LinkedIn has become an essential tool for professionals that are looking for new career opportunities, but many people don’t know the best ways to use the platform to market themselves. To explore some best practices to help candidates stand out to recruiters on LinkedIn and other topics related to the job search we were joined by an Internal Recruiter for Brunel, Sinead McLaughlin.
Meet Sinead McLaughlin
Sinead McLaughlin, originally from Ireland, moved to Canada shortly after completing her undergrad degree. Sinead worked as a Recruitment Consultant for Brunel’s Life Sciences team for 2 years before transitioning into Internal Recruitment in January 2021 while she pursues her master’s degree.
When searching for candidates to fill her roles, Sinead values connecting with people as much as possible. Learning as much about them and their values as possible to discover if they’re a good fit for the company culture. “Changing jobs truly is life changing, and it can be terrifying”, she explained, “sometimes you do end up having quite personal conversations with people and you have to build the level of trust to do that.” Sinead believes being a successful recruiter that changes people’s lives and the company for the better requires patience, saying “you can’t get there quickly. You have to put in the time to get to the details and figure out a fit.”
Sinead is a big believer in LinkedIn and the power of the platform to help both candidates and recruiters during the job search. During our conversation she offered tips you can use to stand out among the crowd online and some best practices during the interview process to help you land a new role.
Do you consider LinkedIn a necessity for candidates?
"110% yes. How else do recruiters find you if, for example, you say you’re happy in your new job and you’re not looking for another role but there is something so much better out there for you? How are you ever going to know that without a recruiter reaching out to you?
And even if you aren’t looking for a job, [LinkedIn] is so good for professional development. There’s so much more that’s on LinkedIn. It’s not just for finding jobs, it helps with market knowledge as well.”
When somebody applies for a role at what point do you go look at their LinkedIn?
“I’ll look at that straight away and to be honest, I only glance at their resume. To be really honest, and I know this is controversial, I’m not a big resume person.
“This is a little bit philosophical but, I think that people aren’t pieces of paper. You usually can’t tell what type of personality someone has by looking at their resume. Sometimes they’ll put a bit of flavor or something on it, which is good, but 9 times out of 10 you can’t tell what they’re like. So it’s all about getting on the phone with people to talk with them and sometimes learning about them through LinkedIn. LinkedIn gives candidates a platform to show a little bit more about themselves, and then in they’re activity you can see what types of things they like or what kind of content they post, things like that.”Sinead McLaughlin - Internal Recruiter at Brunel
I'd assume you're not a big cover letter person either?
“I try to be fair to people, so if someone is taking the time to write a cover letter, I will respect that and I will always read it. As a recruiter you should be fair to people and give them as many opportunities as possible to express themselves. Everything that you read everywhere says ‘oh my god, write a cover letter! It’ll make you stand out!’ or some outdated thinkers will say that they don’t consider candidates without cover letters, so I will read it if a candidate sends one.
But usually, candidates send cover letters that feel bland or just repeat what was already said in their resume. If you’ve got a bit of personality that wasn’t shown in your resume or you explain some gaps in your work history or you show that you are really genuinely passionate about the job you’re applying for, that’s very good. But if a candidate doesn’t have one, I don’t care at all.
And since I work in internal recruiting now, I’m very chill about resumes. I often don’t even send them when I tell managers about a candidate I’ve spoken with. I’ll say ‘here’s their LinkedIn profile, I spoke with them, here are my notes, they’re amazing. Please interview them!’”
When a candidate is interested in a position, when should they try and connect with you?
“I try to always be proactive and reach out to candidates beforehand, so I like it when they beat me to the punch. I also like when people follow up after phone calls and they say, ‘thank you so much, I really enjoyed our call’ and things like that. That’s a lot of brownie points. It’s quite nice.”
Do you think it’s best to send those kinds of follow up messages via LinkedIn or would you recommend sticking to email?
“I will say that as a recruiter you get a lot of LinkedIn messages and notifications so it can be lost sometimes, sending it through email I will be able to catch it quicker. I’d say if you have someone’s direct email, email is probably better.”
What’s one of the first things you look for when you go look at a candidate’s LinkedIn profile?
"A good picture that shows some personality always catches the eye, but if you don’t have a picture I don’t mind. Good tenure in your previous roles is usually a good sign. We want to be open in our views of things like that and not judge people for moving around because you don’t know what anyone’s circumstance is, but I do think longer tenures shows loyalty, endurance, and integrity.
If you haven’t been able to stay in the same place for very long, giving good explanations on LinkedIn is really helpful because some recruiters will discount you immediately for having short tenures. So, I think it’s good, if you’ve jumped around, to explain your reasoning. There are really good and genuine reasons, people have things that go on in their lives. It’s all about how it’s explained.”
How do you feel about when candidates use buzzwords like “Data Ninja” or “Marketing Guru” or other things like that in their LinkedIn bios?
“I do think it’s nice to put in a bit of personality, but I think it’s better to put accomplishments that you’ve had. Maybe you won your company’s MVP Award, or Recruiter of the Year, or something like that. Show off those accomplishments, something that you’ve worked hard to get. People are not just giving those things away, you have to earn them, whereas saying Guru or Ninja or something like that it’s like ‘sure, okay, good for you.’”
“There’s a fine line between being authentic and showing your personality vs doing something because you think other people will like it or because you’ve been told that’s what works. I had a candidate who had ‘Cat Dad’ in his bio, and I hadn’t seen that in a LinkedIn before and we were able to connect about that because I love cats too. So, try to show your personality and something a recruiter might be able to connect with you on.”
What are some red flags you've seen that make a bad LinkedIn profile?
“Really awful spelling and grammar. You have to have an understanding that some people may be dyslexic or not native English speakers, but usually you can tell the difference between issues like that and when someone just didn’t bother to spell check their LinkedIn profile. Things that aren’t capitalized properly, constant spelling errors, things like that. And if you use all caps in your profile, I feel like you’re shouting at me and you’re very intimidating.”
How much do you pay attention to degrees and university prestige?
“I don’t at all. I’m all about the person, as cheesy as that sounds. We have people on our teams who haven’t gone to university at all and they’ve worked their way up into really high positions and have done really well. School isn’t for everyone because some people’s brains think differently and I think it’s important that we have people like that on our team too. Sometimes people are a lot more practical and a lot more business savvy, and then there’s people who have amazing educations and they’re able to bring value because of that amazing education. I think everyone on all parts of that spectrum can be valuable.”
Diversity in hiring is a critical mission for our company and a big conversation in the industry in general right now. What's your approach to making sure you're looking at a diverse set of candidates on LinkedIn?
“I take the approach of being willing to speak to everyone. I try to take that approach with everything I do in recruitment. I don’t hold it against people if their resume isn’t perfectly formatted or they don’t have exactly the right experience or things like that. I like to give them a call because what’s the worst that could happen? Always be open to speak with people regardless of their background or their resume or experience. Try and connect with people personally.
For example, I just spoke with a candidate who really genuinely thanked me for taking the time to talk to her because she felt people weren’t giving her the opportunity to interview because her name is ethnic. That really struck a chord with me and made me quite upset that she even had to think that way."
As someone from a different country who was new to Canada, I know that being in a new place can be very hard. But a lot of that experience can make you a better employee as well. You can bring a unique perspective. So, I think looking through that lens is very important. Seeing that people can bring valuable new perspectives.”Sinead McLaughlin on recruiting a diverse set of candidates via LinkedIn
For my last question, is there anything else you’d like to tell people about using LinkedIn?
“I would say, don’t be afraid to reach out to people for anything. For example, I’ve had people reach out and ask me about moving from external to internal recruiting and for advice. Even though we didn’t know each other they wanted to just have a chat about what that experience was like and I thought that was a smart move.
Sometimes it's easier to reach out and get advice from people that you don't actually know that well, but who you can see have got to a good level in their career or somewhere similar to you. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people and network.
Use LinkedIn. It’s a great tool for so many things.”
Interested in working with Brunel?
Brunel is currently hiring for multiple internal Sales and Recruitment positions across the United States and Canada. If you are interested in learning more about available positions, please reach out to Sinead.