Matt Bivons knew he had to do something extraordinary to stand out as a job candidate in a tough job market. So he built a Web site.

But it wasn't just any ol' resume site under his own name. Instead, in early June, he launched, an interactive online campaign targeted at Baltimore-based e-mail marketing firm Blue Sky Factory that showed off more than just his resume and connected visitors to him via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. His efforts earned him a second interview at Blue Sky recently, among a field of more than a dozen applicants.

"It's very easy to say, 'I'm driven, I'm innovative, I'm creative.' You need to show it," said Bivons, 24, a University of Maryland, College Park graduate who quit a job a couple of months ago to commit himself full time to getting a better one. "I definitely can respect the competition in today's environment. I wanted to make a little noise to stand out."

For years, assertive job hunters have been able to cast a wide net using the Internet. But most job sites are now clogged with resumes and applicants, making it difficult for people to separate from the pack.

A tense job market sparked by a national unemployment rate of 9.5 percent and 14.5 million people out of work has many applicants approaching their job hunt more creatively and with more laser-like focus.

"In order to get seen, candidates have to do something a little extraordinary these days," said Tim Namie, who recruits in the information technology sector as a managing director for Manpower Professional in Linthicum. "They have to think outside the box."

That's why Bivons and others are turning to targeted online campaigns to go after their dream jobs.

A rash of "hire me" sites sprouted up across the Web this year as job hunters try to cut through the noise of millions hunting for jobs by directly targeting the employers they want to hire them. Some sites were inspired by, which was launched in March by a 24-year-old California woman who dreamed of working for Twitter, a fast-growing Internet startup. The sites have a Web feel with a personal sales pitch and tabs to click on their resume, recommendations, contact information and their social networking sites.

Cheap and free tools are now readily available for people to start full-blown campaigns that can get them noticed in the job market.

Such approaches may not necessarily get people the jobs they're targeting. But their efforts appear to get noticed by others in their industry. In interviews with several people who started targeted "hire me" sites, only Dan Presserl - who launched - is close to landing a contract position with the software giant.

A Microsoft recruiter tried searching through all the usual job and resume sites to find someone for a position in the highly technical field of information assurance. The company ended up finding Presserl - a 27-year-old who was born in Argentina, lives in Detroit and speaks Portuguese - when his site came up on a Google search.

Others, such as Jamie Varon of, used their campaigns to build up their online social network, make new connections and get jobs either with other companies or launch their own business.

Varon's Twitter site became an overnight Internet sensation. She quickly got an interview with the company, but they told her they weren't hiring in marketing. But the connections she made through her site led to a part-time job, a couple of job offers, and finally, a glut of companies wanting her to design their own blogs and Web sites.

She recently launched her own Web design company - Shatterboxx - and is planning a move to Italy in the fall because, she says, she can work from anywhere in the world doing Web design.

Christopher Dessi, a 1997 graduate of Loyola College in Baltimore, got laid off from two companies in less than six months after working as a vice president in sales for both. Shaken by the unexpected job losses, the 34-year-old, who lives with his wife and 14-month-old daughter in Chappaqua, N.Y., vowed to learn more about social media. He launched FacebookShouldHireMe, but the company turned him down for an interview.

Instead, he started teaching himself social media on the Web and kept busy making connections. His presence online attracted Buddy Media, a New York social media marketing company. They turned him down for a sales director job, but then invited him back for one last chance.

"They gave me a shot and saw I was passionate enough to hire," Dessi said.

Mark Webster, who has worked as a creative director for Internet startups in New York, lost his job when his employer folded in January. The 30-year-old began a traditional job search but he wasn't getting any leads. So he bought the Web domain and started getting more focused. For each employer he pursued, he set up a customized subdomain on his site - such as - making it easy for the employer to find him.

He also placed ads on Facebook, targeting members of the online social network who worked for the companies he was trying to interview with. He targeted 18 companies that way, and got phone calls from 10 of them.

"Out of all the normal resumes and cover letters I sent out, I didn't get one response," Webster said. Instead, he got people talking about his work, leading him to independent opportunities. "I stopped my job search a couple months ago, and I'm now doing freelancing and consulting work," he said.

Seth Godin, a blogger who wrote the book Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, said he doesn't think job-hunters turning to aggressive self-marketing is a function of the poor economy. Instead, he credits the growth and acceptance of social media and easy Web-based networking for people to more quickly find the right companies to pitch themselves to.

"There's no question we're seeing a significant shift in the way employees are going to be marketing themselves to the jobs they want to hold," Godin said. "It shouldn't be surprising that who is going to lead that are the people who want and deserve the best jobs."

Bivons, who is moving from Cockeysville to Canton, sees his experience publicly courting Blue Sky Factory for a job as an example of the way he dives into a challenge with "full force." His campaign got the attention of Greg Cangialosi, Blue Sky's chief executive officer.

"That was the first time I'd seen anything like that," said Cangialosi, who said he's weeks away from hiring someone. "He definitely piqued the interest of people at Blue Sky Factory."

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