LinkedIn can be a major asset in your job search. Beyond providing you with a platform for expressing your professional identity, LinkedIn is a powerful tool for gathering insider information and building your network.
Here are three ways you can tap into the full power of the professional networking site. Warning: some people say that using these tactics is manipulative. I say it’s being resourceful.
Stalking is okay…really
Headed to an interview? Scan your interviewer’s LinkedIn profile to find commonalities and potential talking points. For instance, you may discover that you and your interviewer had similar academic or extracurricular interests during college, or that she too studied abroad in London. Knowing this, you can strategically bring up certain topics that you know will elicit a positive response and help you build rapport with the interviewer.
On the flip side, your interviewer’s LinkedIn profile may tip you off to things you should avoid discussing. Is he a vocal member of the local Republican activist group? You may want to tone down your enthusiasm for College Democrats, in that case.
LinkedIn stalking is useful in non-interview scenarios too. If you’re networking with alum from your school or another new contact, you can look over their LinkedIn profile to understand their story. It will be helpful if you go into an informational interview with knowledge of the person’s work history and education, so that you can skip the basics and ask more meaningful questions.
Find out whom you’re replacing
The “companies” feature on LinkedIn is an underutilized one. On a company’s page, you can see current employees, recent hires, promotions, and yes – former employees. If you’re interviewing for a job opening, pay particular attention to former employees, as you may be able to pinpoint the person you’re replacing. What’s her story? How long was she at the company? What’s she doing now?
Don’t stop there. Under “people,” do a search for your prospective employer’s name. Anyone who has the company’s name in their profile will show up in search results. Take a broad look at the company’s hiring practices. Are they experiencing high turnover in their entry-level positions? Do they fire and hire for the same position every 9 to 12 months? This may indicate a work environment you don’t want to enter.
If you’re feeling really bold, reach out to former employees. By connecting with someone who was in the position you’re interviewing for, you can gain insights into the company. Hear an insider’s view on important issues they’re facing. Tread carefully though as you never know the circumstances surrounding someone’s departure; a recently let-go employee may have an agenda of his own.
Groups give you easy access
You don’t need hundreds of connections to do some serious networking on LinkedIn. Just join a bunch of relevant groups. As soon as you are granted membership in a group, you have the ability to directly message all members.
To illustrate this principle: my school’s alumni group has 12,000 members. My fraternity’s group has 2,000 members. One of the professional groups I belong to (“Innovative Marketing, PR, Sales, Word-of-Mouth, and Buzz Innovators”) has 82,000 members. I’m only directly connected to 181 people, but my group memberships give me a much broader reach.
Once you have this reach, you can directly message members who interest you. See someone with a job title you aspire to? Message him. Set-up an informational interview. Are you curious about someone’s self-started business? Message her and find out what it’s all about. For the most part, people love talking about themselves; they’ll rarely turn you down if you say you’re impressed with their career path and interested in having a short conversation to learn more. Not enough people tap into this “cold-networking” approach via groups.
Having a LinkedIn profile is not enough. With the job market more competitive than ever, you need to take advantage of LinkedIn for company research and networking if you want to get an edge on your competitors.
Dan Klamm is the Outreach & Marketing Coordinator for Syracuse University Career Services. In his position, he is responsible for student engagement with Career Services. This includes managing the marketing campaigns for events and programs, leading social media initiatives, and fostering relationships with people across campus to build awareness of the office. Connect with him on Twitter @DanKlamm and LinkedIn.