No one needs to tell you that in today’s ever-changing digital age, a job prospect who can use social media is bound to come out over one who can’t. This is an average, of course – there are still some companies that prize the “old-fashioned way” over everything else, but for the most part, those fluent in social media are both better prospects for employers and have a better chance of finding the job they want in the first place.
Amazingly, a large number of employers now report they find higher caliber job candidates via a social media search with an incredible 50% increase in candidate quality!! (BusinessWest)
The modern style of business depends on lightning-fast marketing, social outreach and personalized customer service experiences in the online sphere. Anyone who can write a sassy tweet to make a sale, turn a PR nightmare into a Facebook meme or successfully build a Google+ profile (that’s impossible, right?) will find themselves well positioned to succeed in the digital sector and beyond.
Ensuring that you’re proficient at social media in a job or marketing sense is beyond the scope of this article. However, if you have no idea how to use any of the major platforms we will discuss below – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – we suggest you take an hour or two and familiarize yourself with these platforms. Note that you don’t have to set up accounts on your own; you can simply skim through a few tutorials and check hout other accounts to get a feel for how it all works.
Recent statistics show an incredible 1 in 5 people have applied for a job they learned about through social media and 13 percent of social media users say information they’ve posted on social media helped them land a job! (Glassdoor)
If you’re already fairly conversant in the ways of social media, then you’ll be well suited to the topic of this guide: how to use social media specifically to guide your job hunt. Throughout, we will examine this from two slightly different angles:
- How social media can help you actually find job prospects and potential employers in the first place, and
- How proving your social media capability can improve your job chances
Along the way, we will discuss how to conduct research and reach out to people who really matter, how to keep your job search and online profiles confidential and clean, specific ways to use each type of social media, and how to create an overall system that will help you go from zero to amazing new job in less time than you thought possible.
How to Connect with Employers on Social Media
One of the best ways to increase your chances of getting a job is to start talking with people who can actually help you get one. This is a difficult and scary prospect for people used to applying to online job ads and relying on personal introductions from friends. Going out and finding people to talk to on your own can feel a lot like cold calling. And unless you’re a professional salesman, chances are good you hate cold calling. It just flat goes against our personality as humans to ask people we don’t know for things we want.
The trick is not asking outright, but rather forming a relationship first. You might leave a comment on one of their feeds, which boosts their traffic and the success of their account. Or you could ask them a question from a mentee-to-mentor standpoint, which makes them feel knowledgeable and valued. If you see a major error on a company website or have a strong idea for how to help them, you can even write to politely point that out. These are all ways to make first contact without looking like a greedy schlub who just wants something like all the rest – a sure way to get ignored.
An incredible 2016 survey of 3,000 people mostly in staff or management roles reveals 85% of all jobs are filled via networking! The power of connecting with people who matter is paramount! (The Adler Group, Performance Based Hiring)
Plus, when you use social media, you can reach out to people “cold” without having to invade their inbox or their phone line. It’s also much easier for a person to keep track of your communication in social media, which tidily puts it all in one place for them (i.e. a message folder), and they can get back to you on their own time.
On LinkedIn you can send InMail (and even ask for introductions from people you know, if you want to speak to those you don’t). On Twitter, you can send direct tweets to people to let them know you’re interested in chatting with them, or to share a thought about the industry. Private messages on Facebook make interaction very easy, while Instagram comments and direct messages give you informal and more formal ways of reaching out to people you like.
Naturally, since social is such a busy medium, there is a chance you will get lost in the noise, but by putting enough messages out there, you’re bound to get some responses. No matter which platform you decide to use – which will largely depend on the ones you’re already most comfortable with – there are ways to get someone’s attention, even if you don’t know them. Below we will explore in more detail how to use each platform to connect with people.
Of course, communicating with people isn’t the only benefit of social media. You can also use your profiles to highlight your own expertise, showcase your accomplishments, comment on industry-specific happenings of the day, and generally make yourself look like an appealing prospect by demonstrating technological fluency … even if you’re not applying for a job as social media manager. But in order to make sure you don’t set any traps for yourself, you must first ensure your job search confidentiality. That section will be covered later. Let’s now glean some do’s and don’ts on connecting with decision-makers.
Connecting with Decision-Makers: Do’s and Don’ts
No matter which channel you use to reach out to employers, it’s prudent to follow a few basic rules of the road. Being polite and respecting your contact’s time is not only the right thing to do, it will considerably up your chances of getting a response back. While digital technology has enabled a raft of new ways to connect, there is still protocol to follow.
It’s important not to dismiss this. While the casual nature of social media might convince us that the interactions thereon can also be casual, that’s not true. Respect is still owed to people who are older than you, for instance. It’s not a good idea, for example, to address a 60-year Director of Sales with, “What up, Bob? Hope biz is boomin’ because I’d love to be a part of the team!” Informal address, slang and presumption collide in this fictional (but not as fictional as you might think) example. If you don’t want your prospect to dismiss you forever – and actively work against you if your resume should ever cross their desk – be careful.
There’s another reason to ensure your outreach follows the rules of conduct, too: You’re not just making an impression on the decision-maker to whom you’re speaking. You’re also making an impression on anyone who reads that tweet, Facebook comment or Instagram story. If you wouldn’t say it in a job interview, it’s probably best not to say it on social. Otherwise, you might blow up your chance with jobs you haven’t yet thought to apply to or relationships that have not yet begun.
Did you know people form a first impression on visual content in a mere 50 milliseconds?!! So how long would it take for a decision-maker to form their first impression of your tweet, comment or outreach? (WebDAM.com)
With that said, here are a few don’ts and dos to keep you on your contacts’ good sides.
Here are some Don’ts
- Don’t contact the decision-maker’s company, HR department, boss or other connections: Nothing is more annoying than getting hunted down at your place of employment. Think about how much you would appreciate getting headhunted or bugged for assistance when you’re trying to file paperwork or finish a report. No, thank you. Instead, reach out to decision-makers via their own personal platforms.
- Don’t call after (their) business hours: Calling is a dicey prospect under the best of circumstances, so never reach out to the decision-maker after hours. However, considering they’re trying to work when they’re, you know, at work … it’s probably best to avoid the phone altogether unless a mutual contact has okayed it.
- Don’t text unless you have a preexisting relationship: Like calling, texting is intimate. It is overly presumptuous of you to send a text if you haven’t been given the go-ahead. This will most likely lead to an ignore at best, an outraged “Who is this??” at worst.
- Don’t presume the decision-maker has time for you: We’re all busy, and your hoped-for connection is no exception. If you want them to care about what you need, respect their time. If you’re asking to chat, offer multiple time slots and make your availability very clear. Then be flexible, always.
- Don’t forget to offer something in return, or even beforehand: There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and we tend to resent people who assume they’re welcome to one. If you want to make a good impression on a decision-maker, help them before you ask for something. Share one of their blog entries, respond to a social media post or hook them up with someone useful. Even a follow will get you much more notice than simply reaching out and making asks when you’ve done nothing to deserve them.
It’s not all bad news, though. Here are a few dos to add to your list.
Here are some Do’s
- Do find the best contact information for them and use it: Your prospects, like you, probably have a widespread online footprint. This includes social media profiles, LinkedIn contact information, a company email address and possibly even a personal blog. That’s a lot of choices, and you want to choose the best one. Target the platform on which the person looks most active. That means it’s most convenient for them to respond there, and as a bonus, you have the best chance of getting that response.
- Do feel free to email after business hours: While calling isn’t a great idea, emailing after business hours is totally fine. We expect our inboxes to swell in the evening and overnight, and no one looks at a timestamp and thinks you’re crazy for sending email at 10 p.m. Better yet, get up early and send your emails around 7 a.m. Eastern, when they’re most likely to pop up at the top of an inbox.
- Do feel free to reach out over social media at any time of day: Social media, like email, is an all-hours tool. Don’t hesitate to reach out at any time. Again, though, it’s better to position yourself to be noticed. Try to reach out when the person is already on the platform, and you’ll do better.
- Do constantly rotate through a long list of decision-makers: It’s natural to get your heart set on one job or one connection, but it isn’t a smart strategy. You have to keep a constant rotation of contacts to whom you’re reaching out, or else the well will run dry fairly quickly.
- Do feel free to reach out in multiple mediums: It’s totally fine to reach out to a potential employer in more than one medium. For instance, you might apply to the job through traditional channels and then follow up on Twitter with the person you know is in charge of the hiring process. However, one caveat: If you apply to the job first and then follow up, chances are good you will already have been beat out by a better prospect. It behooves you to forge a relationship with the decision-maker first.
Following these dos and don’ts doesn’t guarantee job search success, but it most certainly ups your chances. If you take the time to treat your prospects with the respect they deserve, they will appreciate it and give you considerably more consideration. This will make your use of social media even more effective.
Still need some convincing about the power of social? Let’s hear from the experts.
Job Search Confidentiality
Searching for a job is a necessary task at certain points in your life, and every employer knows that their employees will very likely want to move on to greener pastures at some point. They’ve been there themselves, after all, and most are unlikely to hate you as a person just because you’re trying to better your career and life.
However, there’s a very real difference between knowing your employee may someday accept another position, and seeing that a current employee is actively soliciting job offers from other companies. The latter is more likely to lead to termination before you’re ready, or at least a de-investment in you. Why would an employer want to sink more time and resources into someone, only to help another company in a few months? Unfortunately, if you were hoping for a promotion before you left to up the pay bump you’d receive at your next job, or wanted to part on good terms, this can seriously hamper things.
The obvious answer, as you already knew, is to keep your job search secret. Instead of advertising your intentions to the world in hopes of getting as many offers as possible, you’ve got to be strategic.
Here are some dos:
- Do tell friends, family members and colleagues you trust that you are in the market for a new job, and ask if they have any recommendations
- Do ask for introductions to people you know, either in person or through social media
- Do revamp your resume, and quietly update your LinkedIn profile and social media bios to reflect the job you’re looking for
- Do build a personal website that showcases your work and gives potential employees a good idea of what you are capable of
- Do ramp up your social media activity, though not so much it would be obvious to any employer who could track it
- Do work on your elevator pitch, a 30-second spiel that explains who you are, what you do and how you help companies succeed
Instead of advertising your intentions to the world in hopes of getting as many offers as possible, you’ve got to be strategic.
The above are all perfectly safe activities that will keep you under the radar at your current job, while both making you a more appealing prospect to potential new employers and expanding your network. It can even make you more appealing to your current company, because higher perceived value could be noticed by your employer, who might want to take advantage of it by putting you in a new role. While extra work on your profiles and brand might be a little red flag that you’re nosing around elsewhere, this can sometimes prove motivating to your existing company. Just don’t be too obvious about where you’re going with it.
While extra work on your profiles and brand might be a little red flag that you’re nosing around elsewhere, this can sometimes prove motivating to your existing company.
Now here are some don’ts:
- Don’t announce on social media that you’re looking for a job unless you are currently unemployed
- Don’t ask people at your company for job recommendations or references unless you are absolutely sure they will be discreet
- Don’t forget, when you’re reaching out to people in any form, to let them know you’re still employed (if you are) and that you appreciate them not giving your search away
- Don’t post anything on social media that makes it obvious you’re looking for a job
- Don’t forget that there’s a difference between public conversations and private ones
This last one is particularly important. For instance, if you’re speaking to someone about your job search on Twitter, make sure you’re using the private messaging app. Twitter also has a public response medium where you’re only talking to one person, but everyone can see what you two are saying to each other. That’s no good.
…if you’re speaking to someone about your job search on Twitter, make sure you’re using the private messaging app.
Regarding this last one, for instance, you’ll need to be aware of the difference between Instagram comments on posts (which everyone can see) and direct messages (which are private). Similarly, know that unless someone is following you on Twitter, any direct message you send is visible. Yes, you can tweet to someone specifically, but it will still show up on your feed.
We won’t spend any more time discussing these ideas below, so make sure you keep them in mind when it comes to all of our recommendations. Now we’re going to move on to how to use each platform in turn to the benefit of your job search.
How to Use Facebook to Land a Job
While not as job-oriented as LinkedIn, Facebook still hosts a wealth of opportunities for job seekers. For one thing, it’s a great place to learn about changes in the industry and possible openings at specific companies. By following a company’s Facebook page, you can also learn about who the decision-makers are and what the company ethic is. In some cases, they may even advertise open positions directly.
Before you can reach out to these companies or apply for these positions, however, you need to make sure your Facebook profile is presentable. If you have a business page, great. This means you started a blog, company or other entity that would entitle you to a professional page. If you just have a personal profile, that’s still fine as long as it is centered on your work life and accomplishments rather than your cats and your Taylor Swift addiction.
Alternatively, you can start a brand page that highlights who you are and what you do, but doesn’t necessitate your own business or blog. Your brand page isn’t linked to your personal page, so you can choose who sees it and who doesn’t. You can administer it from your personal page, however, so that when you log into Facebook you can scroll through both from the same dashboard. If you decide to sponsor your page (which means use ads to attract attention), note that people already in your network likely will see your page then.
Before you can reach out to these companies or apply for these positions, however, you need to make sure your Facebook profile is presentable.
Write a short, to-the-point bio that says what you do for a living, briefly explains your hobbies and interests, and highlights one or two reasons you’re a great employee. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this on a personal profile that your high school graduating class can see, then get a business or brand page.
Whatever you choose, it’s crucial to be professional, as with any other social media profile that’s visible to the world. If you’re using your personal page, upload a professional-looking picture – though it can be slightly more relaxed than LinkedIn – and scatter a few posts about your job approach/successes between the family pics and the stats from your latest workout. If you’re using a brand page, take a strictly career-oriented approach, as you would with LinkedIn.
According to JobCast, an incredible 66% of recruiters use Facebook as part of their strategy to win the war for today’s talent! This simply means recruiters are looking at you!
Now you can start messaging people you already know … or people you would like to know. Ask about job openings, display your expertise with targeted questions, and subtly make your availability known. If you’re a good prospect, you will eventually catch the attention of someone who matters, or be passed on to their contacts until you do. Do note that you cannot make a business or brand page private (unlike a personal page), so be careful about the job info you share there.
How to Use Twitter to Land a Job
Twitter is less obviously designed for the job hunt, but is still very useful. It contains some of the most up-to-the-minute information on the web, in a huge variety of different industries. No matter what you do for a living, your interests are guaranteed to be represented there on Twitter. If you can successfully tap into those industries, you’ll quickly pull ahead of your competitors in the job search.
Using it, however, is a little more challenging than Facebook or LinkedIn.
As mentioned above, you can reach out to people by tweeting at them (which other people can see), or if you follow one another, you can tweet them directly (where no one else can see). Neither of these is a very reliable communication system, however, and it’s a rare person who has a Twitter account but neither Facebook nor LinkedIn. Therefore, it’s usually more productive to keep the private messages on other platforms and use Twitter to display your own thought leadership.
You can do this in myriad ways, but the simplest and most straightforward include:
- Commenting on news items
- Talking about work you’re doing
- Broadcasting news from your own company
- Taking a (relatively soft) stand on matters of public interest
- Sharing the occasional personal status update (emphasis on occasional!)
One of Twitter’s best features is the “industry chat.” While this sounds like a fancy group to which you have to be invited, it’s not at all. It merely means a hashtag, which if you click on, will pull up all posts that have used that hashtag. This gives you a ton of information related to your job or industry, all in one place, where you can reference it any time. Even better, many of the people in your industry who can help you will be present on the chat. This is an excellent place to reach out to people and ask for advice, to demonstrate what you know and can do, and to become more informed about your chosen field. Over time, as you remain active in your chat(s), you can even become one of the recognized bigwigs, which helps you career immeasurably.
Super tip! To find an employer seeking candidates search these hashtags: #hiring, #tweetmyjobs, #HR, #jobopening, #jobposting, #employment, #opportunity, #recruiting, #rtjobs, #jobsearch, #joblisting, #hireme, #resume, #needajob, #employers, #career, #interview. Also hashtags related to your career ie, #projectmanager, #engineer, #accountant (CareerEnlightenment)
Also, as you use Twitter more and learn to streamline your system so you’re not spending all hours of the day trying to post, you’ll be able to branch out. If you want to post frequently but don’t have the time, consider a system such as Buffer, which has a free version or a cheap paid version to enable you to batch all your tweets but release them one by one over time. It’s a great way to stay active without devoting the rest of your days to this platform, so try it.
How to Use Instagram to Land a Job
Because Instagram is inherently so visual, it tends to be less obviously applicable to your search unless you’re in a field such as design, interior decoration, travel, food, floral or something equivalent. If you take the right approach, however, Instagram can be a valuable tool to any prospective employee.
Consider Boeing, which has a staggering 500k followers because they appeal to people’s fascination with aviation. Or Intel, which mixes latest products and projects with corporate culture. These feeds demonstrate that no matter what industry you belong to – automotive, legal, marketing, etc. – you can still use Instagram well as long as you find a unique angle.
You can post your latest projects, showcase your visual aesthetic and offer behind-the-scenes snaps of your workspace or studio. This is a great way to demonstrate your abilities to employers – whether you’re looking for freelance work or want to be hired on at a company full-time. It’s also a good way to showcase the work of others, by posting their photos to your feed with credit. Doing so helps their account grow, and grabs their attention so they can follow you as well.
You can post your latest projects, showcase your visual aesthetic and offer behind-the-scenes snaps of your workspace or studio.
Like Twitter, Instagram also uses hashtags. So also like Twitter, you can click on a specific hashtag and see everything that’s happening in that category at any given time. You can see the highest performing posts at the top, which will give you ideas on the kinds of photos that do well so you can replicate them. You can also see the barrage of photos using that hashtag in real time, in order to keep up with others in the industry. If you’re not yet sure which hashtags to use, leverage the search tool. Type in a word related to your industry, and watch all the related tags pop up. Use the best four or five on your posts to help you get found.
Hot tip! If you’re not yet sure which hashtags to use, leverage the search tool and use the same #hashtags from Twitter referenced above!.
As Intel demonstrates, Instagram is a great place to get a feel for company culture. Most medium-sized and larger companies have Instagram accounts, where you can learn how they approach work, their basic views and the kind of personalities they’re looking for. Thus, it’s a great place to mine information before reaching out to decision-makers or applying for jobs.
How to Clean Up Your Reputation & Past
Reputation, Reputation, Reputation.
Now, don’t get offended. Most millennials, and quite a few people in Generation Y, are guilty of certain online indiscretions. We don’t mean anything really bad, necessarily … but not everything you’ve ever said or done is for public consumption, right? Think of that backless swimsuit pic in St. Barts, or the post about how much you haaaaaaaaaaaate ___________. Because frankly, you should never publicly hate anything; you never know who loves it.
That being the case, you might have to clean up your profiles a little bit. This is actually pretty easy. Trolling through the last hundred or so tweets is probably good enough. Ditto Instagram. Facebook has a feature that pops up “your post 5 years ago!” at unpredictable moments, so it will need a deep clean.
For LinkedIn, you really shouldn’t have anything inappropriate, but if you do … off it goes. Even if you’ve, say, written for edgy publications, make sure the resume line is squeaky clean. That way people who want to dig deeper can, but those who are just skimming lines won’t be drawn to something inappropriate.
Job searchers beware!! A recent survey suggests a whopping 70% of employers are snooping candidates’ social media profiles to see if you are the right fit for them!! (Careerbuilder)
Other things to take off your feed include:
- Relationship status: No one needs to know this, and you never know what kind of status will produce prejudice.
- Pictures in anything less than full clothing: Even though we all wear bathing suits and skimpy dress in hot weather, it looks inherently unprofessional.
- Alcohol: Again, most people drink, but most booze pictures are just inappropriate. In rare cases, this is fine, such as at a wedding or a company wine tasting. All other party pics have to go.
- Strong political stances: Unless you actually want to go into politics, this isn’t a good idea, because you don’t want prospective employers influenced by this.
- Strong moral stances: Even if you’re a passionate advocate of, say, human rights, this can come off too strongly. It’s better to support your causes in private with donations or volunteer time. You can run the occasional campaign on social media for non-inflammatory causes, but stay away from anything polarizing.
- Religion: For the most part, while your faith is important, other people would prefer to be left out of it.
- Fights: Social media is NOT the place to pick a fight with family, friends, companies or anyone else. Save your outrage for a private space. This isn’t the same as an honestly negative review, or asking a company on Twitter to fix a bug in their software. But even then, be gracious at all costs.
- Graphic baby information: Babies go to the bathroom. We all do. But come on, no one needs to hear about your little one’s latest toileting habits.
- Bigotry: Even if you aren’t racist (and we sincerely hope you aren’t), avoid anything that could even be perceived that way. “Jokes” are rarely funny. Similarly, avoid stating your opinions about gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or anything else. Other people’s most personal attributes are not yours to comment on in anything less than a fully supportive way.
If you’re really worried about your past, you should follow this guide to cleaning up your online presence. Too much to do yourself? Google “online reputation management” and find an expert to help you. The fees are usually pretty reasonable, especially when weighed against the chances that a potential employer will find dirt you really want to keep hidden.
Conversely, job seekers aren’t the only ones affected by reputations on social media, it also flows back to the employer.
Incredibly, prospective employees are five times more likely to just refuse to consider an offer from a company with a bad reputation!! Also, 69% of job seekers would turn down an offer from a company with a bad reputation EVEN if they were unemployed! (Corporate Responsibility Magazine / Allegis Group Services)
Whether it’s the employee or employer, each should always possess a high level of integrity, trust and loyalty.
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