As soon as you are in the job market, the first thing you think about is that you need to update your resume. This is a perfectly reasonable response, and is definitely the right approach.
But—is this enough?
Resume | Cover Letter | LinkedIn Profile | Online Questions
We need to start thinking of job searches as career marketing strategies. You certainly still need a resume for most jobs, but you should also be thinking about developing your brand on LinkedIn—and how you present on social media in general, and consider how you are going to write your cover letter and answer online questions.
Social Media as a Recruitment Tool
Many jobs are now posted on Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as traditional job boards. Regardless of where you have accessed the information for a potential job, once you apply for a position, it is highly likely that a recruiter will check your social media profile. Your first check should, therefore, be how you present to the rest of the world. Do a Google check of your name and make sure that you present the image that you would like your potential employer to see—and get rid of anything that is not appropriate.
The recruiter will also check to see that you have come into the digital age. If you are a more mature job seeker, or someone that has just left school, and you haven’t had the need to have a LinkedIn profile before now, now is the time to consider it. Even if you are not seeking a position, setting up a LinkedIn profile and getting your contacts and testimonials now will have you job ready. The more time you have to establish your profile, the more professional you will appear.
Recruiters use LinkedIn, not only to seek potential candidates, but also as an additional check to see how it matches up with your resume, how well you present professionally, and whether you are technically up to date—and they will judge you on this. By placing your LinkedIn profile address on all your correspondence (including your email signature and resume), you significantly enhance your chances of being considered as a credible candidate.
Your LinkedIn profile is a significant career marketing tool. You are letting everyone know your personal brand so your image, summary and job descriptions need to be presented in a way that makes people want to know more about you.
Your Image: Make sure that your photo presents a professional image. Headshots in suitable business style clothing, shot indoors—preferably against a blank wall—works well for most industries. If you work in a creative industry, you will have more leeway as to how you present yourself.
Your Summary: Unlike a resume, you can use the first person in your summary, and indeed for all of your job descriptions. LinkedIn is really only just another social media tool, where people are trying to connect with each other, so being personal works well with the medium.
Head your summary with a title that reflects how you want people to see you (your next career goal), and then let them know what makes you unique and what you can offer. Use keywords for your industry, to heighten your chances of being recognised by recruiters. Break it up with some bullet points to really grab people's attention.
Job Descriptions: A lot of people tend to grab their position descriptions and write directly from those, thinking that people want to know what they do on a day–to–day basis. While it is good to offer this information, it is better to create a short paragraph that includes your main responsibilities and then finish off with a list of about 4–5 achievements for each role. As with your summary, try to incorporate keywords for your industry so that recruiters have a better chance of finding you.
Just a reminder, LinkedIn is a public forum, so when you list achievements for any of your roles leave out any facts and figures and company sensitive information.
It may seem self–evident, but if your cover letter is not well written, or doesn’t match the position you are applying for, you may as well not apply for the position (although there is a caveat—not everyone reads cover letters, but you don’t want to give that over to chance!). Even if a cover letter is not requested, an introductory email or letter of why the company and position interest you, who you are, what you can offer and how you can benefit the company is going to make someone notice and think that you are serious about applying for the position.
Your cover letter should not go beyond one page, and it should be well–written, without grammatical and spelling mistakes. Breaking up your information with 3–4 well–targeted bullet points also enhances the readability.
Getting help and listening to constructive feedback is also not a bad idea. Ask people if they think that you have answered the job advertisement adequately and whether the wording works. Be open to suggestions and utilise online examples or books to help you out.
Online Questions and Forms
A lot of jobs these days require you to answer questions directly onto online forms. It is tempting to write directly into the boxes provided, but a better approach is to write everything onto a Microsoft Word document (or similar), spell and grammar check it, read it to make sure that it answers the question appropriately and that it makes sense (get feedback from other people) and then copy and paste it into the box provided. Every single thing that you write will be checked, either by a computer or a person, and if you make errors, you will lose your opportunity for being selected.
Local libraries have some fantastic resources these days to assist with writing LinkedIn profiles, resumes and cover letters. Obviously, there is also a lot of information on the Internet. LinkedIn has some great resources to work from, and if you are accessing information for resumes and cover letters, try to stick to more recent information, as the styles continually change.