Latest Thoughts: Twitter & Job Hunting

Now LinkedIn, that site I know like the back of my hand.  But Twitter?  That tool continues to confound me a little bit, even though I’ve been using it for a few years now to distribute some of my blog articles and to share tips, leads, and advice with members of my network.

I guess the question mark I can’t shake, in my mind, is why so many “experts” out there seem to rave about the site’s usefulness as a job search tool.  I mean, I understand the appeal of Twitter from a general networking standpoint, and in terms of the fun/enjoyment/curiosity aspect of it, but I’ll still flummoxed as to why so many folks act as if it’s an indispensable resource for professionals in career transition.  Based on my own experience with the site, it wouldn’t even make the cut in a “top 25” list of tools I’d recommend for career-related purposes.

So I thought I’d pen a quick article with my latest thoughts on the whole Twitter thing — since I get asked about it all the time — and when I finish up this piece, I’ll sit here with a gapingly open mind for anybody who wants to contradict me, point out my thinking errors, and help me see the light in terms of what I might be missing!

1.  Can I find job leads on Twitter?

Sorry, folks, but the answer is pretty much no — barring a fluke — and I’m therefore perplexed as to why this notion is so often repeated out there around the water cooler of cyberspace.  I recently read yet another article by an “expert” on this topic, for example, raving about how useful it is.  Here’s the case study that was given:

“Bob, a Spanish-speaking professional, recently used Twitter to land a great job.  He set up an automatic Twitter search for job AND bilingual AND atlanta using a free third-party application called Tweetdeck.  He then saw a posting for a Bilingual Support Renewal Representative with a technology company in the stream.  He applied. The recruiter liked that he had found the job on Twitter.  Recruiters always like people who prove them right in their sourcing innovations. Bob now works for said technology company. Cool!”

The problem?  When I duplicate the exact same search the author recommends, for any major city such as Atlanta, Seattle, or Boston, not a single job listing currently comes up.  Not today.  Not from last week.  And nowhere in the Twitter (or Tweetdeck) archive.  So it seems ridiculous to get excited about this strategy or recommend it to job hunters, when every test I conduct suggests that this approach faces longer odds than finding a proverbial needle in a haystack.

2.  Can I cultivate useful contacts on Twitter?

NOW we’re getting somewhere!  While it takes a little getting used to, at first, once you master the Twitter interface you’ll find that the population of people who use Twitter are, by and large, even friendlier and more receptive to conversation than the users of similar social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

This makes sense, I suppose, since anybody willing to share their thoughts with a bunch of strangers multiple times per day (aka the prototypical Twitter user) is probably a more “open” person to dialogue, in general.  So you definitely can try poking around in Twitter to find some “thought leaders” worth following in your field — at which point you’ll not only benefit from the occasional bits of wisdom they pass along, in 140 characters or less, but can also try engaging them in conversation about various topics.  I’ve definitely met people who have added some great new relationships to their network, over the years, kindled from some initial dialogue in the tweet-o-sphere.

And while I’m not usually a person of the “groupie” persuasion, I’ll even admit (if you don’t hold it against me) that I’ve recently signed on to follow the tweets of certain celebrities, such as the cast of Stargate Universe and a few of my favorite mixed-martial-arts (MMA) competitors.  Curiosity was killing me — and I just couldn’t resist seeing what these people had to say for themselves, once in a while, even though I’ve never tried to engage them in direct discussion.

3.  Anything else I can do with Twitter?

Not all that much, from what I can tell, since part of Twitter’s charm is its profound simplicity — versus sites like LinkedIn and Facebook which continue adding umpteen (and often confusing) new bells, whistles, and features on a daily basis.

If you haven’t already done so, however, you definitely should update your “Profile” on Twitter to include some keywords related to your target occupation and industry (e.g. CFO, Paralegal, Marketing Communications, etc.) so that you’re “findable” by other Twitter users, such as recruiting and staffing professionals.

Also, another article sent to me recently by a client alerted me to a relatively new phenomenon called “Twitter Chats” where various users of the system decide to congregate online, at a set time, to exchange thoughts and discussion around a specific topic.  I haven’t participated in such a chat myself, as of yet, but it sounds like an interesting concept.  You’ll find the article in question here, written by a career coach named Donna Svei, and this piece will tell you how to get involved in Twitter Chats and will point you to a few specific groups that meet regularly related to career success and job hunting.

In closing, and as stated earlier, I would welcome any/all additional insights about the usefulness of Twitter in a job search capacity from any of you out there with direct experience using the tool.  Please don’t be shy about enlightening us if you think I’ve made the wrong call on any of the above questions or if you’re aware of other potential benefits Twitter can provide to the employment-challenged!

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8 Responses to “Latest Thoughts: Twitter & Job Hunting”

  1. Matt,
    After reading this post, I am sharing this article from a local biotech writer http://www.xconomy.com/national/2011/06/13/why-twitter-matters-now-in-biotech-and-why-executives-cant-ignore-it-anymore/
    Like most people, trying to figure out Twitter may be difficult, but Luke has given his experience and how it has worked for him. From his perspective, it seems to have worked in networking, gaining story leads and spreading his work to others who may miss him.
    I think Twitter will keep evolving…

    Jim Smith

  2. Rip: Thanks for chiming in — and the thought of their being “dedicated lists” of jobs on Twitter, that one can follow, makes a lot of sense. When I searched on the first one you mentioned (@worksource1) however, not a single job came up. And while the second one (@macs_list) produced some results, the actual “leads” were interspersed with quite a bit of marketing blurbs and other less useful stuff. So this approach you’re suggesting definitely has some potential, and obviously takes very little time to execute, but boy, I’ve still got the “where’s the beef?” mentality around this stuff, since I’m just not seeing even a tiny fraction of the job listings you find, much easier, on any more conventional website like Craigslist, Indeed, or Simplyhired. And when I search for a comparable Seattle “job thread” (like one I found called @jobseattle) again, I don’t produce a single listing. Thanks for adding to the dialogue, though, and for opening up my mind to this additional search possibility!

  3. I follow WorkSource Oregon @worksource1 and Mac’s List @macs_list on Twitter for jobs in the Portland area. All jobs come in, but it’s easy to scan. Is that 140 characters yet?

  4. I’m new on Twitter and this article intrigued me so I did some research.

    I searched “microsoft hiring redmond” and got a few specific hits. Took out Redmond and got a few more (not all at Microsoft but use Microsoft products).

    Took out Microsoft (hiring redmond) and got Redmond related jobs.

    I changed “hiring” to “jobs” and got a different set.

    I took your example and removed the “AND” and got some hits. I changed “job” to “jobs” and got a few more.

    Just for fun I put in “job bilingual -atlanta” to see what would show up. Anyone up for a bilingual French position in Ontario?

    I entered my job title (Process Analyst) and got hits, although I don’t think I want to move to England.

    Conclusion: Twitter is, by far, one of the most cumbersome tools in terms of searching for information. The search strategy is to “think” like the tweeter.

    * Know the abbreviations.
    * Don’t assume they are going to put location in the tweet.
    * Don’t use conventional Boolean expressions (AND and OR) but use plus sign (assumed with a space on twitter) and minus (for exclusion). [Note: I haven’t figured out the ‘OR’ equivalent yet – if there is one]
    * Try variations, synonyms, plural and singular word forms
    [ex: job, jobs, hire, hiring, opening, openings, etc.]
    * Be as specific as possible
    [ex: Spanish Speaking instead of Bilingual]
    * Be prepared to sift through unrelated tweets

  5. I have not set up a Twitter account as I have not found persuasive examples of business professionals using Twitter accounts as a tool to market themselves or to find jobs as Matt discussed in the article. I have seen small business owners use Twitter very successfully to market special promotions, sales, events or location announcements (i.e. street-food truck will be in Ballard on Tuesday, etc…).

    Like Matt, I have also read very impressive things about Twitter and job searching – networking, so I’m keeping an open mind and would like more information on how to use Twitter to create and promote a professional image (as opposed to using Twitter as a gossip, celebrity hound, provocateur).

  6. Steve: Much thanks for chiming in, and you’re right, that’s an application of Twitter I didn’t happen to mention! Just to play devil’s advocate, however, I tried searching on the names of about a half-dozen local companies on Twitter, to see what interesting cultural tidbits I could turn up, and the results were extremely thin. For companies like Microsoft, there obviously is SO much data out there it’s almost impossible to process — and for most of the small-to-mid-size companies, I either couldn’t find anything at all or the name of the company (e.g. Blue Nile or REI) had so many other unrelated meanings/mentions that the results were largely irrelevant. So while I’m sure one could occasionally turn up a “nugget” of useful info, here and there, it still seems like one is investing a lot of effort on such methods with relatively little return. What am I missing? Or could you perhaps point me (and my readers) to an example of a tweet that contains the kind of information you’re suggesting? I’d love to see an actual example of the technique in question, since I’m having trouble replicating it…

  7. I think you’re missing one use where it appears to be uniquely qualified. That’s researching companies and their cultures. Start by searching for a company, then follow folks who have made interesting comments. Pretty simple.

  8. Wonder if Rep. Anthony Weiner will be using Twitter for that purpose in the not too distant future?

    Joking aside, I agree that it would be hard to find a job on Twitter but connecting with contacts (ESPECIALLY entrepreneurs) is a great use for it. In turn, that could lead to more conversation and possibly a job or contract position.

    One more thing for job seekers – you can follow corporations easily on Twitter, almost like a customized news feed from their marketing and/or PR teams.

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