For the record, I am not a social media expert. If you were to examine my Twitter profile, even if adjusting backward a few months prior to recent back issues and surgery, you’d see that my Twitter Follower Friend (TFF) ratio is less than desirable. (For more information on the TFF, check articles here and here.) I won’t even claim to be a recruiting expert. I have been at this for quite some time, but I’ll bet that anyone reading this article can find someone with a valid reason for disagreeing with some point I make here. They will, of course, be wrong, but they have every right to disagree with me.

Why do people use Twitter?

Consider some reasons why people use Twitter:

  • Connecting with people who think like we do.
  • Entertaining friends, family, and others with our comic wit.
  • Impressing others or getting others to affirm our superior intellect.
  • Persuading others to think differently.
  • Complaining about people and things that irritate us.
  • Sharing gossip, news, etc.
  • Networking and making business contacts.
  • Sharing whatever thought happens to have popped into our heads at any given moment.

What do recruiters and hiring managers see?

It really isn’t accurate to say that recruiters and hiring managers will necessarily be looking at the same things when screening candidates, even if a recruiter is pretty solid. For the sake of argument though, let’s assume that there are significant overlaps when it comes to what they are looking at.

In general, the hiring manager is looking for someone who knows how to do his or her job well and will be productive. This generally means someone who is bright, but not egotistical, someone who can stay on task and get the job done, and someone who works and plays well with others.

The positive:

  1. Competence: For some, your Twitter account has nothing to do with programming, network engineering, project management, or whatever it is that you do for a living. That’s actually fine as long as you are not some sort of a social media guru. (And I don’t pretend to get what they do anyway.) However, if you do tweet about your vocation, tweets demonstrating that you are competent … that you stay abreast of the latest trends … those are a good thing.
  2. Compassion: This may sound strange, but a lot of people’s tweets are extremely self-centered or reflect only an interest in what’s going on in the lives of a close circle of friends or followers. Tweets demonstrating awareness, interest, and empathy for others, especially others who may think, look, act, or vote differently than you do demonstrate that you probably have the right emotional makeup and/or social skills to work well with clients or other employees who may not necessarily think like you do or agree with all your ideas.
  3. Contact: As a recruiter, I am constantly looking for ways to connect with bright people. Even if they aren’t a fit for an immediate opening that I am trying to fill, if they are bright, talented, and personable, then they might be future candidates or possibly even future clients. Your Twitter profile is yet another way to help people connect with you, and if you’re looking for a job, you need to make that easy to do. You don’t have to include an email address in your tweets, but it would be helpful if you could provide a link in your profile that leads to a place that allows someone to email you directly. (I will also note that I have no interest in any Twitter account that can’t be linked back to a real person, unless it is some sort of corporate account.)

The negative:

  1. Pomposity: Twitter is in many ways a terrible medium of communication because it forces us to boil our thoughts down to 140 characters or less. Often these thoughts come across as pompous, ignorant, mean, snarky, or all the above. (I have definitely been guilty of this on all charges at times.) Here’s where having conflicting objectives can bite us in the butt.Something you say to your friends that seems funny to all of you may actually seem mean, insensitive, or stupid to the hiring manager who checks you out. In a job market in which there’s a shortage of skilled employees, a hiring manager might be more tolerant than in times like now. If he or she has narrowed the field from 500 to a dozen qualified candidates and is trying to narrow it further, your perceived huge ego or your perceived need for constant affirmation may be the deciding factor that leaves you out in the cold.
  2. Politics: We live in a very polarized society politically. A huge and roughly equal percentage of people are either Democrats or Republicans. Within those groups, or having broken off of those groups, are factions that rabidly believe that anyone who disagrees with them is partially responsible for ushering in the downfall of society. Let me be clear. You have every right to associate with anyone you choose to. You also have the right to shoot off your mouth and say any outlandish thing you want to say (within some limits) about people who belong to political parties or follow ideologies other than your own.  You can retweet things that are tweeted by people who are paid to represent one point of view and are no more interested in “truth” than defense or prosecution lawyers.Doing so may have consequences though. There may be instances in which it is even illegal, but don’t expect to be given a fair shake if you spend all your time running down members of a particular group and following countless people who are rabidly antagonistic toward that group, and then it turns out that the hiring manager for your dream job belongs to that group.None of us are paid political pundits, so nobody should confuse our tweets with those of FOX News or MSNBC correspondents.
  3. Productivity: Let’s assume for the sake of argument that you are a Twitter Black Belt. You are a subject matter expert in your field, without coming across as a know-it-all. You stand up for your principles without implying that anyone who disagrees with you is either demon possessed or a slobbering idiot. You are witty, well-liked, respected, and loved by friends and foes alike.Does this in the eyes of a recruiter necessarily make you a strong potential candidate?Certainly, it is better for those things to be true about you than not. However, being the online equivalent of a social butterfly is likely only a good thing in the eyes of an employer if it results in increased company revenue, improved recruiting efforts, or some other measurable benefit. Furthermore, that measurable benefit really needs to be related to your job.There are people on Twitter who tweet a lot, offering very sage advice or wise comments on all manner of things. However, they do so at all hours of the day, at astounding rates, and with amazing consistency.

    In short, what they really love to do is tweet and not whatever they are actually getting paid to do.

    Don’t be one of those people. Don’t come close.

    A hiring manager who casually clicks on your Twitter profile does not want to see that you were Tweeting about the Packers/Lions game with your friends throughout the day on Monday. She or he also doesn’t want to notice that you are regularly tweeting at 1 and 2 AM when you have to be at work at 8 AM each day. These things are common sense.

In general terms, all I personally want to see on Twitter is someone who’s generally bright, friendly, and helpful and doesn’t consider himself or herself God’s greatest anything. … And really, I think that’s probably what most normal people expect of anyone.

How about you? If you were a hiring manager, what would you look for if you happened across someone’s Twitter profile?