I met my current boss, Kathryn Minshew, while listening to her speak about her company, The Muse, at a conference. Well, we didn’t actually meet, as much as I saw her from afar (which I know sounds entirely too creepy) and decided I had to be a part of her mission.
I wasn’t really in job searching mode, so I had no resume or cover letter. Heck, I didn’t know if her company was hiring, yet alone hiring someone like me. I wanted to talk to her, but she was so bombarded by adoring fans after her speech that I couldn’t even introduce myself. So I decided to go the non-traditional route.
People often say that you can’t use social media to actually land a job, which is just false. I landed my job without a cover letter or resume—and even without a traditional job posting listed on a website. I wrote a message on LinkedIn (that I crafted in less than two minutes), and a month later I was hired.
The good news? You can do the same. Here’s how.
Do Your Research
Here’s the secret about researching a company, the people that work there, and the job opportunities it has available: It’s less about the actual research and more about showing you’ve done the research. Yes, you’ll learn things that will help you stand out, but employers take notice of candidates who show that they are really prepared. It leaves them impressed because you put in the time to learn (which, believe me, not everyone does).
I researched everything about The Muse and my now-boss until the point that I read a small article about her from a year prior that told me she was obsessed with food. That’s when I felt like I knew enough to reach out to her. (Related: The Ultimate Guide to Researching a Company Pre-Interview)
See if You Have Connections, Then Use Them
Let’s not forget what a social network really is (beyond a way to spy on old high school friends): It’s about connecting with people. LinkedIn does a great job of helping you find and contact those connections, so the next step is to leverage them.
When you’ve found a hiring manager or cool contact you want to meet, look to see if you have a mutual connection, and ask for an introduction. If you have second or third connections, sniff them out a bit more and see what you may have in common. For example, I happened to discover that the CEO of my old company was connected with my future boss. So, when I sent her a message, I made sure to mention our mutual connection early on. It added validation (hey, I know a CEO!), it let her know I had done my research (see Point #1), and it let her know I wasn’t just spamming her.
Stand Out (in a Good Way)
Ever gotten a generic message from a random on LinkedIn? When I get one of those, it’s basically like the person is saying, “hey, we don’t know each other and you have no reason to get to know me, so go ahead and delete this.”
So, when reaching out to someone, personalize your message a bit. You don’t have to write the next great American novel, but try to be a little clever, sincere, or flattering. I wrote, “While slightly out of place, I attended the Women 2.0 conference yesterday with EatDrinkJobs and had the chance to see you pitch. I was blown away by you, your team, and most of all, your company.” (Related: 4 Ways to Reach Out to Someone You Admire on LinkedIn)
Show What You Can Do
When applying to jobs, we often forget that companies don’t hire people to just fill a role, they need people who are going to help the company. We get so obsessed talking about our qualifications that we forget to show how we can actually put them to work for our future employer.
For example, I could have said that I’m skilled in traditional marketing, copywriting, brand management, and email marketing, but that’s boring and doesn’t help anyone visualize me as an employee. Instead, I wrote, “I spent six years at Seamless.com, working closely with amazing leaders like Jason Finger (who you know well). I see such amazing potential in your company, and I would love to be a part of it in any way. My primary focus is marketing, with a lot of experience marketing to the same corporations and users you seem to be attracting. I’d love to tell you more about how my skill set could help you all reach and exceed your current growth goals.”
Keep it Short and Have a Call to Action
Nobody wants to read a long message, so keeping your note short and simple is generally the best way to go. My entire note was no more than 500 characters long. I didn’t waste time blowing smoke up her ass, asking whether she was hiring (if she wasn’t, she would either ignore me or tell me that anyway), or talking about myself.
The real key is to include a call to action. If you don’t know what you want, or make it clear, how will the person reading your note know how to respond? I ended by simply saying, “Congrats on all your current success. Again, I’d love to find a time to chat more about the company and tell you how I could help.”
My boss wrote me back to set up a time to talk, and within a month I was starting my new job. Bottom line? When people say you can’t get a job using social media, I laugh, because you can. Hey, I did.
Photo of phone courtesy of Twin Design.
Elliott Bell was formerly The Muse's Director of Marketing. He is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute, but opted for startups over 16-hour days as a line cook (for the better hours, of course). Previously, Elliott spent six years making Seamless.com into a nationally known brand, and one month as a culinary assistant on Iron Chef America. When he isn't working, he can be found playing tennis, making chicken stock, or understanding the meaning of rap lyrics on rapgenius.com.More from this Author