Virtual First Impressions

Services | Catherine M. Hooker | December 2013 / January 2014

Any recruiter will tell you, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

But in today’s world of Twitter and Facebook, that simply is no longer the case.

Social media have made a virtual presence just as important as how you look in that ill-fitting suit from Zara.

Navigating the world of LinkedIn, Facebook, and XING, can be complicated, so for professionals, knowing who Google thinks you are is just as important as that final check for toilet paper sticking to your shoe.

While in the United States job offers can arise from a clever tweet, in Austria, personal relationships are still a vital part of any successful job search. A recent study by the Viennabased PGM Research Consulting confirmed that job seekers under 30 were most successful using recommendations and personal networks.

Making these face-to-face contacts is one benefit of Career Calling 2013, an annual jobs fair hosted in cooperation with the University of Technology (TU), the University of Economics and Business (WU), as well as the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences (BOKU) that took place 11 November.

The event was a bustling stage of handshakes, introductions, and business card exchanges, and a throng of recruiters, and thus a chance to find out just how much social media does or does not matter.

Brigitte Kuchenbecker of the WU Career Center is skeptical: "In the German-speaking world, personal contact is almost the most important aspect when job hunting," she said.

"The face-to-face interaction can let recruiters know if someone will work well on a team – something you can’t see online."

But online presence still matters. In Austria, having a profile on professional networks is a common means of communication between recruiters and potential employees.

Companies can announce what events they will host or attend, and job seekers can request specific information.

Still, even effective use of social media only goes so far: The real world qualifications still matter most at end of the day, says Jasmin Schwartz of HAYS Recruiting Experts Worldwide.

Julia Zmölnig, a recruiter at Bank Austria agreed. "Although an active social media presence on LinkedIn or XING can reflect positively on a candidate, the deciding factor is still their relevant experience."

To reap the benefits of the online job market, make sure that your profile is accurate and up-to-date.

Both Zmölnig and Schwartz described how they actively search for profiles that meet specific needs and reach out to candidates directly – but usually for more specialized positions, they admitted.

"For entry level positions this practice is less common," agreed Kuchenbecker of the WU. Recent graduates are simply too similar. So good eye contact and a strong handshake can help a recent graduate stand out.

And the dangers of Facebook? None of these recruiters search Google or Facebook for information on applicants; they regard this as a "spying".

On Facebook, the boundaries are blurred, and Kuchenbecker’s advice is, "make sure that you are always professional. Anything that is put on the internet, even if it is ‘private’, can turn into a liability."

Like The Emperor’s New Clothes, the hype of the new social media can be very seductive, and may leave you naked for all to see.

Use common sense: Keep your physical and virtual CVs up to date. Most of all, though, a good suit, sparkling wit and a firm handshake make the impression that counts, even if it’s the second one.

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    the vienna review December 2013 / January 2014