Five Social Media Tips for Job-Seekers

Social media has moved beyond our personal lives and into the job hunt -- and not just on business-oriented sites like LinkedIn. Today, you're more likely to find a hot job opportunity in a retweet than in the Sunday newspaper. Meanwhile, that photo of you in a diaper from three Halloweens ago is still making the rounds on Facebook.

For job-seekers, it's time to get serious about social media. To help you navigate this new and constantly shifting terrain, DailyFinance has compiled five tips that will get you closer to landing the right position.

1. Start Constructing Your Network Early

Social media allows you to build a diverse network, whether you're following one of your professional heroes on Twitter or connecting with your office cleaner on LinkedIn. You need to be constantly building that web of contacts and promoting your own online brand, even when you're not actively looking for work. If you wait until find yourself out of a job, it's going to be a lot harder to build that network.

"It really is important to have a network before you need it," says Sue Marks, CEO of Pinstripe, a recruiting company. "I would search LinkedIn and begin with five or 10 requests a day."

2. Don't Fear Facebook

The mothership of social media is often mentioned as a repository of wince-inducing embarrassing information. But the site also offers plenty of opportunities -- you just have to know how to use it.

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First of all, get your privacy settings in line so that those Halloween photos are visible only to the right people. Make your work experience and aspirations a central part of your profile. And don't be afraid to put spice it up with hobbies, dreams or opinions -- just make sure that what's out there is something you'd be comfortable talking about in a job interview.

Personal information "helps make you more relatable," says Randi Zuckerburg, head of consumer programs with Facebook. "If you love travel, you love cooking, you love running marathons, it's a great place to give a recruiter that sense."

3. Stay Tuned In

Social media is a conversation that goes on 24/7, especially on Twitter. The discussion changes fast, and if you're not tuned in, you can easily miss the latest developments -- including job openings. Web browsers like Firefox and Google Chrome let you install a sidebar so you can follow tweets as you go about your online business. Follow the right people, and you can watch the recruiters in your industry talking to each other and to job-seekers.

"You now know what's happening minute by minute at companies and possible job locations," says Sree Sreenivasan, professor of digital media at Columbia Journalism School. "There's a constant flow of information."

4. Make It Personal

With social media, you gain instant access to thousands of potential contacts across the world. But each Twitter account or LinkedIn profile is a person, not just a random Web page. You have to treat these people respectfully and personally, with tailored messages and a clear reason as to why you're contacting them specifically. Generic messages will get you nowhere. Once you have made a connection, you need to think about taking it offline -- you won't get hired just from exchanging messages or crafting tweets.

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"Social media is a great place to start and facilitate the initial outreach," says Holly Paul, U.S. recruiting leader with PricewaterhouseCoopers. "It's really important that people then take that connection offline or further that connection in a way outside social media, whether it's a phone call or a face-to-face meeting. "

5. Play Friendly, and Do Unto Others

Building an online network is all about relationships. And as any daytime talk show host will tell you, a relationship is a two-way street. That means people online might want things from you, whether that means a LinkedIn introduction or just feedback on their job prospects.

It's easy to ignore these requests -- after all, they're just messages from people you don't know very well. But a few weeks or months later, they might be looking to fill a vacancy in their business. You don't want to be remembered as someone who acted as if you were too important to respond to a message.

"It's definitely a give and take," says Joe Essenfeld, CEO of JIBE, a social media networking company. "We've heard stories about people who have found opportunities by helping someone else."