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Is Twitter Really a Recruiting Tool?

By January 24, 20134 Comments

A ball boy lies on top of a football in the dying minutes of a 2-match tie in which his underdog team are beating European Champions Chelsea, deliberately wasting time, the complete opposite of what his job is to actually do.  The frustrated footballer pokes the ball out from under him with his foot, after trying unsuccessfully to retrieve it with his hands, and the ballboy rolls around in agony (a reaction he has probably learned from watching professional footballers’ antics for too long, I’ll admit).  The next day the 17-year old self-styled “king of ballboys”, who had tweeted the day before that he would deliberately timewaste, finds that he is now followed by 85,000 people on Twitter.

American teenager Sloane Stephens plays the game of her life at the Australian Open, beating tennis legend Serena Williams in the Quarter Finals.  Overcome with emotion at toppling her idol, she gathers herself together for her post-match press conference where she is asked what impact the win has had on her tennis standing / future ambitions / financial status / Twitter followings [delete as appropriate].  Demurely casting her eyes downwards, pausing to think, she then lifts her gaze all starry-eyed and excited, to pronounce an increase from 17,000 to 35,000.  It’s possible someone in the press room clapped.

How many followers does Britney’s dog have nowadays?  Sorry but I can’t actually be bothered to check.

It’s pretty clear that Twitter is a communication channel unlike any other.  One that has revolutionised the celebrity culture, enabling fans previously unheard of access to private thoughts and actions of their heroes, and providing overnight fame to Welsh chavs literally lying about on the side of a football pitch.  But where does recruitment fit into all this?  Twitter seems to have evolved into a channel whereby you can communicate a succinct, easily-digestible, piece of information to as many people as possible in as short a time as possible.

Is that recruiting?  Is that effective sourcing?  I suppose it depends on what job you are recruiting for, but for the most part recruitment is no longer about attracting the largest number of applications possible.  It is about generating the highest quality of applicant.  Often that requires a far more targeted, specific, sourcing approach than casting a job tweet out into the void – the ultimate in spray and pray recruiting.  Take a look at the #nzjobs column on Twitter.  Occasional random jobs interspersed with job-seeking related content.  Sounds useful, I’ll admit, but only if you’re a job seeker with the time to constantly watch a Twitter feed column on your computer, applying for anything and everything that comes up, regardless of whether it fits your skill set.  Sorry but recruiters aren’t interested in your application.

Twitter doesn’t work as a job board, in this sense.  You might as well create a stream of jobs that are searchable according to your skills, experience and qualifications, so you can sift through the clutter and identify the right ones to suit you.  And I’m afraid to say SEEK and TradeMe Jobs already do that far more effectively than Twitter, even if they aren’t as “cool”.

For me, Twitter can only work for recruiters if they use it to build up an online personal brand for themselves, that resonates with jobseekers and potential future candidates in their area of specialism.  That means injecting personality into it, sharing interesting and relevant content, and when you do post a job, make sure it is appropriate to your audience and being seen by the right targets.

Of course, the better the ad, the more likely it is to get shared exponentially out beyond your own network.  This ad from IAG is a perfect example of something a bit different, that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and as such is prime fodder for viral sharing around the social media channels (hey look, Jen, Cat and Gav, it’s on a blog now too!)

I will declare here that I have “made a placement through Twitter”.  I’ve put it in inverted commas though, because it was a fellow Twit who I had built up a relationship with through social media, who I knew had a penchant for Twitter over everything else, and so I sent a DM (Direct Message) rather than an e-mail, an InMail, a text or…goodness…even a phone call.  It was the same information typed from the same keyboard and shot through the same cables and onto the same computer screen as any other form of communication would have been.  But because it was a DM it got a quicker and more favourable response.  Sometimes you just have to know your target.

I enjoy using Twitter but as an effective recruitment tool I’d have to say the jury is still out.  Writing engaging, personalised, witty content like the IAG recruitment team did certainly goes a long way to helping it on its way.  But if you’re a recruitment team regurgitating banal and mundane job ads up onto a Twitter page with a random smattering of unengaged followers, you would in all honesty be better off donning a t-shirt with your company brand on it and lying on top of a football at the next Wellington Phoenix game.

Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Pat Quin says:

    As an avid twitterer ( is that a twat maybe) I abhor ads and block quickly unless it is a restaurant/bar but a fridge or a job – nah. @patquin:disqus 

  • AS says:


    The question is, would anyone be watching the Nix to see your companies logo?


    • Jonathan says:

      Good point, but I wanted to bring it closer to home!  Well there’ll be 10,000 at Eden Park to watch them this weekend.  Not huge numbers but I’ll be one of them 😉