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May 20, 2014 at 1:00 AM

Instagram changes the rules for job search

Not long ago — perhaps as recent as last year — the idea of adding photos or videos to a job application was considered gimmicky. The tsunami of social media, however, is quickly engulfing this attitude, making photos a useful tool in a job seeker’s media kit.

There are still legitimate legal issues about photos for companies wishing to avoid exposure to discrimination lawsuits stemming from knowledge of a job applicant’s race, gender or age. But in this era of habitual oversharing, some of these concerns are being diluted by the sheer amount of personal information available in web searches.

Most of this change has come from the rise of Instagram. Launched in 2010 as a simple image-sharing app, Instagram was elevated to business-tool status after it was purchased by Facebook in 2012. With its ability to tie images instantly into Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and other social media accounts, Instagram has made it easier for job seekers to market themselves and for recruiters to discover talent.

But there are some areas of etiquette to consider for first-time users.

Start a separate account. It’s almost impossible to control all the information shared on social media, but try to start fresh with a new account that focuses only on the professional side of your life. Then be sure to post only images that are relevant to your career and that demonstrate your knowledge.

Engage strategically. Don’t try to follow every company under the sun or you’ll be considered a spammer. Find the few that you would like to work for and find the key hiring managers. As they post images, be sure to engage with them and tell them how much you like their products or services. Thoughtful interest will get you noticed.

Go easy on the hashtags. Once you start hashtagging, it can become addictive. If you add too many, they soon become meaningless — not to mention #annoying. Limit your hashtags to two or three per image, and use keywords relevant to your industry or target company.

It’s not for everyone. Let’s face it: Not every job is visually appealing. Hiring managers in some of the more conservative occupations, such as accounting or financial services, may not respond well to your carefully art-directed photo stream. Unless you can come up with a clever way to convey your abilities and interests in a narrative form that people will want to see in images every day, perhaps your time would be better spent on a more text-oriented site such as LinkedIn.

Randy Woods is a writer and editor in the Puget Sound business publishing arena and a veteran of the local job-search scene. Email him at randywoods67@gmail.com.

More in Work Life Blog | Topics: branding, discrimination, etiquette, self-promotion, social media

Blog contributors

Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Randy Woods Writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Former contributors

Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

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