The big job search engines can put you in touch with thousands of possible jobs in any city, state, or country—but thousands of job seekers have access to those same possibilities. To get your foot in the door (and even take a step or two closer to getting a job) you need to take advantage of the number 1 most trusted resource of hiring managers: personal referrals.
In case you aren’t a regular on the site, that’s pretty much what LinkedIn really is. It’s a massive network for personal referrals. The strength of the social network’s foundation of trust gives it real potential for connecting you with a job opening where you aren’t just a strong candidate; you could be the leading candidate. Here are 10 ways you can use LinkedIn (and the people you know) to find the job you really want.
- Be Prepared To Work Your Butt Off
A lot of people think a social media site like LinkedIn will make everything easy—not true. It will make things easier and your efforts more effective, but LinkedIn is for professionals. You don’t just take a few quizzes like on Facebook and watch the job offers roll in. To make LinkedIn work for you, you have to put in the effort of reaching out to contacts, updating your profile, and making smart decisions that put you in the best positive light.
- Don’t Just Look For a Job —Take a Look at Yourself
Your LinkedIn profile is the resume every potential employer will see. And they’ll see it with or without a link provided by you. Doubt it? Google yourself. Google anyone you’ve ever worked with or gone to school with. Unless they have a name like Britney Spears, their LinkedIn profile will be in the top 10 results—probably the top 5. Even if you don’t use LinkedIn on a regular basis, the people looking to hire you will. Evaluate your profile through the eyes of an employer—would you hire you?
- Update Your Profile Like Your Job Depended On It
It does. The first step—the one you need to do today—is to make your profile shine like your resume does. And if your resume doesn’t shine, start with your LinkedIn profile and work backward from that. Use a professional-looking photo of yourself. Use professional language. Make the best first impression you could possibly make. Remember, you’re not trying to win friends here—you’re trying to land a job.
Also, don’t forget the most important update of all—make it clear on your profile and in your status that you are looking for a job.
- Build Your Network
Every person you trust with whom you’ve worked in the past and every former classmate is a possible connection to the job you want. Don’t overlook anyone—at least not anyone trustworthy. Keep it professional, of course. But LinkedIn can help you find connections by email, employer, and school/university in their “Add Connections” feature. Use that to expand your reach. If you can expand that list beyond 50 (and there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to) you have a 2-degree link to every employer your contacts have ever worked for.
- Avoid The Don’ts
As powerful as LinkedIn can be at finding a job, it can also cause you to lose leads if you commit the deadly LinkedIn sins. Be sure to consult our don’t-do-it guide to using LinkedIn so that you can avoid the classic pitfalls that make you look like a newbie. The gist: don’t treat this like any other social media site. LinkedIn is where we act like grown ups. Chat at Twitter and party on Facebook if you want, but treat LinkedIn like the site your boss is watching. Hopefully it will be.
- Leverage The Companies List
LinkedIn can show you a list of all the companies you’re connected with—and you might be surprised to see more than 25 pages of results. You have connections at literally hundreds of companies, and LinkedIn can even show you how many jobs are posted at each of those places. Find your contacts at each one, and get the inside scoop. Ask him or her about the job and for a personal delivery of your resume.
Don’t be shy about asking for favors like these. Your contacts will be happy to help. In fact, a lot of companies reward their employees with bonuses or extra vacation days when they refer successful hires to the company. They’ll be more than willing to help you while they help themselves!
- Stalk Your LinkedIn Updates List
Okay, here’s one that other sites won’t tell you, but it makes perfect sense. When you get a synopsis of recent changes among your contacts, note the ones within your industry who either get promoted or change jobs. Their old position might be open! Again, don’t be afraid to touch base with your contact and ask about the situation. If you act quickly enough and boldly enough, you could be the one updating your status before too long.
Obviously you don’t want to swoop in on someone who has just been fired—but then again, your responsibility is finding yourself a job, right?
- Escape The System
Keep in mind, LinkedIn is the forum, but it’s your network that has real value. You should use it as a valuable tool for organizing your contacts and keeping informed on the latest updates, but you don’t have to operate within LinkedIn to do it. My advice: don’t send people messages through the LinkedIn system. Make a personal call or at least use their email address to make a contact. LinkedIn is a great resource for getting information, but if the person you need to reach doesn’t use it every day, it could be a long while before they get back to you.
Contacting the person through other means also makes the communication feel more personal. It shows that you aren’t just mining the depths of the Internet, you’re contacting someone you know and trust—and you mean business.
- The Job Board . . . Duh
LinkedIn has job postings available for you to search. Use it as you would any other job search engine, but with two additional steps: 1. Check the company for any contacts you have within the organization; 2. Look at the name of the person who posted the job to see if they’re in your network (if you’re a friend of one of their friends). And if the LinkedIn job results are thin, at least use it as a resource to cross-compare with the bigger search engines. No matter what job you’re applying for or where you find it, check LinkedIn to find out who you know at the company.
- Keep Up To Date In Real Time
There are many tools you can use to get the up-to-the-minute updates you want—and let’s face it, the sooner you find out about job possibilities, the better. TweetDeck, the social media aggregator app, can add a column for your LinkedIn accounts. And LinkedIn has released an iPhone app that brings the functionality of the site into a mobile package. By adding this professional resource to your social media routine, you’ll stay connected with the friends who can help you find that job.
- Close The Deal
As a bonus, we just want to emphasize the importance of winning the job on your own merits. LinkedIn—and more importantly your personal contacts who refer you—will bring you to the interview, and maybe on to the second round. But you have to do the work of selling yourself and your image to your employer. Don’t relax and grow lazy just because you think you have an “in,” that can’t fail. You’ll be doing yourself and your connection a huge disservice.