Job hunting goes social

17 Mar 2011

Social media is fast becoming the key medium for jobseekers. CARMEL DOYLE looks at the social media trends both jobseekers and employers need to be in tune with.

“It’s social and that’s the key,” says Jonathan Campbell, CEO, Social Talent, an Irish-based talent acquisition agency that specialises in the use of social media to recruit talent.

Campbell believes it will take three to four years for social media to become the top method to find a job.

“Job boards came along and they were popular but the newspapers were still king for some years. I think the trend is the same now. Social media is the smaller player but it’s on the rise and job boards are on the decline,” he says.

Elaine Kennedy, manager, IT division, Morgan McKinley (Limerick), agrees that social media is starting to complement more traditional ways of finding a job.

“We use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter as an extension of our database and our own traditional networking tools. We have our own blog and that’s a platform for us to share information with professionals looking for work.

“Before the whole concept of social networking and social media came into play, we probably relied heavily on the job boards and our own websites. Over the past few years, as clients’ requirements became more specific, we needed to go outside of that and look for the candidates as opposed to candidates coming to us themselves.”

Meeting in person still counts

And while social media will never replace your face-to-face meeting, she says it has enhanced that.

Declan Fitzgerald, international recruitment manager, LinkedIn, which itself is now recruiting heavily in Ireland, also argues that social media is swiftly changing the way people are looking for and applying for jobs.

“A lot of people have very quickly realised they can create their own online brand for themselves by creating a LinkedIn profile, having a Twitter feed, or a blog. Then there are those who are more traditionally orientated towards the paper CV. In many ways, the recruitment industry is rebooting and we are beginning to see a whole new variety of innovative recruitment channels.”

LinkedIn now counts more than 400,000 users in Ireland. “It’s growing incredibly quickly in Ireland,” says Fitzgerald. “It’s predominantly IT, sales and marketing-based professionals, which are the quicker adopters, but we’re beginning to see all types of professionals put their profile up there now.”

He says people are actually beginning to apply for jobs now using their LinkedIn profile.

“People are starting to spend time building their network on LinkedIn. From an employer point of view, it’s becoming increasingly important to see who are these people connected to, whether they are truly passionate about this area to the extent they are tweeting about it or if they have a blog.

“If you have a situation where two candidates are very similar, the one with the deeper social footprint is the one employers will go for, because they can see their connections.”

Campbell also agrees that LinkedIn is top dog for job seekers and recruiters. “As a platform, it is built around recruiters finding people. It is a massive CV database.”

Irish social media recruitment

The statistics speak for themselves. Irish Recruiters, a LinkedIn group formed in 2007 by Fitzgerald, carried out a survey last year on social media recruitment in Ireland, and 91pc of recruiters said they use social media to recruit, with 89pc indicating they have hired from LinkedIn.

So how can people who are looking for a job best use sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to their advantage?

Campbell says graduates, for the most part, don’t know if they could find a job through LinkedIn or Facebook.

“For people, Facebook is not about finding a job. It’s about switching off, but it can be used by recruiters and it can be used by jobseekers.”

For jobseekers, Campbell has launched a series of webinars, showcasing what people should be doing on social media.

Jobseekers should start by filling in data – specifically in the employer and education sections – as well as changing privacy settings to allow others to see your Facebook profile so you can be found, he says.

And, of course, as with all social media, you should be careful about what you post and the type of language you use on Facebook when looking for a job, Campbell points out.

“I’ve always followed a policy of whatever I put up on Facebook, or write on a blog, I am always thinking, ‘Am I comfortable that any of my relatives can see this and that any employer or any prospective client can see this data’.”

How to job search using social media

With Facebook, you can also create your own webpage, he says, as is the case with LinkedIn and Twitter.

With LinkedIn, Fitzgerald says jobseekers should create their CV in a paper format and then map that data out onto their LinkedIn profile.

“Put up a photograph and list out, in detail, the bullet points of your responsibilities. Go so far as creating a PowerPoint presentation, giving a portfolio around some aspect of your work. Start quickly connecting. I strongly suggest joining groups within your profession and to start debating in some of the discussions.”

Kennedy, whose recruitment remit is IT professionals for the mid-west, advises people to look at the LinkedIn profile of a company if they are going for an interview with them.

“I believe any IT professional looking for work should have a LinkedIn account, as more and more employers are using it to source top talent. Facebook and Twitter are used by employers as a form of reference, but also they are advertising their jobs on Twitter.”

She also anticipates things changing down the line in terms of Skype and webinars. “We’re finding that there’s a lot more interviews being set up via Skype. It’s making the process move quite quickly.”

Getting involved online

And Twitter can also be used to jobseekers’ advantage, says Campbell.

“If you are graduate wishing to get into a particular sector, follow that sector on Twitter and Facebook. On LinkedIn, start engaging with executives in key areas you want to work in, asking incisive questions.

“There’s an onus on people to respond on social media and help people. That’s the part of social media people forget. You have to interact on pages, ask questions and be seen.”

The key, explains Campbell, is to use social media to then take your job search offline.

“It’s when you use social media with a combination of more traditional activities that it really becomes powerful. You can find out that a conference is happening and meet people in your industry and make connections. For employers, it’s really difficult to differentiate graduates, so network. People hire people, not CVs.”

Kennedy’s advice to jobseekers is to continuously look on job boards, check out recruitment websites and make sure they are on LinkedIn. “Call the companies that are hiring and get your details through.”

LinkedIn’s Fitzgerald adds: “We’re in a transition phase where we are moving away from CVs for the first port of call. Savvy technologically-centred professionals are shifting to this new way of building an online profile.”

For the past two years, Silicon Republic has run a campaign to highlight the imperative of creating the digital infrastructure and services upon which the success of our economy depends.

The website for Digital 21 provides a forum for all those interested in accelerating the development of Ireland’s Digital Economy.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic