Using LinkedIn to facilitate the job search

Using LinkedIn to Facilitate the Job Search

By Svetlana Symonenko, INALJ California

Svetlana SymonenkoSocial networks have become the channel of choice for the latest news, friends’ updates, deals, local events, weekend ideas, and many other things. But, how commonly are they used to search for jobs and/or promote yourself in the job market? Not long ago, I began to master online networking to increase my chances of getting a job.

While my story is not very typical, it may still be applicable to many exploring their career paths. I earned my MLIS from a US university, but had to return to my home country for a few years. Recently, I relocated to the US and am now re-entering the job market here. One of the new things I have noticed in the market is the increased use of social media for the job search. No wonder: essentially, it is the same proven tool of in-person networking facilitated by the internet.

I found remarkable numbers for this recent trend published in A Dozen Critical Trends That Will Affect Employment Search in 2015:

  • 63% of employers use referrals by current employees as a recruitment tool;
  • 51% of employers turn to online social media to look for candidates. It means that many positions are filled without being advertised! It also means that a job seeker needs to reach this “hidden” job market as well.
  • While the presence in the online social media appears critical for the successful job search, the quality of this presence is very important too: 55% of recruiters indicated that they have turned down candidates because of certain content on their profile or blog posts.
  • 94% of employers identify LinkedIn as a principal source of candidates (vs. 66% who use Facebook and 52% who use Twitter).

LinkedIn, while free in a basic version, offers an additional functionality through its Premium accounts; the latter, for instance, includes more ways to connect to people or an option to see how your background compares to that of the other candidates who applied for the same position. You can test the Premium functionality in a one-month free trial. I have tried it and am still considering its pros and cons, especially since the free version, in my view, offers quite a lot. LinkedIn helps you create your public online profile that you can use as:

  • a resume (and apply to some jobs advertised on LinkedIn directly from your account);
  • a portfolio (you can add files illustrating your achievements);
  • a way to update your contacts on your professional achievements;
  • a job search facilitator: the system uses your skills keywords to suggest jobs of potential interest; plus, you can set up alerts or follow a LinkedIn account of a particular employer. Some companies even link the announced position to the account of their HR manager, so that you can contact them directly;
  • a way to connect to colleagues through various professional groups (including LinkedIn accounts of actual organizations – for instance, ALA or SLA or Association of Independent Information Professionals & INALJ – to name but a very few!) – a good start for your networking.

LinkedIn offers tips to improve your profile, from adding education or work experience to suggesting key skills to showcase and providing an option to recommend someone from your connections or request a recommendation for yourself.

To wrap it up, there are social media websites that help you research jobs, present yourself, and connect to people who may facilitate your career journey. So, why not to use them? Your basic networking plan could look like this:

1. Create or update your presence on the most popular social network websites. I would begin with LinkedIn as it is geared toward the professional connections you are looking for in your job seeking process.

Hint: listen to LinkedIn suggestions on how to improve your profile; these folks have seen enough resumes and profiles to distill the best practices.

2. Establish connections with your colleagues (both, past and current).
Hint: to speed up the process, let the system mine your email contacts. You may be surprised with the treasures hidden there. Strengthen your profile with endorsements or recommendations from you connections.

3. Set up your job search alerts.

4. Identify companies you may be interested in working for. Find their LinkedIn accounts to follow.
Hint: You can also search for accounts of HR managers who work there (or, even better, use the HR contact provided for a particular position announced). Try to establish connections with them. Here is a good advice on how to leverage your network for job referral opportunities.

5. Find professional groups of interest, join them, and participate actively in discussions. There is always a chance that a group member you’ve gotten to know through a LinkedIn discussion may provide a referral for you. Plus, online professional forums sometimes have physical get-togethers, which you may be able to attend.

Networking is a skill learned by doing, so – roll up your virtual sleeves and good luck!