The LATimes runs a story on Jobshouts, one of a number of initiatives put forth by enterprising Twitter users looking to help friends and followers find employment in a tough economy. It's a great story for publicity, and it signals something that the Times runs with it, but after a DM from a follower, I felt the need to share some expertise on how to get people hired.
JobShouts sounds like a good idea. It's possible that it could find some people work. It's just as likely that it will just be a waste of time, cluttering up the Twitter stream. Don't get me wrong. It's heart is in the right place, but it's a longshot to think that pushing some content out to your followers will lead to a hire. Employment is more complex than that, and we do ourselves a disservice doing so little and thinking it will be helpful. The LATimes, to their credit, addresses this point and points out that evidence of new hires isn't available, while the person who did get interviews tapped his own network to do so.
Twitter users in general seem not to be aware of the large network of recruiting, job, and human resources sites that have been spreading information on the economy and hiring since at least 2004. It's not their expertise, but if we haven't solved the problem of job dissemination, it's doubtful Twitter users will do so with 140 characters.
1) If you know someone out of work, and you think they would make a good employee, get their resume and walk it into a hiring manager. Sending an email to human resources, or posting it on your site is a low touch, low impact approach. If you really want to help someone, call them up, find out what they can do well, and then go in-person to a hiring manager and ask them if they would be interested in speaking about a candidate.
That's a high-risk strategy, but it works a lot better than sending an email. You're putting your personal credibility on the line. You're also cutting through the clutter of the day and if you're done your homework, saving the manager time.
Things to look out for: In going directly to a manager, you're breaking a number of corporate rules, and possibly violating federal discrimination laws (or if the person is hired, the company is breaking those laws). Twitter users are disproportionally white, and by virtue of their access to mobile devices and high speed links, aren't poor. That's a discrimination issue. I bring it up because it's important to recognize there are legal reasons why companies hire the way they do. Some HR folks might even decide not to take the referral, simply because Twitter profiles have pictures. It sounds ludicrous, but it's true. Just be aware.
2) Help the Twitter user connect with your network. Speak with the unemployed person, and find out what they can do. Then make personal phone calls to people in your network that might be able to help out with #1. Again, be aware that this kind of networking puts you at risk. What happens if the Twitter user turns down the job? Asks for more salary? Turns out to be unstable? Online connections don't necessarily give you enough depth to judge a person. Make sure you know them before you put your own network at risk.
3) Don't take the referral money. Publicly acknowledging that you are just helping out, and not taking a referral, is an important step. You may still get one, but if you don't let people know that you aren't doing this for money, they may assume you just want the company bonus.
Each of these steps requires time and energy, but they are far more advantageous than simply pushing our jobs. We have systems to do that. Indeed and SimplyHired and Monster and Dice and CareerBuilder all push out jobs - if that worked on its own, no one would ever be unemployed longer than a few weeks. Instead, invest some of your private capital. Make it personal. You'll do a lot more good, and you might learn something about the best ways to recruit, hire, and network.
Update: You can usually identify how successful someone will be by how they react to criticism. JobAngels leaves an intelligent comment you can see below, while one of the founders of JobShouts gets snippy with me on Twitter while the other writes some rambling post insulting my childhood upbringing. Good luck with all that JobShouts. The next time you want some free press, don't complain if you get honest answers. If you think this mild blogpost is an attack on everything you hold dear that can only be met with vitriol, you've lost perspective, and maybe, just maybe, aren't ready to run your own business.