Are you on LinkedIn? If not, you should be. With over 590 million members worldwide, LinkedIn is the most trusted professional networking platform. In today’s modern job market, it is an essential tool for job seekers looking to gain an edge.
There is no shortage of great articles online ranging from how to create a compelling LinkedIn profile to how to develop your professional network. Both of which are important topics — but in this post, I’m going focus on how job seekers can use LinkedIn as a powerful research tool to refine their resume and cover letter before applying to a job.
Whether you are a student looking for an internship or a recent graduate searching for your ideal job, here are four bits of advice that can help you stand out.
Company Overview: How to research an organization faster
Company profile pages often go underutilized, but they offer an excellent overview of an organization. LinkedIn allows companies to create a customized landing page that gives visitors a succinct summary of the company’s history as well as relevant details such as the industry the company operates in, office locations, stock symbol, affiliated businesses, news feed of latest posts and more. By no means should this be the only website used when conducting company research but it is a great starting point.
Using LinkedIn as an example, the “Life” tab shows a more human side of the company with employee perspective snippets, photos of their office space, details about diversity initiatives and even company hashtags (#LinkedInLife and #InItTogether). Finding a way to incorporate or reference some of these details in your cover letter or during an interview helps to show that you understand the organization’s history and values.
Bonus Tip: For more in-depth company research UTM students can take advantage of FactSet which can also be accessed in the Li Koon Chun Finance Learning Centre (FLC). The snapshot section provides a description of the business, or check out the other tabs and dive into their financial performance.
The Ideal Candidate: How to identify and correct skill gaps before applying
Who are these ‘”other candidates”?! What do they have that I don’t?
If you’ve ever received a generic email like this from some automated recruiting inbox, I can relate. In my second year, I applied to more jobs than I’d like to admit and received a lot of rejection emails just like this one. It was frustrating, to say the least. Even worse, being left in the dark as to where I fell short made improving that much harder. Although empathizing with the recruiters, it would be extremely difficult to meaningfully respond to each and every applicant that applied to a role.
For that reason, I started the practice of following up a few months after a job posting had closed to check LinkedIn for a person or people who had updated their title to the position I previously applied. I’d highly recommend this as a way of identifying potential skill gaps and areas of opportunity such as work experience, volunteering, extracurricular, training, skills and interests. It serves as a bit of a roadmap for what areas I needed work on in order to be more competitive in my job search.
Bonus Tip: Excuse the cliché but be yourself. Still find a way to use your unique experiences and skills to differentiate yourself.
Job Expectations: How to read between the lines of job postings
I’ve read through hundreds of job postings on the Career Learning Network (CLN). And after a while, the job requirements and duties wording often felt generic or vague. From a hiring manager perspective, it might be to safeguard sensitive company information or maybe because it would be too overwhelming to explain the many nuances of the role. As a third tip, here’s how LinkedIn can be used to read between the lines and gain some additional context about a role before applying.
Below I’ve listed out an excerpt from a real job posting for a Marketing Manager position and contrasted it with the experiences of a LinkedIn user who holds a comparable role at the same company. For brevity, I’ve omitted some of the additional bullet points, but it should be enough to get an understanding of what the position entails. Comparing the two we can get a sense of what responsibilities are held to greater importance or gain some additional insight into the job:
Marketing Manager – Key Responsibilities [From the Company’s Job Site]
- Ensure end-to-end execution of plan occurs flawlessly, on time and on budget
- Monitor daily performance of portfolios against targets. Identify and address any performance/competitor gaps
- Lead cross-functional teams in the execution of marketing plans/programs and oversee the implementation of the product marketing plan
Marketing Manager – Experiences [From LinkedIn Profile Page]
- Manage relationships with new external partners (including agencies) and create processes for improved communication
- Evaluate sales channel opportunities to drive results
- Liaise with product marketing, regional sales managers and legal counsel to ensure the accurate representation of products in all communications
From the example above, the job posting mentioned that the role involves leading “cross-functional teams in the execution of marketing plans.” It is worth highlighting that the experience section from the LinkedIn profile goes into specifics with the exact teams: product marketing, regional sales, and legal. In practice, this could be an excellent opportunity to show in your cover letter or during an interview that you have some legal experience which would make it easier for you to collaborate with this group. A seemingly minor detail but it demonstrates thoughtful research into a role.
Bonus Tips: If you notice a significant gap in what is written in a job posting versus a person’s experiences on LinkedIn that could be a potential warning flag – although job duties are subject to change for various reasons.
Effective Engagement: How to connect to the right people
Lastly, LinkedIn really is a powerful social platform that can be used to sort through millions of professionals efficiently. Generally speaking, most companies will have recruiters or HR Professionals who are often open to answering your questions or even meeting for coffee to get to know you. I’ve commonly asked about the company culture or to whom I should direct my cover letter.
Alternatively, consider using the search filters to refine your query by “school.” It’s a fast and effective way to find University of Toronto alumni that work at your target company who might be able to answer some of your questions before applying.
Bonus Tip: Take control of your LinkedIn privacy setting and choose who can see your activity on LinkedIn. This can be done by: Clicking your LinkedIn Profile Icon > Setting & Privacy > How others see your LinkedIn Activity > Share job changes, education changes, and work anniversaries from profile.
And there you have it! Four tips I’ve personally found to be helpful to make the most of LinkedIn during my job searches. If you have other LinkedIn or job-hunting tips, please leave a comment below and help out your fellow job seekers.
B.B.A., Class of 2018