Let's Get Digital! The importance of Social Media in your Job Search - with Irina Bouras - PART I

Social media and how you shape your digital identity on the various platforms is a fundamental part of your job search project. Just make sure you do not create a "persona" which is different from who you are because sooner or later that will come across not only to future employers but also to professional recruiters, like Irina Bouras, whose job is to find and propose the right talent for their clients and who is my special guest in this episode of the WoW! Irina is a Business Partner with 7 years of European experience, starting her career in the Life Sciences industry. She is representing Skills Alliance GmbH in Zurich, Switzerland, a boutique recruitment company specialised in helping organizations be ready for future growth by delivering recruitment services to international organizations in the field of medical technology and biotechnology. Irina is Eastern-European at heart with a curiosity for diverse cultures which is why she lived in Romania, the Czech Republic and now in Switzerland for the last 5 years. People-oriented with a proven technical competence and market knowledge, she strives for efficiency, while continuously seeking new and improved ways of delivering the best talent fit.

00:00 Irina Bouras: It is a digital identity, and the way that you are leveraging that and strategizing around it is definitely important in your job search as well.
00:11 Paola Granati: Well, for those of you like me, who thought you only had a human identity, think again, you actually also have a digital one, and if you don't, you better make sure you do especially if you're looking for a job. So today, we will be talking with Irina Bouras about social media, digital media, digital etiquette, and no wonder I decided to call this episode, let's get digital, but before we do, let's get to know Irina a little bit better. She's a business partner with over seven years of experience, started her career in the life science industry. She's currently working for a company called Skills Alliance, they're based in several parts of the world, but she is operating out of the Swiss office and they specialize in providing recruitment services mostly to companies in the field of medical technology and biotechnology. And by the way, to all of you out there working in the healthcare industry, in the medical field, in the pharma, in the life sciences, in the essential work area, a big, big, big thank you for everything you've done and everything you continue to do. Thank you.
01:33 PG: So now I think we're ready to kick this off and get digital.
01:37 PG: I'm particularly happy to have you Irina for several reasons, and I think also the audience and the listeners will be very happy because you bring as well the recruiters perspective, right? You being a recruiter, social media, I would imagine is the bread and butter to a great extent of what you do to be able to source the right candidates, at least in the initial stages. And the second reason, I'm particularly happy to have you is, for our listeners, is Irina is a millennial, so the millennials are definitely more talented, let's put it this way, in the current technology and how to use it at best, also because it's just part of the daily life in a way, so perhaps there's a more fluid definition between professional and personal social media is just a natural new language, perhaps. Irina, I'd be curious to, of course, know what is it that inspires you to be part of this podcast, and in this episode in particular.
02:52 IB: Thank you very much for the warm introduction Paola, I really like it, and you are completely true, 100%. This is definitely something that I spend a lot of time on, and social media is one of the tools that for us recruiters is very important at the moment, not to mention the fact that the millennial age group, let's say, just to give you a bit of a stat. The majority in this age group actually found their first employment through social media. I would say around 84%, according to studies, and I'm not saying it, study say it, that is definitely the preferred way of engaging with a new employer because there's more transparency and things become a little bit more personal from the very first introduction on social media.
03:43 PG: It's also from a candidate's perspective, let's put it this way, that it just becomes more personal because the company is also more visible, the leaders working in that company, the hiring manager is also more visible because he/she is probably active on social media, to your point, you can put a face and a more human look and feel to that process.
04:03 IB: It's a two-way street, basically. It's a platform also for the employer and the job seeker, because the employer can market themselves, can bring up their story, their values, make it more visible and give people a sense of who they are, so they already know what the company is all about before they even have an initial conversation, a virtual coffee or an interview. And from the job seeker side, obviously, they will be interested, who are they going to communicate to? What is it that this company is all about? Who is it that they're going to report in to? What is the team like? And it's very easy to search that information up on social media, much easier than it was in traditional ways, and as I mentioned, the majority of job seekers are definitely engaged in social media these days, particularly millennials.
04:58 PG: Great, but you know what, the other generations gotta catch up too, I mean, like my generation.
05:00 IB: I will teach you some tips and tricks.
05:04 PG: Exactly, so I appreciate that because hopefully our audience is broad enough and we'll have broad demographics, which to your point, it's important, right? To make sure that we will also speak to the right audience, but for the millennials who already know, but also for the previous generation who may learn, I do think this is gonna be a valuable conversation, 'cause there's always something to learn. So, Irina, one of my first questions is, we understand the importance of having, more and more of a personal brand and, as a candidate, now I talk about a candidate position and being clear, what you stand for, what’s your value proposition and for the younger, let's say the ones who are starting in the job market, it may be a little bit more complicated to start building a brand. It also depends on your experience and your expertise, etcetera, but that said, it's important to have a sense of, what do you stand for? So let's assume we've done all of that, we've done our value proposition, we know what we want, we know what our passions are, we've laid out a little bit the... We've mapped out the market. Then we need to be out there and we need to be visible, as I was saying before. So what, before we go into the tools, right, what is your view, what's your definition of a well-thought-through social media strategy? 
06:31 IB: I'm glad you asked this, Paola, and we definitely touched on the subject of the wide spread of social media nowadays. I do have to say that almost half of the world's population is engaged with at least one social media account as we speak, so yes, it is part of our day-to-day schedules and it is part of our identity somehow, digital identity. So on...
07:00 PG: Digital identity, I like that. Actually, I'm not sure if I like it, but it is what it is, a digital identity. Let's add one more identity.
07:12 IB: Yeah, it is a digital identity, and the way that you are leveraging that and strategizing around it is definitely important in your job search as well. So to define, to come back to your question, and define a strong strategy for digital pursuit, let's say for a job, especially in this job market where a lot of... There are a lot of job seekers, particularly because of the COVID-19 situation that we've just been through and was unexpected, so the majority of people that were not necessarily in a position where they were looking for a job before are now in a completely different game. So starting off from having a profile, basically, on one of those accounts, I obviously relate to LinkedIn the most because part of my day-to-day activity is related to LinkedIn. It's a professional platform where the majority of my candidates come from, actually, and what I'm looking for is particularly for them to have an updated profile, to have that digital identity strategized somehow so I can see that they're including the fact that they're open to new opportunities, they're communicating it to me in a way in which I can see it on this platform without even speaking. So I already know, okay, you're looking for a job, let's see what is the next step. What type of job are you looking for? What is your why? What is it that you're interested in? 
08:53 PG: Yeah, sorry to interrupt you on that, because, again, for our audience, often have the question in companies, for individuals who maybe are actively looking but are currently employed, right, so they want to keep it, of course, discreet and make sure that their own colleagues in the position/area, right, are not aware that they are looking for a job. So when you are actually clicking on "yes, I'm looking for opportunities," on that LinkedIn profile, who can see that? Who has access to that information? 
09:34 IB: LinkedIn offers us a possibility to actually exclude this information from your current network, so from people that are employed in your current company. And that would be communicating with the external possible audience, so it will keep it confidential. In terms of your approach inside of the company, it's perfectly normal, and I am... I know that this is definitely a topic that is important for most of the people that are employed at this point in time, but they might not be happy for whatever reason it is. So that doesn't necessarily mean that you can't go out there and create other opportunities for yourself, or at least gain clarity. And LinkedIn offers us this option of actually clicking on "open to new opportunities," but hidden from your current connections inside of your organization. So you can stay, rest assured that...
10:38 PG: Rest assured, guys. You can relax and keep open those opportunities so people like Irina are aware that you are available for new opportunities, right? 
10:50 IB: This is how we come in here, basically. As a bridge and as an external, we... I personally strive myself as being neutral in this process, so I can actually relate the majority of people that are looking out there, and that don't necessarily have all the information that they need in terms of defining if a potential career path or potential position or potential company is the right one for them. And this is why I'm here, to try and clarify that for them, with giving them more information about the position, the company, what they should be expecting in terms of an environment, and basically what would be the steps for them to pursue a career in a particular place...
11:41 PG: So you were saying LinkedIn is a must. It's one of those, even if you don't like social media, you know what, you have to have that strategized, let's say, profile, ideally with a picture, ideally with a good summary of what you represent, what you stand for, right, because it is a tool which is used, looked at, right? 
12:04 IB: This is my Bible, I have to say.
12:06 PG: It's your Bible...
12:08 IB: 70% of the time that I spend on social media, and as part of my activity I do spend quite a lot of time on social media, but if I were to give you a number, 70% of that time is on LinkedIn. It can be on various different platforms as well, but I consider this as the most relevant in terms of professional approach. We also have various different platforms that I'm sure we are going to go through in terms of what they consist of and what is their scope, but to come back to LinkedIn and the way that you can present your identity, your digital identity, I would definitely say that it's a good place to start from. Companies are already using it quite a lot, so they are presenting their digital identity through LinkedIn as well, and the information that you can take from this platform is mutually gratifying.
13:07 PG: Yeah, and I think that's an important point, right? Because I do think social media, one way or the other, tends to democratize a little bit more that process, if I may use this word, meaning, it's more of an equal-to-equal type of conversation, supply and demand. But you have a lot of access as a candidate as well to a lot of information. And by the way, companies not only on LinkedIn, they're on websites, but there are other tools out there that companies really keep an eye on because they're more like “The Tripadvisors”, allow me that word, of which companies are actually considered to be good employers or not, as employees themselves tend to provide comments as well about their employers. For example...
13:55 IB: Absolutely.
13:56 PG: Yeah.
13:57 IB: It's all out in the open these days and social media is helping us achieve that clarity. From the job seeker's perspective, the way that I see it, and the way that I engage with my candidates, I definitely see them a lot more interested in looking up on the likes of Glassdoor or Kununu. A lot of reviews on the companies that they would potentially target as their next employer just to see, "What exactly is that Tripadvisor review? What are people saying about it? Or how is it to work there without having worked there necessarily?" They're gathering a lot of information to be prepared when they actually see or discuss with somebody face-to-face, what that company is all about, and the same applies to organizations that are looking up candidates on LinkedIn. The likes of LinkedIn or Xing for us in the DACH region here is very relevant. You can actually, as a candidate, you can add to that social identity because you also have the function of including testimonials from your managers, from your colleagues, from your former clients, suppliers, just a short note. It works exactly the same as a Tripadvisor review. It's the opposite, is the mirror to the Glassdoor review of the company, you can have the same exact thing for the candidate on LinkedIn.
15:27 PG: And what other tools would you say do you use? So LinkedIn, 70 or so percent of your activity. Right? 
15:39 PG: Xing.
15:40 IB: Xing, yeah.
15:40 PG: Xing. It is not Sing but Xing.
15:43 PG: But... It is very specific to a geographic area. What other tools would you say that are a bit more global or that extend beyond geographies that you look into also to check coherence? When you were talking about digital identity with DACH and guess we also talked about the importance of being cautious of how you show up and what... Just to be sure that what you're showing of yourself is really what you want to show, and that should be coherent as well in the different platforms where you may be active in. What would your comments be already on other platforms that you may use in regarding the sense of coherence of your brand? 
16:33 IB: This is actually a very important point, Paola, that I'm really glad that you brought up because the coherence is definitely one of the things that we would be looking at. There are various platforms that are available to us out there and that I personally have been using myself. So apart from the obvious LinkedIn, professional platform, and Xing precisely dedicated for the DACH region for career opportunities as well and German-speaking cultures, it would definitely appeal to that culture the most. I would say there're others that can complement them. So moving on from there, I think Twitter can definitely be one in which you actually can gain that coherence and that digital identity to confirm what you've been applying already on LinkedIn, Xing, and so on and so forth. Here locally, let's say it doesn't have so much of an appeal, I haven't seen a lot of people using Twitter, and not a lot of my candidates are active on Twitter. But if you are actually engaging with a larger organization or an international organization, this also can show that you bring that global mindset in the game because Twitter is definitely a platform that is used across continents, across geographies, cultures. 
18:04 IB: It's pretty much for everyone and it gives you the possibility of transparently speaking your mind which can also show up when you're potentially interviewing for an international role. This is one of the things that I would suggest for those people that are working across geographies. Then, we also have other platforms that we can go to, and I instantly can think of Facebook that I personally have grown up with. This was a major platform for me. This one's for everything, friends, colleagues, co-workers, pretty much all of the informal communication that we could think of. Sort of a... The telephone back in the day. Facebook has become for us this sort of platform, and it also offers a lot of unique settings because being it's so informal, you actually have the possibility of connecting with friends, co-workers, family, and have a lot more clarity, let's say, and a lot more of a deep and personal communication. And you can also use this in your job search because you will have a lot of people that you would be connected with on Facebook that will know other people in different communities, potentially also leading to a community that's someone from your desired employer.
19:38 PG: So what you're saying is actually use Facebook as your community network type of thing to also get some leads perhaps, right, or some good contacts that you can then further follow up through the more professional, let's say, platform of LinkedIn. Is that a bit more of a millennial perspective compared to my generation? 
20:04 IB: That'll be a millennial perspective, yes.
20:08 IB: This is what we do. And I have to say from my experience so far, of seven years in working in recruitment and helping various different individuals progress in their career. I do have to say the majority of them tend to be a lot more motivated when they're receiving a recommendation from somebody they're already connected with, ideally from the close circle, so friends, family and so on and so forth. The motivation is increasing because it is a word of mouth recommendation and you tend to trust more, your close circle than you would a third party or somebody that you've never been engaged with. So it's definitely a place to create a community, and it's definitely a place to ask for recommendations when you're considering a particular position. You can gain clarity, even if it's on the role or the company or the scope of this position, ask somebody in your close circle that is already in this position. It's definitely a tool to network, but it's also a tool to gain clarity on your next steps. That's how I would define it. So use that community to actually gain more clarity for your own job search.
21:23 PG: Okay. Well, there you go. Facebook is an important tool also for that.
21:31 IB: It is. It's also a possibility to engage in a community that is looking for the same thing. So let's say we have a topic in mind, we have been speaking about design thinking before, right, that we're both interested in. What I would do is I would create a chat or a group in Facebook and gather around other people that are like-minded, that are interested in this topic and that can share information on this topic, because some of us might be beginners. For example, for me, this is a new topic. Some of us might have more information about it and they're already applying it in their current positions, so why not learning by doing this together instead of just focusing on getting as much information from the internet, which is a lot, to be fair. Just to filter through that, it's a lot of time and a lot effort from our side.
22:28 IB: So again, recommendations from people that you can count on will definitely be advisable in this case. So Facebook, I would use it in this particular option. It can also be an option for LinkedIn. So this is not exclusive to Facebook. I would definitely engage in groups of like-minded individuals on the same topics and the same industry that you are interested in. In my case, I would actually follow companies in the life science sector, I would follow individuals that are leaders in the life science sector and get engaged on topics that are of mutual interest. This also creates a much better connection between the people than just reaching out to somebody and asking them for a job. It doesn't build that relationship.
23:21 PG: Exactly, and that's super important to build the relationship around some sort of affinity and not purely a transactional type of exchange. Perhaps there's also the sense of building community around common interests. If we go back and you put your recruiter's hat on, is there that curiosity, as well, to check out where these individuals are in other platforms? Or do you leave it at LinkedIn and then you take it to the other stage, which is the CV or you contact them, etcetera, etcetera? 
24:01 IB: I have to say, the other day with one of my colleagues, we've definitely run a search on some of the people that we are engaging with on Google. Google gives us all the connections, and if you do search your own name even on Google, you will realize that all of the accounts that you registered on social media will come up. So obviously, that's your digital identity right there, and it can act as a CV without necessarily being a traditional CV. So obviously you will see that people have a coherent digital identity if they also stick to the same story on Facebook and on Twitter, potentially on Instagram, which is growing rapidly in users at the moment, so it really... It really depends on what you want to achieve. But I would definitely say that, Yes, I am one of those ones that stays behind the computer and is looking up people's names.
25:07 PG: Well, I don't know about you, but after this conversation with Irina, I strongly recommend you check your digital identity. I checked mine and I'm not sure to what extent it's as coherent as it could be. That said, I hope you enjoyed this part one of this episode of Let's Get Digital. Should you want to continue to listen in, to tune in, to plug in, all you have to do is subscribe. The more we are, the Wowier we know it's gonna be. So thank you for listening, tuning into the World of Work podcast, putting that WoW back to work for all of us. Until the next time, take good care.

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