Tweeting Your Way to a Summer Internship

An ad agency has resorted to an innovative hiring technique: a hashtag battle.


Say you’re a hiring manager at a leading advertising firm, and you’re looking to hire a summer intern. And you receive the following cover letter:

Everything talks and I am ready to MEDIA-ATE the conversations! … MAXIMIZE MEDIA IMPACT, MINIMIZE COSTS, make me an intern and I will EMPATHETICALLY get the message across … you want interns with a COMPETITIVE EDGE? How about this: [an image of the candidate skiing]…CHANGE IS GOOD in media advertising, and I keep up with the pace! …13- My lucky number. Target- [the name of your company]. Medium- YouTube. [a URL that directs to a video of the candidate skiing] … INTELLECTUAL RESTLESSNESS. Curiosity won’t kill an intern like me….or this cat. [a photograph of a cat.] … CULTURAL INSIGHTS, TARGETING INSIGHTS, a Norwegian intern will help shed some light!…Remember the name and thanks for reading my tweets, make me an intern and we can actually meet!

You would probably burst out laughing, leak the thing to Gawker, and sit back and watch as a media circus begins about the silliest job application since “Impossible is Nothing” auteur Aleksey Vayner, right?

But the above is basically the entirety (I made a few redactions) of an application submitted to the firm Campbell Mithun, which the New York Times calls a “venerable agency.” And the applicant, Genette Sekse, 22, got the job. The firm decided to experiment with its intern hiring process–conducting the whole thing, as you’ve likely by now guessed, through Twitter.

Applicants were invited to write 13 tweets over 13 days, using the hashtag #L13–for “Lucky 13,” the name of the contest; one of the company’s founders was fond of the number. (The Times helpfully explains the idea of “hashtags” for its readers as “Twitter-talk for adding the phrase ‘#L13’ to every comment so
that anyone with a presence on Twitter can find all the comments,
whenever and by whomever they were posted.”) Some poor guy at Campbell Mithun then sifted through the thousands of tweets and identified finalists for interviews, some of which were conducted over Skype.

Soliciting interns via Twitter is nothing new, of course–Charlie Sheen tried it what seems like ages ago. But treating the application process itself as a public sort of reality competition, in 13 of those 140-character bursts? So far as we know, this is real hiring innovation.

“We’ve been wanting to shake up the process for some time,” Debbie Fischer, an HR manager at Campbell Mithun, told the Times. And, she added, because of “the increasing digital nature of our day-to-day work, we thought it would be appropriate to add a digital component.” The contest boosted both the number (about 300) and quality (transparently brilliant) of the applicants, said Fischer. Campbell Mithun announced the winners today; you can read about them and their tweets here.


The agency put together a highlight reel of the application process:

As for Ms. Sekse, the process suited her just fine. She told the Times it was all “a lot more appealing than writing a cover letter or sending a résumé.” And a little bio describing her on the “Lucky 13” site shows that she might have been a #winning catch for Charlie Sheen, too. “Fluent in Norwegian, English, German, Swedish, Danish,” she writes, “and dominating at life.”

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About the author

David Zax is a contributing writer for Fast Company. His writing has appeared in many publications, including Smithsonian, Slate, Wired, and The Wall Street Journal