Call or Email or Use Social Media?

Picture 2Many aspects of a recruiter’s job remain the same as in the past, before the arrival of social media. We all review resumes, assess the matches, interview on the phone, and meet prospects in person. Social media has added and keeps adding new options on how to get there. To remain competitive and productive we must figure out and start using social media in recruiting. I’d like to highlight some aspect of how it can work for us.

Let’s talk about the very interesting phenomena of communicating with potential candidates in ways that have not been there before. For years, we have been discussing whether to call first or email first. Some gurus suggest that you first send a detailed email, then leave a phone message, and then send a short email mentioning that you had called. Fine, but here are your other options today:

  • Join a group on LinkedIn where the person is a member and send a message (which is free, by the way)
  • Invite them to join a group on LinkedIn dedicated to their technical skills or their industry
  • Look the person up on Twitter and follow him/her
  • Re-tweet or reply to their tweets
  • Share an article with them using the “share” button available on Ning and on many blogs
  • Invite them to an interesting event posted on LinkedIn, or Ning, or elsewhere

(Note that when you invite somebody to an event or share content, you do not need to worry about the person not wanting to hear from you. All those systems have their built-in means of managing the person’s subscriptions.)

The above methods would let you reach more people, especially passive candidates. Your direct email may land in their junk folder. Your call may interrupt their day. (I can definitely say that as a former software engineer.) However, following them on Twitter or sharing news about their industry is a gentle, non-invasive way to get in touch with them. It also gives them a chance to take a look at your profile and figure out a bit about you before they respond. So, if you venture out on a particular network, make sure that your profile on whatever network that is, is professional, filled out, has your picture, and reflects your own or your company background.

Further on, built-in tools and tools built on top of social networks allow us to interact with lists of potential candidates with a touch of a button. It goes without saying that we need to figure things out about those people first, and avoid spam. But there’s nothing wrong in, say, following a list of people on Twitter whose profiles are promising, or sharing interesting content with a list of people who work in a particular industry. The “share” buttons available in many places, such as Ning networks, allow you to share an article with a list of email addresses. The (slightly buggy) tool allows us to bulk-follow a number of people on Twitter. You shouldn’t overdo this, of course; plus, Twitter has its (very reasonable) limitations and wouldn’t let you go too far in this direction. But these tools do increase our productivity.

Today most recruiters are on LinkedIn, many are on Facebook, and about 25% are on Twitter. This is based on some statistics that I have seen online, and is also true about my sourcing webinar attendees. There are endless online discussions on which network is the best, and whether some, such as Twitter, are “a waste of time.” Well, for one thing, Twitter and LinkedIn can hardly be compared. The functionality, the pace of communicating, the length and the nature of relationships are all very different, so your expectations also need to be different. And then, it makes most sense to me to use both LinkedIn and Twitter in conjunction, plus use other networks as well. If you have a targeted list of candidates, you can interact with them in different places simultaneously. You can look up information about them; they may be more present in one online place than the other. Perhaps they have a blog and would welcome your comments. You can invite the same person to a group on LinkedIn and follow them on Twitter, and so on.

There are ways to find the same people across networks. It’s, of course, easier if the person has a unique name and distinct keywords, such as technology skills, in the profile. However, if you get hold of an email address or a Twitter ID, this can sometimes get you pretty far in the sourcing process. In the recent SourceCon challenge I used the site to look up people based on their username across networks. also allows you to look up people based on an email address.

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An amazing, not explored by many, part of this communication with prospects is that the person may have very little info in their profile on one site vs. another, but based on what you have learned about them you might try to connect on either or both. Searching for candidates on one network and contacting them on another expands our sourcing capabilities.

Successful recruiting using social media requires new personal qualities. To conquer the social media world, we need to be fearless and open-minded. We also need either to be somewhat technical or to have coworkers who are. It’s not terribly hard to navigate different sites, but working with someone who is used to browsing and searching on the web helps. Then, there’s less structure out there now, so if you are creative, this is a useful quality; compare the well-defined ways of using a job board with the open-ended interactions on social networks. We need to get used to questioning our assumptions as we go. Facebook does not work like LinkedIn, so expect to see something different there. Assumptions do not work at all if you are used to searching in one or two places. Search syntax is different on Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Monster; though all these sites support Boolean logic, you can’t reuse the same searches around the social media.

Measuring our success is tricky. Since we still want to hire the best candidates and there are still traditional interviews and offer negotiation processes, perhaps checking how your social media activities affect your submission, interviewing, and hiring statistics makes a lot of sense. That said, we need to be spending a few hours here and there checking out what others do and what new tools show up.

It’s pretty exciting to be here, right?

Irina Shamaeva is a Partner and the Chief Sourcer at Brain Gain Recruiting, an executive search firm that specializes in placing senior software development and management consulting candidates nationwide. In addition to full cycle recruiting, Irina does Sourcing projects across numerous industries and geographies. She shares techniques that she invents, while hands-on sourcing, in blogs and in presentations. Irina maintains an active blog, Boolean Strings, where she publishes sourcing advice, tips, and best practices, that has enjoyed 175K+ visits to-date. Prior to Brain Gain Recruiting, Irina held engineering and management leadership positions at biotech and high technology companies in the San Francisco Bay Area, including Applied Biosystems, MDL, and e-Motion. Irina holds a Master of Science Degree in Mathematics from Moscow University. To learn more about Irina, check out her LinkedIn Profile , follow her on Twitter, and circle her on Google-Plus.


14 Comments on “Call or Email or Use Social Media?

  1. Without a second thought, you use social media to find the people, but the phone goes a long way to someone because you are taking the time to personally make the call to say that you are interested.

    Experts like Bill Boorman, Craig Fisher, and Chris Hoyt will tell you that the established relationship is the most important aspect between the Recruiter and the Company. We are the sales people of the company. Do sales people in your organization hide behind email? NO! The pick up the phone to make the introductory call.

    When I speak to groups of people who are in search, I tell let them know how wonderful social media is for identifying potential opportunities, but I always tell them not to ask if they have opportunities or ask for a job through social media. They pick up the telephone, get around the gatekeeper (if needed), and then ask for informational-related interviews.

  2. One of the best things a recruiter can do on the social media is to establish a reputation as a “trust agent.” To learn more about this concept, I suggest that recruiters pick up a copy of “Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust.” By Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. It’s available on Amazon in print and for the Kindle.

  3. Irina- Thanks so much for the great article…

    I LOVE Social Networking/Recruiting, But we have a lazy society and “sweat equity” (work) WINS in the “new economy/Hyper-measurement” (Talent does NOT)

    Based on resume/education and I believe someone is over 35, I call/mobile first, email, Im, Text.. (in that order)

    If I guess they are under 35, I Text, IM, Email, Mobile, Land-line” (in that order)

    One size does not fit all…

    When we stop serving ourselves, and start serving others (regardless of outcome)/there needs/there preferred means of communication, only then will your road be met with sustained success.

    Make it a great day…


  4. As someone that has been engaging audiences over the web since 1997, I can give you a marketers perspective. An online brand and the use of social media is a new ingredient or component one can add to the job search marketing mix. Its an opportunity to demonstrate you are engaged in your craft, show initiative, passion and leadership. Networking, calling and email will still be age old methods. Online branding and social media simply change the game. Much like how the Macintosh did in 1984 and the job board did in 1998.

  5. Yes. Yes. Yes.

    I want to crawl inside your brain and hang around for awhile Irina. Got room for me? Is that creepy? LOL

  6. Another great article this week! Thanks for writing. To quote Brian above, “One size does not fit all”……as recruiters, we need to know every angle and learn every new social tool out there, and also know when/how to use it. I have been busy trying to update my skills on the social media front and to quote Stephanie, “I want to crawl inside your brain and hang around for awhile Irina. Got room for me? Is that creepy? LOL” No, it’s not creepy Stephanie!

    Follow me on twitter:
    Invite me to Linkedin:

  7. Irina, another great article!

    Brian, I think there definitely has to be a balance there. I know that I, well under 35 would not view a text positively.

    For many there are still very well defined boundaries between what is acceptable socially and professionally. A text might be appropriate to notify a candidate you’ve already spoken to that you will be a few minutes tardy to a lunch meeting, but using it as a means to initiate contact seems inappropriate and lacking professionalism. In my opinion, texting should be reserved for those you know well and already have a relationship with.

  8. April, good point.

    From the candidate side, please don’t cancel interviews or turn down jobs via text. That got so prevalent that I stopped giving my cell phone number out for a while. But that’s another topic, isn’t it.

  9. Great information and feedback….

    Bottom line: You must differentiate yourself, your brand, and your company.

    Fact: If you do the same things the way everyone else is doing things, you will get average results…

    If I had a “dream job” for you April initiated by a text… You then proceeded to review my linkedin, youtube, twitter, and facebook accounts (and was impressed), I have to wonder what your next move would be?

    Thanks so much for the comments, I do appreciate it..


  10. Brian, that’s a very good question, but I wonder if it would be that strait forward. If a text was able to include enough information to convince me there might be a serious opportunity on the line of course I would check out other sources to gather enough information to make an informed choice. It seems this would be more a question of the opportunity being immediately disqualified due to the texts’ very nature. First, is it really possible to include enough information to convince a person you have never been in contact with that the opportunity is legit? Second, will they even open something from an unknown sender?

    It’s a hard question to answer theoretically, but assuming I don’t have your number programmed in my phone, aren’t familiar with your name, and nothing in your text rings a bell, I honestly believe I would view the message as spam and automatically delete it.

    However, I suppose this isn’t a huge problem if you go on to the other means of reaching out once you don’t receive a response. After all, many have texts blocked from their phone (if they don’t have a plan that includes it) and to my knowledge the sender isn’t given any notification that their text wasn’t accepted. I have tested this a few times with friends who have all texts blocked and I receive the same “check mark” as usual.

    Very interesting discussion. Thank you for introducing the topic!

  11. April- Great reply… In the world of twitter, I have “split tested” this will really good copy/content in text albiet very short.. and the result were/are better than I thought they would be… (Making the assumption that I have done all my upfront research/homework on the candidate)

    If I knew you were a match (and did not respond), I would “tickle” you out a day or so, and contact you directly… (As any good sales pro would do)

    Best to you Annie/ERE!


  12. As a researcher I have found the key to using social media is finding a relevant name as quickly as possible and then getting on the phone and engaging in conversation. Social media does not take the place of creating a relationship but it can provide a way to find passive names quickly.

    Its easy to get lost in the sea of social media so I use AutoSearch to organize and consolidate my research on the web.

    If you are have a proactive recruiting philosophy and want to use social media in your recruiting practices I recommend checking this tool out.


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