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If you were looking into a job applicant's background and discovered that he or she has 1200 followers on Twitter and averages 50 tweets per day (more than half of which are during business hours), would it affect your hiring decision? How and why?

Personally, I'd be a little worried about the candidate's ability to focus on the job at hand if they're constantly checking in with their 'tweeps' thoughout the day. In non-tech jobs, a lot of companies simply block Twitter as an irrelevant distraction. But it can be a useful resource---to programmers in particular. I just wonder how much is too much. At what point does it become a red flag?

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closed as off topic by Mark Trapp Jan 25 '12 at 11:46

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I suppose context matters. Are they all personal tweets, or are they relevant to previous work? –  Jeremy Heiler Dec 2 '10 at 14:40
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That depends on what they say, really. "i love tweeting instead of working" would affect my decision more than "How do I implement this technology in this framework? #relevanttag" - Twitter isn't completely irrelevant and useless. –  John Straka Dec 2 '10 at 14:42
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This is a very, very general question and has little (specifically) to do with programmers and the programming industry. –  Tim Post Dec 2 '10 at 14:43
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Keep in mind, if they are unemployed at the time of the interview, that doesnt necessarily mean they'd tweet during work. (I cant believe I'm defending tweeting) –  GrandmasterB Dec 2 '10 at 19:05
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Even if 100% of those tweets were outside of business hours, the fact that someone posted 50 tweets a day would dramatically lower my opinion of them. –  Carson63000 Dec 2 '10 at 22:25

12 Answers 12

up vote 18 down vote accepted

There's a good chance you shouldn't hire this person. If you've got to the stage of considering whether their Twitter profile is good enough reason to reject them, then I suspect you have some fairly serious doubts.

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There's no doubt as to the candidate's intelligence, and we were all really impressed with this person's enthusiasm and demeanor. But getting up to speed on our product will be a full-time job. It'll involving reading a ton of boring documentation, studying the source, writing test programs, and asking coworkers lots of questions. Will they get bored with the minutiae of our (stable/released) product if it's not something their tweeps can help them with? –  evadeflow Dec 2 '10 at 19:01
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@evadeflow Sounds like you're making assumptions about what might happen (or might not). If you're happy with the level of skill and enthusiasm the candidate showed in the interview, hire them. –  Anna Lear Dec 2 '10 at 19:09
    
I have a blog people read regularly, I post at work doesn't mean I cant do my jobs, plus developers home time and work time are very very very blurred. –  dustyprogrammer Dec 12 '10 at 0:01
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Do the maths. 50 "tweets" of what? Mindless little messages of rubbish per day. Thats an average of one every 9.6 MINUTES during a working day of 8 hours. This person can't keep focus on anything. No hire. You have a dangerous fool who will annoy everyone else they are supposed to be working with, and you problem will become how to get rid of them. –  quickly_now Feb 10 '11 at 22:13
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@quickly_now: "You have a dangerous fool who will annoy ..." dude if I could I'd +1000. –  Binary Worrier Mar 23 '11 at 7:57

I would not hold it against them, but I might bring it up during an interview question. Perhaps say you noticed they average X tweets per day during business hours and that your ideal candidate focuses on the job while at work. See what their reaction/excuse to that is.

Personally, if I know my boss is watching my twitter page, I would be sure not to tweet during work hours.

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It doesn't take a long time to post a tweet: probably less than it would take to get up, walk to the water cooler, and strike up a brief chat with a coworker. So I don't see Twitter participation as a problem so long as work gets done (well and on time), especially if tweet content is mostly relevant to the job.

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A person who Tweets much can implicitly mean that the person also reads many Tweets. This makes hiring even more uncertain. For an employer who doesn’t know anything about Twitter makes it even worse.

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This is a concern of mine. As @Anna pointed out, it doesn't take so long to send one tweet, but sending 50 per day, plus the time spent reading... it can add up. –  evadeflow Dec 2 '10 at 18:48
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You probably wanted "implicitly". –  Alex Budovski Feb 10 '11 at 23:23
    
@Alex thanks for pointing it out. –  Amir Rezaei Mar 23 '11 at 7:50

Are you looking for this person to only work 9-5? Does a programmer really need to work from 9-5? Might want to check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ROWE

The focus should be on the results of the work, not time spent sitting in a particular location. If you think they can do the work, hire them.

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Part of whats needed in most technology jobs is focus - time on the job. Irrespective of the time of day the work gets done. This person can't focus. –  quickly_now Feb 10 '11 at 22:14

I just checked one of my TweetDeck columns:

  • Elijah Manor, 31882 followers
  • Mark Needham, 1832
  • Ron Jeffries, 4657
  • Reginald Braithwaite, 1711
  • Roy Osherove, 4249
  • Phil Haack, 11483
  • Jeremy Miller, 3943

OK, enough. Don't even think about hiring any of them :-)

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The fact that great programmers have a lot of followers doesn't mean that a candidate with a lot of followers is a great programmer. –  Anna Lear Dec 2 '10 at 18:20
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I'm not convinced that anyone who puts far more effort into talking and writing about programming than doing programming is a "great programmer". I would venture to guess even some of these guys are no longer all that great if you have to actually write code. –  Jeremy Dec 2 '10 at 18:33
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Seconded. The old saw goes: "Those that can, do. Those that can't, teach." But I like to say it differently: "Those that can, design. Those that can't, construct." There's a definite tendency for people who can explain how to create---say, an enterprise messaging system---to not be the ones actually doing the work. We're definitely looking for someone to write code. –  evadeflow Dec 2 '10 at 19:31
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You checked number of followers, not number of tweets per day. –  Kyralessa Feb 11 '11 at 2:19
    
belated comment to all (I took a long vacation from the site): the number of followers doesn't mean anything. But I'd put this list up as a counterexample to the OP's 1st paragraph ("he has 1200 followers..." so should I be concerned). A better metric could be a number of lists. E.g. Scott Hanselman is on 3,700+ lists - such a number is extremely hard to attain, unless you're very good. –  azheglov Mar 5 '11 at 16:12

I suppose it's important to know what the person does now? Are they a college grad or currently unemployed? If so, they probably have a ton of free time. At worst, I'd mention it during the interview. What if they would stop tweeting during business hours if it meant getting a job? Would it really be fair then to just toss them out without discussing it with them?

If they are currently employed, then that might be a little bit more of a red flag because if they tweet 50 times a day during work, the chances that they'll drop that habit once they start working at your organization aren't great.

There is no clear-cut answer here without having more context.

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This depends a bit on the job. For example, if they work as a technology evangelist for a programming community then it may well make a lot of sense to interact with that community. Similarly, if they were the type of person to have multiple projects to check on over the course of a day and did some of this in a rather public way that could also be an explanation.

I do understand the justifications from the other side which are already well covered I think.

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It depends on the type of company I guess.

As others have said, many places will block Twitter.

Really there is no need to tweet suring working hours, and I'd be wondering exactly how many tweets they are reading/clicking on links from etc.

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At what point does it [Twitter use] become a red flag?

On its own, I don’t think it does. You’re looking for someone to do things for your company. If they do them, you’ll be happy.

Tweet volume alone isn’t even a red flag, in my book. Some people are incredible multi-taskers, and thrive when they’ve got seventeen different things on the go at once. Maybe your candidate is tweeting all the time because he/she hates his/her current job? Or because it involves a lot of boring tasks that need to be broken up to maintain sanity?

Disclaimer: I’ve never employed anyone.

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There's no such thing as an incredible multi-tasker. Do some digging into things like Eli Goldblatts books on work and work organisation. Read a bit of DeMarco... and do some exercises that really show multi-tasking actively being used... performance of humans goes through the floor. Now there might be one or 2 freaks who are a little better than the norm, but if the only measure of that goodness was twitter, then I would not touch this person with a 10 foot pole. Insufficient information to go on. –  quickly_now Feb 10 '11 at 22:18
    
@quickly_now: For less deep concentration-y tasks, I think some people perform much better, through being more motivated, when they’ve got a lot on at once. But for programming (which is what we’re talking about here), you are quite right. I don‘t think I’d hire anyone if their Twitter stream was all I had to go though. –  Paul D. Waite Feb 10 '11 at 22:40

Jon Skeet tweets about 50 times a day. So, definite hire. http://twitter.com/jonskeet

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Personally I would not want Jon among my subscriptions on Twitter :) –  altern Jan 30 '12 at 13:25

It can count against the candidate for me but if he has a great interview, good recommendations and looks all set for the job I will try not to let him go.

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