Can you say Opportunity? HR Future article December 2008

 In Press Releases

Making the most of social networks to benefit you.

Looking for a new job is one of the most stressful things imaginable in life, apart from marriage, death, divorce, and moving house (and possibly traffic). It takes a lot of time to update your CV, look through the recruitment classifieds every week, and go for endless interviews – all while not knowing if you’re leaping from the frying pan into the fire…

 If only you could get companies and headhunters to come to you with offers.

 Social networking sites are the new recruitment platform. Similar to how people have been using sites such as Facebook, Orkut, MySpace and Linkedin to find and stay in touch with people with common interests, job hunters can use social networking sites to market themselves to potential employers through online profiles their work history and skills lists.

According to a study by Chicago-based job board, CareerBuilder.com, one in five employers in the USA are now using social networks to research information about job candidates. In South Africa, this trend is gathering momentum as people are starting to explore the uses of social networks beyond friendship connections.

The social networking site with the biggest local audience is Facebook with nearly one million local users across all age groups and demographics. Linkedin, a professional version of the more social Facebook, is a smaller more niche community of business executives.

Using keywords to search these sites, recruiters can scrape the entire network to dig out high-quality candidates they cannot find anywhere else. These candidates are then contacted directly about job offers that might interest them.

This gives job seekers an excellent opportunity for personal branding. The starting point is to develop an online profile that is authentic to you. The next step is to load this with information, defining you as an individual that will interest employers and give them a good idea of what you’re about. Make sure you present an authentic and consistent set of values. If there’s a discrepancy in the view you’re trying to present of yourself and what is reflected online, such as a dubious personal life with wild weekend parties, this can work against you.

The kinds of conversations you are having online can further reinforce the brand you are putting out. The next step of personal online branding is to improve the quality of your connections and really build relationships, as often, connections can be flat where you just merely add more online friends. With people becoming connected to a broader network of people through online platforms, marketing yourself is essential to stay in the running.

But, with where do you start and how can you make the most impact?

 Here are some tips to get the most out of Linkedin:

  1.  Max your profile – Make your profile as detailed as possible with relevant information. This includes providing an overview of your work expertise and core areas of specialisation. If you’d like to be approached about job offers, the contact settings at the bottom of the profile section enable you to tick whether you’re interested in job enquiries and career opportunities;
  2. Box clever – Make the position descriptions as interesting as possible and ensure relevant information is provided in your profile to sell yourself to prospective employers. By using the same keywords that recruiters may use in their searches, you have a greater chance of being found. For example, IT workers with Java mobile  development skills might want to specify this in their profiles, allowing recruiters looking for this particular skill to find them through basic keyword searches;
  3. Get recommendations – Add some recommendations to your profile by sending a  message to the contacts in your network asking them to vouch for your expertise in a  certain area. This is very useful on a job-by-job basis to prove key capabilities. These endorsements give you a good online presence as people have personally recommended you. The more endorsements the better;
  4. Connect – The greater the number of connections, the better your network, as this increases the chances that you will share a connection with someone. A big network also exponentially increases your second and third level networks based on introductions to new people by a shared contact.
  5. Ask and answer questions – This section, broken down into different categories, enables you to establish yourself as a go-to person on a certain topic. For example, someone can ask a question about business development which anyone can answer.The more you answer questions, the more this adds to your profile, eliciting invitations from others to join their networks;
  6. Join a group – Become a member of different groups, based on your expertise in a specific area. For example, “Green” is a group for anyone who would like to share their ideas on the environment, climate change and renewable energy. The more exposure you achieve, the bigger your profile and chance of joining other networks, and the more possible employers there are for you to speak to;
  7. Create your own page – Job seekers can also create their own pages based on their interests in a specific area. This will hike your profile as an expert in a certain area, similar to the questions and answer sections; 
     
  8. Research companies – Job seekers can perform an advanced search on a specific company for a wealth of information such as size, location, and rate of turnover. Connecting with former employees will enable more candid opinions about a company’s prospects than from someone who’s still on board.
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