Who could have predicted a decade ago that social media would have such a grip on our lives? The rise of social media can be seen as both a godsend and a threat to jobseekers. Why? Because not everyone is sure how to use it.
HR departments no longer have the time or resources to plough their way through hundreds of CVs. They want to be able to see if the applicant is worth bringing in for an interview. Social media, if used correctly, can propel a job application to the top of the pile – simply by being different and innovative.
Social media makes it very easy to see what makes a prospective employee tick – giving employers a view of that candidate before they actually meet them.
How to do it right
So, how do you make sure you create the right impression? The first thing you should do is set up a profile on professional networking sites such as LinkedIn to give yourself a better chance of being noticed. Get your name out there. You may find that you connect with people who end up on your interview panel or who have the power to shortlist you for a position.
Facebook and Twitter can also reap great rewards if harnessed correctly. Don’t be afraid to show your personality, comment on industry trends and news, and follow the right people in that sector to try and attempt interaction.
While the majority of employers don’t like CVs with photos, it makes sense to get a shot done for your social media platforms that looks professional.
Lastly, be prepared for the echo chamber that is Twitter. Don’t be downhearted if you’re not followed by those you’re following, or if your attempts to start a conversation with an industry bigwig are ignored. Interaction through social media will happen, but don’t try and force it.
How to do it wrong
Facebook and Twitter can be great when it comes to showing off your talents, but there is nothing more stupid than thinking employers won’t check you out before deciding whether or not you’re worth an interview.
Take these things into consideration: there is a difference between showing personality and pushing out photos of you and your mates partying. They might not go down so well with your potential future boss. Clean up your profile – it’s a given that companies check social media these days. Use the internet to promote yourself and your talents. Don’t let stupidity scupper your chances of success.
Similarly, offensive language is a no-go. Any keyboard warrior can mouth off at others online, but it’s there for everyone to see. Do you really want to lose sight of your dream job just because of a risqué, off-the-cuff remark to one of your friends on Facebook or Twitter?
Depending on what role you’re after, it might also be wise to steer clear of posting anything too political. While no employer can discriminate against you on political grounds, everyone has different views on what goes on in the world, and they might not want differing opinions to disrupt the office.
More employers are using social media to screen prospective employees, with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn being among the most popular. So, before you post ask yourself: do you really want 140 characters ruining your career?
Chris Smith is chief executive officer at MyJobMatcher.com
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010