LinkedIn can be a powerful tool in a job search. You can use it to uncover opportunities. It can help you gain referrals into companies, and it can help you research jobs. Using LinkedIn in your job search is also easy.
On Monday, I wrote about building your LinkedIn network. This is an essential first step to using LinkedIn. Once you start building your network, you can start leveraging the contacts you develop.
The easiest way to use LinkedIn for your job search is to check out the job postings. A lot of companies post positions on LinkedIn. This doesn’t require network building. All you have to do is search the jobs. Although there is a benefit to job postings, this is just a starting point.
The real value LinkedIn offers is in gathering intelligence. Knowing the priorities and goals of a hiring manager can give you a significant edge in the hiring process. Failing to understand what a hiring manager wants can make it difficult to tailor your presentation, both with your resume and in interviews. LinkedIn offers a great way to gather insight into the hiring priorities of a company.
The first step in researching a position on LinkedIn is to read the profiles of people in similar positions. Ideally, you will be able to find the profile of the hiring manager, but this isn’t always possible. In large companies, there is a good chance you will find people doing the job you are pursuing. They may be in other locations, but their profiles can still give you insight you can use. Just remember many people don’t update their profiles routinely. The “current” descriptions can be a year or more old.
LinkedIn Answers offers a great way to pose a question to a large group of people. A lot of LinkedIn users actively participate by answering questions. If you ask a broad question, there’s a good chance you will get good info from a number of people. When asking a question, ask something that a lot of people in a company could answer and that would be valuable to more than just you. For example:
How would you describe the culture at Widget, Inc? I’m interested a job opportunity in (department or division) with Widget, Inc and would like to get an idea of what it is like working there.
How does the hiring process work at Widget, Inc? I’m pursing a <job title> position and want to understand what I should expect during the hiring process.
With large companies, you should get some answers that will be useful. For small companies, this tactic is unlikely to yield much. You can check how many people from a company are on LinkedIn by clicking on the company name in someone’s profile.
Asking For Help
Instead of broadcasting a question to everyone, you can ask a question of specific individuals within your network. With large companies, you can often find someone doing the job you want in a different location. Asking this person about their job and how they got their job can often yield great insight. Stick with questions the person can answer easily. For example, if you find a person hired in the last year, you can ask how the hiring process worked when they were hired and what they did that was effective in landing the position. Asking a question like “what is the manager at xyz location looking for” is not a question most people in other locations will be able to answer. You’re unlikely to get any response to this.
As you interact with people through direct contacts and LinkedIn Answers, you will start building relationships with people. At some point, you may get to know someone who offers to refer you to the hiring manager for consideration. This can improve your chances of success dramatically. It’s not that the hiring manager will lower their standards – those won’t change. What will change will be the level of scrutiny you will receive early in the process. Many hiring managers receive an overwhelming number of resumes. Most only get a 15 to 30 second look before being rejected. You can improve your chances by getting the hiring manager to take a much closer look before making a decision.
Remember the rule of networking – it’s a two-way street. Individuals aren’t going to drop what they are doing to start working on your job search full time and a person isn’t going to recommend you for a position if they don’t think you will be successful. People will help you but it will be on their terms. You also need to try to help them. There will be times, in the short run, when networking is one sided – either you get a significant benefit without offering much or you provide a lot of help without getting anything in return. In the short run this is possible, but over the long term, both parties need to contribute. If one side is perceived as only interested in their self promotion, the relationship won’t work.