Traditionally, we’ve thought of the hiring process as one in which job applicants are judged based on their resumes, cover letters, professional appearances, references, and ultimately face-to-face interviews. With the rise of social media we’re seeing a new factor come into play for prospective employees looking to find a career: social media background checks. We’ve all heard stories about people getting fired for an untoward tweet or Facebook post.
Even before being hired, many applicants are rejected because of negative material found online. In fact, a recent study showed that nearly 70% of employers had refrained from hiring someone because of information found online. This could be in the form of blogs, photos, videos, and social media posts.
Social media background checks are now being packaged into services and employers will have to determine whether they think these services are efficient at choosing the most worthy job applicants. One such service, Social Intelligence, was approved by the FCC last year and has been implemented by a number of different companies.
Social Intelligence essentially mines a person’s social media profiles and creates a comprehensive document that flags and assesses racy material. Instead of focusing on credit scores or criminal backgrounds—though those may be pursued independently—SI paints a portrait of a job candidate based upon their social media activity. Hiring managers can then look at this information and make a determination. They can store this data in their archives for up seven years.
Regardless of how you view this practice ethically, it’s certainly worth both employers and job seekers taking note of the trend. In the near future, resumes and degrees will increasingly being competing with the online reputations created through social media. The implications of this are obvious: job seekers must do their own reputation management—similar to how companies monitor their brand online—to ensure that social media background check companies won’t be able to dredge up damaging material.
Yes, this means not posting pictures of yourself drunk or naked. It also means limiting the vulgarity you use. It is also certainly worth looking into your privacy permissions and making sure your social media accounts are locked to outside observers. That is, unless you want employers to see inside your profiles. If your material is squeaky clean and full of positive posts, this could be beneficial.
Hiring managers will also have to make sure that they are not overvaluing these background checks. Incidents and posts must be contextualized. A job applicant’s sterling job history, educational degrees, and skill sets should not necessarily be trumped by a propensity to post irresponsibly on social media sites. That said, cavalier online behavior is certainly a characteristic worth looking into, especially if your company deals with sensitive or highly classified material.
Many employers may ask for a written recommendation letter from a previous employer, professor or personal reference. Here are a few things to consider when it comes to reference letters.
You should carefully consider who you ask to write a letter of recommendation. When you do, it’s important that you explain why you have chosen them and what unique relationship you have with that person that will allow them to effectively communicate your skill sets to your next employer.
You should arm your former colleague with the tools she needs to write you a recommendation. It’s time-consuming and inconsiderate to just ask someone to spend lots of time to write something for you from scratch. You don’t need to put words in her mouth, but do give her some direction. She needs to know your specific intents with the letter (is it general, for a specific job, the job description, etc.) and the characteristics and skills you’d like to highlight. Giving some points of reference or even a draft will help you get a more customized, stronger recommendation letter.
Components of a Recommendation Letter
First paragraph: In the introduction of your letter, provide an explanation of how this person knows you. It might be your previous boss, a professor of a class that relates to the job you’re applying for, or a personal friend who can vouch for your character.
Second paragraph: This is the meat of the reference letter. It should detail about your qualities as they relate to the job description, what you bring to the table, and why this person is writing the letter for you. If necessary, this can be expanded into two paragraphs, but don’t make it too long.
Third paragraph: If there is a specific job description, this is the part where you specific skills for the job should be explained. Remind the person of any examples from your past they could highlight in the letter.
Conclusion: Be sure to summarize your — the job seeker’s — skills and recommend you for the role.
Contact info: The recommendation letter should also provide all contact information for the referrer – name, job title, company, phone number and email.
Keep a Copy
You may need a similar letter for future applications, so make sure you keep copies/scans of your letters in a safe place. You can use the same letter for multiple job applications, although if it was geared towards one job, you’ll obviously need to have it modified another position.
It’s a good idea to keep your references list and your recommendations on hand and current. Scrambling to get references together at the last minute looks disorganized and if getting the job comes down between you and another candidate, the lag time could cost you the job. Some contacts might be a better fit for some jobs than others, so keep a list of more than you need so you can rotate them.
Not too long ago, having a long list of roles on your resume was a drawback to potential employers. Is that still the case?
Times are a’ changing
The average person under 30 changes jobs once a year, while the average American changes jobs once every three years. Gone are the days when we put in a good 20 years at a company and got a pension. The younger the person, the more likely they are to have a changing work history.
Some employers are bothered by short stints (it works the other way – some employers worry if you have worked at the same company for too long!). You may encounter some prejudice if you’re labeled as a job hopper, but it’s up to you to turn the situation around.
How to Spin a Changing Work History
If you’re worried your long list of jobs will impede your ability to get your next job, find a way to show the silver lining. Focus on the benefits you’ve received from working in many positions.
You’ve likely gotten exposure to many different types of companies, which makes you well-equipped to handle a variety of work environments. You’ve learned more skills and have become highly adaptable by proxy of different employers’ requirements.
Honesty is the Best Policy
Don’t play down the fact that you’ve worked at many companies (especially if some of them are well-respected in your field; employers should know you’ve worked at these places and will probably find out by asking and searching around). You can ease some of the initial questioning by not listing the exact months of employment on your resume (employers know this trick). Keep the places of employment that best relate to the current role you’re applying for, and toss the rest, as in your university or immediate post-university jobs that are no longer relevant.
Sometimes it’s not your fault; many people have fallen victim to layoffs and cutbacks, so explain that if it’s the cause of your job hopping.
Employers major concern with job hopping is you’ll get bored and leave their firm after a long, grueling search and significant investment in hiring and training you. They may also question your decision-making process, especially if you have weak responses for your reasons for moving on or you seem to follow typical pattern.
Consider Your Own Reasons
If you feel you’ve been labeled a “job hopper”, have you considered why are you changing jobs so often? Is there an underlying issue you can prevent?
Do you like what you do? If it’s an issue with your profession, there isn’t an employer in the world who will make you happy if you continue down a career path that makes you miserable. If that’s the case, it’s time to consider a big career shift.
Does it seem like everywhere you go you have personal issues with your boss or colleagues? As hard as it is to admit, it might be time to look at your interpersonal communication in the workplace.
If you constantly seek change or get bored, look to take on new roles and responsibilities at the same company. Even if you move from one position to another, staying with one company shows you’ve taken initiative to be promoted or moved to other areas.
It’s a circular argument: you need experience to get the job, yet you can’t get experience without the job! But these days, it’s perfectly possible to take your portfolio of work into your own hands. Content creation is abound, and if you’re not taking the incentive to gain experience on your own terms, you will be less likely to get hired for the job you want.
1. Write a Blog
It literally takes minutes to set up a blog and start writing. And since blogs are a great way to demonstrate not only your writing skills, but also your ideas, employers can get a great sense of you as a person and employee by reading your blog.
You don’t need to be the industry’s most-read blogger. It’s not your popularity that really even matters. Simply written good content on professional and industry topics and sharing the link in your job application can help hiring managers could give you an edge.
What to write about:
- Your take on your industry
- Opinion pieces on industry news
- Link to other industry blogs and comment on the topics
2. Press Releases
For PR professionals, the press release is the quintessential tool for the trade. But if you only wrote a couple of releases in college for your Comm class, you might feel like you don’t have an adequate hand on writing them.
Reach out to charities and nonprofits and let them know you’re looking to build your portfolio. Offer your services (free of charge) to write press releases for their news. It’s more impressive when you’ve got releases that are found online, so collect links to your press releases for your virtual portfolio.
3. Case Studies
Case studies are a great way to show you’re paying attention to how your industry helps companies. Create a case study from anywhere you’ve worked, interned, volunteered, or attended (school) that demonstrates areas you want to work in. For example, maybe you interned at a PR firm, though you didn’t get to dabble much in the publicity side. You could still create a case study about a client (leave names out of it) who saw an increase in visibility, thanks to the firm’s efforts.
There are literally hundreds — if not thousands — of magazines, newspapers and websites clamoring for content. Sometimes they can’t afford to pay, so they’re perfect for you as a beginner to pitch an article. Get to know the audience, and try for one that has a focus in the industry you want to work in. Come up with a unique story idea and sell it to the editor. Then keep the link or physical cutout for your portfolio.
Whether you write these samples for yourself, volunteer at a nonprofit or intern at a company, they’re a great way to show a potential employer that you take initiative to overcome that circle of no-experience-no-job.
We know social media is playing a large role in job recruiting, but how big? Jobvite recently looked at how companies like Whole Foods, Etsy, Starbucks and Zappos are recruiting online. Here are the findings.
LinkedIn Takes the Lead
It should be no surprise that companies recruited the highest number of employees through LinkedIn. Out of all social hires, LinkedIn accounted for 73%, while Facebook lagged behind with 20%, and Twitter 7%.
Surprisingly, though, Facebook beat LinkedIn by 2% (43%) of employee referral hires through social networks. I suppose it makes sense considering people tend to be more interactive on Facebook, and LinkedIn takes more of an effort to interact. Many users seem to use it more as their online professional profile. It’s easy to put up a profile, connect to people and let others come to you rather than really use all of it’s features to its full potential.
While you know that having a friend refer you for a job gives you a boost toward getting hired, it shows in these results as well. For every 10 applications a company gets, one referral applicant is hired, as opposed to one out of every 100 general applications.
What Industries Turn to Social Media?
Not every industry uses Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to find new hires. These industries ranked highest among those that do:
5. Customer Service
There are also certain roles that get recruited more online than others, and on different social networks. On LinkedIn, Product Management and IT roles were the highest type shared, while on Facebook, it was Marketing and Customer Support jobs. On Twitter, companies looked for Administrative and Accounting & Finance staff.
Clearly, the way companies look for new employees is changing with social media being an easy way to either amplify a job posting or access talent quicker than more traditional ways of the past.
How Can I Find a Job Through Social Media?
If you’re not already looking for a job through social media, set up a profile, connect with the companies you’re interested in working for, and start sharing posts that illustrate your knowledge in your industry. Share posts and links to content that speaks to your industry, and ask and answer questions. The more complete your online profiles, the higher chance you’ll have of being “shortlisted” by potential employers and recruiters.
But be proactive! Also look out for which accounts post jobs (sometimes a company has multiple accounts, especially on Twitter, and may have a dedicated job profile set up) and act quickly when you see a job you want.
Image credits: Jobvite
If you’re considering your next job move, you may wonder whether it’s better to work for a large corporation or a small business. On one hand, big business often offers you as an employee more opportunities (or different opportunities) for advancement and a more competitive package, especially benefits.. On the other, working for a small company can expose you to many parts of a growing business you may not otherwise experience and operate at a more agile pace, and include you much sooner in business changing decisions. Which you choose depends on your own personal preference for work environment.
Benefits to Large Businesses
Bigger businesses tend to have more formal and comprehensive benefits packages than smaller firms. You may have lower health insurance premiums that cover more of your medical expenses, as well as 401k matching and other perks.
Working for a bigger business, you’re more likely to have more resources at your disposal, such as newer technology, software and support staff or other employees who can help you with your work. You may have more opportunity to move up in ranks simply because there are ranks to move up; small businesses, by their nature, are smaller and have fewer roles for you to occupy.
Drawbacks to Large
Bureaucracy is a common complaint at larger businesses. If you want something done, it may take five signatures from executives who are rarely in the office. Decisions often take time. If flexibility is something you crave in a job, you may not find it at larger corporations, as it’s harder to quickly change the more the company is set in its ways.
Employees of big corporations often are restricted to a limited job description, which, if you prefer dabbling in different areas, may lead you to feeling like a small cog in a large wheel. There may also be a long lineup of employees vying for the next leadership position and you could easily be passed up by someone else internally.
Benefits to Small Business
If you’re looking for the opportunity to feel like you are part of the growth and success of a company, small business may be the direction to take. There are approximately 95,000 small businesses that employ up to 49 people in the US, according to ADP. Each offers a work experience you simply won’t get at a bigger firm.
Small companies often require you to wear many hats, due to smaller payroll budgets. So if you work in marketing and are curious about communications or PR, chances are you can take on some of that work at a smaller company.
Many employees feel like their opinions are valued and used in smaller companies, who have the nimbleness to change directions as needed, and have less red tape to get to a decision than larger firms.
Drawbacks to Small
If you’re looking for major perks and benefits, small businesses can’t always deliver. And your salary may not be as competitive as with a bigger company. Some employees of small firms may feel overworked because they take on a larger role than they would elsewhere, and opportunities to be promoted to other roles may be limited.
Small businesses may not have as many resources for professional development, such as tuition reimbursement, or the opportunity to attend conferences, which is a negative for some employees. You may also be on your own when starting a new role at a small company, simply due to the fact that there may not be someone to ease you into your new role.
Every company varies, and these characteristics aren’t meant to define all small or large companies. Look at each job opening individually, and weigh the perks and drawbacks of each, no matter the size of the company.
As social media becomes a valid source for finding a job or networking with people who can help your career, it can be harder to stand out in a sea of Tweets and status updates. If you’re not sure how to use social media for job hunting, here’s a list of seven types of updates you can use to get the attention of employers and industry leaders.
The key is to connect with people who work at the companies you’re interested in, as well as industry colleagues. Blanket following any and everyone won’t help you achieve this, so focus tightly on the right network.
1. Share Your Content
You should have a blog to show off your writing style as well as your philosophy on your industry. Share these posts through your social media channels.
2. Reshare Others’ Content
If you scan through your contacts’ Tweets, Facebook updates, LinkedIn posts and Google + links, you’ll likely find tons of links to articles and blog posts that you enjoy. Read and comment on them, but also reshare them. This shows the person who originally share the article that you’re paying attention. Try to include a personal comment (“I really need to work on Shelly’s fifth tip for writing!”) to give it a personal touch.
3. Ask a Question
Industry experts are on social media, and with the right approach, available to you. Why not get advice or start a conversation as a way to connect? Say you’re in PR (or want to be): you could ask a journalist or owner of a PR company their thoughts on a current industry issue. It’s a good conversation starter, and one others might jump in on.
4. Answer a Question
Besides the usual social channels, there are sites like LinkedIn Answers, Quora and Focus where users ask questions and get answers from others. You can be on either side of this fence, but answering questions shows you’re knowledgeable in your field. Follow anyone who asks a question in your field, as well as others who answer them to build your network.
5. Comment on News and Trends
Employers want to hire people who are passionate about what they do and knowledgeable about industry news and trends. The best way to stay on top of them? See what people are saying on social media and share your own insights. Got an issue with the Online Piracy Act? Voice your opinions. But make sure your comments aren’t emotionally based and have fact to them, or they might turn off potential employers.
6. Connect on a Personal Level
Not every Tweet and status update has to be about work and your industry. Get to know the people you’re connected with. Wish them a happy birthday. Ask about their kids. Respond to their personal status updates. It’s a good way to build trust without an agenda.
7. Follow Hashtags
Hashtags are designed to help people find information about a particular area of interest. That might be your next #PRJobs or advice from #journchat. Not only do you learn things, but you also get great contacts.
There’s a million ways to use social media to network and find your next job. Use a combination of all these strategies to come up with your own way.
You know you can use the Internet to look for a job and to network to find one, but here are other ways you can do your own research to better position you to be hired.
Research the Company
Everyone says it, but I still hear back from hiring managers all the time about candidate’s lack of knowledge and preparation for an interview. The more you know about the company you’re interviewing with, the more you’ll impress hiring managers. Your preparation could be the determining factor between continuing in the process or being lead out of the interview quickly. A simple search online should net you plenty of information – but you should dig deeper. You can use sites like Glassdoor.com to read reviews about certain companies. Searching LinkedIn’s company tool can give you insight into movement in the company, recent news, new hires/departures, etc. And of course, the company website you should have read thoroughly including the company’s mission statement and values if posted.
Use this findings of your research to build a list of key questions you want to learn more about in the interview. It will show the hiring manager that 1. you did your research and 2. you are genuinely interested in learning more and making an educated decision in your next career move.
Research Key Decision Makers at Your Target Companies
Want to work in the marketing department? Find out who’s running it. Then start networking with that person online long before you apply for a position.
Connect with that person on LinkedIn. You don’t want to abuse that connection by being pushy about a job, but later when you apply for a job, you can reference the connection.
Find a common thread in her history. Maybe you both graduated from the same school. Any sort of personal details you can glean from Facebook or LinkedIn profiles, the more conversation you can start in an interview. If, for example, you see that a hiring manager is from a city in Europe where you studied, you can bet she will be surprised if you mention the fact in a cover letter or interview. You’re sure to stand out!
Find Job Openings Directly
Sometimes companies only post jobs on their own websites rather than on more popular job boards. Sometimes companies never get around to actually posting a job opening. Search Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn updates to find a potential opening directly. On Twitter, you can also run these types of searches in Tweetdeck or simply subscribe to the search via RSS. You can also run searches (try PR Manager hiring or whatever keywords you think someone might put in a conversational update about an open position) on LinkedIn using their Signal product to monitor what people on the platform are posting. Do the same on Facebook and look at the results in “posts from friends” and “public updates.”
Make a list of the companies you’d like to work for, and regularly check for updates on their Jobs page. You should also follow those companies on LinkedIn and if you see the current PR Manager left the company, it could indicate a new opening to inquire about promptly.
Find Out What You’re Worth
Internet helps you do research on salaries. Tools like Salary.com or Glassdoor.com can tell you the range of what you can earn in a particular profession in your geographical market.
Once you’re offered a position, you can use the research to negotiate an appropriate salary. Take your experience and location into consideration, as they may put you above or below the range you find on these sites. I find that some of the general salary sites offer very wide ranges and don’t take into account certain industry factors, but it should give you a general sense.
Improve Your Hireability
Stay on top of industry trends through blogs and niche websites so that when you interview you won’t be caught off guard if you’re asked about a current event you haven’t even heard of. Skim the headlines before an interview so you are up to speed on any breaking news. Following some key industry new sources in a RSS feed or on Twitter is a good way to keep up-to-date.
When is the last time you gave yourself a self-evaluation? Can you easily discuss and demonstrate your professional strengths? When searching for a job, you need to know what makes you different and how you can stand out from the crowd of competition.
Discovering Your Strengths
While you probably have an idea of what you are good at when it comes to your main strengths, you likely take many of them for granted. Perhaps you don’t realize how much you do excel in certain areas in comparison to other people in similar positions, especially in the beginning of your career or if you work in a company that doesn’t offer much feedback.
Look at what you enjoy doing and listen to when you receive a compliment. What skills did it take to accomplish the project you were complimented on? Make a list of the activities or responsibilities you enjoy and that you accomplish easily.
Ask for feedback from friends and colleagues. Save your old performance reviews to reflect upon the comments your previous bosses have given and areas where you have continued to professionally develop.
What to Do with Weaknesses
It’s just as important to understand your professional weak spots. Be honest with yourself. What do you typically try to avoid doing in your job? What tasks tend to be delegated to other team member regularly? The answers are signs that will help you determine some of the areas you need to work on.
Improving Your Resume
Once you’ve identified both your strengths and weaknesses, take another look at your resume. Find ways to inject more of your strengths in for each job listed on your resume. And if you’re applying for a specific job, look to see what the role requires and match your skill set to those responsibilities.
The more detailed you are in terms of numbers, the more qualified and confident you come across on paper.
How to Sell Yourself
When it comes to the job interview, your resume will get you in the door, but it’s up to you to sell yourself. Don’t be afraid to point out your best qualities and show prospective employers how you have taken initiative to work on your weaker areas.
If you’re asked one of those difficult questions, like “what is your greatest weakness,” use it to show your self-confidence and show you are self-aware. Admit where you’ve faltered in the past, and explain how you identified this as something to work on, as well as your progress in that area.
Knowing your professional strengths can only help your job search and will enable you to craft a more appealing presentation to future employers.
With your social calendar full of holiday parties this time of year, take advantage of the opportunity to network and build contacts that might help you find a job. Here are 10 tips to help you.
- Schedule as many networking opportunities as possible. This includes holiday parties at companies you want to work for, as well as networking groups, conferences, workshops and one-on one events. While you don’t want to overbook yourself to the point of exhaustion, you want to take advantage of this season, which has more events than the rest of the year. Plus, people are in better moods right now, thanks to the holidays, which is even more of a reason to kick networking into high gear!
- Don’t pitch yourself at the party. Focus on making friends. Yes, you want a job. But networking isn’t about pushing your agenda. It’s about making contacts and nurturing them. So you might meet a hiring manager at a party tomorrow. Rather than announcing your needs in the job department, follow up with an email. Then invite her to coffee or lunch. Maintain the relationship, and at the right time, you can ask about a job. Tactfully.
- Don’t slack off on the job hunt right now. It might be tempting to forgo your daily job search to wrap gifts instead, but you’d be making a big mistake. Many people assume job hunting is dead during the holidays, but in fact, the holidays are a great time to work on those relationships. Hiring managers are more available with work slowing, so it’s a great time to make contact, either over the phone or in-person.
- Strategically plan to be at parties where you know key decision makers will be. If you’re not sure which parties to fill your dance card with, aim for the ones with people who work for the companies you want to work for. If you’re lucky, you might have a friend who works for that company who can invite you to the annual holiday party. But also look at networking groups (check Meetup and see who the members are) to find the key decision makers.
- Send holiday cards as followup to meeting people. Networking isn’t just about drinking eggnog with other people; it also includes the follow-up. This time of year, you will stand out by sending a holiday card to your newly-made contacts. Handwrite a short note telling them how nice it was to meet them at the X party. Include your business card if you didn’t already exchange them at the party. Include a personal mention, playing off the conversation you had (“I hope your son wins the soccer tournament!”) to add a little more intimate connection.
- Schedule a coffee meeting if you feel the connection is solid enough. As you nurture these contacts, you’ll interact with them more and more. It might start out with a few emails back and forth. But if it feels right (you think the person will be receptive), invite your new contact out for coffee. Your objective here isn’t to ask for a job, but rather to get advice. Maybe it’s to ask what this particular company looks for in an employee, or maybe it’s to get mentored on how you can improve your skills to be more hireable. If your contact is comfortable with you and is in a position to help, let her ask if she can give you a reference or set up an interview.
- Find local meetings in your industry and participate. A great way to meet the movers and shakers in your industry is by diving in headfirst. Find groups in your area that meet monthly to discuss topics that relate to your field. This will help you get the behind-the-scenes buzz on who’s hiring and what they’re looking for.
- Don’t drink too much! We’ve all heard about the office party that went a little crazy. While it’s fine to have a glass of wine, remember you’re networking to impress. If the hiring manager’s memory of you involves a lampshade, you probably won’t fall high on the hiring list.
- Focus on giving, rather than getting. Networking is about creating value. Don’t go into it looking for what you can get out of it. Instead, focus on how you can make yourself useful to new people. Maybe you can recommend a good book to read, or connect a new contact to a graphic designer if she’s looking for one. The more you give, the more people will stick around. And they’ll want to give back to you!
- Don’t forget your business cards! This one seems like a no-brainer, but I can’t tell you how many industry events I’ve attended where people had forgotten their business cards! Make sure yours has up-to-date contact information, and that you have enough to exchange. (Better too many than not enough!)
Keep these tips in mind as you network throughout December. Remember, it’s about developing long-term relationships, not getting what you want right now.