Despite the overcrowded job market, finding and applying for jobs has never been easier. (Our connected world has seen to that.) However, make one technology misstep and your resume could end up in a potential employer’s trash (virtual or actual). Whether you’re a fresh-faced 20-something or a member of the “I don’t talk about my age” club, you’ll do well to heed these 21st century job search dos and don’ts.
DO build your online resume using LinkedIn. According to Jobvite.com’s survey of 440 human resource professionals, 72 percent plan to spend more time recruiting via social media this year and 66 percent have successfully hired a candidate identified or introduced through an online social network. If you aren’t already on business-focused social media sites like LinkedIn, take the time to set up a profile.
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 resume and a great way for people to connect with you!
DO keep your social media profiles professional. 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. Do yourself a favor and remove those materials.
And if you think that simply making your profiles private will solve the problem, beware! “A 20-something job searcher recently told me about a new tactic that some employers are using,” says Kuzmeski. “The interviewer asked 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.”
DO make sure you have a sensible e-mail address. Bottom line, someone who emails from the email address [email protected] will probably not have her email opened over that of someone whose address is (HerName)@yahoo.com. Even if it means opening up a completely new email account, be sure you have an email address to use in your job search and on your resume that is professional and clear.
DON’T be too wordy or use excessive punctuation in emails. In an attempt to seem more professional, job searchers sometimes provide too much detail in emails. Remember, the people you are emailing about job opportunities are extremely busy. They cannot and will not read overly long emails. So keep them short! And when you do send emails, make sure they are carefully punctuated. That means not including four exclamation marks after describing how creative you are or how much you sold at your last job. So before you hit the “send” button, read, re-read, and edit your email to make sure you are saying what you want as concisely as possible.
DO use clear and concise subject lines. Emails with clear subject lines get opened more quickly and avoid being directed into SPAM folders. When sending an inquiry about a job, use a clear and concise subject line such as “Candidate for Open Sales Position” or “Experienced Salesperson Seeks Position.” Avoid overly lengthy subject lines or subject lines that will be overlooked by the receiver.
DO be careful what you attach. Many people are reluctant to open attachments sent from unfamiliar email addresses for fear they may get a virus. To avoid having to attach your resume, after you’ve carefully crafted your introductory email to send to your potential employer, be sure to create a plain text, or unformatted version, of your resume that you can paste into the body of the email. That way no attached version of your resume is necessary. (Note: If you’d like, you should certainly feel free to also attach the formatted version.)
DON’T be overly friendly. Just because an employer responds to you using informal language in an email, does not give you the go ahead to do the same. It is never okay to use texting shorthand such as LOL in emails to potential employers (20-somethings, take note!), 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.”
DON’T call when you should be emailing (Or vice versa). Even in today’s technology-driven world, in the job search process there are occasions when picking up the phone is more appropriate than emailing. Unfortunately, especially for Generation Yers and even some Generation Xers, this can be a tough call to make. Generally, you should match whatever method of communication your potential employer is using. “If an HR person calls you, then pick up the phone when responding-don’t email,” says Kuzmeski. “And ask your interviewers if it is okay to give them a call if you have any questions after the interview. Then if you have a legitimate question, make a call. You might also consider calling after hours to leave a thank-you voicemail. It is a nice way to let them hear your voice and enthusiasm without taking up too much of their time.”
DO 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 resume 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 web cam. 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!
DO check out your interviewer. If you know who you will be sending a resume to or who will be interviewing you, conducting a little research in advance of your communication can be 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.
DO get face-to-face with potential employers! Find a way to get in front of your potential employer. These days it is much harder to show potential employers what you are all about and to forge a connection with them because so much of the pre-hiring process is done online and through email. That is why it is essential that you find a way to communicate with them face-to-face. Dropping off a follow-up note or resume are great opportunities for getting some face time with a potential employer. Another great face-to-face opportunity comes after the interview. To show you paid close attention to everything your interviewer said, stop by her office with an article that you think would be of interest to her or a small gift (e.g., a box of candy) based on some information you found out during the interview.
“Once you are face-to-face, in an interview or otherwise, focus on having eye contact throughout,” says Kuzmeski. “Lean in, show them you are interested in everything they say, and think before you answer any question. Thoughtful deliberation can be difficult if you’re nervous, but it is critical in answering your potential employer’s questions to the best of your ability. Establishing this face time is sure to set you apart from your job market competition.”
DO practice your interview answers with a friend or mentor. Don’t go into your interview cold. There is too much competition for jobs to take anything for granted. Think of potential questions you may get about your previous positions and how you will answer these questions and then go over them with a friend or mentor. Work on thoughtfully communicating how you will deliver benefits in a given position, not just on what you know.
Become an expert at clearly communicating your strengths both verbally and in writing.
“Practice providing information that is compelling, impactful, and clearly expresses how you will benefit the employer,” advises Kuzmeski. “Give your interviewers reasons to think about hiring you, not reasons to end the interview early!”
DO use words that connect. In interviews, try to scrap your memorized job pitch in favor of a more natural conversation. You’ll seem more at ease and authentic-and your potential employer will be more inclined to believe everything he’s hearing. In written communication, be sure to answer all parts of any questions you receive. And carefully read over the job description so that you can communicate your specific strengths based on the job’s requirements.
DO prepare in advance to follow up after the interview. Plan on sending an immediate thank-you note through email or social media. Then, to ensure you are using every available option to stay in front of your potential employer, consider also sending a note in the mail. Yes, the mail. The note should recap what you discussed in the interview and reinforce what you can deliver to the company.
About the Author:
Maribeth Kuzmeski is the founder of Red Zone Marketing, LLC, which consults to Fortune 500 firms on strategic marketing planning and business growth. Maribeth has personally consulted with some of the world’s most successful CEOs, entrepreneurs, and professionals. An internationally recognized speaker, she shares the tactics that businesspeople use today to create more sustainable business relationships, sales, and marketing successes.
Maribeth is the author of four books, including The Connectors: How the World’s Most Successful Businesspeople Build Relationships and Win Clients for Life. She has frequently appeared on TV and radio, and has written articles on marketing strategies for hundreds of publications including BusinessWeek and Entrepreneur. She regularly speaks to audiences on topics relating to business development, marketing, and sales strategies.
Maribeth graduated with a degree in journalism from Syracuse University and has an MBA from George Washington University. She lives in the Chicago, Illinois, area with her husband and two teenagers.
About the Book:
The Connectors: How the World’s Most Successful Businesspeople Build Relationships and Win Clients for Life (Wiley, September 2009, ISBN: 0470488182) is available at bookstores nationwide, major online booksellers, or directly from the publisher by calling 800-225-5945. In Canada, call 800-567-4797.
For more information, please visit www.redzonemarketing.com and www.theconnectorsbook.com.