Using Social Media to Enhance Job-Searching

April 13, 2010 at 12:10 am 16 comments

(This article was updated in February 2017)

There seems to be a lot of discussion these days about the use of “Social Media” as a tool to enhance job-searching. Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave for the last few years, you probably know that Social Media refers to online “communities” like LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and a host of other lesser-known but still popular sites. (To see an extensive list of over 250 Social Media sites, just click on the “Share” button to the right of this blog, on the side-bar.) Social Media is changing the way business gets done and people communicate in the “Web 2.0″ age.

By the way … that term “Web 2.0” is bantered around a lot, with few people understanding its true meaning. It actually refers to the 2-way interactive nature of certain web destinations. Here’s a definition from Wikipedia (which is, itself, a Web 2.0 destination): “The term ‘Web 2.0’ is commonly associated with web applications that facilitate interactive information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design, and collaboration on the World Wide Web. Examples of Web 2.0 include web-based communities, hosted services, web applications, social-networking sites, video-sharing sites, wikis, blogs, mashups, and folksonomies. A Web 2.0 site allows its users to interact with other users or to change website content, in contrast to non-interactive websites where users are limited to the passive viewing of information that is provided to them.”

There’s a really amazing viral video up on YouTube right now, which contains some astounding statistics and facts about how quickly and profoundly Social Media has changed our world. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend watching this 4-minute video. You can see it here: “Social Media Revolution.”

I’m a big user of LinkedIn, and (obviously) blogging. I have Facebook and other Social Media pages, but those are used primarily for non-business purposes. I’ve also experimented with Twitter, YouTube and other sites. While I certainly don’t claim to be any kind of authoritative expert, I can offer my own musings on how Social Media sites can be used effectively to enhance a job search:

LinkedIn:
With over 380 million registered users in over 200 countries (as of October 2016), LinkedIn is by far the most popular business-oriented Social Media site. LinkedIn has radically changed the way jobs-seekers network their way to decision-makers in their target companies, connect with potential employers, recruiters find candidates, and companies search for and uncover details about potential employees. Many companies are now actually dropping their Monster and CareerBuilder accounts and relying on LinkedIn as their main source for talent acquisition. Creating an effective online profile on LinkedIn is one of the most important things a job-seeker can do right now. It has certainly revolutionized the methodology of networking as a job-seeking activity … and it’s hard to believe that it’s still free!

There are already numerous websites out there with detailed tutorials on how to set up an effective profile and best use LinkedIn … so this blog is not intended to be a “How To” guide on that topic. I will, however, point out some of the most obvious features that make it such a fantastic tool for job-seekers:

  • Your Profile: Creating and maintaining your profile is the most critical part of using LinkedIn. It’s an online version of your résumé – and much, much more. It’s worth taking the time to do it right. Here are a few suggestions: Choose a clear and descriptive “Professional Headline” to identify the industry niche and specific job area you are targeting. Fill the “Summary” and “Specialty” fields with keywords and buzz words from your specific industry niche, to make yourself more search-friendly and “findable” by companies and recruiters. Complete the “Experience” section with your most recent and most relevant jobs, going back at least 10 years. (No need to go farther than that, unless you want to.) Just like you would on a traditional paper résumé, use a lot of exciting “action” words. Whenever possible, site quantifiable results and achievements from your jobs … not just a list of responsibilities. Potential employers don’t just want to know what you did – rather, they want to know how good you were at your job! Collect as many positive professional recommendations as you can – from former bosses, peers, and customers. Use the “Network Activity” section at the top on a regular basis to send updates and stay in touch with all your connections.
  • Your Photo: I’ve heard arguments from both sides on whether or not to post a photo on your profile. Apparently, some people are afraid that they will somehow hurt their chances of getting an interview or a job if their photo reveals something that has potentially discriminatory implications (i.e. age, race, sex, ethnicity, etc.) Personally, I say post a photo … as long as it looks professional. They’re going to see you when you walk through their door for your first interview anyway, right? If you get eliminated based on one of those criteria, then it will happen with or without your photo being posted. I always prefer seeing photos on other profiles – it helps me remember people I’ve met, puts names and faces together, and makes me feel I am more connected to people. Profiles without photos seem more generic and anonymous. I always suspect that they are hiding something!
  • Connections: This is, of course, the main point of LinkedIn – making connections! Do an advanced search for anyone who works at one of your target companies. [If you don’t already have a list of target companies, proceed directly to “How to Network: A Step-By-Step Guide for Job Searching” for instructions on how to create one.] Limit the results to people who are local to you, and who work in your niche using either keywords, or job titles. People you’ll find using the LinkedIn People Search will either be connected to you directly (1st degree), connected to one of your other direct connections (2nd degree), connected to someone else who is connected to one of your other direct connections (3rd degree) or will share mutual LinkedIn Group Memberships with you. Reach out to those people. [For more specifics on how to approach new potential contacts, read “Targeted Networking: How to Effectively Reach Out.”] Many people on LinkedIn are not connected to you at all … however, you can only send LinkedIn messages to people that are connected to you in some way … so therefore it’s best to join a lot of industry-specific groups, and connect with as many people in your niche as you can. And by the way – when you invite someone to connect, don’t just use the generic default message … personalize the invitation. It will be much more likely to be received favorably if it has a specific message explaining what your relationship to that person is, and why you want to connect.
  • Joining Groups: It is in your best interest to join as many LinkedIn Groups as you can. (Their limit is 50.) Join groups likely to be of interest to your industry. The more members a group has, the more likely you’ll snag contacts in your target list. If you go the the Groups screen and click on “Find a Group” and then “Search” the groups using keywords, the results will be ordered by membership size with the largest groups at the top. (Each group will have the number of members listed below its description.) Try using your city as a keyword to find locally based groups. Try adding terms specific to your niche to limit it to groups that your target people would be most likely to have joined. Another trick is to examine the profiles of people who you’ve already identified as key targets, and look to see what groups they are members of. Then simply request to join those groups. It sometimes takes a day or two to get “approved” … but almost every LinkedIn group approves all membership requests.
  • Discussions and Questions: Participating in the Group Discussions, or posing and/or answering questions in the “Answers” section is a great way to make yourself visible and find new connections on LinkedIn. Don’t just “lurk” … get involved and participate.
  • Job Listings: There are job postings within each individual group that often are “exclusive” to LinkedIn … that is, they are job postings that will not be seen on Monster, CareerBuilder, or any other job boards. You must be a member of that group to see those listings. Applications to those LinkedIn job postings are much more likely to get responded to than job-board postings – and will be less likely to land you in the “Black Hole of HR.” Your application will automatically link the poster back to your profile page – plus, you’ll know exactly who posted the job and be able to view their profile and reach out to that specific person to follow-up.
  • Networking Your Way to a Job: Using all of the above, LinkedIn has revolutionized all the steps in the process of networking as a job-seeking activity. Those steps are: 1) Building Your Target Company List; 2) Identifying the Key People in Your Target Companies; 3) Reaching Out to Your Targeted People; 4) Talking / Meeting With Your Targets; and 5) Following-Up and Staying in Touch With Your Network. [For details on how to network your way to a job using these five steps, read “How to Network: A Step-by-Step Guide for Job Searching.”]

Facebook:
Facebook is now the 3rd most popular destination on the web (behind Google and YouTube), with over 1.86 billion monthly active users worldwide (as of February 2017). Facebook and countless other Social Networking sites emphasize the “social” aspect of networking, and are much less business-oriented than, say LinkedIn. Facebook began as a college student network, and has since evolved into a community of all ages where people connect online with new and old friends and acquaintances, classmates, family members, long-lost romances, music fans, and people with all sorts of other common interests. It may surprise you to know that despite its roots in the youth culture, at this point 65% of Facebook users are 35 or older, and the average Facebook user is 40.5 years old. Many businesses have recently established company presences on Facebook to promote themselves and connect with this vast audience. While I don’t think it’s a particularly effective job-seeking tool (although others may disagree) … I don’t see any harm in establishing a profile here. Certainly, periodically updating your status with information about your job-seeking activities could potentially help you if someone in your personal network reaches back out to you with a job tip or a business contact.

The one caveat I would offer, however, is the standard warning that I always give my own kids: never post or send anything anywhere (photos, videos, wall messages, comments, emails, text messages, tweets, etc.) that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper! Never assume that anything you do online is private – such a concept simply does not exist on the web. Anything you delete on your end can easily be resurrected on the other end at some later date and come back to bite you. There are countless stories out there about potential employers checking out the Facebook profiles of candidates, and eliminating people based on inappropriate material they found! [For more details on the topic of internet privacy, read “Warning: That Rant You Posted Just Went Viral!”]

YouTube and other Video Sites:
YouTube is now the second most popular destination on the web, behind first-place Google (which actually owns YouTube!) One billion unique users are now visiting the video-sharing website every month, or nearly one out of every three people on the Internet (as of July 2016). I’ve seen a lot of videos posted on YouTube and other video sites by various business professionals and job-seekers. Some are promoting or selling some product or service, and others are more along the lines of advice or consulting. Obviously, this form of Social Media is not for everyone – you must be reasonably comfortable in front of a camera, and be an effective communicator and public speaker. Nevertheless, for those who can pull it off, video postings are a great way to enhance one’s profile and market yourself. Video postings can be integrated into LinkedIn using an application module that displays your videos on your main profile page.

Professional Blogs:
The “Blogosphere” has been part of the Web 2.0 Social Media revolution for over 15 years. Creating a Professional Blog can be a great way to enhance a job search. (I’m using the term “Professional” Blog to differentiate it from a “Personal” Blog, which could be about family events, personal ramblings, politics, hobbies, travels, mundane everyday things, etc.) A Professional Blog is aimed at other people in your own niche industry, and creating one can serve many purposes. First and foremost, it gives you an outlet to share your knowledge and experience with others who might benefit from it. Secondly, it keeps your writing skills sharp and provides you with an excuse to keep yourself current on your particular discipline. And finally, it gives you a very visible forum to showcase your expertise in your niche. In marketing terms, it creates a “brand awareness” for yourself! You can put a link to your blog in your email signature, and on your LinkedIn Profile to further increase your visibility. If you are new to the world of blogging, try one of these two free, popular and easy-to-use blogging sites to get started: “Wordpress” or Google’s “Blogger.” Both have step-by-step instructions, and include dozens of pre-made templates that will get you up and blogging in minutes. I prefer WordPress because it easily integrates into LinkedIn, using an application module that automatically displays your latest blog postings on your main profile page.

Twitter:
With over 1.3 billion registered users, and 310 million active users creating over 500 million Tweets each day (as of May 2016) Twitter continues to be a very popular social media tool. However, I’m sorry … but despite all the buzz about Twitter, I have to give it a thumbs down as a job-seeking tool. It’s not that I’m against new technologies – I’m actually a very tech-savvy person who loves all the latest toys, gizmos, gadgets and technology in general. I’ve configured and repaired computers and networks, designed websites and complex databases. And I know there are Twitter fans out there who will be quick to dispute me. I do think that Twitter deserves a place somewhere in the short attention span of our thumb-typing, text-message-obsessed world. But I tried Twitter for several months, and I just didn’t see it being a useful tool for job-seeking. In fact, it seemed like a supreme waste of time to me! I have yet to find a hidden job opportunity using “Twitter Search” that I couldn’t have found just as easily using Google, Indeed.com, or any number of other standard search engines or job boards. And broadcasting quick short bursts of text? Is that really necessary? I believe that those 140-character messages filled with lazily abbreviated catch-phrases and fractured contractions have contributed to the rapid decline in the writing skills of an entire generation of its users (IMHO LOL!) The English language has never looked worse. And lately, what I’ve seen on Twitter involves a lot of unwanted spam-like marketing of products and services, people using auto-responders and programs called “Robots” to add followers using fake identities, and downright malicious hacking activities. That’s a “revolution” I can do without!

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Entry filed under: Advice for Job Seekers. Tags: , , , , , , .

Avoiding the “Black Hole of HR” Warning: That Rant You Posted Just Went Viral!

16 Comments Add your own

  • 1. kaukab  |  April 13, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    You are an absolutely fantastic teacher!! You don’t assume that everyone knows everything about the new developments in the job searching techniques. You literally hold hands and walk us through each step.

    Reply
  • 2. Terri Bishop  |  April 13, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    Hey Michael,
    I enjoy your column, but I think you are wrong about Twitter. I think a lot of people don’t get Twitter. Twitter to me is one of the easiest way to meet people in your industry, at a company you want to to work for, or live in your area because you can follow anyone. Unlike LinkedIn, and Facebook, no one has to approve you to follow someone. It is like going to a party and being able to introduce yourself to anyone that is there. It is a two way conversation that many people don’t get because you need a third party application like tweetdeck or hootsuite to see when people are replying to your tweets. In Austin, Texas where I live we have tweetups where you can meet people you have been conversing with online. Meeting people is always good. I have written some articles on using Twitter in the job search on my blog at HireAustin.org.

    Reply
    • 3. Michael Spiro  |  April 14, 2010 at 8:22 am

      Terri:
      I have no doubt that Twitter users have fun meeting other Twitter users at “Tweetups.” They sound similar to some of the mass networking events I’ve attended at bars or hotels – basically social mixers with some business people attending. And I suppose that it’s possible to make useful business contacts at such an event – although most of the people I’ve seen attending those events are certainly not decision-makers at target companies, but rather other job-seekers or casual attendees with non-business agendas. And yes, “meeting people is always good.” The real question is whether Twitter is truly a productive job-searching tool (like LinkedIn) … or is it primarily a socially-oriented communication conduit (essentially internet-broadcast text-messaging) and as such a potential time-waster for serious business users. Answer this: how many examples can you site of people who actually got interviews or jobs directly from Twitter contacts — and I mean from Twitter leads that those same people could not have easily found some other way? I would venture to guess that those examples are very rare.
      -Michael

      Reply
      • 4. Terri Bishop  |  April 14, 2010 at 11:02 pm

        Wow Michael, you come across as kind of bitter against networking. Networking is any interaction between people via online or in person. And, yes, I have met people through twitter that have given me some contact or offered to introduce me to people at companies I am interested in working for. The people that I meet that don’t “get Twitter” are only using the website. You need to use a third party tool like tweetdeck or hootsuite and engage in conversations with people. You can show your expertise or interest with people you want to work with/for. It is a conversation with people you choose to interact with. There are a lot of serious business users on it, I promise. Spend some more time on it and give it another try.

      • 5. Michael Spiro  |  April 14, 2010 at 11:24 pm

        Terri: The last thing anyone who has read my blogs would say about me is that I’m “bitter against networking!” It’s the number one job-searching method that I preach about! However, I do believe that a lot of people waste their time networking the wrong way. Read “Looking for Networking in All the Wrong Places” for a more detailed explanation of what I mean by that. As for Twitter – I’m glad you’ve been able to make useful business contacts by using it and those third party tools you mentioned. I guess I still believe that those same contacts could have been made just as easily using other methods. To each his own, right?

  • 6. Yvonne Thomas-Brooks  |  April 13, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    Great info. Getting involved and getting noticed is still the most important component; the more things change the more they stay the same! Love the cartoon.

    Reply
  • 7. Mark Madere  |  April 14, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Hi Mike,

    Great info. I will be adding a link to this article from my page I created for job seekers on my studio’s web site: http://spectralight.com/findajob

    If I could make one suggestion? You mention using a professional portrait of yourself on your LinkedIn profile. As a professional photographer, I couldn’t agree with you more. I see you have a professional portrait of yuorself on your LI profile. I think that looks much better than the one on your blog profile. Why not use the LI photo here?

    Mark Madere
    SpectraLight Photography
    http://spectralight.com/execport/index.html

    Reply
    • 8. Michael Spiro  |  April 27, 2010 at 10:41 pm

      Mark:
      Thanks for the positive feedback. As to your suggestion – it’s simply personal preference. I used the more formal suit-and-tie photo on the business-oriented LinkedIn profile, and the more casual close-up photo here on my own blog. I feel that each forum should have it’s own look and feel.
      – Michael

      Reply
  • 9. Ron  |  April 14, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Mr. Spiro, I commend you on another excellent article. I enjoy reading your writings.

    Ron

    Reply
  • 10. J Michael, ParetoCentral.com  |  April 16, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    I agree with you – LinkedIn is the best medium for managing career side of your life. Twitter is so machine-like (as in the cartoon – loved it). Am I the only one who is not very enthused about Facebook for the long-term? Thanks for writing this thoughtful blog.

    Reply
  • 11. RJ  |  April 20, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Hello Michael. I enjoyed reading your blog. Thank you for providing this good information. – RJ

    Reply
  • 12. Kathie Kinde  |  May 16, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    I have been long remiss in writing this comment. Thank you for your wonderful blog – which I found through social media (LinkedIn in particular). I have been consistently impressed by your adeptness in navigating the social media waters. You deliver full-bodied content and value to your readers. Nicely done!

    Reply
  • 13. Beth Tarbell  |  June 23, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    I, too, would like to know about the key word elimination process, because many good candidates could be falling through the cracks. It’s not always possible to correctly guess what key words the employer will screen for.

    Reply
    • 14. Michael Spiro  |  June 23, 2010 at 6:01 pm

      Beth:
      Regarding the keywords … the best place to start with a company’s job description. When applying to a specific job, make sure that the phrases, keywords and language found that job description also appear in your resume. Use them in the “T” Cover Letter as well.
      -Michael

      Reply
  • 15. John Wallencheck  |  July 30, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Thanks for the advice Michael. While social media is a new tool, I believe that it is here to stay. That is, until someone invents something even better. Just to let you know, I’ve found an article titled, “How to find a job using Twitter.” You can click on the link:

    http://interviewiq.com.au/how-to-find-a-job-on-twitter?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Interviewiq+%28interviewIQ%29&utm_content=Google+Reader

    I hope that the article will be of use to you and anyone else who follows your blog.

    Good wishes,
    John Wallencheck

    Reply
  • 16. Sarah Lawson  |  July 11, 2013 at 3:07 am

    Hi Michael,

    Really enjoyed reading this article!

    I believe that social media is a great way to develop networks and find new leads. It’s made Job searching faster and more convenient.

    I’m personally Still working around my way LinkedIn right now so I really appreciate the tips that you have shared. Thanks!

    Reply

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Michael Spiro

About the Author:

Michael Spiro has been a 3rd-Party Recruiter and Account Executive for over 15 years. He is currently the Director of Recruiting / NE Ohio Region for Experis Finance, a dedicated business unit of ManpowerGroup. Other recent positions include President of Midas Recruiting, a boutique head-hunting firm, Director of Talent at Patina Solutions, and Executive Recruiting positions with two of the largest search firms in North America. Before his career in the staffing industry, Michael was a manager in a large non-profit social-services organization. And in a former life, Michael was active in the entertainment industry, with extensive road-warrior experience as a touring performer (singer-songwriter / guitarist / comedian) and as a recording artist, producer and booking agent.  [More...]

Index (by Topic):

Résumés & Cover Letters:
 The "T" Cover Letter - The
         Only Type Worth Sending

 The Brutal Truth on How
         Résumés Get Eliminated

 Explaining Short Job Stints
         and Employment Gaps

 The Résumé Test &
         Checklist: Does Yours
         Pass?

 Beating the Résumé-
         Elimination Game: Where
         Do Recruiters' Eyes Go?

 The Truth About Lying on
         Résumés

Networking:
 How to Network: A
         Step-by-Step Guide for
         Job Searching

 Looking for Networking in
         All the Wrong Places

 Targeted Networking: How
         to Effectively Reach Out

 The Art of Giving: the Key to
         Effective Networking

Interviewing:
 Face-to-Face Interviews:
         Secrets, Tricks and Tips

 Phone Interviews: Secrets,
         Tricks and Tips

 Skype Interview Tips ...
         Welcome to the Future!

 Nuggets: A Secret
         Interviewing Technique

 Answering the Dreaded
         Salary Question

 20 Surefire Ways to Blow
         an Interview

 "So, Do You Have Any
         Questions?" Nailing the
         Interview Closer

 Cool InfoGraphic: "What
         You Wish You'd Known
         Before Your Job
         Interview"

Age Discrimination:
 Age Discrimination: Secret
         Conversations Revealed

 Age Discrimination:
         Exposing Inconvenient
         Truths

 Are You "Overqualified?"
         Handling the Age Issue

 Baby Boomers to the
         Rescue! An Idea Whose
         Time Has Come ...

 Overcoming Job-Search
         Obstacles and
         Redefining Your Career
         After 50

 Advice for Recent Grads
         and Career-Changers

Switching Jobs:
 The Proper Way to
         Quit a Job

 Counteroffers: Just Say No!

General Job-Seeking Info:
 The Real Truth About
         Working with Recruiters

 Contract/Consulting Jobs
         Explained ... Available in
         3 Different Flavors

►  What Recruiters Say
         vs. What Job-Seekers
         Hear

►  The Dirty Truth About
         Misleading Unemployment
         Statistics

►  Let the Jobs Find You:
         Making Yourself More
         "Searchable"

 "Help ... I Need a Job!" A
         9-Step Guide for Newly
         Minted Job-Seekers

 Avoiding the "Black Hole
         of HR"

 Is Your Elevator Pitch
         Taking You UP
         or DOWN?

 Time Management: Recipe          for a Well-Balanced Job          Search
 Getting Un-Stuck from your
         Rut!

 The Double-Whammy of
         Rejection and Isolation

 "Unemployed Need Not
         Apply" - Working Around
         This Scary Message

 Using Social Media to
         Enhance Job-Searching

 Warning: That Rant You
         Posted Just Went Viral!

 The Golden Rule for
         Business: Never Burn
         Bridges

 The Power of a Positive
         Attitude

 Why Job Hunting is a
         Consultative Sales
         Position

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things
         for Job Seekers

 Top 10 Most Annoying
         Things for Job Seekers

 New Year's Resolutions for
         Unemployed Job-
         Seekers

Job-Seeking Humor:
 Comic Relief: Volume 1
 Comic Relief: Volume 2
 Comic Relief: Volume 3
 Comic Relief: Volume 4
 Comic Relief: Volume 5
 Comic Relief: Volume 6
 "In Transition" and Other
         Awkward Euphemisms

 Candidates Gone Wild:
         Recruiter Horror Stories

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