Call or Email or Use Social Media?

Sep 30, 2009
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

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.

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?

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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