Getting Better Results With Twitter

Screen Shot 2013-03-01 at 9.56.12 AMUsing Twitter as a recruiting tool appears to be deceptively simple: develop a large following and start tweeting. Simple enough, but success doesn’t come easy. The 140-character limit doesn’t allow for much more than broadcasting jobs. But just shooting of links to job postings means that only the most active candidates will respond. So what is likely to make a tweet more interesting to the passive candidate — i.e., the vast majority?

What to Tweet

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon and MIT found that the tweets most likely to be read are those sent as questions to followers, and information sharing. General conversation or status updates are the least popular. That is, rather than just send job postings, send out information that has value to the reader. It’s difficult to find content that appeals to followers with diverse interests, so recruiters should focus on groups that can be categorized by interests — gather followers who already have a lot in common. Other research done at CMU shows that the likelihood of a tweet being read has a lot to do with how closely the followers identify with the author. Users are most likely to read tweets from individuals they follow. They are less likely to read tweets they find through Twitter searches and search engines.

As the saying goes, content is king. But there isn’t a person on the face of the planet who has enough interesting things to say on a regular basis to create a following on Twitter. Still, there’s no reason that tweets have to be original — they can be curated content, a source of information and conversation around a specific topic. The researchers at CMU and MIT recommend embedding more context in tweets (and being less cryptic); add extra commentary; don’t overuse hashtags, and use direct messages rather than @mentions. And make sure that questions use a unique hashtag so followers can keep track of the conversation.

Building a Community of Followers

Unlike Facebook and LinkedIn, one can’t just search for profiles (finding potential followers can be done as simply as running a search on Twitter for anybody discussing a specific keyword, which can produce thousands of contacts). Start following them and a good percentage will follow you back. Twitter’s own recommendation engine works pretty well but other resources that can be used to grow your followers include This is a directory of Twitter users where you can list yourself under appropriate categories so others can find you.

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Hootsuite is another product that can help in growing followers by keeping them engaged; the best feature is prescheduling tweets. Socialoomph does the same. Having a regular stream of tweets typically increases followers and keeps current followers more engaged. Tweepi is another great resource for building a following. It applies Twitter rules to allow you to follow a certain number of people on Twitter at a time. For example, if recruiting for healthcare professionals, pick the name of an influential person in the field (Mike Ryan is an expert on healthcare), type in their Twitter handle, and you can immediately start following forty of his followers. And use to flush out those who aren’t following you back.

Following the above advice will likely yield much better results for recruiters, but any recruitment efforts involving Twitter should be put in context to have realistic expectations. Only 15% of adults online use Twitter, and only about half of those do so on a daily basis. That still a lot of people — about 13 million — but that group is heavily skewed towards younger adults (ages 18 – 29) and certain minorities. So temper your expectations accordingly.

Raghav Singh, director of analytics at Korn Ferry Futurestep, has developed and launched multiple software products and held leadership positions at several major recruiting technology vendors. His career has included work as a consultant on enterprise HR systems and as a recruiting and HRIT leader at several Fortune 500 companies. Opinions expressed here are his own.


12 Comments on “Getting Better Results With Twitter

  1. Thanks, Raghav. Have there ben any studies which show th effectiveness of solely Twitter (not in conjunction with other recruiting methodes, tools) to:
    1) Fill immediate positions
    2) Create candidate pipelines for upcoming,/ongoing positions?



  2. has found in the research of the of its own data that a large percentage of people do not indicate in their Twitter profile who they are or what they do. This in turn leaves a lot of people on twitter that unless matched up with other social data on them are like ghosts, and are easily passed by when trying to find and connect to the right candidates. It takes a little more work to research and find these people, but they tend to also be the ones that are not being regularly solicited via twitter and may pay more attention to your message since they are not as popular on the site as others who have put a good amount of info on there about who they are.

  3. Hashtags and twitter chats (including #resuchat & #talentnet) are great ways to find other recruiters or in a particular industry. Also keep in mind that many people use Twitter on a mobile device, so it’s ideal if the links you send–especially job opportunities–can provide a great mobile experience for users.

  4. Great article, Raghav. Following this advice is key to start building a following. It is unfortunate to see so many recruiters using Twitter only as a soapbox to announce job openings. I know that in the tech industry, this is a major turnoff and definitely decreases the odds of getting followed back.

    To Keith’s question, I’d say it’s best to use Twitter as a way to open doors. It’s difficult to build relationships on Twitter, but it’s easy to get the process started. Once you’ve made a connection (ie followed, received a follow-back, and achieved some level of engagement through conversations, retweets, etc), then connect on LinkedIn, send a DM requesting a meeting, etc.

    We recently launched a service to help Tech Recruiters make the most of Twitter. We hand-source candidates each month, then give tips and tech industry insights to help with engagement. Check it out!

  5. To Keith’s question.

    I’m not aware of any such study. As Austin mentions – Twitter opens doors, it’s a means to an end. Not a stand alone mechanism for filling jobs. I also think that when using social media it’s best to use multiple approaches for connecting with people that may eventually become candidates. The higher the level of engagement the more likely that is – but it can still be a long row to hoe.

  6. Raghav, interesting point about the importance of putting Twitter for recruiting in context. While the majority of online adults may not use Twitter, however, it does have attract a large quantity of “professional age” candidates. Our recent survey of 1,848 staffing recruiters found that 48.8% of respondents used Twitter for recruiting in 2012. 38.3% of respondents plan on using Twitter more in 2013, and 13% said they’ve successfully placed a candidate they found on Twitter. This is in comparison to 93% of recruiters who placed a candidate they found on LinkedIn, and 17% who placed a candidate they found on Facebook.

  7. @ Raghav: Thank you- very sensible

    @ Autin. Thank you. I’d enjoy hearing more…

    @ Vinda: The fact that many recruiters say they do use or plan to use a given tool doesn’t indicate that the tool works well or quickly to fill jobs. Furthermore, the more who use it, the less competitive advantage there is in doing so- look at LinkedIn…

    I like the idea of the social network info aggregator that was discussed recently…


  8. @Keith – agreed. In fact, the data shows that Twitter works less well than Facebook and LinkedIn to place high-quality candidates according to more than 1,800 anonymous recruiters. However, while using a nascent channel such as Pinterest (something we also measured) might present a competitive advantage, there’s clearly no correlation to efficacy.

  9. @ Vinda: Thank you. If I understand correctly, your results show that using Twitter to recruit works less well than using Facebook, which has been highly criticized here for its lack of efficiency in producing quick, quality hires, yet didn’t you say above:
    “48.8% of respondents used Twitter for recruiting in 2012. 38.3% of respondents plan on using Twitter more in 2013, and 13% said they’ve successfully placed a candidate they found on Twitter”?
    This says to me that large numbers of recruiters use or plan to use SOMETHING WHICH HAS BEEN SHOWN NOT TO WORK VERY WELL FOR THE PURPOSE IT’S BEING USED.

    Keith “What Am I Missing Here?” Halperin

  10. @ Keith: I think you’re making my point, actually. But you know the old line about lies, damn lies, and statistics, right? It depends on how you interpret this data.

    As you said, Facebook has been criticized here, but the survey data suggests it may be more effective than Twitter. So recruiters shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Facebook as a social recruiting channel in favor of Twitter.

    But the second question that this data can’t answer is WHY Twitter has had a less effective outcome. For that, consider the case of asking 100 recruiters to shoot a free-throw on a basketball court, and only 13 of them making it. Does that mean shooting free-throws is hard? Or does it mean that 87 recruiters need to practice their shot?

    And if Twitter is a free-throw, is LinkedIn a layup and Facebook shooting from half-court?) But I digress 🙂

    Happy to chat about this further offline.

  11. Thanks, Vinda. Would enjoying talking off-line.
    Meanwhile, I think neither Twitter nor FB have been shown to quickly and effectively put quality butts in chairs. You might be able to build talent communities with them, but who has the time, money, etc. to do that? My managers want good people hired NOW, not good people “possibly interested in hearing more” 6 months from now.


  12. Hi Keith, once again this is a matter of leveraging social media beyond its basic uses to maximize what it can do for your recruiting. Please do email me. My email address is on the “press kit” page of Looking forward to hearing from you.

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