Does being big on Twitter help you land a good job?

New York job fair

What's the best way to impress employers - having tons of Twitter followers, or a flashy CV? Go for big-name companies and prestige every time, advises Lucy Kellaway of the Financial Times.

If you asked me about my working life, I would tell you that I've worked at the Financial Times for a quarter of a century. If pressed further, I might reveal (depending on who was asking) that long ago I worked briefly for JPMorgan. I might also add that I went to Oxford University.

Yet according to a blog on the Harvard Business Review website, this sort of institutional name-dropping is not only vain and superficial, it has outlived its usefulness.

Prestige simply isn't as prestigious as it used to be.

For a start many of the big names aren't looking so impressive any more. We don't revere Goldman Sachs or News Corp or McKinsey in the same way we used to.

Start Quote

Lucy Kellaway

Surely being big on Twitter just tells employers you spend more time composing silly little messages than working”

End Quote Lucy Kellaway

And social networks mean we no longer have to rely on the names of institutions to do our signalling for us - we can do it ourselves.

The upshot is that young people should stop scrambling over each other for jobs at Bain and Morgan Stanley - all such big names do is pigeonhole people. The only true way to stand out is to stop focusing on who you are working for, and think of what you are doing instead.

This blog is one of the most cheering things I've read in ages.

Or rather it would be cheering if it weren't for the fact that it is completely wrong.

Of course it is achievements that count. The trouble is, most people, apart from a few entrepreneurs, haven't really achieved anything terribly tangible. If you are Mark Zuckerberg you don't need big names on your CV. The rest of us do.

Far from getting less important, flashy affiliations are now more important than ever. This is partly because the job market is so bad that everyone needs all the help they can get. But it's also because getting these good jobs and good degrees is harder than it used to be.

JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, News Corp

In my day what counted was breeding and luck, with effort and skill lagging far behind. Now the order is reversed.

Anybody who has got a job at Goldman and held on to it for a decade has achieved something that might not be socially valuable, but offers conclusive proof that the person is bright and hardworking - as well as possibly arrogant and greedy.

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Neither do social networks make affiliations redundant. The more information there is out there, the more we need a few decent names on a CV as a shortcut.

And I fail to see how being big on Twitter makes you attractive to future employers. Surely it just tells them you spend more time composing silly little messages than working.

So I would advise the ambitious to go for prestige every time. Of course it is shallow and unfair, but it works.

Having a prestigious employer already is a great help in finding a new one. And the great thing about such affiliations is that even if they don't impress others (which they do, mostly) they may impress yourself.

In my experience these mighty institutions work well as comfort blankets, wombs and crutches, all roles that are generally frowned on - but wrongly so. I'm a huge fan of all three.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Never been asked about my social media habits at an interview. I've even applied for jobs that require micro blogging (of a sort) and never been asked. While I agree that the likes of Facebook and Twitter can be "reasonable" marketing tools I don't think they make as huge an impact as they claim. Pretty good for customer contact though; quick, easy and it hits all customers at once.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    People who don’t realise the speed at which social media/ networks are becoming crucial to a successful business probably would have mistaken the wheel for a round table.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    If you're a company that isn't embracing Social Media as a legitimate marketing technique and valuable conversation tool, then you will be left behind. Although Twitter has an awful lot of spam, it is a tool with immediacy and attention.
    If your candidates can't spell, perhaps you're looking in the wrong places.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    I am an employer. Whilst I would always take on staff on individual merit, as a general rule, I have observed that those who use twitter tend to be er, Twits actually.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Surely employers want staff who are comfortable with themselves?

    Those who spend time on Facebook & Twitter are often seeking assurance from others.

    If interviewing a management candidate cuddling a gizmo throughout the process, I would end interview with:
    "Can you demonstrate how you protect your identity on that thing?"

    If unable, I would be concerned for the security of my company.


Comments 5 of 9



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