The Twitter CV: how to sell yourself in 140 characters

Written by: Rosamund Urwin
Published on: 5 Mar 2013

Social media misbehaviour must be one of the fastest paths to the P45. There was the banker with a Facebook addiction who got the shove from Goldman Sachs for spending four hours a day on the networking site. The graduate in the US whose job offer was rescinded after she mused on Twitter whether a “fatty paycheck” would compensate for doing work she loathed. The Waitrose employee who was sacked after writing “F*** the Partnership” on Facebook. The list goes on. And on.


Increasingly, though, social media sites aren’t just a way to get fired but a way to get hired too. Welcome to the brave new world of the Twitter résumé. The Twésumé, if you will.


This trend is — of course — most advanced in the US. For the position of senior social media strategist which comes with a six-figure salary, the wireless network provider Enterasys is spurning paper CVs in favour of determining what candidates offer in 140 characters or fewer. The company wants a Twitter user with impressive klout and kred influence scores (which show whether you inspire others into action online) and more than 1,000 active followers. Enterasys chief marketing officer Vala Afshar told USA Today: “The paper résumé is dead. The Web is your résumé. Social networks are your mass references.”


Talk of the death of the paper CV is no doubt overstated but according to Ian Sanders, who advises firms on how to tell their stories online and is the author of Mash-up!, even employers who once dismissed Twitter as faddy are now using it as a hiring tool. 


“Your résumé is your Sunday best,” he says. “Twitter gives recruiters an unprecedented look under the bonnet. You can see how professional — or unprofessional — people are. For the worker wanting to get the job, you have to be transparent. You can’t just fake good behaviour for two days. My advice for any tweeter is to look at every tweet as though through the eyes of a future boss that you want to impress.”


One such employer is Poppy Dinsey, who founded the outfit-sharing website WIWT (what I wore today). “I ask people to send in their Twitter profiles when they apply for a job,” she says. “Sometimes people say, ‘I don’t have my own profile, but I know how to use Twitter really well,’ but it loses credibility if they are not actively using the platform. They don’t necessarily have to have huge influence or follower numbers, though. Sometimes people who have perhaps only a couple of hundred followers for their personal accounts have run accounts for brands that have tens of thousands.”


Dinsey adds that there are three particular traits she looks for: originality, understanding and restraint. “It’s only 140 characters but you can get a sense of how someone writes. You don’t want them to be saying what others have said three days earlier. It amazes me how dull a lot of people are too — tweeting about how tired they are, or being whingy. Then there’s also whether people know to how use the site: how to share links and so on. And obviously, you don’t want a loose cannon — someone who airs their dirty laundry, naming ex-boyfriends or girlfriends, will probably slag off the company too.”


Occasionally, it can pay to be off-message, though. Poppy Rose Cleere, formerly HMV’s social media planner, was inundated with job offers after she live-tweeted redundancies — or the “mass execution” as she dubbed it — at the entertainment chain’s head office. So being her master’s voice online was the most powerful CV she could imagine.