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What Works — and Doesn’t — in a Social Media-Based Job Hunt

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woman holding sign saying "need a job"

We’ve all seen them: the online efforts of eager job hunters, clawing at their social media dream jobs like 12-year-olds at a Justin Bieber concert. They’re interesting. They’re flashy. They’re “outside the box.”

But do they actually work?

Most of these social media stunts gain attention for a hot minute, either in the job seeker’s local newspaper, or, if they’re lucky, on a career blog like this one, before fading into obscurity.

So is it worth developing a job-hunting campaign as part of your next search? Let’s take a look at your predecessors:

Hire Me Krispy Kreme

Braden Young, a fervent fan of the sugar-laced doughnut chain, saw an opening on their team for a sales and marketing manager in Philadelphia, and went all-out with an attention-grabbing cover letter, plus Facebook and Twitter pages. His campaign is detailed in this post by Corn on the Job.

What worked: Young was already passionate about the company he was applying to work for, which came through in his content. But most importantly, he had the skills to back up the ostentatious way he handled the job search. He articulated his qualifications in a succinct and memorable way.

What didn’t: Not much to complain about with this job seeker. He heard from Krispy Kreme four hours after launching his campaign, and guess what? He got the job.

Hire Me Chipotle

Bianca Cadloni created a website devoted to her efforts to snag a social media and PR gig for the Mexican grill, with the words “WILL WORK FOR GUACAMOLE” greeting all visitors to the site. Different sections such as “Social Media” and “Public Relations” detailed her qualifications, in addition to a digital version of her resume.

What worked: She used a Twitter handle, @HireMeChipotle, as well as a hashtag by the same name to get the word out and corral all discussions related to her search. Also, she made herself personable in her content, talking about her first experience with the restaurant chain, and inserting her voice in all communications.

What didn’t: Unfortunately, this job seeker didn’t even get to the interview phase. Even with a solid website and social media efforts, I have a feeling the decision came down to experience. With two short internships under her belt and some editorial work for a niche online magazine, it’s tough to stand taller than other candidates with even two or three years of public relations experience.

Chipotle’s communications director emailed Cadloni to let her know she’d been noticed, but in a candidate pool of roughly 500 people, there was no guarantee they’d even be able meet her in person.

“I stood out in a sea of resumes, but with the job market this tough, even a #HireMe campaign isn’t enough,” Cadloni said in her farewell blog post. So what’s her advice for job-seekers who are considering a similar campaign? “Set yourself apart from other candidates by owning your online presence. … Write a blog about the industry trends in your market. … Confidence is catchy.”

Dear Lisa Rudgers

2010 University of Michigan graduate Lindsay Blackwell wants to be the university’s first social media director. She created a website called “Dear Lisa Rudgers,” in honor of the school official who will ultimately make the final hiring decision.

The site’s homepage features a flashy, well, Flash video, illustrating her love of Michigan and offering a peek into her experience at the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra. You can download her resume from the site, learn why she wants this job and follow her progress via a consistently updated timeline.

What worked: The jury’s still out. The university is reviewing about 200 applications and isn’t expected to make a decision before December.

What Blackwell has managed to do in her campaign, however, is not only create buzz via social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, but also through mainstream media as well. She’s been featured on AnnArbor.com, FOX 2 Detroit, MLive.com, the Detroit News and in a handful of other places. She’s received props for her efforts from notable figures like the CEO of Twitter (who also happens to be a U-M alum) and the School of Information’s Dean Jeffrey MacKie-Mason. She’s become the region’s unofficial social media darling.

What didn’t: The game killer here could, again, be a lack of experience. While perusing Blackwell’s three-page resume (yes, you read that correctly), one cannot help but notice that beyond a marketing manager role she’s held at the Symphony since April 2011, there is no compelling reason to believe she can handle the responsibility of directing the social media efforts of a global brand.

Sure, she’s a die-hard Wolverine who’s proud of her alma mater, but all she’s demonstrated thus far is the ability to be creative and get some ink for herself in the media. I’m not convinced her linguistics and English background has prepared her to hang with more experienced marketing candidates for a job that commands a base salary of $90,000. While most seem to think the university would be crazy not to hire her, I wonder what might happen to the brand if they do.

What do you guys think? Are these types of campaigns effective? Should their buzz-worthiness or level of success trump experience? Have social media campaigns to land a new gig jumped the shark? Let us know in the comments section.

Erica Moss is the social media outreach coordinator for the Master of Science in Nursing degree program at Georgetown University, which has one of the nation’s leading family nurse practitioner programs. She adores community building, Taylor Swift and her English bulldog, Mona.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • Anonymous

    Great post!! Love the analysis of what works and doesn’t.

    • Erica Moss

      Thanks, Megan! I hope it helps other job seekers think critically about their job-hunting strategies, and pick a technique that best suits their experience and personality.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=743434911 Gaye Lynn Maddalena

    A great and helpful post!! This is awesome information for those involved in the job search.

    • Erica Moss

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, Gaye Lynn! :) I had a lot of fun writing it, mostly because I’m so fascinated by these case studies.

  • http://twitter.com/candacemgraves Candace Graves

    This is a helpful and fun to read post! Seems like a foundation of experience plus creativity are essential for landing a job. Taking notes…

    • Erica Moss

      Thank you, Candace! I think you hit the nail on the head: You’ve gotta have a great foundation, coupled with a strategy that helps you stand out, if you want to be successful.

  • Blain Reinkensmeyer

    Fantastic read, good to see some real life examples. Anyone looking to get hired in Social Media should read this before doing so. Better separate yourself from the crowd or risk blending in like the rest of them!

    • Erica Moss

      Thanks, Blain! I really thought readers could benefit from seeing these case studies side-by-side with an analysis of why the candidates did or didn’t land the gig. I know there are many other examples, but these are the ones that have been on my radar.

  • Brandon R

    Work experience is huge, especially for such a fast paced and evolving skill set like social media. Thanks for the insight Erica, this was a great read with awesome real-world examples!

    • Erica Moss

      You make a great point, Brandon! Being nimble is such an important trait to possess when you’re working in social media. Thanks for the comment. :)

  • Mordecai

    Applications like these can certainly showcase creativity and job-seekers’ ability to harness new media to achieve their goals. But if it’s all style and no substance this trend is going to get old quickly.

    I also hope that hiring managers also consider people who have relevant professional experience using social media but can’t launch a public campaign because they’re currently employed elsewhere and need to be discreet and professional. Don’t disregard someone because they haven’t flexed their social media muscles in public.

    • Erica Moss

      You make a great point, Mordecai. That’s another interesting aspect of the Dear Lisa Rudgers campaign: Lindsay is still currently employed by the Symphony. She’s gotten a lot of questions about it, and her response is always, “They’re very supportive.” Obviously, this is not always the case, and more often than not, job seekers have to keep their efforts hidden from their current employer.

  • Anonymous

    Nice post Erica! Great look into the current job market and how young professionals are trying to stand out from the crowd.

    • Erica Moss

      Thanks so much! While I applaud the efforts of these candidates, I think the lesson here is that experience will always trump a fancy campaign.

  • Jimmy O’Brien

    Great job demonstrating that a gimmick is no substitute for experience.

    • Erica Moss

      Thanks for the comment, Jimmy!

  • http://www.cornonthejob.com Rich DeMatteo

    Hey Erica! Thanks for the mentions of two of my posts! You did a really great job writing this up and sort of summarizing the results. Awesome awesome job!

    • Erica Moss

      I’m glad you liked it, Rich! I learned about the Krispy Kreme campaign from Corn on the Job, and then stumbled upon the other two case studies as a result of the candidates’ online efforts. I can’t wait to see how the Dear Lisa Rudgers one shakes out, as it is a very big step for the university, and the world is watching!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=9504751 Sarah Fudin

    Erica – This post is great! I’ve actually wondered if the above ploys have worked for people or not. What are your thoughts about social/infographic designed resumes like this: http://haganblount.com/resume — Do you think they receive similar reactions?

    • Erica Moss

      Great question, Sarah! Personally, I’m a fan of the infographic-type resume, just because the idea of a typical resume is so profoundly boring. Some like to declare the resume officially dead altogether, but I think these graphical ones are a great way to demonstrate creativity, and makes it more interesting for the employer to read. Much like these social media-based campaigns, though, you have to have substance behind those pretty pictures. Thanks for the comment. :)

  • Anonymous

    I agree with Mordecai–this strategy puts someone who is unemployed (or has a REALLY understanding boss) at a slight advantage over someone who is already employed. Plus, can you imagine if every single one of the 500+ candidates applying for a job similar to Chipotle’s put something like that together? I think it can get you some attention, but as others here already said, it comes down to experience and deliverables. I think candidates would be better served to launch concrete goals for their own websites and social media accounts, and then use tools like Google Analytics to show companies how they achieved those goals. Great post!

    • Erica Moss

      Great insight, Noel. And yes, what happens when 500+ candidates all put together a snazzy campaign? That’s exactly why I ask at the end of the post if this strategy has jumped the shark, because we’re seeing them so often now that you wonder if they’re starting to lose their luster. And I love your idea about using analytics as a way to demonstrate success!

  • Alisha

    Nice review of these case studies since I didn’t know some of them didn’t pan out. Speaking as a person who’s used her social media presence to develop a personal brand, I can tell you that there are efforts that are worthwhile which have gained me client leads. Further bonus – places like Mashable recognized me: http://mashable.com/2011/05/20/social-media-resumes/ (more examples here: http://alishainthebiz.tumblr.com/press). I think for young people, especially graduates, the entire “job search campaign” idea is SO overwhelming. Personally, I learn something new everyday about how to set myself apart from other professionals. And you really have to WANT to keep at these efforts to make things happen. It can also be pure luck, though. I get lots of inquiries from people who’ve found me just by a Twitter search and then turn into fans of my work – without me even trying. Also, your efforts must be genuine, you’ve gotta be super excited about the work you want to do and the people or type of company you want to work for. If not, forget about it. Awesome reporting, Erica!

    • Erica Moss

      Congrats on the Mashable shout-out, Alisha; that’s awesome! It’s a great example of being creative while still remaining professional. And you make a great point about the overwhelming nature of a job search campaign: I’ve been on the job hunt more times than I care to mention, and the entire process can be completely draining. I don’t think anyone has discovered the magic formula, but like you said, with hard work, passion and a little bit of luck, you’ll almost always land on your feet.

  • http://twitter.com/GITdet GirlsinTech Detroit

    Very great post, Erica. Even though some of those candidates’ efforts don’t turn out as they expected, their passion and creativity are what a lot of people do not have in workplace. Thanks again for writing this, I felt I got a bit powered on reading how hard people are trying to stand out.

    • Evelyn

      By the way, this is Evelyn.

    • Erica Moss

      Thank you for the comment, ladies! I agree: You can’t help but admire the ambitious nature of these campaigns. I guess I’d better get back to work. ;)

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  • http://akhilak.com/blog Akhila

    Great post! It’s quite interesting, it seems like those who had the right experience AND put the effort to do a campaign surrounding this heard good news. Despite the power of social media, you still need the requisite experience first.

    • Erica Moss

      Thank you for the kind words, Akhila! You’re exactly right: experience + creativity yields greater success rates. It’s been fascinating to see the reactions to the Dear Lisa Rudgers campaign specifically, because so many people after seeing the site say, “You’re a shoo-in!” or “I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t hire you!” But I think those people like the pretty package and forget about what’s inside.

  • http://www.hipstercrite.com Hipstercrite

    Social media has definitely helped me (I’m a freelance writer and social media manager). One gig I got by my extreme enthusiasm for the company via social media. Many writing gigs I’ve landed through my blog which is strongly tied into my social media profiles. I’m a big believer in the powers of social media.

    • Erica Moss

      I couldn’t agree more! I absolutely believe in the power of social media. It seems like I’m always sharing this story, but I landed a full-time internship with benefits as a result of a relationship I had built on Twitter. You simply can’t ignore the power of these tools.

  • http://www.derekdevries.org Derek DeVries

    Why is Justin Bieber eating cardboard?

    • Erica Moss

      I have to admit: This comment made me laugh out loud. Whereabouts in West Michigan are you, Derek? I grew up near GR and graduated from Western.

      • http://www.derekdevries.org Derek DeVries

        Grand Rapids – both my parents went to Western too (but I went to Grand Valley).

        • Erica Moss

          Small world! I actually went to GVSU for the first year and a half of my college career, then transferred to Western. #gobroncos

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  • Jenmbradshaw

    FACEBOOK ADDS TO TARGET POSSIBLE EMPLOYERS
    I have also used Facebook adds to target places/people I am applying to. When they click the add, which expresses my obvious devotion to the work the organziation devotes itself to, they are shot to my linked in page. Through these adds I was able to connect with people within the organization and get an in.

    • Erica Moss

      Thanks, Jen! You make a great point, and I’ve heard of others who are starting to utilize Facebook ads as well. So great to hear you’ve made headway with them!

  • http://nikkistephan.com Nikki Little (Stephan)

    Very relevant topic as it seems we’re seeing more and more job seekers getting fancy with social media to campaign for a job.

    You have to give these job seekers credit for creativity. But bottom line is this – you better have the right type of experience to back up your fancy campaign. It’s definitely possible for an employer to overlook the lack of experience because the person’s “hire me” campaign was so impressive. But that’s a risk.

    • Erica Moss

      Thanks for the comment, Nikki! It would definitely be a risk to hire the newbie with a savvy social media campaign. I think it’s important to remember that it’s not a requirement, either. If you’re making great connections and giving friendly nudges about your job hunt, you’ll eventually find the ear of someone who can help you.

  • Anonymous

    im one of these people who did a social media job-hunt like this and had it work out. The difference is, I had done volunteer work with events within the industry on their social media to back it up, and in time, experience has played itself well. video resumes made it work best for me.

    I focused on facebook and twitter with tagging to those concerned.

    This video got me noticed for one job: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69uE1vBXSOE

    and this one got me in to another: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xeev2m_certainlysocial-has-awesome-wants-2_videogames

    To back all this silly up, though, Im a reliable guy who does great work. Otherwise, silly videos wouldnt get me too far. Work ethic ftw!

    • Erica Moss

      You make a great point, Ryan. Volunteering or attending meetups within an organization you’re interested in can be a great way to get an “in” and discover whether or not you’re a good fit. And I watched both of your videos; what a creative way to draw attention to yourself!

      • http://certainlysocial.com Ryan

        thanks! and it got me into some pretty stellar roles too. i think cuz im a bit off the wall though, it may be a bit more of an exception for how its done rather than a rule. timing was good too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/TinaEGX Tina Ingrassia-Dietz

    Very thought provoking–I’m encouraging the entrepreneurs and small business owners I work with to consider how they can use unique job hunting strategies like these and apply them to seeking clients and their target audience. Great food for creative thought!

    • Erica Moss

      So glad you enjoyed it, Tina!

  • http://facebook.com/chaffrey Jeffrey Roe

    Great post, Erica! I definitely agree that experience takes precedence over a creative social media campaign when it comes to candidates seeking positions with companies that have established brands. However, I think that startups who have yet to find voices within their respective spaces could stand to gain something from the creativity these individuals have exhibited. I suspect that what they lack in experience, they make up for in ingenuity and a disciplined work ethic. Can’t knock the hustle! :)

    • Erica Moss

      Well said, Jeff. Hard to argue with that. ;)

  • http://twitter.com/enviro_writer Erica F

    I’m more apt to give these folks a pass on the experience end than others. There are few things more convincing than a polished, successful campaign like this that they have the skills and enthusiasm necessary to plug into and light up the social media sphere – in other words, demonstration trumps experience. Besides, it’s these dynamic youthful people that marketers are always courting anyway. I say rethink the old rules and give these people a chance to shake things up.

    • Erica Moss

      Glad to have an opposing opinion here, Erica. I totally hear what you’re saying about these people bringing a fresh, innovative perspective to the table. I’m positive there are examples out there of newbies that turn into rock stars right out of the gate.

  • http://canuck45.myopenid.com/ Anthony L

    Is this another phase of ‘creativity’ but no substance. I am sure some of you remember the time of colored paper to ‘highlight’ your resume. While it (social media et al) may catch your eye it still comes down to substance. Creativity is wonderful, when you can make it work for you and you can demonstrate how successful your talents are. How do you demonstrate the success, that’s where experience comes in. Every artist is creative but will they make a good manager, CEO, accounting clerk….or even a marketer.

    However, as another means to deliver your knowledge, experience and skills to the Labour Pool, why not do it if you can. Its another marketing tool, but you have to have a product to sell and a great one at that.

    • Erica Moss

      I LOVE that, Anthony: “You have to have a product to sell.” Spot on.

  • http://twitter.com/PHP_Architect Ahmed Abdel-Aliem

    Great case studies Erica, job hunting through social media is still a challenge, we are solving this equation at careerise.me, launching in early 2012 with powerful tools for the social recruitment.
    Would love to have your opinion.

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  • Lanlan8819

    Sometimes it is difficult to find a good job for the graduated students, because they have no experience. Maybe the companies should supply more chance!
    wedding dresses two in one

  • http://twitter.com/DigitalDionne Dionne N. Walker

    Going this route is always tempting, but I can’t help but wonder if you don’t alienate other potential bosses. If I’m Qdoba and I know you were just gung ho about Chipotle, I’m not really interested in being your second choice!

    • Erica Moss

      You bring up a great point, Dionne! I think you do risk dealing with some sour grapes when you show so much loyalty to one company. I say just spin it in your favor, though, and focus on the level of commitment you demonstrated as well as any big wins from your campaign that you can translate into big wins for your client/company.

  • http://howtovids.net How To

    Errica ? great article but I was wondering if you could answer a question regarding social media with websites. Do you think social media sites like Digg, LinkedIn etc are worth the effort we put in? I honestly see very little help when I post my articles to them. Am I doing something wrong? http://howtovids.net/business/entrepreneur/successful-businessman-entrepreneur/

    Thanks

  • http://twitter.com/HireMeKrspyKrme Braden Young

    I hope that people understand that Hire Me campaigns are just a way for an employer to notice you. It is not a quick fire way to get hired. I had to prove myself and back up all of my experience in my interviews that led to me being hired.

    If i was a student just out of college i would not have gotten hired even with my campaign. One off campaigns are proof you can be creative but you still have to prove your worth all of the other traits an employer is looking for.

    • Erica Moss

      Thanks for chiming in, Braden! Well said.

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  • Smithabella

    This is a great article. I like the point that a good site leaves a great impression on the person that hires you. The demonstration you gave after every example that what work and what doesn’t is great. These tips helps many job seekers. dentist coos bay

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  • http://twitter.com/Yakezie Yakezie

    One page resume folks. Nobody spends more than 10 seconds on a resume. There is no time!

  • http://www.inengineering.co.uk/ Tobibaker

    Wow, I’ve never heard examples of people going to such lengths for jobs before. I’m based in the UK and from the sound of it all of these examples were based in the US.

    Overall I think that they are brilliant examples where relevant, as discussed above even if the applications were amazing pieces of work in themselves this doesn’t remove the fact that allot of these individuals may not have the correct experience.

    • Erica Moss

      Yes, these were all U.S.-based jobs, and are only a handful of examples in a pool of many. Thank you for the comment!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/5LJECFWDZ4THD6YJBNUV27PS5U David

    Fantastic article! I truly love how it is easy on my eyes and the info are well written. I am wondering how I can be notified whenever a new post has been made.
    Thanks for sharing this informative post….
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  • http://dubaidebtrecovery.com/ Akif

    mostly they are!