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Job search networking in the age of social media

Making personal connections by phone and face-to-face remain the best ways to get hired, but social media and online communication are effective tools for professional networking that leads to a job.

Online research and networking via social platforms—especially LinkedIn—will get you so far. But then it’s time to be intentional about building awareness and interest in yourself and letting hiring managers know you want to be found.

I once served on a management team launching a new concept nationwide. We hired a marketing team from Bain Consulting who taught me two heuristics that are as true for a job search as they are for a product launch:

1. Build awareness. Before consumers buy a new product, they want to try it. Before they want to try it, they must have interest. Before they can have interest, they must have awareness. So, the first step in marketing a new product is to build awareness.
Now let’s apply that to job search. Before an employer hires you, they need to interview you. Before they want to interview you, they must be interested in you. Before they can have interest in you, they must be aware of you. So, the first step with each prospective employer is building their awareness of you.

2. Make multiple impressions. Most candidates think that applying for a position online builds awareness. As a former executive search consultant, I can tell you that there is no assurance that submitting your resume online creates awareness. Your resume could be buried in a stack of 200 or parsed incorrectly into a database, making it irretrievable by title or name search.

Also, the hiring manager may have relaxed the specs since your resume was initially ruled out and the recruiter may not go back through all those resumes to determine those that now fit. The bottom line is that only applying online is an insufficient effort, especially if this is a job you really want.

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I also learned from Bain’s marketing gurus that it takes five to seven impressions before awareness is created, and it’s the fifth, sixth or seventh impression before our brain makes the connection. An impression is an opportunity for awareness. In advertising, each commercial you view, each magazine advertisement you flip through, each radio spot you hear is an impression. And one, two, three or four impressions is not enough.

Let’s apply that to a job search. Applying online is impression one. Calling the next day to make sure your resume was received could be impression two. Calling the next week to say you will be in the neighborhood and would love to put a face to a name could be impression three. Getting to impressions four, five, six and seven can be hard, especially if you don’t know a lot of folks at that company. LinkedIn can save the day by helping you identify folks you know that work there, or used to work there, or a hiring manager you don’t know but you know someone that does

Networking with LinkedIn

Recruiters often look for potential hires by using keyword searches. So make sure that the keywords associated with the jobs you are seeking appear in your LinkedIn profile. Also, make certain that your email address is in your LinkedIn summary, so folks who aren’t first connections have a way to reach you.

Once your LinkedIn profile is complete, it’s all about your connections. If you don’t have many connections on LinkedIn, here are some ways to increase them:

• Look up everyone who ever worked for each of your former employers. If it is a large company, narrow it down to your location, or your division or department. Send an invitation to connect – and be sure to include a friendly note in your invitation.

• Don’t invite those you don’t know, unless you have reason to believe they will be receptive to your invitation. Often those on LinkedIn who are receptive to invitations from people they don’t know are either recruiters and/or LIONs—LinkedIn Open Networkers.

• If you do reach out to someone you don’t know, it is perfectly acceptable to say you came across their background on LinkedIn and thought the two of you should connect.

• Join LinkedIn groups of people in your profession, your industry, your alma mater and/or your location. Being in a shared group enables you to send personal messages (free) without being a first connection.

• Once you identify a company you’d like to work for, or once you’ve applied, use LinkedIn to see who you might know who works—or has worked—at that company and reach out to them. If you don’t have any first connections, find second connections that look most attractive to your search and request an introduction through your mutual connection(s). Then determine with whom at the targeted company you would like to connect (such as the hiring manager) and identify your connections who can help you do that.

Lastly, recruiters and HR managers often are gatekeepers, protecting the hiring manager’s time. When applying for a position directly (not through a search consultant), you should consider networking into the hiring manager, ideally via someone who is influential or who the hiring manager trusts and respects. To find the hiring manager, search the company on LinkedIn and likely titles for the manager who is hiring for the position you want. If you are one or two connections away, reach out to mutual connections to learn about the company and the hiring manager.

Social networking is one of the best ways to increase your chances of being found by an employer and getting an invitation for that face-to-face meeting that will help you land a job.

About the Author
Jan Nickerson is Senior Outplacement Consultant at FGP, Find Great People. She is as an advocate for using technology, from training FGP’s new hires in using technology to showing outplacement candidates how to use online resources to connect with former colleagues and prospective hiring managers. Jan is the author of Helping Your Dream Job Find You and has developed several job search practices, including Wow Criteria.

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