Social Networks Come of Age

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Social Networks Come of Age

While 88 percent of job seekers have at least one social networking profile, 64 percent have two and 44 percent have three, according to a survey conducted in September by Jobvite, which provides a software as a service-based recruiting platform. "Social networks have become part of the mainstream for job seekers and recruiters," said Dan Finnigan, Jobvite CEO. He recommends that professionals have a presense on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, as well as industry- and job-specific sites.

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Information Is Power

Listing just your last job and a few sketchy details isn't enough, said Nicole Williams, connection director at LinkedIn. "If you saw an online listing for a house, and there was no photo and minimal description, you might not think it's real and move on to another listing," Williams said. She recommends taking the time to add a flattering professional photo and a description of all relevant skills and experience, such as past jobs and volunteer work.

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Profiles Should Be Compelling, Current

Professionals' profiles should be compelling and current. "Feel free to add a few of your unique bragging rights and share your current and previous employment and education history as well as places that you’ve lived and nicknames you may have," a spokeswoman for Google said. "This will help others determine if they want to add you to their Google+ circles," she said.

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Honesty: The Only Policy

Employment experts also advise that honesty is paramount. Besides, these days, it's easy to check if someone is faking a credential.

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Social Networking for Active (and Not So Active) Job Seekers

The Jobvite study distinguishes between "passive career managers" and "active job seekers," both of which can benefit from social networking. Survey respondents in the passive camp were more than three times as likely to use Twitter to advance their careers and three times as likely to use LinkedIn to connect with possible employers than were active job hunters.

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Who's Using What?

One in six job seekers said they found their current jobs through social media, according to the Jobvite survey. Additionally, 31 of the respondents say they got their jobs through referrals from professional or personal contacts, while 32 credit Internet job boards. Looking at workers in general (not just job seekers), the Jobvite survey shows that 46 percent of the workforce uses Twitter, compared with 37 percent in 2011, while LinkedIn use in that interval rose to 41 percent from 32 percent.

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Facebook Friends

Facebook isn't only for friends and family. In mid-November, the Social Jobs Partnership—a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Labor, the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the DirectEmployers Association, the National Association of State Workforce Agencies and Facebook—announced a new Facebook app aimed at making it easier for users to find and share employment opportunities by industry, location and skills. The new app includes opportunities from BranchOut, DirectEmployers, Work4Labs, Jobvite and

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Opportunities on Facebook

A survey of employers conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers on behalf of the Social Jobs Partnership found that about half the respondents use Facebook in their hiring process. The study also found that about 96 percent of firms that use Facebook set up a company information page on the site that includes information on their products and services, listings and descriptions of jobs at the company and how to apply.

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How to Build Contacts

How many contacts you have may vary by site. For LinkedIn, 50 connections is the "magic number" that enables users to tap into resources from second- and third-tier contacts—whether for professional advice or job recommendations, Williams said. Adding someone to your contact list should not be so impersonal, she advised. "Writing a personalized connection request takes away the sting of the digital part of it. Depending on the situation, you might remind the contact how you know them or where you got their name from."

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Learning to Share

As professionals build their connections, joining groups and sharing articles and other relevant information on LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook and other sites is also a key part of social networking, as is getting recommendations from respected professionals. Recruiters are more likely to contact professionals who frequently share with their network articles or other content on industry-specific information such as conferences. LinkedIn's Williams recommended posting this type of information at least once a week.

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The Bad, the So-So and the Good

Sharing the wrong information could land a passive or active job hunter in hot water. The Jobvite study found that the Facebook content most likely to cause trouble for job seekers concerned profanity, alcohol, illegal drugs and sex. Spelling and grammar errors were also negatives. Politics was more of a gray area. The corporate world is more sensitive these days to diversity in political views, said Finnigan, though he advises caution regarding voicing political views online. However, prospective employers look positively on social networking content on volunteering, donating and professional organizations.

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How to Clean Up Your Act

Guard your online persona carefully. On sites such as Facebook, using the privacy settings that let users control who sees their personal information is a good idea, but it's not always possible to control what others in your network will share about you. "You can delete photos, but even things that are deleted can somehow still exist. Think before you post," LinkedIn's Williams said. A detailed, compelling profile on a professional social network is more likely to rank high in Internet searches—higher than information you might want to de-emphasize, she added.

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Online Job Boards Get More Social

Most hiring today is still through online job boards and employee referrals, but the model is morphing as these employment sites continue to incorporate social media features, according to career experts. IT careers site's Talent Network is designed to connect technology pros with hiring managers and recruiters at specific companies. In addition to finding a list of jobs at or quick facts on given companies, IT pros can connect to or follow these firms. Another element of social networking that the career site has adopted is an online forum for IT pros to network with others with related interests—from big data to Ruby on Rails and more.

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In-Person Networking Prevails

Social networking, though clearly part of the recruiting mix, should be combined with personal networking and other traditional job search tools, said Scot Melland, chairman, president and CEO of Dice Holdings, which operates Job boards like Dice will remain popular, and networking in person is just as important as networking online, he added. "Don't forget how important it is to reach out to colleagues in a real-world setting. Having breakfast, informational interviews and face-to-face meetings is always more powerful than what you have online," Melland said.

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Other Networking Sources

On a smaller scale compared with social networking giants and online job boards, avenues for networking for IT pros include social media and news sites such as Github, Hacker News, Slashdot, Reddit and Stack Exchange. The sites—such as Github, a social community for programmers that describes itself as a "place to share code with friends, co-workers, classmates and complete strangers"—are geared toward specific audiences. "Every social network has its explicit and implicit culture," Jobvite's Finnigan said. Those joining a community should use "the same judgment as if they were going to a public event or a public party. When you walk into a room full of people, you figure out what to do."

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