Having a good CV or LinkedIn profile is no longer enough for accounting professionals if they want to find the best job. How they appear across their entire online presence is increasingly important.
Employers naturally want to find out everything they can about good candidates and sophisticated tools are becoming available to help them. This will create risks to candidates as well as opportunities.
According to a 2014 study by CareerBuilder.co.uk, over 50% of employers that had researched job applicants on social media had found something that caused them not to hire an applicant. This study shows that you need to be extremely careful with all online content that relates to you. Avoid inappropriate photos and controversial debates in comment pages and chat forums. If you do see anything inappropriate posted by someone else, ask them to take it down.
It is still a common problem, says Katrina Collier, Social Recruiting Specialist at The Searchologist, who advises companies on how to use social media for recruitment. ‘Even last week, I was talking to a senior person at a global firm and I found an inappropriate photo of her tagged on Facebook that she was not aware of,’ she says. ‘But it’s not about making certain things private. As companies are now using sophisticated tools - such as Google Chrome extension Crystal Knows - to connect the dots across social networks and the internet to create highly tailored searches quickly, you need to shape and monitor all public content very carefully.’
A third of employers in the Career Builder study had also found content online that made them more likely to hire a job seeker. This highlights the huge opportunity for finance professionals to enhance their internet presence in a way that attracts potential employers and helps them engage with you.
While optimising your LinkedIn profile should be your first step in this direction, other social media are increasing in importance. Nicola Shellard, Consultant at recruitment firm Morgan McKinley, says that in particular a good Twitter profile can be effective in job searches, as more and more companies are using it for recruitment.
David Bittiner, Director of The BD Consultancy, runs a CIMA Mastercourse on social media. He says: ‘Management accountants should have a Twitter feed as it is important for building your web presence and is another place to post your content - articles, blogs, research pieces, whatever you do.’
He also advises using TweetDeck and Google alerts to set up tailored job alerts. Meanwhile, Collier recommends ManageFlitter, which offers a range of tools aimed at helping you manage Twitter faster and smarter. ‘It's a brilliant search tool for employers, and job seekers can use it the other way, by searching for other management accountants, finance directors or for more general skills and jobs,’ she says.
Start by filling out your Twitter profile fully. Use a headline that shows your job title and something more quirky or idiosyncratic – for example ‘Management accountant, father and lover of wine and jazz music’.
As well as a professional profile picture with a positive expression, you should also use a banner shot to add interest. These things give a more rounded picture and help set you apart.
Keep your settings open to receive direct messages so that employers can contact you.
Next start tweeting regularly in a way that shows interest and engagement with your profession. Enter interesting conversations and retweet them, and share updates about technical matters and the industry sector you work in.
Some people like to keep work and personal tweets completely separate with two Twitter accounts; or only use Twitter for work. Bittiner says: ‘The extent to which you post non-work related tweets is up to you. But certainly tweeting about things like volunteering and charity work will give potential employers more insight into your character.’
Many companies tweet job vacancies, so use the search function to look for specific jobs or look for hashtags with relevant terms.
Collier says: ‘Don't just passively create a profile that attracts the right people and expect it to work. With Twitter in particular you need to engage actively with them, for example, by following and sending tweets to them.’
Twitter is also a great tool for finding out about potential employers before and at interview stage.
Shellard says: ‘I always encourage candidates to use social media to find out as much as possible about the company; through their website, Twitter pages, blogs and other media. The first step should be to follow and like companies you may be interested in or retweet posts by these companies.’
When you get to interview stage, the interviewees should be impressed if you have read everything they have written on Twitter and other social media and can talk about it. They might even expect it.
Despite the advantages, very few finance professionals use Twitter, says Clare Haynes, soft skills specialist, trainer and speaker at Wildfire UK. Therefore, those with a presence will get noticed.
‘Link to your blogs, join industry chats and look for hashtags in your sector or those initiated by finance, accounting bodies and groups,’ she says. ‘These all create a good Twitter profile that suggests initiative; good communication skills; interest in people and professional relationship-building; and curiosity to learn about new developments in your field.
‘Also tweeting or posting from conferences or learning events gets us noticed, not least by those organising the events. They're often the best networked individuals.
‘Furthermore, finding people and groups that interest us build relationships that can help get a foot in the door with new employers. It can help you connect with a relevant leader; expert; or even someone offering a direct vacancy.’
David Biggs ACMA, CGMA, and CFO of app provider Pusher, says his own Twitter feed is ‘a mixture of finance, technology and some about personal interests.’
He has previously used Twitter to follow companies that he might want to work for and the individuals within them.
‘As well as being good for networking generally, that means you will also see when they advertise a specific job on Twitter,’ says Biggs. ‘There are also many other job-related feeds, for example focusing on tech company roles, including finance jobs, in a local area. Many people that I follow also retweet good jobs when they see them. It's easy to look for a job on Twitter as it has an amazing search function. I'm typing in “finance jobs” now and there are streams of interesting ones coming up straight away.’
Pusher always tweets its latest vacancies, says Biggs. Like many other employers, he does look at the Twitter profile of potential new finance recruits. ‘I look for anything that shows how much interest they take in their job – for example, the product, the market, and the finance profession in general,’ he says.
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