James Mayes

Blog: Twitter doesn’t work for recruitment

In Conference, Recruitment, Social Media, Twitter on April 9, 2011 at 6:55 am

Well, not if you take the purist “guru” view of Social Media. High quality content, demonstrable depth of engagement, the possibility of a self-perpetuating community once a certain critical mass has been achieved. Yeah, I don’t often see that happen in recruitment. I saw a great example from the British Army recently, presented at SMIR – but the exception, rather than the rule.

On the other hand, should recruiters seek to use Social Media in this way?  Possibly not.  There are many aspects of Twitter that have changed over the last five years, many driven by Twitter actually watching what users really do.  So maybe the self-proclaimed social rock stars should stay out of recruitment, and let recruiters figure out what really works for them.  And please, don’t apply these kind of epithets or titles. The landscape is moving too quickly, and those who claim it for themselves should be regarded (in my opinion) as guilty of deliberate self-aggrandisement, often with dubious foundations in reality!

For what it’s worth, here’s where I believe recruitment benefits can really be found:

Broadcast – Depending on your own technology, or those you partner with, it can be very cheap (or free) to broadcast your roles and information relevant to your market. As my science teacher once told me, nature abhors a vacuum – so even the simple argument that “if you don’t do it, your competitor will” has some relevance.

SEO – There’s plenty been written in recent months about the changing SEO values of Social Media. Whilst the exact extent may still be unclear, all analysis I’ve seen recently suggests links back from Twitter to your own career or job site have a positive impact. You spend good money on SEO, so you should be taking advantage of this too.

Search visibility – There are good sites out there scouring Twitter for job details, in addition to the chances of your tweets appearing in search results on Google etc.  Can you give me a good reason why you shouldn’t leverage this?

Engagement – This represents the holy grail for many Social Media people. In the job-seeker world though, it’s unlikely. See a role you like, you’ll take a look. Ask questions about it in public? Not unless you’re unemployed, a recent graduate, etc.  The vast majority of job seekers will prefer to have any discussion about a role in private (email, phone, via career site etc.).

Sharing – Again, one of the key aspects of Social Media.  If you can get job-seekers to share your requirements with their peer group, you’ll be hooking into previously untapped talent.  Trouble is, it mostly doesn’t happen. Jobs don’t often get retweeted, except as a personal favour to the person who actually tweeted the role.  Job-seekers will though, share quality content – good information that’s relevant to their friends or professional networks. That’s where you should be looking for wins.

Business Development – Conscious that not all readers are in-house recruiters, many are agency-side – why so few using Twitter for business development?  You know how competitive this market is, and how a golden rule of recruitment is to listen more than you talk (two ears, one mouth – there’s your guide).  Twitter allows you to listen to your clients. Listen to their business, and indeed many of the key people you’ll want to do business with. If you actually know what causes your client pain before you pick up the phone, imagine how different that call might be.

I’m working on a couple of case studies to release shortly – but in the meantime, let me know where you think I missed the mark!

  1. Great post James. Agree with your points. The SMIR event did come up with some good case studies to me, including RedFox on the agency side using a good sector specific news and content driven strategy as key part to their business. Twitter seems to work well as both distribution tool for that news for them, but presumably as good source of the news in first place.

    Many people also now use Twitter well as a form of almost cold call advertising, but only in that if you seek out potential clients or those who may influence potential clients, many will actually scan through the summary text of new followers (if they are set up to receive notifications).

    If your summary is interesting or maybe pitches well your value proposition, then that’s one person who’s now a little more aware of who you are and what you do. I personally have found out about interesting sites and services only through being followed and scanning that summary briefly. Of course there are plenty of tools out there to automate some of this process of finding who to follow, but some should always just be hard graft..

    Definitely a large place for Twitter within recruitment. Will be interesting to see how it grows and what new case studies emerge.

    – Gareth

  2. This is a very worthy post Mr Mayes – but it underestimates I think the non-technical aspects of Twitter capability in recruitment. But the argument is valid, because hardly anyone uses Twitter as a recruitment tool properly. I mean genuinely properly.

    Gareth – you mention RedFox. I still need to see the tangible reason why it was social media that got them £250k (gross? net? turnover? please help…_) – but it WASN’T because of Twitter, because they barely use it and have a limited audience. it wasn’t Facebook either – but it is centred around good SEO and You Tube.

    There are clearly some isolated examples of recruitment through using Twitter as a key component. I am one, albeit on a modest scale, I suppose? – but if I were to grow significantly – then I would maintain the same principles as I do now.

    What are they? – well for heavens sake someone will one day actually ask me. And one day, I will happy to share the mechanics. I know Social media from the inside out you see. How the `pros` do it, for major brands.

    There’s the clue.

    The are very valid points on why all social median channels are good, in this – James, you are as always a learned writer. But there’s more.

  3. Hi James,

    What I have seen is this, many companies are using Twitter for recruitment and having a modicum of success with it. I use the word “modicum” cautiously because I don’t disagree with what you have said in your post, and being in a position where it is my job to bring new and shiny objects to the attention of my clients, I can name some pretty notable organizations that use Twitter and position themselves quite seriously when using it for recruitment.

    What is most important for organizations to determine up-front is what the company wants to gain from having a recruitment presence on Twitter. Who are the people they want to reach? Do they have a strategy to strengthen the employer brand and are they able to measure the gains or loses? Do they want to look cutting-edge? Is the competition there and are they conspicuously absent by not being there? Are they looking to have an integrated recruitment strategy so they have all feelers out there for great candidates? So what does this mean… preparation and forethought must go into the planning.

    Twitter is a whirlwind of activity. Information can stream very quickly and I believe that makes it difficult for companies to publicize their presence. That said, there are vendors who can automate the job posting process on Twitter and do it in a way where a company’s jobs can be streamed in a somewhat logical / orderly manner. When clients are interested in exploring Twitter as a recruitment option, I always steer them to the logical and orderly jobs distribution method with a vendor who has a proven tool, and when I say “proven” I don’t mean guaranteed hires. No one can guarantee that.

    • Hi Cyndy – as you say, the ordered job posting part is simple enough and there are some great providers in the market. Organising the stream though is something where most organisations either pay no or limited attention. That’s a real value space in which to build product at the moment, as demonstrated admirably by @nik and the DataSift team.

  4. James, some interesting points made here. Fundamentally, I would agree with the sentiment that many recruiters / corporate recruiters should focus getting web 1.0 right first. However, for those organisations who are in a position to act as (genuinely) “Social Companies” (primarily, to give *all* of their people the tools / time / trust to engage on behalf of the organisation in corporate social networks) then Twitter suddenly can become the 2nd most powerful recruitment tool there is [after Linkedin /Xing], and we’ve certainly seen demonstrable evidence of that.

    The 3 x things that I think would have in this list are
    1.) Visibility – by being listed, by tweeting regularly, by integrating tweets with other social assets such as LI / websites – recruiters increase their visibility

    2.) Credibility – by being front of mind to use twitter to comment on industry news, or to signpost it to their followers, consultants / corp recruiters position themselves as experts.

    3.) Identification – you don’t mention identification tools (LI to Twitter integration, Listorious, etc) that enable recruiters to drill down to niche talent (and not just in technical areas) – we have helped organisations identify markerteers, IFAs, ParaPlanners and beyond in this way.

    Keep up the good work James,
    Paul | Carve Consulting – Social Media Stratgies for Business

    • Thanks Paul – we catch up so rarely, but it’s always though-provoking. The first two I’ve seen some good work done, but I see very few making good use of the identification aspect of your comment. Thanks for throwing it into the mix!

      • I agree Paul/James – point 3 is an essential `training need` shall we say, for recruiters. That said point 2 is often missing too, as that would require some kind of conversation or interaction…

  5. Hi James, interesting and relevant blog/article. Agree with much of what you say (and found it informative, esp’ re the relevance -lack of- of community building to recruitment practices). Think some points might be more accurate with nuance. For example, think that there is room to explore engagement and ‘community building’ for recruiters, however, prob as part of of an exisiting niche community. This would require recruiters to engage with exisiting communities and join in and add value to their conversations. Instead of a community proper, recruiters can build a ‘community’ network. The ‘downside’, at least for traditional agency models, is that this’ll be labour intensive and require very skilled staff – but the upside ROI could be substantial. Your thoughts? Dermot. Teleresources

    • Can’t argue with your view at all – the labour intensive aspect is a direct driver of the limited recruitment engagement you see in the market today, but I agree entirely, done correctly the payoff will be substantial.

  6. Great post James.

    Have to agree with Dermot’s points entirely. I am currently working with a team of agency recruiters on how to use Twitter as community building tool, not just another platform to post jobs.

    By far the biggest challenge too overcome as James has already highlighted, is the time it takes to build communities and as many recruiters are very focused on the short term, the here and now. For me its as much of a case of working with them to change their mindset and business values if you like, as it is about educating them on how to use Twitter as a tool.

    Until there is a greater number of social recruiting case studies via Twitter, this will always prove difficult.

    • That model as a whole needs to change though. Flat fee recruiters are putting fee pressure on the part which can be commoditised, in-house recruitment teams are growing fast. Third party recruiters HAVE to raise their game to defend their fees, and this could well be a strong part of it.

  7. “You know how competitive this market is, and how a golden rule of recruitment is to listen more than you talk (two ears, one mouth – there’s your guide).”
    I think that is so relevant! Great piece.

    The argument is quite often that recruiters haven’t had vast numbers of CVs come from Twitter, but when they haven’t got their analytics set up correctly to measure the ROI you have to question things. In addition to that you have to wonder how they are using it in the first place.

    • Wonder? No. A quick scan reveals it’s predominantly the same model as most apply to job-boards – spray & pray. It’ll get more intelligent with time, but there’s a way to go yet!

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