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WWhen Snapchat first un­veiled its video func­tion, Con­nor Mac­Don­ald had the bright idea of adding the so­cial me­dia plat­form to his job-seek­ing tool­kit. He made a few videos and short an­i­ma­tion “snap stories” and sent them out to 100 or so com­pa­nies, ex­plain­ing why they should hire him. Within a few months he landed a mar­ket­ing gig.

Mac­Don­ald isn’t a sa­vant; he just ap­plied the right tool at the right time to ad­dress an age-old prob­lem—need­ing to pay the rent. “It was about com­mu­ni­cat­ing that I was a cre­ative prob­lem solver. The video cover let­ter was just the ves­sel for the idea,” he says.

Jake New­field de­cided to use an older ap­proach—cold call­ing—but with dig­i­tal tools that make the hunt eas­ier. He listed 25 to 35 con­tacts per com­pany and sent them all mes­sages via LinkedIn, Face­book, or email to set up phone calls. From those, he re­ceived 10 replies from each com­pany. From each of those 10, he ar­ranged three phone calls. From those three, he landed one in­ter­view. End re­sult: 30-plus in­ter­views.

New­field, who’s now in busi­ness de­vel­op­ment for the data com­pany Cloud­era, says the mass mes­sag­ing paid off with con­nec­tions. “I was sur­prised at how far you can get just by making an ef­fort,” he says.

Or con­sider David Ly Khim, who was look­ing to change his ca­reer path from sci­en­tific re­search to dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing. A deeper dive with fewer peo­ple, he de­cided, would be more ef­fec­tive than cast­ing a wide net. Af­ter tak­ing a low-level in­tern­ship to gain ex­pe­ri­ence in his new field, he searched for peo­ple on Twitter and LinkedIn who had the kind of knowl­edge he thought could help him. Khim, who now works as a mar­ket­ing man­ager at HubSpot, didn’t send any ap­pli­ca­tions dur­ing this phase. In­stead he spent his time trying to con­nect with peo­ple who were do­ing what he even­tu­ally wanted to do. Once he made a con­nec­tion, he shared his re­sume—and even­tu­ally scored a job.

All three of these guys pulled off what mil­lions of us at­tempt each year—they landed the po­si­tions they set out to find. Al­though each man mapped out a dif­fer­ent strat­egy, their ef­forts came down to one key prin­ci­ple, says Steven Net­ter, a di­rec­tor in strate­gic pro­grams at In­tel who has ex­pe­ri­ence re­cruit­ing new tal­ent. “What’s your unique story?” he asks. “You need to stand out from the crowd by demon­strat­ing the skill set, acu­men, back­ground, and pas­sion that an em­ployer is seek­ing, with­out com­ing across as too in­tense or over­bear­ing.” Here’s your plan.


Po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers are go­ing to metaphor­i­cally frisk you, searching so­cial me­dia— pro­fes­sional and per­sonal—to un­der­stand not only what you do dur­ing work hours but also what type of per­son you are when you’re not on the job. Be­fore you be­gin your search for a new ca­reer, scrub your so­cial me­dia with the fol­low­ing tips in mind.

Edit your on­line self.

Aggressive or dis­re­spect­ful lan­guage in any con­text raises a red flag to hu­man re­sources de­part­ments, of course. But po­lit­i­cal or re­li­gious state­ments and even in­nocu­ous so­cial ob­ser­va­tions could be mis­con­strued when they’re de­liv­ered solely on a so­cial plat­form, says Kevin Grubb, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Vil­lanova Univer­sity Ca­reer Cen­ter. Keep track of your pri­vacy set­tings to make sure your im­age matches the self you’re sell­ing. Your dig­i­tal re­sume should high­light the ex­pe­ri­ences and strengths most rel­e­vant to the com­pany you’re court­ing. “Make an ef­fort to think about the com­pany and per­son­al­ize the mes­sage,”

Cus­tomize your bio.

Net­ter says.

High­light achieve­ments, not du­ties.

Use data that quan­ti­fies your im­pact—sales fig­ures, goals or tar­gets achieved, awards, and pro­mo­tions—to make your case, says Kevin Mur­ray, se­nior di­rec­tor of tal­ent ac­qui­si­tion at Way­fair.

Your name may not pop up in a LinkedIn search if you’re not us­ing the right term. For ex­am­ple, one com­pany might use “mar­ket re­search” and an­other “busi­ness de­vel­op­ment” to de­scribe the same po­si­tion. So be sure to in­clude your tar­get com­pany’s terms for the job you’re af­ter.

Speak the lan­guage.

Scrub­ber (scrub­­cial) is just one ser­vice that will flag un­flat­ter­ing so­cial posts.

Erase bad stuff. SET YOUR SITES

LinkedIn, with 400 mil­lion mem­bers and thou­sands of reg­is­tered com­pa­nies, is the nexus of job seek­ing and tal­ent hunt­ing. But there are niche plat­forms that may work too. For ex­am­ple, on Re­cruit, job seek­ers can in­clude port­fo­lios and videos in their pro­files, giv­ing po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers enough in­for­ma­tion to do an ini­tial screen­ing. The com­pany also de­vel­oped ge­nius teleprompter soft­ware that lets peo­ple record videos with­out hav­ing to mem­o­rize a script. Other sites—like Harri, a re­cruit­ing hub for the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try—fo­cus on spe­cific fields, making it eas­ier for ap­pli­cants to get at­ten­tion.

Cre­ate your own web­site.

“Few peo­ple have them, and it’s a great way to dif­fer­en­ti­ate your­self,” says Caro­line Beaton, an ex­pert in mil­len­nial ca­reers at the em­ployer review por­tal Ku­nunu. The key: Fo­cus on one area of ex­per­tise. “Don’t be a jack-of-all-trades: ‘Pick me, pick me, I’ll do any­thing!’ “Beaton says. Em­ploy­ers don’t want gen­er­al­ists; they want peo­ple with spe­cific skills. These are your per­sonal su­per­pow­ers, so pro­mote them hard.


So­cial me­dia is a sneaky ve­hi­cle for get­ting a job with­out ac­tu­ally look­ing for one, says Eric John­son, di­rec­tor of grad­u­ate ca­reer ser­vices at In­di­ana Univer­sity’s Kel­ley School of Busi­ness.

How do some com­pa­nies tar­get peo­ple who en­gage with their brands on plat­forms like Face­book, Twitter, and In­sta­gram? Subtly. “Often it doesn’t even look like a job post­ing,” John­son says.

Here’s an ex­am­ple: A com­pany posts on LinkedIn about a topic of in­ter­est—say, the pro­gram­ming lan­guage Python. Next, they watch the re­sponses to see who’s en­gaged and knowl­edge­able about Python. Then the folks in HR will con­tact those re­spon­dents to see if they might be in­ter­ested in an open po­si­tion.

“You have to be dig­i­tally present be­cause that’s where jobs are,” John­son says, “and you have to be dig­i­tally savvy be­cause that’s how you get no­ticed.”


How do you get to know peo­ple you don’t know? Here are three ways. Don’t email en masse.


In­stead, click deep to find peo­ple who are like you. Look for any­thing in com­mon—an alma mater, an ac­quain­tance, a home­town. One con­nec­tion point is often enough to gen­er­ate a re­ply.

Fo­cus on ar­eas where you’re truly qual­i­fied.

“Recruiters are hard-pressed to find tal­ent. Their wide searches bring in a lot of can­di­dates but very few who fit the role they’re hir­ing for,” says Harri founder Luke Fryer. Try to do the op­po­site: Spe­cial­ize your search and tar­get the most rel­e­vant con­tacts.

Go low. Send in­tro emails to down-lad­der em­ploy­ees.

“I like go­ing to peo­ple who are di­rectly un­der the hir­ing man­agers,” New­field says. “They’re less likely to get these types of emails and much more likely to re­spond.” By con­tact­ing them, you’ve anointed them with im­por­tance, and they may go to bat for you.


Whether you send an email or a LinkedIn mes­sage, re­mem­ber that it’s not ini­tially about get­ting a job. It’s about reach­ing out. Here’s how to craft the per­fect in­tro­duc­tory mes­sage.

Aim for one “yes.”

Most peo­ple want to deal with mes­sages they can fin­ish quickly. If you ask too many questions, you’re a bur­den—and might be deleted.

Keep it sim­ple:

“Can we meet for cof­fee?” “Can we set up a call?” “Can I send you my re­sume?” Few peo­ple ask for phone calls any­more, but it’s often a go. “We’ll al­ways say yes to that,” says In­tel’s Net­ter.

Be re­lat­able.

Khim sug­gests searching Twitter and LinkedIn pro­files for shared hob­bies. “Peo­ple are in­ter­ested in the hu­man-to-hu­man con­nec­tion,” he says.

Put pleas­antries first.

Be per­sonal early and then close out with the di­rect ap­proach, says Sean Blanda, who writes about ca­reers and work life. It never hurts to throw in a com­pli­ment, but it has to be sin­cere. “Stroking some­one’s ego is a univer­sal way to get that per­son to talk to you,” New­field says.

Fol­low up, but don’t stalk.

Touch base ev­ery few weeks, not ev­ery few days. “If you’re email­ing 10 times a month for three or four months, that’s a red flag,” Net­ter says.


Your main goal is to be in­ter­est­ing and in­ter­ested, the kind of guy who’d add to any work­place cul­ture. A few tips:

Keep it to 30 min­utes.

Be re­spect­ful of your con­tact’s time, and wrap it up with “I don’t want to keep you.”

Ask questions about the per­son’s job, not about the job you’re af­ter.

The more you ask about his or her role at the com­pany, the more lik­able you’ll seem.

No eat­ing, just sip­ping.

It’s hard for some­one to hear what you’re say­ing while you gob­ble a goopy egg salad sandwich. Plus—it’s dis­gust­ing, dude.


The in­ter­view is game day, and win­ners will be an­nounced. Be­sides do­ing all the ba­sics— re­search, dress­ing for the com­pany cul­ture, bring­ing fresh in­dus­try in­sight to the con­ver­sa­tion—you need to walk in the door as a so­lu­tion, not a sup­pli­cant. Your ap­proach:

Tell stories.

Em­ploy­ers don’t want to hear you rat­tle off HR jar­gon and vague per­sonal qual­i­ties. They sim­ply want to un­der­stand if and how you can help them. “What are the stories you can tell in the in­ter­view that make it clear you have the right back­ground?” Grubb asks.

Do your home­work.

This might seem ob­vi­ous, but it bears re­peat­ing. Some in­ter­vie­wees make the mis­take of think­ing they can just wing it. “Not do­ing your re­search be­cause you think you’re a ‘peo­ple per­son’ is where the in­ter­view’s lost, be­cause you have no talk­ing points,” Grubb says.

Fa­mil­iar­ize your­self with the com­pany’s his­tory, peo­ple, and mission. Your questions and an­swers will be better in­formed if you take the trou­ble to nail the back­ground.

Ask away.

Your best an­swer might be a ques­tion. Questions show cu­rios­ity and a de­sire to fully un­der­stand, not just to be un­der­stood.

Of­fer to fix some­thing.

Blanda says it helps if you think of man­agers as the lazi­est peo­ple in the world. So if you can show them how hir­ing you will make their job eas­ier, then you’ll be their first choice. “Make it easy for them to say yes,” Blanda says.


Show specif­i­cally why you should be on board, says Matt Hicks, a se­nior tal­ent man­ager at GE.

Us­ing the wrong name.

That’s an easy mis­take if you’re car­pet-bomb­ing con­tacts through email. Fo­cus!

Talk­ing money too early in an in­ter­view.

You’re mo­ti­vated by chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties, re­mem­ber?

Be­ing too scripted in the in­ter­view.

“That’s off-putting, be­cause the in­ter­viewer feels like the can­di­date is not lis­ten­ing,” says Kali­nowski.

Be­ing too loose.

Your chatty style won’t be charm­ing if there’s no sub­stance be­hind it.


Send in­di­vid­ual emails to ev­ery­one who met with you.

Re­sist the urge to cut and paste—they may com­pare notes.

Ex­press pas­sion and ex­cite­ment at the prospect of join­ing the team. Prove that you lis­tened by pulling out one talk­ing point from the meet­ing:

“When you men­tioned that you needed some­one with strong writ­ing abil­ity, it un­der­scored how much I can help you.”

Be di­rect.

Tell the po­ten­tial em­ployer one last time how you can help the com­pany suc­ceed. Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Jer­i­lyn Covert and Brielle Gre­gory

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