Author Maribeth Kuzmeski, who wrote The Connectors: How the World’s Most Successful Businesspeople Build Relationships and Win Clients for Life, believes that in today’s tough employment market, your social media presence can make you or break you.
“Of course, the Web has been an integral part of job searches for years now,” notes Kuzmeski, who also authored …And the Clients Went Wild!: How Savvy Professionals Win All the Business They Want. “But it’s been in only the past couple of years that social media has gotten so important.”
“I think many job seekers find out the hard way that it can be a double-edged sword,” she adds. “If you have the right kind of online presence, it can greatly improve your chances of getting hired, but one wrong move and employers might shun you. You have to remember the connections you make online define you. When you’re trying to get hired, you have to be careful of what they say.”
An expert on the art of connecting, Kuzmeski teaches clients how to connect with their customers in order to win business and build loyalty and knows all about making the right impression. These same relationship-building skills can help job seekers make the right kind of connections via social media.
Here is her advice on how to get hired (and avoid being fired!) using social media:
1. Mine your social networking connections.
You’ve got all those Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections, and followers on Twitter for a reason—use them! In your job search, you should always look to the fruit closest to the ground. Is anyone in your social network working for a company that would be a good fit for you? If so, ask them to keep you in mind the next time a position opens up, or pitch them on your experience and they just might put you in touch with their HR department. If you’re currently employed but looking to go elsewhere, just be sure to keep your communication as private as possible. You don’t want people posting job opportunities or job search well-wishes on your Facebook Wall where a coworker or your boss might see them.
“Also, keep in mind the focus of your networking—social and otherwise—should not be on gaining an immediate job offer from those in your network,” says Kuzmeski. “In fact, that tactic almost never works. The goal should, instead, be to build a mutually beneficial relationship with someone who may never even be able to give you a job, but might know someone who can.
“For example, maybe someone in your network is in a completely different industry from you, but has a huge network of friends on Facebook,” she adds. “He might not be able to help you get a job at his company, but someone in his network might have the perfect opportunity for you. Don’t count anyone out of your networking efforts, especially those who are the closest to you and therefore the most willing to help.”
2. Put your best Face(book) forward.
According to Jobvite.com’s 2010 Social Recruiting Survey, 83 percent of employers plan to use social networks to recruit this year. Will you be someone they hire or someone they avoid? To find out about the “real” side of potential employees, some employers are Googling them as well as checking out their Facebook and Twitter pages. Before you kick off your job search, make sure your Facebook page and other social media profiles are clean and professional.
“If you have any embarrassing or inappropriate material on your profile, it could be quite off-putting to your potential employer,” Kuzmeski advises. “Do yourself a favor and remove those materials. And when you’re engaging in social media activity, think of yourself as a public figure who may have your every word scrutinized.
“And if you think that simply making your profiles private will solve the problem, beware,” she warns. “A twenty-something job searcher recently told me about a new tactic that some employers are using. The interviewer asks the candidate to pull up his Facebook page—right there in the interview, leaving him no time to clean anything up! Yes, social media is a lot of fun, but make sure if you’re looking for a job that your social media sites help, not hurt, your cause.”
3. Monitor your online reputation.
As mentioned above, companies are checking up on people before they even invite them for an interview. And while you know what you’ve posted about yourself online, you might not know about what others have posted about you or your company. One of the easiest ways to monitor your reputation is by setting up Google Alerts that will inform you of anything that has appeared about you online. Just go to www.Google.com/Alerts and set up a free alert of your name and your company’s name (if relevant). Whenever anything appears online that you or someone else has posted about you, an email will be sent to you with a link to the online occurrence.
“Ultimately, the best way to manage your online reputation is by generating positive search results through your online posts and profiles that will rank as highly as possible on any list of search results,” says Kuzmeski. “But by monitoring these search results closely, you can get out in front of any problems that might arise from something negative someone else has said about you or your current employer online. That way, at least you’ll be prepared with an explanation. Bottom line, protect your most important assets—your brand and online reputation.”
4. Use proactive posting to stand out online (in a good way).
At a time when you’re constantly warned about everything that can be used against you online, you might have an inclination to pull back altogether on your online presence. The reality is you should do whatever you can, when you can, to build your credibility. That’s right: You can, and should, consciously and deliberately craft an online image.
“For example, if you have a well-written blog about something you are passionate about or if you are a conscientious tweeter informing your followers about interesting news stories, you can actually build a very respectable reputation online,” says Kuzmeski. “You should also consider joining the commenting communities on the Web sites or blogs of companies that interest you. By doing so, you can add to their dialogue, and the suggestions and comments you post just might catch the right someone’s eye.
“Taking these steps shows you know how to use the Web wisely and that you are well rounded, well informed, and a great communicator—factors that every company wants in an employee,” she adds.
5. Build your online résumé using LinkedIn.
If you aren’t already on business-focused social media sites like LinkedIn, take the time to set up a profile. In fact, LinkedIn is especially important because it is the most commonly viewed source for job seekers and employers. Setting up a profile is simple: Just go to www.LinkedIn.com, add your picture and a summary of your past job responsibilities, and state what you’re looking for. As a LinkedIn member, you can also join groups, review books, and proactively connect with potential employers.
“Think of it as creating your own living résumé and as a great way for people to connect with you!” says Kuzmeski.
6. Check out your interviewer.
Social media isn’t all about what you do online. It’s also important that you know what your potential future employer is doing online. If you know who you will be sending a résumé to or who will be interviewing you, conducting a little research in advance of your communication can provide you with a big advantage.
“During an interview I conducted with a candidate for my company, the candidate began talking about how much he liked one of the books I had written,” recalls Kuzmeski. “He quoted from the book and offered a story of how he used the information in his career. He had me! I had spent a year writing that book, and the fact that he liked it and gave me information that proved he really read it made me remember him. And somehow he seemed smarter! After ten interviews in one day, people can start to blur. He never did.
“We didn’t end up hiring him because he had little experience in the type of service marketing we needed, but I gave him a high recommendation to one of our firm’s clients, and he was hired within a week,” she adds.
7. Make an impact by using video.
If you really want to capture the attention of a potential employer, record a quick video. Use it to get an interview or as a follow-up after an interview. Here’s how it works: Instead of just emailing a résumé or a post-interview thank-you note, include a link to a video of you. Carefully script your response and record the quick message using a Flip video camera or even a Webcam. Post it on YouTube or some other service and send a link for the video to your potential employer.
Here are some helpful scripting tips for getting the interview:
1. The video should be no longer than one or two minutes.
2. Introduce yourself.
3. Identify the job you would like to be interviewed for.
4. Tell them three things about your background that may make them interested in interviewing you.
5. Thank them for watching the video and ask them for the interview.
8. Don’t be overly friendly.
It’s important to think of your social media connections as just that—connections, not friends. Just because a potential employer responds to you using informal language in a Facebook post or via Twitter, does not give you the go-ahead to do the same. It is never okay to use texting shorthand such as LOL or TTYL in any communication with potential employers, no matter how informal your contact at the company is with you.
“Remember, just because your immediate contact has no problem sending informal emails to potential employees, doesn’t mean that his boss won’t mind it,” Kuzmeski points out. “Other people at the company might be reading those emails. And for that reason, you should stay professional at all times.”
9. Remember, you have to give to get.
Social media requires that, regardless of what an individual has attained or achieved to this point in the real world, everyone starts off at the beginning in the social space. Each step up the social media ladder is earned by giving to the other members—whether that is in the form of a fresh, interesting piece of content of your own or by promoting someone else’s content. But the underlying rule is that you must give to get.
“By adding value to the community, you are making more connections and, as a result, earning more friends, more followers, and more trust,” says Kuzmeski. “So don’t hesitate to post job opportunities or other information that your network will find useful. Connect those in your network who might be able to benefit from one another. Just having a network isn’t good enough; you have to play an active role in it if you want to get anything back from those you’re connecting with via social media.”
“No matter what means of communication you prefer, relationships are the real secret to success,” says Kuzmeski. “If you can use social media to build strong relationships and connect with employers, you will get your piece of the proverbial pie. If you can’t, you’ll be scrambling for crumbs!”