How Social Media Can Help Recruiters And Job Seekers

These days it takes more than a cover letter to stand out. You need a social media presence and a personal brand.
CEO, SI Associates
July 28, 2011

Each of us has become a small business with a certain brand distinction. Through social media, we have established personal brands that impacts how people we have never met perceive us. Our talent, personality and passion are revealed to a perfect stranger who may—or may not—elect to engage with us in conversation or business.

Personal brands impact business brands. Years ago, when we handed someone a business card, its logo was supposed to influence how the recipient perceived you. Now, if we bother with a business card at all, the process is reversed. How they feel about you shapes their perception of the brand logo on the card.

Nowhere does personal brand come into greater play than when we search for jobs in this new "Conversational Age." Your social media presence is likely to be a bigger factor in getting hired than you realize.

According to Cross-tab, a market research firm, only 15 percent of people think their online presence impacts getting hired, but 75 percent of recruiters and HR managers include social media searches when they screen applicants.

Among the youngest of applicants, traditional get-hired attempts are disappearing altogether. InternMatch.com, a San Francisco-based company that helps students find internships, recently ran a "Kill the Cover Letter" campaign encouraging students to use social media to get a virtual toe in the door. According to SFGate, participants saw a five-fold increase in their likelihood to be hired, when they used Facebook, Twitter and blogs. Plus they didn’t have to write one of those boring cover letters.

More experienced professionals have become really creative at getting hired through social media. Sarah Vela, of Austin, changed her Twitter avatar to go retro and draw attention. She posed as the big-eyed character in  “Kilroy Was Here” the graffiti character who appeared mysteriously and ubiquitously during World War II. Kilroy was the guy who got there first, before all the soldiers, sailors and marines arrived.

Sarah placed a boldly printed sign in front of the lower half of her face declaring: Hire Me. Over the weeks, the words grew progressively larger. If you knew about Kilroy, it was a stroke of genius. If you didn’t, the avatar caught your attention.

Her efforts got attention and spurred conversation. She got three or four leads and a consulting contract, but in the end, she landed a social media post at Dell Computer through more traditional avenues. Still, those who hired her had surely seen her “Hire me campaign.”

Ian Greenleigh, went another route. He bought a “For Hire” ad on Facebook, which landed him a social media manager job at Bazaarvoice, a fast-growing social commerce company.

There are small businesses who now use social media to recruit in new ways, approaches that go beyond the obvious LinkedIn approach. John D. Mitchell, a serial entrepreneur has started BitLev in San Francisco, a search company still in stealth mode. They just made their first hire through a fresh approach.

“The problem that everybody is having is hiring great people. So what we've done is get real clear on each position that we're looking for and then we go out and explore Twitter and various niche social sites like Dribble for designers, and Github, BitBucket, GoogleCode, SourceForge, etc. for developers,” he said.

“We actively explore the social graph. Interesting people in a given area tend to cluster in the social graphs and so we find those veins and explore them to see who's well respected, has the personality, style, etc. that seems to fit ours, see examples of their work, etc. without them knowing that we're looking. We'll start following the interesting ones and engage them in discussions,” he added.

Shawn McGowan is a social media specialist for JobsintheUS.com, a network of localized job boards, currently just in New England states. With 30 employees, it is based in tiny Westbrook, Maine. He uses social media to show his company’s expertise and passion and to attract people to his company job sites. Primarily he advises on how to use social networks for job search and to research companies online.

Social media has disrupted so many institutions. Clearly the job marketplace is among them. In a few short years it has been upended for both recruiters and seekers.

For small businesses, this is most fortuitous. In the old arena big HR departments with the budgets for ads and executive recruiters simply dominated and smaller companies could not compete with the noise level. Now small companies and individuals looking for work, can use social media in innovative and creative ways to participate on a more even plain.