Written by Laura Gunderson, this article first appeared on Oregonlive.com.
It may be a digital world, but who you know remains the key to finding a job.
The difference is that social media has made getting to know the right people just a little easier.
“Don’t underestimate how important online is to finding a job,” said Josh Siler, chief technology officer and founder of HiringThing, which helps small and midsize businesses post jobs online, manage résumés and fill vacancies.
“It’s more complicated, but job seekers really have a good opportunity. They can be very proactive and work those channels.”
The competition out there is fierce, so anything you can do to improve your odds is a good idea.
As of July, 8 percent of Oregonians remained out of work, compared with 7.3 percent nationally. In Washington the figure was 6.9 percent.
That translates to more than 155,000 people in Oregon and 239,000 in Washington on the state jobless rolls and actively looking for work.
A lot of those job seekers understand it’s not as easy as getting in line at the unemployment office. Already this year, hundreds of Oregonians have taken a class offered by WorkSource Portland Metro on how to use social media to increase their chances at a job.
In short, it’s a job-hunting jungle out there. Below, Siler and other experts offer their thoughts on how to use social media, as well as the good old-fashioned résumé.
Here’s what they suggest:
Aimee Fahey, who founded EcoGrrl Consulting, a Portland-based recruiting and career coaching firm, said LinkedIn is “the primary place where I find people.”
Fahey, who specializes in the tech field, says many of the profiles she sees are too narrow, too broad or out of date. Sometimes they’re also out of sync; don’t wear a suit in your picture if you’re applying at a scrappy, more laid-back startup.
She and others recommend that profiles on the business-networking site be clear and use appropriate keywords. Avoid creating a laundry list of accomplishments and responsibilities without providing context. Give a few sentences that lay out your information and then quickly illustrate how they culminated in a successful project, campaign or program.
“Say what your job title is but not your entire job description, then tell me why you’re awesome,” Fahey said. “Tell me why I should pick up the phone.”
Joshua Waldman, author of “Job Searching with Social Media for Dummies,” has done extensive research on how candidates can get a leg up on the LinkedIn ladder.
Size matters, he says. Aim for around 500 connections. That, he says, proves you are truly engaged and it helps your chances of getting seen by recruiters.
“LinkedIn has taken away some features, especially in how you can sort search results,” he said. “Now recruiters rely more on searches through degrees of connections. That’s why, for job hunters, second- and third-degree connections matter.”
He also recommends researching what skills you should list. Try searching one of your listed skills at LinkedIn.com/skills. Look in the upper right corner to find the year-over-year growth rate of that skill.
“Most people don’t bother to think about strategy, but you want to choose those that are on the rise, not falling,” said Waldman, who created the curriculum for the social media job-search classes offered by WorkSource.
First, ditch the bells and whistles.
“Most companies use software that parses résumés and looks for keywords before any human looks at it,” said Siler of HiringThing. “You have to make sure your résumé is machine readable. Don’t use fancy graphics or formatting.”
Siler and others recommend tailoring résumés to each job and company that you target. Research the industry and study the job description. Don’t be afraid to market yourself and emphasize the specific skills or knowledge base you have that they’re looking for.
That said, be careful of being too wonky and using descriptions that may not catch a recruiter’s eye.
“I’m looking for key words or descriptions,” said Fahey, who career-coached 85 people over the past year. “Don’t dumb it down, but make it easy for me to see you are qualified.”
On that note, let recruiters make that decision. Fahey said she sees many women underestimate their fit for particular jobs.
“Women self-select themselves out like crazy,” she said. “If they don’t meet 90 percent of the qualifications, they don’t apply.”
If candidates meet a majority of qualifications, they should customize their résumés to highlight those skills and apply. It may not matter if the description says at least seven years of experience and you only have five.
“If you never apply in the first place,” she said, “I will never know you exist.”
Yes. Résumé and cover letter in that order.
The experts say candidates often don’t use cover letters anymore and if they do, they make the cardinal sin of simply focusing on themselves.
“If you’re going to do it, make sure it’s answering a question, not just bragging about yourself,” said Fahey, adding that the question should be why you are the best match, in terms of qualifications and experience, for this particular company at this particular time.
“It’s just like dating,” she said. “If you want them to call you for another date, you better not just talk about yourself. Say it’s Nike, tell them why you love Nike, what’s cool about them and why you want to work for them.”
Though more of the job hunt is online these days, the experts maintain that most of their placements come through referrals. That can mean referrals through social media, but also face-to-face socializing.
Avoid job-seeking events, they say, since that means chatting with a room full of competitors. Instead, target gatherings that attract the people you want to work with.
Have cards ready to hand out, but relax. Keep your mind and ears open, taking advantage of a chance to learn something more about the industry.
Even though it makes some job-hunters uneasy, Facebook is a good place to establish the ties that could bring home leads.
Waldman said many folks misunderstand Facebook’s role.
Though recruiters attribute millions of job placements to Facebook, it’s not usually because they’ve combed the social media site and plucked up a candidate for a particular job, he said.
“That’s one of the biggest misunderstandings of Facebook,” said Waldman, adding that the site’s new graph search is helping recruiters create large talent pools from which to seek candidates for a variety of future jobs.
“Typically,” he said, “people are finding those jobs from referrals from friends and family on Facebook.
Short and sweet is the key to many aspects of the job hunt. Candidates often must attempt to capture their skills, attitude and work ethic in a few words that will catch a recruiter’s eye.
That’s Twitter in a nutshell. Yet it’s a nut that can crack two ways.
Siler of HiringThing says he warns folks about tweets that may show just how candidates conducts themselves in their current jobs.
“If we’re hiring for an account management position and we look at your Twitter feed and see you were talking bad about your current company’s clients, that can be poisonous,” Siler said. “That’s all part of the public record these days, so don’t harm your chances.”
Twitter can help a job seeker get a better view into a company where they may want to work, too.
One of the companies Fahey recruits for recently sponsored a team of its employees for the Hood to Coast relay.
“Everybody was tweeting and posting pictures; that’s awesome,” she said. “That shows they’re a close-knit group, they’re having fun and not just sitting at their desks 90 hours a week. That helps sell the company.”
Twitter can help older candidates concerned about age discrimination prove their mettle.
Waldman says he hears from people in their 50s that a picture with gray hair on LinkedIn may hurt their chances of landing a job. But using social media effectively can show they’re flexible, open and engaged, he said.
“If they’re on Twitter,” he said, “that signals they get it.”
The job board market has boomed in recent years, but not necessarily in a way that will help all job hunters, the experts say. Once again it’s a tool that requires research and strategy.
Seek out niche boards, by Googling that phrase and particular industries, such as health care, programming or advertising, Siler said. Don’t waste valuable time on general-purpose boards, experts say.
A good board will post about a half dozen new jobs daily. Those that only have one or two probably aren’t as popular.
And be aware of scam jobs on such boards. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Fahey says she uses Indeed.com, a fairly reliable job aggregator that allows potential candidates to program daily searches in their area. She also recommends tracking down popular groups and blogs that have become must-reads for certain industries.