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How to use LinkedIn in your job search April 4, 2010

Posted by HubTechInsider in Social Media, Staffing & Recruiting.
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I have written on these pages before about the power of expanding your professional network on LinkedIn. Now I have some new statistics and information that I feel really bore out my earlier comments about the professional social business networking site.

Visitors to the site in 2010 have jumped 31% from 2009 to 17.6 million visitors in February 2010. Your customers, your colleagues, your competitors and your boss are all on LinkedIn. The average memeber is a college-educated 43-year-old making $107,000. More than one quarter of the members on LinkedIn are senior executives, and every Fortune 100 company is represented. Recently, Oracle found their CFO, Jeff Epstein, through a LinkedIn search.

One of the big reasons that LinkedIn works so well for professional matchmaking is that most of the people on LinkedIn already have jobs. But why is that good for job seekers? Well, for one thing, a legion of employed LinkedIn users are using it to research clients before sales calls, ask their connections for advice, and read up on where former colleagues are landing gigs. In this kind of a business-oriented social network, job seekers can do their networking without looking as if they are shopping themselves around. THis population is more valuable to recruiters as well.

In contrast to online job boards, which focus on showcasing active job hunters, very often the most talented and sought-after recruits are those currently employed. Headhunters have a name for people like these: passive candidates. The $8 Billion recruiting industry is built on the fact that they are hard to find, but LinkedIn changes that. It gives the recruiting industry the digital equivalent of a little black book, one that is public ands detailed.

For a generation of professionals, the baby boomers, trained to cloak their contacts at all costs, this transparency is counterintuitive. So far most of the online advice columns have been filled with advice on what *not* to do: don’t post drunken pictures of yourself online, etc. But as more and more companies have turned to the web for recruitment of candidates, it is no longer an advantage for job candidates and job seekers to refrain from broadcasting personal information.

Instead, your new professional imperative should be to present your professional skills as attratively as possible, packing your profile with keywords (logistics engineer, marketing manager, global sourcing specialist) that will send your name to the top of recruiter’s searches. You are also now able to connect your online professional interactions in one place, joining groups on LinkedIn, (LinkedIn has more than 500,000 of them, ranging from groups based on companies, schools, and other professional affinities), offering advice, and linking your blog posts and twitter updates to your linkedin profile.

Look at it this way: you Google other people, so don’t you think they’re Googling you? Part of a networked world is that people will be looking you up, and when they do, you want to be able to control what they find. Helping you present yourself well online is just the start of what you can do using LinkedIn, and with 60 million active users, you should think hard about making it an active and indispensable tool for your career path.

People are in a different context and mindset when they are in and using a professional network. In this networked, interconnected workplace, everyone will have their professional identity online so they can be discoverable for the things that will be important to them. The most obvious thing would be jobs, but it’s not just jobs. It’s also clients, consulting gigs and services.

This new source for recruitment has a complicated relationship with the more traditional staffing and executive recruitment and placement industry. Although LinkedIn is a welcome tool for recruiters, as the LinkedIn software allows recruiters to search its database without access to photographs, thus keeping in compliance with antidiscrimination laws, and to contact anybody in the LinkedIn network. But the Great Recession has forced companies to cut back on their budgets for outside firms. One of the largest corporate recruiters, Heidrick & Struggles, saw their revenues fall 36% in 2009.

LinkedIn’s primary membership is comprised of corporate professionals. Many recruiters spend time daily on the site, reading up on potential candidates, chatting with them in groups and on message boards, and responding to inquires. This approach has been working for many companies: they have been able to use LinkedIn to bring down the time it takes to fill open positions, an important metric among recruiters, by nearly half.

Make sure you always write a personal note when you send a request to connect on LinkedIn. It is very important to complete your profile as much as possible. Get recommendations from former co-workers. Use keywords to bring out the skills you want to highlight. Join groups: recruiters often scour professional groups to round up potential candidates. Answer questions from colleagues that showcase your professional expertise.

Although the prospect of spending all this time online may seem daunting initially, I still recommend placing LinkedIn at the center of your job searching activities. You should be spending a concentrated amount of time on LinkedIn, around 30 minutes a day. I also recommend using a professional picture on your LinkedIn profile page. I recommend against using dogs, cats, horses or cows in the background of your LinkedIn profile picture. I find that many older job seekers are worried that their grey hair or aging appearance will trigger age discrimination. They see that there could be drawbacks to so much transparency, and they fret that using LinkedIn will ensure that employers will potentially know more about them than they should.

These are questions that I have considered from the start of my writings about LinkedIn. Let me tell you what I think about these topics regarding LinkedIn: for all the benefit that LinkedIn brings to a job hunt, it cannot erase the fundamental challenges that exist in the job market. A reality is that many baby boomers are out of work as the industries they have worked in for decades have changes irrevocably. The millenial generation is more affected by joblessness then any generation in American history. These job hunters will need to reinvent themselves in new types of careers. The thing about social networking profiles is that they don’t lie, at least not successfully. You can’t fudge your experience or hide your age, because your connection sknow you in real life. You should post your photo to your LinkedIn profile, as your profile lets you represent yourself as strong as you can, so leverage that to your advantage.

LinkedIn can definitely help you get a job. It can help you expand your professional network, it can help you connect with corporate recruiters and independent staffing firms, land consulting gigs, connect with former colleagues and find out about jobs you never would have known about if you weren’t on LinkedIn. In the end, social networking is just a more efficient way of reaching out to people you know – and people they know. You need to work your professional network, build it before you need it, and use it to help you get an edge in an appropriate way at the appropriate juncture.

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About the author.

I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. You can subscribe to Hub Tech Insider’s RSS feed in your RSS feed reader. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurship, ecommerce, telecommunications and software development, I’m the Director, Technical Projects at eSpendWise, I’m a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of Tshirtnow.net.

Five tips for recruiters on contacting potential job candidates in a tough job market June 15, 2009

Posted by HubTechInsider in Staffing & Recruiting, Uncategorized.
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I have been on both sides of the fence when it comes to job interviews — for the two ecommerce software companies I started back in the 1990’s, I hired hundreds of people, so I talked to alot of staffing firms and recruiters. In my current life as an IT Project Manager / Business Analyst / Program Manager, I have not only taken on a few contract roles in the Boston area myself, but I have also been tasked at various times with hiring other contractors to work on large software development projects. In all these roles, I have been in contact with staffing firms, agencies, and corporate recruiters that are not very good at their job. Many of the recruiters out there are great, but the majority are not great. After reading yet another drivel and platitude filled article about recruiters and “how to get a job” from the Boston Globe today, I thought it was high time for an article with some real-world tips and practical advice for recruiters on how to contact candidates out there in the midst of a tough job market. I found after writing these five tips for recruiters, however, that they are applicable in any economy. These five tips are fundamental imperatives for all recruiters to read, know and internalize so that they do not destroy their professional reputations and ruin the reputations of their staffing firms and employment agencies.

1. Do your homework on candidates before picking up the telephone – If you don’t have any jobs for a candidate, don’t call them up on the telephone. If a candidate is not a good fit for your particular search, then they are not going to be interested in hearing from you: think about it. Just because someone is a candidate and is out there looking for work, doesn’t mean they are going to be thrilled to talk to a recruiter on the telephone. They will really be perturbed at you when they realize that after an initial contact, you didn’t look at their resume or their Linkedin profile or really perform any homework on them until you get them on the telephone – only to tell them they aren’t a good fit, not what you’re looking for or you don’t have any jobs for them. You should have never called them on the telephone in the first place. Lazy recruiters are all too common these days, and nobody wants to hear whining about time constraints, number of candidates, or the rest of it. Get on LinkedIn, read the profiles of your candidates, and carefully read their resume. In this way, you can be ready to ask purposeful leading questions such as “So I read about your experiences with the Executive Dashboard application at Metatech; I know you wrote on your resume that it was an Oracle project, but I’m wondering if that was a .net or a J2EE environment. Can you tell me a little more about it?”… this is a great way to get the information you need from a candidate and it prevents you from looking like a brainless recruitron. If you are a recruiter and you are not on Linkedin yourself, the message you are sending out is that you are not a veteran, serious, professional recruiter, and you are, in fact, recruiter that has something to hide and should not be trusted. When you do get a potential candidate on the telephone, announce yourself with politeness: “Hi, this is Wendy Sprague from Recruit-Tech, and I’d like to speak with Susan Holmes if she is there please” is a great way to reach Susan about a potential job opportunity. “Hi, is this Susan?” is an example of a bad way to begin such a sourcing call. Be polite on the telephone! Do your homework on the candidates!

2. Don’t be rude on the telephone with potential candidates – The internet is a two-way street. In other words, people can write about you and your company / staffing agency / firm online. And they will. I started a few ecommerce companies in college. I used to tell my employees: “If someone has a great ordering or retail experience with us, they will tell two of their best friends – if they have a bad experience they will tell ten or fifteen people right away”. Not doing your homework on candidates before getting them on the telephone, wasting their time on the telephone, rudeness, insulting people’s backgrounds or resumes because they aren’t the pink unicorn you are currently searching for, cutting people off, telling them they “aren’t the right fit” when you should have been able to tell that before calling them up, etc. is going to work out badly for you in the long run. A candidate is just one person. A company is exposed to the public and a corporate reputation for rudeness and incompetence is alot harder to overcome than a single, individual’s reputation. In essence, a staffing firm is a very visible public entity and word gets around. Don’t forget: contractors talk to each other and to the clients once they are in the client company. Many are eventually hired permanently and even ones who remain contractors are often tasked with hiring other contractors. Remember this the next time you are speaking on the telephone with a candidate, because they will surely remember you.

3. Your candidates’ professional references are not marketing contacts – A typical ploy in the tough current Boston IT contract market is to call in job candidates for an in-person interview on the pretext of some nonexistent job or some vaguely-defined future contract. Then, in this challenging market for staffing firms, the account managers are tasked with getting the candidates to “Drop the cheese” and the candidate is then grilled for marketing information for the staffing agency or firm. Manager’s names at former employers, managers at the current employer, etc. are all gathered. Then, a bogus in-person “reference check” is set up. The staffing firm then essentially “calls in” the favor of an in-person reference check using the candidate’s name – to try and drum up new business for the staffing firm at the candidate’s former or current employer. Your candidate’s professional references are not marketing material for your staffing firm. What is likely to happen is the manager will call up or email the candidate and tell them about this marketing meeting, and that staffing firm will never get any future business from the candidate’s former employer. Again, people talk in this new age of social media and online blog posts. So don’t do it. Your candidate’s professional references and work history is not an opportunity for your staffing firm to “get in the door”. If you use these disingenuous methods, it will be exposed in public and also behind closed doors at the offices of your potential clients – not to mention all the contractors and potential candidates that will turn up their noses in disgust at the infinite re-telling of the story. Staffing firms have alot of competition, and there are so many other firms to go with — don’t accept this high level of business risk.

4. Don’t wear out your candidates’ professional references – Get the candidates professional references and then ask the permission of the candidate to call them. Don’t call them before you have a definite REQ for the candidate and they are indeed a primary candidate for the job. The reason for this is simple: professional references are usually busy people and it is not their job to give detailed references for former employees. It is a difficult and tense thing for managers to do even for people and former employees who were superstars and well liked. Most managers will give a candidate one or two really good references, but by the time they are called for a third or fourth reference, they are either not giving them or not giving good ones anymore. So don’t wear out the professional references of your candidates! Again, this is another point of which I must emphasize that word gets around – quickly in this world of blogs, twitter, and such.

5. Have integrity and follow-through – If you only have one job REQ (or no REQ) for a candidate, if you tell them your firm has lots of potential jobs for their title and role, which you don’t follow up on with the candidate, they will tell everyone they know that you and your staffing agency / firm lied to them. Eventually, they will get hired, but they won’t ever forget that you lied to them – why place an enemy in so many potential client firms? In matters of personal livelihood, people in general have long memories. So don’t think they forgot about all the jobs for them you told them about. To come and meet with you in your office, most candidates will have to use up a sick day or miss a day of work. So you better get down to business with your candidates quickly. To lie about these types of matters is not harmless to the job candidate, and it’s not harmless to the business of the staffing firm or agency, let alone your personal professional reputation. Again, don’t do it.

A good article I found online that makes some great points about hiring in a down economy is available here, and I recommend it highly.

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