Monday 24 October 2016

The Eight New Rules for job-hunting in the digital age

Get your digital duster out to clean up all your social media profiles, avoid regurgitated cliche in your CV, and network, network, network

Published 19/10/2016 | 02:30

Minding your social networks is a prerequisite before going in search of a new job.
Minding your social networks is a prerequisite before going in search of a new job.
Vet your own social media presence - but also have a look at your potential employers' pages.

Gone are the days when job-hunting meant circling ads in the newspaper and preparing hardbound copies of your CV. Employers are now using algorithms to search LinkedIn, social media to screen candidates and video technology to interview them. It's a new world with new rules, so we asked the experts how to crack it.

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Many employers now use social media to screen job applicants. According to Richard N. Bolles, author of the best-selling book What Color is Your Parachute?: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers, applicants will be vetoed if their social media feed contains: "Bad grammar or gross misspelling on your Facebook or LinkedIn profile; anything indicating you lied on your resume; any badmouthing of previous employers; any signs of racism, prejudice, or screwy opinions about stuff; anything indicating alcohol or drug abuse; and any - to put it delicately - inappropriate content.''

2. Background checks are a two-way street

Vet your own social media presence - but also have a look at your potential employers' pages.
Vet your own social media presence - but also have a look at your potential employers' pages.

The age of transparency also allows job-seekers to conduct background checks on potential employers. provides information on salaries and anonymous ratings from past and current employees. Job-hunters can also use social media to research the people who will be interviewing them and LinkedIn to find former employees of the organisation. Don't be afraid to contact them to find out about the company culture. At worst, they can only say 'no'.

3. Upgrade your LinkedIn profile

Research shows that adding a professional photograph to your LinkedIn page will make your profile 14 times more likely to be found, while LinkedIn members with 'listed skills' get 13 times more views (it has to do with the algorithm that some recruiters use to find candidates). As to the question of whether or not you need a LinkedIn page, Dublin-based career coach Paul Mullan of Measurability ( says it has to do with the industry you're targeting. "Any salesperson who's not on LinkedIn is not selling. Likewise, if you're going for a role in digital marketing and you don't have a Twitter handle, they'll wonder if you really know the digital space."

4. Don't confuse quantity with quality

Online job searching allows us to fire off any number of CVs with relative ease. However, according to Steve Dalton, author of The 2-Hour Job Search, job-seekers can easily confuse quantity with quality, especially when trying to justify their job-hunting efforts to a loved one. "They're job searching not for success but for stats. How many resumes did you submit today? How many hours did you spend? To me, that's devastating because people are trying to win social proof through their efforts rather than actually be successful."

Dublin-based career consultant Andree Harpur ( is of a similar opinion: "Instead of taking the buckshot approach, do more research and send out less CVs. Relevance is key. Target your CV, perhaps by alluding to a future project that the company is engaging in. This proves that you are invested in the company. Six relevant, targeted applications is better than 50 generalised ones."

5. Prepare for Skype interviews

With more and more companies using video technology like Skype to conduct interviews, it's important to become au fait with the software beforehand. Rehearsing with a friend in advance of the interview is helpful. Set up your laptop in an area of the house where there is a neutral, blank wall as a background, and make sure you have good audio quality. It's also a good idea to keep notes to hand, but off-camera.

Phone interviews are also becoming popular as a screening method, adds Mullan. "People think phone interviews are easier but they're actually harder because there's no body language, which is 55 per cent of our total communication. So you really have to work on your tone of voice and delivery."

Harpur agrees. "Try to build a rapport with them before they start asking questions. A little bit of small talk goes a long way. Also, a lot of these interviewers tend to be American so speak slowly and pause at the end of each sentence. Otherwise they can have difficulty understanding the accent."

6. Cover letters are generally a waste of time

Mullan says recruiters are generally far too busy to read cover letters, not least because they tend to be riven with "regurgitated cliche". "They generally read like a court summons - 'I am herewith applying...' If you did a survey of recruiters and asked them how many read the cover letter, I'd say it's one or two per cent. Some people love them - and some people specifically request them - but it's a very small percentage. If you're going to write one, you want to stand out and not fit in. Be quirky and try to get your personality across."

7. CVs should be achievement-led, not action-led

The trick when penning a CV is to show and not tell, explains Mullan. "Don't tell me what you're hired to do. Tell me what you delivered in those roles. And don't use age-old clichés like 'I'm a highly motivated team player who works on his own initiative.'" Remember, too, that people are busier than ever, and attention spans are shorter than ever. According to Mullan, CVs should be no longer than two pages, "whether you're a CEO or a graduate".

"Write it in such a way that you've made your impact by the first half of the first page," he adds. "If you haven't grabbed the reader in those first 10 seconds, you've lost them."

8. Network, network, network

More and more companies are coming to rely on internal referrals. Meanwhile, research suggests that the 'hidden jobs market' (jobs that aren't advertised) is widening. In other words, your job search should be proactive rather than passive. "If you wanted an electrician tomorrow, would you go online and Google or would you ask your friends? You'd ask your friends - companies are the same," says Mullan. "Sitting back and waiting for someone to find you is not job-hunting."

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