Can social networks help in a job search?

by 15 Sep 2009

Social networking sites were hailed as a great new job search tool not long after they gained popularity. Such sites started emerging on the web only a few years ago, but have quickly grown in scope and number of users.

But in terms of assisting with a job search, many people still seem to keep their personal and professional lives separate.

Earlier this year we asked jobseekers in a survey if social networking sites help in their career development.

Almost one in two said social networking sites do not help their career development, while less than one in five said they help to find out about new jobs. So it seems social media has not been as widely adopted as a job search tool as some pundits claimed it would be.

One in three said social networking sites help to keep up with contacts. This can be a very sensible move, particularly in today’s economic climate where there is strong competition for the best jobs.

But while most candidates still want to keep their social life and their professional life very separate, the potential does remain to use social media to a job-seeker’s advantage.

The issue, however, for some candidates, seems to be that if they’ve been slow on the uptake of social media, it can seem an overwhelming unknown to conquer when they are suddenly looking for a new job.

For example, do you start with a Facebook site, register with Twitter, go straight to LinkedIn or start a blog?

What’s important, though, is not where you start, but how you communicate. If you decide to use social media as part of your job search, then our advice is to remember it is just another way to market yourself. As with an online job board or emailing your resume to a recruiter, you need to keep your communications professional and focused on your skills and experience.

Social media, just as with a traditional networking event, can be a good tool to build new professional contacts. Then just as with follow-up networking functions, you can use your social media to stay in touch and remind your contacts you are looking for a role.

For example, you could post a “note” on Facebook, but make sure it has an interesting point. So rather than simply saying you are looking for work, you could instead comment on an interview you had that day, or a job you’ve seen advertised. Give people an opening to continue the communication.

But arguably the most beneficial way to use social media in your job search is to research a company to help you tailor your application or to prepare you for interview. For example, you can search for a particular company via LinkedIn and find contacts who might already work there or know someone else who does.

A word of warning though – social media is increasingly used by potential employers as a reference-checking tool. So ensure your communications remain professional because you don’t know who could read what you tweeted about last month! Be aware of your digital footprint

By Emma Egan, manager of Hays Human Resources