Tips

Looking for a new job? First, conduct a social media check-up.

That Facebook photo of you with the lampshade on your head might get a laugh from your friends. But if you’re looking for a job, it might be best to keep it tucked away, where you can share it in private.

In this age of social media, keeping your private life truly private is harder than ever. But it’s also more important than ever, given that prospective employers are using every legal tool they can to find the best job applicants. It costs a firm a lot of money to hire and retain good employees. So, naturally, they want to know everything they can about you and your past. A resume and cover letter can only scratch the surface. So, up to 80% or more of them turn to your social media accounts.

Legally, companies looking to hire have to be careful about the personal information they look at online. Generally, hiring professionals will wait until the final vetting stages to do so. Otherwise, they expose themselves to risk, should a candidate with certain “protected characteristics” such as gender, race, age, medical condition or religion fail to get the job. Employers have learned it’s best to be shielded from such information in the early stages of selecting an applicant. Some will even hire outside companies to conduct social media background checks, to help keep them on firm legal footing.

But sooner or later, someone in a position to hire you will want to know what you look like when you’re not dressed for an interview, or how many previous jobs you’ve had or if you really do have that MBA from Harvard. And Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are great places to start looking. So, keep these tips in mind when conducting your social media check-up:

  1. First, learn how to use your accounts’ privacy settings. Follow the sites’ instructions or use Google to find a tutorial or instructional video.
  2. Hide your “Friends” list. One of your buddies may not be on friendly terms with the hiring manager. Don’t take that risk. Also, remove or hide posts about religion, politics and any alcohol or drug use. Delete unflattering photos of yourself. And remove all obscenities.
  3. Don’t hide everything, though. Yes, you would be right to take out details of that beer chugging contest with your frat brothers. But if you and your community group regularly help others through blood drives, trash pick-ups and visits to senior homes, leave those details in for everyone to see.
  4. If you hope to land a job that involves writing (and many of them do), check your posts for correct grammar, spelling and punctuation. No one expects perfection in a casual note about your favorite, new restaurant. But longer entries and blog posts should reflect your professional skills.

Remember: Anything you make public on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter can potentially be seen by any current, prospective or future employer; and it can have a huge impact on your career. Have fun with social media. But keep it professional. And for heaven’s sake, put that lampshade back where it belongs.

Email Etiquette

“Regrets, I’ve had a few – but then again, too few to mention.”  It’s safe to say that if he really meant those words, Frank Sinatra (or songwriter Paul Anka), never sent many emails.

Today’s digital landscape is littered with the faux pas of millions of computer communicators, more than a few of which have led to personal embarrassment or – in the case of office professionals – much worse.  In fact, few things can blemish your brand more than hastily written, poorly proofread emails.  How often have you hit the “SEND” button on a business message only to immediately wish you could take it back?  Follow some simple rules, and you’ll never have to say, “Oops!” again.

Subject.  Always use a simple, short subject line that is to the point.  Professionals get a lot of emails every day.  You want to make sure they have a reason to read yours.

Body.  Again, get to the point.  As with a good subject heading, your message should be direct, concise and on-topic.  You will gain respect by not forcing unnecessary back stories and sidebars upon your recipients.

Privacy.  Do not assume that your email will be read only by the person you’re sending it to.  Whether by accident or intent, your words can travel far and wide.  It’s best to assume they will.

Reply.  Do not hit “Reply All” unless you truly mean it.  Assume that many recipients couldn’t care less about your thoughts on the discussion at hand.

Mass Emails.  Think twice – or even three times – before putting the address of every recipient in the “To” or “CC” bar.  Doing so discloses to everyone you’re writing everyone else’s email address.  Many would like to keep this information private.

Introductions.  Just as you would when typing a letter on paper, use a courteous and professional introduction.  When communicating for business, a “Dear Sir” will win over more readers than a “Hey, Bob!” every single time.

Tone.  Your emails should reflect the professional you are.  Speak directly, calmly and without humor.  Words can be easily misunderstood – especially if they’re directed at someone with a different cultural background.  And if you’re angry, calm down before writing.

Exclamation Points & All-Caps.  In a word, don’t.  “ALL CAPS” is often interpreted as shouting.  Exclamation points can look unprofessional.  But if you feel that you absolutely, positively have to use one, then use only one.

Sign-Offs.  “See ya!” should be reserved for the note about the gang getting together after work for drinks.  “Sincerely” or “Yours truly” or “Regards” might sound a little stilted, but it will be appreciated.

Proofread.  Do this with every single email message you send.  Have only five minutes to get an email out?  Then reserve at least a minute or two of that time to check your work.  This cannot be emphasized enough.

Signature Block.  A signature block – with your name, title, business name, address, phone number, etc. – is a good way to tell your reader a little about yourself and give her or him an alternate way to contact you.

Address.  Address your emails last.  This may sound counterintuitive; but it can prevent heartburn, should you accidentally hit the “SEND” key before you’re ready to.

As with many lists of tips, the above is mostly common sense.  But in the heat of the moment, when everything has to be done “right now,” common sense is usually the best path to follow.  No regrets needed.

Look Beyond the Resume

Want to hire the best employee? Consider going to E-Harmony or OKCupid. No, this is not to suggest you’ll find your perfect hire at a dating site; but you are liable to learn a thing or two about what it takes to make the perfect match.

Successful dating sites know it’s important to go beyond the basic “Who?,” “What?,” “When?”, “Where?” and “How?” That’s why they also pose open-ended “questions” such as, “Tell us what makes you happy;” or “Describe your favorite vacation spot.” This tactic helps reveal more about a person’s true personality than she or he might ordinarily volunteer, thus increasing the chances of a successful first date. You can adapt this method when filling your next open position.

Once you or a computer has scanned that stack of resumes and saved the ones that tick all the right boxes – education, experience, salary requirements and so on – it’s time to move on to interviews. Often, a telephone call will reveal enough about a candidate to tell you whether an in-person interview is warranted.

Then, once the finalists for the job are seated across from you, you can begin evaluating traits that do not expose themselves in a carefully crafted resume or cover letter. How curious are they about the company? About the job, itself? Do they appear motivated and energetic?

Don’t count a person out simply because he or she lacks a particular skill. If someone demonstrates an eagerness to learn, that attribute may pay off long after he or she has acquired what is needed to fulfill the current job requirements.

Use open-ended questions to learn about previous job performance. You might have someone describe an especially difficult project he or she faced to get a sense for that candidate’s problem-solving skills – again, going beyond what you might learn from a piece of paper.

And without getting too personal, have a friendly conversation about a person’s favorite hobby, sport or other pastime. How did he or she get involved? Why is it important? And how does it bring that person joy or fulfillment?

Skills can be taught; personality, eagerness, curiosity and dedication cannot. So, while it’s important to find someone who has the training and background to perform the needed tasks, it is vital to hire an individual who embraces all the other attributes that would make her or him right for your job and your company. And those are things no resume (or dating profile) can predict.

Don’t Keep a Job Applicant Waiting

“Thank you; we’ll be in touch shortly.” When you say that to a job applicant, you should mean it.

In 2021, taking too long to hire is one of the biggest mistakes an employer can make. Open positions outnumber qualified applicants. And once they’ve been interviewed, applicants aren’t likely to wait very long. Allow them to think you’re not interested, and you may lose them to other firms.

Surveys and statistics bear this out. According to Glassdoor, the average hiring process for a private-sector job in 2017 was almost 24 days. Today? A recent report by one prominent consulting firm found that almost half of job applicants lose interest in a firm if they haven’t heard back from it within one to two weeks after the initial interviews.

Many hiring managers feel caught between a rock and a hard place. Statistics and surveys don’t lie. But if they cut corners and make an offer to someone before they’re truly ready to, they risk bringing onboard some “bad hires.” So, what’s the answer?

The obvious choice for many is to hire an independent staffing agency – one that has the experience and manpower to find the right person for you. By devoting their full attention to you and your needs, they can take significant time and guesswork out of the hiring equation. If you choose to conduct the hiring process inhouse, there are concrete measures you can take to make timeliness an important part of the equation.

First, make sure you’re ready to hire. Has everyone in the chain of command agreed that a new employee is needed? What will that person’s specific duties be? Who will he or she report to? What salary range can you offer? Be sure you know the answers to these questions before you even advertise the position.

Next, write a detailed job description. This will help you in the early stages of hiring, when you’re looking through a mountain of resumes. If a particular applicant doesn’t have the skills or experience you’re looking for, that’s one fewer resume to keep on hand.

Set a timeline for bringing a new person on board, and make sure everyone who’s involved in the hiring process knows to stick to it. Conduct initial interviews by phone or Zoom. Then, when you’re ready to bring the remaining candidates in for full interviews, set aside one or two days in which to conduct them all. Take detailed notes when speaking with candidates, to make it easier to compare two or more of them, later. Keep the timeline short – perhaps as few as seven days, if possible. Tell your applicants they can expect to hear from you within that time. And most of all, mean it.

By hiring quickly, you not only increase the chances of getting the person you want. You also signal to current employees that their time is valuable. After all, who’s doing the extra work until your new hire is in place? Hiring quickly also means keeping your company’s productivity up, which often leads to bigger profits. But perhaps most important, by conducting the hiring process in a timely manner, you also protect your company’s reputation as one that fosters a culture of respect.