Public Relations Tactics

Taking control of your job search: A tweet alternative to the classifieds

November 3, 2009

Corbis News
Corbis News

Last April, when 25-year-old Amanda Hartman realized that she would be moving to Champaign, Ill., and needed a new job, she turned to Twitter.

She built a rapport with Twitter users who were already living and working in Champaign. They discussed her move,  job hunting and life in the small Midwest college town.

When Hartman (@ajhmedia) relocated, she met one of her new Twitter contacts for coffee and the woman provided her with information about the local paper that she works for, the News-Gazette (@news_gazette).  She encouraged Hartman to apply for a job opening at the company and to use her name as a reference. Hartman applied and interviewed. Within the month, the News-Gazette hired her as a marketing associate.

In today’s competitive PR job market, more and more job seekers are willing to try Twitter as a job-hunting resource.  And given the state of the economy,  job searches are taking longer. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, it takes an average of  27.2 weeks for unemployed workers  to land a job, up from 16.7 weeks  in September 2007.

So hiring professionals are now looking for candidates who have a strong Web presence, including knowledge of social networking sites like Twitter.

“Number one, Twitter is a networking tool to me,” says Craig Kanalley (@ckanal), founder of news site and an adjunct journalism instructor at DePaul University in Chicago. “If I were looking for a job — not currently — Twitter is the first place I’d go. Honestly.”

Hartman believes that Twitter may become the standard for job-hunting, but only if companies use it correctly.  “A company using Twitter has to disseminate the job openings better than their Web site,” she says, “or else it is meaningless and redundant.”

Other PR professionals share similar stories of using Twitter to tap into the job market. Most people seem to find success by networking on Twitter and creating a personality and strong presence for their Twitter handle — and essentially branding themselves.  They display awareness of current events and industry trends and join in on discussions.

These job seekers also often provide a link to their blog or Web page, where they’ve posted a copy of their résumé. And by putting forth some effort and time — and by being persistent and creative — they’ve made themselves very marketable to hiring practitioners who are looking for job candidates.

Creating new jobs
After discovering a job opening for New York City-based concert streaming Web site rVibe (@RVibe), Lauren McNamee, 22, told the company to check out her Twitter page and résumé and to keep her in mind. The company was so impressed with McNamee’s continual music blogging and integration of new tools through Twitter that it hired her as community manager, in charge of all social media.

“The most important skill that hiring professionals are looking for is a full grasp on the world of social media,” says McNamee (@Lauren_MAC), who graduated from Arizona State University in May.  “Typically, they have little or no understanding of how to properly utilize it and are looking for someone who not only knows how to use [the tools], but is forward thinking enough to continually search for new means of outreach.”

Twenty-two-year-old Sunnivie Brydum (@sunnivie) of Denver found a lead for a story through Twitter. She mentioned the controversy about categorizing books with LGBT themes or characters as “adult” in a message to Out Front Colorado (@OutFrontCO), Colorado’s largest LGBT publication.

Her knowledge of the top trending topic on Twitter, #amazonfail, stood out to the company, which paid her to write a blog post. Soon after, Out Front Colorado hired her full-time as its Web editor.

“I’m hesitant to believe that it will become the norm for job hunting,” Brydum says of  Twitter, adding that the microblogging platform is crucial to her current job and ability to stay on top of the news. “I do, however, think it will continue to be a pivotal influence in multimedia journalism.”

Showcasing skills
Megan Soto (@megansoto), 24, wasn’t exactly looking for a job either. But, last summer, LaunchSquad (@LaunchSquad), a PR firm in San Francisco focusing on technology, hired her as an account associate. “I wasn’t proactively looking for a job on Twitter,” she says. “I was making connections and developing relationships [and] one ended up leading to an internship offer.”

Soto was trying to expand her new media and social technology horizons and was participating in the conversation online. LaunchSquad was monitoring the activity around posts relating to the Vivaty Web site, which Soto had mentioned in a Twitter post.  The Twitter feed led to her blog, which focuses on public relations, and from there, the company tracked her down and set up an interview.

She’s noticed that social sites like Twitter are making people more employable as far as showcasing skills, interests and experiences.  “What makes Twitter more interesting is its brevity — a quick update here or there can lead to interviews, jobs and career changes,” she says. “If you can see these trends and speak with some authority about why they’re driven by your generation, you become quite valuable.”

And when Lizzie Azzolino (@lizazzolino), 23, of Ridgewood, N.J., first learned about Twitter three years ago, she thought it was pointless.  Today, she is beginning a job as a junior research analyst with digital marketing agency Moxie Interactive (@youvegotmoxie) in Atlanta because of her perseverance with the microblogging tool.

She read social media blogs and online articles as well as followed marketing professionals who she respected and learned how they used Twitter.
“Many companies are now posting jobs on Twitter [and] job seekers have hundreds of recruiting/HR/career advice experts to follow and learn from,” she says. “And those who know how to search effectively have access to an incredible store of information about potential employers.”

Generating prospects
Stephanie Agresta (@StephAgresta), executive vice president and global director of digital strategy and social media at Porter Novelli (@porternovelli), says that she has anecdotally heard of  “people putting up posts on Twitter indicating that they were ‘on the market.’” She adds that many companies, including Porter Novelli, are using Twitter as a way to generate prospects for positions.

“We look for candidates who are strategic thinkers who know how to use these new tools to engage in effective and meaningful conversations with consumers,” she says. “It is absolutely critical that candidates understand the foundation of  Web 2.0 — authenticity, transparency and a tactical understanding of the fact that distribution is now everywhere.”

Career expert and founder of  Washington, D.C.-based Come Recommended, Heather R. Huhman does a majority of her work via Twitter and says that she expects candidates to know the ins and outs of popular social networking platforms as well as HTML and SEO.

In 2009, Huhman has personally helped about 100 people land internships and entry-level jobs in public relations via Twitter.

Huhman (@heatherhuhman) uses Twitter to disseminate advice about finding, landing and succeeding in internships and entry-level jobs. She started the #PRintern and #entrypr hashtags for companies to post their PR internships and entry-level job openings and to post positions that come across her desk because job seekers were requesting one place to find all potential positions.

“As a hiring manager, I’d rather watch potential candidates’ actions on Twitter and approach them on a one-on-one basis than receive hundreds of applications for a job I post elsewhere online,” she says. “Twitter allows me more interaction, even though it’s virtual.”

PR and writing instructor at Rochester Institute of  Technology, Mike Johansson, who also runs his own social media consulting business, Fixitology, has noticed growth in this type of interaction between candidates and hiring managers on Twitter as well.

“It seems that in the past six months, I’ve seen an increase in the short tweet announcing that Company X is looking to hire an accountant, for example,” he says.  “If you follow such tweets, you will see them quickly re-tweeted and reaching hundreds — if not thousands — in just a few hours.”

Johansson hopes that his students will embrace Twitter and learn everything that they can about its tactical uses so that they will stand out among other candidates during the hiring process.

And studies show that hiring managers feel the same way.  The 2009 Digital Readiness Report issued in July by PRSA, iPressroom, Korn/Ferry International and Trend Stream found that more than 80 percent of hiring managers think it is important for new PR and marketing hires to be knowledgeable about social networking.

Getting the word out
But not everyone agrees with this sentiment. Steve Farace, director of marketing for SweetWater Brewing Company (@sweetwaterbrew) in Atlanta, posted a marketing job on Twitter and interviewed a candidate who responded, but did not have as much success.

“As the job materialized, [we] found it to be the fastest way to get the word out,” he says. “She was an interesting candidate, but once I opened up the job through our other online resources, we found a more qualified candidate.”

Farace believes that Twitter may become the first line of job information being posted, but that it will ultimately only play a part in spreading the word, rather than become the norm for hiring practices. “Just because they are the first to see it, doesn’t mean they are the best candidate.”

Keeping it simple
Back in Champaign, Hartman suggests that job hunting via Twitter may be as simple as actually stating that you are looking for a job.

“I got some advice, some encouragement and some offers to network outside of  Twitter, via e-mail and in person,” she says. “Hiring professionals want job seekers to already have their own message created and managed, and if that message is ‘I’m looking for a job’ then that’s fine — it just has to be in a way in which you present yourself as interesting and intelligent, not desperate and expecting them to come to you.  Although Twitter seems mostly passive, the only way it can be successful is if you use it actively.”

Copyright © 2009 PRSA. All rights reserved.


Amy Jacques

Amy Jacques is the managing editor of publications for PRSA. A native of Greenville, S.C., she holds a master’s degree in arts journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Georgia’s Grady College and a certificate in magazine and website publishing from New York University.


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