How I Used LinkedIn to Get a Hiring Manager’s Attention

April 2, 2014

Part one of a two-part series written by guest blogger Dr. Phil Ryan, Director of Student Services at the Office of Intramural Training and Education.

I am in an enviable position because I love my job. Regardless, we should all be looking forward in our career and thinking about what the next step entails. While I am not actively pursuing new positions, every now and then a job posting comes to my attention and piques my interest. I am sure many of you have had a similar experience. Usually the scenario goes like this: you see the job title and it sounds like something that really interests you. Next, you click on the posting and read the job description and you really love what you are reading. Then, you scroll down to the qualifications section and your heart sinks a little bit. The degree and field in the education section does not match your own. The position description lists years of experience that you don’t have on your resume and the wording they use does not match any of the official titles you can list on your resume.

The truth is if you submitted your resume through the normal channels, it would not get forwarded on to the hiring manager for them to review. But, you feel certain you can do that job, do it well and really enjoy it. This experience recently happened to me and I want to share how I used LinkedIn to overcome some of these barriers in order to grab the attention of the hiring manager before I ever submitted my application.

Step 1: Get Prepared

The first thing I did was find the Web page for the department in which this position was located. In many job postings it will list the title of the person that position reports to. Sometimes, it just lists the department the position will be in. Either way, with a little searching online you can often find the director of that office or department. After I found the director of the office in which this position was located, I looked him up on LinkedIn and searched the Internet for other information on him. I found a couple articles he had written and I read them.

Then, I changed and updated my LinkedIn profile. This is one of the benefits of LinkedIn. On a resume it is hard to stray from your official titles for a position. But in the experience section of your LinkedIn profile you can highlight the activities you are involved in even if they aren’t a part of your official job. You can also include links to your projects available online, or to Web pages of organizations or events you have been a part of. You can highlight whatever projects you want to highlight in the Projects section. Most importantly, your summary can be used to clearly communicate what it is you are passionate about.

Step 2: Reach Out

Once my profile was updated and organized to make me look like a great candidate, I sent the director a request to connect. It read something like this:

“Dear Mr. Director, I am interested in the position of [position title] in your office. I have read a couple pieces you have published and really like your take on [field]. I hope we can link in to share resources and network.”

Notice that I offered up another reason for him to accept my invitation other than to discuss the position. It’s important to realize that my offer of sharing resources and networking was sincere. Even if we were not able to discuss the position, I was making a connection in a field of interest to me professionally.

Within three days we were talking on the phone about the position, the field in general, and our respective career paths. I had not even submitted my application and I was basically having a pre-interview! At the end of our conversation, he encouraged me to submit my application. Within a week of my LinkedIn request, I was on Skype interviewing with the entire hiring committee and was later flown out for an in-person interview. As a career development professional, I had to ask if my application would have made it to his desk had I not contacted him through LinkedIn. He would not go so far as to say “no,” but he certainly did not say “yes.”

The end result was I was offered the position. After careful consideration, I respectfully declined to accept the job. Why? Well, that is to be continued in another blog post….

 

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Utilizing Google Alerts in a Job Search

December 3, 2013

Google Alerts* will email you results from various saved searches. You can customize the type and frequency of your emailed search results depending on your personal preferences. It is a free tool to use and you can save up to ten different alerts (1,000 if you have a Google account). Many businesses, especially public relations representatives, often use such alerts to keep abreast of news stories about their company’s competitors, trademarks, etc. Google Alerts can help you during a job search as well.

Here are some alerts job seekers should set up:

1. Your Name
Your online reputation often precedes your first face-to-face impression. Any job you apply for will research you online. By this point in time, you have probably Googled yourself (if not, do so immediately!). However, make sure you stay up to date about what is published online about you by creating an alert with your name.

2. Companies of Interest
Hopefully, you have identified and targeted a few key employers of interest. Keep tabs on them by creating a search query with just their name, such as “NIH” or “National Institutes of Health.” Note: you may need to save a few different variations of the same name to help account for acronyms and labeling differences.

You should also set up a search query “Jobs (Company Name)” which will email you pages where these two key words appear jointly. Keep in mind that it might not actually be a page with open jobs; however, it could give you a heads up about staffing changes which could help inform your job search. Ultimately, the goal is to draw your attention to news stories that might be beneficial for one reason or another in your search.

3. Jobs in Your Location
If you are focusing on a specific geographic area, you can create a search such as “Maryland (“new jobs”)” or “Gaithersburg (“new business”).” Remember to use the same tools and tricks that you normally employ when using a search engine. For example, quotes will ensure that your phrase is searched exactly as it is written – not parsed out word by word.

4. Set an Industry Alert
Interested in a specific industry? Set a search query according to your interests; some example might be “biotechnology” or “pharmaceuticals.”

5. Keep Tabs on Key People
Wonder when your former PI’s paper is going to be published? Curious where your previous lab mate now works? Set a search and get notified about your network’s accomplishments, especially those social media shy folks. This can be a great way to stay in the know and keep connected with people who are important to you and your career.

Like saved job search agents, Google Alerts can help alleviate some of the leg work of job searching and it is an easy way to stay up to date on topics of importance to you and your job search. Please comment on what other alert systems you have found helpful during a job search.

 

* Disclaimer: The online resource noted in this post is merely informative and does not constitute an endorsement by NIH OITE.


Boo! Why Job Searches are So Scary

October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween from OITE!Image of two bats, a ghost, a pumpkin and the word "Boo!".

Today is a day for tricks, treats and all things spooky. While we hope you will enjoy the spirit of this holiday in your personal life, we also invite you to think about your professional life and what part of the job search scares you.

Job searching can feel like navigating your way through a haunted house – it can be riddled with false doors, creepy detours, and hair-raising events.  As proof of this, read some Job Search Horror Stories as shared by OITE staff.  Many questions can come up during a job search: What in your professional past, if anything, haunts you? How spooked are you by networking? What eerily hard questions have you received during an interview? How frightened are you about finding the perfect job?

The questions and doubts that arise during a job search are very common.  You are opening yourself up to new opportunities, which is often synonymous with change. Plus, you are putting yourself and your professional accomplishments out into the world for consideration.  You are pulling back the mask; on a superficial level, it is easy to understand how the job search can make an individual feel vulnerable, exposed, and anxious.  The anxiety and risk aversion associated with this process can cause individuals to procrastinate.  Like a ghoul you can’t shake, there can be a nagging voice in your head reminding you that you need to be doing more.

Brain research has repeatedly shown that humans try to maximize rewards and minimize threats – we often condition ourselves to avoid pain or resistance.  Often times, we also avoid what is most important to us.  Many scientists tend to be perfectionists, and this can be a debilitating attribute for a job search. We all want to choose the perfect job, create the perfect resume and negotiate the perfect salary.  Fear that we will fall short can cause us to avoid those activities and procrastinate.

Take some time today to think about the ghosts of your job searching past.  Remember that there are a lot of “tricks” to job searching, so be sure to utilize the “treats” from OITE. We are here to help you at every stage along the way and can hopefully begin to help demystify a scary process.


The Top 4 Things You Should STOP Doing on LinkedIn

September 23, 2013

A stop sign that has fallen overBy now you have probably realized that LinkedIn can be a powerful tool during your job search, but LinkedIn is not just another social networking site – it is the professional social network.  As in real-life workplace situations, judiciousness and professional courtesy should steer all of your activity on LinkedIn.  You have worked hard to make and keep a good impression in your lab and/or office.  The same should hold true on LinkedIn; you need to make and maintain a positive, professional appearance. A LinkedIn faux pas has the potential to damage your career path, so here are a few red lights to heed to along the way:

1. Stop using LinkedIn’s auto-generated templates.
LinkedIn pre-populates most message fields; however, that doesn’t mean you should keep the generic message as your own.  Whether it is requesting a connection or congratulating someone on a new job you should take the time to personalize your correspondence.  Using the auto generated “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” misses an opportunity to tell the person why you want to connect. Make it as specific as you can; for example, “It was great sitting next to you at OITE’s Academic Job Interviews Workshop on Monday.  I enjoyed chatting about your research at NCI and I’d like to stay connected.”

2. Stop indiscriminately connecting with people.
The people you choose to connect with are often viewed as an extension of yourself, so make sure you know who they are and why they want to connect with you. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t link in with an acquaintance or even a stranger; however, if making a request to add a cold contact, you must explain why you want to connect (which goes back to point # 1).

3. Stop clicking on things!
With just a simple click of a button, you can quickly and easily endorse the skills and expertise of your connections; however, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should.  An endorsement can be seen as baffling if you are endorsing an individual for something you have never witnessed them doing first-hand.  An endorsement can also feel more annoying than gratifying to the recipient if this is an area that they practiced years ago. Many also wonder, “Are you secretly expecting an endorsement or recommendation in return?”  In an effort to continue advertising the endorsements feature, LinkedIn frequently groups your contacts together and asks if you would like to endorse them all for skills they have on their profile in one fell swoop.  Use your best judgment and think before you click.

4. Stop doing nothing.
Doing too much on LinkedIn – reposting every article you read online that day or asking everybody for a recommendation – can be overwhelming to your connections and it can create a negative online impression.  Equally bad is doing nothing at all. If you are job searching, this could even be worse. So, take the time to set a well-cropped, professional headshot as your profile photo (note: pictures of you on a beach, holding your cat, or with a group of friends do not set a good first impression of you as a serious professional).  Update your contact information, your headline and then get out there! As with any social network, the premise is to participate, so don’t be afraid to contribute to the conversation.


Success on Election Day – and in Your Job Search

November 2, 2010

checkmarkToday’s the BIG day: Election Day! There are many hotly contested races around the country, and some of us will be anxiously awaiting today’s results. By day’s end, some politicians will be enjoying the thrill of success, and others the agony of defeat.

What about success on the job market? We know from recent job reports that unemployment remains high. Still, some employers are hiring, so some people are getting jobs. How are they doing it? Or more to the point, are there particular traits shared by successful job hunters?

This is the topic of a recent article exit icon1 posted on EmploymentDigest.netexit icon1. In this piece, the author shares the following 6 traits common to people who have found success on the job market.

1) They keep an open mind. Be flexible with your job requirements. If you have had your heart set on living in DC, would you be willing to look at positions in Baltimore? How flexible can you be? Being open to different locations may improve your chances of finding something you would enjoy.

Also, be flexible in terms of sources of jobs. Having a strong online presence (having a complete LinkedIn profile, a Facebook page, a personal blog) will increase your chances of networking with the appropriate people, being found by employers of interest, etc. Be sure that all of your social media links are included in your email signature – but before doing this, be sure that they are all fit for professional/employer consumption.

2) Preparation is key to success. Your energy and hard work should be put into creating a strong and error-free application. Is your résumé and/or CV free of errors? Is it tailored to the specific jobs you have been applying for? And have you done the same with your cover letter? The more time and energy put into this work upfront, the better your chances of hearing back from an employer once you submit an application.

3) They do their homework. What is unique about the company or organization you are applying to? Where are the majority of their efforts going these days? What is their hot, new research area? Understanding the priorities of the organization(s) you are applying to and mentioning these in your job search materials – and how well your background is suited to tackle these – will set you apart from the pack.

4) They convey energy and enthusiasm. Be aware of every interaction you have with individuals, and be sure to present yourself professionally and with enthusiasm. From the way you dress, to your interactions, documentation you submit, to the timeliness of your responses…everything you say and do in regards to networking and job searching matters. So be aware of the messages you are sending in the way you carry yourself, both online and in person.

5) They assume nothing. Once your application materials have been submitted for a particular job, keep in touch. Do not assume that your materials arrived intact – follow up to be sure that your application is in, and inquire about the timeline for a particular search. These two follow-up questions are totally appropriate…and may result in your name ringing a bell with reviewers later in the process.

6) Closing the sale and follow-up makes the difference. As mentioned a few times above, follow-up can make a great deal of difference in a tight job market. Send a quick email to a contact you made at a conference, through a friend, via LinkedIn, etc. Consider sending a handwritten thank-you note to someone with whom you’ve networked recently. Being thoughtful and following through will keep your name fresh in people’s minds – and keep your name circulating as a potential candidate for future jobs.

Follow up after you have had an interview as well. Beyond sending a thank-you note or email, call the potential employer if you have not heard back in the time frame mentioned during the interview.

Being proactive, staying professional, and remaining polite and courteous will take you far in this difficult market. Good luck with your search – and BE SURE TO VOTE TODAY! 🙂