10 ways to use social media to get a new job

How Twitter, LinkedIn and other tools can help you stand out

TODO alt text

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.

The first and easiest strategy is to use business oriented networks like LinkedIn, BrightFuse and Naymz for work while reserving MySpace and LiveJournal for mates.

FriendFeed

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.

Tweleted

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.