If your use of social media is all about sharing pictures of your dinner and keeping track of celebrity gossip, you’re missing out. Because while most of us recognise that we are a long way from job searches in the past — days of sitting with the Sunday papers, circling potential ads ripe for application — surprisingly few job-seekers make full use of social media to accelerate their search.
The linear job hunt process of advertisement-application-interview-offer has been replaced. These days, half of all jobs are never openly advertised. Landing your dream position relies as much on making yourself visible, and connecting to the right people in a competitive market, as it does your qualifications. This is precisely where social media smarts can give you the necessary leg up.
Check out these strategies to leverage social media in your job hunt.
1. Take Control of Your Personal Brand
Finding a new job is like a marketing exercise in which you are the only product. If this makes you feel a little uncomfortable, don’t lose heart – it’s not about the hard sell this time. In fact, with the platforms afforded by social media, you have a better opportunity than ever to show your substance as well as your style.
From a job search perspective, LinkedIn is the best place to start building your personal brand. Naturally, you must have a complete and updated profile page. If you’re unsure exactly how to phrase your experiences, look up the profiles of people in similar fields and take inspiration from the ones that catch your eye. Make sure your photo is professional, and use the ‘summary’ field to succinctly list your unique combination of skills and experiences, and — this is crucial — what you’re looking for now.
But don’t stop there. Get recommendations from previous colleagues and clients to boost your brand. Consider publishing content which can help to establish you as a subject matter expert — if you are not happy writing your own, get involved with the discussion elsewhere. Comment and share relevant posts from others in your industry, and join LinkedIn groups to raise your profile with the people who count.
2. Build Your Network
The modern job search is often about who you know and how you can connect with your network to find a great new role. And while that might have once been the very epitome of unfairness, these days everyone has an equal shot at making the right connections, thanks to social media.
When building your network, all social media platforms count. Whether you’re a new graduate or experienced manager, LinkedIn is a great basis for professional connections and conversation. But do not overlook the networks you already have on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or elsewhere. Even Snapchat is being used by recruiters eager to get the edge and capture a Millennial market.
What is important with all of these media is being part of the conversation. Lurking is not going to do your job search any favors, so find ways to engage with the influencers and build a dialogue. Follow the companies you are interested in working for, industry magazines and blogs, and individual employers and recruiters as you meet them — and then strike up a conversation. Share some interesting insight, ask a question or comment on their posts, and before you know it, you’ll have friends in all the right places.
3. Check Out Your Online Footprint
As several high profile cases have demonstrated, social media does not always have a positive impact on your job prospects. Recruiters will look up prospective candidates online as a standard procedure, and you need to both know and control what they see.
It would be unethical — and in many cases, illegal — for a recruiter to be influenced by social media content that is irrelevant to your application. But you can assume that a hiring manager will at least have a cursory glance. This can work both ways. If you have significant ‘red flags’ in your online history, like evidence of illegal behaviour, then this will naturally work against you. But on the flip side, if you have an impressive web presence which emphasises your professional competence and abilities, then you will grab the recruiter’s attention for the right reasons.
Make sure you know what your online footprint looks like by a simple Google search of your own name. You will probably want to check out your Facebook security settings to be sure you are . not over-sharing. If there are Tweets out there that you would rather forget, then try Tweetdelete to wipe them.
To up the ante and really build your positive presence, think about creating your own professional blog or webpage, publishing original and relevant content on LinkedIn, or contributing industry-related posts to niche magazines and webpages. By associating your name with intelligent debate and progressive thinking, you’re increasing your chances of a recruiter finding you.
4. Find Roles Before They’re Advertised
So just how, precisely, do people come across the 50% of jobs which never get openly advertised? It’s not mindreading. In many cases, it’s social media.
If you are openly searching for a role, then the first thing to do is activate your network. Tell people what you are looking for, as precisely as possible, and how they can help you. Often your friends, family, and connections are more than willing to help, but struggle to understand how they could do so.
Give details of the type of role and company you are looking for, and what you specifically need. For example, you might ask for help in arranging an informational interview with qualified accountants working in the service industry. By narrowing down your needs, you can help others help you find positions before they ever get advertised.
Following individual companies and recruiting managers on social media, particularly Twitter and LinkedIn, is another good way to hear about roles before they are openly advertised. Be on the lookout for companies announcing expansion or the start of a new team — although the jobs might not be ‘out there’ yet, you can bet they will be hiring. Beat the rush and get a speculative application in early.
5. Nail Your Research
The benefits of social media stretch beyond the job search and well into the interview stage. Make social media work for you when researching companies for application or interview, by following or connecting with industry influencers and company insiders.
If you know you have an interview coming up, research the company’s official (and unofficial, if possible) social media feeds to understand what’s new. Use hashtag searches to find mentions of the company or their competitors on Twitter, which gives further insight into the challenges and successes they may be facing. And don’t forget the social media and blogs operated by industry commentators. Although these must often be taken with a grain of salt, it can be a great way to see what is on the minds of people working in the sector you’re applying for!
6. Say Thanks
Finally, use social media as a way to thank those who have helped you along your way. A quick note to an interviewer to thank them for their time is important, and can be easily done through LinkedIn messaging (a handwritten note makes a big impact, as well). You can also thank people who helped you with connections, information, or good wishes, and offer to repay the favor in future. Not only is this polite, it strengthens relationships and helps pull your network together.
Using social media in job seeking is relatively new and changing all the time as new platforms appear and others fade away. The instant connectivity and democratic nature of social media is a real winner for savvy job seekers — so regardless of which channel you prefer, it is worth putting them all to good use when it comes time to land your next job.
Have you found a new role through social media? What are your tips to make social media work for job hunters?