Here's a simple exercise: Step back from your job hunt for a moment. Imagine that you are taking someone special in your life out to celebrate a wonderful event and you want to find just the right place for that extraordinary meal.
Of course you'll need to take a variety of factors into account: location, travel time, the menu, dietary needs, preferences of the person you are treating to dinner, the ambience, noise level, the quality of the bar and wine list and more. And then, there are the questions of how much will it all cost, and if you can even get a reservation at the desired time.
In this simple scenario, you are looking to "hire" a place to solve your problem of how to best celebrate. And, as a savvy hiring manager, you would likely turn to the Internet and social sites like Yelp and OpenTable (analogous to LinkedIn) to help you in your search process. There you would find restaurants in your area eager for your business. In this scenario, they are our job seekers, with their self-descriptions (analogous to LinkedIn profiles) and links to their websites (analogous to their résumés).
With hardly any effort at all you can see how many people have reviewed a restaurant, along with an overall rating of one to five stars (analogous to LinkedIn Endorsements). But wait -- there's more: full-text reviews with specific details about the good, the bad and the ugly (recommendations) from those who have eaten there before (i.e., a job hunter's former supervisor).
You might begin your search by focusing on affordability to get a group of likely places (candidate pool) and then begin to drill down deeper for a granular analysis of the relative merits of each place by looking at the recommendations. Or, you might dive right into the recommendations and then go back to see if what you have read is borne out by the experience of others. We could keep going on and on, but you get the idea.
What do we learn from all this?
1. Like it or not, we live in a world of social media's dominance. LinkedIn has become an indispensable tool for both hiring authorities and job seekers.
2. If you want to be considered seriously, you need to have a complete and compelling profile that focuses on your skills and experience from the perspective of the value you bring with you to your next employer.
3. Although there has been much moaning and groaning about the Skills and Endorsements sections of the profile, both have gained a measure of credibility and importance at various stages of the hiring process. They can be used differently based on the interests and processes of those who are searching for your talent.
4. Recommendations can be a key factor in the beginning of the hiring process, not just a due diligence check off at the end of it. LinkedIn now places recommendations that others have written for you throughout your profile, associated with the position you've held that is the context for the writer.
5. It's not about Endorsements or Recommendations anymore. It's all about both.
LinkedIn recently began to allow you to edit your Endorsements section and reorder the skills according to your preference. You might want to have those skills required in the position you seek higher than those you used 15 years ago. Not many people are being hired today because they know WordPerfect 5.0. And, if many people don't yet endorse the current skills you need, you might want to seek those endorsements to bolster your LinkedIn persona.
At the same time, LinkedIn has made the process of making a recommendation ridiculously obtuse and difficult. When you are seeking a recommendation, as you should, from at least one or two people from each place you've worked, you need to simplify the process for them or they will likely give up in frustration.
Here are the steps for making a LinkedIn Recommendation: 1) Go to "Edit Profile," 2) go to the "Recommendations" section," 3) click the pencil icon, 4) click on "Manage visibility," 5) click on the "Given" tab and 6) either select from your contacts or, if you're not reaching out to a current connection, enter his or her name.
When you are looking at restaurants, you want to know specifics, like which dishes to order. So too, a strong recommendation is one that shuns generalities and superficiality.
When asking for a recommendation you can help to frame it and make the process easier by including in your request strong hints about what you want to be said. For example, "Sally, remember when we worked at X company in 2004 together and I helped your team to do such-and-such? If you could comment on my ability to do A, resulting in B, that would be really great!"
And one more thing to remember: don't forget to share great experiences you've had with others. Endorse and write those recommendations for people you respect and admire.
When you do all this, you really will have something to celebrate with a great meal: your new job.
Arnie Fertig is the head coach of JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, where he utilizes his extensive background in HR Staffing and as owner of a recruiting company to help midcareer job-hunters land their next job. Arnie provides one-to-one coaching services to individuals throughout the U.S. in all aspects of the job hunt, including: resume writing, personal branding, utilizing social media, enhancing networking skills, preparing for interviews, and negotiating compensation.
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