‘Tweeting’ for new recruits

Employers turn to social media to fill jobs
By Shannon Klie
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 08/10/2009

For the past four years, every person Joseph Thornley has hired has been someone he met through networking — either the traditional way or through social media.

The CEO of Toronto-based public relations firm Thornley Fallis and 76 Design in Ottawa, which does corporate branding and web design, has his own blog and an account on Twitter, a micro-blogging site where users post 140-character messages or “tweets.”

“We tweet every position that we would have open in the belief that the people who are following us actually care about what we do and may share the same interests,” he said.

But he’s only been using Twitter for the past year-and-a-half — before that he looked mostly to readers of his blog.

In the public relations industry, being able to succinctly and creatively get a message across is a definite plus, so blog posts and tweets allow Thornley to gauge a potential candidate’s abilities. People also let their different personas shine through online, unlike in an interview where a candidate is always “on.”

“I can go and look at what they’ve written about, the way they write or post video or audio. I can get a sense of their interests, their passions and also a sense of how deep they are,” he said.

“You get a chance to see what their sense of humour is like — are they destructively sarcastic or are they playful? And then, most importantly, I look for the people who actually have something to say.”

Stories of people finding jobs through Twitter are becoming more common. After being laid off, Talia, a self-professed Internet addict, tweeted her new employment status. Within minutes, her followers were asking for her resumé.

Then the Twitter magic happened — someone who wasn’t following Talia saw her tweet and sent her a message telling her another Twitter user was hiring and suggested Talia contact him.

That connection led to her first interview with ArticlesBase, an online source for free web content. Within one month of being laid off, she started her new job. And Talia blogged about her experience on her new company’s website.

Many employers are also turning to LinkedIn, a business-oriented social networking site. LinkedIn has more than 43 million members, including executives from all Fortune 500 companies, according to the website. Its tool, Talent Advantage, gives hiring managers the ability to search qualified candidates.

While Thornley is a member of LinkedIn, he rarely uses it for recruitment purposes. People who want to join his network on the site are doing so just to build their own networks, while his followers on Twitter and his blog are there because they’re interested in what he has to say and want to build a relationship, he said.

“We can hire anybody for a job, but we recruit people who want to spend some time with us and build a career,” said Thornley.

To keep up with the social media and networking phenomenon, online job board Monster uses Twitter and Facebook to drive jobseekers to its website, said Robert Waghorn, communications manager at Monster Canada in Montreal. Once there, users can search for jobs, read career-related and job-search articles or take part in forums and blogs.

“The whole way the Internet is being used has changed. In conjunction, Monster has to evolve as well,” said Waghorn. “We want to be a lot more than a simple job board.”

Part of that is working with employers to develop their brand image and encourage them to post more than a simple job description to give jobseekers more insight into the company.

UPS, a courier company with Canadian headquarters in Mississauga, Ont., includes a video of a driver talking about his job as part of its postings for drivers.

“It’s a really compelling story rather than just, ‘This company is looking for a truck driver,’” said Waghorn.

Thornley still uses traditional job boards. He recently posted three new job openings at 76 Design and, while he got an incredible response, many of the candidates were inappropriate because they were from other countries, including India and Singapore, and the company can’t afford to relocate people for the jobs, he said.

While fewer people respond through Twitter or his blog, the candidates tend to be a better fit.

“I get a much, much narrower response but much richer response,” he said.

To take advantage of social networking, Thornley recommended employers find out where people talk about the industry and the company online and begin following them or subscribing to their blogs.

“It’s all about having an established community and participating in that community,” he said.

Over time, employers should start to offer their own content, which is easier to do in a 140-character tweet than in a 500-word blog post, he added.

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