How to Get a Job in Social Media

By alina dizik

As social media companies get larger, they will have a growing need for developers and others with a technology background. Before you start dreaming about the catered lunches and other job perks, it's important to understand how your technology background can fit into a company like Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

Social media firms have a star factor that makes getting jobs there extra tough. Don't simply rely on your resume, says Chad Fowler, vice president of engineering at LivingSocial, a social couponing company. "As a developer looking to land an incredible job, simply floating your resume to recruiters is the least you could possibly do," says Fowler.

Here are some tips to help you go beyond the basics:

Demonstrate Ability to Deal with Coding Challenges

Social media companies need candidates who have solved difficult developing problems. "Our needs are not so centered on social media as they are towards solving large coding challenges," says Susan Loh, director of human resources at Foursquare, a location-based networking business. Use your interview or cover letter to stress how you've moved past problems that may be extremely difficult or ambiguous.

Establish an Online Presence

Most developers have the benefit of grabbing an employer's attention by showcasing their skills online. Create an online presence by writing blog posts on relevant topics or posting code on GitHub, which hosts open-source repositories for developers and can be added as an app on LinkedIn. "By far the best way to get hired in a social media company is for that company to have already heard of you via your online presence," says LivingSocial's Fowler. "Social media is a unique industry in that any developer has the ability to both develop social applications and be a user of those applications."

As you build your online presence, show specific interest in the company's technologies. "You have to be interested in massively scaled systems, have an interest in our technology stack -- Scala, Lift, and MongoDB -- and have a real passion for the evolving capabilities of mobile technology," says Foursquare's Loh.

Know the Competitive Hiring Process

As you continue the search, be prepared for every step of the hiring process. At LinkedIn, a social network that targets professionals, candidates who pass the first round interview are then invited to a problem-solving round. "You're actually going to solve some problems, and need to demonstrate your algorithm and deep coding ability," says Brendan Browne, LinkedIn's director of global talent acquisition. Afterwards, responses are reviewed by a panel of the company's engineers to determine who moves on to the next interview round.

Target Managers Directly

If there's some aspect of social media you're passionate about, don't be afraid to show it off. Some current employees at LinkedIn got their foot in the door by contacting specific company leaders or managers and talking about their passion, explains Browne. "We're looking for people that are really passionate about the data that the web has availed and [care about] how to extract value from that," Browne says.

Be Prepared for Fast Growth

While it's great for a company to go through periods of immense expansion, it can also be a difficult adjustment for some employees. As the company grows, be sure you're ready to deal with the consequences of a less-rigid work environment that's often unpredictable. "We're looking for people that are self-motivated, can deal with intense growth, and won't get upset if things get a little bit cramped in the office," says Loh, and adds that Foursquare grew to 60 from 20 people in one year. "We like to warn interview candidates about our fast growth."

Stay Active in the Open-Source Community

To build your online presence, you can also participate in open source forums like Stack Overflow or Quora. Because it's readily available, showing how you've contributed to any of these technologies can help capture the attention of recruiters. "Candidates who have built products and applications have a leg up because we can gain insight directly into the candidate's work and applied skills by viewing their projects online," explains Mark Woolway, the vice president of corporate affairs at Yammer, a social network used for private communication within companies.

Use Social Media to Find Jobs

At Yammer, most job openings are posted on social media announcements, says Woolway, who adds that the five-person in-house recruiting team reviews all applications. "Social media plays a big role in finding out about opportunities and getting in contact," he says. Rather than applying to multiple openings it's best to be specific and apply to one opening at a time, says Woolway. "We suggest that candidates apply to just one job and explain in the cover letter why the job is a good fit based on skill set, past experience and other qualifications," he says.

Write to Alina Dizik here.

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