Top Social Networking Sites for Job Searching

It's hard to overstate the importance of networking when looking for a job. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 70% of all jobs are found through networking. There are a number of online resources designed just for this purpose, and learning to use them effectively will put you at a real advantage in today's competitive job market.

LinkedIn is essentially a list of individual professionals as well as companies. There are almost 300 million users on the site, which is available in 20 languages worldwide. LinkedIn is very useful for companies in the process of hiring new employees; they can browse an online profile and quickly find the most appealing candidates for the position. The site is also very useful for individuals who wish to connect with current or former colleagues, classmates, teachers, managers, and so on. The network you build on LinkedIn becomes an important source of information and opportunities.

If you're not already a member of LinkedIn, you'll want to sign up as soon as possible. It's a quick and painless process which takes only a few minutes. After you register, you'll have the opportunity to create a profile. This is the important part, and you'll want to take your time to ensure that it's thorough and thoughtfully presented.

Creating a LinkedIn Profile

Your LinkedIn profile can be considered your online professional image. It's how you present yourself to the professional world, and as such should be complete, detailed, and focused. It's essentially an online resume, and should contain all the same information: your professional experience, your credentials, and your skill set.

Your Profile Photo

You'll want to add a photograph of yourself to your profile. Remember, this is a professional networking site, and your photo should reflect that. Forget the artistic shot of you silhouetted against the sunset, or the hilarious shot of you at the Halloween party. The photo should showcase the professional you. Dress professionally--a collared shirt or blouse is always a good bet, or even a suit and tie, if you feel so inclined. Avoid strapless dresses; you may appear to be naked!

Make sure the photo is a headshot (including only your head and the tops of your shoulders). The picture will only appear as a small thumbnail, after all, so a full-body shot really won't be effective. The photo should be simple, and shouldn't include anyone other than yourself. This isn't the time for a group shot of the extended family; you want potential employers to know and recognize you immediately. The photo should be current. Otherwise, people may be surprised when they meet you in person for the first time.

Using Your Profile to Connect with the Professional World

First of all, make sure your profile is public. Otherwise, it won't be visible to the people you want to see it. LinkedIn gives you the ability to customize your URL (the actual web address which appears in your browser bar), which can make your profile much easier to share with other professionals. By default, your URL will likely be a long and incomprehensible string of numbers and letters. Check to see if you can change it to your name, or your business's name, or at least something suggestive of either. LinkedIn will tell you which options are available and which aren't.

When editing your profile, you'll have the opportunity to add a "Summary". This should basically be a few short paragraphs, explaining your professional strengths, experience, skills, and training. Be sure to include any languages you speak, special certifications you hold, and so on. The summary doesn't need to be a novel, just a brief, matter-of-fact explanation of your professional skills and experience which employers can glance through relatively quickly.

At the top of your profile, next to your photo and name, you can create a headline and choose an industry. These are important, because these are how companies search for individuals. Provide an accurate job title and choose an industry, and you'll be much easier to find.

Next, you'll need to fill in the "Experience" section. This is basically your online resume. A quick and easy way to complete this section is to copy and paste the appropriate information from your resume straight into the website.

In addition to your paid work history, you have the option of adding to your profile any volunteer work experience you've done in the past. Hiring managers are typically very pleased to see volunteer experience on an applicant's profile; in fact, many weigh it just as heavily as they do paid experience. To add volunteer experience, follow these steps:

1) Click "Profile" at the top of the site
2) Click the "edit profile" button, next to your photo,
3) In the right-hand column, there's a list of items under the heading "you can also add..."; at the bottom of the list, click "Volunteering and Causes",
4) Fill in the relevant information and click "Save."

There's an "Additional Information" section of your profile. It's wise to fill this out, including your company, links to your Facebook and Twitter accounts, your blog or website, and any other links, resources, or information that you think prospective employers would like to see. In general, the more thorough your profile is, the better. After all, you want to present a well-rounded, complete picture of yourself to the world.


One of the most valuable aspects of LinkedIn is the ability to request recommendations from contacts, affiliates, current and former supervisors, etc. These recommendations serve as references for potential employers. A profile with several positive recommendations from other professionals carries a lot of weight in an hiring manager's eyes.

You get what you give, as they say, and the same holds true for LinkedIn recommendations. Writing a recommendation takes time, and your contacts will be much more willing to write you a glowing review if you write one for them first. Of course, you should always be honest and realistic when writing recommendations.

Never ask a stranger to write you a recommendation, even if you're connected online. You should only request a recommendation from someone who knows you well, and when you do ask, ask respectfully and thoughtfully.

How to Be Visible on LinkedIn

Companies actually hire through LinkedIn, and with good reason. LinkedIn profiles make the hiring process much easier for companies, who can see immediately who the most qualified, most recommended candidates are before even announcing the job opening. The trick, then, is to be visible and easily findable to those companies searching for new recruits.

Specifically, companies search the LinkedIn database for specific skills, experience, and keywords. If you had entered that information onto your profile, you would show up in their search, and you may very well be contacted for an interview. This is why it's important to be thorough as you fill in your information; you never know what keyword could be the ticket to your next interview.

Incorporating keywords into your resume and profile is crucial for being found. The keywords you use will depend on your field of work and expertise, but may be along the lines of "innovated", "maximized", "redesigned", "substantiated", or "unified". To find out which keywords will be particularly useful for you, read some actual job postings that correspond with your training and skill set. Look at the keywords these postings use, and then add them to your profile. You'll be more likely to turn up on a company's search that way.

You, too, can use LinkedIn's search engine to great advantage. By searching for certain keywords, professional titles, or industries, you can easily find a wealth of professionals, many of whom you may already know. Expanding your own network of contacts is very important. Very often, that former classmate of yours happens to know someone whose company is hiring, and may just recommend you for the position. The possible opportunities increase exponentially as you connect with more and more people.

Searching and Applying for Jobs Using LinkedIn

Once you've created a thorough, complete profile, LinkedIn offers a large number of job listings which you can apply for directly through the website. Make sure you fill out all your information before applying for jobs, though; hiring managers won't be impressed by a hasty, unfinished profile.

When you're ready, click the "Jobs" link at the top of the site. A search field will appear, prompting you to type in a job title, keyword, or company name. You can also narrow down your search by clicking "Advanced Search", and then filtering the results based on geographic area, industry, function, or salary (premium members only).

Once the results pop up, you can sort the items listed by relevance, relationships (if you have any existing connections at the job), or date (most recent or earliest). If you do have any connections at the company in question, it's a good idea to send them a message, asking if they can recommend you to the hiring manager or relevant decision maker for the job posting.

You can also search for jobs by clicking on company logos. If your friend works for Apple, for instance, you can find the Apple logo on their profile, listed next to their current position or in their past work experience. Click on the logo, and the company's profile will pop up, along with any information about open positions or job opportunities.

Once you find a job listing, LinkedIn will allow you to either apply for the job (either directly through LinkedIn, or through the company's website) or save the job (and apply later). You can also view your saved jobs, share jobs via other networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter, follow the company and receive regular updates, or bookmark the page.

When a job posting allows you to apply directly through LinkedIn, your LinkedIn profile will be sent to the hiring manager (another reason to complete your profile beforehand). If the application process takes place on the company's website, the process and requirements will vary depending on the company.

In Summary

LinkedIn is a powerful resource for professional networking, to be sure. It's also rather intricate, and offers a large number of features, options, and choices. From joining discussion groups and following the posts of influential business leaders to endorsing the skills of your contacts and sharing your own journey with your network, LinkedIn offers a huge number of tools for all kinds of professionals. As you begin to construct your LinkedIn profile, take your time and be patient as you learn the intricacies of its design. This is your professional image, after all, and shouldn't be rushed.

There's a bit of controversy surrounding the use of Facebook for professional networking and job searching. On the one hand, Facebook is designed as a social networking site, where friends invite friends to parties, share interesting articles and videos, and post personal photos (many of which you may not want your employer to see). Some would say that such a forum isn't the most appropriate place to conduct business. On the other hand, Facebook boasts over a billion active users worldwide, and as such is the perfect place to connect with other people, ask for help, recommendations, or advice, and update your friends about what you're working on or what job you're hoping to find.

Facebook has changed drastically since its inception in 2004, at which time it was predominantly the domain of kids of college age or younger. Since then, the site has experienced enormous growth in its number of older users, who tend to care more about careers and professional growth than they do about college and dating. With so many professionals now using Facebook, its perfectly possible to use the site as a viable way to network professionally and find job opportunities. The key is being conscious about what you share and what you don't. With care, you really can use the site as both a social and a professional outlet.

In the end, you'll need to make a decision: keep Facebook strictly social, or expand its use into the professional realm as well. If you decide to use Facebook in a professional manner, you'll need to carefully consider what information is already on your profile, and what information you don't want potential employers to see.

Facebook gives you the option of adjusting who sees what on your profile. It's common practice for companies to check the Facebook profiles of potential recruits, to see if there's any reason to reconsider a hiring decision. If they log on and see a picture of you, say, drunkenly vandalizing public property, you may not get the job after all. It's certainly okay to have fun with your friends in your time off, but if your goal is to network on a professional level, you may want to adjust the privacy settings of certain photos or comments to "close friends only".

If professional networking and job searching is your primary purpose on Facebook, you'd benefit by simplifying your profile. Don't add unnecessary widgets or graphics, and only post updates relevant to your career or your job search. Your friends can be a priceless resource in a job search, if you simply post an update explaining your current situation and the kind of work you're looking for. Chances are, someone knows of an opportunity somewhere that they can connect you to.

Twitter is a social networking site where users post "tweets", which are short text messages limited to 140 characters. Twitter is used by individuals and companies for all sorts of purposes, including job searching and professional networking.

These days, most companies have their own Twitter accounts, which they use to update their followers about special offers, sales, or job openings. A good way to find job opportunities, then, is to check out the Twitter accounts of the companies you're interested in working for, follow their tweets, and stay updated as they post job openings. is a valuable resource for the job seeker. It's a Twitter-specific search engine, which allows you to search the site for job opportunities by keyword (such as "paralegal london" or "tech journalist USA").

Google+ is a social networking site similar in spirit to Facebook, but with some key differences that can be very useful in a job search.

As with the other networking sites, the first step is to create a profile. If your primary goal is to network professionally and search for jobs, let your profile reflect that. Choose a sharp headshot as your photo, and wear professional clothes in the picture. List your educational background and professional work experience, as well as your accomplishments, interests, volunteer experience, and any other information you think an employer may want to see. Just like LinkedIn and the other sites discussed above, you'll want to fill out your profile as thoroughly and as carefully as possible in order to make the best impression on new professional contacts.

Google+ Circles

One of the key differences between Google+ and the other networking sites is the "Circles" feature. This feature allows you to separate your contacts into different groups, such as "family", "friends", or "business". You can create and name your own circles and place your contacts accordingly. Certain people can even be placed in more than one circle at a time. This feature is incredibly useful, because it allows you to keep your social networking and your professional networking distinct from each other, and prevents potential employers from seeing anything you may not want them to see.

Google+ Streams

Google+ Streams are how you control who sees the content you post. If you post an update, you'll have the option to make it public (viewable by everyone) or to limit its visibility to certain circles. You can also choose to share information with "extended circles," meaning that the content will be viewable by your connections as well as your connections' connections. You can even limit your sharing to a few specific individuals if you so choose.

The Streams feature also lets you filter which updates you see. Each one of your circles has a different stream, and you can switch between streams by simply clicking the circle you're interested in.

Google+ for the Job Seeker

Once you understand how the site works, and how to use the circles and streams, Google+ can aid you in your job search in much the same way as the other networking sites. By keeping your social and professional contacts and updates separate, Google+ makes it much easier to build your professional network and make valuable connections.

If you're seeking a job in a specific industry, search for contacts in that industry and add them to your circles. This will help you stay informed of emerging industry trends, new job postings, and other opportunities. Be sure to keep your circles strategically separated, and post updates about the work you're hoping to find. As you expand your circles and increase your contacts, more opportunities will become available to you.

In Summary
Networking is incredibly important for the job seeker. The vast majority of opportunities come from personal recommendations and connections, and as such it's important to be a present and visible member of the new online network of professionals. This network reaches across borders and oceans, and includes millions of individuals from all over the globe. Within this network, changes are constantly occurring and opportunities are constantly presenting themselves. The trick is to be ready to take advantage of these opportunities, and to do that, you'll need to tailor your online image and present yourself in a strategic way.

There are several useful networking sites, as we've discussed, and each has their own strengths and weaknesses. If you're looking for a job, you'd be wise to take advantage of as many of these sites as possible. To build a visible online presence, you need to craft an image that's consistent across multiple online venues. Most professionals and companies these days have profiles on every networking site listed above, and you'd be wise to do the same. In fact, most sites allow you to link your profiles together, so anyone who views your Twitter profile, for instance, can instantly navigate to your LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ profiles as well. If a potential employer is led to your Facebook page, you'll want to make it easy for them to see your more professional LinkedIn profile too.

It may seem daunting, especially if you find working with computers difficult, but don't worry. These sites have been expertly designed to make the process as user-friendly as possible. Take your time and craft an image that you'd be proud to show an employer. Once you do, you may be surprised at how many opportunities are waiting for you.

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