How to (and how not to) get hired online

Will the internet be a friend or foe when you’re next looking for a step up the career ladder?

It’s difficult to remember what job-hunting was like before the web, writes Ben Flanagan, given the rapid rise of recruitment sites, online screening and video interviewing.

But with more internet tools than ever available for both job seekers and employers, it’s imperative to make the web work for you when looking for your next gig, recruitment experts say.

That means job seekers should have a polished profile across all social media sites – not just LinkedIn – and, in the Middle East especially, avoid ill-advised late-night tweets or appearing in compromising pictures on Facebook.

Panos Manolopoulos, managing partner at executive-search firm Stanton Chase in the Middle East, spoke to Benchmark on how to best present yourself online when looking for a job (see his top five tips).

These include considering how your overall online profile stands, bearing in mind cultural sensitivities when posting comments on the web, and ensuring you use the right keywords so that recruiters can find you more easily.

LinkedIn is an obvious place for employers to both search for new recruits, and check that job applicants are legit.

“A few years ago it was not required to have a LinkedIn profile. But right now, sometimes not having a LinkedIn profile as a professional might be considered as a flaw or a negative thing. Sometimes you talk about a specific candidate and someone says, ‘yes but this guy doesn’t even have a LinkedIn profile…’,” said Mr Manolopoulos.

The recruitment expert said however that LinkedIn, which has more than 364 million members globally, was becoming too crowded a space, given it is used by everyone from the unemployed to global CEOs.

“LinkedIn is a very helpful tool. The problem is that it has been over-populated. At some point, in the years to come, I’m sure there will be something that is even more specialised,” said Mr Manolopoulos, who is also vice chairman for business excellence at Stanton Chase.

Potential employers will usually check out applicants online as part of the recruitment process, invariably making checks across all their social-media networks looking for clues to their professionalism, lifestyle habits, and any ‘red flags’.

While having a professional LinkedIn account is important, having too broad a presence across multiple professional sites can appear desperate and actually be a turn-off to potential employers, warned Mr Manolopoulos.

“What we usually advise professionals is to be a little bit more targeted,” he said. “Our advice is not necessarily to throw your profile everywhere; it would be better to be a little bit more concentrated in your industry, your main professional interests.”

The web has certainly made the recruitment process faster, as well as easing access to job postings, with a number of websites such as highly active in the Middle East.

A handful of video-interview specialists have also arrived, including My Interview, Big Screen and Sonru, promising to save employers time and money by shortlisting candidates online before they conduct lengthy face-to-face interviews.

Mr Manolopoulos, like many in the recruitment business, said his firm is using Skype and video-conferencing “extensively” to shortlist candidates. But he said such web tools were no substitute to face-to-face job interviews when it comes to senior positions.

“The digital era has helped us to be a little bit more efficient when it comes to contacting and finding candidates,” he said. “However it still isn’t a substitute for the work we are doing in assessing the candidates or matching their qualifications and leadership skills to the requirements of the job.”

That however only applies to the kind of senior positions handled by Stanton Chase, Mr Manolopoulos said. For lower-ranking positions, such as workers in fast-food restaurants, there could indeed be a place for recruiting purely via online video rather than face-to-face, he said.

In that scenario, a recruit could apply for a job online, have their social-media accounts screened by the employer, take part in a virtual interview and be offered the job via email – all without meeting anyone in the ‘real world’.

And while the next chief executive of Apple or even the manager of your local back is highly unlikely to be recruited in such a way, it’s clear that web tools are becoming increasingly important in the process.

But with more and more job seekers online, those wanting to stand out from the crowd could choose to look to a somewhat older technology, Mr Manolopoulos suggested.

In some cases, the trusty handwritten note could be more effective tool for jobseekers than even the most polished LinkedIn profile or video interview.

“I’m writing hundreds of emails every day,” said Mr Manolopoulos. “If I pick up my pen and I write a personal note in handwriting to one of my colleagues, you know it is going to be 10 times more powerful than if I just send another email.”