Social Networking

By Amy Winter

April 29, 2011 6 min read

Social networking sites are not only used to stay in touch with friends and family but also great tools to help job seekers search for the perfect job. With profiles on Facebook and LinkedIn, for example, job candidates can present themselves in a positive light. It is easy to create a bigger contact list and connect with others in your industry all around the world.

"Social networking is an easy way for job seekers to build their network by reaching out to former colleagues and classmates, as well as fellow alumni and industry professionals," says John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a global outplacement consultancy. "Job seekers can then use their networks to uncover available positions and to establish relationships with hiring managers or contacts who can give them a recommendation."

Job search tools used to be limited to newspapers and telephone calls, but the Internet has opened a whole new world with more options, including blogs and the social networks LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. But social media profiles need to display your career in a positive manner. Maribeth Kuzmeski, author and founder of Red Zone Marketing LLC, says your online reputation should fit with your in-person reputation. Keep your profiles professional, and include your strengths and key areas of experience. Get rid of inappropriate photos and postings. Think before tweeting; you never know where the content will appear online. Create a blog to describe your skills in a clear and concise manner.

"It is important to make sure that you remain professional and put your best foot forward when using social media sites," says Allison Nawoj, spokeswoman for CareerBuilder.com. "Job seekers need to be mindful that the content they are posting on their online profiles represents them."

Use your networking skills to reach out to your Facebook friends, LinkedIn contacts and Twitter followers. Let them know you are looking for a new job, according to Kuzmeski. One contact may know of an open position at his company. LinkedIn, which has a good reputation for business development, is a great place to find contacts in your industry. Yusuf Wilson, a career coach, emphasizes finding the "right" contacts rather than the most acquaintances. You want contacts who are willing to present you to their LinkedIn contacts, which helps build your network.

As you "friend" more people on Facebook, watch your profile on a consistent basis. Nawoj recommends having alerts sent to your email when someone posts on your wall. You want the content and conversations to help build your personal brand, according to Susan Gunelius, author and CEO of KeySplash Creative, a marketing communications company. You own your profile's space, so you should delete any hurtful or inappropriate comments. Facebook also allows users to enact privacy settings so only certain people can access your wall. Kuzmeski suggests setting up Google Alerts to keep up-to-date on anything about you that appears online.

"Ultimately, the best way to manage your online reputation is by generating positive search results through your online posts and profiles that will rank as highly as possible on any list of search results," Kuzmeski says. "But by monitoring these search results closely, you can get out in front of any problems that may arise from something negative someone else has said about you or your current employer online."

It is especially important to monitor your online appearance because a greater number of employers are doing Internet searches to find out more about job applicants. Gunelius says employers may do a Google search on a candidate before even meeting the person. And during the interview, some interviewers may ask the job candidate to open his or her Facebook profile. You don't want your profile to immediately give a bad impression, according to Kuzmeski. In a CareerBuilder survey, 35 percent of employers said the content on a social networking site had caused them not to hire a particular candidate, Nawoj says. Some examples were inappropriate photographs or information; content featuring drinking or drugs; poor communication skills; negative information about previous employers, clients or co-workers; and discriminatory comments.

"Social networking should be used cautiously," Challenger says. "As these sites become increasingly intertwined, it becomes easier and easier for potential employers to access the more personal aspects of job seekers' lives."

You also can use social media to help prepare for the interview. Kuzmeski recommends researching your potential employer. It will impress an employer if you know specific information about the company. Or create a thank-you video with the assistance of YouTube. Develop a quick thank-you note script. Record yourself, and upload it to YouTube, Kuzmeski recommends. Send the video link to the interviewer; you definitely will stand out among the other applicants.

"No matter what means of communication you prefer, relationships are the real secret to success," Kuzmeski says. "If you can use social media to build strong relationships and connect with employers, you will get your piece of the proverbial pie. If you can't, you'll be scrambling for crumbs."

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