How (And How Not) to Use Social Media During the Job Search

staffing, consulting, executive search services

Several years ago, I was preparing to make the move to Washington, DC, after spending decades in Texas. I was moving from a market where I knew everybody to one where I didn’t know a soul.

I needed a job, so I headed to LinkedIn and cold-messaged 10 people I had never met before. I heard back from at least eight of them — and one of the conversations led me to where I work today.

Stories like mine are becoming more common all the time. Social media permeates many aspects of our lives, and it’s even affecting how we network, identify quality candidates, and get hired. According to a survey from CareerBuilder, 70 percent of employers screen job candidates via their social media profiles. If employers are already looking at our social profiles, why not leverage them to get on a target company’s radar?

Recruiters are getting the same idea, as 44 percent have made a hire based on content they found on social media, according to the same CareerBuilder survey. This trend extends beyond LinkedIn. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are all creating fruitful opportunities for job seekers to make their next professional moves. Slack is also on the rise as a method for speeding up the job hunt, but I predict it’ll be a few years before this trend goes mainstream. In the meantime, candidates continue to look to social media to assist with the grind that is finding a new gig.

But where there is free-flowing communication, there will inevitably be those who abuse the benefits. I’ve heard from some impressive young professionals on my social media channels, but I have nearly missed them in the sea of spam messages. That means social-media-savvy job seekers have to pivot their approaches in order to stand out to overburdened recruiters. Here are some dos and don’ts to make your message stick when making a professional connection through social media:

1. Do Be Short and Sweet

Recruiters are busy. If they encounter huge blocks of text in their direct messages, they’re unlikely to read all the way through. Your concise message should meet at the intersection of personal and professional — friendly and natural enough to clue a recruiter in that you’re not an irrelevant bot, but professional and specific enough that it occurs to the recruiter this is a professional interaction. This grabs the recruiter’s attention and keeps you from getting lost in the shuffle.

2. Do Build Rapport

Never turn down a chance to relate with your contact. Social media profiles are our personal branding sites, so don’t be shy to point it out if you notice you share an alma mater with a recruiter. I think people often underestimate the power of a common experience. If I hear from someone who shares something in common with me, I naturally want to continue the conversation and learn more about their professional background.

3. Do Provide Relevant Materials

If you’re reaching out about a job opportunity, don’t draw out the initial interaction longer than it needs to be. Rather than asking recruiters if they’d be interested in reviewing your resume, just give it to them. You only get a short window to capture their attention, and appropriate documents like resumes or writing samples give you the opportunity to say more with less.

4. Don’t Invade Anyone’s Privacy

It should go without saying, but don’t seek out personal phone numbers. If you come across someone’s personal email without a mutual connection passing it to you, don’t use it. Google Hangouts likely isn’t a good idea, either. All of these examples cross a line into violating a person’s digital privacy. If I were to hear from a job seeker via those channels, I would feel unsettled, and I definitely wouldn’t form a good opinion of that professional based on the interaction. Social media is the perfect workaround because it’s meant to be public-facing, so there is no need to resort to these other, more personal channels.

5. Don’t Reach Out to the CEO by Default

Unless you’re an experienced executive yourself, you probably shouldn’t reach out to C-level execs via social media. Their attention is trained on matters of a much higher level than hiring for an entry-level specialist or mid-level manager position. Do some digging to find the appropriate contact person for a job at your level and you’ll have a better shot at meaningful interaction. For example, if you’re hoping to find out about marketing coordinator jobs, you shouldn’t reach out to a CMO. A marketing lead or manager would be a much more effective bet.

Social media provides a wealth of opportunities for job seekers to get themselves in front of the right people, but only if their outreach is well executed. In 2018, it pays to be bold and reach out to potential connections via their Instagram stories or by direct messaging them on LinkedIn — but whether or not the risk pays off depends on how you frame your message. Don’t be afraid to DM your way into your dream job — just make sure you’re putting thought into how you do so.

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