Why This Whole “Get a Job Through Twitter” Thing is Complete Crap

Why This Whole “Get a Job Through Twitter” Thing is Complete Crap

by Kerry Scott on 1 April 2009

3231178720_5e2c1c45a8Photo by respres

It started with this article, from the Wall Street Journal.

This woman was quoted saying that she didn’t email or call anyone when she needed a job.  Instead, she sent them a message through Twitter, a site that allows you to communicate in short, 140-character messages (you’re probably heard of it, because the media is a little obsessed with Twitter lately).  When I read it, I thought, what the hell?  Why would you do that?  Why wouldn’t you use every available means?

The article made the rounds, at least in my circle.  Four or five different people forwarded it to me, with messages along the lines of, “I guess this is the new way to get a job, huh?”

I though, ohhhh, here we go.  This is going to encourage all kinds of stupid.

Sure enough—bunches of people I know are “finding a job through Twitter.”  This seems to involve signing up, putting your job title and field in your “One Line Bio” (which really IS one line, because it’s not the point).  Then they sit quietly, waiting for lightning to strike.  They follow only people they know in real life (and maybe a few celebrities).  They occasionally tweet about the weather or what they’re having for lunch.  Mostly, though, they wait to be discovered, like Lana Turner at a drugstore.  Then, a few weeks later, they say, “I tried that Twitter thing and it didn’t work.  No one contacted me about a job.  It’s stupid.”

Here’s the thing though:

There is no chance that you are going to get a job through Twitter.  NO CHANCE.

You get a job through HUMANS.  There’s no way around this.

Don’t get me wrong–Twitter is a great tool for a job hunter, for a couple of reasons:

  • It’s easy to follow strangers.  When I get a LinkedIn invitation, my first question is, “Do I know this person?  What’s the connection?”  I look for some reason that I should connect to them.  When I get a Twitter follower request, the bar is much lower.  If their bio or tweets look interesting, and they’re not all spammy, I’ll generally follow.  As a result, my LinkedIn connections are almost entirely people I know in real life, but my Twitter gang is deliciously diverse.  I talk to some HR people, some genealogists (my other big thing), some stay-at-home and work-at-home parents, some bloggers, some people in states I used to live in, a few old friends, and even the guy who plays Dwight Schrutte on The Office (although, tragically, he doesn’t talk back).  Most of these are people I never would have met if I’d applied the same standards I do for LinkedIn or Facebook (if I used Facebook—that’s a whole other post).
  • It’s easy to talk to strangers.  I’m not what you’d call a bubbly extrovert, so talking to complete strangers, especially in a networking-for-a-job situation, is not always fun for me.  I can do it, but I need ice cream afterward.  The nice thing about Twitter is that the culture allows you to just…start talking.  If someone you don’t know at all has a job interview, for example, you can say, “Hey, good luck on that!”  They respond, and before you know it, you’ve got a new friend.  Twitter is the one place where you can just strike up a conversation with some random person you think is interesting, without seeming like a weirdo.  That means you can significantly expand your network in a short period of time (and add some cool people to your circle of friends).

Just being signed up, though, isn’t going to get you anywhere, because the point is that you have to connect with humans.  The reason Twitter and other social networking tools are valuable is because they help you connect with humans.  They have no inherent value; it’s all about giving you the means to connect with humans.  No one is going randomly check out your weather-and-lunch tweets and say, “You!  I want you!  Take this job, please!”  You need to build relationships with actual human beings.

There may be actual human beings who are interested only in your local weather and your lunch menu, but they are unlikely to be in a position to help you get a job.  You’re going to have to contribute more to  the conversation than that.  If you’re sitting there like a bump on a log waiting for something to happen, you’re going to have a very long wait.

Think about how you make friends in real life.  You might start out talking about the weather, but you have to quickly move on to sharing a lot more of yourself, and encouraging the same from others.  Otherwise, the relationship never grows.  The same is true on Twitter (or LinkedIn or Facebook or anywhere else).  If you’re not willing to invest in relationships, you can’t expect anyone else to invest either.  Since helping you find a job is a pretty significant investment…well, step it up.  Jump in.  Help someone ELSE find a job (or decide what seeds to start for the garden, or catch up the The Real Housewives of New York City gossip, or get through a rough day, or whatever).  It seems like a brave new world out there in terms of job hunting, but it really isn’t.  It’s always been about humans.  We just have more tools now to connect to other humans.

Don’t mistake the means for the end, and don’t think the tools are going to do the job for you.

You can follow me on Twitter at @cluewagon.  I only tweet about the weather when it’s really dramatic…which, in Milwaukee, is more frequent than you might think.  I never tweet about lunch, because I mostly eat leftovers.  If you see random strings of letters, that’s my 18-month-old tweeting; he loves to pound the keyboard.  Don’t worry, he’ll stop as soon as I lure him away with more cheese curds.

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shoppingann April 1, 2009 at 9:50 am

Your timing couldn’t be more perfect. I was just on my way to unfollowing @JobAngels when I detoured to read your post.

SeattleStaffer April 1, 2009 at 10:13 am

Great post and so true. Too many people stop at the first step. If they don’t continue with step 2, 3…it’ll be a waste of their time.

Eliz April 1, 2009 at 10:52 am

OMG! Thank you for writing this. Incredibly, I have a draft post titled “Social Media is a Load of Crap” that I’m hemming and hawing over. It touches on this Jamie Varon thing but is wider in scope than just its much-ballyhooed job-scoring prowess. I still might finish and publish it, so I just want you to know, you know, no plagarism. But I’m so glad you tackled this topic from an experience HR person perspective. The truth needs to be known!

Kerry April 1, 2009 at 11:10 am

Oh, don’t even get me started on the whole Jamie Varon thing. I wrote half of a post on that, but decided to scrap it because it sounded too much like, “Get off my lawn, you damn kids!” And then I felt old. And then I got a notice for my 20-year high school reunion and felt older. And then I deleted it.

Post it, Eliz—I would love to read it. I like Twitter (and LinkedIn), but the whole its-the-greatest-thing-since-air-and-will-solve-all-the-worlds-problems-and-paint-your-toenails-too thing is getting really old.

Lance Haun April 1, 2009 at 11:20 am

Yes yes yes!

Look, I love new technology. I will jump on that any time. But to pretend it does anything more than help develop human connections and relationships is silly. Twitter is as effective as anything else (if the employer is on it of course). Can you make a connection? Can you create an impact? Can you offer something unique?

If you can do that, Twitter didn’t get you the job. It was simply the medium.

I am all about yelling at kids about being on my lawn and I don’t feel old. I feel like I am just practicing so I’ll be really good when I get old. I hope to become really crotchety.

Lance Haun’s last blog post..Raging Against SHRM Isn’t Solving HR’s Problems

Ask a Manager April 1, 2009 at 1:26 pm

I have the impression that it’s mainly 20somethings pushing this whole meme about Twitter and job-hunting, because they like to talk about things they aren’t expert in (the Brazen Careerist site comes to mind, unfortunately). But then I’m a huge curmudgeon, so who knows.

Ask a Manager’s last blog post..helping a boss manage his time better … my time management rant

dan zarrella April 1, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Interesting post, except I really did get a job through twitter.

dan zarrella’s last blog post..Introducing The Institute for Viral Marketing Science

Pallian April 1, 2009 at 2:19 pm

There is def a large group of 20 somethings out there who use twitter for job hunting and will probably continue using it… for example, look at how many jobs are showing up on twitter these days: http://www.tweetizen.com/popular/Jobs and look at the positions offered… all are for the tech savvy group asking for a linkedin profile. No longer do they even need resumes!

Adam Zak April 1, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Next thing you know General Motors will be posting Board of Director vacancies on Twitter. Hmmm…

Adam Zak’s last blog post..GM April Fools’…oh wait, this is reality

Ian Farmer April 1, 2009 at 2:26 pm

Brilliant! A reality check! There are no silver bullets.

The people making the money in the goldrush were the people selling the picks and the shovels – not the gold diggers. Everyone is becoming obessed with all these tools/platforms and just jumping on the bandwagon. They buy the pick and the shovel but forget to dig (no pun intended).

I like your linked in thinking – do I know these people? Do I want to connect? AND for goodness sake all these people are not my “friends” they are connctions! I don’t tweet about the weather either ( http://twitter.com/ianfarmer) but by “working” twitter, my blog, linkedin face book I do create leads and then – guess what I have to start selling (you know that old fashioned thing we used to do)! Well its the same with getting a job, its a bit more than posting a few tweets.

Kristin April 1, 2009 at 2:32 pm

I strong disagree.

Reason one, because I recently got 2 freelance writing gigs through twitter within the past 2 weeks from intelligent HUMAN beings I didn’t know 4 months ago. Writing for accredited sources. So there’s that.

I have to ask if you’re even on twitter, because you keep stating getting a job is about connections and connecting with humans, and frankly, if you were on (and I dont mean just having an account, but building on relationships) you would know that is why twitter DOES work. Okay, so geographically, I obviously cannot connect with someone in Miami, being in Philadelphia. I get it. But you can build a relationship with this person through social engagement. Its really a simple concept, and that’s why twitter works. Both in general, and when searching for employment.

I do agree with you on using ALL means possible, and of course would never rely strictly on twitter. But if you’re an avid user it is a great place to further your job search. I say this because it has, as I stated, worked for me. I don’t think it’s right to discourage ANYONE, in this economy, from attempting to find a job through any outlet.

Kerry April 1, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Kristin–you’re proving my point. You got freelance writing gigs THROUGH Twitter. You used Twitter as a tool to connect to humans who were hiring; you built relationships that made people want to hire you, or help you get hired. You understood that Twitter is not like Monster circa 2005, where you posted your resume and then waited for people to contact you. That’s exactly how it should be used.

What I’m talking about is the people who do just that–join Twitter, fill out the bio thinking it’s like posting your resume, and then wait for someone to contact them. That’s not going to happen.

These tools only work if you USE them. If you just sit like a bump on a log, connected to only to the 10 people in your existing circle of friends, nothing will happen. There are people out there who are still stuck in that old thinking where you post your info on the internet and wait for the phone to ring. Those days are over. They were really just a blip anyway.

Caleb April 1, 2009 at 2:34 pm

Yeah, people who actually believe that jobs are readily available for them on Twitter are full of wishful thinking. It’s not harmful, but it is a waste of time.

greg padley April 1, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Agree with statement above that Twitter (and other social media) “is a means to an end.” A hundred years ago did they say “telephones will get you a job!” Before that did they say “newspapers will get you a job!” The times (and the tools) are changing but bottom the line remains the same.

greg padley’s last blog post..Identica Acquires Twitter!

Ophelia Chong April 1, 2009 at 2:41 pm

I am both sides of the fence. I started on Twitter in the summer of 07. It was fun then and I did not get work off the site. BUT I got more off flickr. Four books, dvd covers, cd cover, magazine work, and possibly an opera in Australia. The internet works for you when you know where to work it.

Twitter is a lot of noise that hovers like elevator music. You can listen to it, tap your toes to it, but once you are off the elevator you are have completely forgotten it.

Twitter is about marketing. But what happens when the landscape is littered with endless billboards and shouting hawkers? It all becomes nothing.
We do need to keep up on what is happening on the web and in our physical range, it’s the only way to be heard. However, there is a choice of how much you need and how much you want to do to further your reach. It’s a choice not a mandate.

And the way to get a job is not to have the best portfolio but to have the best presentation skills, on and offline.

:O) ophelia

Ophelia Chong’s last blog post..Cave Drawings to Pop Up Ads

Tajah April 1, 2009 at 2:54 pm

Age in no way equals expertise. Neither does years of experience necessarily. One of the worst things about corporate thinking is the idea that you cant possibly be effective (or have a real chance at advancement) unless you’ve been with the company for 10+ years!

Chris Bailey April 1, 2009 at 2:55 pm

I work with JobAngels as our Chief Community Officer and I agree with much of what you write. Particularly this:
“Just being signed up, though, isn’t going to get you anywhere, because the point is that you have to connect with humans.”

The intention behind JobAngels is to encourage that connection. For being somewhat young (< three months old), we’ve done pretty well. And we still have a lot of work to do. My guess is that its the type of work that will keep folks like shoppingann from unfollowing. I’m excited about the community we have forming around this powerful idea of helping one person connect to another individual who is seeking work. And there are some great success stories coming out now. But, it’s our hope that people won’t treat Twitter AND JobAngels like a magic hat where jobs are always there. A job seeker still has to do all the things they needed to do before (resume, interview, show value, etc.) but perhaps we can create a space for connections that otherwise wouldn’t have been there before.


Stephanie PTY April 1, 2009 at 2:56 pm

First of all, I’m 22 and I yelled at some teenagers to get off my lawn the other day. Actually, I didn’t yell at them per say – I put speakers in the window facing them, turned the volume all the way up, and blasted Rick Astley at them. Hang out in the lawn, and you will get Rick Roll’d!

Secondly, you’re completely right about how Twitter is just a tool, and people need to remember that. Twitter isn’t what’s helping me with my job search right now – it’s the woman I follow who tweeted that she’d do resume critiques that’s helping me. It’s the people I’m connecting with that live in the area I want to move to. It’s the old friends who might know a guy. You can’t just hop on Twitter with a new account and land a job. You have to cultivate relationships over time.

Stephanie PTY’s last blog post..Net Worth Update: March 2009

HR Minion April 1, 2009 at 8:01 pm

Awesome post!! :) Dead on. People need to stop thinking that things will happen to them, through no real effort on their part.

HR Minion’s last blog post..Too clever by half

Ruth Louden April 1, 2009 at 9:22 pm

Your comments are brilliant. Thanks.

Tracy Tran April 2, 2009 at 11:14 am

Bingo. Twitter is only a medium and can be useful. I tell job seekers that if they have the time, open a Twitter account, join the conversation and look for recruiters (props to Jim Stroud of creating the list, BTW) in your area or an area you like to move to. Look at their conversations to see if they’re a promoter or actually human and follow people that are carrying the conversation. Have a conversation and build on that, then if a recruiter has an opening, try to apply.

That’s just the beginning. The others we know about. It’s great that you can create a repore, but now you have to carry that in an interview, which is a much different situation. You can be great in the interview, but there might be someone else that topped you that use the same methods.

For me being a 20 something, Twitter has helped me become a little more open in public. I’m very shy around new people, and now with Twitter where I can find new people out of the blue, it makes the transition to actual conversation easy.

Simply, the networking rules apply to Twitter where have a chat, and then follow up and keep that relationship, but it never guarantees a job.

Tracy Tran’s last blog post..Protected: The Dopey 2

Mike April 2, 2009 at 11:24 am

Great post! People too often blur the line between the tool and the method. No matter what medium you are using, you still have to be able to communicate your thoughts, ideas, or interests, in a coherent manner.

Jason Seiden April 7, 2009 at 9:11 pm

Nice use of wordle.net for the top image. No comment on the rest of it.

Jason Seiden’s last blog post..Am I allowed to do that?!

Lorraine May 29, 2009 at 2:33 pm

As I mentioned in one of my posts recently, job boards, corporate career sites, they’re all the same: click the ‘apply now button’, spend countless (and useless) hours jumping through their application process hoops, all for naught. Forget about branding, perfect covers letters, career coaching, and the like. You’ve seen those folks on Larry King and other shows touting their expertise on how to find a job. While their advice IS helpful at some level, it doesn’t lend much to the job search process if you can’t get in front of a hiring manager!

Lorraine’s last blog post..Who’s Hiring from the Best Companies – Vol X

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