How to use social networking in your job search

More employers than ever are using social networking sites to screen job candidates. Make sure you present a positive online image.
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Dec 29, 2009
By dvm360.com staff

Many job searchers might not pay much attention to their Facebook, LinkedIn, or MySpace profiles. But they should, according to new research.

A June 2009 CareerBuilder survey found that 45 percent of employers use social networking sites to screen potential employees, compared to 22 percent in 2008. Eleven percent of employers plan to start screening these sites. Of those who currently screen, 29 percent use Facebook, 26 percent use LinkedIn, 21 percent use MySpace, 11 percent search blogs, and 7 percent follow candidates on Twitter.

Some job candidates have caught on to these trends and have used their social networking profiles to boost their image. Eighteen percent of employers said they found content on social networking sites that encouraged them to hire a candidate. Among that content:

> The profile provided a good feel for the candidate’s personality and fit within the organization. (50 percent)
> The profile supported the candidate’s professional qualifications. (39 percent)
> The candidate was creative. (38 percent)
> The candidate showed solid communication skills. (35 percent)
> The candidate was well-rounded. (33 percent)
> Other people posted good references about the candidate. (19 percent)
> The candidate received awards and accolades. (15 percent)

Some job seekers haven’t realized the benefits of social networking, however—35 percent of employers reported finding content on social networking sites that caused them to reject a candidate. Some examples:

> The candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photographs or information. (53 percent)
> The candidate posted content about them drinking or using drugs. (44 percent)
> The candidate bad-mouthed their previous employer, co-workers, or clients. (35 percent)
> The candidate showed poor communication skills. (29 percent)
> The candidate made discriminatory comments. (26 percent)
> The candidate lied about qualifications. (24 percent)
> The candidate shared confidential information from a previous employer. (20 percent)

Here are five tips to help job seekers keep a positive online image, courtesy of CareerBuilder.com.

1. Get rid of unflattering content before you begin your job search. That includes photos, blog posts, links, or other content an employer might find offensive or inappropriate.

2. Consider creating a professional group. Sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, or BrightFuse.com can help you set up these groups to establish relationships with leaders, recruiters, and potential referrals.

3. Keep disputes offline. Whether personal or professional, try to keep content positive on your social networking profiles. Highlight specific accomplishments both inside and outside of work.

4. Be choosy with your friends. Remember, your friends aren’t necessarily the only ones who can access your information. Their friends often can as well. Adjust your security settings and monitor content posted by others to make sure employers can’t link you to any shady characters.

5. Don’t discuss your job search if you’re already employed. It seems like an obvious no-no, but plenty of job-seekers get busted for doing this every year. If an employer can see that you’re searching for jobs on your current company’s time, they’ll have little doubt that you’re likely to do it on theirs.