Searching Social Media Requires Outside-the-Box Thinking

Non-Standard Descriptors and the Role They Play in Social Media

Article by Valerie Scarsellato, Sr. Sourcer at Intel Corporation
Co-written by Glen Cathey

Sourcing has always been a significant component in the recruiting lifecycle. However, in recent years, sourcing has taken a giant step into the forefront and has become recognized as the solid foundation at which successful recruiting rests upon in order to identify and secure top-level talent, no matter what industry you may be supporting.

One of the newest tools available for sourcers and recruiters to leverage to find candidates is Social Media (SM). These days, it seems as if nearly everyone from CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, to inventors in various fields, to the grandmother of your best friend has a Myspace or Facebook page or a LinkedIn or Twitter profile.

Twitter happens to be my personal preference in the SM realm. It also happens to be the fastest growing Social Media application at 1200% in the past year!

Although some people are still discovering and testing the waters of the Twitterverse, a diverse and large population (over 14M visitors in March – surpassing LinkedIn!) spanning nearly all industry segments has already fully jumped on to the real-time messaging bandwagon in order to share information or blurt out a piece of nonsense rolling around in their head.

Understand Social Media Users

With the significant levels of attention and traffic being driven by Social Media, it’s critical for sourcers and recruiters to understand how to best utilize SM for talent identification. Technology is ever-evolving and those of us in sourcing/recruiting/talent acquisition roles (even we have many titles!) are constantly having to play catch-up with those that create each new SM application.

After attending one of Glen’s focused and information-packed FREE webinars, I had an epiphany. It’s true – we need to build the right search strings in order to filter through and find the right people we are targeting. In order to do that effectively, I realized that we as sourcers need to understand the psychology of the people we’re searching for and be aware of how they think of and refer to themselves in order to return highly relevant results when searching Social Media.

Social Media Offers a Creative Outlet

Social Media is a relatively new outlet where professionals of any industry can be creative and a little looser with how they refer to themselves. There’s definitely a drive for people to look for cool and hip new ways to describe who they are and what they do. SM, which is informal, dynamic and somewhat voyeuristic, enables people to create alter-ego profiles for friends and peers to view and delight in.

On a standard resume or on a professional social networking site such as LinkedIn, most people will refer to themselves by their industry-standard titles such as Programmer, Developer, Engineer, Marketer, etc.  However, when it comes to Social Media, many people purposefully avoid “corporate” and resume-level descriptors and “tag” themselves using more informal language that results in a more personalized identity, rather than conforming to industry-standard job titles. For example, the computer programmer at work becomes “geek” or “tech nerd” in his/her Twitter bio. While these may not be considered “professional” descriptors, they are important to note in order to be able to effectively target and search for talent on Myspace, Facebook and Twitter. This requires us to shift our way of thinking in the way we search for people.

Twitter and many other SM interfaces have advanced search options or third party applications that enable you to search the “bio” areas of a person’s profile. When searching these Social Media applications, you must be careful not to limit yourself to the “standard” search terms. You must be open to non-standard descriptors such as “geek,” “nerd”, “techie,” “evangelist,” “droid,” “drone,” “junkie,” and “enthusiast” to name a few. In my sourcing efforts I’ve come across all of these non-title descriptors multiple times in people’s bios.

Twitter Demographics

Don’t assume that all of huge Twitter growth (77% – 6M additional visitors in one month!) is coming from 18-24 year old segment – because it’s not. Most of the growth is coming from the 25-34 and 45-54 year old segments! Yes – 45-54 year olds CAN refer to themselves as tech geeks and spin doctors.

Examples of Non-Standard Descriptors – Twitter

Examples of Non-Standard Descriptors – Facebook

Non-Standard Location Descriptors

Sourcers and recruiters also need to think outside of the box when it comes to searching Social Media Applications for candidates in specific locations and challenge their traditional thinking towards standard naming conventions as it relates to locations. Many people with SM profiles are being quite creative when describing where they are from.

Searching profiles on Twitter and Facebook will yield you non-standard, yet recognizable results such as Silicon Valley, Central New York, North NJ, Suburbs of Boston, NoCal, and Southern CA. However, some people take it a step further and utilize popular slang terms – for example: City of Angels, Big Apple, Bay area and Chi Town. There are the even more creative “tweeps” that want to remain mysterious, their location may be “Universe,” “Everywhere,” or “Narnia.” Perhaps even more intriguing is that some people simply list their latitude and longitude via their iPhones.  

Examples of Non-Standard Location Descriptors

 

When I clicked on her URL, I discovered that she is a software engineer.

When I clicked on her URL, I discovered that she is a web designer.

Save Your Search Terms!

As you search for candidates using Social Media and uncover these non-standard descriptors, I recommend that you create a living document of search terms that are relevant to your hiring needs and profiles, taking special note of which ones may return the best results. While there is a lack of consistency in some of the non-standard descriptors, “geek” and “nerd” seem to be the new way to describe different flavors of technologists. You will also find that a good majority of these people will have a link to their personal blog, website or Facebook, MySpace, or Linkedin page which may reveal a more detailed view of their professional focus, as can be seen in some of the results above.

Twitter Search Applications

Twitter is my Social Media application of choice, mainly because it provides real-time contact/updates and people are limited to easy-to-digest 140 character “Tweets” that you can follow in a variety of ways. Plus, you are able to direct message (DM) a fellow Tweeter – and in most cases, they will DM you back. When it comes to search Twitter for candidates, you have many options – each week it seems as if new applications pop up for Twitter. Below you will find a partial list of some applications that enable you to search for or keep up with people on Twitter.

Wefollow
Twitter search
Twitterfall
Tweetbeep 
Tweetscan
Twingly
Twellow
TweetGrid
TweetDeck 

Conclusion

If searching Social Media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace is a part of your talent identification and acquisition strategy, you MUST think outside of the box when choosing your search terms, or else you run the risk of adding to the Hidden Talent Pool of candidates you can not find

If you search for a location of “Boston”, you simply cannot find people who only mention “beantown,” let alone “restaurant @ end of universe.” Similarly, if you’re searching for a title of “software engineer,” you can not find people who instead refer to themselves only as “tech geek.” 

You can’t find these people using standard search terms, but they are there – you just need to know HOW to find them. Think outside the box.

About the Author
Valerie Scarsellato is a Sr. Sourcer at Intel Corporation in Phoenix, AZ. You can find her on LinkedIn, and if you’re on Twitter and would like to “follow” her, she’s @Musicloverchick. Tweet her up and she’ll follow you back! She rocks!

  • Phil non Geek

    would you dump conventional internet job advertising in favour of SM resourcing?

  • Boolean Black Belt

    Phil,
    I am 95% “hunter” and 5% “trapper.” Posting jobs is 100% passive and reactive (“trapping”), offering you no degree of control over who responds and their qualifications. Searching information sources (“hunting”) is proactive/active affording you control over exactly WHO you find and contact, and a high degree control over their experience and quals. I would never say to completely dump job posting on the internet, especially free/low cost efforts…but my searches for people get the results 95% of the time. Ad responses are my “roll the dice and get lucky.”

  • Phil non Geek

    BBB,
    Love free routes to goal so thanks. Any Twitter dictionary / language sites to get me started? Geeks = Tech … what are bankers (clean version).

  • Interesting question Phil. When I started writing this article it was because I noticed a pattern in non-traditional title descriptors that the passive technical population I was sourcing for, was using in their Social Media profiles.

    There are a lot of “guides” on how to use Twitter, however, I’ve not seen anything that defines slang/untraditional title descriptors to traditional titles such as what you’ve noted “bankers/clean slang term”. Understanding who your target population is that you are trying to source/recruit for is a good beginning. If you are not familiar with whom you are sourcing/recruiting for, research will definitely be required. You should start with simple searches in twellow.com or advanced search in twitter, same for Facebook. You may have to sift through profiles in order to pick up on some of the jargon they use or patterns that may emerge.

    Remember, Social Media is where people go to unwind, they aren’t necessarily looking for a job so consider them to be highly passive. You may also want to check out blogs that are written by your target population to see how they may be referring to themselves either as the blogger or commenter. You will have to be strategic with your searches but in the end, if you are organized in how you collect your data, you’ll know what non-traditional title descriptors emerge and how to find those people.

    Hope that helps!

  • Excellent article. It still makes me chuckle when I see all these “search companies” posting the clients job description on Monster/CB etc.

    If this was all that filling a Sr level position required………….

    Then why pay a fee?

    Thanks,

    Eric

  • Ed N.

    “Yes – 45-54 year olds CAN refer to themselves as tech geeks and spin doctors.”

    Who do you think INVENTED the term “Geek”! We also invented the internet and social media. We were geeks when geeks weren’t cool. (I got suspended in high school bring a calculator to a Trig test!)

    We are geeks and Uber-geeks and dam proud of it.

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