If you're like the average person, you change jobs once every few years. Which means these are daunting times if you're just starting out on a new job search. Unless you've changed jobs in the last couple of years, you can't possibly appreciate just how significantly social networking sites have transformed the recruitment market - or indeed what you need to do to adapt. That's what I'll be covering in this article.
Having run businesses in the online recruitment industry since 2000, I'm in no doubt that most candidates need to completely rethink their job search strategy. In part this is to leverage social networking sites in your job search; and in part it's to ensure they aren't undermining the progress you're making in your job search via other channels like job boards, recruitment agencies or referral programmes.
So how have social networking sites impacted the recruitment market – and what effect does that have on you the jobseeker? I believe there are four key changes we're witnessing - and you need to adapt to each to position yourself for success:
The main obstacle to employers doing more of their recruiting in-house has historically been their lack of access to an extensive candidate database. Recruitment agencies had their proprietary databases of candidates, employers did not. This left employers to advertise their open vacancies - and supplement their advertising by having recruitment businesses approach candidates from their databases to strengthen the candidate shortlist.
The rise of social networking sites has significantly changed the balance. Essentially today recruitment businesses and employers have access to a similar network of candidates, through the likes of LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+... and specialist sites like Social-Hire.com.
The impact of this has been that employers are now doing a lot more of their recruitment in-house. So as a candidate, you need to make sure your candidate details are appearing in the channels where recruiters are conducting their searches for candidates. I would recommend a compelling LinkedIn and Google+ profile as a minimum, ideally supplemented by a Twitter presence and by importing your LinkedIn profile summary onto Social-Hire. For a profile to be compelling, it needs to be easily found on LinkedIn and also needs to entice recruiters to want to take action once they've found you.
These new platforms have given both parties a means of interacting with one another that doesn’t involve “unpleasant” cold-calling. Recruiters can now approach candidates cold - in a manner once the preserve of elite headhunters - without even needing to pick up the phone. They can build their network of candidate and referral contacts without having to meet face to face. So the raw sales skills once so essential in recruiting have been rendered less critical.
The same is true for you as a candidate. Just a few years ago, most candidates would have no opportunity to interact with recruiters or staff at an employer until the point at which you'd been invited in for interview. Most candidates were at the mercy of whether or not their CV secured an interview for them. Today it's possible for candidates - even those without any sales skills - to proactively network with employers and recruiters, to build relationships that can lead to you being invited in for interview. Even where you are securing job interviews via more traditional means, social networking sites offer up new ways for you to prepare for your job interview and research and understand the culture and workings of a prospective employer.
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Numerous platforms are now building on the reach of social networking sites and offering employers the means to ramp up their referral hiring programmes. You don't need to understand in-depth how these work, but essentially existing staff are encouraged to share open vacancies at the company with contacts on their social networks.
There are two key things to know here. Firstly, employers would ideally like to make hires through referral channels in preference to any other channel. They find this route generates hires faster - and with a higher probability of the new hire being a success in the business. So you certainly want to know about openings via referral channels.
The second thing to be alert to is the need to ramp up your connections on your various social networks. If you're not in someone's network, you will not be exposed to their referral hiring alerts. That means it's time to get organised and be uber efficient in inviting your business contacts to connect on whichever networks you are trying to build a professional presence.
The impacts I've described so far all impact how likely it is you will become aware of - or have the opportunity of applying to - new vacancies in your target employers. But there's another impact you also need to take into account.
Your various social media profiles and social networking activity give employers an insight into you that they simply didn’t have before. In some instances this can reinforce their decision to hire; in others it can cause an employer to change their mind about your employability. Much of the recent media focus has been on ensuring that your social media profiles have been “cleansed” of any offending materials before embarking on a job search.
This is only part of the story though. The reality is that your whole social media presence will impact an employer’s impression of you as a prospective employee, from the interactions you have in LinkedIn groups to the comments you post on articles to the tone in which other people speak with you in social media channels. All form impressions about you – and so are something that the modern jobseeker should have a heightened awareness of.
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