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Technological Etiquette for Today's Job Seekers

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February 11, 2009

It's bad enough that you've lost your job. It's even worse knowing you must compete with a glut of talented unemployed folks who've also hit the "recession jackpot." But if your first impulse upon getting the ax is to run home and email, text and "friend" every potential employer you can think of, slow down.

Email, social networking, cell phones and BlackBerries are just some of the technologies that have become part of the 21st Century way of life. But if you misuse these tools in your job search – watch out – you'll be one click away from sinking your job hopes. At least, according to one career coach and author.

"The devices you use, when and how you use them, and the content of your messages send subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, signals to a prospective employer that can improve or derail your chances of getting an interview and ultimately landing the job," said Dr. Richard Bayer, chief operating officer of The Five O'Clock Club, a career coaching network, and author of "The Good Person Guidebook: Transforming Your Personal Life."

As if job seekers don't have enough to worry about.

"Here's the bottom line," Bayer said. "Use the technologies available – like Facebook and other social networking sites, email and your BlackBerry – in the correct way at the correct time and you can immensely improve your chances of getting a job in this crowded market. Use them inappropriately and you risk coming off as arrogant, insensitive, immature or just careless."

The following are Bayer's suggestions on proper technology etiquette for job hunters:

Make your first impression the old-fashioned way. When hiring managers get an unsolicited email that they don't recognize, they may well hit "delete" without ever opening it. The solution? Drop your letter and resume in the mailbox. Yes, the actual mailbox.

Email is best for follow-up and networking. Email is generally viewed as acceptable for communication after a meeting. It's fine for when you want to send a link to showcase your work or indicate a relevant article reflecting the content of your conversation. Important follow-ups, however, should always be sent by snail mail, as well, to be sure the formatting is correct and the letter won't be lost in cyberspace. Email is also ideal for contacting someone recommended by a member of your network. Put the person's name in the subject line (e.g.,"Bob Smith Suggested That I Contact You") to be sure you are not automatically deleted.

When following up after a job interview; think strategy. Hiring decisions are made very quickly these days. Send an email follow-up and also mail a copy of your follow-up influence letter. Also, at the end of your interview or phone interview, always ask your interviewer how they prefer to be contacted.

Use mobile devices only in a pinch. Many people type rapidly and well, badly, with their thumbs on BlackBerries and similar devices. The typical mobile message has at least two typos in it because it's composed in a hurry and in quick reaction to an inbound email. And, the tone tends to be terse or glib, subject to misinterpretation. If you want to appear thoughtful, insightful or expert, know that the mobile device may undercut your credibility. Remember to proofread.

To sell yourself to potential employers, don't "cell" yourself. Never use a cell phone for telephone interviews or other phone communication. The interviewer could easily miss words, lose the tone of your voice, or not hear your emphasis on a critical question. And you may not be able to communicate energy or enthusiasm without shouting.

Don't call your interviewers on their cells, either. Never make an initial or introductory call to a hiring manager's cell phone, even if you manage to get the number. In contrast to landlines, everyone still perceives their mobile phones as private as their home phones. It is the ultimate intrusion – the ultimate audio spam – to receive an unsolicited call from a job hunter on one's cell phone. The same holds true for instant messaging.

For first-time communication, always avoid instant messaging, Internet directories and social networks. Instant messaging is a permission-based concept. People invite others of their choosing to interrupt them with instant messages. Rarely are job candidates invited to use this technology by prospective employers. Seeking out and finding a hiring manager via IM is considered extremely rude and intrusive and should be off limits to job seekers. The same holds true for social networking.

"Network" through LinkedIn and other sites. LinkedIn provides you with a way to build up your professional network. Just as you should consider other passive techniques such as contacting search firms and answering ads, LinkedIn should be on your list of job-searching strategies.

Always use your best judgment. There are just too many factors that go into creating a successful job-hunt strategy for there to be the same hard and true advice for every candidate. In other words, there are always occasions where it's ok, or even advisable, to break the rules.

Is Dr. Bayer on target or way off base? We want to know what you think. Comment below or email us at tomorrow@sourcemedia.com

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