Social Proof: A Job Seeker’s Secret Weapon

Most job seekers are leaving one of their most powerful tools unused on the table. Social proof such as recommendations on social mediacan convince employers to trust you, believe you – and hire you.

Why do you need social proof in job search?

When a job posting brags that the company has “a very inclusive culture” and “great work-life balance,” you take it with a grain of salt, right? Sure. And that’s the same way they take those statements on your resume (and in your interviews) about being “collaborative” or “an inspiring leader.”

“Says you,” they think. “But why should I take your own word for it?”

It’s just human nature: we know companies and people may have inflated opinions of themselves. We’re more convinced by what others say about them.

This is especially the case in today’s “review culture,” where we often check reviews before choosing a dentist, a tax accountant, and so on.

“Isn’t that what references are for?”

Not exactly. Usually, references aren’t checked until the employer has already decided to make an offer. They don’t help you get to that point.

Smart use of social proof can help you sail past the application to an initial phone screening, and then onward through your interviews right into your new job.

How can you use social proof to land interviews and a job?

Start with your LinkedIn profile. Request Recommendations from past and current colleagues, partners and customers. Aim for at least one or two for every job you’ve held, and the more the merrier. Strive for quality as well as quantity. And don’t confuse recommendations with the numbers in your Skills and Endorsements section. Those are good too, but not as valuable as Recommendations that vouch for your strengths and accomplishments. Here are just a few reasons why Recommendations are so powerful:

Having more Recommendations (and having keywords within them) also increases your search rankings. Recruiters often search LinkedIn for candidates, and LinkedIn’s developers know those recruiters want candidates whose colleagues think highly of them.

It’s also important to have a sufficiently large network, especially if being well-connected is considered important in your occupation. Look at how many connections other successful people in your field have. Then aim for having even more than they do, because most people – even very successful people – aren’t very good at using LinkedIn. You can do better.

Once you have Recommendations, quote brief snipped from them in the “About” section of your profile. You might write something like, “I appreciate the kind words of Cherie Chin, who wrote that I’m a ‘first-rate team member, both technically and in terms of people’s skills.’ (See Recommendations, below.) ”

Use social proof in your resume. Once you’ve gotten a lot of social proof into your profile, make sure employers notice it: link your resume to it and even quote recommendations in your resume.

Consider other social media. Make sure you look good on any social media or forums where you appear by name. Facebook, Twitter and other platforms can be useful for business networking, especially if your colleagues are young and / or social media-oriented. Any platform can lead to social proof for your job search. But if you find social media overwhelming or not useful, consider leaving these other platforms alone – assuming you’ve already deleted anything embarrassing – and focusing on having a great profile on LinkedIn.

Capitalize on word of mouth when applying for a job. Like anyone, employers trust and believe people they know far more than people they don’t. If you know someone connected to the company you’re applying to, or someone who knows the hiring manager, consider asking them to forward your resume directly to that manager and / or put in a good word for you. Why save that amazing VIP reference for the very end of the process?

Networking is an important source of social proof. If you hate networking or it isn’t working for you, chances are you’re doing it wrong. Learn how to network painlessly and productively so that gradually, more and more people will know about you, while at the same time you’ll become better informed about companies and trends in your industry.

How do you get LinkedIn recommendations?

The main way is to ask for them. Read my post on best practices in requesting recommendations, so you get the best possible response.

Now, which of these social proof tips will you put into practice this week to help you land that new job? (This post was originally published in 2018 and has been updated in 2022.)


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