The Right Tweet at the Right Time: Social Media Indicators for Real-Time Recruiting

Screen Shot 2013-08-12 at 3.10.45 PMYou know the old saying “the early bird catches the worm,” right? In the case of job recruiting, this phrase is particularly relevant. Any experienced recruiter knows that a highly qualified candidate who has multiple offers on the table needs to be targeted as quickly as possible.

But how exactly can a recruiter decide when it’s the right time to engage a candidate? How can recruiters monitor for indicators that a high-profile candidate may be open to a new opportunity, even before the candidate starts looking? Social media sites, because of their real-time nature, can be an incredibly helpful tool for not only building regular rapport with talent, but also helping recruiters find the right moment to engage with candidates for a new opportunity.

In this post I’m going to talk about a few ways I have used social media in the past to find real-time indicators for recruiting talent with the right timing. For the sake of brevity, I’ll be focusing on Twitter and Facebook (though this could easily be used for other social networks, too).

Opportunity Indicators on Twitter

Recruiting is all about timing. Knowing when to engage with the right candidate at the right moment can mean filling a position faster with a candidate who is ready to make an immediate impact on the organization. One way of doing this is mining Twitter for engagement opportunities. Not only is Twitter great for sourcing candidates both on Twitter search itself or using Twitter directories like WeFollow and Twellow, but it can also be effective for creating opportunities for quick engagement.

For example, while I was working at VMware as its talent acquisition web strategy manager a few years ago, I created its career-focused Twitter page and began growing the community by following people in the cloud computing industry. While monitoring Twitter, I saw a tweet come up of a conversation between two cloud bloggers that said something like, “I hear @SoandSo is on the market …” which of course peaked my curiosity. I clicked on the username and found that this person was actually a pretty talented cloud architect, and his blog, which I found in his bio, was full of great examples of his work. I proceeded to reach out to him directly through our corporate account with, “Hey @SoandSo, we’d love to talk to about working with us. Send me a DM [direct message].” Within minutes we had exchanged email addresses in a direct message and I forwarded his resume to the recruiter for that position, who immediately got on the phone with him. The next day he was in an interview with a hiring manager.

Later that week I sent him a direct message on Twitter, asking him how long he had been “on the market”– his reply: “45 minutes.”

This candidate put in his notice, a colleague tweeted about it, and within an hour he was talking to me about a new job opportunity. Talk about being an early bird … who tweets, too! I located this candidate because I had built a community of targeted people that were in my company’s industry and had the skill sets we were looking for. I had organized them in Twitter so that I was able to better mine the tweets for opportunities to engage in real-time. Rather than sending messages on LinkedIn that may or may not be read, I sent a real-time, contextually relevant conversation in a public forum that instantly was sent as a notification to the person’s Twitter application on his phone.

Opportunity Indicators on Facebook 

Right now, I would say Facebook is the social network set to make the biggest impact on recruiting in the near future — for  two reasons: Facebook Graph Search and Facebook Groups.

You may have read John Zappe’s recent article on this very publication titled “Facebook’s Graph Search Is the Future of Social Recruiting” where he pointed out:

Clearly, recruiting was in the minds of the developers of Graph Search. During a preview a month before its unveiling, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told a Wired magazine writer, “One of my favorite queries is recruiting.”

Article Continues Below

I’ve played with Graph Search as an early beta user and do a regular training on sourcing with Graph Search for our SuccessFactors recruiting teams globally. Some recruiting opportunities can come up through Graph Search that you wouldn’t ever find otherwise.

For example, I was doing a Facebook Graph Search for software salespeople in San Francisco. I was targeting candidates at a competing company who were connected to at least one of my friends. So, I typed in “Friends of my friends who work in sales and who work at Company Name.” I live in Austin, Texas, and much of my network on Facebook is in the Austin area. Yet, I still came up with a list of about 100 salespeople. Doing this same search would probably pull up thousands of results to sift through on LinkedIn. However, what was surprising was how I was connected to them.

One candidate in particular was connected to a personal friend on Facebook, someone completely unrelated to my professional life. I reached out to my friend through a Facebook message to ask her about the potential candidate she was connected to. It turns out they went to college together and I was close enough to this person (far closer than I am to almost any connection on LinkedIn) that it was easy to ask my good friend to connect me with her college buddy.

Facebook Groups can also be an amazing recruiting tool. You can do a Graph Search by keywords in the titles or in the content posted within the groups, which can pull up buckets of recruiting opportunities. I did a search for “groups about software sales” and I found a plethora of candidates. You don’t even have to join the groups to get the benefits. All you have to do is click on the “members” tab to search within the members of each group to find relevant candidates. Imagine doing a search for employee and alumni groups at target companies you are recruiting out of … oh the possibilities!

In fact, the single-best recruiting tool I’ve used for hiring local candidates is a Facebook Group started by some friends in Austin called “Austin Digital Jobs.” This is an organically created Facebook Group of people who all were familiar with one another, lived in Austin, and were digitally talented. It started with about 50 of us and now, in less than two years, it has grown to more than 3,600 professionals and recruiters in the Austin area helping one another find great opportunities (and candidates). I’ve personally hired three of my own employees through this group, all of which were filled from a single post and 48 hours of taking referrals from the group. Crowdsourced candidates.

How have you used social media to accelerate your recruiting initiatives and find opportunities to engage with candidates at the right time?

Will Staney is the founder and principal consultant at Proactive Talent Strategies, LLC and the former head of global talent acquisition at rapidly-growing startups Twilio and Glassdoor. Prior to that he held recruiting leadership roles at enterprise software leaders VMwareSuccessFactors and SAP. 

During his career as a recruiting leader, he developed a passion for building what he calls "modern recruiting machines". With his consulting firm he is helping clients like GoDaddy,, and others optimize their recruiting strategy and build a content marketing approach to talent attraction.

In his free time, he enjoys riding his motorcycle, trying out the newest gadgets, and spending time with his wife, Mallary, and their two kids, Foster and Felicity.


8 Comments on “The Right Tweet at the Right Time: Social Media Indicators for Real-Time Recruiting

  1. Thanks, Will. For those who heavily advocate the use of FB and Twitter for recruiting, I propose the following experiment:
    Starting today, you have 20-30 reqs. of various types. Within 30 days you need to have 1 hire/week on average, and by the end of 4 months you need 17 hires. Finally, you can use only FB and Twitter to source and recruit. Your clock starts NOW:

    Folks, would YOU volunteer for this? I sure as hell wouldn’t….



  2. Hi, Keith. No one would sign up for that. I could have written an entire novel if I dove into all possible social and online channels for a full multi-channel recruiting strategy. I think maybe you missed the point of my article. Surely you don’t assume that I think recruiters should use ONLY Facebook and Twitter for recruiting? The point I tried to convey in this article is that when a recruiter is actively building their network on social sites and nourishing targeting communities as part of a long term strategy it can REALLY help for short term needs. I’ve been successful with hiring with social because I have, over really a relatively short period of time (3-4 years) networked on social and took a targeted approach towards engagement and looking for indicators on social media that help me interact with candidates in a fast, more personal and human way….and it works.

  3. Thanks, Will. You’ve hit the nail on the head- “long term strategy”. Who has time or bandwidth for long-term strategy? It’s not the vast majority of the places my colleagues and I typically work. We’re either drinking from a fire hose or wondering when we’ll be laid off. I’d LOVE to have a contract where I get paid $95 or more/hr to locate and build relationships with people who MIGHT be interested in applying to the company 6, 12, or 18 months down the road, but my clients are looking for me to *fill current positions. Furthermore, as a jobseeker, I’m not looking to develop a “relationship with a recruiter and a company- I want a “hookup” i.e., a job NOW.



    *Plus, what’s the likelihood the candidate, the hiring manger, or I’ll be around then? We live increasingly in a “I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone, so let’s do the deal”

  4. Thanks Keith. I definitely understand that side of things and the pressures of filling roles quickly and what I’m saying is eventually you can get to a point where you have a brand of your own that helps you do just that…fill jobs more quickly. Will it happen tomorrow? No. But over time, building your networks on several channels and not putting all your eggs in the Linkedin basket is not something that will just help you fill positions for that client you happen to be working with at that moment or that employer you are working for that year but where ever you are in your career in the future. It’s really not a large time investment (20-30min a day at most) to make sure you are building your own personal brand through social media throughout your career.


  5. I like the twitter example. I think it’s a good example of social recruiting done right. But as a candidate I would not want recruiters contacting me on Facebook, full stop. Separating personal space from professional space is very important to me and facebook is personal space. Photos of Friday nights drinking with the labs or a comment from a old flame at high school is not the first impression I want to make to a recruiter and so I would try hard to keep people away from my ‘personal space’. LinkedIn serves the purpose of professional networking very well. I strongly resist blurring the lines between the two.

  6. Toby, totally agree. Everyone has different views when it comes to how they use Facebook but the great thing about Facebook is that you CONTROL all of that. When you post those drinking pictures you can make it to where only people you are friends with (or that are within a sertain group of friends) can see. Also, if you dont want recruiters to be able to find you on Facebook you can make it to where they can’t find you at all. Its all up to your own preference and privacy settings. I think the lines are already blurred, personally. Think about it. When you go into a business meeting with someone you are just meeting for the first time…do you get right down to business? If your selling a product do you not try to build report? Small talk happens….”Where are you from? Do you have kids? Where did you go to school?” Those are kind of personal questions right? But we have those conversations with strangers all the time. On Facebook/Google+ you can still maintain those subtle nuances of how you interact with certain people differently and keep personal and business separate on other networks besides Linkedin.

  7. Also, I personally feel Facebook is evolving to more of a social utility like our phones are and a lot less about just friends and family. To me, it’s me…online. I manage all relationships there (I’m even friends with my boss). I still post personal photos and tell dirty jokes even….but I’m not worries about the wrong people seeing it because I am always aware of my audience and who in my Facebook network I’m posting to at all times.

  8. Thanks again, will. As a recruiting multi-specialist (or is it multi-recruiting specialist?, I’ve looked for over 200 different types of positions over the years, so it isn’t feasible for me to create large numbers of virtual Rolodexes, as I may not recruit for that skill set again for years, if ever. I very much agree with you about working to create my own personal brand, and I am working to do so, through my writing and appearing on panels like the Recruiting Innovation Summit and Recruiting Unconferences. I’d like to think that my self-branding efforts are a success, if by “success” I mean: “keeping large numbers of high-level recruiting heads from hiring me for strategic recruiting consulting projects because they know exactly who they’ll be getting.”


    Happy Friday,’Cruitaz

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *