TIME Careers & Workplace

How Not to Answer ‘Why Are You Interested in This Position?’

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Maintain a good balance between talking about yourself and relating to the company

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

Hiring managers don’t always say what’s on their minds, and sometimes this results in a less effective interviewing experience for you, the job candidate. But, regardless of how good or bad your interviewer is, you’ll very likely still get this question: “Why are you interested in this position?”

The reason for that is because your answer says a lot about all of the most important things the interviewer will be evaluating: your skills, your cultural fit, and your interest. In other words, this is definitely not a question you want to screw up. Here are four common mistakes and how to avoid them.

1. You Never Talk About the Company

I recently had a conversation with a recruiter, and she shared this great tidbit with me about what she considers to be the kiss of death for interviews. When people answer, “Why are you interested in this position?” with something about being passionate about programming, writing, or some other skill with no mention at all about the actual company, it’s immediately a red flag. Think about it this way: You can bring your skills anywhere. The trick is explaining why you want to use them for this particular company.

2. You Only Say What’s in it for You

This mistake is particularly common because, well, this is what the question is asking for, isn’t it? Maybe this job would give you the chance to learn a lot about marketing, or it’s an opportunity to grow your quantitative analysis skills—that’s great, but it’s not what your interviewer really wants to hear. At the moment, the hiring manager isn’t the most invested in what’s in it for you; he or she wants to know what’s in it for the company. The solution? Align your interests and say something about your enthusiasm for using your skills to contribute to the company’s greater goal.

3. You Bring Up Points That Aren’t Relevant

In the heat of the moment, it can be really tempting to reveal that the office is actually quite close to your daughter’s school or how the company’s flexible hours policy would make it easier to carpool with your roommate, but don’t give in. These are nice perks, but (hopefully) they’re not the only reason why this position is exciting for you. Plus, you’ll be giving up an opportunity to share the more relevant ones.

4. You Answer the Wrong Question

Have you ever gone on a date with someone who wouldn’t stop talking about his or her ex? Well, turns out this happens during job interviews, too. Don’t be that person who can’t shut up about why you need to leave your old job, stat. Even if the reason you’re job searching is directly related to your previous position, focus on the future. Bring up the skills you’ve developed for sure, but no need to dive into the history of how you acquired them.

This seemly innocuous question is a surprisingly tricky one, especially if you try to answer it without first thinking about your audience. Read this to learn more about how to answer this question strategically. Then, get your story straight, and remember who you’re talking to. It’s just one question, but it can completely shape the way an interviewer views your candidacy.

More from The Muse:

MONEY job search

How to Catch the Eye of a Recruiter in Just 7 Minutes

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An optimized LinkedIn profile can help you stand out from the crowd.

As part of our 10-day series on Total Financial Fitness, we’ve developed six quick workouts, inspired by the popular exercise plan that takes just seven minutes a day. Each will help kick your finances into shape in no time at all. Today: The 7-Minute LinkedIn Makeover

Nine out of ten recruiters use social media to find or check out candidates, especially LinkedIn. Your profile is 14 times as likely to be viewed if it has a picture. So find a professional-looking photo and upload it to your computer before you start the clock.

0:00 Log in to your LinkedIn account and select “Edit Profile.” Click on “Add Photo” to upload the pic you’ve selected. You’ll see a yellow square that you can drag to change the position and size of the picture. Make sure you’re centered and hit save.

1:05 By default, LinkedIn uses your job title as your profile headline. Instead, write your own bold wording. Stumped? When you highlight the field to change it, LinkedIn lets you peek at what others in your industry are using.

2:34 Check out your profile summary. Are you hitting all the keywords you’ll need to show up in recruiter searches? Take a minute to scan some job descriptions in your profession to make sure you’re using the right language.

5:00 Nothing says LinkedIn novice like an alphabetsoup URL.

Create a custom version by clicking the LinkedIn URL listed right beneath your photo on the Edit Profile page. You’ll be transported to the Public Profile page, where you can create your own. Stick with something simple, like your name.

5:35 Bulk up your recommendations politely. Write a sincere post for one of your contacts, and then email asking if she’d mind doing the same.

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TIME Careers & Workplace

How (Not) to Ask Questions When Applying For a Job

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Here are the dos and don’ts of asking a question during the application process

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

It’s one thing to prepare questions to ask at the end of your interview. You want to look thoughtful; you want to show that you’ve listened; and you may have a few burning questions about the way things are done around there.

But it’s a completely different story when you have a question before the interview even begins. For example, what should you do when the hiring manager asks for your availability on Tuesday, and then sends a calendar request for Thursday? Or what if you aren’t sure if a supplemental part of your application was received?

Not to make you (even more) nervous, but this can be a hit-or-miss situation. If you ask the question diplomatically, it will demonstrate that you could handle a tricky professional situation with ease. But if your email seems superfluous, over-eager, or condescending it will—not surprisingly—put a damper on your candidacy.

Read on for the dos and don’ts of asking a question during the application process.

Do Look for the Answer

In daily life, if you aren’t quite sure what someone means, it’s not uncommon to shoot him a quick email. But when you’re job-searching, something as innocent as a “Hey, how should I go about this?” email can reflect poorly on your candidacy.

Why? Because if the answer to your question is clearly listed somewhere on the website, you’ll look like you didn’t have the time, or interest, or initiative, or skills to solve your own problem. And that’s obviously not the impression you’re trying to make.

So, search high and low for the answer. If it’s not in your email correspondence, refer back to the website (or vice versa). If you’ve diligently looked for the answer and still can’t find it, then reach out—just be sure the question highlights your desire to find a solution (rather than your frustration). Think, “Could you clarify how I should submit this part of the application?” not “I’ve spent hours trying everything, but I just can’t figure out what you want, so could you please explain how you’d like this submitted?”

Don’t Show Off

Just as you shouldn’t ask a question when you could easily find the answer, you also shouldn’t ask a question simply to “show off.” Sometimes you have no choice but to ask for additional assistance or clarification (think: the hiring manager refers you to an attachment—and there is no attachment). However, inquiring about an obvious, benign typo highlights a lack of diplomacy (rather than superior attention to detail).

I understand where you’re coming from: You don’t want to ignore a glaring typo, because what if it’s some kind of test? You don’t want to look like you didn’t even notice!

The trick is to handle the situation graciously. You’ll probably sound rude if you write, “Are you sure you didn’t mean 12 PM, as opposed to 12 AM, which is what your email said?” Instead, just include the correct time in your response: “Yes, I am available at 12 noon. I look forward to meeting you!”

Do Ask a Critical Question

Before I scare you into thinking you should just figure it out, let me be clear that sometimes asking a question can make a big difference! Along with the times when it’s essential (e.g., it’s unclear whether it will be a phone, video, or in-person interview), there are also times when asking a question can give you a leg up.

Several years ago, I received an itinerary in a scheduling email that said the name of an alumni co-interviewer would be sent to me at a later date. I waited several days because I know how challenging it can be to negotiate the schedules of various stakeholders. But, when I still hadn’t received the name 48 hours before I was due to interview, I followed up and asked if it would be possible to learn his or her name (which I was sent shortly thereafter).

Armed with that information, I Googled him—and that actually came up in the interview! He said, “I Googled you, but all that came up was that you went to Franklin & Marshall [College].” And I said, “I Googled you too, and saw an op-ed you wrote!” which prompted an entire conversation.

Those bonding moments can go a long way—and it happened because I had the confidence to ask a question. So, if you have a question about something you were told would be clarified at a later time, or something that will change how you submit your application or prepare for your interview, don’t be afraid to ask. Just watch your tone: “Would it be possible to learn more about…?” comes off way different than, “I need to know…”

Don’t Bury Your Lead

So you have a relevant question, but how should you go about asking it? You may feel tempted to treat the email like a conversation and ease in—but this is not the best approach.

For example, you might think that writing, “Air travel is so unpredictable! The last time I flew my plane was delayed by two hours…” sounds warmer than, “I’ll be traveling on that day. Would it be possible to schedule the phone interview for the afternoon?” But burying your question won’t make you sound friendly; rather, you run the risk of your interviewer having no idea what you’re asking. And if that happens, you’ll have to reach out—again!

Keep it simple, keep it clear, keep it professional. And if you’re worried you’re being too long-winded, write out your email in a Word document, and then try to cut it by at least two lines.

The skills you display throughout the hiring process reflect on your candidacy. So, along with knocking your resume, interview, and thank you note out of the park; focus on intermittent communications like an email asking a clarifying question. It just could make the difference.

More from The Muse:

MONEY Jon Stewart

3 Ways to Be More Like Jon Stewart

The comedian demonstrates how to execute a job departure at the top of your game.

As you’ve probably heard, Jon Stewart, the beloved host of Comedy Central’s “Daily Show,” announced this week that he’ll soon leave the show after 17 years.

It seems clear from his own words—and the desperation of his employer to find a bankable replacement—that Stewart is departing of his own accord and on his own terms. And yet, unlike his former acolyte and fellow late-night star Stephen Colbert (who will take over David Letterman’s chair on CBS in the fall), Stewart will apparently leave his perch without a planned landing.

His reasons? “I don’t know that there will ever be anything that I will ever be as well suited for as this show,” he told NPR’s Terry Gross last year. “That being said, I think there are moments when you realize that that’s not enough anymore, or that maybe it’s time for some discomfort.”

It’s a sentiment that many of us can identify with, even if directing feature films or a future in national politics aren’t likely to figure into our own second acts. The fact is, countless mid- and late-career professionals feel restless in their jobs, find that they have nowhere left to go at their organizations, or simply feel burned out.

Whether or not that description fits you, there’s a great deal that almost anyone can learn from the funnyman’s gracefully planned exit.

1. Know when it’s time to say goodbye

Do you constantly complain about work? Do your achievements go unrecognized? Do you end each week frustrated and dread Mondays? Do you see no professional path ahead? “Yes” answers to any or all of these are probably a good sign that you may have gotten all you can out of your job and it’s time to consider other professional options, because chances are those feelings are having a negative impact on your work.

By most accounts, Stewart is still at or near the top of his game; according to the Wall Street Journal, “The Daily Show” was number one among younger viewers by a wide margin as recently as last season. Follow his example and recognize your lack of focus before your audience, your boss, or your subordinates do.

“You have to choose the right moment,” says career coach Roy Cohen. “Ideally it’s when the stars seem to align, whether that’s the company offering a buyout or right after you have wound down a successful project.”

That way you’ll be able to go out on your own timetable, with financial stability, and heading in your desired direction.

2. Lay the groundwork for your second act before ending your first

Stewart isn’t leaving “The Daily Show” on a whim. He took a three-month break during summer 2013 to direct Rosewater, a critically acclaimed film about an Iranian journalist and political prisoner. This sabbatical appears to have given Stewart a chance to do a test-run of life outside his comfort zone, and it certainly proved that he could hold his own doing something very different.

Cohen says doing that kind of thinking ahead of time is key for anyone considering a career move.

“First, engage in an assessment of your biggest goals,” he advises. “Ask yourself honestly: What do I like? What don’t I like? Where have I succeeded? Where have I failed?”

He also advises those considering an exit to start planning early and do a reality check on how long the transition will take. “I’ve had clients who didn’t carefully plan their exit and then felt they had shortchanged themselves in their second acts,” Cohen warns.

For some people, careful planning will mean searching for and landing another job before leaving their current one. (Call it the Stephen Colbert approach.) For others, it’s taking classes that will expand your skill set, or just saving up enough money to give yourself the time to figure things out and set off in the next direction.

Or there might be an in-between approach that involves a part-time or consulting arrangement to help your former employer through the transition—and sustain your bank account—while also carving out enough time to get a fresh degree or otherwise establishing your bona fides in a new field.

3. Make your people into stars

Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, John Oliver, and Ed Helms are just a few of the once-obscure, now well-known comics that Jon Stewart helped launch and move onto bigger things. You can be sure they’ll ardently support him in any next endeavor, and probably spend a good deal of social, political, or financial capital to do so.

Of course, mentoring and otherwise helping others advance their careers is part of the job description of most managers. But taking this role seriously can have reciprocal benefits down the road when it’s time to explore new professional avenues.

If you’ve been generous with your time, accolades, and connections, your former employees will likely do the same when you are looking to start your next chapter. They’ll become an active network of supporters, able to bridge you into new industries and professional communities; clue you in on and recommend you for exciting opportunities; and may even give you your next dream job.

TIME Careers & Workplace

45 Things Successful Job Seekers Do on Social Media

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The list includes social media platforms from LinkedIn to Twitter to Facebook

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

If you’re a smart job searcher, you have probably researched everything there is to know about resumes, cover letters, interviews, and all of the other job-searching basics.

But you might not be as familiar with the newest member of the job search family: social media.

Sure, most people know how to use social media in their personal lives, but it actually has a lot of power to make (or break) your job search. Studies have shown that 92% of companies are using social media for hiring—and that three out of four hiring managers will check out a candidate’s social profiles.

So how can you tap into the power of social media (and avoid the pitfalls)? We’ve gathered all the tips you need to use every platform out there to your advantage. And if you want to learn even more? Sign up for our five-day email class on landing a job using social media.

General Social Media Job Search Tips

1. Get Everything Squeaky Clean

We hope you know this one already, but we have to mention it. Make sure any public information on your various profile is super clean. This doesn’t just mean profanities and party pics—you should also consider removing articles that are politically divisive or could be considered offensive, posts that are super random, long rants on a certain topic, and the like. SimpleWash is a great tool that can help you search your feeds for things to delete.

2. Don’t Have an Account on Everything

Being “active on social media” doesn’t mean opening an account on every platform possible. Quite the opposite in fact! It’s much better to have a well-crafted, up-to-date account on one or two platforms than to have a bunch of accounts that haven’t been touched in years. Every job seeker should have a LinkedIn account, and a Facebook or Twitter to show that you’re a real person doesn’t hurt. Beyond that, consider what’s really important for your industry. Social media guru Lily Herman walks you through the steps of figuring out what’s important here.

3. Use Your Real Name

It can be tempting to pick a punchy nickname or handle when making your profiles but, as much as possible, use your real name. This both looks more professional and means that people will be able to find your profiles when they search for your name. If you have a common name or often go by a nickname, at least choose a consistent name you’ll use across platforms, and try to have your real name somewhere on each account.

4. Keep Your Image Professional and Consistent

You should have a clear, friendly, recent, and appropriately professional image to use across all platforms. Not sure what “appropriately professional” means? Take a look around at what the people in your industry are wearing (or try outPhotoFeeler), to see how competent, influential, and friendly your photo makes you look.

5. Get Your Personal Branding Down

In addition to a consistent name and consistent photo, you should have a consistent brand across your social platforms. You want people to know who you are, what you do, and where you’re going. We could write (and, yes, have written!) entire articles about personal branding. If you don’t know how to define yours yet, this is a good place to start.

6. Use Your Social Accounts as Jumping Off Points

A social media account should never live in isolation—it should link off to somewhere that people can learn more about you. On all your social accounts, make sure to include a link to the project you’re working on, your personal website, your blog, or anywhere else someone could learn more about you.

7. Bring All Your Accounts Together in One Place

Conversely, make sure there’s a central hub where you can collect all of your various presences around the web. A personal website or landing page is a great option, or you could simply make sure to link to them all from your LinkedIn profile. Doing this will mean that whenever hiring managers or potential contacts search for you, they can easily find all the profiles you want them to see.

8. And Put Them on Your Job Search Materials

Your social profiles are now a great representation of who you are and where you’re going, so make sure they’re out there! Put your Twitter handle on your resume, mention your industry-specific network in your cover letter, and tell people where to find you on your business card or your email signature. If you’ve done the work to make them good and professional, don’t be shy about sharing them!

9. Don’t Use it for Professional Communications

While it’s okay to promote your professional social profiles in your job search materials, don’t use it for job-search related communications. In other words, you shouldn’t be badgering companies you’re applying to on Facebook or following up with recruiters after an interview on Twitter. Here’s why.

10. Use Scheduling Tools to Stay on Top of Things

Worried you won’t remember to update your social profiles regularly? There are plenty of tools out there that will allow you to schedule, get ahead, share things directly from your browser, and hardly have to think about keeping an active social presence. Buffer is one of our favorites, but there are plenty of others out there.

 

LinkedIn Tips

11. Get Your Profile Up to Snuff

Before you can really start networking on LinkedIn, you want to make sure your profile is the strongest it can be—that way you look seriously impressive as you’re connecting with new people. If you feel like yours still needs some work, check our our tips for LinkedIn profile success.

12. Come Up With a Plan

We know—very few people check LinkedIn every day in the same way they check Facebook or Twitter. But it’s beneficial to your job search to be updating it fairly regularly. To help keep yourself on track, come up with a plan for how often you’ll interact with LinkedIn. To help, career expert Lily Zhang has come up with a list of what you should be doing every day, week, and month on LinkedIn. Put it on your calendar if you have to!

13. (Mostly) Only Connect With People You Know

For the most part, you should only send people requests to connect on LinkedIn if you’ve interacted with them in some other way before—whether you worked together for five years, met at a networking event last night, or sent an email back and forth. There are, of course, a few exceptions to this rule, such as if it’s someone in the industry you’re interested in that you’re seeking an informational interview with or it’s someone you’d really, really like to work with. If you are reaching out to a stranger, just make sure you…

14. Send Personalized Messages to Anyone You Don’t Know

Any time you add someone new on LinkedIn, it sends them the generic “I’d like to add you on LinkedIn” script. This isn’t ideal, but it’s okay for people who are familiar with you. But if you’re reaching out cold to someone you’d like to meet? You should personalize that invitation to give context as to why you’re reaching out. LinkedIn has, oddly, made this more difficult to do, but if you go to said person’s profile and click the little arrow by “send InMail,” you can choose to personalize the invitation (learn how to do this on the app here). To read more about how to do this—and what to say—check out Herman’s advice for reaching out to someone you admire on LinkedIn.

15. Just Don’t Connect With the Hiring Manager

At least not until a decision has been made. Elliott Bell explains: “[The hiring manager] is interviewing not only you, but many others, trying to determine who will be the best person for the job and the company. Connecting over LinkedIn before a decision has been made can come off as both pushy and over-confident—like you’re certain that you’ll be the one who’s working closely with the interviewer over all those other candidates.” And if you don’t get the job? Then it’s okay to connect with the interviewer (sending a nice, professional note, of course!)—you know, in case something comes up.

16. Don’t Forget the Groups!

For many, groups are kind of the weird underbelly of LinkedIn; everyone knows they exist, most people are members of at least some, but very few people actively use them. If you’re a job-seeker, it’s time to change that! Joining groups can really help you connect with new professionals (in a more natural way than just coldly reaching out) and get more engaged with discussions in your industry. Career expert Jenny Foss has the skinny on how to pick the best groups to join and what to say once you’re in them.

17. Up Your LinkedIn SEO

As a job seeker on LinkedIn, the best thing that can happen is that a recruiter or hiring manager finds you and reaches out. So you should be doing everything you can to attract them to your profile! In this article, Zhang walks you through the steps of making your profile more findable, clickable, and likable—making you more hirable. (Hint: A stellar headline and carefully selected keywords are, well, key.)

18. Actually Connect With People You Don’t Know

Whether you reached out to them cold, they reached out to you, or you met in a group, you’ve now connected on LinkedIn with someone you’ve never interacted with in real life. Now what? The next—and most important—step, explains career expert Adrian J. Hopkins, is to actually connect with that person. Hop on a phone call, agree to meet up for coffee, or just send a few messages back and forth: Whatever it is, getting to know this stranger a little will make this connection really worth something—not just another number in your count.

19. Reconnect With People You Do Know

You know you should be staying in touch with your network. But it takes a lot of time! So use LinkedIn to make it a little easier on yourself. Did an old colleague just post that she got a new job? Comment to send her a congratulations! Did someone you met at an event just post a great article he wrote? Write back giving your thoughts on the piece. It’s a small gesture from you, but it will help keep you top-of-mind.

20. Tap Into Your Connections—Without Annoying Them

We all know you can use LinkedIn to see mutual connections between you and someone you’re hoping to meet—meaning theoretically you could have that person intro you. But you don’t want to annoy your contacts by asking for intros too often or assuming they’d be willing to help you out (especially if you, um, don’t actually know them that well). Muse editor-in-chief Adrian Granzella Larssen has some ideas for how to ask for intros the right way.

21. Keep Your Search Under the Radar

Unless you’re very publicly job searching (i.e., you don’t currently have a job), you don’t exactly want people to see all your activity on LinkedIn. And while your job-searching activity (such as viewing companies or applying to jobs) is automatically private, it would still look pretty fishy if your network saw that you suddenly updated everything in your profile. So, when you’re editing your profile, look down the right sidebar until you see the “Notify your network?” section, and flip the button to “off.”

22. Hack Your Insights Graph

You know that little graph you can see when you click on how many people have viewed your profile in the past week? Not only can you see how many people checked you out (and, in some cases, who), you can see how many actions you made in a given week. Zhang explains the value of this data: “That’s great news for users who are trying to figure out what increases profile engagement. Now, when you tweak your LinkedIn strategy, you can gauge how well it’s working by seeing who you’re attracting to your profile with each change.”

 

Twitter Tips

23. Look Like You’ve Been Using It

There’s nothing worse than a hiring manager Googling you, clicking on your Twitter, and finding that it hasn’t been updated in three years (or that you clearly tweeted 100 times in the past day just to make it look populated). If you have a Twitter account but haven’t touched it in a while, check out Herman’s advice for making it look like you’ve been using it forever.

24. Be a Thought Leader

While LinkedIn is a great place to show off your professional experience, Twitter is a great place to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry. So, focus less on your personal accomplishments and more on sharing great articles about your field, commenting on news in your industry, and having a conversation with other major players. Mashable explains: “When you start to situate yourself as an expert in a specific subject area (for example, in comedy or politics), you’ll notice that people will begin to follow you for advice and expertise… As you start building your ‘brand’ on Twitter, think about why people are following or talking to you. Are you an expert in a particular industry? Are you opinionated? Funny? Do you share great news articles or interesting photos?”

25. But Don’t Just Share Your Own Stuff

Nothing looks worse—or turns off followers more—than a Twitter stream just promoting your own thing. So make sure to mix it up to really interact with the community! Share shout-outs (and links) to awesome projects your colleagues are working on. Re-tweet articles that others have shared that you really loved, too. I know it may seem counterintuitive that doing this will help you promote yourself, but trust us: You have to give to get.

26. Show Some Personality!

Also unlike LinkedIn, you should absolutely show off a little of what makes you unique on Twitter. Obviously you want to keep it professional—no cursing, telling your favorite kind-of-inappropriate jokes, or sharing articles that could be offensive or divisive—but consider using some of your tweeting time to share articles about your hobbies, comments on your favorite TV shows, or funny observations from your day-to-day life. Being a real person will make it much easier to connect with new people—and hiring managers looking at your profile will be able to see what a great, fun co-worker you’d be.

27. Follow Job Search Experts

Following job search experts is the obvious way to use Twitter for your job search—and it’s a good one! Doing so will keep your feed constantly updated with new advice and inspiration to help you land that next gig. We’ve got 15 great handles for you to follow to get started.

28. Follow Company Jobs Accounts

Many companies have specific Twitter accounts dedicated to their hiring initiatives—and following them is a great way to stay on top of any new positions. If it is a smaller company or doesn’t have a dedicated jobs account, following the main company account for places you’d like to work is a good idea. We’ve got some suggestions of great places to start there as well.

29. Follow Major Players in Your Field

Doing this is a great way to start building a community, start interacting with others in your field, and—if they follow you back—start being seen as a thought leader. A great way to begin engaging with strangers on Twitter is to re-tweet one of their posts that you like or reply to an article they posted thanking them for sharing or giving your two cents. Mashable explains: “[Twitter] is great for connecting meaningfully with people and companies you don’t already know, which is much more difficult to do on platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn. You can develop a rapport with people you may not have access to in real life.”

30. Follow People at Your Dream Companies

Besides following the experts and the companies, you should follow people who work at your dream companies, especially if they work in the departments you’re interested in. First of all, they will often tweet about job openings, helping you find them before other people do. Second, they’ll often help you stay abreast of company happenings, making you look on top of your game during interviews. Finally, there’s a small chance that you’ll develop an actual connection by interacting with them on Twitter—potentially giving you an in at the company.

31. Create Lists of All the Amazing People You Follow

Consider using Twitter’s list function to both help you keep up to date with the people who really matter amid the noise, and to show said people how much you admire them! Social recruiting expert Katrina Collier shares: “When you add users to a public list, they are notified—but this is a good thing, as it puts you on their radar again.”

32. Don’t Over-Interact

While it’s totally fine to follow, reply to, favorite, and share tweets from complete strangers in an effort to build up your network, you also don’t want to come on too strong. What does that mean? Don’t join conversations just to promote yourself, don’t favorite or retweet everything a person posts, don’t beg someone to follow you so you can direct message them, and don’t assume connecting on Twitter means you really know someone. Herman explains more about the pitfalls of Twitter networking here.

33. Use the Hashtag Search Function

Keep an eye out on Twitter for job-related hashtags. Employers who want to cast a wide net will often tweet out job applications with accompanying hashtags. You can also use that search bar to look for terms that apply to the job you want. For best results, type in words like “#jobs” or “#hiring” and other specifics that apply to your field and location; for example, “writer” and “New York City.”

34. Use Other Search Tools to Dig Deeper

Twitter’s search function is, admittedly, imperfect. Luckily, there are plenty of external tools ready to help you out. Collier recommends ManageFlitter for searching bios to find interesting people and Topsy for finding influencers in a certain subject matter. Learn more about how she uses them here.

35. Use Keywords in Your Bio

Recruiters sometimes use these same search tools, so make it easier for them to find you by putting keywords related to your industry in your bio! If nothing else, it will help people more quickly understand you when they stumble across you or want to learn more after you reply to one of their tweets.

36. Participate in Twitter Chats

In case you have no idea what we’re talking about, Twitter chats are online conversations, usually taking place around the same time every week, and centered around a hashtag—and they’re a great way to really build your network (and followers) on Twitter! Writer Liz Furl explains, “Through hashtag chats, you gain access to leaders in your field, learn things you wouldn’t have otherwise, and are given a platform to promote yourself and your endeavors. By participating, you’ll be rewarded with insider knowledge, as well as the chance to network with other people who share your interests or business ventures.” Check out her article to learn more on how they work and how to get involved.

37. Use Twitter to Improve Your In-Person Networking

Going to a conference or other big networking event? You can use Twitter to connect with the people at the event even better! Many such events will have a hashtag that will allow you to see who else is talking about it and what they are saying. You can share your thoughts, interact with others, see who’s interesting before the event even starts, and then ping them to meet up IRL once you’re there. Herman shares how she makes this work for her.

 

Facebook Tips

38. Don’t Hide Your Whole Profile

While it is advisable to keep most of your Facebook profile restricted to friends and family, some parts of it should be viewable by the public if you’re job searching. After all, employers will search for you on there to learn more about you, so you should have some information to show that you’re a normal, real person. We advise restricting most of your photos, wall posts, likes, and personal “About Me” info like relationship status, but keeping your main photo public (and professional), along with your employment and educational info.

39. Make Professional Status Updates Public

Are you sharing a link to an article you had published on an industry blog? An update about a new milestone you helped your company achieve? An announcement about an activity you’re participating in that shows some of your personality? We often post these on our Facebook for the support and excitement of our friends, but consider making some of them public. That way, when a recruiter does land on your page, he or she will see some activity and can learn a little more about you. We often think about it this way: If you would post it on your professional Twitter, consider making it a public Facebook post.

40. “Like” the Companies You Love

Have companies you know you’d really love to work for? “Like” their Facebook pages! By doing this, you can get daily updates about their activity—giving you talking points for an interview and potentially alerting you to job openings. Plus, there’s a chance that smaller companies will check to see if you’re a fan on Facebook, just to gauge how excited you really are about the job. Doing this definitely can’t hurt.

41. Consider Letting Your Connections Know You’re Searching

If you’re publicly job searching (a.k.a. don’t currently have a job) or if you knowthat your Facebook connections don’t include any co-workers or people who might relay information back to your boss, it could be worth posting a status update letting your connections know you’re on the hunt. Referrals are still one of the best ways to land a job, and your friends and family are going to be more wont to help you than that person you talked to once at a networking event—you never know who they know. Just be extra careful with this one: If there’s any chance word could get back to someone you work with, don’t do this. When in doubt, send an email blast or Facebook message to the people you know you can trust instead. Learn more on asking your network for help here.

 

Tips for Other Networks

42. Get Creative

Pinterest, Vine, or Instagram might not be the first platforms that come to mind as helpful for the job search, but don’t discount their potential impact. If you’re a creative professional (or have a large base of followers), you can take advantage of showcasing your eye for design, photography, and so on. And for anyone looking to break into startups, a presence on these platforms demonstrates that you’re up on the latest trends. Herman explains more about how Instagram can be useful in the job search.

43. Get Industry-Specific

There are plenty of other sites and networks out there that are dedicated to specific industries. GitHub is a prime example—if you’re a developer, it’s an essential place for showing off your work and connecting with others. If you’re a photographer? It would be smart to have a Flickr account. Designer or artist? Consider joining the Behance community. A writer? Try out Medium. If you’re not sure if there’s anything out there for your industry, ask a few colleagues or mentors to see if there’s anything you’re missing out on.

44. Use Them to Stand Out

Consider using some of these other platforms to help you get a little more creative in your job search materials. One of our favorite examples? When Dawn Siff created a six-second Vine video resume. We’ve also heard of people using Pinterest to create a visual resume. This can work especially well if you’re applying to a job at the actual social network you’re using!

45. Just Use Them to Help Yourself

Maybe some of the more fun social networks won’t help you get a job—but they can help you get organized along the way. For example, create a board of ideas for interview outfits, one of resume ideas and templates, one full of career advice to refer back to. It’ll make your job search a little more fun.

More from The Muse:

MONEY job search

5 No-Fail Ways to Introduce Yourself at a Networking Event

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How you pitch yourself makes a difference in how you'll be remembered

If you’re looking for a new job, starting or growing your business, or even just looking to expand your network within your current company, you will need to meet new people.

The challenge is in finding a comfortable way to introduce yourself to the people who matter when you’re at a professional conference, association mixer, or a social event where other professionals will be. The key? To be brief, but also leave enough information that you pique the listener’s interest.

Here are 5 ways to introduce or “pitch” yourself:

Bond Over a Shared Experience

If you’re at a wedding, open with how you know the couple. If you’re at a conference, open with your affiliation to the organizer or your interest in the topic. If it’s a company mixer, mention your role, department or years at the company.

From this shared experience, you can share parts of your background that build from there. But you have already built rapport by starting with what you have in common. This is great for a career changer who may not want to associate himself with the role or company he currently has.

Tell a Client Story

Instead of just listing your title and company, talk about who you serve:

I’m an accountant with We Love Taxes. I prepare taxes for retail companies, mom and pop businesses, circus performers….

The more specific the better. You can also drill down to one specific story:

I am currently working with a retail store owner who came to us with a laundry bag full of receipts, invoices and other papers, and I created an electronic system that can now be accessed on her phone.

The client story is particularly useful if you’re a business owner and want to leave your listener with a clear idea of your value but without a sales pitch.

Give a Before and After

That anecdote of going from a laundry bag full of papers to a streamlined system is not just a client story, but also a before/after story. The before/after can be a client’s result but it can also be what you have brought to your role or department:

I manage logistics for We Love Mail. The company used to spend over $1 million on shipping costs, and my group figured out how to cut that cost in half.

A before/after structure is accessible because it’s visual, and the conversational structure prevents too much business jargon from creeping in. Creating a before/after pitch also forces you to identify and specify the value you bring.

Focus on your Expertise

This is the most traditional pitch in that you summarize the arc of your career—industry specialty, years’ experience, and/or role:

I’ve been in marketing most of my career—consumer products, luxury, and now retail—specializing in social media

This is a dependable way of introducing yourself, and if you keep it concise, you’ll share a rich amount of information. One drawback is that many people use this pitch, so you risk getting forgotten, especially at a crowded event like a conference where introductions stack up.

To be more memorable, that same marketer could have made the pitch more specific…

I am the social media strategist for We Love Books. I build a community for book lovers to discover our store online.

Or the marketer could have tried to incorporate the before/after as well:

I am the social media strategist for We Love Books. We had a pretty dormant Facebook page three years ago when I started so I put us on YouTube, Pinterest, and Facebook and now we a third of our customers hear about us first online.

Get Personal

Most pitches rightly include professional history or accomplishments because people expect this.

But an introduction is really about the start of a relationship. The professional sharing could come after. You might try sharing something personal first—where you grew up, a cherished hobby, a side project you’re currently working on. If the personal nuggets engenders a genuine rapport and a chance to talk again later then it’s a good pitch to use.

You might combine it with the shared experience:

I’m a friend of the bride. We went to school together—elementary actually. I grew up in St. Louis and didn’t come to NYC till well after college…

Ideally, you create, then mix and match all of these pitches. You decide which to use based on the situation. You experiment, and use the ones that resonate the best. You continually add—new client stories, new before/ after results, new ways to summarize your career, new personal tidbits to share.

Make sure your networking pitch evolves as your career, skills and interests evolve.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart® career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic. This column appears weekly.

Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

TIME career

A Facebook Recruiter Shares Valuable Job Advice

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Do not disregard your experience—paid or unpaid, professional or personal

Answer by Ambra Benjamin, Tech Recruiting Lead for Facebook, on Quora.

This is probably one of the preeminent issues facing new college graduates who are entering a very competitive job market. I think in many ways the generation before us did the current generation a great disservice in leading us all to believe that obtaining a four year or graduate degree was the key to gaining traction in the job market. While at one point this was true, the market has moved far more toward favoring experienced hires over the last 10-15 years, even for positions that were commonly reserved as “entry level positions.”

I think the key thing to remember when you are trying to gain job experience is that internships are actual work experience. The more internships a person can have, the better success they’ll have landing an interview based on resume alone. In this era, having internships that pertain to the field you’re hoping to work in full time after you graduate are pretty non-negotiable. If anyone is reading this and they’re still in college, take heed. That unpaid internship in the marketing department at the Smithsonian is probably a better long term investment than the well paying camp counselor gig you’re considering.

For those who’ve already graduated college and are facing the woes of feeling like you just need someone to give you a chance so you can gain valuable experience, I can offer a few suggestions:

  • Volunteer somewhere. You’re not working right? So you should have the time. In conjuction with job hunting, find a way and a place to serve in a meaningful way. You’d be surprised how many organizations would get excited about a freshly minted college graduate contacting them to offer up themselves in any way the organization sees fit. Most people I know who are Social Media Managers for example, first gained their experience by working pro bono and getting their feet wet in running online marketing campaigns and such. It’s also a fantastic way to network. There are people with great connections in organizations who are sure to put a good word in for you with the employer of your choice if they saw you demonstrate great work ethic even when you weren’t getting paid. This is how I got my first corporate job. Volunteering also gives you the chance to take on responsibilities you may not have the opportunity to touch until 3-4 years into your career. And all of this is work experience! It counts and it can go on your resume!
  • Get more creative. You don’t have any work experience and you have a college degree. You’re in the same boat of many other candidates if not slightly behind the boat of others who may be more qualified. So if you have those things working against you, it’s probably best not to try to find jobs in the traditional ways others are because you’re not separating yourself from the pack. You’re going to need to find an in. Figure out who you know and ask them to submit you as an employee referral to positions you’re interested in. Find the hiring manager of the position in which you’re interested and reach out in a professional, concise way. Make them want to hire you. Do you own your name a a web domain? “e.g. MarySharkey.com?” You should. You don’t have to have a fancy website or anything, but you should point it to your LinkedIn profile or something that tells more about you. There are also a lot of really cool, free services like about.me and such that allow you to easily establish an online footprint.
  • Assess Yourself. Extract experience from what you’ve already done. A lot of people sell themselves short because they discount their experience. Sometimes you have to grasp a bit, but if you were the president of your sorority or you led a student trip to Guatemala, or you organized a large event or maintained the school newspaper’s website, these are all worthwhile things to count toward your experience.

Get out there and hustle!

This question originally appeared on Quora: How can someone gain job experience if companies would always hire someone with a college degree and experience?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Here’s How You Can Answer ‘Is There Anything Else You’d Like Us to Know?’

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Either make the final point about your skills, or really spell out how your experiences make you an excellent candidate for the position

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

Sometimes you can tell when you’re making a really good impression during an interview. But, let’s not get cocky. We both know that as you’re wrapping up, full of confidence and eager to move forward in the process, you’ll get hit with something out of the blue, like, “Is there anything else you’d like us to know?”

“Only that you should hire me—immediately!” is, unfortunately, not usually what interviewers are looking for. So, what are they seeking when they toss this your way? A couple things, actually.

Really—Is There Anything Else?

Good news! Interviewers aren’t actually out to get you with trick questions—or at least most of them aren’t. Usually, they really are interested in what you think your strengths are or how you handle failure. Given that, your interviewer very likely just wants to give you a chance to mention anything that he or she has neglected to ask you. After all, most hiring managers are not expert interviewers. They’re experts at whatever their actual job is.

This means that you should take this question as an invitation to mention anything relevant that you didn’t get a chance to. Try starting with, “We’ve definitely covered a lot already, but I do want to mention my experience with…” This last thing might be a relevant experience that’s a bit older or a skill that you’ve honed that was never brought up in conversation. If this goes into a longer discussion, that’s great. If not, conclude with something like, “And, of course, I just want to reiterate how excited I am about the position.”

Can You Summarize Your Qualifications for Me?

Okay, your interviewers might not be consciously thinking this when they ask you if there’s anything else you want to share, but they’ll definitely appreciate it. Plus, summarizing your qualifications for your interviewer means you won’t have to be that person who says, “Nope, there’s nothing else to know.”

Begin your response with, “I think we’ve covered most of it, but just to summarize, it sounds like you’re looking for someone who can really hit the ground running. And with my previous experience [enumerate experience here], I think I’d be a great fit.” The key here is to not go into to much detail since, ideally, you’ve covered it all already. After you’ve made your case for being a good fit, finish up by pointing out your enthusiasm for the company—this is a great way to wrap up an interview, and it just never hurts.

Whether you do have something else to bring up or not, use the “Is there anything else you’d like us to know?” question as your invitation to finish strong. Either make that final point about your skills, or really spell out how your experiences make you an excellent candidate for the position. Whatever you do, don’t let this opportunity go to waste.

More from The Muse:

MONEY job search

10 Ways to Speed Up Your Job Search

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iStock

Want to land a new gig in 2015? Then you'd better launch a personal marketing campaign, career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine says.

The start of the new year is traditionally a good time for hiring.

Yes, this means that job seekers should refine their résumés. But your C.V. is just one of multiple ways job seekers should market themselves. I can think of 10 more off the bat.

I know what you’re thinking: 10 tools, in addition to a resume, sounds like a lot of work

However, many of these build on each other and support the answer to “Why should an employer hire you?” And that’s a question job seekers must answer confidently and convincingly.

Here are the 10 things you’ve got to work on to help propel your search:

1. Social Media Profile

More companies are using social media to find candidates. When you update your resume, update your online profiles as well.

2. Social Media Activity

Don’t just change the details on your profile. Update your status, post an interesting article related to your line of work, make a comment that showcases your professional expertise. If you are looking for a job that requires social media savvy, having a static profile—however, updated—will not be enough without regular and relevant activity.

3. Headshot

You don’t need a professional to take your photo, but you do need a professional-looking photo. A photo on your social profiles makes you seem more personable. Also, from a practical standpoint, a picture can help you with networking—some people won’t remember your name after having met you once or a while ago, but they might remember your face.

4. Cover Letter

A cover letter is not a rehash of your resume. It enables you to highlight your most relevant and compelling facts. It helps you smooth over a story that includes employment gaps and/or career changes. It is a chance for you to make the case for why your dream employer should hire you.

5. Cover Email

You can’t just copy and paste your cover letter into the text of an email. It will be too long and too formal. A cover email is like a cover letter in that it highlights the best, explains away any red flags and makes a compelling case—but it has to do this in a fraction of the space.

6. 20-second Pitch

When you meet someone, you need to introduce yourself. What you say is part of how you market yourself. Keep in mind that your new connection ideally can introduce you to others, including possible employers. So what you say needs to be memorable and repeatable.

7. 2-minute Pitch

You also need to be able to talk about yourself in more than a 20-second sound bite. You may book a networking meeting over coffee and have the chance to share more about your background. Aim for two minutes. This is enough time to give the arc of your career, as well as highlight key accomplishments.

8. Your Pitch for Someone Else to Use

Your friend offers to help and will forward your resume or make an introduction at an event. What do you want your friend to say? Using your cover email and 20-second pitch, be ready with a version in the third person that someone can use to introduce you.

9. Portfolio

Of course, a writer should have clips, and a designer should have samples. But a software developer can showcase programs, a marketer can share a campaign, a consultant can share a slide presentation that summarizes the business case developed. Every professional can showcase their work in some way. A visual, tangible example is so much more powerful than a wordy explanation.

10. Personal website

You can pull all of these items together—social profile, social updates, headshot, short introduction, portfolio, and resume—in a personal website branded with your name. You can list your URL on your business card and résumé to point employers to additional information. A recent survey of over 15,000 job seekers by branded.me and The .ME Registry showed only 4% had personal websites, which implies just having a personal website would be one point of differentiation.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart® career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic. This column appears weekly.

Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

TIME Careers & Workplace

This Is the Absolute Perfect Way to Describe Yourself

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Know these four points and you're well on your way

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It’s been scientifically proven that talking about yourself makes your brain happy. Then why is it always so hard to write a professional bio for yourself?

That blinking cursor can be a nemesis when you have lots to share but you don’t know where to begin and you don’t want to bore anyone away by saying too much.

Don’t sweat it! You can write a bio that sends the right message and sounds like the true “you.” Here are four things to keep in mind.

1. Know Your Audience

When you’re writing your bio, you’re likely thinking about, well, you. But a better starting point is to think about who will be reading it.

Imagine a specific individual who will read your bio, and write for her. For instance, let’s say you’re on an alumni panel for your college. Student attendees will want to know what they should be doing now to get the career you have. In this case, your bio should reflect less of your day-to-day work responsibilities and more of the past campus activities and classes that helped you get the job.

The same applies for the bio on your company’s website. If you’ve been asked to write your own, think of a client who will visit the office. What should he know about potentially working on a project with you?

When you approach the process from the standpoint of what people will want to know about you—not how to condense your life story into two paragraphs—things tend to get a whole lot easier.

2. Know Yourself

Your bio shouldn’t be a laundry list of accomplishments; that’s what your resume is for. Instead, use it to show the person behind the accolades. You are more than your job role (especially if you have a trendy startup title; I’m looking at you ninjas and rock stars), so think about the strengths that make you good at what you do.

For example, in all of my jobs since college, I’ve been responsible for writing PowerPoint decks and documents to persuade others about ideas. “Strategy” has been in my job titles, but since that word has so many different meanings, I decided to focus on “story” when I talk about what I do. While “story” is also a general term, I’ve found that it connects better with the kind of help my clients and potential clients are seeking. The person who is thinking “my company’s story needs some work” is exactly who I want to reach.

Knowing yourself also means knowing your voice. Be authentic. Write about what you know best and write the way that you talk. If your bio readers ever meet you in person, they should feel as if they already knew you. One note of caution though: unless you are a comedian on the side, avoid using humor in your writing. If you can confuse tone when reading text messages, missing tone when reading a joke can be just as bad. (See Key & Peele for Exhibit A.)

3. Know Your Limits

Just as your resume is best when it fits on just one page, the person requesting your bio will also require a certain length. Whether it is two sentences, two paragraphs, or 200 words, respect the limit and challenge yourself to write just 50% of what is asked.

Why? Two reasons.

First, because your bio will be listed alongside others. If yours is noticeably shorter than the others but still packs a punch, it is more likely to get read (and remembered). Not to mention that event organizers may chop your bio down arbitrarily if you don’t follow their rules.

Second, because everything needs a second draft. Don’t just throw something together and send it off. Write it, sleep on it, then come back to it and ask: “Would I want to meet me?” Your bio should sound as close to your voice as possible (note: ask your organizer if it is appropriate to write in the first person) and leave room for intrigue. And when you catch yourself listing your fifth award, cut it short and write “Ask me about being a Rhodes Scholar” (if you’ve been one, of course!).

4. Know Your Clichés

When you spend nearly a third of your life at work, it’s easy to forget that the rest of the world doesn’t speak your industry’s language.

Use your bio to share facts and impact in plain English. Instead of saying you “managed multiplatform brand extensions to increase reach among P12-17,” say that you helped a brand reach a bigger audience of teenagers by being an effective project manager.

To be safe, before sending your bio to publish, double check to make sure none of your copy sounds like you wrote it in Corporate Ipsum, Startup Ipsum, or Social Good Ipsum.

If you’re still having trouble after trying these tips, give the Twitter Bio Generator a spin. You may not be a “Future teen idol” or “Freelance bacon nerd,” but you can get some good inspiration (or pretend to be one and get folks interested that way!).

More from The Muse:

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