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How to use LinkedIn to jump-start your job search

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Brands & Campaigns

This e-mail question-and-answer session is with Joshua Waldman. He is the founder of and the author of the new book “Job Searching with Social Media for Dummies.” Sign up for his newsletter and get access to his exclusive training videos for free.

How does one get started building a personal brand? How is personal branding different from corporate branding?

The main difference between you and a tube of Crest toothpaste is that you have feelings. Therefore, a personal brand needs to start with the individual rather than the problem that is solved. There are two main benefits of starting your personal branding with introspection.

First, when you start to evaluate your values, passions and aspirations, it becomes a whole lot simpler to make career decisions later on. For instance, if you value sustainability, you will probably decline an offer from an oil company, no matter how big the offer. If this value wasn’t clear for you, imagine the hours and days of indecision.

Second, when you understand your values and what makes you the best at what you do, then your branding messages become congruent, consistent and believable. Here is a great article about the importance of online consistency.

How are online resumes different from paper ones? What’s the key to a great online resume?

In fact, there are many important differences between a paper and an online resume. It would be a mistake to simply copy and paste one to the other.

A key benefit to having an online resume is that it contains keywords. And keywords are the fuel for getting found online. Using certain keywords in headers, URLs and links can get you ranking on Google’s Page 1. Don’t know where to find your keywords? Read this article, “5 Sources of Finding Keywords for Your Social Media Profile.”

Another important element of an online resume is formatting. Most people don’t read their screens; they scan them. So lengthy paragraphs that might look sophisticated on paper deter most online readers. Some formatting tips when putting together your online resume:

  1. Make good use of white space. Too much screen clutter is hard to scan.
  2. Divide your resume up with clear headers and bullets. Headers and bullets allow for easy scanning.
  3. Because this is an online resume, you can use hyperlinks, images and video in creative ways. This keeps the page visually interesting.

A lot of advice for LinkedIn focuses on using keywords. How do people determine which keywords on which to focus to position themselves for the job they want?

Using keywords to rank on LinkedIn is fine. However, this actually isn’t the real strength of this network. Frankly, LinkedIn’s search algorithms are weak and often favor people who employ keyword packing. If you truly want to get found, build a strong network. This is my caveat to people employing a keyword strategy.

Finding keywords is easy. One source is job boards, because they are written by hiring managers looking for what you do. Other sources include the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook and Google’s keyword tool. I talk more extensively on keyword research in my article “5 Sources of Finding Keywords for Your Social Media Profile.”

What kinds of people should one be asking for LinkedIn recommendations? What does a good LinkedIn recommendation look like?

The best sources for recommendations are superiors and customers. It’s too easy to get recommendations from peers, and, frankly, most human resources people write these off.

Keep in mind that a LinkedIn recommendation is not the same as a traditional recommendation letter. Letters are longer and have a defined form, intro, three supporting paragraphs and conclusion. On LinkedIn, recommendations are short and don’t follow a set form. There are some guidelines, however, that I would suggest following.

  1. Write recommendation in a normal speaking voice, not formal, stuffy business speak.
  2. Make sure there is a concrete example or story that is shared. If you say, “Bill does great under pressure,” you better prove it.
  3. Keep the copy to three main points. So it will be make a point, tell a story; make a point, tell a story; etc.

A good rule of thumb is to have about 10% of your network in your recommendations.

Is it a good idea to reach out to a manager via social media ahead of applying for a job? Before the interview? Afterward? What’s the etiquette for those communications?

I teach my clients, and in the book, a four-step method for reaching out to hiring managers online.

  1. Find the company to which you are applying on LinkedIn, then find people in the company you can invite to an info interview and who might be a hiring manager. Only take notes at this point.
  2. Identify the main problems at the organization. Read industry blogs, news sites or LinkedIn groups to get a temperature of its initiatives.
  3. Reach out to the info-interview sources and see whether you can identify the hiring manager and what the person cares about.
  4. Engage with the hiring manager by leading with how you can add value. Because you’ve already connected with an info-interview source on LinkedIn, you can probably get an introduction to the hiring manager, which is preferable, then a direct message.

Using this method is a great way to get exposure before or during your application. Here are some LinkedIn e-mail templates I give away for free on my blog.

Image credit: fazon1, via iStockphoto