Social media crucial to job search

By Kristi L. Gustafson, Albany Times Union

A couple of weeks ago, Josh Shea started a new job as a senior web developer with Brayton Graphics, a design firm in Schenectady, N.Y.

But if it wasn’t for Shea’s use of social media, he never would have heard about the position. It, like many jobs these days, was advertised solely on social networking sites — specifically Twitter and Facebook.

With more than 500 million users on Facebook, 160 million on Twitter and 75 million on LinkedIn, social media are a growing avenue for employers to reach out to fill open positions and for potential employees to find jobs.

Those statistics, combined with the competitive job market and the national unemployment rate hovering at 9.5 percent, add up to a new mandate for career-minded men and women: Get a Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn account and learn how to use it.

“These social networking tools are no longer considered a ‘maybe’ when it comes to job search and are a must-have for being noticed, building visibility and credibility and for ongoing career management,” says Diane Crompton, a senior career management consultant with Right Management in Atlanta. “At least 50 percent of our landed candidates are now using social media as a critical part of being noticed, getting introductions and leads for their next position.”

Crompton says more than 80 percent of people now find jobs through networking — including in-person and online. A recent survey from Jobvite, a maker of recruiting software, found that nearly 75 percent of employers now use social media in their recruiting efforts.

Shea has been using social media — primarily Facebook and Twitter — to build his professional brand for nearly three years. Facebook has opened several freelance opportunities, while Twitter led to his new position.

He and Elizabeth Delos, the owner of Brayton, connected on Twitter more than a year ago. They started following each other because of their shared professional interests.

“When I started following them … I didn’t know I’d end up working there,” says Shea. “I follow people because they’re interesting, not because of an opportunity, but because I want to read what they have to say.”

Shea is careful about what he says — and the images he posts — on any social networking site. His motto: “You never know who your next client is or who your next contact is.”

Having a positive professional presence online through social media sites such as LinkedIn can help a job seeker compete in a crowded candidate pool, says Allison Keibel, the assistant director at the Center for Career Development at Adelphi University. Employers, she says, can find more information online about candidates before bringing them in for an interview — as Delos did.

This can work to job seekers’ advantage, she says, helping them develop a marketing strategy and “brand” their image online by displaying samples of their work on a personal website or by creating profiles with recommendations from colleagues — a feature that is especially popular on LinkedIn.

As for Shea, the web guru wasn’t looking for a job when Delos contacted him. He was working for LifeChurch.TV as a web developer, and enjoying his work, but he was familiar with Delos and her company and admired what they did.

The admiration was mutual. Delos and Shea had been following each other on Twitter for about a year and, while they didn’t “talk” regularly, Delos was familiar with — and impressed by — Shea’s work.

So, after Tweeting the position (for those of you who aren’t on Twitter, this is the equivalent of standing on a mountain top and shouting to whoever may be listening at the time), she contacted Shea on the social networking site.

Twitter was the only means of advertising she used to fill the spot.

The last time Delos had an opening, she had relied on craigslist, but the influx of unqualified candidates ended up being a waste of time, says Delos, who has never used newspapers or career-specific websites in her searches.

With Facebook and Twitter, on the other hand, she can find potential candidates she knows, thanks to previous contact or interaction through the social networking sites. Using the sites also lets employers such as Delos get a feel for the personality of potential employees. She can gauge whether they may fit into the office culture, a key part of employee retention.

This time around, she received little spam and few unqualified or mistargeted applicants through her social media search. What she did get was a pool of about eight solid candidates — a blend of people who contacted her, and those like Shea, whom she approached.

“A lot of businesses that are established and have been in business for 20 years are used to the print and see social media as an additional added benefit, but for me, this is the only way to go,” says Delos, who is 27 and started her company four years ago. “I won’t go back.”

Here are some pros and cons for the three most popular social networking sites used in job searches


Pro: Best all-around social networking vehicle for professional networking — diverse industries and levels of professionals are represented (75 million members from 200 countries). If you use only one social networking tool for professional purposes, this is it.
Con: Site still feels cumbersome and “clunky.” Lacks ease making new connections. Open networkers and those who want a more fluid, assertive approach to making new connections may need to upgrade to be able to send “straight shot” communications (InMails), get a broader reach with searches and make connections with greater ease..


Pro: Has a casual, fluid feel in terms of establishing new connections and communicating with others (versus the formality of LinkedIn). Great way to build visibility and “sync” to other social networking sites and virally spread your message.

Con: Can be a real time consumer if you don’t properly manage the stream of Tweets. Unless you’re willing to commit a level of time and effort and have a strategy for tweeting, may not be a good choice.


Pro: More of an informal, social community. Deserves attention for professional networking due to impressive membership (now up to a half-billion active users). Lots of opportunity to build rapport on many levels, including personal and professional interests. Easy way to re-connect with others and keep tabs on your “inner circle.”

Con: Still getting a bad rap due to privacy concerns on the site. Could also present challenges with high level of transparency. Tagged photos, wall postings and random updates can provide too much or not the right kind of information for your professional network if this is not monitored or privacy settings are too “loose.”

— Earlier this week, LinkedIn announced the launch of LinkedIn Signal, a new way for the site to display information that will make it look more like Twitter and Facebook with article-sharing, status updates and customized filters. The product will be rolled out to LinkedIn users over the next couple of months.

Source: Diane Crompton and Ellen Sautter, Atlanta-based senior career consultants and authors of “Seven Days to Online Networking” and “How to Find a Job through Social Networking.”

Kristi Gustafson can be reached by e-mail at kgustafson@timesunion.com. Follow her at Facebook.com/JustKristiOnline or Twitter.com/JustKristi

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