Let’s begin by stating something totally obvious: social media gives us the chance to keep tabs on what everyone in our lives is doing, thinking, and feeling, all of the time. But let’s take that truth a step further to investigate the implications of this connectivity: platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram also place us closer to future employers than any generation has had the opportunity to be.
As I apply for jobs and watch those around me do the same, one overwhelming truth has asserted itself. It’s true that being qualified for a particular position and having relevant class and internship experience is helpful in proving that you will be a strong, valuable asset to whatever organization or company you would like to work for. But it’s also true that in the unfortunate reality of the current workplace, none of these qualifications matter if you’re unable to get employers to even glance at your application.
Online applications can be a beautiful thing—they’re easy to find, can be completed from anywhere, and can be finished and submitted in minutes without ever leaving your couch. The consequential downfall to this accessibility is that it makes it easier for everyone to complete them, and this influx of applications makes it ever easier for yours to get lost in the clutter.
But never fear! This is where the power of social media can help turn the odds of getting hired back in your favor. If you’re looking to get hired in a highly competitive field, like journalism, public relations, or event planning and coordination, using social media to follow companies in those fields can give you access to each company’s culture and goals. This can help you make more informed decisions about where you’d like to work, and which companies are more compatible with your personality and ultimate ideals.
But the most successful way to ensure that your application gets read by recruiters stems from a simple principle—people are more likely to hire people that they know. The trick is to get to know your interviewers before they receive your application, working a combination of online research and networking. Formally, this is called an informational interview.
To set up a successful informational interview, look up the website for the company you’re interested in working for and obtain the email address of the person in position to hire. Just about all companies feature a “Contact Us” section on its website, complete with names, titles, and emails of all higher-ups in the organization. With this contact information, type up a quick, to-the-point email (recruiters are busy; they don’t have time to sit and read lengthy, wordy notes) that contains a few key points:
- Always address the letter to someone in particular, NEVER “To Whom it May Concern.” You’re looking to meet with this specific person, so take the time to do your research about who is in charge.
- Introduce yourself. Tell him/her who you are, why you’re interested in the field, and how your prior experiences have piqued those interests.
- More specifically, include why you’d like to speak to that individual person. If you’re emailing a journalist, cite articles that they’ve written as a jumping-off point for your conversation. If it’s a public relations or marketing professional, talk about the work they’ve done on a certain campaign. Be able to demonstrate how an interview with this person will be the most beneficial for you.
Though this may seem like a shot in the dark, recruiters will always appreciate some hard-thought effort. Personally, I’ve sent out seven emails requesting informational interviews, and I’ve only been turned down or ignored once.
Once you’ve scheduled the interview, come prepared to meet with thoughtful, engaging questions that serve the dual benefit of obtaining important information about the function of the company and introducing yourself and your skill set to this potential employer. Keep your tone as conversational as possible, but remember to convey your genuine interest in the opportunities available. The ultimate goal of these interviews is simple: you’re getting a leg up on the rest of the applicants for any position by making yourself memorable to the people who will be blindly forced to evaluate hundreds of applications.
Keep these tips in mind:
- Plan a clear agenda before the interview. Don’t expect to receive the information you want without asking the right questions!
- If it’s going well, ask for other contacts in the field. While you should constantly be mindful about respecting your interviewee’s time, they undoubtedly have access to a variety of contacts in the field. If you have questions that they, specifically, can’t answer, don’t hesitate to ask for alternative sources.
- Be prepared to answer precise questions about your job search, as well as your career goals. Prepare a short personal statement to make the process easier.
It’s an unpleasant truth that in today’s job market, a good resume stands a decent chance of never being read. When you make yourself stand out by using social media effectively and by making a concerted effort to reach out to employers first, they’ll be sure to “keep a special eye on” your application (an actual quote from an employer I contacted) when they catch it in the mix!
And remember—always, always, always follow up on the interview. Employers are not being paid to meet with you, and to find time in their hectic schedules to do so shouldn’t be taken for granted. Always send sincere thank-you notes within a week of the interview!
The informational interview is a useful tactic for a simple reason: many other people won’t go the extra mile to do it. But with these tips, we can put ourselves ahead of the rest and GET OURSELVES JOBS! You know why?