It’s hard to imagine that not too long ago, landing a job meant scouring classified ads and filling out applications by hand. A lot has changed since then, and as is often the case, that change has been driven primarily by the Internet. Many job seekers today will never fill out a job application, and they are far more likely to learn about open positions from a company’s Twitter feed than a newspaper posting.
But for all the ease and convenience of online job hunting, there are rules that must be followed if efforts are to prove fruitful. Indeed, there is a right way and a wrong way to get employers to notice you online and, potentially, offer you a job. Follow these tips, and you’ll be out of your parents’ basement in no time.
Most recent college graduates and young professionals are well versed in all things social media, but organizing a bachelorette party via Facebook and networking with hiring managers are two totally different things. As a job seeker, you should still be active on social media, but the platforms and methods for interaction will likely be different from what you’re used to.
When it comes to the business world, LinkedIn is easily the social network of choice. Every job seeker should certainly have a profile on the site and—most importantly—complete it and keep it updated regularly. “Having an out of date profile is damaging because it can convey the message that you are not serious about your career and/or you lack the ability to stay on top of tasks,” says Nina Parr, co-founder of The Love Your Job Project. “If you send in a resume that is up to date and your LinkedIn profile is not, it creates confusion and concern for the recruiter. It is too easy for a recruiter to move on to the next applicant when they see inconsistency across your job application documentation.”
Cheryl Palmer, a certified career coach and owner of Call to Career, agrees. “Job seekers are 40 percent more likely to receive opportunities through LinkedIn than those with incomplete profiles,” she says. “An incomplete profile can be a red flag to employers that you are not serious about representing yourself well online.”
In addition to showcasing your experience and skill set, LinkedIn is also a place where prospective employers can get a sense of how others view your talents. “The fact that people are willing to publicly praise you carries weight,” Palmer adds. “Since employers usually request three references before they offer you a position, I recommend that job seekers have a minimum of three strong recommendations on their profiles—but more is better. It certainly positions you better as a candidate if you have at least five to ten recommendations on your profile.”
Palmer suggests job seekers give references guidelines about what should be included in their references in order to avoid getting a general statement that won’t carry much weight with recruiters looking for people with specific skills. Likewise, endorsements aren’t as valuable as recommendations since they’re so easy to give and, as Palmer says, “Many people are endorsing LinkedIn users for skills that they do not possess.”
Regarding Facebook, the network may not necessarily help your odds of landing a job, as few employers recruit on the site, but it can certainly hurt them. “Facebook is mostly used for personal purposes, but some employers will search the site to see if there is any negative information about candidates before proceeding to call them for interviews,” Palmer says. As in, keep those photos from last night’s kegger to yourself.
Twitter, on the other hand, is often used for candidate sourcing, as many companies post job listings on their feeds. The best way to take advantage and get a hiring manager to notice you, says Palmer, is to tweet information that positions you as a expert in a given field. “If you maintain a blog, you can tweet your blog posts and share your expertise on a particular topic; this will give you credibility online,” she explains. “Or you can find and share articles from professional journals or the mainstream media that discuss up-and-coming trends in your field. You will start to connect to likeminded people who are either in a position to hire you or in a position to refer you to job vacancies.”
Do Your Own Thing
While maintaining an active social media presence is important (though Parr says to limit initial participation to just two sites in order to avoid overwhelm), Desiree Jaeger, a career consultant and founder of Jaeger-Fine Consulting, suggests job seekers develop their own personal websites, preferably with their full name as the site’s domain name. “A personal website allows full control over the information you like to provide as well the design that communicates your message best,” she says. “It gives employers a better chance to see your personality, because everything from the bio you write and the style you use, up to the design you choose, says something about you as a professional and gives you the opportunity to show employers who you are and what you can do for them.” Additionally, personal websites make it easier for hiring managers to find prospective employees through simple online searches.
When it comes to content, Jaeger recommends developing a personal brand that can be easily communicated via the site, as well as in social media profiles. “Humans buy products with known names because of the quality we connect with the mark, and an employer does the same,” she says. “He does not hire just any employee, but only those whose qualities are of value to him. Your personal brand is the message you like to communicate, and what qualities you want others to think of when they hear your name.”
And what are some things to leave off websites and social media profiles? While compromising photos, racial slurs and insensitive language are all common sense no-nos (or they should be, anyway), but Jaeger says there’s more to consider. Sometimes, when it comes to presenting yourself as the absolute best candidate for a singular role, less is, actually, more. “Don’t include everything you ever did in your online profile,” Jaeger says. “Not every experience is worth mentioning and not every experience fits your brand statement.”
Creating a clear and concise online presence that will have employers throwing jobs at you will certainly take some time and effort. But once that’s complete, there’s still work to be done. Connecting with recruiters and hiring managers is just as important, and how well you do it can often make the difference in whether a job offer is extended.
“The best way to connect with someone online is to find a common connection and reach out with an authentic message,” she says. “Do your due diligence and research the people you want to reach out to. See if you have anything in common or if there is an issue they are facing that you may be able to help with—send an article they may find interesting based on their industry or job. If you are reaching out to a recruiter, see if you can find what roles he or she is working on and if there is anyone in your network you can refer. I always recommend that people try to help someone before they ask for anything from a person, especially online.”
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