Job-Hunting 2.0

From Innovations, a website published by Ziff-Davis Enterprise from mid-2006 to mid-2009. Reprinted by permission.

Traffic to the popular business social networking site doubled following the stock market meltdown of last fall, according to media reports. That’s not surprising, given LinkedIn’s utility as a way to create and nurture business relationships. Business professionals have a vast variety of tools available to them today to look for jobs and in an economy like this one, it behooves you to use as many as you can.

I’ve hired more than 200 people in my 20 years of management, and I’ve learned what makes a candidate stand out as memorable and potentially hirable. Here are some ideas for incorporating Internet services into your search.

Get recommendations — One of LinkedIn’s more intriguing features is the ability to ask business colleagues for recommendations. You should do this on an ongoing basis, not only when you’re looking for a job. The best time to ask is when a person’s impressions of you are still fresh. They’re more likely to give you an enthusiastic endorsement if you’ve just help them with a big project. Always give back a recommendation as a way of thanking them for their time.

Find jobs that aren’t advertised — aOne of the coolest features of social networks is their continuous status updates. Whenever someone in your circle of contacts gets promoted or takes a new job, you can find out immediately. Remember that when someone assumes a new job, it usually creates an opening in their old one. That’s an opportunity for you. Also, when a person assumes a new role, they often want to hire people they trust to work under them. Be sure to send in a congratulatory note and let them know you’re available.

Research opportunities — Even when I worked for an Internet company hiring people who are supposedly Web-savvy, I was often stunned by how few job candidates showed up with any knowledge of the company or job they were interviewing for. There simply is no excuse for that today. Before you arrive for your interview, be sure you spend at least a half hour learning about the company’s business, its objectives, competition and challenges. Be ready to tell the hiring manager what you can do to help. Believe me, they will remember that.

Research people — People reveal lots of information about themselves in social networks, blogs and online profiles these days. Even if they don’t volunteer that information, you can often learn about them from the groups and organizations that they frequent. Spend some time learning about the person you’ll meet in your interview. Mine some personal nuggets that can help you establish a more personal relationship. Perhaps you share an interest in a particular author, film genre or sport. That’s a basis for discussion outside of the business context. Anything you can do to personalize the engagement will help your chances.

Make yourself memorable — I can’t emphasize this enough. Hiring managers often interview 30 or 40 candidates before making a selection. Names and faces tend to run together, so anything you can do to distinguish yourself will increase your chances of making the cut. Create a video or a screencast demonstrating some special skill you bring to the assignment. If you’re musically inclined, send an audio clip of yourself singing a song of introduction. Write a personalized letter describing three ways you can address a challenge the company faces. Show that you’ve invested some time and brain power to apply for the job.

Next week, we’ll look at how the Web can help you nail down the position and how to prepare for future job hunts. We’ll also talk about how you sometimes need to abandon the keyboard to cement those personal connections.