Finding talent with just 140 characters

Using Twitter for recruitment speeds up search process, provides deeper insight
By Donna Alexander
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 11/03/2013

As a recruitment professional, my days used to be fairly routine: I would perform searches online to find qualified candidates, pipeline resumés from suitable applicants and screen them for industry qualifications or as a match for a particular role.

These days, to a lesser degree, I can follow the same pattern in a fraction of the time — the popularity of Twitter has truly sped up the recruitment cycle. While Twitter might not replace good old-fashioned headhunting, there are definite benefits when it comes to the speed this network can provide.


One of the benefits of sourcing is you can search Twitter using Boolean search strings to find candidates. In the same way current searches are conducted, you can sort through Twitter to pull out relevant candidates and conversations.

While you are unlikely to find a tweet with a complete resumé, the search string will reveal not only those candidates who label themselves using the same terms you are using, but also provide incredible, real-time insight into key discussion points.

Those people can then be added to your network to create a high-quality, specialized network of followers to engage using timely information-sharing. Since many candidates and clients are already your connections via LinkedIn, it is simple to relate to them on more than one social media platform.

With one search, you can compile a list of high-quality, passive candidates and contacts you can continue to engage with easily and readily. If there’s someone of interest, you can contact them using private direct messages (dm) or public @replies.


Twitter pipelining allows a recruiter to quickly engage passive candidates with an insightful, concise message that doesn’t push them towards a job opportunity they are not ready for. The easiest way to pipeline is by using hashtags, which are instantly searchable.

Common hashtags used in job postings include #job, #hiring, #recruit, #employment or #career. Pipeline by searching for positions or skillsets you are looking to fill, such as #payroll, #projectmanager or #hr.

Hashtags really let you be creative — anything can be a hashtag — but make sure your tweets are searchable, so don’t be too obscure. Are you attending a company conference or innovative expo you want people to know about? Use a hashtag and have like-minded people (or attendees) broadcast the message for you.

This will educate prospective hires about your company and what your business stands for. This is the heart of engaging passive talent that can be transformed into a personal talent pipeline.

One enticing tweet about your corporate conference and the innovations your company is embracing will lead to one new follower — a follower who may one day be interested in an opportunity you share.


Following a potential candidate allows a recruiter to get to know her and find out whether or not she will be a good fit. You can tell a lot by someone’s tweets.

That being said, the purpose of Twitter screening is not to exclude but to get a sense of someone’s personality and how it will mesh with your work environment. If you are sourcing for a strong HR administrator to work from home and a prospective candidate’s tweets reinforce her dislike of working anywhere but an office, this may not be the perfect fit.

Communication on Twitter is limited to 140 characters, so be succinct. And if a potential candidate is unable to verbalize his thoughts in 140 characters, it may be worth looking elsewhere.

At the same time that you are screening a candidate, the candidate is also screening you. There are many recruiters out there and candidates want to know why they should choose you. Often, recruitment professionals fail on Twitter because they don’t use the tool with finesse.

Tweeting a job to your network can create viral retweets but if you overshare — or don’t participate at all — you will lose followers.

Instead of continually tweeting out job postings and mindlessly following herds of people, be someone people want to follow because of your quality interaction.

Finding quality candidates can now be done in more ways than before. Twitter is a source of progressive candidates who are looking to share their knowledge and experience on a multitude of levels.

There is far more engagement and activity around candidate interaction and rapport-building.

But even though Twitter has sped up the recruitment cycle, it is only a part of what you do, a complement to the whole process. So tweet away and make connections, but remember that on the other side of that hashtag is a relationship that needs to be nurtured.

Donna Alexander is team lead, solutions and delivery, at recruitment firm head2head in Toronto. She can be reached at (416) 440-2043, (877) 440-4323 or

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