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Social media advice for job-seekers, from CEOs, HR execs & recruiters

Posted by Scott Kirsner  September 9, 2011 08:18 AM

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This Sunday, the Globe runs one of its occasional "Big Help" special sections focused on careers. For my weekly column, I posed two questions to a bevy of social media consultants, CEOs, human resources executives, and recruiters:
1. What should candidates be doing with social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and blogs to improve their chances of getting a job?

2. What shouldn't they be doing?

I collected responses from companies like Communispace, Zipcar, Hill Holliday, Mullen, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, and Liberty Mutual. Some appear in Sunday's column, but here's some "bonus material," in unedited form.

Jennifer Ramcharan, Global Recruiter at TripAdvisor

Appealing:

LinkedIn: we like to see candidates who have filled in their profile completely. Examples: Upload your resume, if you are a blogger (and it is relevant to your career) post the link to your blog, update your profile as your role changes and make sure your professional headline accurately describes what you do and what you are hoping to do.

Twitter: If you are going to use this site as a way to communicate with recruiters/companies, make sure your bio accurately describes your career and goals. As recruiters, we use Twitter directory tools to find candidates whose bios match our hiring needs.

Less appealing:

Think about how you present yourself on all social media sites — including Facebook, especially when seeking a job. Be mindful about your wall postings and status updates: you wouldn't want a possible future employer to view inappropriate content or pictures on your wall.

Brian Halligan, CEO at HubSpot

1. Inbound Job Searching: We often find hires because of their activity in social media and, especially, the blogosphere. For example, Kipp Bodnar is someone whose blog we had been following/admiring for some time and finally reached out to him, put on a full court press, and convinced him to move with his family up to Boston from the Carolinas. ...Btw, this applies to any industry. Lets say you are a beer aficionado and want to work for a cool brewer after completing college like Sam Adams, Heineken, Chimay, etc. What you should do is start a terrific blog about beer while in school that reviews new products, talks about the competitive landscape, compares regions, etc, etc. If your articles are good, people will link to them, you'll start showing up in Google searches for the brands (and such), will start growing your reach, and before you know it, the execs at the brewers will be reaching out to you. Works like a charm — it's inbound job searching!

2. Outbound job searching: We hired Sam Mallikarjunan through his online outbound marketing initiatives. See this microsite he built that about 30 people forwarded to me. The site earned him an interview, but his skills and passion earned him the job. This guy did a video job application that was absolutely hilarious that bounced around HubSpot like wildfire one day that got the guy an interview, but he didn't get the job -- I can't remember if it was due to qualification or location.

3. Reach: First of all, I like to hire people with a big "Reach" on social media. Reach is to 2011 as Rolodex was to 1991. An extreme example of a hire that brought a huge reach is Dan Zarrella, but we look for that reach in all candidates as it extends HubSpot's overall reach into the marketplace which is a marketing multiplier for us.

Patrick O'Malley, social media trainer (a/k/a 617-Patrick)

If people are looking for jobs, here are some tips:

- LinkedIn:

The best LinkedIn tip that 80+% of my audiences still don’t know:

Use advanced search to find "friends of friends" that might hire you. If you are looking for a job as an accountant, and the CFO would typically hire you, do an advanced search for CFOs in Boston. Find the ones that are 2nd level connections. Contact them, but instead of starting the conversation by saying that you are looking for a job, start by saying that you know someone in common. This completely changes the conversation. If they aren't hiring, network with them and try to find out if they know anyone else who is hiring, since CFOs are well networked with other CFO's. There are good an bad ways to do what I just said, but if you are polite and respectful, the rest follows naturally.

Use the LinkedIn jobs section to find companies that are hiring, and focus on positions that are posted by 2nd level connections, using your mutual friend as a "door opener."

Post answers to questions in the LinkedIn Q&A section. Become a known expert.

- Twitter

Companies do post jobs on Twitter. Do an advanced Twitter search, just for people within 50 miles of Boston, and just for keyword like accountant. Respond in Twitter, and impress them in 140 characters, or refer them to something about you that they can process in under a minute, like a blog, or even a YouTube video where you give a 30 second commercial about yourself.

- Facebook:

Post to your friends on Facebook that you are looking for a job. However, it becomes tiring if people see it more than once a week. Post at a strategic time, lie 4 PM, so your post is likely to be seen by people leaving work or checking Facebook when they get home from work.

Things not to do:

Overpost your need for a job. There is a balance here, but I, for one, will "hide" people that have posted their need for a job more than once a week.

Hiring managers at Vertex Pharmaceuticals

- Using specific keywords in your LinkedIn summary or in your actual profile helps when companies do searches for specific titles or keywords related to open positions.

- Showing on LinkedIn that you are an active networker in a group in your industry, function, alma mater, or former employer is a positive.

- Following specific company Twitter accounts is appealing as you get up to date information on what's going on at the company. People who follow @VertexPharma, for example, would hear more about the company and its people through Twitter than by reading press releases and SEC filings.

- Blogging about up and coming fields of research and showing how you think as a scientist can be positive, as long as you know your material.

Daryn Lewis, Recruitment Manager at EnerNOC

I LOVE bloggers, especially engineers who blog. Stereotypically, engineers can be more difficult to read in interviews, so being literally able to "read" them online has proven valuable for me gauging criteria like passion for technology, the types of projects that get them revved up and, in many instances, work ethic and approach. But the disclaimer here is that I am looking for those things; if you make it publicly available, realize that potential employers will look for and evaluate that information against their own needs/expectations, so be wary of what you publish. Once I was sent a link for an online resume in lieu of an attachment; the website's navigation bar provided a link to the candidate’s publicly shared photo album, which contained uploads from a recent trip to Mexico and some PRETTY questionable content. Recruiters generally won’t judge candidates offhand based on what they do on their own time, but we will judge their judgment for putting it on the internet, especially if it's, you know, totally illegal, and we're considering you as a possible representative of our company.

Punchbowl.com CEO Matt Douglas, who also runs the blog "The Startup Swami"

1) Have an updated Linkedin profile (if you're looking for a job and Linkedin isn't updated, you're obviously clueless)

2) Be connected on Linkedin to people I know (this relates to reference checking. I *never* check references that the candidate gives me, but I will check references from people who we know in common.)

3) Properly adjust the privacy settings on Facebook (assume I'm going to Google you and find your FB page. Did you really want me to see those drunken pictures of you and the farm animals?)

Less appealing:

1) Don't be too active on Twitter. This just shows me you have too much time on your hands.

2) Don't be racist (You would think this is obvious, but we actually had a candidate who had a [racist] post on his personal blog... I didn't hire him, regardless of his skills.)

3) Don't be too verbose (on your blog or Linkedin). I look for people who can get across their opinion succinctly. Your 1000 word blog posts don't impress me.

Scott Griffith, CEO at Zipcar

I've done some checking with key hiring managers at Zipcar and here's what I came up with:

What we dig:

1. Be a Brand Ambassador. We like folks who are already advocates for Zipcar in the social space. They get it.
2. Have an Impact: We love to see people that are making a difference via social channels, whether they're organizing a community clean-up event or raising funds for a local charity.
3. Work your connections. Our employees have deep networks, and we love hiring friends of Zipsters. So it’s great when a prospective hire connects to one of our team members (or one of our recruiters) to get their foot in the door.

What doesn’t work:

1. Bored@Work: We don't want to know that you're bored at work via your Facebook or Twitter page.
2. No haters, please: Don't overdo the negativity. Facebook only has a "like" button for a reason.
3. Overactive Social Life: Too many Twitter posts from 9-5 might make us wonder how you find time for your real job.

Shawn Tubman, manager of corporate employment at Liberty Mutual

The personal nature of social media enables Liberty Mutual as a large employer to connect with prospective candidates on our social channels through meaningful, real-time interaction. We deliver content through our channels about our job opportunities, job search tips and information on Liberty Mutual and the insurance industry.

In response, we look for prospective candidates to actively engage with us by asking questions about jobs and the company and to give us feedback. Through participating in a conversation on our channels, candidates are expressing interest in the organization and also building upon their personal brand as a job seeker interested in becoming a Liberty Mutual employee.

In a time when a candidate can be sourced and hired through Twitter or Facebook, it is also important to recognize that while social interaction with prospective employers can be advantageous, carefully maintaining social privacy settings and your personal brand are essential when creating visibility on corporate social media channels. A careless public post or misstep on Twitter can greatly impact personal branding and can make candidates less desirable to employers.

John White, Agency Recruiter at Mullen

We love it when candidates take the time to follow us on Twitter (@mullenunbound) and our Mullen employment Twitter handle (work@mullen) as well as on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/mullenunbound). It shows they're taking the time to learn about Mullen and our culture. We're very active in social media, so there are many opportunities to engage with us in those circles and learn about our culture before applying for a job. We also love when people retweet client news or achievements we are proud to share.

I receive many direct solicitations via my personal Twitter account (@johnwhitenc) and on LinkedIn, as do many of our company leaders. As long as candidates also take the time to apply on-line to our openings, we endeavor to respond to as many direct messages as we can.

We are often asked about candidates who have large Twitter followings or who frequently blog. If their focus is on advertising, current trends, or current campaigns, we are likely to pay attention. It can certainly help a candidate cut through the clutter. Adeptness with social media is a plus for any candidate in our business.

As for which site is best to use to push your professional persona forward, I'd say LinkedIn. Facebook, given its origins, really is more of a personal thing and we do not look at, or attempt to look at, candidates' personal Facebook pages when considering them for employment. Twitter is the cherry. Fun and interesting, but not fully thorough at conveying one’s professional history and objectives.

Jeff York, Associate Director of Human Resources at Millennnium

I would advise candidates to make sure they have a complete profile on LinkedIn. Some of them are scarcely populated. It doesn't have to be as detailed as a resume, but should still tell a story about their past experiences, which helps a prospective employer determine whether they might be an interesting candidate or not. If it is just chock-full of buzzwords and acronyms, it might pop-up in a keyword search more readily; however, if I can't tell exactly how those buzzwords are relevant to their experience or see some details about what they have done, then it's a bit useless and generally counter-productive.

Kerry Benson, Managing Director of Critical Talent at Hill Holliday

Social media is a great way for us to get immediate insights about candidates, both professionally and personally. What's appealing to us is when we see them engaged with conversations about our industry…sharing, posting, linking to relevant news about advertising. We love to see that people have a personal blog or actively participate across social platforms (Twitter, forums, etc…) because that tells us they're more of a thought leader rather than a follower. In many cases, we can determine their level of engagement and curiosity about the social space – is the candidate staying on top of emerging trends? How many "friends" do they have? Who follows them? What type of network do they have?

What's not appealing is when we see a lot of posts about nothing or points of view that are judgmental or not open-minded. Inappropriate pictures can also set a bad impression. Privacy settings are sophisticated enough today so that people can keep their personal conversations out of public viewing.

Sarah McAuley, Director of Marketing Communications at EnerNOC

I Google every single person I interview. I look at who they're connected to on LinkedIn, and if we have any connections in common, I immediately reach out to that person. A recommendation I trust is worth 100x whatever a resume says. EnerNOC is all about recruiting the absolute best and brightest, and my general feeling is that world-class people know other world-class people. I've spent hours on LinkedIn searching based on keyword (ie "brand") when I’m having trouble finding just the right person for an open position, and if I’m connected to them somehow, I'll reach out, even if they weren't actively looking for a job. Similarly, if a person I'm engaged with professionally has their LinkedIn profile as part of their signature, I'll often check it out and if their skills match something I need (or a position a colleague of mine has open) I’ll broach the subject with them, even if they’re not actively on the job market – you never know if they might be soon, or if they have great recommendations. I also check their Facebook page for whatever information they’ve made publicly available. I interviewed a candidate almost entirely because of what he listed as his favorite books (He didn’t end up getting the job because he was too senior, which I knew beforehand because of his resume, but because of the book, I thought “here’s a guy EnerNOC should know” and ultimately, I did pass his resume along to a colleague for a more senior position). I look at other websites they run or contribute to. A candidate that actively writes for a blog in our industry immediately rises to the top of my list because it shows he or she is passionate about what we do, and not just looking to for their next paycheck – they want to be in this industry for the long haul. Similarly if they’re connected to a lot of people in the industry on LinkedIn, then they’re probably more actively engaged than the casual job seeker. A candidate that writes a blog about anything, actually, scores points (assuming it’s well written) because it shows they’re passionate about something.

Diane Hessan, CEO at Communispace

Most of the time, the social media “habits” of candidates are not a major factor in our decision making. However, on the extremes of the bell curve, there are things that work – or that backfire. My advice:

· Be appropriate. Communicate with people on social media in the same way you would using other vehicles. I have had strangers write to me on Twitter and say, “Hey Di – I love your company.” Really? I don’t know you and you are saying “Hey Di?” It makes me wonder how you would handle consumers in our communities – or our beloved clients. On the other hand, I have lots of people connect with me on social media and they say, “Diane, I have applied to your company on your website, and I am so excited about what you do. Fingers crossed.” That’s nice.

· Do Your Homework. Don’t write to me on social media and ask me to do your homework for you. Yesterday, someone tweeted to me, asking what jobs we have open or what our criteria are. Go to the website! Don’t get on Twitter and ask me how long I have been on it when you can find that out by reading my profile. On the other hand, you can find out an awful lot about me and my company by using social media, and that information can go a long way in selling yourself in the job process.

· You don’t have to be a social media guru, but badmouthing social media probably doesn’t work. For instance, if you say, “Ugh! I just don’t get why people waste so much time on Twitter & Facebook,” that would tell me that you you probably are not going to be interested in a business that communicates with consumers online.

· How you communicate on social media matters more than whether you have photos of you and your friends partying. We like people who party! We like people who have friends! We won’t reject you if you are on Facebook with a can of beer in your hand. On the other hand, we are less interested in people who use poor spelling and grammar, who use a lot of profanity, who badmouth their current employer in public. You should assume that we will check out your social media presence, but most of the time, it will not be a deal breaker.

Sean Lindsay, Co-Founder and CTO at Viximo

Things we like to see:

-Activity - given the social nature of our business, it's important that candidates are connected active users of social media

- Contribution - we like creative thinkers who are contributing to discussions or producing interesting content

- Humanity - we like our team members to be well rounded human beings and social
media can be a great window into their interests

Things that would be worrisome:

- Negativity - abusive interactions, consistently pessimistic attitude

- Absence - a total lack of presence on any sites

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About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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