For job seekers, strategic use of social media is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal — but it’s also a double-edged sword. Unfortunately, one misstep can stand out to potential employers more than your list of bona fides.
If done right, however, skilled use of these platforms — primarily LinkedIn, but others like Facebook and Twitter as well — can help distinguish you from many users who aren’t taking full advantage of the power to create an impressive and polished professional image. With 40 million people on LinkedIn searching for jobs each week, you want to be one of the three people getting hired on the platform each minute.
To get the latest tips on the best ways to leverage social tools, we consulted Heather Hamilton, founder of Resume Insider, which provides resume, LinkedIn and job search coaching services.
“Recruiters heavily rely on social media as part of their job candidate generation strategy,” Hamilton said. “Often your presence on social media is the first impression a recruiter has of you. So it’s important that you are sending the right signals.”
Yes, You Do Need To Be on Social Media
The first three things recruiters will do when trying to fill a position are ask the hiring team who they know, look in their applicant tracking system, then search on LinkedIn, said Hamilton (who is a former recruiter). “It’s important that your profile is both easy to find and is super engaging and represents your background well,” she said.
In fact, if you do not have a social media presence, that could be a red flag. Specifically for certain jobs in the tech industry, Hamilton said. “If you’re a software developer, they may be concerned if they don’t see you on GitHub.” GitHub is an open-source community for software developers.
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Outside of LinkedIn, where users tend to keep their profiles clean and professional, Facebook, Instagram and other more casual platforms are by no means off-limits for recruiters to learn more about potential candidates.
“There can be ‘gotcha’ things on social media where you might be posting content that’s controversial,” Hamilton said.
She recommends scrolling through your feeds and auditing yourself at least once a year to make sure that a Google search of your name doesn’t reveal anything that might reflect negatively on your personal brand.
Write a Good Headline
Recruiters are likely to find candidates of interest on LinkedIn by searching for specific job titles. The first pieces of information they see in their search results are your name, photo and headline — so use that information to make it count.
Hamilton recommends being specific about your job or position and avoiding vague descriptions that won’t catch the attention of someone looking to fill a specific position. “Your headline really needs to match what the recruiter is looking for,” she said.
Take a Good Photo
While you don’t need to hire a photographer to take a professional headshot for your LinkedIn profile, you do need to make sure your photo is a clear, current and positive representation of your image. This is not the place for artistic filters, nor is it a great idea to use a photo of your younger self you might like better. Be authentic and avoid surprising your recruiter when you do land a face-to-face interview.
To take a nice headshot at home, make sure you have a plain background, good lighting and professional attire. A search on the web or YouTube will turn up plenty of good tutorials offering more tips and tricks.
Use Those Keywords
Another popular search tool for recruiters are keywords, where recruiters will use specific search terms to look for people who have worked at certain companies or have job-specific skills that are needed.
“You need to look at your profile through the lens of a recruiter and think about what they might be searching for,” Hamilton said. You should sprinkle those keywords throughout your profile, description and work experience in a natural way.
Add To the Conversation
Engaging with others in a professional way is a great way to reinforce your qualifications and skills. By starting and joining conversations on LinkedIn and Twitter, it can help get you noticed and signal that you’re active in your career space.
Hamilton points out that merely retweeting others’ tweets without adding your own insights, though, doesn’t accomplish much. “The most important thing to do is to demonstrate your expertise and have an opinion,” she said. “If you’re sharing an article and adding something new to the conversation, they see you have a depth of knowledge and point of view that reflects your qualifications.”
Don’t Copy and Paste Your Resume
The work experience section of LinkedIn is often misused, Hamilton said. Rather than copying and pasting your resume here or just listing job titles, use it as an opportunity to describe the work that you did and how you got it done. “Your job experience content can be more brief. Think of your profile as a digital handshake,” she said.
Open To Work? You Don’t Have To Shout It
“There’s a perception that the best candidates have companies coming to them,” Hamilton said, “even though may not necessarily be true.” The #OpenToWork photo frame offered by LinkedIn isn’t attractive, from a recruiter’s perspective, she said. Instead, you can indicate that you’re open to new opportunities by viewing your profile and changing your “open to work” setting at the top. Make your status visible to recruiters only, which will remove the distracting photo frame from your profile.
Network, Network, Network
The primary functionalities of social networks, of course, is the ability to connect with people who share your interests. Hamilton said to think of LinkedIn as “a massive people database” — and it’s full of opportunities through other users you’ve worked with in the past, went to college with or shared interest groups.
One of the hardest things to get over might be reaching out to ask for help. But Hamilton has some advice: “Purge the idea that you are bothering people from your mind. Most people like to help, and it’s flattering to be asked for advice,” she said. “When you reach out to people, be specific about what you want advice on; maybe you want to know how to make a career change that the other person has made, or how to attract the attention of recruiters at their company.”
Another point to remember: Don’t wait to build your network until the day you need to access it. Get in the habit of making connections often to help with any job search in the future.
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