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4 Ways to Feature Social Proof in Your Job Search Strategy

A person looking at their smartphone and writing in a notebook.

Decisions about the applications you submit are made quickly. Your resume and cover letter are judged in just a few seconds, and if they pass the test, the next step may be a cursory glance at your online presence.

Depending on what the hiring employer finds, you just may leap into the “must-interview!” pile.

But how can you make sure your resume makes it this far in the candidate selection process?

The Answer: Social proof.

What is Social Proof?

In your online presence, social proof can come in the form of objective comments from peers and supervisors that substantiate the qualifications outlined on your resume. On social media and personal domains, it may be visual. For example, if you voice an interest in the environment in your cover letter, it may be beneficial to share those photos from the beach clean-up you participated in last fall.

Social proof is necessary because of what we call the testimonial economy, a new era where what we say about ourselves, including in our resumes and cover letters, has less influence than it ever has before. In order to combat this, we build social proof to show our skills, define our personal culture, and demonstrate our work ethic. Simply put, we enable others to tell a compelling story about us.

Here are four ways to effectively build social proof into your resume, cover letter, and online presence.

Start with Social Media

Social media is the perfect place to demonstrate that your words align with your actions. Try to include photos that support your personal branding and cast you in your desired light: as an active, social-impact professional. A consistent presence at social impact meet-ups and movement-focused events also helps. Check out events on

But a physical presence isn’t the only way to show social proof. Does your personal branding state that you’re passionate about making an impact in a particular issue area? Then share the latest post from Idealist Careers related to that topic on Twitter and Facebook. Even a quote from a well-known influencer shows a potential employer good intent. Bottom line: use your social media accounts to prove your career passions go beyond just words.

Social Proof in Your Cover Letter

Strategic, discrete placement of recommendations in a cover letter can be highly effective. For example, to generate instant social proof, job seekers applying for work with nonprofits and contemporary for-purpose companies can include a statement such as: "During my last internship, my supervisor volunteered this about my work ethic: [INSERT YOUR BRIEF QUOTE HERE]."

Of course, don’t overdo it. A dominating paragraph or a 60-point font quote box will take your message from the perfect example of social proof to applicant purgatory.

Impact Statements, Achievements, and Awards

Want to bore an HR professional or hiring manager to death? List all the major tasks performed at your last job in excruciating detail.

Today, employers want to know that you understand the impact of your work. Specifically, they’re looking for quantified statements such as “Led a fundraising effort that resulted in donations of $23,000 in three months.”

To further create instant credibility, show relevant achievements and awards from volunteer and community efforts, internships, and recent jobs.

Positive Reviews on Social Media and Personal Domains

Social media and your career collateral aren’t the only places perfect for demonstrating social proof.

Present a confident yet humble statement by making positive reviews of your work a cornerstone of your personal branding. For instance, include relevant pictures, testimonials, and quotes in social media background images and on your personal website. Also, consider going old-school by providing PDFs of letters of recommendation you have stored on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop.

When executed well, social proof can help make you a top-five candidate. Why? Because most of your job-seeking competition is relying on their education, too-often-exaggerated skill sets, and unsubstantiated claims of expertise to impress an employer.

Through objective testimony, you can tell your own career success story. And in that moment you have to create a great first impression with an employer, your social proof will make all the difference.

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About the Author | Mark Babbitt is CEO and Founder of YouTern, a social resource for young professionals. Mark co-authored the best-seller A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive. An in-demand speaker, he was named one of Inc. Magazines Top 100 Leadership Speakers.

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