You've heard again and again how important networking is when you are looking to take the next step in your career. But does that include social networking? Can you "like," "tweet" and "2nd degree connect" your way to a fabulous new position?
Career and online experts recommend leveraging social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and (especially) LinkedIn as part of a job search. But, they say, social networking should be used as a complement to, and not a replacement for, more traditional job-search methods. And, they caution, it should be used carefully.
Carisa Miklusak, principal of Ingenium Consulting Group and co-founder of SoMedios, an emerging media solutions organization, suggested job seekers use social media every step of the way.
Starting out, she said, social media is a useful way to research the culture of companies that interest you. While a corporate Web site can certainly provide extensive information about an organization, its social-media presence can often offer more insight into a company's culture and the way it interacts with employees, partners and customers.
"On Facebook, for example, a job seeker may be able to read about the organization on the Info tab, see pictures of a recent team outing to get a feel for the culture and follow recent conversations between customers and the brand or employees and the brand – all critical factors in making a decision," Miklusak said. Social networking lets you dig deeper to see the things the company didn't intend for you to see. "Candidates should use these tools to pre-interview companies and determine if they are a true fit."
After helping you decide what companies you want to be a part of, employ your insights to craft a very focused and relevant resume and cover letter.
Once you get an interview, Miklusak said, use social-media sources to learn about the decision makers you will be meeting. "By conducting a brief LinkedIn and/or Google search, it is likely that a candidate will be able to gather great detail about the background of their interviewer,” Miklusak said. "This is becoming a very common practice and prepares the candidates to customize their talk track and interview presentation to what they've learned about their interviewer. This also empowers candidates to come prepared with better questions."
At the offer stage, Miklusak said, use social media to reach out to current or past employees. "This is a common practice in the social-media space, and a very quick dialog can provide productive company insights," such as standard salary ranges, work assignments and conditions, she said.
But remember: The transparency social media provides works both ways. While it can help a potential employee gain an edge during the job search, it also lets employers vet potential employees. Many employers use the same sources to uncover information about candidates not included in a resume or shared during an interview.
And the advice goes deeper than the typical “hide the drunk photos,” said Chris Laggini, vice president of human resources for DLT Solutions, a value-added reseller of IT products and services.
Certainly, job seekers must be certain they are "digitally dirt-free" on all social-media channels. But employers are looking for more than employees who can hide the negative. They're looking for employees who can positively represent their personal brand online.
Social media is important to organizations' marketing, audience development and customer-support strategies. It's important, therefore, to make sure that potential employers see not only the care you take with your social media presence but also your social media savvy.
"Serious recruiters definitely do their research,” Laggini said. "Look at your social-media profiles with a critical eye. Do they show you in your best light? Potential employers use every resource they can to get to know you, including social media."
Debra Donston-Miller covers work-life issues and difficult job-search situations for TheLadders.