Career Advice Jan 20 2012

Forget the Resume, Try Tweeting

By Laura Dodd

Consider adding this to your 2012 career goals: Reinvigorate your job hunt with a twist to the predictable print resume.

The 8x10 white paper (off-white for those thrill-seekers) with 12-point font listing education, work experience and references is ubiquitous among job seekers. And because print resumes literally stack up, standing out in today's competitive market can be even more challenging.

Paper resumes aren't in jeopardy of extinction, but these days some aggressive job hunters are going off script to get noticed. While career experts don't have quantitative evidence, Charles Purdy, a senior editor at Monster.com, said more applicants do seem to be trying other approaches. Video resumes, use of Twitter and other social media are cropping up in recruiters' in boxes. Such tactics, however, may not always produce the intended result.

"It might work if your goal is to work at a very targeted start-up, or in a specific social marketing role at a company," said Purdy. But, when done carelessly, it can appear gimmicky. "It gets attention, but is it the right people's attention?"

Tweet Me

For Hanna Phan, 32, the answer was yes. She was getting nowhere with traditional search methods such as canvassing online job sites, scouring LinkedIn and reaching out to her network. The Vancouver-based freelance presentation consultant wanted a full-time job that combined technology and visual creative presentations.

She targeted an open position at SlideRocket, a San Francisco-based company founded in 2007 that makes presentation software. "I knew the resume thing wasn't working," she said, so she created a presentation about herself using the company's own product, and Tweeted the animated 90-second slide show to the company's chief executive, Chuck Dietrich.

Dietrich, settling into a flight bound for the West Coast, received a direct message from a Twitter follower named Hanna. Clicking on the link, he was impressed with the slideshow as well as her ingenuity in reaching out to him directly, circumventing conventional HR routes. "That was exactly the kind of person I wanted on the team," he said.

The two connected by phone, she flew to San Francisco for an interview and within the week she was hired. The company even adopted Phan's twist on the resume to create a presentation template for users called the Présumé. Phan's original presentation, meanwhile, has tallied 30,000 views. "Can you imagine a resume getting 30,000 views?" said Dietrich.

Drumming up eyeballs was the strategy Matthew Epstein used in his pitch for a product marketing gig at Google. The 24-year-old had spent a month-and-a-half looking for jobs the conventional way, but had no leads. "I started to get really frustrated and almost started doubting myself," he said. He needed a game-changer.

Hey Google!

Epstein tapped $3,000 in savings and concocted a marketing campaign called googlepleasehire.me. The four-minute video staged in a historic mansion featured Epstein sipping Scotch, wearing a fake mustache, and speaking to the camera about why he was right for the job. The website also had "Why Google" and "About Me" pages, plus a "Top 10 List" of reasons why Google should hire him.

Within 24 hours of going live, googlepleasehire.me was top news. It started with Epstein's email to his 200 Facebook friends and a direct message to his 100 followers on Twitter. Despite those modest numbers, by the following morning, his campaign made HackerNews, in part, thanks to the online pundits bashing the clip. "All of the bickering on the forum got me to No. 1," he said.

He monitored the accelerating online buzz and swept in for any opportunity to keep it alive. "I saw a bunch of TechCruch editors tweeting about the site and I reached out to them directly to offer an interview," Epstein said. Once TechCrunch covered the story, mainstream media outlets, like CNN, did, too.

The initiative landed him job interviews in New York City, Seattle and San Francisco with a range of companies, including, yes, Google. Google didn't offer him a job, but he got offers from three other companies. (Google declined to comment about issues related to job applicants.)

He ultimately accepted a product marketing manager position at SigFig, a San Francisco-based financial start-up. "Wow, this guy's pretty creative," said Mike Sha, CEO of SigFig, recalling reading about Epstein's campaign on TechCrunch. "He was ballsy enough to get that much traction with a job search."

Send Us Your Blog

Some employers are evaluating applicants outside the traditional resume, too. Skillshare, a New York City-based start-up focused on revamping education, asks applicants not to send resumes. "We don't believe in resumes because we love Internet links! Send us your blog, twitter, linkedin, facebook, about.me, spotify, rdio, whatevz" are the online application instructions.

"There's a trend that's happening right now in terms of people using the web to make a name for themselves for personal branding," said Malcolm Ong, Skillshare's co-founder and chief technology officer.

"A resume is a good way to see what school they went to and what jobs they had, but it's a lot of fluff," Ong said. "What we look for is the actual work they've done in the past."

There's a fine line between a custom-made job pitch and a cheesy ploy, said Miriam Salpeter, founder of Atlanta-based Keppie Careers. Sending your resume with a box of cookies is the latter.

"Most hiring managers I know, say, 'Please don't do that. Don't play games,'" said Salpeter. "Even if you're leveraging these online tools, it's important to also back that up with traditional documentation."

Write to Laura Dodd at lauradodd@gmail.com




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