Social Networking Tips

NetworkingSocial networks are online communities of people who share information, common interests and activities. They enable people to use networks of online friends and group members to keep in touch, communicate and share information. They can also be excellent job search tools.

About LinkedIn

LinkedIn, which has been acquired by Microsoft, has become one of the biggest online resources for the recruiting profession. It has been reported that 90% of recruiters now use LinkedIn to seek qualified job candidates. Some experts have suggested that your public profile on LinkedIn is more important to job-hunting success than a good resume.

Job hunters can find lots of contacts and job opportunities on LinkedIn. LinkedIn's "Jobs you might be interested in" section includes an Apply button and a Save Job button for each listing. After tapping Apply, you are offered the option to edit your LinkedIn profile and update your contact information. Access to these features is also available via a mobile app.

Employers and recruiters can search through vast numbers of potential hires to find qualified people for available jobs. LinkedIn’s biggest focus is on jobs in the business sector. It gets about two-thirds of its revenue from fees paid by employers and recruiters who use LinkedIn's commercial tools to find job candidates and from individual job hunters who sign up for premium features that augment their ability to search and share on the LinkedIn network.

The LinkedIn Recruiter, as it’s called, is the company’s most important product. Recruiters and companies pay a lot of money to use LinkedIn Recruiter. It enables them to scour LinkedIn’s network and keep track of people they're considering for jobs. They can see all of your profile information, usually without you knowing you're being checked out.

LinkedIn is expanding it integration with popular applicant tracking systems (ATS). The LinkedIn Recruiter application has what is referred to as Cross System Awareness. It allows outside recruiters to quickly see LinkedIn profiles directly within their organization's internal Applicant Tracking System (ATS). It can be used to update the ATS whenever there is a change to the person's LinkedIn profile. It also allows recruiters to view real-time LinkedIn profiles directly within their ATS.

While LinkedIn is an excellent source for people actively seeking employment, another appeal for recruiters is the large number of passive prospects that maintain LinkedIn profiles. Passive prospects are people currently employed, but not actively looking for work. In some respects, you don't even have to be looking for a job to have LinkedIn impact your career.

In contrast to many other social networking sites, LinkedIn’s content is focused solely on professional contacts and communication. It doesn’t have the clutter associated with cute photos, chat, family news and the like that is found on so many other sites. This enables recruiters to streamline their searches for qualified job candidates.

Another of LinkedIn’s appeals to recruiters is its reputation for having accurate and consistent user profiles. In part, this is due to the fact that many contacts personally know, work with, went to school with, etc. the person they link with. It would be challenging to put something in your profile that others in your network know is fabricated.

In addition to LinkedIn's social networking capabilities, LinkedIn is also a job aggregator. It amasses job opening listings from a variety of sources and aggregates them for users to search for open positions. It makes it especially easy to search for jobs at organizations within your network of contacts.

An Interview with the CEO of LinkedIn

What this Means to You

Below, we'll discuss some of the basics of how recruiters use LinkedIn and what this means to you. We’ll keep this fairly generic since much of what we cover here applies to the use of social networking sites in general. Also, individual recruiters often take different approaches to their candidate sourcing process. We’ll cover “Recruiter Activity” and “Job Hunter Impact” as we discuss each topic. Additional information about using social networks can be found in the eBook.

Recruiter Activity: LinkedIn's Recruiter Tools

Recruiters have access to LinkedIn’s recruiter tools which enable them to connect with and email LinkedIn users regardless of whether they have a direct connection with them. They have a dashboard to help organize and manage job candidates.

Job Hunter Impact:

You want to be on the recruiter’s radar as a potential candidate for their pool of job openings. Below, we’ll discuss things you can do to get noticed, but once noticed; you want to make yourself desirable as a job candidate. This means staying in touch, nurturing your relationship with the recruiter and being highly responsive to their requests. Also, since the value of LinkedIn depends largely on the number and quality of your connections, grow your connections and join appropriate groups.

Recruiter Activity: Start with Broad Search Criteria

When recruiters receive new job openings, they want to get the best job candidates possible. To do this, they are likely to start with broad search criteria and then narrow it down. Starting with a broad search helps assure they don’t exclude a potentially great candidate. They will often use very basic criteria such as title, location (zip code radius), industry and job function. LinkedIn provides drop-down lists to help recruiters enter their search criteria. Recruiters may also search by company name if the company is highly respected or a good fit relative to their current recruiting effort.

Job Hunter Impact:

It is probably obvious that is you don’t meet the recruiter’s broad search criteria; you won’t advance to the next step. Therefore, it is critical that you carefully think about what you enter in your profile. Your goal is to match the search criteria a recruiter is likely to use for the kind of job you are seeking. One of the most important criteria is likely to be job title. See the eBook chapter on resumes to review suggestions for proper titles to use.

Recruiter Activity: Review Profiles from Initial Search

While LinkedIn profiles and summaries are brief, they are useful in helping the recruiter narrow down their pool of candidates. Clearly, people with profiles that are inconsistent with the type of job the recruiter is trying to fill will be eliminated. Recruiters may also eliminate people who neglect to include a photo, contacts, work history and the like. Vague titles, missing background information or lack of key words can also be factors.

Job Hunter Impact:

The importance of a well-crafted profile and summary cannot be over-emphasized. By itself, it isn’t going to get you a job, but it can eliminate you from further consideration. Think of your profile in much the same way as the 30-second introduction discussed in the eBook. It is your opportunity to sell yourself in a concise and compelling manner. Also, be sure you include other information, which if missing, might exclude you from further consideration. If you include a photo, make sure it is appropriate for the kind of job you are seeking.

Recruiter Activity: Refine the Search Criteria

Once the initial screening has produced a pool of potential candidates, it’s time to narrow down the list. Recruiters do this by looking at additional criteria. Depending on the job(s) they are trying to fill, this criteria may focus on past job titles, industry segment, years of experience, length of employment, education and the like. Some recruiters also look at the types of LinkedIn groups you have joined.

Job Hunter Impact:

The information you provide about your background is important. While you can’t change your background, you can portray it in the best possible light. In much the same way you craft what goes into your resume, you should include things that are likely to be important to a recruiter. This includes descriptive job titles, common industry terminology, notable accomplishments, indicators of appropriate experience and education, etc. for the types of jobs you are seeking.

Recruiter Activity: Read Recommendations

LinkedIn provides the ability for people to enter recommendations about one’s work, character, etc. Recruiters generally pay attention to these recommendations; especially if they are from peers or former managers and are fairly specific about accomplishments, past successes, work ethic, and the like.

Job Hunter Impact:

Recommendations from peers and former managers can be helpful. If you have worked with people who can add credible information about your accomplishments and successes, ask them to provide a recommendation via LinkedIn. However; be cautious about over-doing it. Having too many recommendations can make it appear like you have contacted everyone you know and actively solicited their recommendation. You want the recommendations to appear legitimate and sincere.

Recruiter Activity: Review Resumes

Resumes provide recruiters with the most detailed look at a job candidate’s background. Candidates that pass other screening hurdles will almost certainly be reviewed. However, as is the case with other resume screening processes, the volume of resumes needing review may mean that only 10 – 20 seconds can be spent on an initial screening.

Job Hunter Impact:

The Job Search eBook and various tools cover resumes in detail so we won’t repeat that information here. Just remember that the initial screening of your resume may be completed in as little as 10 seconds … keep it focused and succinct. Also, when posting a resume on LinkedIn, it is important that your resume, profile, and other information are in-sync. Look at your entire LinkedIn presence and be sure it portrays a consistent message ... and keep everything current.

Recruiter Activity: Review Contact Information

After all of the above, if a potential candidate is still under consideration, the recruiter will want to review the candidate’s contact information. Missing or inaccurate contact information can remove a candidate from any further consideration. Also, candidates who have obscene, overly clever or funky email addresses may also risk being removed from consideration.

Job Hunter Impact:

Be sure your contact information is current and that things like email addresses are professionally appropriate. If you need a new email address, there are several free sources, including Google’s Gmail.

Take Advantage of Free Apps

LinkedIn has several free apps that you should consider adding to your job-hunting toolkit. On the LinkedIn website, you can download the following: LinkedIn App, LinkedIn Jobs App, LinkedIn Pulse App, and LinkedIn Connected App. A description and overview of the features of each app is included on their website. You'll find that they can be very helpful for organizing your search, connecting with others, and staying on top of what's going on in your industry.

Connecting with People You Don't Know

Connecting with people on LinkedIn and other social networking sites is fairly easy, but doing so with total strangers can be a little intimidating at first. Among other things, some sites require that you have an existing relationship before you can contact another member, or that you get a referral from one of your known contacts who also knows someone you're interested in connecting with.

While there is no single "best way" to link with other people, there are a few things you can do to get started that will make future efforts much easier. Once you master a few basic techniques, you'll be able to develop additional techniques that work for an expanding number of situations.

Here are some suggestions to get you started. They mostly relate to finding things in common with those you want to link to.

  • Think about things that might be common in your respective backgrounds or experience (former/current jobs, schools, clubs, where you live, hobbies, mutual friends/associates, etc.)
  • Think about things you might say in the form of an "ice breaker" (congratulations on your promotion, work anniversary, tenure in a company, an article they authored, or other accolades)
  • Think about things you might be able to share that would be of mutual interest (an article, white paper, new website, upcoming meeting or webinar, and the like)
  • Think about how you can make connecting easy and pleasant (meet for breakfast, have coffee, share via email, exchange contacts of potential mutual interest, etc.)

You can use these suggestions to craft a brief introduction and suggest a networking opportunity. For example, you might send the contact something like the following:

Hi Bill.

I came across your profile while searching LinkedIn for fellow (project managers, university alumni, etc.) who are residents of (name of city). I read with great interest, (the article you wrote, your comments about XYZ, your unique background, some special accomplishment). It seems we have a lot in common, including our (background/interest in some subject matter, former employers, industry experience, etc.). Attached is an article/link to an article I think you'll find as interesting as I did.

I recently left XYZ Employer where I worked for XX years as (title/position). They merged several divisions and the reorganization resulted in the elimination of my job. Since I'm new to the job market/area, etc., I would love the opportunity to chat with you briefly regarding ideas you may have regarding networking within our industry segment/local market, etc. Would you be open to a brief phone call or getting together over a cup of coffee?

Thanks for considering my request. I hope we have a chance to chat soon.


Hopefully, the above will give you some ideas on how you can connect with people you don't know and convert them into people you do know. Be a little creative and see how many new ideas you can come up with.

A Few Words About Profile Photos and Other Media

LinkedIn has embraced the ability to share images, documents and presentations. Individual users and companies have a variety of media sharing opportunities. While the opportunities associated with varied media options can enhance one's online presence, it is not without some risk.

In the context of your job search, profile pictures and other media used on social networking sites form an important part of your online persona. It is worth taking a little extra time to choose photos and other media that portray you in the best possible light to potential employers. Using LinkedIn and Twitter as examples, the following will help.

Your LinkedIn profile functions as a virtual resume hence care should be taken in choosing a suitable profile picture. On LinkedIn, the photo resolution is 150 by 150 pixels. You want to optimize use of that space with an appropriate work-related image. Be sure you don’t use any pictures you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see.

As a general rule, stay away from special effects, don’t use group shots, keep clothing choices and color reasonable and stick with simple backgrounds. Think about the image the potential employer is likely to want for its workforce and try to portray that image in your profile photo.

On a Twitter stream, you’re limited to a tiny 48 by 48 pixel square. A Twitter profile shot on the user’s page is 128 by 128 pixels. You need to make the most out of the available space. For the 48 x 48 Twitter stream, a simple head shot usually works best. You can be a bit more creative with the user page profile photo, but use the above suggestions as a guide.

When including additional photos, documents or presentations, be sure you carefully consider their potential job search-related impact. Ask yourself whether the type of information you post is something you'd like a prospective employer to see.

Take Your Social Media Profile Seriously

Several studies have shown that the number of employers using social media to screen job candidates is at an all-time high. One study suggests that we’ll soon see over 90% of employers checking social media profiles prior to considering a job candidate for employment.

There is a growing number of employers who have decided not to hire a candidate based upon their social media profile. Just as significant are the increasing numbers of employers who have reprimanded or fired an employee for inappropriate content.

Use Google and other resources to check your online persona and clean it up where necessary. Also watch out for others with the same or similar names who might be mistaken for you. If you find that to be the case, don't hesitate to let potential employers know.

Searching data collection and people finder sites will likely prove fruitful, but can be a bit overwhelming because of the types and variety of information gathered. Many pieces of information are gathered from public records, while others are aggregated from various social media sites, postings, browsing history, vendors, and a variety of other sources. There are many data collection sites on the Internet. To get an idea of what is out there, you can start by visiting the popular people finder sites Spokeo and Pipl.

Fortunately, most data collection and people finder sites have a way for you to clean up inaccurate information or have your data removed from their sites. The process varies from site-to-site so a little research may be necessary to determine the proper process for each site. There are also a growing number of sites that charge a fee to provide a service that will delete your data from many of the data aggregators.

Totally eliminating a social media profile, if that’s even possible, may not be a good solution either. Some employers have indicated they are less likely to interview certain types of candidates if they can’t find them online.

A Couple of Closing Suggestions

It is becoming more common to include social network contact information on personal business cards. LinkedIn, for example, provides a link you can add to a business card, email, etc. that will connect someone directly to your public LinkedIn profile. When logged into LinkedIn, see the Profile/Edit Profile menu for more information.

If you include LinkedIn, Twitter or other social networking contact information on a business card, be sure your social networking persona, including profile photos or other media, is an appropriate one for potential employers to view. It is becoming increasingly common for employers to search social media for information about potential employees. It's a good idea to conduct Google and Bing searches on yourself to see what others might encounter. If needed, you may be able to set some privacy settings to limit what the general public sees. Don't let a bad online persona get in the way of your job hunting goals.

Making frequent updates can help you get noticed. Things like updating your profile, posting comments, adding publications or articles and even changing your photo can help. Be sure you have enabled the ability to share your updates with your connections.

Another way to increase your visibility on social networking sites is to post articles or comments that are relevant to your industry. Offer some useful information or personal insight that will be useful to others. Post often and be sure your grammar and spelling is correct. Original graphics; especially infographics, can substantially increase your exposure to recruiters and others. Check out LinkedIn's Pulse for an example of a vehicle to post articles. Join relevant LinkedIn groups to see how easy it is to post comments to existing discussions and start new discussions of your own.

Having a personal website that showcases your skills and accomplishments is becoming more common. If you have a personal website with appropriate professional content, include a link to your site. As is always the case, be sure your online persona is something that is appropriate to share with a recruiter or prospective employer. You want to cultivate a personal brand that is professional and consistent across all social media channels.

It has been reported by some recruiters that one way to get on a company's radar is to "Like" your desired company's page on a social networking site. You do this by clicking on the "Like" button (if they have one).

Here are a few more tips to make sure it is easy for recruiters to find and match you to a job.

  • Be sure your contact information is accurate and easy to find
  • Make your opening sentence or headline an attention grabber
  • Strive for 100% completeness in all profile sections
  • Join and participate in professional groups — being a top contributor can help a lot
  • Avoid long paragraphs - limit paragraphs to a few sentences
  • Make your profile interesting and include accomplishments
  • Use keywords to search for hiring managers and others
  • Build your network - having a lot of contacts is better than a few
  • Send an invitation to connect immediately after a meeting, phone call, conference, etc.
  • Make frequent updates (photos, profile, comments, contributions, publications, posts)

Some Caveats

As good as LinkedIn is, it doesn't benefit all people equally. Here are a couple of things to be aware of as you consider LinkedIn's role in your job search.

  • LinkedIn's strongest focus is on the professional segment of the market
  • The much larger portion of the labor force categorized as service-industry or blue-collar workers may not see the same value
  • Nearly half of readers are in the upper ranks of their industries: managers, VPs, CEOs, etc.
  • The top content-demanding industries are tech, financial services and higher education
  • More than half of LinkedIn users are from outside the U.S.
  • Nearly half of LinkedIn users access LinkedIn via mobile devices

As is the case with any career planning or job search tool, balance and variety can serve you well.