Son Nguyen is a Global Campus Recruiting Manager at LinkedIn and is responsible for hiring and coaching entry-level talent for 300+ business and technical roles around the world. Prior to joining the talent acquisition team at LinkedIn, he worked in recruiting for Target Headquarters as well as college admissions at Notre Dame, Columbia, and Michigan.
Here are some questions we will be answering:
– What makes a good and bad LinkedIn profile?
– How to get recruiters to respond to your LinkedIn messages?
– Is a LinkedIn profile more important than a resume?
– How can posting content on LinkedIn help you in the recruitment process?
– How can being an underdog (first-gen, transfer, etc.) actually be an advantage?
– What do college admission directors and company recruiters look for in candidates?
– How to craft your personal story?
– Should you submit a cover letter in a job application?
– How to address a gap in your resume?
Connect with Son: www.linkedin.com/in/son/
Get 1-on-1 Career Coaching: www.careercoachingcompany.com/
Follow our Host, AJ Eckstein, on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/aaron-aj-eckstein/
*Disclaimer: The opinions and views expressed in this podcast are of the host and guest and not of their employers.
“People don’t want to feel alone, right? That’s why you’re part of social networking on a professional level. You never know what part of your personal story is going to resonate. So, just don’t be afraid to post about yourself.” – Son Nguyen
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. I have a passion for helping people achieve their career goals through non-traditional career advice.
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 a master recruiter of students having worked in college admissions and talent acquisition for almost 20 years. Son Nguyen is currently a Global Campus Recruiting Manager at LinkedIn and is responsible for hiring and coaching entry level talent for over 300 business and technical roles around the world. Prior to joining the talent acquisition team at LinkedIn, Son worked in recruiting for target headquarters as well as college admissions at Notre Dame Michigan and even Columbia. Now, let’s get linked in with Son Nguyen.
Son: Yeah, it’s great to be here. I’m glad you’re able to find me through your creative method. So, obviously honored and privileged to be with you all.
Well, I really appreciate that. We’ll definitely be talking about some creative outreach approaches to recruiters like yourself because you guys are very, very busy and get a ton of outreach messages. I first want to start with a little bit about your upbringing. I understand that you were raised by a hardworking refugee family and you are a first-generation college student having attended the University of Notre Dame and Columbia University. Can you please share with us some things you learned along the way that enabled you to really pave your own path and be successful?
Son: Yeah. Thanks for bringing that up. It’s one of those things that’s kind of grown more important to me as I’ve gotten older and developed more professionally. I think they always talk about the fact that representation matters and I’ve taken that pretty seriously as I’ve kind of grown up, as you would say. I’d say there are probably two or three things that really have hit me as I’ve been moving my path up. I think the first two probably are about preparation and intentionality and that they’re ones about not being afraid to ask for help. I’ll touch on the first one, being prepared.
One of the big keys about being a first-generation student is that you don’t always have a second shot at things like you don’t have that luxury just to fail and get another chance. I always try to tell people like, “It’s okay to shoot your shot, but you have to be ready for it.” You just don’t know an opportunity is going to come, you don’t know when a first impression matters. So, I always say be ready so you don’t have to get ready. Do your research ahead of time. That’s one important thing. Another thing I think that’s really important is that whole idea of being intentional and being strategic. You have to think a couple steps ahead. Again, you’re not always going to have an opportunity to fall in your lap, so I want people to really make a plan. It’s okay to change your plans, but you can’t expect things to happen for you as a first-gen student. You have to kind of have that extra hustle and grind. The last thing, and this one took me a while, was just not being afraid to ask for help.
Growing up, being the one that had to translate and interpret for my parents or like make the orders went out to restaurants or even pay the bills, I always kind of felt like it was a burden to ask a teammate or ask like a mentor for like you don’t actually really need some help to help somebody just to kind of provide some lift and I probably try to do too much in my own growing up as a young end. But as I’ve gotten older, learning to delegate, learning to say things like, “Hey, people want to help you out.” I think there’s a strength in being vulnerable. A lot of people want to be trying to be so perfect, especially as a first-generation student. So, I would encourage you to try to put on that front, like you don’t have to do that. People are there to help you out.
Shooting Your Shot
I think those are all such great points. Again, such a remarkable story and I want to go a little bit deeper into the first point and you were talking about shooting your shot. I think a lot of people today are afraid to shoot their shot, whether it’s messaging that recruiter or whether it’s emailing that hiring manager, whether it’s even just shooting your shot and applying to a job that maybe you’re not 100% qualified for. So, what would you say to someone to just ease their mindset about saying that, “It’s okay to fail, it’s okay to be vulnerable. You should give it your shot and give it your all.”
Son: Yeah. I think the first thing is I’ve seen that first-generation people are for people from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Forget how good they actually are, forget that they could play in the big leagues. I think ultimately, it’s not your job to say no to yourself. We’ll talk about gatekeepers later on. If someone’s going to tell you no, let them tell you no. I think it’s worth a shot because people see more in you than you can ever actually imagine. The other thing too is from a recruiter or recruiting manager or admissions officer’s point of view, we actually wanted to succeed. I think most people in this line of work are looking for ways to say yes. Give us information, take that shot, don’t be afraid.
Share Your Story
And you touched on the next topic that I want to discuss and you said that you want people to succeed. And I would say your niche is really helping students, both with helping high school students get into college and then college students getting into entry level roles. Right? I know and I saw from your background that you are director of admissions at three top universities and have been a campus recruiter for Target as well as LinkedIn. Are there some things that you’ve learned recruiting for thousands of students that really get that next person to where they want to go, whether it is that top level admission offer or that job offer?
Son: Yeah. I think the first thing I would start off with is I want to comment on the volume. When it comes to college admissions, like the Notre Dame’s or USCs of the world, there’s just more numbers than we can possibly take. I always tell people that it’s not personal. If you get a no, it’s not necessarily a reflection on you as a person or your character. It just takes someone to say yes and that’s what we’re hunting for here. I think what I’ve really done from the experience is probably two things here. The first one is the importance of developing a personal narrative like that storytelling ability that translates across both games.
With college admissions, there’s an opportunity to talk about your background and talk about your desires. Why do you want to be there? It’s the same thing with your first or second job. It’s going to explain about why now, why the company, why the role? It’s not just one thing. You have to explain that full story through your resume, your cover letters, all that matters. The second thing is really the importance of holistic review. I know not all companies do this but for me to be able to go work at a company or any company that I can work out in the future if it’s not linked in. I mean, I love it here and I love to stay forever. I think companies are doing it right if they look at the whole person. What I mean by that is you’re not just looking at like an ATS, just scanning an AI for a resume. It’s not just that. Maybe that’s part of it, but I still want to get human eyes on a resume.
I think people are really scared of assessments. It’s okay to take an assessment. They’re going to be skills assessments as the recruiting process gets more sophisticated, but you don’t just use one. It’s just like in the college admissions process, you don’t just rely on a single SAT or ACT if you’re doing it right. You should also take in grades, courses they’ve taken. With college recruiting, it’s also the same looking for jobs: activities you’re in, the classes you chose to take, leadership, community service that will still be placed. So, the tighter you are about forming that narrative and saying what you’re going to bring to our company. Some people, it’s okay, maybe they’re an alpha rara leader. That’s great! Some people are like the background glue people that are interested. That’s perfectly fine too. I think if you’re able to articulate what part of the team you’re going to be in and what type of team member you’re going to be, that’s totally helpful for us too. So, share more about yourself.
And on the topic of sharing more about yourself, I think a lot of people believe that you have to start pretty recently, as in let’s say you are a senior and undergrad, you have to start at your school. But let’s say that there are more attributes about yourself that you’re a first-gen and that molded you go to the person that you are today or maybe that you transferred or maybe you’re from a different country and you grew up in France for a few years not enabled you to see different cultures and that’s why you’re applying to this new program. Is it okay to bring up pieces of your past even though it could be a couple of years ago?
Son: People should be bringing that stuff up. I think one of the biggest things right now in corporate America is this whole bringing your full self to work. And I think those personal stories of resiliency and of grit and overcoming issues in your background and growing up are huge pieces that people are going to learn from you. I think when people talk about diversity in companies, in America, on college campuses, we’re not just talking about diversity of ethnicity or race. You’re talking about diversity of background, though I mentioned socio-economics earlier, where you grew up, how you got into school, right? Like whether you’re a transfer student or community college student, it doesn’t really matter, right? We all find our own ways there. To borrow a cliché, “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.” We want to hear about the journey along the way.
I love that last line, “It’s not about where you start, it’s where you finish.” And I actually recently just posted something on LinkedIn where I was talking about everyone thinks that I just went to USC and graduated from USC, but actually started at a community college and a ton of people were engaging with that post because they also agreed that being a transfer student can actually be an advantage if you make it one for things like you can be more extroverted because you have to put yourself out there, being a first-gen student, you can look at it as a disadvantage.
But if you look at it saying that you’re paving your own path and you’re able to figure out everything on your own without help from your parents, that’s an asset to any company, right? So, I do think that really being able to articulate your story, not just from your coursework, but going back to your background and where you grew up is such an important part. I guess the next question would be that given that you primarily focused on helping students both break into universities as well as jobs. Obviously, it’s a little bit different from experience hiring. So, how can a candidate stand out with limited internship or work experience? This is actually a question from Aisha Patel [?], who commented on one of our LinkedIn posts about this episode.
Son: Glad to see the interaction out there on the platform. There are a couple ways. I’ll plan to make a post about this someday too and maybe in the not-too-distant future, but the idea of cover letters. I know that there’s mixed reviews out there. Some recruiters love them, some recruiters don’t like them. I think for me being a former college admissions person, I love cover letters. What I want to say about this is some companies don’t want them at all. If you’re a Google, they say your stories to your resume, we don’t need a cover letter, that’s totally okay. But if it’s an opportunity and you can write one to tell your story, then write a cover letter.
There’s like no reason not to. There’s an opportunity to attach an extra something to talk about your story or why you’re making a career switch or why you’re trying to apply for this or even why you have this major and why you want to go to this job. Those are opportunities to take a cover letter and actually tell your story. I will say from LinkedIn, there have been a couple occasions where someone’s cover letter put them over the top. Like people just look at the resume or they go back to the interview, but I’ll be reviewing a candidate, I’ll just be like, “Oh, there’s a cover in here. Let me go back and read it.” And there’s been some beautiful cover letters about a person’s journey about what they had to overcome or like a second or third job in college or taking care of their family members while growing up. Those things all play in, those skills translate into a professional career. So, that one part is a cover letter. I can obviously mention LinkedIn, just making a presence there as well. We’ll get to the tips and stuff there too.
But that’s one opportunity to do it. I mean, you can reach out to recruiters, you can reach out to alumni that you might have gone to school with, you can reach out to people who have your dream job. You can make a comment on someone’s post. Those things can all get noticed, but I really would say one is a cover letter and two, if you get an interview, don’t be afraid to talk about those things.
And I think that as much as people want to have a ton of experience, they want to have those internships during college, they want to have maybe part-time jobs, it’s been a really tough few months or even years given the aftermath of the pandemic, right? I have so many friends, people in my network, colleagues, even family members who had offers both internships and jobs rescinded. Maybe they got laid off from work because the demand plummeted. I know that in one of your recent LinkedIn posts, you talked about how everything’s going to be okay and recruiters will understand these gaps that happened in 2020 and maybe rolling into 2021. So, how do you suggest a candidate to address a gap on their resume?
Son: There’s a couple ways to do it. I think on your resume, you can go ahead and use a bullet point. For me, I always make you put up the words. So, if you had a job or internship rescinded because of what happened last year, just put it down. You can put in, so and so internship due to start July 2020 rescinded due to Covid. We understand. We see it. It’s not a big deal or you can just talk about a bullet in your resume and just say like I spent this past year doing some extra coursework, whether it’s on LinkedIn learning or doing an online education program. I think it’s worth a bullet versus just leaving it blank. I mean, look, we’re going to totally know.
We’re not going to second guess what happened if there’s a complete blank there. I think most recruiters will like it if you can just give a quick comment on what you did during the year. Again, we’re not going to judge you for it. We just want to know what you did with that time. And I know that there’s some pressure to be like, “Oh, man, I did all these things in the Covid year,” but I don’t have to go that far. I know that we care a lot about mental health, we care a lot about taking care of our family. So, don’t feel like you have to tell this great big story and tell us what you want, what you think we want to hear. It’s okay to tell us what you did, what you honestly did and that’s fine.
So, anyone feeling pressure right now that they maybe didn’t have an internship or something went wrong this upcoming summer because something got rescinded, it’s going to be okay and recruiters will understand.
Son: I don’t want people to get caught up in that rate to like, “I got to get more. I have to obtain better things and keep on plugging along,” because it’s just not reality. I think everyone’s going to be in the same boat. If someone’s coming out this year, they’re going to have the same experience as someone coming out six, nine months ago, right? It’s still not going to be much experience. So, it’s really about what you bring to the table, your prior skills, your background, your reasons and desires and fit at some of these places, like that’s still going to play more than anything you did the last year or so.
Well, that’s great to hear. And I’m sure everyone listening, they feel a lot more self-assurance, knowing that things have been really tough for a lot of people. Like you said, if somebody did come up, maybe address it in the cover letter or a bullet point on your resume or given that you are a recruiter at LinkedIn, talk about it on your LinkedIn as well. I think it’s so important to be vulnerable and talk about your story and not try to hide anything.
I want to take a quick pause and tell you about Career Coaching Company. Are you still searching for your dream internship or job but are having trouble landing an offer? Career Coaching Company offers one-on-one, live, tailored coaching from recent grads who now work at top companies like the ones you’re applying to. Be sure to check out their website at careercoachingcompany.com to see how their team of coaches can help you land your dream job. Now, let’s jump back into the ring.
And shifting gears and talking about LinkedIn specific questions. So, I would love to organize this section, talking about three main points. The first one being profile specific questions then networking, which I know everyone listening wants to ask so many questions designed about networking and then last one about building a brand and posting content. So, starting with profile specifics. We recently interviewed a recruiter at TikTok, and one of the questions that we asked is that do they put weight on if you are active on the platform and if you have an account? I’m curious to know, given that you are a recruiter at LinkedIn, how much weight do you put on a candidate’s LinkedIn profile versus their resume?
Son: Yeah, it’s not all or nothing. I do think the LinkedIn profile is important just because I’m a big believer in putting your money where your mouth is. If you’re going to work for a place, you should think it’s important what you’re doing. So, I think it is important to at least have a profile. We might not be able to find you if you don’t have a profile. We are going to go off platform for some recruiting initiatives in the future I think as we look to give more opportunities, but that’s a whole other issue.
So, I think if you have a LinkedIn profile, yeah, we’re going to look at it. It does not have to be the same as your resume, nor should it. I think your LinkedIn profile should have the basics, your education no matter what it is, some of your student activities, your clubs, your courses, a little bit about your experience. We can talk about some other things too, your summaries, headlines, profile pictures, but yeah, I actually do think it is important to have it. Again, it’s not the be all and end all. It doesn’t have to be like the most glorious linked in profile of all time “all-star quality,” but you have to be there so we can find you and at least give you some ideas on how to make it better.
I do think that a lot of our listeners, I would say a majority of them do check off that box of, “Yes. Son, if he was sourcing candidates, you can find me on LinkedIn.” Then the next question would be, when you’re looking at these profiles, what are you looking for that would make a candidate maybe advance to an interview or just flat out reject the candidate based on certain things in their profile?
Son: Yeah. There are a couple pieces there. We can spend a few minutes breaking down here. So, I think the first thing is what we’re looking for. I think you look at your LinkedIn profile in terms of search engine optimization, right? Anything you put on there is searchable and makes it easier to find. Right? So, the more things you put on, the easier it is for us to find you. I think right now we’re sophisticated enough as a platform and as a recruiting team, whether it’s LinkedIn or other places, they know to go on the LinkedIn platform or LinkedIn recruiter and do that Boolean search strings, those strings of words inside quotations, but they’re not just looking for degrees anymore. They’re looking for different student clubs, they’re looking for activities and leadership.
So, as you write your activities and course working, we can search for that too. So, let’s say, I’m trying to find someone who would be part of our business leadership program and we want someone that has entrepreneurial spirit, sales experience or even analytical experience. We know enough to look for a sales team or sales club activities, just as we would know how to look for the entrepreneurship club. So, those are Boolean search strings that we can actually look for. So, put those things on, like that’s completely great and you should be putting those things out so we can find you. It’s just like if someone is a computer engineer and they’re part of the National Society of Black Engineers, NSBE, we know to look for NSBE as a search string, right? So, put on that student activity. So, whatever happens, it’s great.
A couple other things that I think are pretty valuable, I think your headline is a pretty valuable piece of real estate. A lot of students their default is just going to be a student at so and so state university. You have a couple 100 characters, change that out and turn it into a couple of things that you’re skilled at, things you want to do, maybe even some aspirational goals. So, your LinkedIn headline should not be a student at so and so or looking for opportunities. It could be a future marketing executive or it could be a data geek and aspiring business analytics leader. It could be any of those things, but there’s lots of great examples for headlines right now, go out there and find it. That’s just an extra piece of branding that always helps students like, “Oh, these are a couple quick bullets, we know about the student.” So, that’s already in our head, kind of like shaping what we can see when we look at the rest of the profile. The last thing I would add on top of your experience, your headline, and your profile picture is a really quick summary.
That’s your elevator pitch. That’s where as someone’s perusing your experience, they can just click and pop in, “Oh, what does this person say about themselves and why would I connect with them and what do they think is important in their career or their life?” A quick little thing, but elevator pitches are still important. I like them. I typically read everything so it matters to me.
And what would be some don’t do on the platform, anything that you should avoid putting there or maybe posting about that if you’re a recruiter, you see that that could be a red flag?
Son: In terms of big no no’s, I mean there are sometimes people that like to make some pretty spammy posts where I think there’s people that will just go on and tag a lot of influencers. Those are kind of silly posts that probably aren’t necessary. I go back and forth upon this idea of influencers, there’s like that click bait and there’s just things you can post about that add actual value versus just trying to post something. I mean, you know, the influencers they post every day and they don’t really add a whole lot of value where they tell ridiculous stories about seeing a person sitting on the street walking by them, not saying anything and all of sudden when they go in the interview room, it’s that same person on the street when they’re really just tying their shoe, right? Or the person who did terribly in their interview and they went against all gut instincts and ignored their hiring parameters and hired that person anyway and now they’re the best salesperson ever. I’m like, “Come on.”
I definitely know the stories that you’re talking about and I think there was one about you relating to an interview because you have to help a dog and then fast forward two months you got the interview or you got the job because the dog was the recruiter.
Son: Yeah, right.
But basically, what you’re saying is that don’t just post to get engagement from influencers but actually try to post thought provoking content that is helping your brand or your organization’s brand or just overall content to help others in the platform.
Son: Yeah, exactly! Don’t make up stories. I think there’s so much to be gained as a platform because people don’t want to feel alone, right? That’s why you’re part of social networking on a professional level. You never know what part of your personal story is going to resonate. So, just don’t be afraid to post about yourself. Don’t try to be something that you’re not.
So, you said that you obviously as anyone in the platform, if you’re first connected, you can go through someone’s activity, see what they’re liking, what they’re commenting and what they’re maybe posting. As a recruiter, when you’re going through candidate profiles other than just auditing their profile, do you go into their activity section and see if they are posting, engaging and looking at their activities?
Son: So, I don’t go quite that far into like looking at their actual activity. I think as a recruiting leader, I don’t want to go through and dig into everybody’s past and see what they’ve been up to just because I don’t want to be too biased. So, I look at what they give me, but I think people that I’m super connected to or people that are trying to connect with me, like, yeah, I’ll look and see what they’re all about before I say yes to a connection. I will look at that stuff. But I will say no, I probably wouldn’t dig quite that far. But in terms of people that interact with me, I do look at the histories of how far they’ve gone back and if they come up, right?
So, maybe somebody made a post about a LinkedIn job a year ago. They made a comment about it and they wrote me an in mail, wrote me a message. I may not have been able to respond or someone connects with me and writes a couple of things and tells us about themselves and I’m like, “Okay, great. Keep me updated,” and then six months later, they actually do keep me updated. They’re like, “Hey, Son, I saw some of your posts. I noticed this or just wanted to let you know what’s going on with my career.” That’s playing the networking game in a good way. So, those people I give credits to, people that will just kind of keep me updated on what they’re doing whether it’s to the platform or just write me a message. I like that stuff, why would we do it? I mean, it doesn’t mean to email me or Inmail me every day, but a little bit of follow up is nice.
So, you mentioned Inmails and for everyone out there, you get a certain amount of Inmails for using the platform for free. But if you actually pay for the premium account for LinkedIn then you get more Inmails and you get some more benefits. If you are a candidate who is actively recruiting for either internships or jobs, would you recommend that it would be beneficial to pay for that premium subscription on LinkedIn?
Son: So, I don’t. This is what makes LinkedIn so great. We talked about members first all the time. There’s easy ways for LinkedIn to make money or there’s easy ways for us as a company to say, “Oh, yeah, I could be telling everyone just to go and buy premium, but I don’t think students need it. I think as long as you make your profile robust enough and make it easier for us to find you or have your profile link on your resume where it’s like a one-click from your resume to your LinkedIn profile, that’s great too.
Sure, there’s an opportunity to get on LinkedIn learning as part of premium, but again, you don’t need that while you’re searching for jobs because you don’t want to overly use Inmails anyway. A couple here or there that your regular profile is great. You can always follow a recruiter or also connect with them and write a few words about why you’re connecting with them, like that’s valuable as well and to try to get a little bit more into that house per se. But no, I don’t think so. I think we built it out like the tool itself, as the free non-premium is still robust enough that you’re going to get everything you need in the job search.
And that’s so interesting to hear from a LinkedIn recruiter telling students that you really don’t need to pay for a subscription because there are other ways to use the platform and I think the biggest one is if you network effectively with people like yourself. Shifting gears for a second to networking. What are some best practices to network with recruiters or hiring managers? Like you said in the beginning to ask for help and to learn more given that I think that just everyone says to network but no one really says how to network effectively.
Son: Yeah, I think two or three things. First thing is networking is a long game. Some people don’t like the word networking. I mean, you can say connecting, you can say keeping in touch. You’re not going to usually get what you want right away nor should you make that ask right away. If you’re looking for a job, most of the time you’re just connecting with me as a professional to learn more about my life, my career, and LinkedIn in general. Build it out a little bit. I understand some people are direct and talk about this job right away. But if we’re just networking and networking, right, just long-term play, there are going to be a couple of pieces and steps of that relationship.
So, again, you have to make a couple asks, you have to connect with a couple different people. And again, not everyone is going to respond to you right away so don’t take it personally. Everybody knows that everyone else is busy, right? So, just because we don’t respond to you right away, just because we accept your connection request right away doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t like you or we don’t want to connect. It’s just sometimes it just takes a little bit to get to it. A couple other things with networking, I don’t love it when someone writes to you and says, “Hey, can I ask you a question?” If you have a question, ask the question. We can play along from that point, but sometimes you just don’t get that many interactions back and forth while you’re typing out. So, there is a fine line between being too direct and then just beating around the bush. Like if you have an honest question, just ask the honest question or just say like, “Hey, I’m connecting for these reasons. Let’s stay in touch.” But asking if you can ask is a little bit of a waste of time.
Also, if you’re making connection requests, I really would encourage people out there to say why. You could be like, “Oh, I heard you on a webinar or podcast,” or “Oh, I saw you speak at my school’s thing,” or, “Oh, I saw a job posting. Can you help me with that?” Versus just blindly clicking connect, connect, connect with a lot of recruiters and professionals that don’t know why. Or another great one is maybe you have no connection to this person at all, but you’ve seen them on Linkedin a few times, they have great posts and like they’re in your dream job. Write to them and say, “Hey, I know we don’t really know each other, but I’m graduating from college in two years. I saw that we had similar majors and you’re in a really great role. I would just want to connect and just follow you and I’ll just stay in touch and I’ll find you when I find you,” that’s perfectly fine, that’s why we have LinkedIn.
I mean, so many great points and I love the last one about not just adding a note. I think that people say, “Oh, I’ll add a note and I’ll just have something in my notes where I’ll copy and paste it and then instead of Hi AJ, it will be Hi, Son or Hi Jeremy or Hi Samantha, and it’s the exact same little block of text to fill those characters and it’s not tailored. And I guess for you, you probably get so many outreach messages, people wanting to connect. Can you tell when something is templated versus when someone actually went to your profile and drew some similarities?
Son: Yeah. I mean, it’s one of the easiest things in the world to tell if it’s templated. So, yeah, I mean, as much as you can personalize it. I mean, I think you have already joked a little bit about Notre Dame, USC, Irish and Trojans, but if someone is looking at my profile and makes comment on it like make their comment about Notre dame football or something else, like I’m a sucker for that or they talk about one of my posts that they’ve read before, like I will try to get back to people, but that’s usually pretty easy to tell.
When you add a note, should it be something pretty simple so you hit connect. And then when you have access for more–I think there’s no character limit after that, then you make a bigger ask or should you make the ask or the call to action or what you want from the networking relationship in that at a note part with the limited characters,
Son: I think if you can do 2 to 4 sentences in your connection request, like that’s probably going to work. So, if you can fit in the why and maybe like anything about the future in a quick sense, that’s great. But no need to write a novel and maximize all the character limits in the connection request like there will be some time after that. I’d say another thing to be really careful of when you’re connecting with the recruiter is people have to remember that internal recruiters are internal recruiters. That means they work for their company. So, if you write to them and say, “This is my background, this is my resume. Can you please find something for me?”
That’s one of the biggest faux pas and mistakes that I think that young people make is if they write to a company’s recruiter expecting that company recruiter to find them a job. I think if you do write a recruiter, make sure you’re telling them like I’ve seen these openings, maybe it’s not you, maybe it is, and maybe they’ll be able to help you with it, maybe they can’t. But an easy way to not connect or someone to ignore you is if you’re like, “Please find me a job. This is my skill set.” It’s not up to internal recruiters, whether it’s at LinkedIn or any other company to go and find you a job. Come to us, help us help you is another key that I want people to think about.
So, I think we all understand the best practices instead of just rapid fire pressing the connect button to add a note and then not just copying and pasting a template to add a note, but making it tailored to you and your background and drawing similarities to my background. So, now that we’re first connected and we’re connected, the next step or the goal would be to maybe speak with you whether that is a video call or a phone call, but there’s usually a call to action. So, when you’re choosing through the multitude of people asking for time out of your day or let’s say weekend like I did right now. We’re recording this on the weekend. What are some criteria for you to say, “Yup, I will give this person some time versus this other person no?” For instance, is it based on their ask and the level of research about your background, or is it maybe what they want?
Son: So, I would say people that I respond to will typically have some combination of understanding who I am as a professional and how I’m uniquely able to help them in their situation. They recognize a few things about my past or they have done their research and know something about my career or myself as a person and say, “Hey, I’m coming from this side of the house. I could really use your help or thoughts on this or I really could use your opinion, or this is what I’m thinking about, can you make a comment on it or could I approach you about it?” So, I think it’s both sides. I can’t just be, they don’t tell me anything about themselves and it can’t be just, here’s my story. It’s got to be a little bit of both. That’s probably the best way to do it.
So, it shouldn’t be an I, it should be a we or our, right? So, it’s not just talking about myself, but drawing similarities between us and then giving a clear call to action as in, “I want to hop on a phone call with you to discuss, not just any open role, but here’s the code for the application that I saw and I think I’d be qualified for.”
Son: Yeah, totally. I think the other thing too is it takes time and some persistence. Not too much. But I mean, I think between the time you first hit me up, it was probably at least a month, right? Again, totally not trying to be humble brag, but I really did care when you first hit me up. But just like that, I couldn’t get to everybody in time. So, I really did appreciate your very gentle follow up and kind of finding me like that was great and really helpful
Well, I really appreciate that. Just to share with everyone, what I said to you to maybe get your attention versus the tons and tons of Inmails and messages that are sent to you is that I went through your profile and spent a few minutes not just looking at the headline, but going through the about section and I can see that your mission is that you want to help students both with breaking into universities as well as jobs. And then our mission at the Final Round podcast is also not just to help students, but to also help professionals land their dream jobs to get past the final round. So, I didn’t just talk about me and didn’t just talk about you, but I talked about us and what we share in that mission to help people empower their careers.
Son: Yeah, totally. I mean, I think it’s our continual themes of being holistic and being intentional. Same advice I would give to a student applying for a job. It’s not just about the role. It’s not just about the person, it’s not just the company. It’s about rolling all those things into one and into a compelling argument about why.
I hear so many times that students and professionals are trying to break into new companies. They are asking for a coffee chat with the recruiter and they just don’t either respond or they don’t have time. Would you say most recruiters spend a few hours each week actually speaking to candidates or they’re more focused on the backend maybe sourcing candidates or looking through applications?
Son: I mean, I think that’s pretty personally up to each recruiter. Right? So, I think when you’re in the recruiting game as a recruiter, you’ve got your traditional recruiter, phone screens, your second on phone screens and then all of your stakeholder interactions with the hiring team. Some people make an effort to actually do a couple of side chats and a couple of virtual copies and some don’t. It just depends on the company if they have any time or not. For me, I typically set aside at least one day every month at LinkedIn I called in-day. People kind of get the day off or at least there’s an understanding that we hold off on a lot of meetings, we don’t expect a lot of company business to be done. Like each in-day has a theme, community, environment, family, games. But I always use a part of my in-day, at least one day a month to just connect with people who asked me for a virtual copy chat or just to connect or to hear more about LinkedIn or my story. Maybe not everybody does that, but I mean, I know that I try to, and I think most people that are on LinkedIn at least care a little bit or else they wouldn’t be on LinkedIn
Recruiting Best Practices
And given that recruiters are very similar to gatekeepers and that you essentially hold the keys to that interview, right? What would you say would be some other best practices to get your attention to connect with you or maybe hop on a phone call with you and maybe an example would be not just connecting and being first connections, but engaging with your posts and not just commenting, “I agree,” but commenting, “I agree because of X and I saw that you’re a first-gen and I was a first-gen,” and talking about that story? Are those some things that you take into consideration when getting gatekeepers attention?
Son: Yeah! Yeah, for sure. I look at it a little bit kind of like being at a career fair in person when we still had those, when there would be a recruiter and then there would be students surrounding the recruiter and that interaction matters, right? It’s not just saying, “Oh, yes, they’re spitting something out.” It’s just about value you can add or even like bringing other people in. I’ve had some great posts where someone in LinkedIn will call out their friend and say, “Hey, please look at this. This reminds me of you,” or just sharing their own story too, I think that’s why the platform exists. I had a post last year and again, I joked around about this a lot. Like, sure, I’m a recruiting manager now at LinkedIn. I’m not trying to be an influencer, but I think due to my role and the way I’m seeing on the platform, maybe I am, but I’ve made some posts where people will jump on and say, “Oh my gosh, your story allowed me to tell my story.”
And in the comments, they actually give me a few lines of what they’ve gone through. I remember most of those are now usually we’ll comment back on that as well. So, I think those things are great. It’s just kind of like jobs, right? So, if a recruiter jumps on the platform and says, “We’ve got this job open,” and then someone may see it and like say, “Oh, hey, my friend, check this out or something else,” like that’s just cool little things and pieces, people picking each other up a little bit that I always like.
So, maybe if you’re not ready to actually post your own content, I think a great way to start would be to engage with other people’s content, like a recruiter like yourself and not just say I agree, but actually give a more thoughtful and thought-provoking comment and response.
Son: Yeah, yeah, totally. I mean, I think we’ve seen that that aspect of the platform increased more than anything else. I think a lot of people think about just job posts and going in looking for job opportunities, but I think that interaction is really what’s driving LinkedIn now. It is just that people loved hearing each other’s stories. Obviously, there’s also funny jokes about how people are announcing their own jobs, like NBA lottery picks with hats and “I’m thrilled to announce this and that,” like that’s great. I have no problem with that. Celebrate your successes in any way you can but absolutely, those little mini-interactions are I think the best part of the platform.
Building Your Brand and Posting Content
This is a great kind of next segment for building a brand and posting your own content. I’ve seen a big shift in that you see less, “I’m happy to announce,” posts and more that, “I want to share about my rejections. I want to share that I got ghosted from a recruiter, or I didn’t get to the final round,” whatever that may be. So, people are being a lot more vulnerable on the platform and being more open to posting. So, with posting content, I read a mind-boggling statistic that out of the 740 plus million LinkedIn users only 1% share content on a weekly basis, which obviously gives a huge opportunity for people out there to share their story and share any content. I want to know if posting content on LinkedIn really helps you in the recruitment process?
Son: Well, it can. What I will say by that is that as recruiters, we notice. Don’t try to go viral. Of course, you see viral posts, some of them are good, some of them are not good. If you make a post that goes viral and it’s not a great post, like that’s not going to help you. Just because you get notoriety, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good. But I think posting thoughtful content. Look at the companies that you’re following, look at the engagement you have, that’ll help.
But I wouldn’t say you have to post a lot to be found on LinkedIn. We’ll notice and we’ll see if you follow LinkedIn, if you interacted with us, if you’re connected with us, if you attended different things that we put on. I’d say don’t try too hard. If it’s not, you don’t go out of your way to start creating all this content in the search of trying to be working at LinkedIn. Just having a good profile is just good for you, in general. I think at LinkedIn, it’d be awesome if you ended up with us, but we don’t think everybody needs to end up with us. You can be at other companies and you’re still going to use LinkedIn. Don’t try to go overboard. It’s going to be just fine no matter what.
And can you share how it helps you in the recruitment process as in if you’re between two candidates and one post, a few thought-provoking contents versus another, are those essentially bonus points for that application, or is it that they were good writer and a good communicator in the specific position has those skills. What is it about posting content that really would help you and push you through the process?
Son: I would say from an equity standpoint, it’s probably going to be more helpful on the front end. We’re not necessarily going to say two candidates went through the interview process and we’ll go back and use that as a tiebreaker. That’s not necessarily how we would do it just because once you get into our interview process, we have very standard, fair, equitable ways of evaluating you. So, there’s going to be two or three different interview pieces that we look at in terms of skills, competencies, knowledge, ability that you have.
We’re not going to judge you on that to determine who gets a job. I’d say it’s kind of more on the frontend like your interaction, your posts, that could be what says, “Oh, let me go back to this person and actually tell them that this job is available,” or “I saw that person. Let me go back and see how they’re doing in the process.” So, it doesn’t necessarily work as a tiebreaker. It kind of helps you more probably get into the funnel and for us to notice you, which is still very important as well.
I think as much as most people want to build a personal brand, I think everyone has some self-doubt and has that imposter syndrome. So, what should people post about if they still are maybe young or feel that they are not subject matter experts in any particular field?
Son: First thing is don’t stop posting or don’t stop engaging after two or three shots. It’s a big platform. There is a gigantic algorithm and sophisticated AI behind the curtain, right? So, just because you put something out there and you don’t get a whole lot of traction or a lot of likes, that’s okay. I think as long as you’re okay with it, people are going to find value in what you post. So, take some time, that’s the first thing. Just share what you want to share. I think right now in the pandemic, everybody is at home and they’re like, “Am I the only one feeling this way?” You’re not the only one feeling that way. So, if you feel the urge to write about something, write about it. It doesn’t have to be like your major area or your special project club, you could have just seen something go on in the professional world or in the world at large and you just want to write or comment on it. I would say that’s perfectly okay.
Yeah, I think one of the things that put me over the hump and really encouraged me to start posting is that it’s not just about the engagement that you see as in the likes or the comment or the re-shares, but you have to understand that there are impressions and maybe the person who saw that post or that video liked it internally, but didn’t actually press the like button.
Just knowing that and you will start to see as you continue to post more on the algorithm and again, I know the algorithms is like a black box, not only knows how it works, but I’ve seen it for myself and trying to post more and more that I don’t just post because I want to post. I’m posting because I think it’s going to help others, whether that is talking about being a transfer student or talking about some career insight that we’ve gained along the way. So, I do think that you don’t have to post, but if you feel that you have something to say and it’s in the professional realm and it could be beneficial even if it doesn’t get any engagement, if it’s something that’s thought-provoking, why not post it?
Son: Yeah, exactly. Maybe you and I have very altruistic, idealistic thoughts and why do this, but why not? I mean, that’s the whole point of LinkedIn, right? It’s like connecting people to the opportunity, that idea of a rising tide lifts all boats. I mean, that’s what we should be here for and I’m glad we’re trying.
And I guess what’s the worst thing that can happen, right? I think the worst thing is that you just don’t get any engagement. Okay. Guess what? There are a million other posts coming that day and people will forget about it, right? So, I think when people are afraid to post or thinking about maybe their friends saying something, but those friends are not probably posting and there are so many benefits even that I’ve personally seen from posting certain posts that I never thought would go viral and out of nowhere there’s 40,000 impressions or 50,000 impressions. It’s just crazy that you’re able to touch so many people, given that you don’t have that many followers, let’s say. So, I think the platform is amazing.
And the final question for today, Son that I wanted to ask you, 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?
Son: You have to treat yourself as a holistic candidate. What I mean by that is a lot of early in career professionals get super caught up in either the company or the role and you have to talk about both together. So, if you’re in that interview stage, you can’t just double down on why you’d be an awesome fit for that particular job that you’re applying for or you can just only talk about why you want to be at that company. We get it. All right? Sometimes you just want to be at a company so bad, you’ll do anything, right? And sometimes there’s one exact job that you want to do and you do it at any company. I think the key is actually explaining to the recruiters and hiring managers why you fit in that role and that company at that time. So, don’t forget there’s couple pieces of that puzzle. You got to talk about all of it. Don’t just leave it to chance and talk about one or think like I’ve got great answers, like give them the whole picture.
Amazing! Well, what a LinkedIn master class that we received today, Son. I really appreciate your time and I know that all of our audience members will take such benefit and hopefully will be posting on LinkedIn and here’s a great idea maybe posting about your favorite quote that you said today, Son about what we talked about today on LinkedIn, maybe tagging both of us, tagging the Final Round podcast and we’ll be sure to hopefully engage with it and help promote your individual career journey.
Son: Yeah, that’d be great. I love that idea.
I found it fascinating how Son shared how to effectively outreach to recruiters on LinkedIn and get them to respond. Be sure to add a note when connecting with new people on LinkedIn and make sure that it is tailored like telling Son that you heard his wonderful career insight on the Final Round podcast and would love to connect. And did I mention that our show just surpassed 105-star Apple podcast reviews? Thank you again for your continued support along our journey to help as many people as we can find jobs during these tough times. Until the next episode of the final round podcast, keep fighting and I will see you in the ring.