Online job hunting - don't be fake, a flake or get pictured naked

 

Cheap, fast and flexible, social networking sites are an increasingly useful way for employers and jobseekers to connect – but only when they’re used correctly, writes AMANDA BROWN

IT WOULD be ill-advised in real life to turn up to a social gathering, interrupt a group of strangers having a discussion, ask someone to be your friend and then ask them for a job.

Yet this is exactly what some people are doing online on social media websites every day.

The impetus to go online and talk with strangers to generate work is strong at present, but go about it the wrong way and you will end up being spurned.

Professional networking site LinkedIn reached the 100 million-user mark last week.

It has seen a large expansion and use of its network during the recession (it is currently adding one million new users worldwide per week). Irish use alone more than doubled in six months, according to a recent Ipsos/MRBI poll.

Low cost, flexibility and the ability to investigate people’s personalities prior to interview are all strong reasons companies are turning to social media to find employees.

But whatever site you turn to, it’s about using them the right way. It’s no use trying to “friend” people on LinkedIn whom you have never met. Likewise, posting to your Facebook friends that you want a job or setting up a Twitter account and typing “Well, this is boring” as your first and only update, is unlikely to land you where you want to be.

Freelance ad copywriter Nick McGivney regularly secures work through Twitter, Facebook and especially LinkedIn.

“What’s helpful about LinkedIn is that they show you how many degrees of separation you are from others, so if you are one or two degrees separated, the chances are you will know eight or nine of the same people and can therefore arrange an introduction through that mutual friend.”

McGivney says it is important to fill in your whole profile on LinkedIn and consistently update it. “Put all the bells and whistles on it . . . it’s not quantifiable, but this is the first place many employers are looking for talent.”

Patrick Murphy is the owner of online business development company SiliconCloud. Despite the large number of people looking for work over the past year, Murphy was was having trouble hiring someone last year.

He needed a marketing professional to fill a position left vacant after a recruitment company had placed someone who stayed only two months, did not want to work overtime and left to go back on the dole.

“We had tried the traditional ways of hiring, including paying up to €1,900 to advertise the position on a recruitment website and advertising with Fás,” Murphy says. Despite the effort and expense, he received only a couple of CVs and the standard of applicants was poor.

“We brought someone in for interview and explained we needed someone who understood the online world. The applicant replied: ‘I love tech, I’m on my PSP [a handheld video game] all the time.’”

Murphy had been following someone on Twitter that seemed more suited to the job. He tweeted her, offering her the job. She came for an interview and was hired.

“Because I could read her tweets beforehand, I knew a lot about her background . . . and I felt comfortable with her.”

It isn’t just tech jobs that can be found on social media. Irish retail, accountancy and other firms are advertising positions on Twitter.

However, simply putting yourself online and waiting for the jobs to roll in will not get you very far. The key to finding a job via social media is to be active.

“You are never finished. You have to build,” says McGivney. “Do the simple things. If you have a Twitter account, make sure your contact details are on your page.

“Just yesterday, someone emailed me to ask to do some work. This person, who I don’t know, was looking for copy writers, found me online and then followed up by checking my Twitter account.”

It pays to be circumspect on social media. A 2010 survey of hiring managers in the US found 70 per cent had rejected a candidate based on information they found online. The information these managers found repugnant included criticism of previous employers and unsuitable photographs and comments. They even cited “inappropriate comments from friends and relatives”.

Unfortunately, nervous job hopefuls may see these stories as a reason not to engage online at all. However, not having an online presence means you are taking yourself out of a vibrant recruitment area.

Social media can be a useful resource for finding work, especially abroad, where employers can be contacted as easily as those at home.

Companies are more transparent now, as senior figures in organisations also have a public profile and an ongoing discussion in public, so it is easier to make contact with the right person.

But as anyone who has successfully been hired online will tell you, don’t be a fake, don’t be a flake and for goodness sake, don’t get pictured and tagged drunk and naked.