The Right Tweet at the Right Time: Social Media Indicators for Real-Time Recruiting


Will Staney

You know the old saying “the early bird catches the worm,” right? In the case of job recruiting, this phrase is particularly relevant. Any experienced recruiter knows that a highly qualified candidate who has multiple offers on the table needs to be targeted as quickly as possible.

But how exactly can a recruiter decide when it’s the right time to engage a candidate? How can recruiters monitor for indicators that a high-profile candidate may be open to a new opportunity, even before the candidate starts looking? Social media sites, because of their real-time nature, can be an incredibly helpful tool for not only building regular rapport with talent, but also helping recruiters find the right moment to engage with candidates for a new opportunity.

In this post I’m going to talk about a few ways I have used social media in the past to find real-time indicators for recruiting talent with the right timing. For the sake of brevity, I’ll be focusing on Twitter and Facebook (though this could easily be used for other social networks, too).

Opportunity Indicators on Twitter

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Recruiting is all about timing. Knowing when to engage with the right candidate at the right moment can mean filling a position faster with a candidate who is ready to make an immediate impact on the organization. One way of doing this is mining Twitter for engagement opportunities. Not only is Twitter great for sourcing candidates both on Twitter search itself or using Twitter directories like WeFollow and Twellow, but it can also be effective for creating opportunities for quick engagement.

For example, while I was working at VMware as its talent acquisition web strategy manager a few years ago, I created its career-focused Twitter page and began growing the community by following people in the cloud computing industry. While monitoring Twitter, I saw a tweet come up of a conversation between two cloud bloggers that said something like, “I hear @SoandSo is on the market …” which of course peaked my curiosity. I clicked on the username and found that this person was actually a pretty talented cloud architect, and his blog, which I found in his bio, was full of great examples of his work. I proceeded to reach out to him directly through our corporate account with, “Hey @SoandSo, we’d love to talk to about working with us. Send me a DM [direct message].” Within minutes we had exchanged email addresses in a direct message and I forwarded his resume to the recruiter for that position, who immediately got on the phone with him. The next day he was in an interview with a hiring manager.

Later that week I sent him a direct message on Twitter, asking him how long he had been “on the market”– his reply: “45 minutes.”

This candidate put in his notice, a colleague tweeted about it, and within an hour he was talking to me about a new job opportunity. Talk about being an early bird … who tweets, too! I located this candidate because I had built a community of targeted people that were in my company’s industry and had the skill sets we were looking for. I had organized them in Twitter so that I was able to better mine the tweets for opportunities to engage in real-time. Rather than sending messages on LinkedIn that may or may not be read, I sent a real-time, contextually relevant conversation in a public forum that instantly was sent as a notification to the person’s Twitter application on his phone.

Opportunity Indicators on Facebook 

Right now, I would say Facebook is the social network set to make the biggest impact on recruiting in the near future — for  two reasons: Facebook Graph Search and Facebook Groups.

You may have read John Zappe’s recent article on this very publication titled “Facebook’s Graph Search Is the Future of Social Recruiting” where he pointed out:

Clearly, recruiting was in the minds of the developers of Graph Search. During a preview a month before its unveiling, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told a Wired magazine writer, “One of my favorite queries is recruiting.”

I’ve played with Graph Search as an early beta user and do a regular training on sourcing with Graph Search for our SuccessFactors recruiting teams globally. Some recruiting opportunities can come up through Graph Search that you wouldn’t ever find otherwise.

For example, I was doing a Facebook Graph Search for software salespeople in San Francisco. I was targeting candidates at a competing company who were connected to at least one of my friends. So, I typed in “Friends of my friends who work in sales and who work at Company Name.” I live in Austin, Texas, and much of my network on Facebook is in the Austin area. Yet, I still came up with a list of about 100 salespeople. Doing this same search would probably pull up thousands of results to sift through on LinkedIn. However, what was surprising was how I was connected to them.

One candidate in particular was connected to a personal friend on Facebook, someone completely unrelated to my professional life. I reached out to my friend through a Facebook message to ask her about the potential candidate she was connected to. It turns out they went to college together and I was close enough to this person (far closer than I am to almost any connection on LinkedIn) that it was easy to ask my good friend to connect me with her college buddy.

Facebook Groups can also be an amazing recruiting tool. You can do a Graph Search by keywords in the titles or in the content posted within the groups, which can pull up buckets of recruiting opportunities. I did a search for “groups about software sales” and I found a plethora of candidates. You don’t even have to join the groups to get the benefits. All you have to do is click on the “members” tab to search within the members of each group to find relevant candidates. Imagine doing a search for employee and alumni groups at target companies you are recruiting out of … oh the possibilities!

In fact, the single-best recruiting tool I’ve used for hiring local candidates is a Facebook Group started by some friends in Austin called “Austin Digital Jobs.” This is an organically created Facebook Group of people who all were familiar with one another, lived in Austin, and were digitally talented. It started with about 50 of us and now, in less than two years, it has grown to more than 3,600 professionals and recruiters in the Austin area helping one another find great opportunities (and candidates). I’ve personally hired three of my own employees through this group, all of which were filled from a single post and 48 hours of taking referrals from the group. Crowdsourced candidates.

How have you used social media to accelerate your recruiting initiatives and find opportunities to engage with candidates at the right time?