How to Recruit Tech Pros on Twitter ‚¬€ Part 1: Search

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Posted by Jonathan Campbell,
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You wouldn’t expect to hire hard-to-find tech professionals and software developers at an HR conference, would you?

If you want to find tech pros, you need to think like a tech pro. Their definition of a professional network is somewhere like Github, Stack Overflow, Dribble or Behance. This is where you’ll discover who they are, what they’re working on and the skills they have. “These sites are usually more up-to-date on things like skill sets and work availability. Recruiters have a better shot in engaging people on sites like these.” But don’t take my word for it; that last sentence is a quote from “An Open Letter to Technical Recruiters”, a blog post written by New Jersey-based designer Ted Goas.

I’m a huge fan of Dice’s Open Web social recruiting tool, as it allows recruiters to leverage the power of more than 50 social sites in one massive search tool. Not only can you ensure that, to borrow another line from Ted Goas, you’re “fishing where the fish hang out”, you also only need to check one “super-powered” profile to see the aggregated data from all of the sites they have a presence on – saving you huge amounts of time and research. Open Web shows you all of the available mediums by which you can reach out to each candidate, and the combination of professional and personal data allows you to super-personalise each response, massively increasing your chance of a positive response.

But there’s another benefit here. Most tech recruiters aren’t tech pros themselves and would get lost in a Stack Overflow thread about the merits of Ajax Vs PHP! There’s nothing worse than a tech recruiter pretending they’re all down and hip with the latest tech lingo in a forum purely for developers or designers. However, my trusty tech recruiter, there is a common ground: its name is Twitter!

Twitter boasts more than 200m active users made up of teeny-boppers chatting about the latest 1D appearance, middle-aged couch surfers like myself asking for Walt’s head on #BreakingBad, and recruiters tweeting about their jobs. In all of that noise exists almost every sub-culture, profession and demographic, but arguably more than any other there are tech pros – and they talk! Today, I counted 76 self-confessed Developers on Twitter who have tweeted over 100,000 times! Forget the phone or email, Twitter is the default preferred method of communication when it comes to tech pros. So, what can tech recruiters do to leverage this amazing resource?

I personally believe there are always three ways to use a social network as a recruiter:

  • Search: You can treat the network as a database and search it for keywords and skills (nod to Open Web for making this so easy to do!)
  • Market: You can market yourself, your employer and/or your jobs to other people in the same network.
  • Engage: Most importantly, you can reach out to other people in the network and start a conversation.

Great recruiters do all three. They maintain a strong, credible personal brand on the network, they know how to find people when they need them and when they reach out to chat with a potential candidate, their existing, credible footprint gives them authority and ensures that other users engage with them.

To get you started, here’s how you can do the first part — Search:

First of all, what exactly are you searching? Twitter offers several different pockets of information to search:

a) User profile: This is the most obvious way of finding talent and is already covered if you are an Open Web user. But if you’re not, you can use a freemium site called followerwonk.com that allows you to search user bios (don’t use Twitter – it’ll give you mixed results). Twitter users can write a profile consisting of a max of 160 characters. You can search profiles for job titles, employer names or skills. This works, but you need to be conscious of the fact that Twitter users aren’t writing a bio with the express intention of being found by a recruiter. Also, 160 characters is not a lot. It’s about 20 words at best. So expect to find a skill, a one- or two-word job title, or maybe – just maybe – an employer name. But don’t expect much more detail than that.

b) Tweets: This is a little trickier, but potentially much richer than just searching for keywords in a bio. Many Twitter users don’t list their job titles or skills, but you can infer their skills from what they tweet about. If someone shares a tweet that contains “github”, its likely a link to a page from Github, which probably makes them an open-source developer. Twitter’s internal search algorithm is perfect for finding tweets. If you want to get hardcore with your searches, try their Advanced Search Tool, which allows you to build simple Boolean strings and geo-target tweets. You’ll probably want to filter out recruiters by adding “-job -jobs –opportunity” etc. to your search string. Top keyword searches: java, “ruby on rails”, javascript, github, stackoverflow, kernel. Think about programming languages or sites from which someone might share content.

c) Location: This is a free-text field that most users complete even though it’s not a required field. You will likely want to zoom in on Twitter users who are living in or based in a certain location or city, but remember that they might use several synonyms to describe the same location. For example, someone in San Francisco could write “San Francisco”, “San Fran”, “Lakeshore”, “Bayview”, “Oakland”, “Emeryville” or simply “Bay Area”. You can use Followerwonk to combine this with a Bio Keywords search by clicking on “More Options” to reveal a search filter that allows free-text searching of user locations. It also supports Boolean but you’ll need to use | instead of OR between all those possible locations.

d) Followers: This is for those of you who are already pretty comfortable with searching bios and tweets and enjoy following rabbit holes! If you find one user who tweets on the topic you want to hire someone for, try checking out their Twitter followers by clicking on their follower list. For example, a person who tweets about graphic design is likely to be followed by graphic designers, so you can infer their followers profession or skills. When you find one person, check who they follow to see if there is a pattern. If that person only follows one account talking about graphic design, he or she is probably not a graphic designer. But if that person is following lots of similar accounts, you may have struck gold!

e) Lists: Don’t you just love curators? When you find potential candidates on Twitter, you should be creating well-categorized lists so that you can find them again quickly when you need them. As a recruiter, I recommend that you create private Twitter lists, but there are hundreds of thousands of public lists that other users have kindly curated that group people by skills, job titles, interests and locations. Finding lists can be tricky; you’re probably going to need to do a bit of Google searching. The quickest way is to type in the keywords that you expect to be in the name or description of the list (such as job titles, skills, etc) and add the following to a Google search: site:twitter.com inurl:lists.

Don’t forget that the best recruiters use Twitter to “Search, Market and Engage.” In our next post, we’ll show you exactly what and how you should market on Twitter.

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