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Five ways to be a smart social media user in your job hunt

LinkedIn is the ‘No. 1 source of recruiting,’ says Patricia Polischuk, a Waterloo, Ont.-based senior consultant with Knightsbridge.

Tim Post/Associated Press

As a job seeker, how active do you have to be on social media? If you aren't, will hiring managers think you're out of touch with the fast-paced social media world we live in and put your résumé at the bottom of the pile?

Mark Crerar is searching for a sales role while he completes his executive MBA at Toronto-based York University's Schulich School of Business. He has a well-developed LinkedIn profile but no Facebook or Twitter accounts. Julie Beal is based near Waterloo, Ont., and she wants a hybrid job that combines finance with other business skills. She actively curates her LinkedIn page but doesn't tweet.

Are they doing enough?

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The fact that both are active on LinkedIn gets them a thumbs-up from most experts. "LinkedIn is the No. 1 source of recruiting," said Patricia Polischuk, a Waterloo, Ont.-based senior consultant with Knightsbridge. She cites a recent survey from recruiting technology firm Jobvite that found 93 per cent of recruiters are tapping into that network, although Facebook and Twitter are climbing steadily, at 66 per cent and 54 per cent, respectively.

"If you don't have a presence it reflects you're not up with the times, not agile," said Ms. Polischuk, adding that job seekers should call HR departments to find out which social media sites are crucial. A successful job search depends on knowing your industry and the individual companies that interest you.

Because the use of social media sites has caught on relatively recently, some companies are further ahead than others, said John Stockwell, Toronto-based director of talent management at human resources consulting firm Morneau Shepell.

Professionals will probably want to focus their efforts on

LinkedIn, while Facebook is the key place for high-traffic industries such as retail, call centres, and hospitality. Many companies now use Twitter to get the word out about new job listings.

Once you decide to use social networks, put your best effort into polishing and maintaining your presence there, Mr. Stockwell said. "LinkedIn really is an online résumé and career history, so it needs to be up-to-date, professional, and a good depiction of who you are."

Mr. Crerar uses LinkedIn to develop his network, follow relevant periodicals, and track career moves at companies he's interested in. "If I see somebody make a move it's a trigger for me to reach out," he said. Ms. Beal, meanwhile, uses the site to set up information meetings, either through current contacts or by contacting executives in industries that interest her.

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While social media preferences are emerging, so are legal and privacy concerns.

Deborah Howden, a partner in the labour and employment group at Shibley Righton LLP in Toronto, said her employer clients consider it "commonplace" to check Facebook, with some asking candidates to "friend" them, or to provide passwords.

"Universally the reaction [among job applicants] is surprise and reluctance," she said. But employers see it differently: "From their perspective it's a tool to see if employees are going to fit into a workplace culture and it's too risky not to look."

Job seekers need to clean up their social media presence, or risk potential bad results. Ms. Howdan recalled how one of her employer clients were prepared to hire an applicant, but then checked Facebook and saw the person "smoking a bong ... that kiboshed the entire process."

Job seekers should also doing a Web search of their own name to see what results a potential employer would find, said David Fraser, a Halifax-based lawyer with McInnes Cooper and author of the Canadian Privacy Law blog. He recalled a job applicant who had the misfortune of having the same name as a convicted pedophile. Guess who came up first in the search results?

"If you find something adverse, let employers know you are not that person," Mr. Fraser said. Include an explanatory note on your covering letter when you apply for the job, and on social media profiles.

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With little control over how employers use social media checks, job seekers should keep their privacy settings high and their networks active. "Like it or not you have an online life now, and it needs to be managed," Mr. Stockwell said.


Polish your profile

Fully complete your profile on each social media platform. Look to other great profiles for inspiration.

Use a professional-looking head shot for your LinkedIn profile; and make sure you monitor pictures of yourself on other social media.

Be consistent

Make sure your employment dates and job titles are consistent across all social media, and also match your résumé.

Spell out your goals

Make sure the job title you want is in your profile, so your file will come up in Web searches. Articulate what sets you apart from other job-seekers.

Prepare for interviews

Look up the hiring managers who will interview you and note some of their interests so conversations flow more easily. Use Twitter to find up-to-the-minute information about specific companies or industries.

Use the 'mother' test

If you wouldn't want your mother to see it, don't post it. Inappropriate photos and foul language can all be red flags for employers.

Keep your personal and professional links separate, and monitor your privacy settings.

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