Job hunting just got social

 How to score a job in the social media era! https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/job-hunting-just-got-social-marie-langan/ 

Social media is an umbrella term to describe websites that connect people and involve user-generated content, rather than the editorially-approved content of older media formats. If you are job hunting in the creative sector then you are likely to want to use the more visual platforms as part of your strategy e.g. Instagram, Pintrest, and YouTube. But for most of us, the job search doesn’t rely on our creative skills so I am going to focus on the more traditional social media platforms – LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.  

You can use your existing, personal online presence to boost your job search chances, but if you choose not to, then remember to make private any personal information you have uploaded on Facebook etc. - check your settings. You should only be sharing your personal information with people you are comfortable sharing it with. If your online persona is pretty safe and neutral, and you want a recruiter or potential employer to know that you swam the channel or ran back-to-back 10Ks for charity, then leave your social media settings as they are. More on this later!

The objective of your social media job hunt is to lead to the all-important interview https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/job-interviews-take-control-process-marie-langan – keep that in mind and you will find the time you spend online useful and productive. If you lose sight of that goal, you can all too easily get distracted and end up wasting hours surfing the net with nothing to show for it.

Whatever you do, and whatever platforms you choose, make your online presence these three things:

  • consistent across platforms
  • current
  • authentic.

You don’t want someone unearthing a post that shows you in a bad light, or conflicts with the image you portray in your professional profiles elsewhere.  Equally, showcasing who you are online is all about demonstrating that your online identity is positive, active and attractive to potential employers. When using social media in your career, don’t be afraid to be authentic, and show some personality to stand out from the crowd. If you are taking or have taken time out to travel/volunteer/raise a family, write it up in an engaging way and it will look better than simply having gaps in your career. Above all, keep your online presence current; update it for relevant skills and experience, and if you are learning a new skill, even if it is early days in the process, add it to your profile as it demonstrates a willingness to learn new things at whatever age.

LinkedIn

Let’s start with the top dog of job-related social media – LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com . If you are reading this, you are probably already aware of its power, but it’s worth ensuring you are using all the available features to highlight your job seeking status:

  • Connecting and networking – review your network and reach out using the message function to people you know about opportunities they may know about – see my article on identifying your network https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/slow-down-im-career-break-marie-langan. Your network is not only a great source of jobs, but also a great source of support and encouragement
  • Click on “Jobs” and set up job searches using keywords – maximise the value of this by checking out keywords in your industry for jobs you are looking for, and ensuring that you also have the relevant keywords in your LinkedIn profile so that you come up in all the right searches. Save jobs you are interested in, and set up and manage alerts so that you maximise your chances of hearing about vacancies as soon as possible
  • Check out target employers’ LinkedIn company pages for details of number of employees, locations, news and who you might know at the organisation – “follow" your favourites so that you get whatever they post in your feed, and you are up to speed on what they are doing when you do get called for that interview
  • Let recruiters know you are “open” for recruitment. Go to the help page and type in “career interests” and you’ll be able to let recruiters know what job titles you are interested in, which locations, and how they can contact you https://www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/answer/67405?query=career%20interests. Make sure your profile indicates what you are open to in terms of job opportunities – part-time, full-time, temporary, contracts, permanent, job share – set out your terms and conditions to avoid wasting time on opportunities that are not a good fit
  • Use LinkedIn templates to arrange recommendations, endorsements and referrals – these features help to indicate your credibility and authenticity as a professional. However, try to make a direct, personal approach so that your contact knows what you are looking for, so that they can help you in a more meaningful way
  • Don't forget to make your profile public - that's how the world can find it. Create your own public URL for your profile – that is, a link that's easy to share. The format will be https://www.linkedin.com/in/[yourname]. Add this link to your email signature and your cv
  • Upgrade to the paid Premium service (or take a free trial period to check it out) and get Premium features such as seeing who is viewing your profile, accessing expert-led courses and contacting recruiters directly - ideal if you are serious about appealing to the recruiter community
  • Get your profile up to date, and consistent with your cv https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/updating-your-cv-look-whats-new-land-marie-langan , and keep it up to date. Make sure those all-important keywords are part of your summary to ensure the best chance of being found for the roles you want. Look at other people’s profiles and summaries for inspiration, and to see how you can differentiate yourself https://www.thebalance.com/good-linkedin-summary-with-examples-4126809
  • To optimise the appearance of your profile, select a background that’s relevant and eye-catching. Get a professional photo, head and shoulders, of you only (no pets or children)
  • Pay particular attention to the summary and the headline – if these aren’t compelling, viewers will quickly move on to the next candidate. When you’re done, get a friend to review your profile for typos and repetition, and to ensure you’ve put your best foot forward. Recent research suggests that women often understate their achievements http://bigthink.com/stephen-johnson/the-key-difference-between-men-and-womens-linkedin-profiles , but this can apply across the board, so a second pair of eyes can really help
  • A LinkedIn summary will be viewed slightly differently on a desktop compared to a mobile. Viewed on a mobile, only the first 92 characters are immediately visible, without requiring the user to click to “view more”, and on a desktop only the first 220 characters can be seen immediately. The key is to compel the viewer want to “view more”. Note that per LinkedIn, 58% of LinkedIn's users access the site via their mobile (LinkedIn 2016 Q1 quarterly results). An easy way to identify the 92nd and 220th characters is to use a spreadsheet with the =Len formula in Excel.

Once your profile is up and running, keep it live and active by liking relevant posts in your feed, commenting on posts, posting links yourself, mentioning connections in your comments and posts, and even by publishing articles associated with your industry, sector or business interests.

LinkedIn has millions of members in over 200 countries including members from the very top organisations in the business world, so there’s plenty to follow and learn in one simple app accessible on your mobile. Some would say that if you are not on LinkedIn, you can risk looking hideously behind the times, or even worse, like you have something to hide. The only problem I have with LinkedIn is getting addicted to its one-stop appeal as a news/advice/messaging site!

Twitter

Just as companies have a LinkedIn page, they almost certainly have a Twitter feed these days. Twitter is a microblogging site with a community of users similar to LinkedIn, but if anything the site is more ubiquitous, as it is a general social media site, and not just for professionals. You can use it alongside LinkedIn to follow your target companies, and what they are doing.

Employers, recruiters and job sites use Twitter to post job openings and search for candidates. Clearly, the scope for laying out your wares is much reduced, due to the minimal profile that you can set up, and the brief and transient nature of your “tweets”, however, what Twitter lacks in stature it makes up for in immediacy. If you are in the market for a short-term or immediate contract, it’s worth cultivating some valuable contacts on Twitter. Again, keep your objective in mind and your time is well spent. If you lose sight of your objective, you can get distracted by the sheer volume of tweets.

First stop is to create your Twitter profile. Your username could be your first and last name, if available, to keep it simple and professional. Your bio will need to be even punchier than your headline and summary on LinkedIn, due to the lack of space, but you can provide a link to your LinkedIn site (your URL, created as discussed above) or to your own blog or website. Use the same photo that you have used elsewhere professionally online and you will be consolidating your image and ensuring that all-important consistency across platforms.

Your job is then to establish yourself as an expert in your field, by tweeting relevant messages regularly to raise users’ interest and drive them to your LinkedIn or other more formal sites. Messages can be original, or you can re-tweet or quote other experts in the field. Include hashtags, to ensure that you are picked up by users interested in the topic you are tweeting about. Searching by hashtag for example for #marketingjobs will also generate Twitter Ads from companies on the site specifically to hire people.

The Twitter approach can be a longer game than simply applying directly for jobs, so consider it as part of the research you need to do prior to attending an interview. As with LinkedIn, develop a network of people or companies in your industry to follow. You should start to see job openings being posted, or even open days, job fairs etc. Follow a Twitter job board for your industry and sign up to job tweets. Engage with the process and it will soon be obvious whether this is going to be a helpful platform for your job search or not. Check out this great article on TwitterBoost on using Twitter to find work http://twitterboost.co/start-social-media-job-search-twitterjobs/.

Finally, a warning re: Twitter – beware of its immediate, informal nature if you are using it professionally. It’s easy to be misquoted/trolled/dragged into an argument and It’s no coincidence that it’s the sort of site some people completely avoid https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/sep/21/zadie-smith-says-using-social-media-would-threaten-her-writing , or others give up on altogether https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/jul/04/ed-sheeran-twitter-abuse-trolls .

Facebook

Facebook enables employers to create an online presence to promote their brand, as well as post jobs and find suitable candidates among the community it creates online. In April 2016, Facebook reported to have 1.59 billion active users. Facebook was originally developed as a personal communication site but has become increasingly commercial. The boundaries can be very blurred, so the warnings above about privacy and accessibility of information very much apply.

Facebook is not only competing with LinkedIn when it comes to professional, management type jobs, but it is also able to advertise on a very local basis, providing smaller businesses and the lower wage market with a cheap, fast and easy recruitment platform to replace the traditional print media https://techcrunch.com/2017/02/15/facebook-jobs/

Companies can post a job on their page as easily as they would any other update. The post is on their Facebook page and also under a new “Jobs” section accessible under the “Explore” section in the left column of all users. If you see a post you like, you can click an "apply now" button that leads to a pre-populated page with your name and any education or employment history that you've made public on the site; you can then either send the info as it is or make changes before submitting. There's no place to upload a resume, but a 1,000 character text box allows for a cover letter style note. Hitting "send" sends the info to the company in a Facebook message. Your privacy settings won't change - employers will only be able to see the info you've made public, according to a Facebook disclaimer at the bottom of each post. Still, it's worth checking your settings to make sure you're not broadcasting something you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see. If you're targeting a particular employer, you might also want to "like" their page. That way, any post the company creates will appear on your newsfeed.

For a few additional tips on social media job hunting, see the Social Media Examiner – the world’s largest social media marketing resource for the professionals in the field, so these guys can really teach you the tricks of the trade https://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/10-tips-for-finding-a-job-using-facebook-and-linkedin/

Other useful sites

  • YouTube – do your research on the company and check to see if their hiring team have put any videos on YouTube. This is getting more common, especially in graduate recruitment. Apart from alerting you to possible vacancies, it is also a way for you to assess the potential “fit” as an organisation
  • Alumni databases – these can be found on websites for your university, college or school, previous employers, professional organisations and institutes. Make a note of when you upload any cv or info and refresh it periodically, or remove it if you are getting no feedback or response
  • Personal Career Management offer career coaching including social media job search assistance – in their words, “love Monday mornings” https://www.personalcareermanagement.com/guardian/
  • Glassdoor https://www.glassdoor.co.uk  – the review site for employers!

Finally, exactly how are recruiters using social media? Recruiters and employers aren’t only looking for potential hires on social media, but some are even using it as part of their screening and background checking process, although there are significant potential pitfalls associated to this use of social media. Visiting a person's social media sites allows an HR team access to information about marital status, children, religion, politics, disabilities and even social interests that, by law in most countries, must be ignored in a hiring decision. If a recruiter has accessed this data, it is difficult to prove that they were not influenced by it in their hiring decision. On the other hand, there is some risk associated in not checking out a potential hire for any existing negative information in the public domain. A complex “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation, although most people’s social media sites are pretty neutral and wouldn’t influence the hiring decision greatly one way or the other. In short, many companies are developing policies that take into account applicants’ social media profiles just in case.

Good luck out there, and in the spirit of social media, please share your experience, good and bad!

Next week, I will be looking at the job market and Christmas, at least in the UK. Is it too soon? In my part of Bristol, the air is thick with the smell of Christmas spices being ground in the local ingredients factory and I already spotted mince pies on sale. How much business does seasonal trade actually represent? And can a Christmas job lead to a career?

Until next week!  https://www.linkedin.com/in/marielangan/ 

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