Business Brains

How Twitter may influence your next hiring decision

Posting in Technology

The recent downturn was different than previous recessions, because jobseekers have been able to actively network electronically across professional groups, industries, and regions. But the benefits work both ways -- for the jobseeker and the company. Here's how companies can employ social media to discover top talent.

The supply and demand of the job market tilts in one direction or another. In tough times, individuals are scrambling to demonstrate their value to employers. In flush times, employers are scrambling to attract talent. Social media may help smooth out these extremes.

Economic downturns have always been periods of powerlessness. Employees feel helpless against the onslaught of job cuts, and laid-off individuals are forced to fend for themselves in the wilds.

But the downturn of 2008-2009 has been different.  Why?  For the first time, many individuals have a way to fight back against the powerlessness -- through the ability to network electronically across professional groups, industries, and regions. Through the tough times, social networking has been an empowering force. I call it the LIFT factor — LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter.

But the benefits work both ways -- for the jobseeker and the company. An article published a few months back in The New York Times describes how one laid-off engineer turned to Facebook and LinkedIn, and soon found himself to be the object of a talent search by a hiring company.

For the engineer, the connection meant getting back to work and off the unemployment rolls. For the company, social networking is providing a valuable talent recruiting resource. “More personal pages, profiles and social networks are serving as fodder for companies looking to fill jobs,” the report states. To mine its employees’ social networking contacts for potential hires, a business can pay for services from companies like Appirio or Jobvite.”

Appirio, for one, provides a matching engine that works through Facebook accounts:

“A hiring company that uses Appirio’s product asks its employees to add an application to their Facebook pages. The tool will notify the employees when new jobs open and which of their friends might be a good fit. Appirio’s matching engine comes up with a list of friends whose job titles, geographic location and other keywords match their company’s available positions, and the employee can send them a referral in Facebook. The matching engine has access to the same information that a Facebook friend does. A friend who gets a referral can apply for the job if interested. If that person is hired, the company can use Appirio’s service to track which employee found the match and offer a referral bonus.”

As the economy shifts back to growth mode, the supply and demand of the job market will shift in favor of employees, and employers will feel more pressure to find and retain talent. It won't be long before pressure is off jobseekers and more pressure is on hiring companies, who will start feeling the pain of having to compete for scarce talent.

Here, social networking will play another type of empowering role. As noted above, Appirio helps identify appropriate candidates by scouring Facebook entries. But how do you find the best of the best?

In a recent article, Ben Parr says social media sites provide distinct clues that help identify top talent. Look at the candidate's presence on Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, or blogs, and look for these key markers:

  • Writing style: "Many top-tier recruits... have blogs with at least a small readership," Parr points out. "Take the time to read his or her blog posts - and not just the most recent ones, but the early ones as well.  It will give you an idea about his or her professionalism, communication skills, and ability to evolve and progress."
  • Followings: A good way to differentiate between two seemingly equal candidates may be "to see how many people are commenting on their blog and, more significantly, how many followers they have on Twitter," Parr says. He observes that "followers are a rough vote of interest and confidence in an individual."
  • Word of mouth -- online: "Wall posts, Twitter @replies, blog comments, and LinkedIn recommendations provide insight into what people think of your candidate," Parr illustrates. "Is he or she seen as an expert or an instigator?"

Social media has proven to be a valuable resource in bad times, and it may also be a compelling resource for businesses in times-a-plenty. Tracking potential talent across social media venues is smart business because the top players in any industry or profession are likely to be actively engaged in online communities.

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Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure