Finding a Job in the Digital Age

The rise of the digital age has permanently altered the landscape of interpersonal communications; texting has replaced talking, an inbox is the new mailbox, and “Instagram” and “Snapchat” are now verbs. While these advancements have introduced major changes to correspondence etiquette (is it ever really ok to use an Emoji in a work email?) they also challenge long-held conventions that have dictated how college students should effectively search for jobs or internships for decade. The digitization of job postings and networking opportunities has created an inevitable dichotomy for both students and recruiters; while the Internet offers increased opportunity, it also presents increased competition. A recent Microsoft survey found that 79% of employers conduct an online search of applicants and 85% of hiring managers use social networking sites like LinkedIn to assess potential candidates. Sophomore Emma Bruce describes, “It’s so frustrating to fill out so many online [internship] applications and not know if you’re ever going to hear back.” This sense of online anonymity is a sentiment shared by countless college students who feel intimidated by the enormity of online opportunity; “I just applied for this really cool position at this medical consulting company, but they don’t say how long the internship is going to be posted for, or if they’ll ever get back to you,” Bruce adds.  

Given the increased impersonality of the cyber-driven world, many students struggle with how to stand out through online job applications while simultaneously contending with emerging professional protocols. Paradoxically, however, as the job market becomes increasingly automated, Princeton Career Services Director Evangeline Kubu reminds students to let their personalities shine through. It is precisely because employers are beginning to rely on digital recruiting tools that prospective job seekers must take advantage of the wide variety of online outlets to curate their professional perception and create personal narratives that extend far beyond a traditional resume and cover letter. 

Here are four key tips for students looking to get #hired: 

Tell Your Story

Before a student can start to look for a job online, it’s important that he or she seems hirable. Talent Acquisition Director of Viacom, Ralph Nader, notes that for candidates looking to build their online profiles, “The first line of defense is LinkedIn. Though while many students’ first instinct may be to copy and paste their work experience straight from an existing resume, former LinkedIn Customer Service Manager and current life and business coach, Cailin McDuff, advises students to put their resumes aside and focus on their personal summaries, which she adds are “the #1 thing that recruiters look at on candidates’ profiles.” McDuff recommends that these summaries should be 3-5 sentences, written in first person, and centered on a key theme that explains your motive for joining the workforce and advancing your career. Carolyn Crabtree, co-founder of Cornerstone Reputations, a firm that helps job-seekers to manage their digital footprints, suggests that in addition to maximizing their LinkedIn profiles, students should design personal websites where they’re not limited to a singular platform’s constraints. These sites give young people who may not have had extensive experience in the professional workforce to expand upon volunteer or extracurricular activities by including personal narrations and multimedia links. Crabtree also notes that if this site is going to be the official online destination for all things related to a candidate, it should be visible from both desktop and mobile devices, optimized by Google algorithms, and include a blog section so that the site-owner has a go-to destination to express his or her authentic voice.

Google Yourself

 Source: Pew Resource Center

Source: Pew Resource Center

While it’s important for students to put energy into carefully crafting profiles on personal websites, LinkedIn, and other recruiting platforms, like Princeton’s Handshake, it’s equally important for them to be wary of what other information there may be circulating about them online. The first thing that Kubu instructs students to do when curating their online presence is to Google themselves, and then set up Google Alerts so they know if anything affiliated with their name is ever published. Moreover, as the lines become increasingly blurred between the professional and social spheres, it’s increasingly important for students to be strategic with how they manipulate their presence on social media. For candidates seeking jobs in creative fields where their social media skills might be relevant, Nader notes that recruiters often leverage applicants’ social accounts to see how they engage with the community around them. For fields like banking and medicine, however, where company policies often necessitate disaffiliation on non-professional platforms like Facebook and Instagram, candidates should make sure to privatize their profiles and emphasize the separation between their personal and professional profiles online. Over 90% of recruiting firms do a Google search on candidates, so it’s critical for job-seekers to optimize those search results in a way that only increases their appeal as a potential hire.

Do Your Homework

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Given the wealth of information available on the Internet, students should research potential employers’ needs in order to showcase their possible contributions and emphasize shared core values. Amanda Gabriel, a recruitment and marketing specialist for IBM, notes that it’s much more impressive when applicants reach out to her to provide answers, not ask questions. She counsels students to consider the scale of potential employers’ companies, and recommends that the larger the company, the more department-specific a student should be when describing why a certain position appeals to them and what their potential contributions would look like. McDuff recommends that if a student is interested in a working for a particular company, that he or she should follow them on all professional networking sites (i.e. LinkedIn) so they can remain current with all brand-related news and be aware if a position opens up. Similarly, students should be aware of key words that recruiters use to describe available positions and then employ them on their own profiles so that their names will come up if those terms are used in an online search. In terms of finding specific companies and positions, the Internet offers a wealth of sites including, but not limited to, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Handshake, Monster, Indeed, and CareerBuilder. There are also regionally specific sites, like FindSpark, or industry specific boards like StartUpHire, that seek to connect employers and candidates per certain criteria. Once students have located the brand they’d like to work for, Nader recommends reaching out to the person who they would intern for or the person who is currently holding the job they may want, in addition to submitting a general application or appealing to the recruitment team. He says that it’s important for candidates to understand their potential position and ideally establish a rapport with the people they’d be working with. He also notes that, like 70% of recruiters, he’s infinitely more likely to look at a resume sent through a personal referral. 

Easy as ABC 

Although “who you know” has long beeAlthough “who you know” has long been heralded as the most valuable asset in the hunt for a job or internship, Kubu notes that it’s become increasingly important for students who are looking to make themselves stand out against the Internet-induced influx of applicants. In order to forge valuable connections online, she recommends an ABC approach. The “A” stands for the people you already know; i.e. family, friends, professors, and former employers who know you well and can speak to your accomplishments and abilities. The “B” represents the “bridge connections” that the people you may already know can put you in touch with, and the “C” denotes the people who “can help” or “can hire you” with regard to your desired position. Kubu stresses the increased importance of optimizing digital resources in dealing with all of these people, and notes that the wider range of people with whom you can share your personal site and connect on LinkedIn, the more exposure you can gain in any given field. Advances in technology have only increased networking opportunities because the Internet breaks the barriers of distance and time, so students can connect with professionals regardless of time zone or geographic location. Nader also notes that sites like LinkedIn provide students with the opportunity to remain connected with different professionals simply by appearing in their feeds, so that even once a connection has been facilitated, they can remain in touch past a thank-you email. Crabtree notes that when following up with intermediate connections and potential employers, it’s critical to follow up regardless of whether or not you get the job or internship you want. She advises students to show that they’re already contributing by sharing articles or ideas that are relevant to their potential employer’s field.

• • •

Ultimately, however, as students seek to navigate the digital job market, the number one thing to keep in mind is authenticity. As information becomes increasingly accessible and the lines between personal and professional continue to blur, it’s up to students to be both strategic and honest about the information they choose to advertise. But given that 1 in 5 people are engaging social media to find a job, both employers and candidates enter into an unwritten contract that whatever they put online must remain true in person. ﹥