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November 10, 2016

Social Media: Job hunters urged to master, control it

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If you’re looking for a new job, it’s crucial to know how to use social media, said Kyshira Moffett, assistant director of career management at the Katz Graduate School of Business, leading the Nov. 2 faculty and staff development program workshop, “Using Social Media for Career Development.”

However, she cautioned: “It’s one thing to have a profile that is great, but are you reaching out?” And, she added, “Is your social media appropriate?”

Moffett said 92 percent of companies check social media during their hiring process, with more than 90 percent perusing LinkedIn, 66 percent looking at Facebook and 54 percent scanning Twitter. Despite that, only 36 percent of those seeking employment are active on LinkedIn, and only 40 percent on Twitter.

Perhaps that’s because 46 percent of employers have passed over an applicant “due to inappropriate content on their social media accounts,” Moffett noted.

There’s always a risk in having social media profiles, she said; ill-considered posts and photos from other eras may come back to haunt you. Moffett deleted her Facebook account after college and started over; she also maintained dual Facebook accounts for a while — one personal, the other professional — but such a move proved to be too much work.

“It looks worse for you if you have no presence than if you have a bad presence” on social media, she counseled. “Take control of your presence and be the one deciding what’s out there about you and what’s not out there about you.

“You can have fun with it,” she added, noting that professional quality social media profiles still can be colorful, reflecting your personality. “It doesn’t have to be like a resume.”

Standing out online means branding yourself as if you were a product, Moffett explained. It means communicating your value and highlighting your best features to differentiate yourself from competitors, so you will stand out during company searches for new employees or when you are seeking opportunities yourself.

If you think of yourself as a business, she said, consider what is unique about your product (you) and define your target audience (potential employers and those who can put you in touch with them). What features of your product — your capabilities and experience — will appeal to this audience?

We dress in a businesslike manner and construct our resumes in a certain way to attract this audience; why not use social media profiles with the same thing in mind? she asked.

Your job history on these profiles, for instance, shouldn’t simply say you were responsible for this or that task; rather, it should be a “brag sheet,” she said. “You want it to read as exemplary things you’ve done, above and beyond.” When you undertake and succeed at your next accomplishment — a project completed, a new board appointment — “then when you do that, go back to your LinkedIn profile and update it,” she said.


Most important overall for your digital brand, Moffett said, are a professional photo and a compelling biographical sketch on each profile, particularly LinkedIn.

The photo need not necessarily show you in a suit against a white background, but it needs to be clear and reproduced at a high resolution.

The bio should be your “personal brand statement,” she said, highlighting your career with words chosen so that they will be found by search engines. Don’t use words that highlight so-called soft skills, such as “collaboration” or “teamwork”; instead, use more industry-specific terms to describe concrete accomplishments.

And always write your bio in the third person, she said.

It’s also important periodically to update your bio on LinkedIn and other social networks, since you never know when a recruiter may find an applicable term or trait in your write-up and contact you with unexpected opportunities, “and those are the best opportunities,” Moffett said.

Finally, it’s important to be consistent in your profiles across the various social media outlets you’re using for professional networking. If you have a nickname, for instance, or have gotten married in the middle of your job search, it’s important to choose whether formal or informal, old or new names will be used consistently across online platforms. Job titles and descriptions, both current and past, also should match on all your posts.

Moffett also offered network-specific advice:

On LinkedIn:
• By default, LinkedIn places your latest job title as your headline, but this can and should be changed, Moffett said. Use business-oriented keywords in simple phrases or a single sentence to highlight your experiences instead; such terms are more like to show up in search engines. She also suggested customizing the name of your LinkedIn page by editing its URL, placing your name there instead of the random name chosen by LinkedIn.

• To attract fresh job opportunities, use your LinkedIn bio to emphasize transferrable skills — traits and accomplishments that will be readily applicable to multiple places of employment.

• Use your LinkedIn page blog to brand yourself, offering your own take on career advice while adding videos and GIFs to attract new eyes. Moffett has blogged about millennials in the job market, and how she was able to overcome shyness. She suggested using a mix of paragraphs and bullet points in your prose, and wrapping up each post with a brief bio and your contact information. “It’s amazing how far things travel on LinkedIn,” she added; Moffett has been offered speaking engagements and jobs based on a single blog post.

• Use LinkedIn’s portfolio feature to add multimedia pieces to every job experience you list. “It makes you stand out more because everything on LinkedIn is literally black and white,” she noted.

• Always use LinkedIn to network. You can search for fellow college alumni or other affinity groups, and within these groups you can narrow the selection down by cities of residence, companies where they work, job functions and other categories. Use this for networking and also for introductions — finding new contacts via your existing contacts.

• Use LinkedIn’s “jobs” menu and its tools: They will show you jobs they think you are fit for, plus companies in your network —those at which your contacts work.

• Maintain your network connections. When you’re on the page of one of your contacts, LinkedIn displays the last message you two exchanged. To this message you can add a private note to yourself about this online encounter, including how and when you agreed to follow up with this person, and then can create a notification to remind you when the time is near for this follow-up step.

• You also can tag people with whom you shared an event, such as a conference, so you can recall how you met or know this person.

• Look for introduction opportunities: Go to companies’ Linked-In pages to see who among your contacts is employed there and seek introduction opportunities through these contacts.

• Be active on the site: Share your updated information; don’t just post the updates. And be active in groups. If your profile is inactive, you won’t show up in others’ searches. Being active means sharing updates, which don’t need to be personal — they can be links to news, discussions of articles or fresh blog posts. “I don’t want it to be Facebook,” Moffett said of this business-oriented site. Most of her posts are not personal updates, she noted, unless she wants to publicize that she is attending an event, where she might want to connect on the spot with other attendees.

• As with many social networks, you can choose what people see publicly. “There’s no right or wrong answer of what you want people to see,” she said. “It’s what you’re comfortable with.”

• Add relevant sections to your profile. LinkedIn provides templates for listing and describing special nonacademic courses you’ve taken as well as your language proficiencies, volunteering and other non-job accomplishments: organizations, publications, honors and awards, education, skills and recommendations. “Recruiters tell me they look more at the recommendation than at the skill section,” Moffett said. Recommendation letters need not just be from supervisors — they can be from anyone with whom you have worked. Projects are especially important to add, she said: “It is a unique section where you can show off things that weren’t necessarily relevant to your job,” such as leading a diversity committee at work or being active in a community or religious organization.

On Facebook:
• If you’ve been on Facebook for years and now are looking for a job, it’s important to re-examine past postings and pictures, conducting a complete audit of your page’s content. “Make sure there is nothing there that could compromise your brand,” she advised, such as ill-tempered posts and pictures celebrating wild behavior.

• Add your job history to your Facebook page.

• One way to continually police your Facebook page is to check your privacy settings prior to posting new status updates. You can classify your friend list into closest friends, family, other friends and organizations, and then can select, as you post new material, which groups should see each of them. “That gives you a chance to have a more discreet opportunity search,” Moffett says, since job recruiters now can only see a select group of your posts.

• Join established Facebook groups, which may center on certain cities or interests, for networking purposes. Companies have their own Facebook pages, she pointed out, which also are great for learning about a target employer’s culture.

On Twitter:
• Moffett suggested creating a specific Twitter account that showcases your professional brand, then following the Twitter accounts of experts in your field and key employees of the companies where you plan to seek employment. To interject yourself into their conversations, ask questions that focus on the business news they are discussing. “You can gain your own following and people will want to network with you,” she added. In fact, Twitter may be an easier network than LinkedIn to keep up with what is happening at a company, she said.

• Don’t just follow companies; follow key employees to learn about each company’s culture.

• Use Twitter’s advanced search capabilities to find and connect with fellow college alumni or those who live in specific areas — even people who use certain phrases common in your industry.

• Share your experiences and expertise. Moffett regularly live tweets conference proceedings. “It’s a way to have content and be visible,” she said, and to see who else is using the conference hashtag so you might connect immediately or later.

• Create topic-specific lists of people you are following. Such lists create a timeline of curated content that you can share or keep private.


Moffett suggested that wise use of social media can be supplemented by your own website or online portfolio, created with the aid of a variety of sites and software, including:

• About.Me and Branded.Me for profiles.

• WordPress, Wix or Squarespace for websites.

• Slideshare for organizing a research project presentation.

• Vizualize.Me for creating a graphic version of your resume.

“I never tell people to apply for a job using this kind of resume,” she cautioned before highlighting the online presentation of one young woman, who directed her approach entirely to AirBnB. The woman argued — successfully —that the company needed to enter several specific new markets, and that she was just the woman to help them make this move.

Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram and many other social networks also are very useful for marketing yourself and learning about potential employers, she noted.

“You don’t need to be on every network,” Moffett concluded, “but you need to know how they work.”

—Marty Levine 

Filed under: Feature,Volume 49 Issue 6

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