Help Wanted: Why You Can’t Replace Your Resume with Social Media (At Least Not Yet)

Last fall, Fred Wilson’s venture capital firm, Union Square Ventures, had an investment analyst position it needed to fill. But instead of asking for resumes or cover letters, it instead requested “links that will help us get to know you… anything from a Twitter account to a blog or Tumblr to a project you hacked together — whatever represents you best.”

It also wanted two short videos, submitted through the website of a startup called Take the Interview — the videos, done instead of screening anyone by phone, were to answer two questions: “Why are you interested in the analyst role at Union Square Ventures?” and “Which web or mobile services most inspire you?”

No cover letter. No resume. But a video?! Is this the start of a trend? Maybe, but don’t ditch your resume and start panicking quite yet.

Last week’s Wall Street Journal article about firms saying no to resumes used Union Square as its linchpin, but steering clear of mission statements and bullet points is nothing new for Union Square Ventures. It’s been asking applicants to leave off sending resumes (or even emails) since at least 2006. Back then, Wilson wrote a post asking that applications for a job be put into a comment thread.

And so far, the resume-free approach hasn’t caught on in many other workplaces. The only others examples noted by the WSJ are, a Colorado-based company with a homebrew survey it asked applicants to fill out (a resume’s optional, not forbidden), and the gaming and media company IGN, which posted a series of challenges in an elaborate program for gamers interested in becoming programmers. Thirty were picked for a six-week coding program, and six were eventually hired. Nevertheless, IGN wants resumes for its other openings.

Anyway, I think the most important part of the bigger career management story isn’t about the resumes — it’s that more and more companies ARE expecting a lot more visibility in the social sphere from candidates. Just last year, you may have been able to get away with a cover letter and resume and feel secure in your candidacy. But these days, companies are also looking to see how influential you are in your field by looking at your Twitter account, your LinkedIn profile, and whether or not you blog as an expert in anything. An editor-in-chief at one of our clients, a top digital-media company, said to me, “Before I agree to interview anyone, I have my editorial assistant check to see how with-it the applicants are (e.g., are they prolific on Twitter, do they have an updated LinkedIn profile, do they blog, do they have lots of followers). If they’re invisible in social media, then they are truly invisible to me — because my assistant knows not to hand me that resume.” (The EIC is active in social media too, of course.)

In the last year at The Hired Guns, a number of clients have asked us to provide a social media “scorecard” on applicants — how many followers they have on Twitter, and how many connections they have on LinkedIn. The path to getting a job is definitely changing by the minute. No matter what, regardless of which field you’re in, there’s a very good chance that hiring managers and recruiters are Googling you to check out your social media footprint.

If you’ve been reluctant to dip your toe in the water, now is the time to do the following, at a minimum:

  • Set up a Twitter profile and get going. Follow key influencers in your industry, and once you’ve built a little confidence start getting your opinions out there. Get a coach if you need one to get started. But you could probably just ask a friend who knows the ins and outs of the Twittersphere. Be not afraid. And if you’re squatting on your Twitter profile, but aren’t doing anything with it, ask yourself, “Why am I afraid to get going?”
  • Make sure your LinkedIn profile is 100% complete (it makes a huge difference). Get yourself a great-looking photo. And take an hour out of every week to “link in” to your best contacts. It will pay off. Then, go back and ask for recommendations from previous bosses. You don’t need a ton, just the right ones. In fact, getting a bunch of random people to vaguely praise you without context will actually undermine your efforts.
  • Get yourself in front of a video camera, answering interview questions. If you’re in an active job hunt, there is a high likelihood that some of your interviews will be through Skype or some other kind of video chat like iMeet — which “packages” your social media presence really well. You need to know how you look, act, and sound on both live and recorded videos: companies are using these more and more to conduct first-round interviews.
  • Finally, tell yourself that this is the year you become an expert in something related to your professional experience. Your analysis here will take longer, as you look for where your biggest opportunities lie and figure out who your competition is.It’s also where you can make your biggest impact. Companies want to hire experts who can fix their problems and solve their challenges; they don’t want a “jack of all trades and master of none.” And if suddenly you find yourself jettisoned from the your company, you’ll be able to hang a shingle more quickly as a specialist than someone who is out there hawking themselves as the ultimate generalist.

And while you’re giving yourself a career facelift, do you get rid of your resume? Heck no! You need to still do what you used to work to get a job. But you have to do it in tandem with these new methods to differentiate and elevate yourself. And yes, it does mean a lot more work. The only good news in this equation is that a lot of perfectly talented folks will cross their arms, say it isn’t fair, and refuse to learn new skills that will get them hired. Their inability to adapt will be your gain, and as the competition thins out, you’ll shine like one of those trendy Edison lightbulbs.

[Photo: Office Rescue, by banspy/Flickr]

About this Gun

Allison Hemming

Allison Hemming

is Top Gun at The Hired Guns and the founder of The Hired Guns Academy. A noted career authority, Allison has helped thousands of individuals assume leadership roles in organizations through effective career and personal brand management. Follow @TheHiredGuns.