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Advice / Job Search / Interviewing

How Instagram Can Get You Ahead of the Competition to Land the Job

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“And I really love your company’s Taco Tuesdays celebrations,” I said. “It’s awesome that even in a fairly large company, you can have the CEO and CFO chowing on carne asada next to a marketing intern next to an engineer. Plus, tacos.”

The interviewer, who up until this point had been polite, but pretty reserved, suddenly lit up.

“I’m obsessed with Taco Tuesday,” she gushed. “When we hit our quarterly growth goal, management actually hired three different taco trucks to park outside the office. I ate so much I couldn’t look at shredded cabbage for months.”

After getting the interviewer to show some enthusiasm, it turned from the standard interrogation into a real conversation. When I sent her my thank you note, I included a couple taco places I wanted to try, and she responded with a taco bucket list of her own.

I landed that internship.

Oh, and that Taco Tuesday anecdote? Pretty sure none of the other candidates mentioned it. After all, it wasn’t on the company website, blog, or LinkedIn profile. One of the employees had posted it to Instagram.

Company Instagrams

By 2018, there will be 100 million Instagram accounts in the U.S. Like now, lots of those will be real people like you and me, lots of those will be brands, and lots of those will be companies. Just like AT&T has a normal Twitter account and an account for tweeting its employment opportunities, companies are increasingly turning to Instagram to promote their cultures and their open jobs.

But most job seekers aren’t using Instagram (for this purpose). Which is good news for you and me, because the insights we’ll glean from our target companies’ accounts will be insights our competition won’t have.

To get started, make a list of the companies to which you’re applying, or if you’re happily employed, the companies to which you could see yourself in the future. Then Google “company name” + “Instagram.” So if I wanted to someday work for Braintree, I’d Google “Braintree Instagram.” Simple! The company’s Instagram account is the first result in Google.

Employee Instagrams

Even if a company doesn’t have its own Instagram, that doesn’t mean you’re out of business. Use LinkedIn or the company’s “Team” page to find four or five employee names. Then, Google “employee name” + “Instagram.” (Noticing a trend?) It may take you a couple tries to find an employee who’s got a public account, but once you do, you’re golden. Scroll through his or her feed to find work-related shots.

From here, you can also find other employees. Suppose the first person has a group shot of the company at its last happy hour. Check who’s tagged, and then start exploring their profiles. Just make sure not to accidentally “like” anything that was posted a long time ago. Everyone likes an enthusiast; no one likes a stalker.

If you’re really lucky, someone will have taken a picture in the company office and geotagged that location.

For example, GrubHub uploaded this picture of an April Fools prank and set the location to “GrubHub World Headquarters.”

When you click on the geotag, you can see all the pictures that have been taken in the office—now you’ve got a sneak peek into GrubHub’s culture.

What to Look For

Whenever I scroll through the feeds of a company or its employees, I look for trends. While browsing all the Braintree-related shots, I noticed that at least once a month, the team had some sort of celebration. Bouldering outings, boozy game nights, on-site petting zoos—it became clear that not only is Braintree’s staff a creative group, but they also really like to spend time together.

After checking out Dropbox’s Instagram feed, I learned its team members marched in both the San Francisco and Dublin Pride parades during Pride Month. That not only tells me that the company is pretty progressive, but also that it actively takes part in the community.

All the pictures Mailchimp posts are beautifully styled and shot. Its account is more like an art portfolio than a traditional Instagram. I wouldn’t normally consider an email marketing service to be super artsy—but clearly, the company cares about aesthetics.

Using This Info

Once you’ve spent some time on the company’s Instagram page, you can use what you’ve learned in two ways.

First, you can figure out if you’re a good fit.

Maybe you drink about once a year, but you notice that every team event is super boozy. You might want to factor that into your decision. Or perhaps you’re a huge video game nerd, and you get really excited to see all the employees like to play Mario Kart as a stress-reliever. In general, you should literally try to imagine yourself in those pictures. If you see yourself fitting right in, that’s a good sign.

The second use is during the interview. Almost every hiring manager will ask, “Why do you want to work at this company?”

Rather than saying something generic like, “Your commitment to excellence aligns with my own work ethic,” use what you’ve learned on Instagram!

You’ve already heard my Taco Tuesday anecdote, but that’s definitely not the only time I’ve used this technique.

For another position I applied for, I looked up a lot of the company’s employees on Instagram and saw that a couple months ago, the CEO had spontaneously left Starbucks gift cards on the desks of every single worker in both office locations.

So I said:

“I’d love to work at your company because even though it’s grown pretty large, I can see it’s held on to that supportive, small-team vibe. I really like that management treats everyone with appreciation and recognition—like when they surprised everyone with Starbucks gift cards!”

As you can guess, that answer—and the research it involved—impressed the hiring manager.

(Check out more ways to answer that question here.)

As a job candidate, it’s always hard to stand out—but with this strategy, you’ll be well on your way to rocking the interview and landing the job.