Can Twitter help you find a job?
But only if you use it right.
It can be a huge challenge sorting the wheat from the chaff on Twitter, where millions of updates appear daily, only a few of which contain useful job-search information.
Let's start at the beginning, then explore two case studies.
Twitter is the micro-blogging service that lets users send updates ("tweets") of 140 characters or less to people in their network. You can follow the updates of any other Twitter member with one click.
When it comes to meeting hiring managers, Twitter is like a cocktail party, according to Mary Lower, President at Sterling Cross Communications, in Maple Grove, Minn. (sterlingcrossgroup.com). "Twitter lets you reach employers where they have their guard down. You can use it to start conversations that you finish later."
One conversation Lower had started with a tweet from Kelsey Jones, a PR major from Drake University, who joined Lower's firm as an intern this past spring.
How was Jones hired? Through Twitter, of course.
"I met a woman at a political convention, followed her on Twitter, then looked through her followers for possible connections in PR, where I wanted an internship. I found Mary Lower, who works in PR in the Twin Cities," says Jones.
She exchanged tweets with Lower, which led to phone conversations, which led to an internship being created for Jones at Sterling Cross Communications.
Action Steps: If you're on Twitter, your user name ("handle") and profile picture are keys to making the best first impression, according to Lower. Her handle? @PRMoxie. At a glance, anyone searching a long list of profiles can see what she is about.
If you already have a Twitter user name, put extra effort into uploading a professional-looking picture to your profile, one that invites others to learn more about you. But no cleavage, please. (You laugh, but it's been done.)
The exploding popularity of Twitter has spawned a cottage industry of startups that have created tools to integrate with Twitter and deliver specialized services.
One such service is TweetMyJOBS.com, based in Charlotte, N.C., which bills itself as a Twitter-based job board.
"It's free and lets job seekers search Twitter for openings by geographic area, industry, and job title," says Founder and President Gary Zukowski.
Paul Gilmore, from Lantana, Fla., used TweetMyJOBS to land a position as a Staffing Coordinator at Synerfac Technical Staffing, in December 2009.
"I was working a shorter term consulting project, when I found the posting for Synerfac on TweetMyJOBS. After sending my resume in response, I had a series of phone and in-person interviews, and got a job offer in less than two weeks," he says.
Action Steps: Although I'm a firm believer that you should spend no more than 20% of your time looking for advertised job openings online (the remaining 80% should be spent meeting people offline), tools like TweetMyJOBS, JobShouts, and Tweetajob can automate the process and save you time. So consider using one or more of them.
Here's additional advice from Gilmore, who has experience as a recruiter in a highly competitive job market: "The recession has significantly altered the way everyone should conduct their job searches. It is essential for candidates to use every method to reach all potential employers."
This means you should combine old school methods (offline networking among them) with the most-effective Internet-based tools.
Should Twitter be among the tools in your job-search kit?
Try it, ration your time carefully, track your results, and judge for yourself.
Kevin Donlin is contributing co-author of "Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0." Since 1996, he has provided job-search help to more than 20,000 people. For a free Guerrilla Job Search audio CD, visit MyNewJobHunt.com.