How to use Twitter to recruit the right talent

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As Twitter grows in popularity, companies worldwide are discovering new and useful business functions for the micro-blog.   

One less obvious, but potentially effective use of Twitter is for recruitment – a particularly handy way of using the tool in these tough times.

Massive layoffs across several sectors have increased the number of job hunters. Despite this numerical increase, however, the hiring manager’s job hasn’t become any easier.

Quite the contrary.

Hiring managers note that very few of the résumés that inundate their Inboxes these days are from qualified candidates.

The need of the hour is a tool that helps recruiters quickly identify the right talent – and Twitter fits the bill.

Using social media tools, such as Twitter, for recruitment may no longer be an optional extra. Businesses may have to do it just to stay in the game, notes Jessica Meher, marketing and communications manager at Nashua, NH-based Akken Inc. that offers hosted software focused on the staffing and recruiting market.

Meher said while newspapers and job boards are a good way to source candidates, social media provides a new way to engage with potential employees – and it’s free.

For starters, she said, hiring managers and employment agencies need to build a brand-related Twitter profile. “Follow key players in your industry, who are interested in your company’s news.”

A Tweet way to begin

Start Tweeting about your company and slowly aggregate followers in your industry interested in what your company has to say, Meher said.

“The only successful way to use Twitter is to allow your profile to build up over time – you have to be an active Tweeter and update your profile continuously.”

There are currently three million users on Twitter and that number is growing daily, she said.

By sharing company news – such as internal promotions, new products or industry best practices – you will naturally make both passive and active candidates aware of reasons why they might like to work at your firm.

“Use Twitter to market your brand to potential candidates,” said Meher. Brand is communicated through the messages you broadcast, she said.

Everyone on your “followers” list had opted to be there, the Akken exec noted.  So anything you post about jobs is seen by active, social people in your industry who may directly respond or share that message with other well-connected users.

Many Twitterers are actively engaged in the micro-blogging forum and aren’t afraid to ‘retweet’ or ‘RT’ an important message on their own page – if they feel their followers may benefit.

The only drawback to the Twitter strategy is it is a long process, Meher said. You will need to find the time to develop your online brand, identify followers and understand how to integrate Twitter in your social media marketing mix.

The process can be overwhelming and placing a skilled person in charge of the company’s Twitter account can be a useful way to manage messages and relationships with followers, Meher said.

Find top Twitterers  

By building an online profile and reaching out to users with similar Tweets, a company or recruitment agency can easily pinpoint other Twitterers with similar interests and goals.

An established brand online helps you pull in passive candidates, said Jason Gorham, CEO of Sharkstrike LLC that offers online and offline recruitment services.

“Everyone is looking for a job – even if they’re not actively looking,” he said. “From a recruitment standpoint, Twitter helps companies perform data mining, initiate a dialogue and contact candidates in a less intimidating way than cold calling.”

Businesses should not only consider people who follow them, but should also use free sourcing tools, which search key words to find new people. The micro-blog allows recruiters to literally eavesdrop on potential candidates and find out if they swear, are hard working and care about the industry.

Despite the search advantages of Twitter, many recruiters still prefer to look through résumés that find their way to their desk or come in through Monster, Gorham said.

That’s mainly because they  believe, wrongly, that social media is a more time consuming research tool.

While searching for people in your industry and doing additional research on the person with LinkedIn, blogging or Facebook, may take a bit of extra work, response times on Twitter are usually much faster, he said.  

“It’s like taking the back road – it’s usually much faster than jumping on the highway.”

Twitter on its own is usually not enough to find out about a candidate – but it’s a great place to start, Gorham said. Just like the LinkedIn lions of the world, there are Twitterers who use the forum to gain hits on their Web pages, and who follow thousands of people regardless of industry or interests.

When someone follows you, Gorham suggests quickly checking out three things to find out if they’re worth researching further: their profile, their tweets and their URL.

“These three indicators should tell you a lot about a person,” he said.

For instance, “if the URL goes to a black hole or a miscellaneous blog, they’re not worth investigating.”   

In general, Twitterers are usually savvier than folk on other Web 2.0 apps, Gorham said. “As Twitter is a fairly young application, you know they’re up on technology and actively engaged in dialogues about your industry.”

Tweet about job postings

The flip side to actively searching for candidates is to also tweet about job opportunities at your company, which will have many users finding you through keyword searches.

There are more than 124 million keyword job searches on major search engine sites, each day, noted Doug Berg, co-founder of Jobs2Web, a company dedicated to improving recruiting strategies through the Internet.

Unless your company is extremely SEO-savvy, chances are job hunters aren’t finding your post.

Twitter is a smaller arena for job hunters to search through and a free tool for companies to take advantage of.

“We’ve had thousands of people visit our Web site from links on Twitter,” Berg said.

And many find it more appealing to respond to a Twitter job posting, rather than a job board because it allows users to associate the posting with a real face and get to know the recruiter.

“Twitter puts the humanity back into recruiting,” he said.

One outfit that does this well is Mayo Clinic, a Web site featuring health information and research. The Clinic uses SEO techniques to help users find them.

For instance, they have an individual page for nurse jobs, which helps nursing candidates find their pages through a Twitter search.

There are currently scores of recruiters already on Twitter, Berg said, so it is important to add a categorization, such as “finance” or “IT” to your profile name or bio to make sure the right types of job-seekers are finding your profile and job postings.

But Berg warns against posting only job information. Businesses need to develop their online identity by posting company information, new projects, or employee promotions so candidates get a holistic view of the firm.

And he encourages companies to get creative with Twitter. “Why not post a link to a YouTube video with an office tour or employee testimonial”

It is also a great tool for keeping in contact with laid-off employees, he said. “Stay in touch and continue to grow your relationship with company alumni and keep them up to date on corporate news. When the economy picks up – you may want these people back.”

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