We asked editors-in-chief and other industry bosses how social media factors into their hiring process.
Welcome to Career Week! While we always make career-focused content a priority on, we thought spring would be a good time to give you an extra helping of tips and tricks on how to make it in the fashion industry.
Earlier this week, we covered how social media can put your career in jeopardy if you aren’t careful; but on a more positive note, it can also help jumpstart your career — depending on what type of fashion job you want.
Increasingly, employers are considering social media accounts an important part of the hiring process and there’s reason to believe that if you’ve been reluctant to dedicate precious time to building your “personal brand” online, you could be at a disadvantage. At the very least, you’ve gotta have something. “I would be very curious about someone who had no social presence in their 20s or 30s,” says Cindy Krupp, the founder of Krupp Group. “That’s a huge part of where the industry is headed.”
That’s not to say having tens of thousands of Instagram followers is more important than experience and work ethic (at least we sincerely hope it’s not), but there are certainly some scenarios in which being active on social media can get you ahead. The disruptive clothing brand Everlane has literally begun hiring people on Snapchat, for instance, and while that may be an extreme case, it could be indicative of where the industry is heading.
We spoke with top industry professionals in both editorial and PR about how social media factors into the hiring process. Read on for some tips to keep in mind if you’re looking for a new job.
EMPLOYERS ARE GOING TO LOOK AT YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS BEFORE THEY HIRE YOU, FOR MANY REASONS
“It’s the first thing we look at,” says Krupp. “It’s a great background check.” She focuses on Facebook and Instagram, looking for red flags. “If you decide to post a photo of you doing a body shot in the Bahamas, that’s poor judgement.” She says judgement and taste level are especially important for PR, where you’re always representing the client.
Christene Barberich, global editor-in-chief at Refinery29, says she uses social media “to get a better sense of someone’s interests, point of view on certain issues that are relevant for us or to see if there’s anything fact-wise that could provide useful discussion in an upcoming meeting or interview.” And she’ll focus on certain platforms for certain types of jobs: “If it’s more news, politics, or pop-culture-related, I go to Twitter and check out their commentary as well as who they follow or retweet often. For anything fashion- or lifestyle-related, it’s Instagram. And I’ll always scan Snapchat, Facebook and LinkedIn for good measure.”
AND YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE COULD BE A DECIDING FACTOR
While Krupp emphasizes that “personality and experience trump social media,” there’s evidence that having robust social media accounts (significant followers, consistency, good engagement) is better than not. InStyle Editorial Director Ariel Foxman says, interestingly, that he won’t check a potential hire’s social media until he needs to. “Unless they’re really in the running and I need to make a decision between two people, I don’t look and don’t have the time usually,” he says.
YOU DON’T NECESSARILY NEED TO BE AN INFLUENCER, BUT SHOW THAT YOU’RE SKILLED
Employers might also look at social media as a skill. “[Social media is a] big part of the daily PR conversation,” says Krupp, “and we look for people who are comfortable in that.”
“For me, it’s not the quantity of followers always, but the quality of engagement with the followers someone does have,” says Barberich. “If I see great comment chains on posts and interaction, there’s real value there that should be recognized and nurtured.
Adds Leah Chernikoff, editorial director at Elle.com: “Obviously someone’s social media presence and activity should never get in the way of that person doing her job. But if someone is adept at her own social media and her job? That’s great. Social media is increasingly the homepage of the internet — anyone working on it needs to understand how all the major platforms work. So if someone comes in with a following, it shows me she knows how it all works.”
CONNECTING WITH PEOPLE YOU WANT TO WORK FOR ON SOCIAL MEDIACAN HELP YOU LAND A JOB
When Kristie Dash, now the digital beauty editor at Allure, was in college trying to figure out her career path, she followed “every magazine editor” on Twitter (this was pre-Snapchat and the very early days of Instagram), including Eva Chen. “I landed an interview after emailing her totally randomly (I hunted down Conde Nast’s email formula—she was at Teen Vogue at the time) with a subject line that referred to one of her tweets so it would stand out in her inbox,” explains Dash. “Looking back — because I save every email and still have documentation of the exchange — it was slightly creepy, but I had a resumé full of good internships and writing clips to back it up. I recently talked to Eva about it and she said it was ‘charming’ [laughs].” It also landed Dash an internship, followed by a full-time job at Lucky when Chen became EIC. “I know so many friends have connected with people who end up hiring them via social media,” adds Dash.
They might have been hired by Barberich, who confirmed Refinery29 has found job candidates on social media. “[Social media is] a hugely important resource for connecting with potential candidates,” she says.
When Chernikoff was at Fashionista, she hired our very own Tyler McCall from this site’s comments section. “Also Estelle Tang, Elle.com’s new culture editor, wrote a piece for The Toast I was obsessed with, then I started following her on Twitter, and then I DM’ed her to talk to her about this job.”
BUT DON’T GO TOO FAR
There’s definitely a right way and a wrong way to approach someone on social media. Foxman was hesitant to encourage it, if only to keep his DMs manageable after this story goes live. “When somebody applies for a job, there has to be process beyond ‘DM me back,'” he says, recalling a recent instance where someone commented on an old photo of his, Foxman later posted a photo, and that person immediately direct messaged him, assuming he was online at that moment. “[Social media can be] a great way for people to break in and for having conversations with people they admire or want to work with, but it doesn’t work for me when it’s so direct.”
SNAPCHAT’S LESS IMPORTANT, BUT PINTEREST COULD GET YOU A LEG UP
Well, except for Everlane, who is accepting Snapchat applications through Wednesday for various positions and whose people operations lead Kelly McLaughlin tells us Snapchat is “a powerful channel full of those who already embody the Everlane spirit.” Foxman, however, says, “there’s nothing that anyone has snapped that’s, like, ‘Wow, you’re going to be a great editor.'”
Somewhat surprisingly, both Foxman and Barberich mentioned Pinterest as a platform they’d like a potential employee to be skilled with. “There’s infinite opportunity for us to drive more awareness and traffic through boards and the people who are really engaged in Pinterest can do a lot of engaged things as a brand,” says Foxman.
FOCUS ON THE PLATFORM YOU’RE GOOD AT
At the end of the day, you don’t need to be a jack of all [social media] trades. If you’re better at one platform than another, focus on that one. “See which platform serves your own form of self expression and goals best, and then put your heart into it,” advises Barberich. “It can be challenging to juggle and grow three or four channels at a time, so for those who want to be more selective, I recommend becoming a true expert at one or two and dabbling with the others.”