Five Things We Learned From Doing A Twitter Only Recruitment

About five or six years ago I applied for another job. It would have been a significant promotion – nearly doubling what I earned at the time.

I went through the usual shenanigans that come with this type of recruitment. The huge application form. The CV. The covering letter. The telephone interview. The online assessment. The endless psychometric tests.

I don’t think I got to speak to a human employed by the actual company until I was at the final stage interviews.

What I remember about the culture was in the five hours I was there no-one offered me a cup of tea. And no-one in the offices laughed.

I never got the job in the end (I had a message left on my voicemail telling me so) so I’ll never know whether I’d have sacrificed my principles for a payslip.

But I know that someone wasted an awful lot of money on recruitment when we could have just started with a social conversation.


Two weeks ago we started a new experiment to mark the launch of our Innovation Lab. What if we literally crowdsourced the people we would work with?

What if we only recruited via Twitter?

This is still a work in progress – we are still having conversations. But in the spirit of capturing learning as you go – here’s my top five:

Your networks network for you

The buzz that has been created has been tremendous. Each of the role profiles on Slideshare has been viewed over 2000 times – with combined views of nearly 9000. That’s way above the normal hits we’d get on a conventional recruitment.

But –note to excited recruiters reading this – don’t think that just by tweeting your job openings you’ll get the same results. That interest has been generated by getting the support from people like Dominic Campbell, Immy Kaur, Mervyn Dinnen and Helen Reynolds. And the other 200 people who have tweeted about it. Build up an engaged social support network. You get interaction through building relationships – not broadcasting or posting flashy slide decks.

You can react in real time

Recruiting via social gives you constant feedback. The first stage took place over 10 days meaning we could adapt to feedback and amend the process as we went along. So , for example, I picked up very early on that the inclusion of Klout as an indicator of social influence was putting people off. I was able to remove this from the application criteria and feedback publicly. This helped boost interest as well as build rapport.

Similarly – a conversation about the “geekiness” of the slides led to comments about the lack of interest from women. We were able to amend this and call specifically for more female interest highlighting the flexibility.

It reduces waste

A couple of people have already dropped out of the process. They’ve been googling me. I’ve been googling them. We’ve had a couple of conversations about the way the Lab will work and we’ve agreed we’ve got different ideas but can perhaps collaborate in another way. Ever been in the first 5 minutes of an 45 minute interview knowing this is wrong for both parties? Yep – a huge waste of everyones time.

A couple of people from HR and legal backgrounds have suggested that we are potentially breaking employment law here as we could discriminate against applicants based upon what we find on Google.

Come on.

We are just trying something different. If you think you’ve got sexist,homophobic,racist,ageist managers I’d suggest you’ve got bigger things to worry about than Twitter. Thanks Jacqui Mortimer for supporting me here – every HR team needs someone like you!

People are shaping our thinking

Already the nature of the conversations , and the wonderful diversity of interest , has led us to start making amends to the way the Lab will work. It’s become less about how people fit into our boxes and more about tearing those boxes apart and building around people. It’s more organic and is evolving day by day.

Who knows. Your next restructure might well be crowdsourced.

It’s 24/7 and global

Imagine the talent you might miss out on because people are on holiday or travelling. That doesn’t happen on social media. Word gets around. I’ve had interest from Europe , the USA and South America. Right now whilst writing this post I’m messaging someone in South East Asia.

I haven’t had a lot of naysayers but probably the biggest misconception is that this approach would only work for these type of roles.

I don’t get that. It’s 2014 and perfectly conceivable that a Housing Association could employ someone based in Indonesia. Geography is less important than broadband speed.

Maybe we need to stop thinking about what our organisations are today and start imagining what they could be.

Hope you find this interesting – I’ll update you soon.  Thanks for the support from everyone – I can’t name check you all!

Be great to hear your views.




25 thoughts on “Five Things We Learned From Doing A Twitter Only Recruitment

  1. Hi Paul, I’ve obviously been following this with interest, and glad it appears to have been a success. I’ve been toiling with the idea of how we can utilise the power of social media more within our business and the issue we keep coming back to is the volume of recruitment that we do. This “experiment” has peaked peoples interest, got people talking and therefore engaged with your audience, but do you think that this would work on a day to day basis- i.e. if Bromford advertised all their roles in this way would the message start to get lost in amongst the other conversations? Does it then start to become broadcasting rather than engaging again?
    There is definately something in that engagement aspect with applicants that I find interesting. Having initial conversations with applicants before, during and after the interview to help with engagement and making the onboarding process easier and less daunting.
    I look forward to further updates!

    1. That’s a great point Barry. I think there is something in what you say. I think the interest has taken off first of all because one person handled it. And the key with social is creating conversations around the content rather than thinking the content will do it for you.

      I see a lot of companies just sending out job postings on social media and thinking that is social media recruitment. It’s not! You need to create a campaign and get a social buzz going.

      So I think you are right. It would be difficult for a company to post all their vacancies in this way. Unless all their managers embraced social. But that’s another story!

  2. I think having a housing officer based in Indonesia if the patch was Birmingham might be a tad challenging. Imagine the commute! ;0)

    Really interesting stuff, Paul – I’m going to share this with others in my organisation.

    1. Yes – but imagine having to do the 1:1’s and appraisals! And the Air Miles!

      Thanks Dawn – be interested in how it goes down….

  3. Another fab blog Paul!

    At our org we’re taking on board what you are doing and looking at creative ways we can change our recruitment in the future (for the right roles).

    Look forward to seeing your future updates on this!

  4. It’s a great concept that being tested and I really hope it’s successful! Hopefully peopl realise that it really eliminates the problem of people being excluded from opportunities just because they haven’t used the right keywords, that someone shortlisting in HR is looking for on an application form. I really hate to think how many companies turn down fantastic applicants with so much to offer simply because of this! Can’t wait to see the results!

    1. Thanks Jamie. My view is that recruitment at some organisations went too far at some point. It forgot about people and became about process. Social recruitment has the opportunity to allow us to reconnect. Thanks for commenting

  5. Paul this is a really interesting piece and the reason that we crested JobsTheWord to cover all aspects of social media and all other sources across the web like blogs, affiliations, associations and forums etc. We engage direct employers through matching the right candidate skills with their role and drive direct applications so ultimately it is the candidates decision to apply and they are a lot more invested in the opportunity.

  6. It’s proving to be a fascinating live experiment to be part of Paul. And like you say having Jacqui so enthusiastic is fantastic.

    I’ve recruited lots of people in lots of different ways over the years. Some of the best appointments I ever made only had one applicant. And back in the day when I ran a one man band in Stoke I had to photocopy, collate, stuff into envelopes and post packs to 149 applicants who responded to a job advert in the Evening Sentinel. The person who got the job was the 150th applicant…..who say the job in Rugeley Job Centre.

    We have to keep trying new approaches if we want to keep reaching new audiences. I’m sure we will unearth some great talent through the current campaign……and probably people we would never have come across through our ‘normal’ routes.

  7. Thanks John – that’s what I love about this kind of approach and the people it attracts.

    They get it’s an experiment and don’t ask what the long term goal is. They are attracted to being part of an unusual ride where the destination is far from certain.

    The have lots of questions about the things we don’t have the answer to. And hopefully they will help us find the solution.

  8. I love this. I once withdrew myself from an application process for a job with a medium sized charity because of the hoops I was being forced to jump through. Telephone interview, 2 stage in person interview, a group interview, a written test and a psychometric test and it wasn’t even for a senior position, it was for the same position, Digital marketing and online community building I’d held elsewhere.

    It was a huge waste of money, and coming out of a charities coffers, nope, surely they should have had better things to spend their money on so I withdrew myself and explained why.

    If they’d have done this, if they’d have even just googled the applicants they could saved us all a whole lot time and themselves money.

  9. What a brilliant comment Steph that just goes to the heart of this. I wonder how many recruitments wonder about the amount of talented applicants that are put off by the process? Thanks for posting

  10. Great blog Paul and I can relate so much to how we have historically recruited both as a recruiter and a recruit. I recall an interview many years ago where I knew within the first five minutes the role wasn’t for me as did the interviewer!! Perhaps some conversations beforehand would have determined this! The shift to doing something very different in the way in which we recruit is long overdue. How many times have we’ve been put off from completing an on-line application rather than just submitting a CV? This takes it one step further. Love it! And an interview without being offered a brew is just non-on!! 🙂

    1. Thanks Tracey – I too have been in that “5 minute moment” – both as an applicant and a recruiter. I think social presents an opportunity to humanise recruitment again.

      And yes , that lack of a cuppa was the straw that broke the camels back…..

  11. Interesting read Paul. I agree that far too often recruitment appears to be about process. Anything that seeks to develop more social evaluation around people, attitudes and their interactions as well as non-traditional approaches to traditional tasks must be worth a closer look. I’ll be following your learning closely. Well done.

  12. Hi Paul! Love the idea – my mind is swimming! A few questions – how do you engage the audience? Do you hold a tweet-up and draw people in that way? We pretty much post jobs. It’s too one sided; no interaction. I’m a follower now…:)

    1. Thanks Meg!

      We’ve not held a tweet up on this occasion as most of the applicants have opted for private interest. That said – we’ve done a public campaign before with #GottaLoveCake (see article here

      The difference there was we put a social media front end on a conventional approach to recruitment. Here we are throwing the rule book out and seeing what happens based upon the interest of the crowd.

      We’ll wait and see whether it’s a success! Thanks for commenting

  13. The current model of recruitment is broken, in my opinion. Like it’s been mentioned by others here: if you don’t use the right keywords and expressions you get nowhere.

    It’s also massively in favour of the employer, and a lot know they have a hold over applicants. A disappointing amount won’t give you five minutes of feedback on applications you spend hours writing, and I’ve encountered a fair few who won’t even discuss applications and whether you’re right for a company if you ring in advance. It’s almost as if they know there’s a lot of interest and human decency goes out of the window.

    It’s refreshing to see you open those dialogues early with people and work with them to decide whether someone’s right for the company without expecting them to go through the lengthy application process. A very positive move!

  14. Thanks Scott – I wish I had written your first couple of paragraphs. You articulate the problem perfectly.

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