10 ways to use social media to get a new job
18th Oct 2009 | 14:00
How Twitter, LinkedIn and other tools can help you stand out
Get your dream job with social media. Steps 1 - 5
Traditionally it was employers who had to make themselves visible when looking to fill vacancies – posting adverts in the press, then choosing a pool of candidates from a veritable tsunami of applicants. But not any more.
There's mounting evidence that personnel specialists are now scouring social media sites and job boards for potential employees.
"Recruitment departments are starting to dabble with professional networking and other forms of social media to headhunt potential candidates," says Teresa Sperti of The IT Job Board.
Microsoft recruiter Declan Fitzgerald claims that he saved £60,000 in recruitment fees by sourcing nine programming posts through professional networking site LinkedIn instead of using traditional channels. That's all good news if you're currently looking for a job in IT.
What better way to ply your wares than on the web, where you can track down the right people and demonstrate your expertise direct?
If you're wondering how to draw attention to yourself in the right way on social-media sites, help is at hand. We've put together a comprehensive action plan for you to follow:
10 expert tips on using social media to get the job you want
Step 1: Set up multiple accounts
The first rule of successful professional networking is to keep business and pleasure strictly separate. Multiple social networking accounts will help you to present your best face to recruiters.
FRIENDFEED:You can update and manage multiple social media accounts via FriendFeed
However, with Facebook and Twitter accounting for the lion's share of media attention and internet traffic, that approach will exclude access to a lot of influential contacts. Setting up two separate accounts for friends and business on these networks will enable you to compartmentalise your image.
To stop all these accounts getting out of control, use tools that are capable of managing more than one account. Both TweetDeck and Twhirl let you post to more than one Twitter account without the need to continuously log in and out.
Seesmic Desktop does the same job, and it handily also allows you to update your Facebook status at the same time.
Step 2: Use Facebook's privacy settings
While it's good practice to create business profiles on business-oriented social networks, Facebook is the undisputed hub of the net's social activity.
So, here's an alternative to multiple profiles: tweak Facebook's privacy settings so that work contacts aren't able to see any of your friends' pictures of your latest debauched night on the town.
Click 'Friends' on the main menu bar in Facebook and then click '+Create' in the Lists section of the sidebar. Call this list 'Work'. You'll be given the option to add existing friends to this list.
Create a second list called 'Mates'. Once created, you can add anyone who requests friendship to either list. To make people on your Work list see a professional looking profile, go to 'Settings | Privacy | Profile'. The options here allow you to choose exactly who sees what.
As an example, let's say you only want people on your Mates list to see your photos. Click on 'Edit photo album settings', choose an album and make sure only your friends can see it. Then in the 'Except these people' box, type in 'Work'. Now you'll be able to share all the amusing photos you want to with your mates, safe in the knowledge that the people on your 'Work' list can't see what you get up to after hours.
Step 3: Be careful what you say
Separating your work and personal lives is only one part of the process of creating a professional image for yourself online – a technique named 'personal branding'.
You need to present a 'best version' of yourself using the whole range of social-media tools available. "My key Twitter advice to BBC colleagues (is) don't say anything you wouldn't say on air," BBC Technology Correspondent Rory Cellan Jones recently tweeted.
WATCH YOUR WORDS:It's easy to tap out a poorly judged message in the heat of the moment, but it's much harder to delete the evidence
That advice holds true whether you're blogging, tweeting or changing a public Facebook status update. "It is very easy to build your reputation and credibility using social media. Unfortunately, it's just as easy to damage it irrevocably by being careless and whimsical in its use," says Judith Germain, Managing Director of leadership consultancy Dynamic Transitions.
"One thing to remember is that everything that you do on the web is permanent, even in 'closed' networks." The website Tweleted and the Google cache mean that even deleted posts can be easily found. So think for a second before pressing that 'Update' button.
And if you do find yourself participating in an argument, make sure you're polite – or just anonymous.
Step 4: Promote your expertise
Another important part of the personal branding strategy is establishing yourself as an expert in a particular fi eld or subject. Social-media sites offer plenty of opportunities to promote yourself as a leading light in your area.
"Align yourself with good content and share it with others by answering difficult IT questions on user forums and social networks," advises Judith Germain. LinkedIn's Answers application is a great place to put this into practice.
Browse through questions that other LinkedIn members have posted in your area of expertise or search by keyword. The more good-quality answers you provide, the more visible you become.
If you're willing to invest more time, consider joining Experts Exchange, a site where people post IT-related queries. Join as a volunteer and accrue points towards 'expert' status through providing solutions.
Step 5: Don't be a spammer
Blog articles with titles like '10 Reasons I'll Un-follow You on Twitter' cite aggressive self-promotion as the fastest route to lose friends and alienate people, so avoid things like pushing your website with every status update or spamming hashtags with inappropriate information just to get yourself noticed.
The key to keeping followers and impressing recruiters is to balance your activity. "Engage with your network," says www.mashable.com contributor Atherton Bartleby. "Genuine engagement with your followers will ultimately ensure that your mobile number is retained and not 'lost' at the end of that fabulous party, and it will ensure that you don't (too often) commit any serious faux pas."
So take part in the conversation on social-media sites – just like you do at real-world networking events. When you have something useful to share, share it. Reply to other people, find out about them and make friends. Let the networking happen organically.
Get your dream job with social media. Steps 6 - 10
Step 6: Follow the right folks
Here's a great tactic to ensure you make the right contacts: put together a list of companies you've got in your sights, find out who works there and, if possible, who's in charge of hiring. Then make friends with or follow them on social-networking sites.
Some corporate sites list personnel in their 'About Us' section – so try that avenue first. Search LinkedIn for company names if you hit a brick wall with the first method, and back that up with a search of PeekYou, Plaxo and Spoke. These are all social media directories aimed at business users.
A multipronged approach like this should yield a lot of names – and you can make friends with people on all these networks. Once you have concrete names, search for them on Twitter and Facebook.
Click 'Find People' in Twitter, then enter first name and last name as keywords to find everyone registered under that name. Facebook is trickier – a name search may pop up a bigger list of false positives – so search by email address instead.
NOWHERE TO HIDE:Pipl searches social-networking sites to uncover profile details that are hard to find
If you haven't found anyone in your initial search, try a people directory like Pipl – a search engine that specialises in digging up data from 'the deep web', including social network profiles and blogs. This will also reveal other social-media sites your target is signed up with.
Step 7: Join specialist groups
Don't just rely on your virtual friends for leads – join specialist groups and communities online to get an inside track and promote your expertise. Even mainstream social-networking sites have a lot to offer in this respect.
"Look to existing networks, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, where there will be groups that discuss the industry and specific technologies and practices within it as well as dedicated forums and communities for the sector," says Rachel Hawkes, one of the brains behind Social Media Portal.
"The IT specialist should look to become engaged with the communities and establish a presence that adds value to the other community members by offering opinion, advice and leadership." Doing this properly requires some commitment, though.
To get the best from specialist groups, you should check in and post regularly. It's sensible to follow the old school rules of 'netiquette' when joining any new group. Lurk for a while and get a feel for the tone of conversation before you join in with a comment.
Some groups may require you to post an introductory note, for example. Others may frown on long, self promotional signatures. It's worth searching out specialist communities that match your expertise outside of the obvious choices, too.
As an IT specialist, you'll find social networks running on message boards, mailing lists, Yahoo Groups and Google Groups.
Step 8: Do a job search
Once you're hanging out in the right online neighbourhood, you'll hear about some of the best jobs going. That doesn't mean you have to stop being proactive, though.
"In a recent survey we conducted, when asked which tools they considered most important when applying for jobs, 40 per cent of IT candidates referred to using skills-specific job boards and 32 per cent said they would make direct contact with a company," says Teresa Sperti of The IT Job Board.
"Seasoned or specialist IT professionals candidates often favour skills-specific job boards, with only four per cent of candidates seeing generic job boards as very important to their job search."
In other words, using sites that cater specifically to your area of expertise pays dividends. At The IT Job Board – and most other sites – you can sign up for an email summary matching a keyword search.
A great way to keep tabs on job sites is an RSS feed, which is easy to add to your iGoogle front page or check in your favourite feed reader. For example, search by keyword at job site Computing Careers and you'll find an RSS feed link at the bottom of your returned results.
Step 9: Make a video resume
Hopefully your efforts at making yourself visible in a good way to the right people will not have gone unnoticed, and your name will start to surface when positions need to be filled. If that's the case, you need something more than your various social-network profiles to surface when somebody Googles your name.
Owning a website is an obvious first step, but another idea that is gaining momentum at the moment is the video resume. Thousands of people have posted CVs on YouTube, although the quality is highly variable.
If you can't afford professional production costs, keep things simple. Use the best quality camcorder you can, and make sure the lighting's natural. Record sound separately, using a decent condenser microphone if possible. You can do the latter directly into Audacity, an open-source sound-editing tool.
Many of the best video resumes feature a fixed shot of the subject talking about themselves to camera, but it's still fine to use software like Windows Movie Maker to add photos and clips too. Though making a video resume is still a fairly new idea, it's catching on as a trend – so you'll have to work a little bit harder to come up with something that stands out.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT:Mike Anderson's clever CV earned him a lot of attention online
Mike Anderson's produced his CV in graph form – and got to the front page of Digg and almost 200,000 hits on Flickr.
Then there's Australian games designer Jarrard Woods, who launched his freelance career by building his resignation letter into a Super Mario Bros level.
Step 10: Measure your impact
Keeping up a presence on lots of sites can be a drain on your time – so measure your success with people by measuring traffic from each site, then ditch the ones that don't work.
You can use web analytics tools like Webalizer and AWStats to see where hits to your blog or online CV are coming from. Both programs summarise referrer sites in tables for you – but there's a lot of static to work through.
A more effective method is to encode URLs you tweet or place in social profiles with a shortening service like Bit.ly. Every time you post a shortened URL, Bit.ly will track how many clicks it generates.
Create a different version of the URL for each of your social networks and you can instantly see which ones are performing best for you.
First published in PC Plus Issue 286
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