Our guest today is Sarena Tseng, a University Relations Recruiter at Cox Communications. On top of her day job as a recruiter, she is a career coach for students, a LinkedIn expert for young professionals, and a guide for aspiring content creators on LinkedIn.
Here are some questions we will be answering:
– Difference between recruiters and hiring managers?
– Why and how to build a personal brand?
– How to grow your audience on LinkedIn?
– How to position yourself as a candidate?
– What to post on LinkedIn?
Connect with Sarena: www.linkedin.com/in/sarenatseng/
Follow our Host on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/aaron-aj-eckstein/
Get 1-on-1 Career Coaching: www.careercoachingcompany.com/
*Disclaimer: The opinions and views expressed in this podcast are of the host and guest and not of their employers.
“Put yourself out there for opportunities and bring a little bit more of your authentic self onto LinkedIn, because most people in real life would probably not describe themselves exactly as how they’re LinkedIn profile portrays them.” – Sarena Tseng
Welcome to the Final Round podcast, where our mission is to help you knock out the competition and land your dream job. My name is A.J. Eckstein, and I’m a recent college graduate, a strategy consultant, a five-time intern and the founder of the Career Coaching Company.
Have you ever wondered why only a few people get past the final round interview and land the job offer? Join me in the ring as I speak with recruiters at top companies to learn the secrets why certain applicants get “knocked-out” and others are still standing after the final round.
The Final Round podcast is brought to you by Career Coaching Company. They offer one-on-one, live, tailored coaching from recent grads who work at leading companies across multiple industries like consulting, investment banking and much more. Now, let’s jump into the ring and get you past the final round.
Our guest today is Sarena Tseng, a university relations recruiter at Cox Communications. On top of her day job as a recruiter, she is a career coach for students, a LinkedIn expert for young professionals and a guide for aspiring content creators on LinkedIn. Let’s welcome Sarena to the show. Hello Sarena, welcome to the Final Round podcast. How is it going today?
Sarena: It’s going great. Thank you for having me on the podcast.
Absolutely! I’m so excited to kind of pick your brain for today and learn more, just share more insight with our audience. So, I understand that you’re a university recruiter, you’re a LinkedIn coach and you’re a content creator that has some amazing content that I’ve been following for some time now. How did you really break into the world of the career space or the world of recruiting?
Sarena: Yeah. So, I wasn’t one of those people who knew I wanted to be a recruiter ever since the get go nor do I know if I’m going to continue to be a recruiter for the rest of my life, but I was really interested in psychology and sociology when I was in college, so that’s what I majored in and I was really interested in how the human mind works. But the thing was I didn’t really want to go into clinical psychology and instead I wanted to use that kind of knowledge and apply it to the business world because I always had an interest in business as well.
So, combining those two interests, I realized that human resources might be a good path for me, did a couple of internships in HR, really enjoyed it and wanted to try out recruiting specifically and see what that whole world was like because recruiting is a part of HR but it’s not exactly the same thing. Companies have their own department when it comes to recruiting and there are so many different job fields, even within recruiting, like sourcing. I’ve even heard that there is such a thing as a closing recruiter, which I didn’t know existed. There’s full cycle recruiters, there’s university recruiters, technical recruiters. So, there’s a whole world of recruiting and it’s really cool to just be able to be a part of that sphere and learn how companies hire students or companies hire candidates in general and see what are the best practices from the recruiting side.
So, you mentioned that there is not just a recruiter that does everything but oftentimes recruiting teams and they could be a technical recruiter, university recruiter, a sourcer. I think you said a closing recruiter who tells people maybe push them to accept the offer. So, now that you’ve been in space for some time now, what are some of the biggest takeaways after being on the other side? I always like to ask our guests that and try to open up the curtain and really understand what happens in the back end.
Sarena: Yeah, for sure. So, I’ve learned a lot of things ever since I started my role in recruiting and I think one of the biggest trends I’ve noticed is that diversity recruiting is really important nowadays and you know it’s not just because of the Black Lives Matter movement but just because our generation is really wanting to build inclusive workplaces and be able to be a part of diverse companies that really embrace diversity of thought. And so, we take part in a lot of different diversity initiatives when it comes to targeting HBCUs or targeting females in STEM and different minority groups like that because we really do want to be able to hire talent like that.
So, if someone on the other end ever feels like they are being underappreciated or they feel like they can’t really make it in this world, I want them to know that there are so many companies that really do want to have them as part of their team and they really do see the value in them. And I wish that those people could really be able to recognize that they have a place in these companies and they completely 100% deserve to be there.
And I think that’s a great point that you make in that diversity recruiting is so important and it’s not just about meeting your quotas, but it’s really about diversifying the workplace, making your employees feel included. I think that also helps not only get people in the door but also helps retain employees. So, I think that is such an important need right now to focus on diversity and inclusion. With different parts of recruiters and reaching out to recruiters, is it okay to reach out to, for instance, a closing recruiter if you’re trying to get your foot in the door or someone on HR or someone who is a sourcer like are all recruiters essentially good people to reach out to or should you focus on just the recruiter? For instance, university relations like yourself who focus on internship programs if you’re going for an internship.
Sarena: So, there are definitely recruiters that can help you get to where you want to go better than other recruiters. For example, I’m a university recruiter, I only recruit students for internships and co-op positions and I don’t do full time positions and I state that clearly in the about section on my LinkedIn profile. Yet, I received so many requests from people asking to connect with me for full-time positions, but I really can’t help them with that and neither is that in my job description and I don’t have the time to simply go out of my way to help every single one of those people.
So, people really need to do their due diligence and try to figure out who the correct recruiter is for the position, whether that’s a university recruiter for students or a technical recruiter for people who are working in the technology field. There are even specific marketing recruiters, there are diversity recruiters, there’s so many different kinds of recruiters and you want to be able to do your research on LinkedIn and just try to figure out who the recruiter for that role is. But then again, it’s not the end-all be-all if you can’t find the recruiter because naturally if we publicize all that information, then we’re just going to have so many people trying to get through the back door and trying to apply for these companies by sending us a connection requests and trying to have coffee chats with us.
But the best candidate isn’t necessarily one who messages the recruiter but the one who applies through the regular job application and the resume is just good enough that we can put them through to the interview rounds. So, it definitely can help to message the recruiter and just kind of see what their interview timeline is like and see if they can possibly help you. But I don’t want people to stress too much about that process.
So, I think a common misconception is that applying online is a black box or a black hole and you’re never going to see your application or hear back from a recruiter again. Would you say that’s not the case and that you don’t necessarily have to reach out to the recruiter, you can still get an interview without interacting with someone at the company?
Sarena: Yeah, absolutely! And of course, it depends on the company as well. For example, I know at startups, it might be a better strategy to message recruiters because they’re always actively posting their roles on LinkedIn and so they want people to apply to them and provide their resume to them. But on the other hand, if I’m a recruiter and not necessarily a sourcer, I would be the one looking through those resumes and screening them and seeing who would be most qualified to move on to the next round. So, again, they don’t necessarily have to reach out to the recruiter.
But again, I understand that it is really frustrating when your resume isn’t looked at and/or at least it feels like your resume isn’t looked at but it probably most likely has been looked at, at some point. So, a tip I would give is whenever someone is applying to a job application or they’re just interested in the job to apply for it right away because what happens is you might have dozens or hundreds of people applying within the 1st 24 or 48 hours. And so, your best chances of getting your resume looked at is if you are one of the first resumes in the job application portal. Just because applications sometimes are reviewed on a rolling basis. So, a recruiter doesn’t want to look at 600 resumes. They try to look at the 1st 40 and then decide who from there is the best. So, that’s my tip for getting your resume looked at.
That’s a really interesting point to apply right when you say the application versus waiting a few days, a few weeks to try to maybe tailor it more or try to have a more effective resume and meet people. But you think that it’s better to apply or even maybe this summer when not a ton of companies are recruiting. They usually recruit in the fall or the spring semester, they get everything ready to go and then once you see that application and you see the job application then tailor a few keywords, try to match the job description and apply as soon as you can to meet that rolling deadline.
Best Way to Reach Out to Recruiters
Got it! Interesting. And once you apply and you want to dive deeper and really increase your chances for the specific application or role and you want to start networking, what is the best way to reach out to recruiters? I always think this is a great question because as you said, so many people reach out to you for the wrong reasons, right? They ask you for a full-time job where A, you should never ask a recruiter for a job. It’s just not what you’re supposed to do. But even apart from that, you don’t recruit for a full time job. So, I’m probably assuming that you just ignore those messages flat off the bat or maybe say, “Do your due diligence next time.” Right? So, what messages do you read? What gets your attention and what will maybe get you on a coffee chat with someone versus ignoring someone’s message?
Sarena: Right. So, for me, because I create content on LinkedIn, one of the ways that people can distinguish their message to me assuming that they write a personalized invite, which by the way, everyone should be writing personalized invites in order to connect with people is when they for example, give me a compliment about the content that I write or tell me that they used a certain tip that are provided in one of my recruitment tips in my posts or even if they just mentioned something from my profile, like if they went to the same university as I did or if they’re really interested in pursuing a career in HR then those are the types of people that I would connect with and be happy to add to my network because they seemed like they did their background research. They value me as a content creator and not just a recruiter.
And so, those people are the people that I would add anyways regardless of if I were a recruiter because content creators love seeing that kind of thing. So, if the candidate sees that a recruiter is also a content creator, I would definitely recommend going that route and complimenting them on their content and saying that they would love to connect just because they want to follow along with their content.
I totally get where you’re coming from. I think I’m in the same boat. Obviously, I will post a ton about the Final Round. I will be posting and marketing this episode very shortly and people reach out and they’ll either just send a blanket connection request with no note. Although I added a note, you can tell they checked off the box that I added a note, but you and I both know it’s very easy to see if it’s a template or not. And then there are those last candidates or the last people who not only out of note but make it tailored and they’ll just say, “Hey, Sarena, I love your content,” but, “Hey, Sarena, I love the poll that you just posted about how a personal brand is more important than an Ivy League education and I resonate with that because of XYZ.”
Those are the things where you know that they actually value you and that they actually are supporting what you’re doing. I’m much more inclined to connect with that person versus someone who just has that templated approach. So, I totally get where you’re coming from and it does take a few extra minutes to tailor it, but it goes so much farther and I think there’s a better chance of them accepting versus not.
Sarena: Exactly. And then once you send that message, you can ask further questions to continue the conversation. But I would say try to make it as easy as possible for the recruiters. So, if you have a question about an interview timeline, that’s fair game. I’ll answer questions like that or if I want to ask a question about whether a specific role will be available for next season, I can try to help answer that question.
But if you ask the question, “How are you or what is the culture at your company like?” Those are just questions that take me a lot of time and thought to answer and because of that, I’m more likely to skip it. So, if you want to ask a specific question to a recruiter, feel free to do that and continue the conversation that way.
Best Practices with Recruiters
I’ve also received some of those messages where it says, “Hey, AJ, could I ask you a question?” Don’t just ask a question but ask a tailored question. And if you can find it online, then you shouldn’t be asking that because you’re wasting everyone’s time. Like it should be a question that maybe it’s not on the job application, you say, “Well, what is the deadline for this internship?” And then obviously you would have clarity to that. So, I think that is a really good point. When interacting with recruiters, are there any other best practices as things to do or maybe things to avoid that you’ve seen in your experience working with candidates?
Sarena: I would say, when it comes to scheduling candidates’ interviews and helping them along with the process. What I’ve seen is that some candidates just don’t even pick up the phone or some candidates will see the email for an interview invite two days after I sent the email. So, for candidates, it’s very important to be very timely because companies have a recruiting timeline. If you don’t reply within a certain amount of time, other candidates have and we’re just going to move them along like, ‘Sorry, there’s not really a second chance there,’ unless the hiring manager is really accommodating.
So, candidates need to understand that even though they have school going on, even though they have finals going on, if we extend an interview to you, you probably will want to take that interview even if you’re in the middle of finals, even if you might have to miss a class because at the end of the day, what is more important to you, right? Like would you rather get A minus on a final instead of an A plus or would you rather have an entire summer of an internship? So, it’s those kinds of things that you have to think about and it’s still a risk to do an interview and you might not get it at the end, but you’re going to gain a lot of valuable experience and practice doing interviews and you might even land the position at the end.
I think you’re at school to get a job. I mean, obviously you’re there to learn, but hang tuition to get a career. So, I think that missing class for a job or an internship interview, obviously, I think it’s a good excuse to tell your professors.
Let’s step out of the ring and talk about Career Coaching Companies. With all the valuable advice that you just heard from our wonderful guest, let’s take action on that advice with one-on-one live tailored coaching from recent grads who now work at the same companies that you’re applying to. Schedule your free strategy call today by going to careercoachingcompany.com. Now, back to the ring.
You mentioned being timely with responses when interacting with recruiters. I think that is a good example of the little things that matter as well as in the interview, wearing something that is appropriate, right? Or just speaking very highly of a past employer doing the little things or even sending a tailored follow up email and doing some research. Do you think that the little things are what get people to that next round or past the final round or is it more so just the interview chunk of time with the hiring manager?
Sarena: So, of course the interview chunk of time with the hiring manager is the most important thing. So, if you’re someone who did all the little things right, but you just didn’t really excel in the interview, then they’re going to go with the person who did excel in the interview and didn’t send a follow up email. But at the same time, it’s like the recruiting space is so competitive nowadays that if there are several really good candidates, then it could be those little things that add up. Things like smiling during the interview or sending that thank you email at the end. I think those things don’t necessarily make or break whether you get a job, but it can depend on what kind of role you’re interviewing for, and you always want to stack the odds in your favor by adding up all those little things and doing everything in your power in order to get the position.
And would you say another one of those little things is having an up-to-date LinkedIn profile that’s optimized, maybe you’re not creating content yet, but just having a profile with a good profile picture or background and just talking about your experiences would be an addition to those little things?
Setting Yourself Up for Success
Sarena: Yeah. So, in terms of a LinkedIn profile, I think that’s more important at the beginning of the recruitment process than at the end of it since your LinkedIn is more like a living resume. So, I’ve never heard a hiring manager debate between two candidates and decide to go on the LinkedIn profile and see who has the best LinkedIn profile. It’s more like if a sourcer reaches out to you via LinkedIn and decides to interview or bring you in for an interview, those kinds of things make your LinkedIn important to keep up-to-date.
So, it is really good to have a complete LinkedIn profile and be able to show that you know what you’re doing at professional social media, but I don’t think it necessarily makes or breaks either. Just because there are a lot of older professionals especially who don’t really use LinkedIn and might not even have a LinkedIn profile. But in this day and age, I think as we continue in this recruiting space that LinkedIn profiles are going to become more and more important.
You said that obviously recruiting has really never been a more competitive space and candidates are fighting for opportunities just as companies are fighting for the best talent. So, what is the best way to position yourself as a candidate to set yourself up for success?
Sarena: Yeah. So, obviously you want to have a really strong resume and one of the things that people don’t realize is how poor their resume actually looks, especially when you’re first starting off writing your resume, you don’t really know what an excellent resume actually looks like because the samples that career centers provide you aren’t the best examples either. So, I would always recommend getting any recruiter friends or getting any career counselors or even a career coach on LinkedIn to look over your resume.
And it could also be just someone who is already a seasoned professional or someone who is pretty experienced with the interview process. You just want to make sure that your resume doesn’t have any obvious flaws to it and that it’s not portraying you as a weak candidate as opposed to a strong candidate. So, obviously, your resume really matters. But then once you get past the resume screening round, when it comes to interviews, you want to make sure that you’re showing your soft skills. So, you were selected to come into the interview because it looks like you have the hard skills and we definitely want you to mention those during your interview. But at the same time, we want to know if you’re going to be a good culture fit, you want to know if you’re going to be an excellent person to work on our team. So, it’s really important to be able to have a conversation with the hiring manager as opposed to just flexing all the technical skills that you have in an interview.
Recruiters vs. Hiring Managers
I agree that I remember coming in starting my career or my time in college and I thought that my resume was perfect, but I think it constantly gets iterated. It’s a living breathing thing that you continue to update and add as you get more experience. You get older in school. But the best thing is getting your peers to help edit, getting friends in the recruiting space, friends in the career space, maybe people who are in the industry. I think the more eyes you can get on it, the better it could be because like you said, you can still network and get your foot in the door but the easiest way is just to apply online and having a good resume is everything. So, I think that that’s such a good point with focusing on your resume.
You keep bringing up hiring managers and I remember that you had and it was probably one of your first post, at least after I started following you and understanding more about kind of your amazing career content about the difference between a recruiter and the hiring manager because I think a lot of people, including myself get them confused, but they’re actually very different. Can you talk about the difference between a recruiter and hiring manager?
Sarena: Yeah, definitely! This is one of those things that they don’t really teach you in school, but it’s really important to have the correct terminology and the correct mindset towards these two people. So, a recruiter is someone who is screening resumes and they will probably do the initial phone screening and they’re basically the gatekeepers to whether or not you can even have a chance at the position. So, once they like your resume and they think that it fits the job profile, then they’ll hand you over to the hiring manager or maybe there might be some people in between the recruiter and the hiring manager, but your hiring manager is a person who is going to be your future manager.
So, they are ultimately the one who is making the final decision. Even if you pass the recruiter round and the recruiter really likes you, it doesn’t really matter unless the hiring manager really likes you too. So, in terms of impressing the hiring manager, obviously it’s a really big plus if you already know them, like if you’ve already network with them or you know someone else in the company who can vouch for you. But in a lot of cases, you probably are going to be meeting the hiring manager.
So, what you can do is ask the recruiter who the hiring manager is once you get to that round and then you can look them up on LinkedIn and see if there are any questions that you can specifically tailored to them because the hiring managers, their information is not publicly known, especially right out in the job profile. And so, when you’re able to ask that tailored question to them and really show them, “Hey, I’m really interested in knowing you as a person,” then they’re going to be really flattered and they’ll feel like you really do want to be on the team.
How does the conversation change when let’s say I’m speaking to a recruiter versus speaking to a hiring manager? What questions would change? What things should you avoid or should you specifically say?
Sarena: So, recruiters, they’re going to ask you those more general questions just to make sure that you are who you actually say you are in your resume and you would be a good fit for the company. So, they’re going to start asking you more general questions like, tell me about yourself or what do you think you’re fit for the company. And they might ask you some behavioral questions as well just to throw in some questions to test your critical thinking skills and your storytelling abilities. But when it comes to the interview with the hiring manager, that’s when it gets a lot more specific.
So, they’re going to ask you questions more about the specific role and they’re going to ask you how does your previous experience align with the work that my team is doing? And they’re going to tell you a little bit about what their team is doing and you kind of have to bridge the gap there and show them that even if I don’t have this experience in the past, I have this other experience and these other transferable skills that I can bring to the table and one of the other differences between the interview with the recruiter and the interview with the hiring manager are the types of questions that you are able to ask them. So, for example, if a student were to ask me as the university recruiter what the team specifically does in terms of how they fit in with the organization?
Now, I can probably answer that question, but you might want to save that question for the hiring manager themselves. If they ask me specifically, like what kinds of software do they use? I might be familiar with that, but I might not know every single piece of software that they use. So, if you have more of those day-to-day questions, you’re going to want to save those for the hiring manager.
And then for the recruiter, is it better to ask questions about the company overall or just the recruitment process, things like that?
Sarena: Exactly! Asking questions about the culture or anything that a recruiter overall might be able to answer.
Would you say that it’s possible to skip the recruiter and go straight to the hiring manager or like you said the recruiters are gatekeepers and you will definitely interact with the recruiter before you get the interview with the hiring manager?
Sarena: It probably depends on the company, but the vast majority of companies have recruiters. So, in some instances the hiring manager is the recruiter. For example, if you are looking for a recruiting position yourself then the recruiter is going to be the hiring manager and vice versa. But typically, you are going to have to go through the interview around with the recruiter and the hiring manager, especially if it’s at a larger corporation.
Obviously, if you come into the interview and you see that the hiring manager, you have a past relationship with, maybe a referral and the company can put in a good word. Obviously, it’s going to only benefit you, but most times the hiring manager’s name is not necessarily on the job application. It’s only really released usually before the interview. So, is it worthwhile to try to figure out or guess who that hiring manager is? If it’s a very specific marketing position at a company that’s not too big, is it effective to try to figure out who that is and try to network in that team to greater chances of meeting that hiring manager?
Sarena: I think candidates would think it would be a strategic way to go about it. But I personally don’t think so because it kind of seems like you’re coming off as kind of desperate for the role because you’re almost like stalking this person and the person doesn’t want to be revealed until the final interview rounds. So, unless you have a really good feel of how to research it and not to come off in a creepy way, I wouldn’t really try to reach out to the hiring manager,
So, it’s a fine line about showing that you’re interested but also being interested by other companies. Right? So, I agree that not being overboard and talking to every single person on the team, it could seem a little bit too much. I think those are great points. I want to kind of shift gears for the second half of the interview and talk about LinkedIn. Obviously, I know that that’s probably what you’re most excited about and I think both of us spend a ton of time on LinkedIn creating content and networking. So, on the topic of LinkedIn and building a personal brand, I remember that you recently posted a poll if people would value a larger personal brand or an Ivy League education. And I saw that out of a thousand votes, a strong personal brand actually beat an Ivy League education by almost 40%. So, can you talk about that? What is a personal brand and why is it important?
Sarena: Yeah. So, in simple terms, a personal brand is your reputation, whether that’s online or offline. And so, especially during this pandemic, your offline brand is kind of taken away from you a little bit. You have Zoom meetings, but people can’t really read your energy as well when you’re not in the room. And so that’s why I think it’s important to have that online presence because you’re able to reach so many other people and you’re putting yourself out there so other people can connect with you and other people can get to know who you truly are as opposed to just limiting yourself in in-person interactions.
And that’s one of the reasons why I love LinkedIn is because there’s so many talented and hardworking people on there. You are going to teach me so much if I connect with them. And it’s also a really great way to attract community and to attract like-minded individuals into your network. And so, obviously you have the external benefits of having a personal brand. But for me, I enjoy being able to shape my personal brand and generate the kind of content that I want to in order to help other people in the world and on the LinkedIn audience.
So, for me, it’s very fulfilling to be able to build up my personal brand and in terms of how other people might see it, I would encourage them to be on LinkedIn, to post content on LinkedIn, just to put yourself out there for opportunities and bring a little bit more of your authentic self onto LinkedIn, because most people in real life would probably not describe themselves exactly as how they’re LinkedIn profile portrays them, but rather they want to show a little bit more of their personality, show a little bit more of their story, tell people a little bit more about the struggles that they went through, and LinkedIn is such a great way to do that and to have a bunch of different opportunities come your way because of it.
Before we talk about maybe some ideas or topics of what to post, can you first kind of explain, at least in your own experience, when you previously weren’t posting content or maybe weren’t as active on the platform and now fast forward a few months or maybe a year after posting what has been the impact of posting content actively on LinkedIn?
Sarena: Yeah, absolutely! So, I started posting content on LinkedIn during the pandemic as a form of a creative outlet. For me, I wanted to be able to share my voice more because I felt like in the classroom as an introvert, it was a little bit more difficult for me to express myself. And so, because of that, I wasn’t really known to other people. So, when it comes to LinkedIn, you really have the ability to put yourself out there in a different way, whether that’s the writing or through videos or a lot of different methods that you can do that.
So, I think it’s really important to try to give yourself these outlets to show other people who you really are and to practice your communication skills, practice your writing skills, practice your copywriting skills. And as a result of consistently posting on LinkedIn, I’ve been able to be on this podcast, meet cool people like you, I’ve had recruiters reaching out to me, I’ve had a bunch of different invitations to speak at conferences and right now, I’m even building out my own program so other people can be a part of that. And so, when you build your following, there are a lot of different benefits that come out of that.
So, people don’t think that you can monetize on LinkedIn, but there are definitely ways to build your own business and get downlines from it that way. So, if that’s what someone’s motivation is then, so be it. But there are also a lot of other awesome benefits that come from posting on LinkedIn, like self-fulfillment and finding a bunch of different friends from all over the world.
Creating LinkedIn Content
So, I think that most people would agree that you should be posting and I think everyone’s first post, I think my first post was congratulations or I’m happy to announce a post where you announce your internship or maybe a full-time job offer that you just accepted. But I think it goes beyond that because you only sign or accept so many offers, right? You can’t be posting what is offered every single day. So, what are some good topics or ideas that you can post about? Because I feel like, you know, coming in, most people think that you have to be a subject matter expert in the topic. For instance, if I want to talk about recruiting, but I’m not a recruiter, or I see Sarena posting because she has that experience, but I’m not a recruiter. So, what are some good ideas or ways that you can think of good ideas even as a young student?
Sarena: So, you don’t necessarily have to be an expert in order to post on LinkedIn. I even wrote a whole LinkedIn post about this as well, but people feel like they have to have a certain subject where they have all the expertise on in order to post about it at first, but that couldn’t be further from the truth really, because people want to see your real stories. They want to have these identities that they can relate with. So, think about your journey and what things that you are comfortable with sharing with your audience in order to help them get to know you better. Those are the kinds of posts that I’ve seen do really well on LinkedIn, and they don’t necessarily have to be super deep, they can just be interesting commentary about LinkedIn, or just a train of thought that you have, or reflections that you have regarding college, or any advice that you might have from going through recruitment yourself.
Do you need to have thousands of followers to have a post that maybe goes viral or has a large engagement rate?
Sarena: Absolutely not! And that’s one of the reasons why I love LinkedIn, is because it has such good organic reach, that you could literally have less than 500 connections, but have a post go viral just because of how well it was written or how well people can resonate with it. So, I think a lot of people try to get that first viral post and they’re really hoping to get a viral post within the first couple months of posting, and it happens for some people, but it doesn’t happen for others and some people can plan viral content, other people do it more spontaneously. So, it’s completely possible to go viral on LinkedIn. And I think that if you’re consistent at it, and you consistently evolve your content to your audience, then you will eventually go viral.
Well, I think it’s astonishing that everyone wants to be famous on Tiktok, but no one realizes that there’s this other platform that’s almost like Tiktok’s business professional friend LinkedIn, and it’s the same algorithm where you can have 200 connections, but have a post seen by 200,000 people and you don’t need to have a huge following and you can really grow very quickly. So, I agree that the power is in this algorithm and there’s very few people posting on the platform. I think there was less than 2% of the over 750 million active users who are actively posting.
So, the opportunity is there just a matter of being confident enough, shooting your shot, putting yourself out there and being okay with some post not doing “great” because I think great, you can define it as likes and comments and engagements and re-shares, or you can define it as helping one person. Maybe they don’t even like the post, but they actually found value because not everyone has to like a post to say that, “Wow! This was a great post.” So, I think that actively posting because you want to post and you want to, let’s say help others versus posting just to get that one viral post and trying to monetize it and I know that’s kind of what we’re both doing, trying to go for the right reasons and it’s always nice to have those comments. People say, “Thanks so much for your content. It’s really helped me for whatever reason.”
Sarena: Yeah, exactly!
Growing Your Audience
After starting to build your personal brand and posting content on LinkedIn, what is the best way to start growing your audience?
Sarena: Yeah. So, one of the tips I have, this is just a really tactical piece of advice, is changing the connect button to the follow button. So, you can do this in the settings of your LinkedIn profile, that way it kind of removes that friction from people simply following you. So, that’s one of the little strategies that have helped me to grow my following just to make it easier for people to follow me. But in terms of the content itself, you want to be posting really good content, but that’s only half of the battle because if you’re not interacting with other people on LinkedIn, people don’t see you as a community builder. So why would they comment on your post?
So, what you want to do is you want to give to other content creators as well. You want to go and comment on their posts and that will increase your visibility because if you post a really insightful comment on someone else’s post that ends up getting a lot of views, then people will notice that they liked your comment, they’ll go visit your profile, they’ll see, ‘Oh, okay. This person has really thoughtful content as well. Let me follow them as well.’ So, it really helps to be active on the platform and not just focus on your own brand.
The Final Question
I think that’s a great point, and even when I’ve been affected by reaching out to recruiters to have them on the show, it hasn’t been cold outreach. It’s actually been actively engaging with their content. And then in turn they see, ‘Oh, who is this person engaging with by adding a very insightful comment?’ They add to, let’s say my post about when I market this episode, and I’m like, ‘Oh, such a cool podcast.’ And then I can just say, ‘Well, great! We’d love to have you on the show.’ Right?
So, I think that’s actually what we did. I think I asked you in one of the comments sections when you were talking about a podcast. So, I think that comment section is not something that’s talked about a lot, but if you give then people will give in return and it’s kind of a give and you get. So, I think that those are such good points and I think you really have LinkedIn and personal branding and content creation down to a science. Everyone out there, make sure you follow Sarena. I’ll make sure to drop your LinkedIn profile down in the show notes.
And for the last question today, Sarena, a question that we ask all of our guests that we have in the show is what is the best piece of advice that you can give to our audience to help them get past the final round interview and land the job offer?
Sarena: So, my advice for people who are at that final round is to make sure that your interest in the position isn’t lost in translation. Because what happens is a lot of candidates will show off their hard skills and show that they’re the best candidate, but not necessarily the best candidate for the role because the hiring manager is very protective about who takes that slot. And so, if that slot is not going to be used for someone’s career in the long term, then they’re not going to want to give that slot to you because it’s precious to them, it’s a very coveted position on their team and they want someone who will thrive in that position and who really wants to learn and grow and use a specific skill sets that they’re going to provide in that role. So, to these candidates, make sure you are showing your interest in the role because I have seen a lot of candidates get lost in that final round and not be accepted because they simply just didn’t express enough interest in the role.
Amazing! Well, thank you so much for all of your insight today. I have learned so much and I know our audience members have basically just heard a LinkedIn masterclass or LinkedIn playbook on how to grow your brand, how to advance past that final round interview and how to effectively reach out to recruiters. So, thank you so much for being here, Sarena. I know it’s late by you on the East Coast, we all really appreciate you being on the show.
Sarena: Thank you. It was a pleasure being on.
If there’s one thing that I think all of our listeners should take away from this episode is that your voice needs to be heard on LinkedIn. Sarena said it best that too many people focus on impostor syndrome, perfectionism, not knowing what to post and lack of engagement on your posts. Well, guess what? Sarena and I are here to help you. So, message us on LinkedIn to craft your first LinkedIn post. Until the next episode of the Final Round podcast, keep fighting and I will see you in the ring.