Social Media Plays a Huge Role in YOUR Job Search -- Whether You Realize It or Not

social mediaSocial media has had an iffy relationship with job seekers over the past few years, with many people claiming that using sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and even Twitter were helping people in their job searches. But many social media users are still baffled at how these sites bring together companies and job seekers. Is it true or are we still just singing the (possibly unwarranted) praises of social media?

According to all the hype, companies are hiring employees from the social media sphere at a rocketing pace. But are these hiring entities in the business of online/social media where it would make sense to look for future employees from those same pools, or are other industries hopping on board and transitioning over from traditional recruiting alleys to the vast Web?

Whether we like it or not, social media is playing a massive role in the job search -- and its not just from a job seeker's stance. Most, if not all, recruiters are now integrating social media platforms into their candidate search, as are some major companies. With 73 percent of adults having and using a Facebook profile and an even more astounding 42 percent of users over the age of 50 using social networking sites (according to recent data from the Pew Research Center), it's not surprising that social media has jutted its head into the job search in such a major way.

To find out how large a role social media actually does play in our job search -- even if we aren't necessarily sifting through jobs on those networking sites ourselves -- we spoke to Camille Fetter, managing partner for Chicago's TalentFoot, to find out how companies and recruiters are using social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn to find and vet potential employees.

Q. How does social media currently play into company hiring?

A. Often the candidate is working with a recruiter, who is representing the employer. They'll go to the candidate's LinkedIn page to find out who they know in common and in addition, they'll often pick up the phone and find out what that individual thinks of the person (an indirect reference check). [They'll also] find out on LinkedIn, what groups or local associations they belong to -- they want to see if they're involved in the industry.

Q. When people talk about social media for hiring purposes, which social networking sites are they talking about specifically?

A. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. One of the things people look for is professional pictures. Often times when I"m looking up a client, I'll go to LinkedIn and then I'll go to Facebook -- first to check out their picture to see if its professional. [The other draw to using Facebook] is that they can contact anyone that way - via e-mail - as opposed to having to be connected with someone on LinkedIn before being able to e-mail them.

Q. It seems like LinkedIn is better served now as an online resume or portfolio instead of a networking tool. Do you agree?

A. No. [People are] absolutely using it as a networking tool today. It's so much more efficient to do your networking online. Job seekers can quickly send out an e-mail to all of their contacts [to look for job openings]. It's also very important to invite people to LinkedIn the minute you make a connection in person. With LinkedIn, it updates contact information automatically, which is key when people are switching jobs every two to three years, making it easy to keep up with your contacts.

Q. Which industries are currently using social media as a hiring tool?

A. All industries. One of the neat things today in recruiting is that a lot of the applicant hiring tools are integrating LinkedIn. When a resume is updated in these tracking systems, there's a LinkedIn button that integrates that into their [profiles]. In finance, legal, accounting, IT -- they're all using these applicant tracking packages today that allows them to integrate LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, which just came out within the last two years. You can no longer separate your personal and professional lives due to social media.

Q. How should job seekers use social media when looking for a job in today's economy and how do you think that will change -- if at all -- in the future?

A. They should absolutely make sure they have a robust LinkedIn profile -- it's taking over the Careerbuilders and Monsters. And it's even more important because it shows [companies or recruiters] who you know in common.

Recommendations are very important on LinkedIn. It's almost like including a reference check on your LinkedIn page. A lot of folks don't have a professional bio for themselves (with keywords) to put on their LinkedIn page. Write a bio and have a professional contact within your industry take a look at your bio since it's often hard to write in third person about yourself. Alternately, you could hire a professional writer to construct your bio, but the average cost for a bio is around $500.

In terms of Facebook, I always recommend that job seekers become a fan of companies you're looking to work with. Become familiar with their culture and local news. A lot of companies are now adding a job openings tab on their corporate Facebook page. For sales professionals in any industry, you should have a large online network. If you have less than 200 contacts [on LinkedIn or Facebook], a company probably won't even interview you, so it's important to round that out. Also, on Facebook recruiters use profiles to find prospective employees for other companies. -- so keep your employer info updated.

Q. Should you integrate keywords into your cover letter and resume?

A. Yes. Integrate keywords into bios, cover letters and resumes. However, don't list keywords in white [so that they don't show up on the page] -- that's keyword hiding. There's no time to sift through resumes, so recruiters and hiring managers are using keywords to sort through stacks of them quickly.

Next:Is Your Fear of Networking Costing You Work?

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