Category Archives: Recruiting

Building Your Brand: Social Media and Your Career

I recently had the opportunity to speak at the Raleigh Convention Center as part of the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Network 2019 Conference. I was one of three speakers leading a breakout session on “Building Your Brand”. I addressed how companies are using social media to evaluate candidates for employment. Below are snippets from my 10-minute TED-style talk. If you are interested in understanding how an employer might view your online presence, take a moment to google yourself and then contact me to learn how you can use social media in your career in a positive way.

In October, a Texas company publicly shamed a female candidate by sharing her bikini picture on Instagram. They said that it was a public service announcement to other candidates of what not to share on social media if you want a “professional job”. While the company rightfully received considerable backlash for how they handled this situation, there is an important lesson in here for all of us.

Prior to transitioning to career coaching, I was a recruiter for 18 years. In preparation for today, in addition to using my own experience, I reached out to several other recruiters and HR professionals to better understand the role that social media plays in how companies view and assess your candidacy. Whether the social search is part of a formal or informal hiring process or out of natural curiosity, you can be sure that someone is looking. The question is, what are the looking for?

Among the recruiters and HR professionals I connected with the level of digging ran the gamut from casual google searches out of curiosity to in-depth deep dives through like & follow history.

  • When I asked whether or not companies had formal social media policies, more often than not I found that companies do not have a formal process outlining:
    • what should be searched
    • when a search is conducted or who is responsible for conducting a search
    • what they do with the information they find
  • A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management unveiled that 57% of companies do not have a policy relating to screening potential employees’ social media.
    • If they have one, the social media review policy would define both what the employer is and is not looking for in reviewing social media. For example, a company might include a search for negative postings about past employers, material relating to alcohol or drug abuse, crime, dishonesty, etc.
  • Many in HR will not check social media until the candidate has signed off on the background check because of concerns about discrimination based on the information they now know about a candidate from seeing them online. It is illegal under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and discrimination laws to use the information found to discriminate against someone because of a protected class. If the information is related to religion, race, gender or another protected class, employers need to be careful before using it as the basis of an employment decision.
  • At the other end of the spectrum are the recruiters who said that checking is part of their MO. Recruiters in this camp will tell you that social media history is one of the most effective ways for a company to get a truly honest snapshot into who a candidate is as a person, and whether or not they are a “cultural fit” with the organization.
  • And if it’s not the recruiters, it’s hiring managers. According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, 70% of employers are using social media to screen candidates during the hiring process. Of those who conduct social media screening of candidates, 57% say they discovered content that caused them not to hire a candidate.

First, let’s talk about why they are looking. Several reasons:

  • It’s a great way to find candidates, especially in a competitive job market. In fact, more than 70% of the global workforce are passive candidates. It’s our job to find you. And not just on LinkedIn. One recruiter that I spoke with recently found a candidate on Instagram. She said sliding into people’s DMs is part of her job.
  • Your social media can give a recruiter a more accurate or complete picture of who you are when you aren’t trying to be perfect on your resume and in an interview.
  • They want to know if your brand matches theirs and if you’ll be an advocate for the company. When you work for a company, you become a walking piece of marketing collateral for the company and ambassadors of the brand.
  • Your posts tell me something about your judgment. Employers want to hire someone who has strong decision-making skills and good judgment and ethics. Is what you post how you will behave on the job, at a meeting or on a client’s site? Will you potentially be disruptive to the work environment or create a potential liability for the company? Do you understand what types of content are appropriate for different types of social media accounts?

Let’s dive into things that companies care about.

  • Drug use, heavy drinking, sexually offensive materials, violent imagery or anything else that reflects poorly on the applicant, especially discriminatory comments related to race, gender, religion or other sensitive issues.
    • A few years ago, we did not move forward with a candidate because of an excessive number of pictures of drinking/partying on her social media. She was going to be the assistant to a senior partner and communicating with clients on his behalf. If I could easily find these pictures, so could our clients. Right or wrong, the partner did not want those images to be a reflection of him or the services provided by our company.
    • When it comes to drinking (images of taking shots, drunk on spring break, passed out), the concern is how you will conduct yourself, especially if your role involves travel for work, attending conferences or working on a client site. How will you conduct yourself in those places – will you harm the company’s reputation or hurt a relationship with a client?
    • I’ve been involved in 2 situations in which we had concerns about the safety of our employees based on the number of images of guns and gun-related violence on their social media.
  • Bad-mouthing previous employer or fellow employees.
  • Lying about qualifications.
  • Poor communication skills
    • I once passed on a candidate because of the quality of her writing on her Facebook page.
  • Links to criminal behavior.
    • This is where it can get tricky for an employer if someone googles a candidate’s name before a background check is run and/or someone outside of HR becomes aware of this information and passes judgment on a candidate before they should or in a situation where that criminal behavior may not be relevant to the job they are being hired for.
  • Sharing confidential information from previous employers.
  • Unprofessional screen name or handle – I have passed on candidates for this before.
  • Posting too frequently. Will you spend your workday posting online?

So, what do we do when we find something that concerns us?

  • In a number of situations, there’s a broader conversation between HR, recruiting and the hiring manager. From an HR perspective, we need to make sure that we are not potentially discriminating against candidates and making sure that we are treating all candidates equally (meaning a hiring manager can’t look at one finalist on Instagram but not another).
    • If the information comes up as part of a background check covered by the Fair Credit Reporting Act, then we need to give the person a copy of the information, say it was the basis of our decision, and allow them to correct or clarify. But it does not mean that we have to hire the person.
  • Often hiring managers/recruiters will just decide not to move forward and the candidate never knows that they didn’t get the job because of something found on social media. If the information is not subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, then the employer does not need to share the information with the candidate.  
  • Sometimes, companies will ask for another interview for a candidate who is otherwise a great – this interview is focused on cultural fit.

If you think you can let your guard down once you’re employed, that’s not necessarily the case. In the CareerBuilder survey, half of employers surveyed monitor the social media activities of current employees. This has resulted in disciplinary action, either terminating or reprimanding an employee.

So, does this mean you shouldn’t have an online presence?

Absolutely not. We know that you are human and have a life outside of work. And social media can be a great way to find a job. Most of us, assuming we have a LinkedIn profile, have been approached by recruiters about job opportunities. In fact, 31% of all hires are proactively sourced. We want you to have social media so we can find you. 1 in 5 employers expect candidates to already have an online presence and nearly half of hiring managers say they are less likely to screen an applicant if they can’t find them online.

You can use social media in a positive way by:

  • Providing information that supports your qualifications
  • Showing your creativity, especially if you are working in a creative field
  • Conveying a professional image
  • Sharing your wide range of interests
  • Aligning yourself with the values of a positive company culture
  • Using strong writing skills
  • Sharing awards and accolades
  • Asking others to write recommendations for you on LinkedIn
  • Interacting with a company’s social media

The best strategy is to be vigilant about what you post online and to monitor when others are tagging you in their posts.

  • Keep it PG-rated – you don’t know how people will feel about profanity, politics, drug use (even if legal in some states), religion and guns.
  • What do you find when you google your name? Who can see your social media accounts? Are you connected to co-workers or potential future co-workers? You don’t want to share information that’s too personal or deceitful, such as photos of you living it up while you’re supposedly out of the office sick.
  • Post work-related content – with the use of technology and how it’s blurring the lines between work/life, think about how you can incorporate a positive work image into your social media such as attending conferences and participating in a company-sponsored event. These things send a positive message about how you will behave as an employee.

As long as you are purposeful and aware of what you are sharing online, you shouldn’t have to worry about your candidacy for jobs or keeping a job you enjoy.

Tell Me About Yourself…

I know what you are thinking – do I have to? Yes, you do because in all likelihood, you’ll be asked this question numerous times during the interview process. In most initial interviews, it’s the default launching point and nailing this question goes a long way towards creating a spark with the interviewer, getting them onboard with the idea that you could be a great fit and ultimately, moving you forward in the process. This is also a question that gets asked and answered in networking situations so it’s important that you nail this one.

As a recruiter, I can’t count the number of times that I’ve asked this or the number of  candidates who have been ill-prepared to answer it. A few tips and things to remember when you ultimately must tackle it:

  • Don’t wing it. Practice (out loud) what you are going to say in advance. You don’t want to stumble over your words while you make it up on the spot.
  • Don’t recite your resume. This takes way too long and goes into way too much detail for what should be a relatively high-level answer. Average time to shoot for: 2 minutes. Any longer and the interviewer has likely zoned out.
  • Personalize it Part 1. You are not a robot. The recruiter or hiring manager genuinely wants to get to know you. Consider mentioning a hobby or community involvement. You never know which detail will be the one to build that connection but doing your homework on the interviewer will help. You can bet that if I’m interviewing someone and they make a connection with me about Boston, Colby College, educational access or hot yoga, my ears perk up.
  • Personalize it Part 2. Your answer should be customized for the role and company. When preparing what you’re going to say, go back and look at the job description. Which skills/attributes are highlighted? Be sure to speak to these things in your answer.
  • Past, present, future. Consider this simple format for telling your story. Take the interviewer on a journey with you – where have you been, what are your biggest accomplishments/achievements, what crossroads are you at now and where do you want to go? Some questions to ask yourself as you piece this story together (because you’ve promised me that you aren’t going to wing it!):
    • What have I done?
    • What am I passionate about?
    • What did I learn, develop or accomplish?
    • What am I interested in doing next?
    • Why did I take that particular step/make that move?
    • Why am I sitting here today?

While it might change slightly from situation to situation, here’s how I’m currently structuring mine: I have almost 20 years of experience managing recruiting and HR programs for a variety of industries – legal, non-profit, consulting and financial services. Across all of my recruiting roles, I’ve focused on helping hiring managers to identify best fit candidates for roles from entry-level to c-suite. After moving from Boston to Raleigh 6 years ago, I decided that I wanted to stretch myself outside of corporate recruiting and use my skills in evaluating candidates in a new arena so I joined the admissions committee at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. Today, I use my background in recruiting and admissions (and the knowledge of knowing what hiring managers, recruiters and admissions officers are and are not looking for) combined with my passion for working one-on-one with people (most HR people will tell you they are part therapist) to now help my clients put their best foot forward when applying to college or grad school or approaching the job search process.

Need help developing yours? Drop me a note at



13 things you must do to stand out in today’s competitive job market

There are many things that make living in North Carolina hard to beat. People are right to tout the limitless outdoor activities, the near perfect climate and the booming economy. But another thing that sets North Carolina apart from many other states is the sheer number of world-class colleges & universities the state is home to. From time to time, I am fortunate enough to partner with these schools in a professional capacity.

I was recently asked to participate on a panel and conduct mock interviews at the Master of Quantitative Management program at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke. This ten-month business analytics program was introduced at Fuqua this year. It is designed for college graduates with strong quantitative backgrounds and provides training in analytics and communication within the context of finance, marketing, forensics or strategy. The objective is to prepare students for a career in data-based problem solving.

Panelists represented a variety of companies including Stealz, Lenovo, Data Blueprint and LivingLab. While the companies represented a wide range of sizes, industries and locations, some common themes emerged:

  • Startups and smaller companies place a premium on transferable skills. Given their size, these companies often require employees to wear multiple hats. Therefore, they seek candidates who can demonstrate agility.
  • One size does not fit all. Candidates must write targeted cover letters and resumes for the job they want.
  • Make the top third to half of the resume and cover letter count as the recruiter or hiring manager may not have the luxury of reading to the end.
  • Apply early. Recruiters review the early submissions and only go back to review more if they don’t find who they are looking for.
  • Expect some kind of case exercise during the interview process. Hiring managers want to know how candidates will handle real life situations, on the fly. They are looking for insight into your reasoning and problem-solving capabilities.
  • Candidates need to anticipate behavioral-based interview questions. Therefore, they must be prepared to share examples to highlight competencies. This requires a thorough understanding of the role and the position description.
  • Passion! Hiring managers are seeking candidates who are passionate about their company and are looking for genuine alignment with the company’s values.
    • SAS even has a separate values interview conducted by a group of people from across the company who demonstrate those values.

Most of the conversation at the event revolved around the importance of building a network and utilizing referrals, which is something that I’ve written about previously in How Kevin Bacon will help you find your next job. Across the board, panelists agreed that referral candidates get extra attention and are sent to the front of the line.

The room, made up largely of students with fewer than six months experience, wondered, “how do I build a network if I don’t have any real work experience yet?” Many international students also expressed concern over not having a deep network in the U.S.

  • The consensus of the panel members was:
    • Identify where you are likely to meet your target network. Attend conferences, meet-up groups and networking events.
    • Don’t blindly send out a LinkedIn request. Find common connections, organizations or interests. Use those as the basis for building a relationship.
    • Recognize that networks are a two-way street. When connecting, think about what you have to offer the other person.
    • Look to your left. Build relationships with those around you. Utilize your undergrad and graduate school alumni networks.
    • Devour your passion. Comment, like and share white papers and blog posts. Compliment the writer.
    • Pursue extracurriculars related to your interests.

The representative from LivingLab mentioned that he doesn’t think the company has hired anyone who is not a referral. If you didn’t think referrals were important before, I hope you do now!

The professionals who participated on the Fuqua MQM panel represented organizations of all shapes and sizes. But the common messages were loud and clear: Be versatile. No one knows what business challenges we will face tomorrow. Be direct. You can’t assume the person reading your cover letter or resume will eventually get to what makes you extraordinary. So lead with it. Cultivate your network. Cast a wide net, but do so deliberately. And engage with your connections. Lastly, let your network know who you are. Show them what you are passionate about and why it makes you both more interesting and valuable.

Top 10 Resume Tips Recruiters Wish They Could Actually Give You

I review hundreds of resumes per week and spend additional time getting my clients’ resumes in tip-top shape for master’s programs and job applications. Here are my 10 recommendations:

  1. Quantify, quantify, quantify. I will sound like a broken record with this one. Numbers make a recruiter or hiring manager stop skimming and pay attention. Numbers provide context and show impact. Speaking of numbers…
  2. Update your resume regularly. Even if you aren’t looking for a job. Do you know how hard it is to remember how many interns you managed in the summer of 2012? Or by what % you increased revenue in FY2014? When you are completing your mid or end-of-year review, copy some of those great stats into your resume. It doesn’t have to be nicely formatted or worded, just get the content (and numbers) down on paper. Your 2019 self will thank you!
  3. So what? You are telling your story in bullet points. Sometimes, I read them and think, “so what?” Yes, you did a thing; but more importantly, did this thing have impact? Don’t forget to include that part. You analyzed something? Great. But what happened as a result? That’s what I really want to know.
  4. 1 page is enough. 15+ years into your career, I’ll cut you some slack. Otherwise, I promise, 1 is enough. If your bullet points are quantified and show impact, you can get all that great content on 1 page. 2 easy cuts?
    • All of those characteristics (team player, driven, strong communication skills) that you list about yourself at the top of your resume. Honestly, I don’t read them. Let those things shine through in the bullet points, cover letter and in your interview. Who’s going to say they have poor communication skills anyway?
    • Eliminate “a, an, the” from your bullet points.
  5. Don’t use 8-point font. My eyes hurt. And there are likely so many words on the page that I can’t figure out which end is up. So, I give up.
  6. Keep it simple people. Unless you are in a creative field, for me, simpler is better. Personally, I’m not a fan of graphics or complicated layouts. Don’t shoot the messenger.
  7. Include months. Otherwise, someone might think you are trying to hide a gap. P.S. Don’t hide a gap. But be prepared to address it.
  8. Frontload your bullets. I know you worked really hard on your resume. I do. But I’ll be honest, recruiters are skimming it. Tailor your first few bullets under each job to speak to the needs outlined in the job description (Wordle can help) and to highlight your greatest accomplishments. The recruiter may not make it to the last one.
  9. What’s in a name? Sometimes, it’s hard to understand what someone has done if they use a lot of industry jargon or if the company at which they worked is not well recognized. Consider adding a line that explains what the company does. If your industry jargon doesn’t translate to the next company or job, dumb it down for us so we can better understand what you did and how that translate to this new job.
  10. Tell me something personal. Especially if you are applying to an MBA program. Let’s be honest, it’s fun to learn about people. That’s why I’m in this business. If you are including a personal section at the bottom, draw me in. Top 3 things I see: cooking, travel and running. I love all of those things so I’m not telling you to find new hobbies. But spice it up. How about: pad thai fanatic, sea kayaking in the Baja, 3 Boston Marathons and counting. WAY more exciting, right?

Most of these are simple fixes that make tons of impact. Do it. Now. Need help? You can find me at

How Kevin Bacon will help you find your next job

Everyone knows the phrase “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” But have you ever actually played? I hadn’t until my husband suggested the title of this blog and we went to How hard could it be to name an actor more than two degrees separated from Kevin Bacon? The answer: really hard. The man is REALLY well connected.

We all don’t work in Hollywood so maybe Kevin Bacon might not actually help you find your next job but your network will.

As a recruiter, I’m often asked where my best hires come from. IBM? Goldman Sachs? Google? Close. Referrals. And I’m not alone. In a 2015 study by Jobvite, 78 percent of the 1400 recruiters surveyed said they found their best quality candidates through referrals. This is up from 60 percent in 2014. The study also shows that the proportion of candidates hired through a referral is about 40 percent, which seems a little high but is still relatively consistent with what I’ve seen at some of the companies that I’ve recruited for.

Your network is not just your friends, college roommates and former colleagues. It’s friends of friends, current roommates of your college roommates and colleagues of former colleagues. If you find a job that really interests you, it’s easy enough to go onto LinkedIn to see who you might be connected to, even if it’s not a 1st degree connection. Ask for an introduction. Grab coffee. Learn more. Become a referral.

Get noticed

Recruiters find candidates through several different channels: social networks, direct applications, outside agencies, former interns and job boards. Some openings get more than 250 applications and each resume gets approximately 6 seconds of a recruiter’s time before a decision is made. Referrals, however, get preferential treatment. When a current employee or someone in our network shares a resume with me, that candidate goes to the front of the line. Their resume gets reviewed more quickly and thoroughly, they land a phone interview (even if they don’t look perfect on paper), they get a second look from the hiring manager.

Why? Because someone I trust – the referrer – has done the hard part for me: they have pre-qualified you and can speak to your fit in a way that I could never assess through a phone screen, let alone a scan of your resume.

Land the job more quickly

That trip to the front of the line also means that you might get hired more quickly. According that same Jobvite study, applicants hired from a referral begin their position more quickly than applicants found via job boards and career sites (after 29 days compared with 39 days via job boards and 55 via career sites).

Stick around

The last thing you want to do is start a job, end up unhappy and quickly be out on the job hunt again. Likewise, the company has already invested a lot in you and really wants this to work out. Unfortunately, roughly 1/3 of all new hires quit in the first six months. You are more likely to remain with your next company if you’ve arrived there via a referral. The Jobvite study tells us that referral hires have greater job satisfaction and stay longer at companies – 46% stay over 1 year (compared to 33% from career sites and 22% from job boards), 45% over 2 years (compared to 20% from job boards).

Why? Because you’re likely more knowledgeable about the company and therefore have made a more educated decision about whether the company is a good fit for you. That inside scoop from the referrer is one of the few opportunities that you have to get an honest assessment of a company’s culture and whether it’s an environment in which you will thrive. Having a connection in a new organization makes it easier to integrate and more quickly add value.

The payoff

The average referral bonus is between $1000 – $2500 per a survey by WorldatWork. A small price for a company to pay for a high-quality hire who is likely to start sooner and remain with the organization longer than a non-referred hire. So, work your network and let your friend (and new colleague) buy you dinner with their bonus. After all, earning it was easier than connecting Greta Garbo to Kevin Bacon (Greta Garbo was in Ninotchka with Tamara Shayne in 1939 who was in I Can Get It for You Wholesale with Edna Reiss Merin in 1951 who was in Enormous Changes at the Last Minute with Kevin Bacon in 1983).

For more on the power of your network: