How to Find an Employee Through Twitter

It was the tweet that sent shock waves through human resource departments across the country: Man lands a job with one message on Twitter.

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It was the tweet that sent shock waves through human resource departments across the country: Man lands a job with one message on Twitter. Of course, once you dig deeper, you start learning that the company doing the hiring asked job applicants to apply through Twitter, and the guy hired didn't just say, in 140 characters, "I'm a hard worker." He had a couple links thrown in, one of them leading to a resume.

Still, it's an interesting story, picked up by a lot of news outlets, like MSNBC.com, and it begs the question: If you want to do this as an employer, how should you go about hiring via Twitter? Here are some thoughts.
Understand who and what you're looking for. Not every job is necessarily compatible through Twitter. It's been predicted that 18 million users will be on Twitter by 2010, but with over 304 million people in the country (and granted, some of those people are kids and retirees), clearly, not everyone has jumped on the social networking site. And logic seems to indicate you're going to find more white collar professionals than blue, although with 18 million folks, you can find just about anyone on Twitter, from exterminators to carpenters. But the point is, if you only use Twitter, you're going to cut down your applicants. On the other hand, if you're looking for someone who knows their way around the Internet, you may cut down your applicants in a good way.

Use that search engine. It's obvious to anyone who uses Twitter a lot; not so much if you're just beginning. But Twitter has a search engine, where you can type in whatever job skill or quality you're looking for, and suddenly you've got all the tweets with those words for the last several days and, sometimes, months. If you want to find someone in "marketing" or "human resources," for instance, you'll find more tweets than you know what to do with.

But you can be more specific, like typing in the city you're based in and "looking for a job," and see what you get. Obviously, you're not likely to pull up much, but you never know. Maybe you'll get lucky.

"Spy" on your job applicant. Even if you wind up not using Twitter to find your employee, you may want to check out your job applicants' Twitter handles -- chances are, if they have one, they'll put it on their resume. Fair or not, what they've been tweeting in the last year or so will give you an impression of them.

You can learn a lot by asking job applicants a question through Twitter. Sure, you can go the way of BFG Communications and ask everyone to apply for a job through Twitter, or you can use Twitter to learn more about job applicants. For instance, ask a question and see what answers you get, suggests Debra Woog McGinty, a Utah-based career and workplace specialist who specializes in coaching job seekers with MBAs.

McGinty says if a certain core competency is important to you -- "let's say you want to find someone good with customer service" -- you could ask potential job applicants a particular question and sort through the wheat and chaff that way.

"You might ask them about the toughest customer situation they've ever faced and how they handled it. The answers in 140 characters are going to be very short, but I've seen some really great stories told in 140 characters," says McGinty, who can be found on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MBAnavigator.

McGinty observes that more "individuals are putting their personal stories on the Internet for the world to see. That trend is going to continue as we move from having Web sites to personal blogging to Twitter. I don't know if Twitter will be the end of it, but we'll continue to see more efficient ways to tell a story to a larger audience -- and we'll see more of that in hiring."

That may be oddly appropriate, too, adds McGinty. "Often in finding a right employee, it isn't just a skills match, but a personality match. So you can really use Twitter to see how people tell their stories, and the key to finding the ideal job often depends on a person's ability to tell his or her own story well."

So just think -- if your future job applicants can portray themselves well in 140 characters, you may achieve your real goal: not hiring bad characters.
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