What began as a way to connect with friends and share updates on activities has taken on many other roles. Law enforcement uses social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, to gather information. The media monitors sites to get the latest breaking stories, and employers use them to help determine whether applicants are a good fit for the job.
There’s been a lot of controversy on whether employers have the right to request or demand access to social media sites as part of the interview screening process. There are lots of issues—personal privacy, the possibility of discrimination in hiring, and whether employers have the right to demand access as a condition of employment.
Legal issues aside, you can use your social media sites to work for you in your job search. Instead of worrying about who is eavesdropping on you, why not set up your social sites to showcase your talents and experience, and how you are keeping up-to-date with the latest in your field?
This is the premier professional social media site. It’s an online resume, complete with references, and shows how involved you are in your profession.
1. Complete your profile, and upload a current copy of your resume.
2. Solicit recommendations from former bosses, peers and clients. One way to get a recommendation is to write one for someone else. Recommendations carry a lot of weight, and usually give more positive information than a standard reference check.
3. Update your profile to reflect changes in education, awards, or other professional activity.
4. Join industry related groups, participate in discussions or start one yourself. Your responses to questions are an opportunity to share your views and expertise.
5. Invite employers to visit your profile by adding your LinkedIn address to your resume. You can send an invitation to connect as well, giving them access to your complete profile.
Facebook is more of a social site than professional, and while only your page can be viewed with limited information by non-friends, you can make it work for your job search.
1. Change the security setting for public view. This will give the world access, including prospective employers. If you don’t want to open the door that wide, you can “friend” a prospective employer (hiring manager or HR representative) for day or two and then “unfriend” after the interview process is over.
2. Before you open up access, examine your profile and personal information to be sure it represents you well. Take off any questionable past posts or comments made by friends.
3. Post some job related information, ask some questions, and include links to sites, articles or videos that would be of interest to a prospective employer and show you are keeping up with the latest trends.
4. Make frequent posts, join in the discussion and monitor comments from others to be sure they are working for you.
5. Change profile pictures or block photo albums that may be questionable.
6. Set up a separate account to be used while you’re looking for a job, and make that page available to prospective employers.
7. Go through your “friends” list and make some decisions about who may need to go until you land your next job.
Twitter is a fun, fast way to get your thoughts out there, blow off some steam, pose a question or promote your business. If you have a twitter account, anyone can put in your name and ready your posts and your followers’ posts as well.
1. Check your security settings to make it as open or closed as needed.
2. If you haven’t visited your Twitter page lately, take a look. Are there some followers that need to go?
3. Monitor your page frequently, or subscribe to a service that alerts you when a tweet is posted.
Social media sites take a lot of time and babysitting, but you can make them work for you. If you do go “public,” alert your friends, connections and followers to your plan and ask them to be discrete in their activity. Allowing a prospective employer access to your sites is a bold step, but it shows you’re confident and not afraid to be transparent. It can give some added insight to your personality and interests that could make a difference.
Mary Nestor-Harper, SPHR, spent over seven years as a human resources director and is a career coach, consultant and freelance writer focusing on how to land your dream job in a tough employment market.