Three days, 20 words, new job

Social networks are speeding up hiring with ‘twésumés’ and other new tricks.

By , Staff Writer

Dustin Mitchell tried all the usual job-search strategies. He scanned Internet job boards and newspaper ads, asked friends, and networked with professionals. When nothing seemed to work, he turned to Twitter.

The social-networking site led him to an opening at an Internet start-up company in San Francisco. Later that Friday, he was tweeting with an employee at the company, who asked him to come in for an interview. On Monday, he was hired.

“In a recession there are a ton of people applying for a job,” Mr. Mitchell says. “I wanted to be the first one in, the fastest one in.”

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Mitchell is one success story in the 21st-century job hunt, where carefully crafted cover letters and crisp, white résumés are giving way to social-media networking, Twésumés (personal bios chopped up into 140-character tweets – about 20 words), and Twinterviews (interviews conducted on Twitter). The technology is helping to speed up the hiring process and, for some, allow job seekers to cut through red tape to link directly with recruiters and hiring managers.

These tools have “leveled the playing field,” says Dan Schawbel, author of “Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success.” “Instead of submitting a résumé to a black hole – a job board – you can connect with someone who can hire you.”

After Kyle Flaherty left his job at a public-relations agency in Boston, he posted blog entries and tweets saying he was looking for a PR position. The virtual updates caught the eye of a friend who put him in touch with a handful of potential employers in Austin, Texas. Using Twitter, Mr. Flaherty set up an interview with BreakingPoint Systems, a network development company, and researched the firm. Within a week, he was hired.

“At the end of the day, there’s nothing revolutionary about it,” says Flaherty, BreakingPoint’s new director of marketing. “It’s just a new form of networking.”

And a new way to screen potential employers.

When Alexa Scordato wanted to move from New York to Boston, she started following the Twitter feeds of social-media companies to monitor their activity. Frustrated by job boards, she sent a message to the vice president of social-media company Mzinga, which provides businesses with social-media software solutions. She landed an interview and a full-time consultant position in less than three weeks.

How many people have found work through social networks isn’t clear. But a rising number of people are looking for employment there.

“I think [using social networks] is a way to find jobs that aren’t posted on big job banks,” says Alison Doyle, author of “Internet Your Way to a New Job: How to Really Find a Job Online.”

Since 2005, the percentage of US adults logging onto social-networking sites – including Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn – has soared from 8 percent to 35 percent, according to a January 2009 Pew/Internet report. And it’s not just to socialize. More than a quarter of those users are logging on for professional reasons.

On LinkedIn, home to more than 40 million users, job searches were up 48 percent in February compared with the same period last year, according to company spokeswoman Krista Canfield.

Most recently, Twitter has become a hub for job listings with the launch of search engines, including TwitterJobSearch.com and TweetMyJOBS.com, making it easier to sift through the chatter to find jobs. People are also forming “tweetups,” or networking events. Grass-roots movements such as JobAngels, a Twitter feed started in January by human-resources consultant Mark Stelzner, help connect unemployed individuals with volunteers willing to help them find work.

Other job seekers are creating their own promotional ads on Facebook to target recruiters from specific companies or regions, but they’re getting mixed results.

Recruiters get on board

Companies are jumping on the social-networking bandwagon, too. With recruiting budgets down, 61 percent of 450 corporate and human-resources professionals are utilizing them to obtain new employees, according to a January survey conducted by Standout Jobs and PBP Media. In June, recruiters and human-resource professionals gathered at the first Social Recruiting Summit at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

Not all social-networking job-hunting stories have a happy ending.

After getting an offer in March, one job hunter posted a Twitter message: “Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating work.”

A Cisco employee saw her tweet and responded: “Who is the hiring manager? I’m sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web.” Media outlets immediately picked up the Twitter conversation and the job hunter’s Twitter account was deleted.

Although her ultimate job fate was never revealed, the incident serves as a cautionary tale in the era of social networking. Companies aren’t merely using the Internet to find new employees, they’re also using it to screen the candidates they’re considering. Social networks, in particular, offer a rich vein for firms to mine.

In a September 2008 survey of 31,000 employers, 22 percent said they use social-networking sites to evaluate candidates and 9 percent said they planned on using social networks to screen candidates, according to CareerBuilder, an online job site.

This means that what job seekers tweet and the Facebook interests they list may damage their reputation.

“Many, many candidates are destroying their chances to get a job because of what they have posted,” says Brad Karsh, president and founder of JobBound, a Chicago career-consulting firm. Before conducting a job interview for his own firm, Mr. Karsh says he once found that a candidate had listed several inappropriate hobbies on his Facebook profile, including smoking marijuana.

How to avoid online traps

To avoid this job-hunting blunder, Ms. Doyle, who writes about job searching for About.com, has one rule of thumb: “If you don’t want your grandma or mom to see it, don’t post it online.”

In a time of Twésumés and “friending” on Facebook to find a job, it’s important to have a balance between traditional job-hunting methods and social networking.

“Social networks are wonderful at helping you seek out connections,” says Karsh. Still, he stresses that meeting and networking with people face to face are just as important. So are ensuring that your résumé is typo-free and writing a good cover letter, Doyle adds.

“These [networks]are tools to enhance your job search. Don’t rely on them,” she says. “Go back to the basics, too.”

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