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Gone are the days when all job seekers had to worry about was their résumés and cover letters. Today, those documents remain a staple of the job-search process, but they are joined by a growing phenomenon: social networking.
Forty-five percent of employers reported in a June 2009 CareerBuilder survey that they use social networking sites to screen potential employees, compared to only 22 percent of employers last year. Eleven percent of employers plan to start using social networking sites for the screening process. More than 2,600 hiring managers participated in the survey.
Of those who conduct online searches/background checks of job candidates, 29 percent use Facebook, 26 percent use LinkedIn and 21 percent use MySpace. One-in-ten (11 percent) search blogs while 7 percent follow candidates on Twitter.
Additionally, 16 percent of workers have used similar social networking sites as part of their job search.
"In this difficult job market, online networking is an important piece of the puzzle for workers wishing to build professional relationships, and ultimately, connect with their next great job," said Liz Harvey, senior director of online products for CareerBuilder, which just launched its own online community BrightFuse. "With more than 1.6 million users, BrightFuse.com has become a thriving professional community. Workers of all levels can use BrightFuse.com to have that important open dialogue -- while promoting themselves and recommending others."
While social networking is a great way to make connections with potential job opportunities and promote one's personal brand, job seekers must ensure they are using these sites to their advantage by conveying a professional image and underscoring their qualifications.
Many job seekers seem to be doing this, as 18 percent of employers said they found content on social networking sites that encouraged them to hire the candidate. Some examples include:
Profile provided a good feel for the candidate's personality and fit within the organization -- 50 percent
Profile supported candidate's professional qualifications -- 39 percent
Candidate was creative -- 38 percent
Candidate showed solid communication skills -- 35 percent
Candidate was well-rounded -- 33 percent
Other people posted good references about the candidate -- 19 percent
Candidate received awards and accolades -- 15 percent
Many job seekers, however, are doing the opposite and not being mindful at all of the content they're posting online.
Why employers disregard candidates after screening online
Thirty-five percent of employers reported they have found content on social networking sites that caused them not to hire the candidate, including:
Candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photographs or information -- 53 percent
Candidate posted content about them drinking or using drugs -- 44 percent
Candidate bad-mouthed their previous employer, co-workers or clients -- 35 percent
Candidate showed poor communication skills -- 29 percent
Candidate made discriminatory comments -- 26 percent
Candidate lied about qualifications -- 24 percent
Candidate shared confidential information from previous employer -- 20 percent
Here are five tips for job seekers to keep a positive image online:
1. Clean up digital dirt before you begin your job search. Remove any photos, content and links that can work against you in an employer's eyes.
2. Consider creating your own professional group on sites like Facebook or BrightFuse.com. It's a great way to establish relationships with leaders, recruiters and potential referrals.
3. Keep gripes offline. Keep the content you post focused on positive things, whether it's related to professional or personal information. Make sure to highlight specific accomplishments inside and outside of work.
4. Be selective about whom you accept as friends. Don't forget others can see your friends when they search for you. Monitor comments made by others and consider using the "block comments" feature. Even better, set your profile to "private" so only designated friends can view it.
5. If you're still employed, don't mention your job search in your Tweets or status updates. There are multiple examples of people who have gotten fired as a result of doing this. In addition, a potential employer might assume that if you're willing to search for a new job on your current company's time, why wouldn't you do so on theirs?