Social media profiles are the new resumés.
Today, employers and recruiters are sifting through the LinkedIn and Twitter pages of prospective job candidates and reaching out to them directly. For professionals offered jobs out of the blue, this can be a great career boost. The practice also highlights the importance of keeping your social media footprint relevant, human resources and recruiting experts say, because those accounts could become de facto resumés that can make — or break — a job opportunity.
About two years ago, Meredith D’Agostino was employed at a public relations agency but looking for a better opportunity. She didn’t expect one to fall in her lap, especially via a LinkedIn message sent from a marketing company director who wanted to hire someone and liked her credentials.
“It was kind of interesting because I’d never been approached that way by a company,” she said. “My first thought was, this was meant to be.” Within a matter of weeks, D’Agostino was in her new job, a quick turnaround she believes was facilitated by the fact that her new employer came to her.
"I think it’s a growing trend because of all the white noise employers get if they post a position," said Amy Letke, founder and CEO of Integrity HR.
Even with high unemployment, a dearth of specialized skill sets, especially in IT, social media and big data analytics, have prompted companies to turn to the Internet to find the right person, said Heidi Golledge, CEO and co-founder of job site CareerBliss.com.
The rise in recruitment via social media is especially a boon for the army of professional freelancers who hopscotch from one short-term contract to the next.
“I've used LinkedIn to hire contractors,” Joseph Lo, a principal at Encore Web Studios, said via email. “I've also posted updates on LinkedIn asking my network if they know anyone with a specific skill set.”
Jenise Fryatt, a social media strategist at content marketing company Smarter Shift, said she’s been approached to speak at events and collaborate on research papers by people who found her on Twitter or LinkedIn. Adrian Segar, consultant and author of "Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love," was even hired for one project after a comment he wrote on a blog attracted the attention of the blogger.
“We leave no stone unturned when it comes to hiring,” said Maneesh K. Goyal, president of marketing firm MKG. “At this point, social media and a person’s social footprint is becoming one of the top three go-to places to find talent.” Within the past year alone, Goyal said his firm had added a few new hires it found via social networks.
Sometimes, those recruited are taken by surprise. Last summer, Azita Arvani, head of partnering and alliances for Nokia Siemens Network, was contacted out of the blue by a search firm working on behalf of a company looking for someone to join its board of directors. "I wasn’t looking for a job or a directorship," she said.
Initially, Arvani said the unorthodox approach made her skeptical. "To be honest, it was so far away from my thinking, I thought it was maybe not legit," she said. Further correspondence allayed her concerns and piqued her attention about the company, and she accepted the position a few months later.
The appeal of social networks is that it gives a hiring manager a more holistic picture of a person’s professional background than a traditional resume can convey, said Abby Euler, general manager of job site Salary.com. “It's about telling a story about yourself as opposed to using bullet points,” she said.
Those who use social networks say different sites are useful for finding out different kinds of information. LinkedIn tells them about the person’s career path and how much of an impression they’ve made on former colleagues, bosses and partners.
“You get to know a sense of a person’s personality more through Twitter than LinkedIn,” Goyal said. “You’re able to kind of look behind the curtain a little more with Twitter.”
"Twitter is a very unique example because anything you Tweet is public and searchable,” Segar said.
If you think about Flickr and Instagram, a lot of people use them to build their portfolio,” Euler said. “If you're in a creative industry that's a great way to share your work.”
When hiring managers look at Facebook, though, it’s more about what they don’t see. “Facebook is a little harder to decipher,” Goyal said. “I think we look at it for younger staff just to see if they’re sending red flags.”
"Facebook is not a safe place to post things that might be judged," Letke said. "The rules of privacy are constantly changing and that’s my warning for the job seeker."
The experts say it's a good idea to keep public profiles looking polished on general principle. "Putting anything out online is like bringing it with you in an interview,” Golledge said, because this trend is only going to grow.
"We really know who we need and who we want sometimes we find it’s easier to go to them as opposed to waiting for them to come to us," Goyal said.