People First HR Services

Social media now a requirement for employers, hopeful candidates

Colleen Coates

We’ve all heard about the need to use social media and networking websites as a way to market skills and strengths. But in today’s tech-savvy world, exactly how important is it for hopeful employees — and prospective employers — to maintain an online presence?

In my opinion, it’s extremely important. At the beginning of this year, it was reported that on average there were at least 4.5 solid applicants for every available job opening. With strong competition, it is essential for job seekers to use all the tools at their disposal in order to have the edge. At the same time, employers who want access to the best talent available need to proactively go where the best people are — and right now, that’s online.

I recently came across a compelling presentation by Ryan Rancatore, a marketing specialist and personal-branding blogger. He spells out how to implement social media in building a strong personal brand that will in turn help you attract the attention of employers. Among his top personal-branding tools:

— Google Alerts: You can set up a Google Alert to monitor online chatter about you (using your name as search words) or create alerts to receive any news, blog posts or discussions on topics that are relevant to your job search or the companies you are interested in working for.

— Facebook: With more than 300 million active users (and of these, 40 per cent are over the age of 35), it is impossible to overlook Facebook as a way to build your personal brand. You can also “like” pages and join groups that will help you connect with people and organizations that will help you find work or keep you updated on a particular field.

— LinkedIn: The world’s largest business-focused social networking site, LinkedIn is made specifically for professional connections, whether to help enhance your profile, promote your work, take part in industry discussions or to expand your network. The more time you invest in building your profile and participating with others, the richer the networking rewards.

— Twitter: It may be daunting to create “effective” messaging in 140 characters or less, but it doesn’t take long to catch on to the benefits of Twitter if you’re willing to observe and then gradually immerse yourself in the culture until you get the hang of it. Twitter is a growing and powerful community and is among the best research, idea exchange and personal-branding tools available today.

— WordPress: WordPress (as well as Blogger) is one of several popular platforms for publishing blogs. Having your own blog is a great way to build a strong personal brand by establishing yourself as a thought leader and expert in your field of work.

— RSS Feed: If you don’t have the time to devote to creating and maintaining a blog, at least utilize the RSS (Really Simple Syndication) button on your favourite blogs to subscribe to their feed, ensuring that you never miss any relevant content or thought-provoking posts.

One additional tool I’ve discovered is called About.Me. This is a useful website that allows you to set up a brief biography and provide links to all your social media sites. Check out mine at: about.me/colleencoates.

Another thing to keep in mind is the importance of managing your online presence, as recruiters may go to the Internet to search for background information on candidates. Consider your social media pages to be like the references you’ve listed on your resumé. What would yours say about you?

While job seekers are able to search for employment opportunities and broaden their personal networks, today’s employers also need to remember that social media is an essential tool if they want to attract the best talent.

It used to be that all a company had to do to win over a top-of-the-class graduate was to engage them with a friendly phone call, letter or an in-person meeting. But today, social networking has created a brand new era of recruiting. New graduates, as well as sought-after professionals, can afford to take their time in making career decisions, especially if they are juggling multiple offers from several prospective employers.

Companies should make inroads with the next generation of workplace stars by engaging them online. The ability to meet and deal with them immediately and accurately is key to success, so managers would be wise to become better educated and involved in online networking as part of their effective recruitment strategy.

Last, it cannot be emphasized enough that online networking is no replacement for offline contact. For job seekers, the best opportunities come from the circle of people you know and have made a personal or professional impression upon during your career. For companies, social media is a great way to build upon and spread the word about your reputation, culture and unique advantages you have established in the real world as an employer of choice.

— With reporting by Barbara Chabai

Colleen Coates, CHRP, CCP, is a Practice Leader with People First HR Services Ltd. She can be contacted at ccoates@peoplefirsthr.com.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 6, 2011 H1