Do’s and don’ts of using social media in your job search
By Mary Brandel | Network World
With the economy improving, IT jobs are becoming more plentiful. And that means tech professionals – even those who are happily employed – are looking around to see what’s available out there in the job market.
According to a recent survey from TEKsystems, eight out of 10 IT pros say they are interested in new job opportunities. And 75% of respondents said they use social media to look for jobs and check out potential new employers.
Economic factors are a big reason for the surge in social job-hunting, explains C. J. Reuter, director of client success at Work4, which sells social and mobile recruiting solutions. In the past, people were skeptical about merging their personal and professional worlds on social media.
But that changed during the turmoil that followed the 2008 downturn. “People had to swallow their pride and tell people they needed work, and they started using Facebook and LinkedIn to do that,” he says. “Now, if a professional sends a message to a hiring manager on Facebook and mentions that they went to the same school, he’d most likely get a response. Economics has really pushed the job search function into the realm of the personal.”
The flipside is also true –recruiters and employers are also streaming to social media to find candidates. In the TEKsystems survey, 68% of IT leaders report using social media to source candidates. “There’s been big shift since I started in this business,” says Allison Betancourt, director of learning and development at Addison Group, a national staffing firm. “We’ve had to adapt our workflow to embrace social media because so many candidates out there are using those resources in their job search.”
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In one instance, an Addison recruiter identified a candidate on an online forum and then checked out his Facebook page, where she learned that he liked cupcakes. The employer with the open position happened to be located right across the street from a bakery, so the recruiter extended an invitation to meet there to discuss the opportunity. “There are the little personal things you can do now,” Betancourt says. “We have so much access to everything that it’s daunting, as long as you leverage it in the appropriate way.”
The following are some tips to help job seekers do just that on a range of social media.
Lots of IT professionals participate on discussion forums that pertain to specific slices of the technology field, from Hadoop to Android development. What they might not realize is that while there, they are also elevating their presence in the recruiting community, says Shravan Goli, President of Dice.com. In addition to dedicated forums like GitHub for developers and Dribbble for Web designers, Twitter hosts many technology conversations, he says.
DO: Make data available to an aggregator service, such as Flipboard or DICE’s OpenWeb, which gives recruiters one place to view social data and forum posts that are most relevant to them. OpenWeb, for example, synthesizes publicly available data from 130 sources that – when combined with an individual’s job history and skills background – provides a rich candidate profile, including social activity, social contact info and interests.
DON’T: Just agree with people. You need to participate in a meaningful way.
Twitter has become a solid networking platform, according to Goli. Candidates can follow hiring managers in companies where they’re interested in working, and they can also participate in dialogs or provide feedback on product announcements or service capabilities.
Recruiters and hiring managers share job posts on Twitter, Goli says, which is why DICE now offers “expandable tweets,” which provide more detailed data about the job beyond 140 characters, as well as clickable contact information.
The posts appear as a tweet to IT professionals who follow the company or track the subject of the hashtag. “We’re noticing that these cards perform significantly better than the typical banner ads,” he says, with 15 times the click-through rates. “They’re able to get sufficient information on the job right then and there and take action on it without leaving the Twitter site,” Goli says.
DO: Take advantage of Twitter’s search bar.
Kellie Elmerraji, social media specialist at TEKsystems, suggests that candidates use Twitter’s search bar to see what jobs are out there, by typing in keywords that relate to your job search, such as “jobs” or “hiring,” and other specific terms that relate to the industry, like “IT,” “.NET developer” or “programmer.”
Many Twitter accounts are dedicated to posting job opportunities, she says. “If you type ‘jobs’ in the search bar, and then click ‘people,’ you’ll see a list of Twitter accounts with ‘jobs’ in their username, and you can follow them to see new job openings,” she says. “It’s a way to get the noise out of the way to search for specific jobs.
DON’T: Mingle personal and professional Tweets in one account.
It’s advisable to set up a separate Twitter account for business vs. personal use, maybe using a nickname for the latter. “It’s important to show your personality, but your professional contacts don’t necessarily want to know what you last ate or what you’re doing tonight after work,” Elmerraji says.
Betancourt suggests using one of the 50 best hashtags either when searching (like #hiring, #tweetmyjobs, #HR) or tweeting (#hireme, #linkedin, #resume). And make sure your tweet is rich in keywords that specifically reflect your skills or the type of position you’re interested in, like Java development or Scrum Master.
When tweeting, Betancourt warns, it’s important to be seen and heard, while also applying some discretion. “Hiring managers want to know the impact you’d have on their organization, that you’re the type of person who’s going to exceed their expectations,” she says. “So think of that when you tweet or provide status updates.” And instead of tweeting “every 10 seconds,” she says, “send a few thoughtful tweets at strategic times throughout the day, like the morning and afternoon commuting times, which is when people are most active on social media.”
While some candidates and recruiters are leery of using Facebook for hiring and job searches, according to Goli, it can be a good idea to “like” companies you’d really like to work for. By doing so, Elmerraji says, you’ll get daily updates about what’s happening with their business, such as leadership changes, surges in growth or new initiatives, “which can give you a big boost in an interview when you demonstrate intimate knowledge of the company,” she says. Further, if companies are hiring, they are likely to post links to available job applications, sometimes before they post in other locations, “giving you a back-stage pass to what’s going on,” she says.
DO: Use Facebook for information gathering
Facebook also gives job seekers tremendous insight into the company’s culture, Betancourt says, which can be a driving factor in making a successful job decision. “Culture can often outweigh skills in terms of whether a candidate is a good match,” she says. “It plays a huge role in workplace happiness.” Such information goes both ways, she adds, as some hiring managers are interested in gaining at least some insight into what makes candidates tick. “If they see family pictures and photos from your vacation, it might compel them more to reach out to you,” she says.
DON’T: Expose private information
It’s a delicate balance when deciding how much to expose. The important thing, Elmerraji says, is to review your privacy settings so that you know what other people can or can’t see. “It is important that you know who can view your profile and what they will see when they find you,” she says, “and if you have a very private profile, consider setting your work and education information as public, so that potential employers can see your professional history.”
LinkedIn is the No.1 resource for recruiters and hiring managers seeking qualified IT professionals, Betancourt says, so it’s essential to at least develop a profile, if not engage in one of the many professional groups. “Connecting and joining with a community of people with similar backgrounds is a great way to identify opportunities,” she says.
Elmerraji agrees: “If someone is asking intelligent questions or working on a high-level project, a recruiter that’s embarking on a similar project in the next few months might reach out.”
To ensure relevancy, Elmerraji adds, make sure you take care of the basics, like updating your resume and profile on a regular basis. “Your resume needs to be a living, breathing document,” she says, “including the projects you’re working on, success rates and other detailed information that explains why you’re a valuable hire.”
DO: Regularly update your resume
One idea is to schedule updates on a quarterly basis, especially since many IT professionals are engaged in quarterly projects, Elmerraji suggests. “Much in the way that public companies issue quarterly earnings, this can be a great trigger to update your profile,” she says.
Another basic is to fill out the skills and endorsements section on LinkedIn. While the site allows you to post up to 50 skills on your profile, the average number of endorsements per user is just five, Elmerraji says. “If you want to stand out from your competition, fill in your skills so that people have the opportunity to endorse you for them,” she says.
DON’T: Forget to include a professional looking photo of yourself.
According to LinkedIn, profiles with photos are seven times more likely to be viewed than those without photos, and about 19% of recruiters only look at your image. You can brand yourself further on LinkedIn by adding a banner image to your profile, Elmerraji adds. “You can use this space to demonstrate your passion or highlight who you are as a person,” she says.
DO: Create a resume pinboard.
An emerging place to post resumes, Elmerajji says, is Pinterest. “You can pin your resume so that it can be shared throughout the site and gain exposure,” she says. Another option is to create a resume pinboard. “Instead of limiting your resume to one pin, create an entire board that showcases your talent,” she says. “Include examples of work you have done in the past, the schools you attended, the IT certifications you earned, and the companies you have worked for in the past.”
DO: Manage your personal brand.
No matter where you go on social media, keep in mind that 82% of recruiters and hiring managers say they conduct social searches to screen candidates, according to the TEKsystems survey. For that reason, it’s important to clean up your profile and monitor it over time so that you present yourself in a professional and consistent manner, Elmerajji says. She suggests using a tool such as SimpleWash, Socially Clean or Social Sweepster. “There’s always a risk that someone might add a photo of you or write a statement that includes your name,” she says.
“You need to be conscious of what you’re putting out there,” Betancourt agrees, advocating that job seekers use site features like Facebook’s approval function for photos you’re tagged in, or Pinterest’s “secret boards.” “Put the brakes on the funny memes,” she says, “and stay focused on the professional aspects.”
Brandel is a freelance writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.