen (@beckyallen), owner of GRA Consulting in Washington, D.C., used Twitter for a client who needed five licensed social workers in Puerto Rico. Using #jobangels and #jobs, Allen tweeted the opportunity, which got retweeted by her 1,000 followers. In 48 hours, Allen had filled three of those jobs.

Building a Twitter Brand

The best way for recruiters to reach passive candidates on Twitter is to build a brand. Start by following people related to your industry and engage in a conversation by @replying to them and retweeting their updates. Add value to the relationship by tweeting web links to industry research and articles and by providing tips.

The bigger your Twitter brand, the more followers you’ll attract. At some point, you will need applications, such as TweetDeck and Seesmic, to help organize your followers. “You have to figure out what your process is with Twitter just like any other tool, because you can’t spend all day on it,” said Long.

Long, who tweeted and blogged from the SHRM 61st Annual Conference & Exposition in New Orleans in late June 2009, said the biggest mistake people make is taking traditional recruitment strategies onto Twitter.

“Twitter is much more about farming than it ever will be about hunting,” he explained. “Bombarding people with sales is taboo. But if you become known as someone who is knowledgeable, then followers are much more apt to work with you,” said Long, adding that he gets his best leads from people who follow him for his nonrecruiting tweets on playing flamenco guitar and his animals.

Stelzner agreed, noting, “The most successful recruiters are the ones who don’t talk about their job opportunities exclusively but also don’t talk about what they had for breakfast exclusively. You have to have a balance of content and have a personality and [must] like to interact with the audience.”

Jennifer Stockton (@jennstockton), a technical recruiter at Kaiser Permanente in Atlanta, is trying to build her brand on Twitter but admits it’s difficult. “It’s a hard balance because, although it’s my name out there, I still represent Kaiser. I have to be interesting without being controversial. It would be easier to tweet about nothing else but jobs, but that’s not how you build a following.”

Recruiters agree, however, that Twitter is one cog in the vast recruiting wheel that eventually must make a pit stop in the real world. “If I connect with someone on Twitter, I take the relationship offline,” said Boren. “I’ll meet them for coffee if we are in the same region or get on the phone and ask how I can help them. If I build a rapport with followers, I will get a better response when I need something.”

Adrienne Fox is a freelance business writer in Alexandria, Va., and contributing editor of HR Magazine.

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