How should job seekers use social media to find a job and connect with a prospective employer?

1 Oct

Social networks have become a frequent go-to resource for recruiters.

Where do most job seekers begin their search for jobs? Job boards? Aggregators like Indeed? Ratings sites, such as Glassdoor? In most cases, applicants have ditched the daily newspaper's want-ads section for the far more efficient and wide ranging appeal of the Internet. However, that leaves a wide variety of options open for today's job seeker.

There's a trend that's gaining momentum that may influence employee engagement ideas. Social media has rapidly evolved from a space where friends and family connect over various geographies into an all out digital networking environment. This extends far beyond LinkedIn, although that particular social site remains the forerunner in the world of online job seeking and recruiting. In fact, employers have taken to social media profiles to gain insight into the backgrounds, interests, activities and personalities of job seekers at rapid pace.

U.S. News & World Report cited the Society for Human Resources Management 2013 report, "Social Networking Websites and Recruiting Selection," that found more than three-quarters of employers have used social media as a resource for recruiting strategies. What's more, nearly 7 in 10 use these sites to specifically target applicants based on the need for unique skills. The vast majority also use social networks as a means to strengthen their brand awareness and give job seekers a fairly direct channel to connect and contact their organization.

What are the leading social media sites?
LinkedIn is the preferred choice among employers, with 92 percent using the site. The second most popular network is Facebook, while Twitter and Google round out the top four sites.

However, this doesn't mean that a job seeker should stick with LinkedIn alone. In many ways, social networking sites are a way for applicants to build their online presence. Accordingly, they need to keep in mind how they present themselves online because the content posted on sites like Facebook and Instagram coalesce to give an employer a holistic perception. It's the responsibility of the job seeker to ensure their online "brand" is consistent across the various platforms.

Yet, one of the main draws of social networks is the fact that they level the playing field to some extent. Job seekers have a unique chance to connect with specific companies, discuss topics with industry leaders that they admire and take the initiative in reaching out to a company to build a relationship. In doing so, they have the chance to proactively initiate the recruitment process.

What is the correct protocol?
Is there social media etiquette? In a sense, each social network provides a fairly distinct way to engage prospective employers, but job seekers can begin with small steps. One of the simplest ways they can ease their way into engaging a company that interests them is to follow it. While somewhat passive, this move signals to the organization that the person has an expressed interest in what it does or the brand in general.

Another key element that many job seekers forget to address is social profile cleansing. A recent article for The New York Times tech blog went into detail about the cottage industry of profile "sweeping" service providers. Many are startups that have devised various ways to scrutinize and wipe clean Facebook and Twitter profiles that may include content that will raise the eyebrows of a recruiter. Some providers can even identify photos that may send up red flags. Without resorting to hiring a social network maid service, job seekers can take it upon themselves to be judicious in what they post as public and private on the various networks.

Get involved

From this point, the job seeker can take a more active role by liking specific pieces of content the company posts and then joining the conversation using the comments box. Linda Descano, president and CEO of Citi's Women & Co., told Fox Business that this approach helps job seekers make a positive first impression. It also shows the person is engrossed in a particular aspect of the company.

Specifically looking at the possibilities of LinkedIn, there are additional steps that job seekers can take to increase their visibility in employers' eyes. The Muse explained it's important to stay active on the platform. For example, instead of following what others in a relevant industry have written or posted, a job seeker can take the initiative and write his or her own articles. Coherent, relevant content can draw the attention of an employer looking for an individual who is not only up-to-date on industry events, but also addressing them with original ideas.

Choose networks wisely
Depending on a job seeker's skills or interests, different networks have unique strengths. For example, Pinterest is a great site to post visual content that a job seeker created. Mashable highlighted the fact that this particular platform allows people to be creative in the ways they present their resume. Although it's easy to upload the document to the Pinterest board, it's a better idea to connect various aspects of a work history or professional experiences to relevant pictures and other content.

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