8 Ways to Put Social Media to Work in Your Job Search

It’s graduation season! As you cram for finals, pack up the dorm room and prepare to walk across the stage to accept that coveted diploma cover, in the back of your mind, you’re probably thinking about the obvious: What happens next? For many moms and dads out there, they’re hoping that you put on your big kid pants and get a “real job.

Grads, take note. If you were born online, raised by technology and majored in social media, it’s time to put everything you’ve learned in the classroom to work. According to OnlineDegrees.com, companies are expected to use social media to recruit for more than 80% of job openings in 2012 (see the nifty Infographic below). Regardless of whether you pound the pavement in search of “Help Wanted” signs or submit mass emails with your resume and cover letter attachments, HR professionals and recruiters say the best and fastest way to find a job is to use an old-school approach: networking. Networking is the cornerstone of good business practices, and social networking can be the vehicle to find your next job (hopefully, your DREAM job).

Many recruiters are using social media to post jobs and find and screen candidates. In fact, 98% have used LinkedIn, 42% Twitter and 33% Facebook to reach a wider pool of candidates, cut back on HR costs, and most importantly of all, increase the company’s brand recognition. So how can you make yourself stand out in a crowd of millions (or in Facebook’s case, 800 million)? Quite simply, you have to leverage all your skills and available resources to your advantage. And yes, your LinkedIn account, Twitter handle and Facebook profile can help you land that job.

Here are 8 ways to use social media in your job search:

1. Make a Good First Impression

On average, people only spend about 5.7 seconds looking at someone’s social media profile. This means your profile pic, job title, and any other important information should be readily available at first glance. Did you know that LinkedIn offers a “Professional Headline,” which is basically 100 characters for you to brag about your amazing skills? “Social Media Specialist Achieving Proven ROI for Brands” sounds a lot better than “Marketer.” Make sure your title and general “About Me” descriptions are optimized for keywords in the industries that you want to work in, and more specifically, the job function, titles and roles that you want to get.

2. Protect Your Privacy

Let’s be honest, most of us use Facebook to share photos and updates that may not be, em, appropriate for employers to discover. While this is all good and well—after all, social media is about making connections with others—it is a good reminder to keep your professional accounts free of any material that may harm your chances for an interview. Be vigilant of your privacy settings and make sure your public information passes the Parent Test (i.e. No candid shots of dorm parties from freshman year). Some employers are even going as far as asking for access to social media profiles. Although the legality of this act is still controversial, it’s better to be safe than sorry with your online reputation.

3. Google Yourself

You know you’ve done this before, so don’t be shy about using “The Google” to do a bit of narcissistic investigating. Take an inventory of what can be found online about you. In fact, a search for “Clarissa Fong” produces search engine result pages for Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, MySpace, Pinterest and Blog profiles (Notice a pattern?). If you’re lazy, that’s not a good excuse. Sign up for Google Alerts so you know when something new has been posted on the Web about your name.

4. Clean Up Your Act

Going back to Rule #2, not only do you want to clarify your privacy settings, but you also want to edit information on your social personas just in case. If a recruiter finds a photo that tags you in a compromising position on Facebook, you should mark those as private or untag yourself altogether. In fact, you can review posts and photos you’re tagged in before they get posted to your Timeline by selecting that option in your privacy settings. You may also want to delete Facebook Groups or Pages that could potentially be viewed negatively by a potential employer. Moving forward, be mindful of your likes, comments, updates and additions to your profile…just in case.

5. Build Out Your Profiles

Speaking of new content, an easy way to replace those old posts about the good ol’ college days is to post content about the great new job-search days! This is also a wonderful way to show up in search results…something that every SEO practitioner would tell you is important to online success. When you post, make sure you allow “everyone” to view your Work and Education, About You, and your contact info to make it easier for folks to find and connect with you, and be sure to “Like” Company Pages of brands you want to work for. Not only that, but also ask questions, engage in the community and show what you know about their industries. Build yourself up as an expert, and HR recruiting teams will be sure to remember your name.

6. Ask and You Shall Receive

In the online world, recommendations from a former boss or colleague are still gold. Actually, employers ranked referrals as the best source for quality job candidates. Referrals show others that you know your stuff and can help you nab the gig if the competition between candidates gets fierce. To ask, make sure you tailor your message to each individual person and provide some general guidance about what you hope to get back (i.e. skills, projects, volunteerism, etc.) In the future, stay in touch with your references in case a recruiter wants to verify a recommendation.

7. There’s An App For That

Many new social media apps, such as BranchOut, provide an easy platform to ask and gather recommendations. You can import information from your LinkedIn profile and easily create a Facebook professional profile without editing your private page. BeKnown from Monster is a Facebook tool for you to search for and apply for jobs without leaving the Facebook interface. You can even be automatically matched with opportunities based on the information you submit on your profile. Finally, 1-Page Job Proposal is a tool that helps compress your ideas, values and goals into one easy-to-read page to upload to LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter and more.

8. Start Talking

You can’t build out the perfect social presence and expect HR managers and recruiters to simply stumble upon your profile! Start engaging in the communities they inhabit—participate in LinkedIn conversations, retweet interesting content, comment on blog posts, tag or @mention companies and just go out there and be the social butterfly that you are.

Remember, you can open a few (virtual) doors with social media marketing for your own brand name. The tools may have changed, but it’s still an old-fashioned concept. With the Internet buzzing with social media, there are similarly many ways to use social media in order to network, and eventually find a job.

Got advice for recent grads? Disqus below!