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The New Rules for Getting a Job: Smart Social Media Helps Jobs Find You

Smart Social Media Helps Jobs Find You

How does a customer-service expert in Seattle catch the attention of a hot San Francisco startup in San Francisco, 700 miles away? The answer these days is likely to involve networking and brand-building on social media’s “fun” sites — even the ones best known for their tweets, pokes and cat videos.

It’s been obvious since 2003, when LinkedIn was launched, that social networking could help job candidates and employers interact. LinkedIn’s commitment to this market is underscored by the 150 million career bios on its site — and the more than $260 million in revenue last year from businesses wanting extra ways of connecting with potential new hires.

But more playful sites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Quora, and even Pinterest are turning out to be valuable tools for job-hunters, too. In May, I will be publishing “Becoming a Rare Find,” an e-book that explores today’s most effective new job-hunting techniques. Many involve online equivalents to networking at beach resorts or children’s soccer games. People may go online to banter. No matter; before long, they talk shop.

An especially instructive example involves Greg Meyer, who has helped run customer-service operations for nearly a dozen companies. Last year, Meyer became an enthusiastic participant on quora.com, a popular knowledge-sharing site. He joined discussions on everything from Batman to customer complaints. When others wondered about Twitter’s value in customer service, Meyer’s detailed answer became a Quora standout.

Meyer’s customer-service posts didn’t say “hire me” — but they had that effect anyway. Executives at Assistly, a San Francisco maker of help-desk software, read his comments, liked them, and invited him to interview for a job. Within weeks, Meyer was hired. He now works full-time in Seattle for the Desk.com team at Salesforce.com, which acquired Assistly a few months ago.

Such pathways to new jobs are most common in fields where job-seekers and employers constantly hang out online. Computer programming, political campaign work (and social media itself) are showcase examples. But the list keeps broadening. Cases have surfaced of high-end restaurants finding chefs, ad agencies hiring researchers, and publishing houses selecting authors through the fun side of social media.

As such opportunities grow, career coaches need to adapt to the new environment, too. Warning candidates to avoid social-media blunders (such as posting out-of-control party photos) should become no more than 25% of the message. Such injunctions are the equivalent of telling people not to send out resumes with typos. Once those simple don’ts are taken care of, the other 75% of efforts can be channeled into making the most of new opportunities.

It’s important to note that Twitter, Facebook and the like aren’t beckoning people to adopt odd new personas. Instead, social media is rebooting three long-time habits — making them easier and more powerful than ever before. Specific payoffs are as follows:

Building a better contact list. Collecting business cards at conferences and mixers is arduous. It’s even harder to do so without being a pest. Twitter offers a better alternative. Lots of recruiters, hiring managers and industry networkers are hanging out on Twitter, swapping job leads and industry updates.

Alyssa Henry, a graduate student at Syracuse University’s Information School, began her Twitter-upgrade strategy by following decision makers in her field. Then she published links to interesting articles or campus updates. Some of the people that she followed started to reciprocate, following her tweets. That let her build concentric circles, so even friends of friends of friends became aware of her work. Her payoff: a tweet from an ad agency manager with ties to a Fortune 100 company, urging people in his network to hire her.

Showing your work portfolio more widely. Ralph Paone, a champion college debater, never considered seeking a career in advertising after graduation. But he didn’t need to make the first move. Zack Canfield, a top hiring executive at the San Francisco ad agency of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, had a hunch that top debaters might make excellent market researchers. By browsing debaters’ video clips, Canfield identified Paone as a top prospect. A follow-up phone chat led to a full-time job.

High-traffic sites such as YouTube and Pinterest could become showcases of great work in almost any field. Recruiters increasingly are prowling the web to look for the best candidates — even if it means poaching them out of current jobs. That’s being seen as more efficient than public job ads that elicit hundreds of ill-suited responses.

By displaying strong Internet portfolios of their work, it’s easier for the best talent to get hired, simply by waiting to see who emails or phones. Last July, software engineer Daniel Doubrovkine of Art.sy urged job seekers to display their coding skills on Github, a repository of open-source software projects. His post, “Github is Your New Resume,” attracted 50,000 visitors.

Winning more interviews. Recruiters can’t talk to every candidate that might deserve a chance. What’s more, the logistics of scheduling phone and interviews are cumbersome enough that long shots tend to be systematically ignored. But it takes almost no time to browse through chat boards, expert-answer sites or Facebook pages, looking for potential candidates with verve.

Candidates should set up their social-media presences with an eye to what recruiters might want to know about them. Doing so means that even out-of-the-way job seekers can make great “zero-th impressions.” That early edge can translate into plenty of chances to make a winning first impression via phone or in-person contact.

SOURCE: Blogs.HBR.org

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