There are many reasons why you would put yourself out on the job market again. Relocation is one of them or perhaps you’ve been at your firm for a while and would like a new challenge. Or the dream of your own solo practice turned out to be more difficult than you thought and now want to get into (or back into) a law firm environment. As you contemplate different reasons why you need to accept that things have changed. There is always the advantage of knowing people and more importantly, people knowing you. But what if this is a new geographic location or you’ve never been in the legal firm environment? Coming in “cold” means that the ones doing the hiring have to be convinced that you are the one they need to bring on board. More and more the way to do that is through your social media activity. What will convince them?
- Who you are? Beyond your name you are a full package including appearance. If someone Goggled your name what would the results reveal? What images or photos would be displayed on that first page of Google or Bing search results? Do you look professional? Do you look like an attorney? Do you look like the attorneys already working in that law firm?
- Who do you know? In this digital age more important than your online identity is your digital identity – your connections. Whether its LinkedIn connections, Facebook friends, Twitter followers, two things to keep in mind. One is the numbers of these contacts and two is the value of these contacts. Having 500 LinkedIn connections gives one impression. Having 10 LinkedIn connections that include top law partners from top big law firms or top experts in their fields give another. Review your contacts. Who are they? What does being affiliated with them mean? Are they relevant to your industry or legal practice area?
- What do you know? Skills, qualifications, expertise. Just listing them on a resume (or LinkedIn profile) is not enough. How else are you participating in the online social world? Do you blog? Do you comment on other blogs? Do others cite you as a subject matter expert? Are any of your briefs online? Are you asked to speak at conferences, CLE sessions, the ABA Techshow? Have you received any awards or been recognized in any of the legal communities? You might be tempted to list a Klout or Kred score here (social scoring tools that still haven’t proven their validity) but don’t. Instead of providing an opportunity for doubt, use credible sources to offer recommendations, endorsements and/or references about your work ethic, skills, etc. Do not forget that your communication skills (written and oral) are of extreme interest to these potential employers – typos are a no-no and pay attention to details. Do you have any videos of your public speaking?
- Will you fit in? This is one of the most important points for employers. They want to hire someone who can incorporate into a team that is already working. The team and the firm has a culture, a work ethic, a style, and a process in getting things done. What you post online (eve a simple photo of you at a BBQ or company picnic) can say a lot about how you get along with others – or don’t – if you are a team player or a loner, if you like certain locations or not, etc. Fitting in can go beyond skills – volunteer and community work, hobbies, interests outside of the law can also be used as evidence to determine whether you can be one of them.
- Are you trouble? Recent studies say that the majority of employers usually do not hire candidates who have inappropriate photos or posts online, such as those that relate to alcohol, drugs, or discrimination (age, gender, race, etc.). Also be careful about posting complaints against co-workers, other attorneys, clients, etc. What goes online, stays online, and those complaints can come back and bite you later. Employers can be held liable for an employee’s action in some cases where they should have known better than to hire that person because of readily available negative public information.
I put those out with a word of caution. We know that there are a number of states that have passed legislation regarding Internet privacy and social media account protection for employees and job candidates. So most firms can only make a hiring decision based on legally acquired information – most of the time that means information that is public and not hidden behind a password or other kind of privacy protection.
That being said there is nothing to stop a hiring manager to Google your name or search you on social media accounts and review what shows up publicly. Also we usually want them to review our LinkedIn accounts since we set that up for professional reasons. So be smart about managing your online identity every step of the way and think before you post. And post to strategically promote your brand – YOU.
Two great resources with statistics relating to this issue:
- What Employers Want to See on Your Social Media (April, 2015), www.thirdparent.com
- Number of Employers Passing on Applicants Due to Social Media Posts Continues to Rise, According to New CareerBuilder Survey (June, 2014) www.careerbuilder.com