Saturday 15 May 2010

The Basics of Job Hunting Through Social Networks

By Dan Finnigan

Online social networking helps job seekers in two key new ways—first, to find unique, hard-to-find open job opportunities, and second, to increase the likelihood of being found by companies with openings. The most coveted, interesting positions are first exposed through key employees and recruiters, because companies have known for decades that the best candidates come through referrals and people they know. Referrals are more likely to get the job because studies show they perform better and last longer than employees found through more traditional sources, like job boards.

Social networks are now making it much easier for companies to hire referrals. Companies are having employees share openings via the key social networks, and hiring managers and recruiters are searching online for social profiles that fit their job requirements. Your goal with all your online profiles should be to provide a vivid professional picture of yourself—of your experiences, work products, connections, group affiliations—and insight into what you would bring to any company; and to build as many relevant, useful connections as you can.

What networks matter for job seekers?

For job seekers, LinkedIn has the most executive members and is more professionally focused. If you haven’t already created a LinkedIn profile, set up a strong basic profile now and keep enhancing it as you go. Resumes can become stagnant. Don’t let that happen with your LinkedIn profile. Anyone can find it anytime. Your profile should evolve and always be current. More importantly, start making connections. A great place to start is searching by your college or university to find friends, faculty and alumni in fields of interest. Don’t just send invitations without explanations; develop a message to send to people you don’t know explaining who you are and why you want to connect. Hint: make sure your profile is public with its own URL, and put the URL in your resume.

Most people join Facebook for social purposes, but companies and recruiters are actively searching the network for talent. Many people, especially recent college grads, have profiles already, but you need to make sure that the “Education and Work” section is updated. This will dramatically increase the likelihood that great, new opportunities find you. But make sure to use the privacy settings to control who sees what. Make your description, education and work available to everyone, but restrict who sees your posts and pictures. Keep a close eye because the photos that other people take (and tag with your name) can be a menace. Hint: To be safe, never put a photo on Facebook that you would not want your grandmother to see.

While Twitter isn’t traditionally associated with job hunting like LinkedIn, it is fast becoming a virtual job board of “real time” job opportunities. Companies are increasingly posting jobs to their Twitter pages live. Also, it’s a fantastic way to build your professional presence by commenting on news and topics relevant to your field. If you’re already blogging, you can expand your audience by tweeting links to your posts. To find out about jobs that never make it to job boards or Craigslist, follow companies and people working in your fields of interest. Hint: Keep your personal tweets (what you had for breakfast, Friday night plans) and professional tweets separate by creating two accounts; create one, more complete profile and indicate your professional interests.

Mr. Finnigan is the former head of Yahoo HotJobs and now runs Jobvite, a provider of software-as-a-service applications that help companies recruit talent. He is a regular contributor to Hire Education.

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