Job Hunting In The Digital Age: Getting Hired Using Social Media

June 19, 2018

Tina Akunwafor, a recent college grad from Raleigh, was hired for a position as a National Sales Strategist at Entercom Charlotte by Mike DeAmicis, the Director of Sales. Before Tina was hired the job didn’t exist.

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From recent grads to Baby Boomers looking for their next opportunity, there are plenty of people hunting for jobs right now. The basics of finding employment haven't changed, but the digital age presents some interesting ways to get information about openings and to get the attention of hiring managers.   

Several of the unemployed people I know say they apply for jobs daily, but seldom land an interview. Positions often get filled before you even knew they were available. Many jobs are posted as a formality because the hiring manager already has a candidate in mind.  

But right now there’s an employer somewhere who’s about to grow his business or is giving a slacker the side eye; you need to reach him before the other job hunters. If it all boils down to "who you know" and you don't seem to know any of the right people then how can you increase your social capital?

My first full-time job out of Penn State was at an employment agency in Columbus, OH. I found the job in the Columbus Dispatch. The company, General Employment, advertised dozens of jobs with vague descriptions. The agency basically hired me to sell our "job search" services to people looking for work. If we matched them with a job opening we'd been hired to fill then the applicant would pay the agency roughly 10% of their first year's salary. If the applicant wasn't a match for an opening then she could pay a fee to hire General Employment to find a job for her.

The family of the two people I placed while working there paid for the fee; those two went to companies that had A LOT of turnover. I doubt either lasted a year in their position, but neither had any idea who they'd like to work for or what they really wanted to do, let alone what they could offer an employer.  

Who do you want to work for? Google the companies offering jobs matching your qualifications and education. Follow those companies on your social media accounts.  Look at their job openings and to find out about the organization's affiliations and philanthropy. Look for the names of department heads, managers and associates.  Google them and follow them too if possible. If you find that you've got a friend in common, tell that friend you are job hunting and ask for an introduction. Comment on and share their content. Tag them in thoughtful industry posts.

Most trade magazines and business journals are online. Read them! Find out who just got promoted and send a congratulatory note. Then apply for the job they just left.  Read about expansions and grand openings. If a company is planning on opening a facility in the area don't wait until the big move to find out how to apply for the new jobs. Get names and addresses, then follow up.  It’s amazing how many people say they want to work in media, but can't name a single person in the organization who isn't on the air on the local or corporate level.

Sign up for industry newsletters, luncheons, seminars, webinars and mixers. Volunteer to help at one of those industry events. Back at the employment agency we'd read the obituaries too. When people under the age of 60 pass away they often leave jobs behind. Savage technique? Yes. Effective? Also yes!

Join clubs and social media groups. There is a wealth of information about keeping your social media account clean, but not using it properly (or not at all) is a problem. You've got to be in the same space as employers.

Younger job hunters need to show they are responsible while older job hunters may need to prove they're participating in the digital age. You think you're too young for Facebook or too old for Instagram? If your youth or age could present a hiring obstacle then you might want to make some changes. Use relatives, friends, neighbors and church members in your search. When you meet employees ask for their help in getting your resume into the right hands. Remember that every post about a job loss, promotion or change can translate into a job opening somewhere.

Keep your interactions positive. Now is not time to use profanity to convince your friend's neighbor that her political views are stupid. Social media allows you to communicate with potential employers, coworkers and connectors. No one who knows you should be surprised to find out that you're looking for work and they should all know what you are qualified to do.

Connect with the help of hobbies and philanthropy. Your fellow cyclists, fitness boot camp buddies or martial arts enthusiasts can be helpful networking partners. Make sure your social media profiles include the charities you support. It’s also a good idea to volunteer for the charities your potential employer supports. Offer your services to a church or charity; it can be a great way to boost your resume and make connections.

Your resume should be tweaked for every job using words in the job description.  When applying for a "potential job opening" use the company's site to see how other job summaries are worded. In a digital job hunting world companies often use applicant tracking systems. The ATS might search for keywords, dates and job titles in your resume that match those in the job description. . A company may also program the ATS to use knock-out questions (“Do you have at least 5 years experience") There might also be some pre-qualifiers to weed out applications that don’t meet minimum criteria. Spelling and grammar errors are easily flagged. Fancy fonts may not be recognized by the software; stick with professional fonts like Arial, Tahoma and Calibri. Save the fancy stuff for presentation or social media post.

Go old school and show up. Leave that actual one page resume in the hands of a human who works for the company.  Mail it to a manager. Call that manager and ask for a 10 minute meeting over coffee (you bring the coffee). Limit your conversation to questions. These are fact finding missions, and some folks forget that many people like talking about their jobs and their company. Forget about expressing your objective on paper or in person. Most employers are more concerned about what you can do for them versus what you'd like to do.

Ask what you can do to facilitate getting hired. Ask her to keep you in mind should she or a peer need to fill a position. Every month (or two at the longest), send a follow-up message. Remember to be kind to those gatekeepers like receptionists and office managers. I was on the board of A Child’s Place with a man who told a beautiful story about his first career position. The receptionist tipped him off that the boss would be walking through the lobby on a break and let him know that he would have a 5 minute window to put his resume in the hands of the CEO. He landed the gig.

Follow up with your college/trade school placement office and read the latest updates from the schools.  Alumni connections aren't just for dating. Reach out to recruiters, job programs and college placement counsellors even if you graduated from the school 20 years ago.  Check out the movers and shakers who graduated from your alma mater and connect with them via social media as well. Circle back around to the folks who’ve conducted or attended classes with you.

Bottom line? Stay social!

Good luck out there.