What experience has taught us

Written by Grégoire Depeursinge; EVP EMEA AIMS International, Managing Partner AIMS Switzerland & Leonie Pentz; VP EMEA AIMS International, Managing Partner AIMS South Africa

In our practice as Executive Search and HR Consultants, we are confronted daily with candidates, their history, their approach, their beliefs – right or wrong, their attitudes and tactics and are privileged observers of their interaction with recruiters and line managers. This is an attempt to share the lessons learnt and give some practical tips as to how to improve your chances in the market. Some of the things listed will seem obvious, but you’d be surprised by how often we see even seasoned managers make mistakes they could easily avoid.

The format chosen is that of a weekly series of 6 short articles. Today is the second episode in the series:

Episode 2 – Social networks: your image to the outside world – Click HERE to watch the video

While last week’s short article was about networking in the “real world”; this week, we are going to have a look at online social networks.

While there are alternatives to LinkedIn in certain markets (like Xing in the German speaking countries or Viadeo in France), LinkedIn, with its 500 million users, is a must for most of us, so the rest of this article will mostly be referring to LinkedIn, but the same rules apply for all social networks. Nowadays, these sites are the main source of information for recruiters.  Especially since candidate sourcing has become global, researchers consulting your profile could be sitting anywhere on the globe and no longer have a contact network in the real world in your industry or geographical area. This means that if you are not there, you are in fact almost invisible!

Here are a few tips on how to make the most out of LinkedIn and its competitors:

  • Begin with networking before: before you need a new job. Just like in the real world, you stand to lose a lot of time if you only start using these tools when you have a problem. Opportunities for new positions normally don’t appear when you need them most, so you should be available and have an open ear for what the market has to offer at all times.
  • Concentrate on the one that’s best for you: rather than doing things by halves on many sites, choose one (most probably Linkedin, but not always) and be really active on it.
  • Don’t make it obvious for your employer: when re-working your profile in depth, make sure your activity broadcast is turned off, otherwise everyone you’re connected with will receive a notification after every change. Turn it back on before you make the last change so that one notification will go out.
  • Make sure people can reach you and identify you correctly: what is the sense of being on a social network and keeping people from connecting with you? Select an email address (not your professional one) that you are sure to check regularly (seems obvious, no? You’d be astonished to hear how often people see the messages we send them only months later…). Fill in your mobile phone number (only your contacts will be able to see it) and make sure your name is displayed in full in the right order (first name – last name). Go to ‘settings’ and ensure you allow people to send you messages. On LinkedIn, make sure that your public profile is well visible and has a clear, simple URL.
  • Broaden your network: the size of your network determines how many people you can “see”, but also how many can “see” you. Start by inviting everybody you know to connect. Systematically connect with people you meet. Check out who’s visited your profile and connect to them. Don’t forget to visit their profile as well. If they are premium members, they will notice that you didn’t and might not accept you as a contact since you didn’t show any interest in them. You should have at least 500 contacts. Another good way of broadening your network is by becoming a member of groups (you will see all members of these groups and they will be able to see you). Give some thought to what criteria you will use to accept or reject an invitation.
  • Build a good profile: we will talk about the CV in more detail in episode 3 (please make sure to read it when it is published next week). Most rules that are valid for the CV also apply here, but there are a few extra considerations: Make sure to select the right industry (for example if you are an HR Manager in a Life Sciences company, select Life Sciences and not Human Resources) and the right company.   Most companies already exist on LinkedIn, sometimes several times, e.g. for every country or division. Make sure you select the right one; the same one your colleagues are working for.
  • Use the right keywords: make it easy for recruiters to find your profile. Ensure  the keywords that normally describe your function, industry, special knowledge, etc. are somewhere in your profile.  You can also use the keywords for related industries and functions to broaden your visibility. Be careful of internal jargon and acronyms and rather use commonly used terms and words.  Too often, using internal company vocabulary will result in your profile not being found by recruiters. As an example, if your title is “Head of Finance”, make sure that the keyword “CFO” is mentioned somewhere or even replace your official company title with “CFO”). Describe your different positions like you would in the CV, not only in one line. List all the languages you speak, including your mother tongue (this is still something that many people don’t do, so Germans might not be selected when a recruiter is searching for people who speak German…). Bear in mind that it is often not the headhunter or Senior Consultant himself who will screen the web, but a research team which is often composed of clever, but junior people, just out of university. These researchers may be more or less competent and motivated and the more chances they have to find you easily because your profile is set up well, the better.
  • Connect with headhunters, but don’t pester them: when a headhunter contacts you, reply and invite them to connect, even if you are not interested. This will ensure you appear in many of their future searches (being a direct contact) and that they remember you more easily. Talking to them may also give you some indication of your “market value”. If you are trying to make them aware of you and invite them to connect without prior contact, you should make sure that you are an interesting connection for them (refer to whatever expertise/knowledge you have in common with them and offer to support them rather than ask for a job and a meeting); visit their profile before you invite them to show that you are interested in them; don’t invite all the consultants from the same executive search company (they will notice and your value to them will decrease); don’t ask for a call or meeting more than once; don’t pester them. If they have an opening that fits your profile, you can be certain that they will make contact with you.

In short: spend the necessary time to fine tune your profile and maximize your visibility. It is definitely worth it!

Written by Grégoire Depeursinge; EVP EMEA AIMS International, Managing Partner AIMS Switzerland & Leonie Pentz; VP EMEA AIMS International, Managing Partner AIMS South Africa

Do not miss out on the next episodes:

  1. The value of a good network
  2. Social media: your image to the outside world
  3. Preparing your CV: your sales brochure
  4. Recruiters: how they work and think
  5. Preparing for the interview
  6. Acing the interview

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