Time to address the fine line between conducting “in-depth online research” — some people are creeped out when someone mentions the discovery of something that the other person POSTED online (hello! if you didn’t want the world to know, why the selfie?) and cyberstalking (short answer, this is NEVER a good idea, particularly when it comes to dating or exes).
NOW there is one exception in my #BYDN mind when in-depth, comprehensive, thorough borderline internet trolling modern day equivalent of lurking around the back fence or fishing through someone’s trash is always a good strategy: when you’re looking for a job or new professional opportunity. If you’re a job seeker you SHOULD be taking advantage of the wealth of information deposited on the internet — yes, exercise your analytical skills by going beyond the immediate subject matter (aka the officially listed job posting) — as all those posts, updates, tweets, snaps, check-ins….are intel that could radically improve the outcome of your job search (or the content of your cover letter at the very least), should you care to take any real notice of this information.
BTW by my highly accurate official finger in the air survey, 99% of the population is absolutely derelict when it comes to taking advantage of the wealth of career-related information available with a click or swipe (mixed with a wee bit of Sherlock Holmes curiosity)!
As LinkedIn remains the top career / professional networking site (and if you’ve read BUILD YOUR DREAM NETWORK, you know I’m a fan-girl power user of the site in spite of recent post with cesspool in the title), my tips for proper investigative non-lurking in an uncomfortable way career-related prowling are:
- Follow the companies you’re interested in jobs with on LinkedIn. Sounds really really basic but too many people don’t do this (or worse yet, don’t even think of doing this).
- Once you’re following a company on the platform, LinkedIn will indicate whether you already are connected to someone who works there. This will not only tell you something about the company’s hiring preferences (and culture) it will give you a fast track to the email protocol for the company (assuming your connection links a work email on their LinkedIn profile). Depending on the strength of the personal relationship, you’ll may also have a warm introduction to HR (or future job leads) at the company too.
- Check out your second degree connections at the company (LinkedIn prompts you to “see all X employees on LinkedIn” once you’ve followed a company profile on the platform). You may be an even better, stronger, higher, swifter connection than your current first degree connection who can get your resume in the right hands. A gentle rap on the back of the head reminder at this juncture to always personalize your outreach emails to connect (in the excitement of discovering someone you know at a dream employer, this can be overlooked — and by not personalizing, LinkedIn turns in to a bit of an annoying cesspool).
- Follow any influencers that work at the company on LinkedIn. Read — let me all cap READ for emphasis — their updates and posts as this content reveals company’s business/marketing/PR/brand focus and perhaps, hiring priorities (i.e. diversity in hiring or skill sets). Reading these posts is NOT wasted job search time! The subject matter of one of an update or post may just be the spark you need for customizing a cover letter (and standing out from the crowd of resumes gathering in the recruiter’s inbox).
Another pause and online networking PSA: it goes without saying that your own profile on LinkedIn should be fully up-to-date before you start gently cyberstalking (aka conducting comprehensive job-search analysis) of potential employers.
Understanding that we don’t leave all of our juicy work and life digital details in one place (Doh! if you hadn’t thought of this until now, stop for a minute and consider how YOU use the various social platforms), I’d strongly recommend backfilling the intelligence you’re collecting on the company, the industry or sector it is operating in as well as the key executives (or hiring managers) with:
- A daily Google Alert (company name, key executives, industry keywords).
- Follow the company on Twitter as well as any hashtags unique to them.
- If you want to take your Twitter “research” a step further, create a private Twitter list of not only the company’s account but with any employees you can find who have Twitter profiles. A list makes it easy for you to scan and see what is going at the company and perhaps you’ll even discover employment opportunities before HR lists them (i.e. employee departure announcement). News does break first on Twitter after all.
- Depending on the industry and the demographic a company is seeking to attract, search for and follow accounts on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Snaps.
- Don’t forget to review the company website and blog. Beyond job openings, check to see if there are upcoming events or webinars that you can attend as these will give you a flavor for the company (or even the person you’d be reporting to).
- Finally, thoroughly review the public profiles of employees at the company and take measure of your accomplishments. Does your skill set and experiences align with the hiring culture of the company? Some wordsmith’ing may be in order if the jargon of your experience doesn’t align with the industry lingo.
And yes, there is a detailed cold-emailing college grad to successfully landing a dream job roadmap in Build Your Dream Network (so stop sending endless generic cover letters and start moving your job search ahead the right way by picking up your copy).