Can Social Media Give Your Career a Boost?

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Veterans of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter know that landing a job through social media entails sharing the right information to attract employers.

Even if you are not a Millennial who embraced social media early on and have spent a decade on Facebook or other social media accounts, the challenge is to appear professional and proactive. Potential job candidates are now being judged for more than their work history and references, said Jean Dobey, CEO of Hibe.com, a micro-social-media platform in Montreal. With recruiters increasingly scrutinizing applicants' online personas, those on the job hunt must learn to adapt their personal social media presence, he said.

Also See: 6 Ways to Ruin Your Reputation at Work

Job seekers should start by entering their name into a search engine, which can be an eye-opening experience, he said. The information found on Google could be all a recruiter needs to cross you off their list. A recent CareerBuilder survey showed that 48% of hiring managers use Google or other search engines to research candidates.

One way to ensure that you have a good profile is to make sure you are active. Engaging on social media not only allows you to connect with industry peers and demonstrate your level of expertise, but posting on a regular basis and contributing to relevant discussions can help you gain credibility and visibility, Dobey said.

"It will go a long way to impressing potential employers," he said. "Remaining inactive, blocking your posts or staying away from social media altogether can give recruiters the impression that you might have something to hide. There's no better way of being in the know then by connecting with the right industry players."

If you can pinpoint the companies where you would like to work, start by following the profiles of the companies and join LinkedIn groups and Twitter chats related to your industry which can help you obtain quality contacts who could share job opportunities in relevant groups.

The quality of your content should remain your first priority. The 2014 survey by Jobvite found that 93% of recruiters review candidates' social profiles in the hiring process while 42% have reconsidered a candidate positively or negatively based on content they saw online.

"Promoting your work in LinkedIn groups and through online communities will also clearly demonstrate your competence to potential future employers," Dobey said. "Whether you're showcasing your content or just getting your name out there, it's important to make it easy for recruiters to find you online."

Devoting all your time to refining your LinkedIn profile could be detrimental. Many job seekers overlook how Facebook could also affect their chances of securing a job. When it comes to social recruiting, human resource professionals are turning to a candidate's Facebook account to see if they're really a good fit for a particular post, he said. Job seekers should take the time to ensure their Facebook accounts along with their LinkedIn profiles make them an attractive proposition for potential employers.

While it is possible to go back and privatize old material, anything that is on social media is usually traceable in some way or another, so being prudent about what you post is crucial, said Jason Fischbach, 24, who works in public relations in New York.

"You can't just hide from social media," he said. "That's considered even more atypical and brings its own skepticisms. The best bet is to just be smart in what activities you engage in, cautious about what you post and who you share it with and aware of the consequences that others' actions can have on your future."

Recruiters are avid fans of social media with 87% of recruiting organizations who said they plan to increase their usage of LinkedIn and Jobster and 71% who forecast increasing their usage of Facebook and Twitter in 2014, said Donna Weiss, managing director of CEB, an Arlington, Va. member-based advisory company which polls human resource departments routinely.

Social media is a great way to showcase thought leadership, said Dan Farkas, an instructor of strategic communication at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

"During interviews everyone says that they have passion about the profession and are hard workers, he said. "Social media is a way to show people instead of just telling them."

Virtually all recruiters use LinkedIn and all Fortune 500 companies use it for research purposes, Farkas said.

"I think having no profile at all is better than slapping together a LinkedIn profile in ten minutes that is incomplete," he said. "We view social media as having a very short lifespan, but in reality it's online forever."

 

Social media is now one of the main resources an HR manager will use to vet potential hires and you only have between two and 15 seconds to make an impression online, said Kim Seeling Smith, and CEO of Ignite Global, the Australian human resources consulting firm.

"A lot of early adopters think that just because they have 5,000 friends on Facebook, are connected to the world on LinkedIn, tweet 20 times per day and routinely post pictures of their cat or the latest juice bar they've stumbled upon, that they are social media savvy," she said.

Optimize your profile for keywords that relate to jobs you would be suitable for, Smith said. Post updates advertising the value you can add. Pitch it from the perspective that you are looking for a company whose needs intersect with your value - not that you're looking for a job. Offering something of value is much more powerful than asking for something.

If you're well connected, you can use social media as a platform for opening doors, she said. Engage with a connection by offering to help them with something such as an introduction to someone who might be valuable to them and then ask for an introduction or to pass your resume along.

Request quality recommendations on LinkedIn, said Corey Perlman, an Atlanta social media consultant. However, make sure you have at least 250 connections since having just a few connections can create some doubt with potential customers or employers.

If an employer or colleague finds you on LinkedIn, they rarely look elsewhere for your profile, said Jason Hanold, CEO of Hanold Associates, executive search firm based in Evanston, Ill. Being selective on who you want to connect with on LinkedIn is a definite must.

"I've let my friends and family know that Facebook is social and I'm not diluting my professional network by connecting with distant uncles or elementary childhood friends on LinkedIn," he said. "Strive to keep your network robust and meaningful."

While the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces laws against workforce discrimination, employers viewing candidates online will naturally develop their own assumptions, said Jeanne Achille, CEO of the DEVON group, a Middletown, N.J. company which specializes in human resources marketing.

"So if you knit and have five cats that sends one message," she said. "If you have skulls and crossbones instead of a traditional professional photo, that imprints a distinct image in the minds of the employer."

--Written by Ellen Chang for MainStreet

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